Photos by Per Bernal
Known as one of the strongest bodybuilders in the IFBB, with all-time personal records of more than 800 pounds on both squat and deadlift and more than 500 on bench press, Akim Williams might be expected to throw around barbells and dumbbells in every workout. With muscle groups like back and legs, he certainly does. But his arm training is a different story— nothing but machine exercises.
Imagine that: a 305-pound professional bodybuilder (265 onstage) who’s afraid to curl a heavy barbell or even a pair of dumbbells. Rest assured, it’s not a fear of hard work; it’s a mind- muscle connection issue.
“I’ve always done exclusively machine curls for biceps,” says Williams, a Brooklyn, NY, native who now lives in New Jersey. “I don’t believe in free weights for this muscle group. I think free- weight curls mess up your joints more than anything, and you don’t isolate the biceps muscle as well as with machines. With free weights, you’re able to cheat and swing the weight up, whereas machines make it a little easier to keep strict form.”
Many would argue that an arm routine devoid of free-weight moves would limit one’s ability to pack on size. This may be true, but biceps size isn’t an issue for Williams, who has a “problem” most of us would love to have: 23-inch arms, much of that coming from enormous biceps that would throw off his symmetry if they grew any bigger.
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