Great bodybuilding champions are admired for the hardware they’ve earned onstage. And rightfully so—being crowned the best at what you do is a testament to hard work, talent, and perseverance.
Still, that reverence comes with an undeniable disconnect. That is, seeing the finished product doesn’t provide a glimpse into the intensive, difficult work that went into it. As when you watch the scoreboard intently instead of the game itself, it can be hard to forge a deep, visceral connection with the stomach-churning, sweat-soaked, exhaustive efforts that went into building and refining the bodies on display.
That’s why, in bodybuilding, strength matters. While few among us can relate to stripping down to posing trunks and stepping before a panel of judges to flex our way to stardom, any one of us can immediately recognize a feat of strength like a 550-pound bench press, an 850-pound deadlift, or an 815-pound squat.
It’s also why the title of “world’s strongest bodybuilder,” despite being a completely arbitrary, unofficial designation, is still a thing. One that has passed from the likes of Dorian Yates and Ronnie Coleman to Johnnie Jackson and Branch Warren. And now, stepping into that always-heated conversation, there’s IFBB pro Akim Williams—owner of the three personal bests listed above.
Tipping the scales at around 300 pounds off-season at a height of 5'10", Williams is one of the bigger combatants in the pro ranks. His legs are behemoth and certainly weren’t forged with the typical bodybuilding approach of medium reps and moderate weight.
“For exercises like squats, I like the old-school bodybuilding-type thing where I try to go as heavy as I can and I don’t mind lowering the reps—like a Ronnie Coleman style of training,” the 33-year-old Grenada native says. “He used to do two- and three-rep sets, stuff like that. Most bodybuilders nowadays don’t want to go anything under eight to 10 reps when they do exercises, but I think you gain denser, thicker muscle from training hard and heavy.”
Not that Williams hasn’t tried it both ways. After winning his pro card at the North American Championships in 2013, he gave his friend and fellow IFBB pro Juan “Diesel” Morel’s regimen a go. “It didn’t work for me at all,” Williams recalls, shaking his head. “My leg size actually decreased when doing that lighter, higher- rep stuff. When I went back to my style of training, my legs improved a lot.”
The proof was in the results. In his pro debut at the New York Pro in May 2014, he took a disappointing 11th place. After reverting to his old ways, he notched a top-five showing at the Chicago Pro in July, followed by seventh in August at the Golden State Pro. Williams was on his way—doing it his way.
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