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Irregular strength

Julius Maddox: world-record holder in raw bench press

World-record holder for bench press Julius Maddox. Photo: Dariush Shafa
World-record holder for bench press Julius Maddox. Photo: Dariush Shafa
World-record holder for bench press Julius Maddox. Photo: Dariush Shafa
Photo: Dariush Shafa

Julius Maddox spent his daughter’s first birthday in jail. She visited him there: “That’s when I felt the full weight of my actions … ultimately, I saw a need to change,” he says.

Following what he calls “a long season with poor choices,” Maddox got an opportunity.

For many years, he says he struggled with substance abuse and was in and out of jail. In 2012, Maddox received two, five-year sentences to prison. As a first-time felony offender, “The judge gave me the opportunity to go to drug rehabilitation, says Maddox. “Kentucky is a big advocate for drug rehabilitation.”

Julius Maddox training. Photo: Dariush Shafa

At Friends of Sinners, in Owensboro, the Christ-centered discipleship program brought God back into Maddox’s life.

He says his mom, Fong, always went to church and always prayed for him. He says his dad, Steve, struggled with a lot of different things, including substance abuse, and that he did the best that he could do.

“I would go to church, but there was always that thought in the back of my head that I would not be successful,” says Maddox.

At the treatment center, Maddox says one of the first things he watched was Kyle Idleman’s Not a Fan teaching series. (Idleman is senior pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville.) “It changed my heart. This is one of many tools that helped change my perspective, seeing life in a different manner. I learned how to be a dad. … Here is where I learned what unconditional love really was … where I learned to conduct myself.”

Building weight, and confidence
During this time, Maddox also was introduced to weightlifting. The older house in which he stayed was set up for community living and had weights in the basement.

“I’d go down there and lift weights every single day. That’s when I’d get my alone time with the Lord,” he says. “I’m getting stronger in all aspects in life. I started to really build confidence, that I could really live a life apart from the street life.”

Over the next year, Maddox says he worked out and kept getting stronger. “One of the guys said, ‘I bet you can lift all the weights down there.’ We loaded up every single weight and I hit it for three reps.”

In 2013, he entered and won his first non-sanctioned competition, and then with his eyes set on “real competition,” Maddox saw the need to get a coach and have a written training program.

Lifting weights for seven years, he is now the all-time world record holder for raw bench press—he lifted 739.6 pounds in September 2019 in California. There are multiple divisions of bench press, Maddox says, and “raw” means that there is no assisted bench shirt.

Julius Maddox trains at the Iron Edge Gym, Owensboro, Kentucky. Photo: Dariush Shafa

“I do completely raw bench pressing,” he says. “The only thing I use is wrist wraps.”

With a passion to be different, Maddox is launching a brand he calls Irregular Strength. He has a goal to bench press 800 pounds this summer at a Giants Live strongman event in Europe.

As to his current training schedule, Maddox says he typically trains four days a week. “Sometimes it takes me 1-1/2 hours, sometimes 2-1/2 hours. So (I train) about 10 hours a week.” He adds, “That’s the whole point of training on a program: We are resting certain muscle groups and attacking others.”

He has no special diet right now, although he says he does try to limit drinking Cokes. “I meditate every day, I pray or read the Bible.”

Living a life he never dreamed
He adds, “There’s not a lot of Christian influence in the industry. My thought was, I want to be different.”

He feels his calling now is to give back. He works at Friends of Sinners and donates his time primarily to ensure that today’s youth “believe in themselves and know they are not defined by their situation.”

Maddox says he speaks to kids on a weekly basis in local middle schools and meets with at-risk kids in the Owensboro Public Schools. “Eventually, that is what I want to do for a living.”

Another goal of Maddox’s is that he wants to lose weight. “I know now, whatever you set your mind to, you can do it, if you’re willing to put forth the work.”

Circling back, Maddox says, “It wasn’t that I was a bad kid, I made a lot of bad choices,” he says. “A lot of things I wasn’t taught: how a man should lead his family. My perception of a man was not what it should have been. We pick that up unintentionally; these are learned behaviors.

“I remember asking the Lord, ‘God, please give me purpose.’ The day I left the visitation room, with my daughter, crying, ‘God, if you are real, you’ll show me—give me a new life.’”

That’s the life he’s now leading.

Maddox says there have been lots of struggles and it’s been hard. He says he started to apply himself 100%; he went back to school; he was working without pay in order to give back. And, over time, he says he started to get stronger—not just physically. Things started to change.

He says he is living a life he never thought he could have. He and his wife, Heaven, who grew up in Owensboro, now have four children. Maddox says they also took in his six-month-old nephew.

“I’m setting a standard for my kids, a standard for my community … That’s the message of Irregular Strength. You don’t have to fit in. You can go your own way. You can be a leader. … It’s okay to be different.”

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