By now you’ve probably seen the footage. The large dude that set a new all-time world record in the raw bench press and almost had it all come down on him, literally, because of the spotters’ delay in helping him rack the weight.
The rack signal is for the lifter and the spotters so they know the attempt is complete, so the final result is what Julius Maddox wanted. He’s the new all-time world record holder in the raw bench press. No bench shirt? No problem for the Kentucky native.
Maddox has set the internet on fire before thanks to one video where he benched 610 pounds for 8 reps. But this moment was more than a completed lift and world record for the 6’3” and 446 pound powerhouse. It was the culmination of a journey that began at a very low point and culminated at his personal mountaintop.
Drug Addiction and Rehab
Maddox didn’t discover his gift for lifting heavy weights until 2012 when he was in a rehabilitation facility trying to overcome a 10 year drug addiction.
“My whole life I heard that I wasn’t good enough or that I was going to fail or that wasn’t possible. That was a season where everything was out of control. I found myself in jail with no chance of getting out. I cried out to God and I got accepted to a rehab facility. I found lifting weights at this facility that had a dirt floor.”
It was in that basement that he also called a “dungeon” that he got accustomed to training. The sobriety combined with the changes he saw in his body helped keep him focused on this positive outlet. Then a big moment for him happened. He decided to place every plate in the room on the bar and see if he could press it. It was at this moment he discovered just how strong he was at the time.
“That day we decided to put every weight in the basement on the bar and I repped it three times and I know this is crazy. We added all the weights up and it ended up being 505 pounds! In this dark, dungeon basement, I benched 505 pounds and I had only been lifting enough to satisfy me.”
He credits this moment and that time there for helping his determine his path forward and served as the first building block to help him build his confidence in himself for training as well as his overall life which he proudly speaks about now.
“This is the first time that I felt comfortable in my own skin. This is the first time that I felt comfortable with being confident. Confidence was something I struggled with for most of my life and now I seize it to the point where I put in so much work that come the day I broke the record, I knew what time it was. I’m now comfortable with my gifts because I put in the work to get there.”
He does also credit a higher power for helping him in this phase of his life. “I’m a big man on my faith and I believe that God gave me the strength to overcome these adversities in life and that includes building my confidence and embracing the man I became.”
The Coach with the Crystal Ball
Not long after that day in the basement, Maddox competed in his first meet and benched 525 pounds. He knew he had more in him, but knew little about how to design programs or specific methods to help him get stronger. Fast forward to 2014 and Maddox has now decided that he wants to be the best bench presser on the planet. He enlisted the help of strength coach Josh Bryant, and Bryant made no hesitation in predicting Maddox’s future.
“He just saw me and said it out loud with a straightforward tone. ‘You’re going to set the all-time raw bench record. You’re going to break the world record.’ The way he said just matter of fact was something that added onto that confidence. At that point I was like ‘tell me what to do and I’ll do it.’ It was on.”
At that moment the mission was accepted and all systems were go. With Bryant’s programming and training knowledge along with Maddox’s natural talent and determination, they knew it wasn’t a matter of “if” but “when” that record would be claimed.
A Calm Before the Storm
“Boss of Bosses” has only been around for six years, but in that short time it has become one of the top contests in the sport of powerlifting for both athletes and fans. Many of the biggest names in the sport will travel from all over the world to take part in Dan Green’s big event.
Everyone there knew that there would be some big moments but no one knew going into that weekend that history would be made. That is, no one except one person.
“I knew it going in. I knew that it was time. I could feel it in my bones.”
His first two attempts were not only good lifts but appeared easy to him. He describes the moments leading up to that third attempt as a calm and confidence that went all through him.
“I’m in the back listening to my headphones and trying to hype myself up. I took my headphones off and I knew it at that moment. It was time. It was in my bones. I just felt this peace and calm came over me. It was like a subtle voice said ‘it’s time.’ I just sat there. Normally I’m pacing and excited but not this time. I was in gorilla mode.”
The previous record in this lift was 738.5 pounds (335 kg) by Kirill Sarychev in 2015. Maddox’s third attempt would be for 739.6 pounds (335.5 kg). As the video showed, Maddox didn’t appear nervous or overly excited. It was another day at the office as far as he was concerned. The only drama that came out of that attempt was provided by those spotters, who were lost in the moment and celebrated a little early.
“It all happened so fast and it was like ‘wait a minute. What’s going on here?’ It’s good though. I’m thankful it happened like that though because look at the attention it got and look at the fire it started. It’s setting everything up for the future.”
Once the dust was settled and the smoke was cleared, Maddox had attained his goal and reached the peak of a mountain that took him several years to climb. So what is the view like from the top now that his name is written in the history of strength sports?
“At the end of the day this thing is bigger than me. I don’t think anything was going to happen to me period.”
Keys to His Training
Maddox describes his training as a conjugate style where accessory movements are used to help support his benching efforts. You might be surprised that his favorite accessories are not chest specific.
“I like neutral grip seated rows. I can engage my lats more and I’m big on building the lats for the bench press. It helps me stabilize for the lift and I feel it helps with the drive off of the chest. We have seal rows. I’m big on back variations. I also like lat pulls. I focus on my back more than my chest. As crazy as it sounds, I feel the back plays a bigger role than the chest in benching.”
He also does a lot of work for the triceps to assist with the lockout at the top of the press. “I like Kaz presses and pressdown variations for those.”
He actually doesn’t directly train for the squat or deadlift. “I occasionally do them to see where I’m at but we don’t want to do anything that can risk injury to the shoulders or back. I have done over 700 in both. I can probably total around 2400 if I wanted to do all three in a meet.”
Maddox does offer programs for anyone looking to get stronger in the bench. If you’re interested, you can reach out to him on Instagram @irregular_strength.
Maddox’s New Missions
So what does a new record holder do once he or she sets the record? In the case of Maddox, he wants to add to the record and make it even greater. He’s looking for his next meet and wants to train in the next 12-14 weeks. That might not be surprising to those that follow him but what he says he wants to do will definitely raise eyebrows.
“Josh and I talked. The new barrier or the new mark is 770. That’s the next short-term goal.”
His longer-term goal is the one that he speaks more proudly of. “I want to inspire the world. I have an opportunity to uplift people. Not just people with struggles like I had but people going through everyday life. They just need some motivation. That’s what I live for and why I love to go in and grind day in and out. It’s for them.”
Featured Image: Instagram/irregular_strength