When you think of a badass weightlifter, what image typically comes to mind?
Is it something like this?
Or maybe this?
In either case, it’s probably not something like this…
Many of us have a few preconceived notions about elderly women: They’re sweet and innocent. They need our help crossing the street. They’re weak.
But while 78-year-old Shirley Webb certainly fits the bill when it comes to sweetness, she couldn’t be farther from the “little old lady” stereotype in the strength department.
Last week, a video of her deadlifting 225 pounds not once…
…but THREE times with the ease of an angry Lou Ferrigno made its way around the Internet.
Webb’s Herculean feat quickly went viral, with the online community praising her stereotype-shattering strength, resiliency, and fabulous choice of workout attire.
Webb has become something of a powerlifting powerhouse for the past year, setting deadlifting records in both her native Illinois a staggering 237 pounds and in neighboring Missouri.
Less than two years ago, however, Webb was another person entirely one who very much fit in line with the common stereotype of what it means to be “elderly.”
“At the time, I couldn’t walk up the stairs unless I held on to the handrail, and if I got on the floor, I couldn’t get up without a chair,” she told “Today.”
It was at that point that Webb joined Club Fitness in Wood River, Illinois, along with her granddaughter.
Under the tutelage of trainer John Wright, Webb’s physical conditioning rapidly began to improve. Within six months, she was lifting over 200 pounds. Within a year, she was setting records in age and weight divisions left and right. By this time next year, one can only assume she will be bench pressing the actual bleachers her cheering section sits on. With all of them on it.
Last June, Webb competed in the Missouri State Powerlifting and Midwest Open in St. Louis in the 75 and older division.
And, of course, she won her division with a 215-pound deadlift that would give many a younger woman or man a hernia, two separated disks, and an unrelated coffee addiction. Think I’m being hyperbolic? Go strap 20 bags of potatoes to a curtain rod and let me know how lifting it goes.
“She’s gotten to the point where everybody greets her and is just absolutely impressed,” Wright told ESPN. “She inspires everybody that goes to the gym and it’s fun to see that.”
Since her video has gone viral, Webb has also become something of a local hero to the other senior citizens in her community.
“I’ve seen such a remarkable difference in myself,” said Webb to “Today.” “I’m glad that people are getting inspired by me doing this. I had one lady come in the gym and say, ‘I saw your video and I decided to come down and join this club.’ That makes me feel good.”
It just goes to show that with enough motivation and persistence you really can do almost anything at any age.
“I have no intention of stopping right now,” Webb told ESPN. “When I go to the gym and work out, when I leave, I feel so much better than I did when I went in, and I just feel so good. I feel tremendous.”