1. He was a drug addict and dealer.

Growing up poor in Owensboro, Kentucky, where he still lives, Julius Maddox dreamed of playing in the NFL. But, from the age of 15 to 25, he was, in his words, “in a tailspin of addiction to drugs and alcohol.” What started as partying, an escape from bleakness and insecurities, became a nightmare—four months in a jail cell for trafficking and dealing drugs.

2. Friends of Sinners turned his life around.

Maddox got out of jail by going to rehab, and he chose the Christian program Friends of Sinners. “It taught me how to be a man, how to be a spiritual leader in my home, how to be a father,” says the married father of four. He’s now a supervisor at Friends of Sinners, helping others the way he was helped, and he speaks about his dramatic turnaround at schools and other venues. But back to those days when he was lost and just finding his way, the big man gained something else from FOS that changed his life, something that’s now changed record books—encouragement to hoist heavy metal.

3. From the start, he was a juggernaut.

In his first meet in 2014, after only two years of training, he won by benching 525 raw. (He’s a one-lift specialist.) The next year, at 6’4” and 414 lbs., Maddox benched 645. He was 27. He’d only competed twice. But already the Kentucky juggernaut was one of the best bench pressers on Earth.

Can you get me a 25 and a 20? / Instagram

4. He’s one of only five people to officially bench 700 raw.

After continuously powering up high-600 benches for a couple years, Maddox joined the exclusive 700 club in 2017 with a 705.4. Since then, he’s been putting the 700 barrier in his rear view. When, on June 22, 2019, weighing 440, he benched 723.1, it was the new American record for a raw bench press. He broke it two months later.

5. No one has ever raw bench pressed more than him.

On August 31, the Kentucky juggernaut known as “Irregular Strength” benched 739.6, setting the new world record. “We weren’t expecting a world record this early,” he said afterwards of his rapid romp to best-ever. “But I came in and changed the direction and changed everyone’s opinion.” On November 16, he broke his own short-lived world record, benching 744.1. Maddox, 31, is unsure how long he’ll compete; he wants to lose 100 lbs. when he’s done. But in the meantime, things are heating up, as Kirill Sarychev, the 30-year-old Russian goliath who recently went vegan and who previously held the record (738.5 in 2015), may be mounting a comeback. He wrote in an Instagram post to Maddox: “Congratulations 🔥 And thank you for the motivation 🙏 See you on platform 😉”

It may already be too late to catch Maddox, at the rate he’s progressing. How high can he go? He’s aiming to break the 800 barrier, which is a thing no one before really thought was a thing. But now…well, now anything seems possible. Maddox recently posted on Instagram a mind-jarring workout video of himself raw bench pressing 700 for a triple (you read that right), and he made it look—dare we say—easy!

Opening image: Facebook