Retro Athlete: Bill Wilmore

The 2005 NPC Nationals champ was a paradigm of persistence.
Chris Lund

From his first amateur contest as a teenager, Bill Wilmore took 17 years and nine tries to go pro. Finally, after painful seconds the previous two years, he won the super-heavyweight and overall 2005 NPC Nationals. In the nine-year pro career that followed, he won only once: the 2012 Toronto Pro, near his retirement and past his 40th birthday. Though he went to the Mr. Olympia five times, Wilmore never cracked the top 15. But that’s seeing the glass as half-empty.

Picture the glass half-full. Of the 14 Nats winners since 2002, he’s one of only five who’ve even stepped on the Olympia stage, including this year, and none of the others—Cedric McMillan among them—have come close to his five entries. Wilmore wasn’t the most genetically gifted bodybuilder. His limbs were never the best on a pro stage. But his chest, traps, and especially his back won him poses. His long and, by most measures, very successful career is a testament to persistent training and a never-wavering positivity.

 WILMORE ON BACK TRAINING 

  • “I’m not going to failure but for a sensation I’ve perfected over the years of blood blowing into the muscle area.”
  • “I came to deadlifts late. I built most of my back mass with lots of free-weight rows.”
  • “I often alternate two back workouts, one for width and one for thickness.”
  • “Variety is overrated.
  • I’d rather stick to the same exercises.”

FLEX FACT

From his first show at age 17 to his last at 43, Wilmore’s posing career spanned 26 years. 

 WILMORE’S BACK ROUTINE 

  • Front Pulldown | SETS: 4 | REPS: 15-8
  • Barbell Row | SETS: 4 | REPS: 15-8
  • One-Arm Dumbbell Row | SETS: 4 | REPS: 15-8
  • Seated Cable Row | SETS: 4 | REPS: 15-8
  • Deadlift | SETS: 4 | REPS: 15-8

 FLEX 

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