Sweden’s Ako Rahim is a multi-dimensional athlete who combines the aesthetics of a superhero action figure with the work ethic and performance capabilities of a world-class competitor.
Rahim got his first dose of training inspiration the same way many of us did: from action movie stars like Sylvester Stallone and Jean-Claude Van Damme. He has spent most of his life studying martial arts, which created a strong physical foundation when he eventually found his way into the weight room. From there, Rahim started doing physique contests (what they call “athletic fitness” competitions in Sweden) before his competitive impulses drew him to CrossFit. Detractors can say what they like about CrossFit, no one can argue that it takes skill, strength, dedication, and a warrior’s spirit. A super strong set of abs doesn’t hurt, either.
Mike Carlson: How long have you been training?
Ako Rahim: I started with martial arts when I was six years old. I have been doing karate and Thai boxing all my life, but I started lifting weights when I was 15 years old. I got into lifting weights to strengthen my body for martial arts. But I really liked it, and I decided to do my first athletic fitness competition four years later. It was the Swedish Nationals and I placed fourth. After that I qualified to go to the Nordic Championship where I placed second. And during the next few years I won the Swedish Nationals three times. Since then, I’ve been doing weightlifting, running, swimming, submission wrestling, and mostly CrossFit.
Lives: Stockholm, Sweden
Profession: Trainer, gym/CrossFit box owner with Alexander Alexandrov
Likes: Food, summer, chocolate, animals
Favorite clean meal: Salmon, rice, steamed vegetables
Favorite cheat meal: Homemade hamburgers
Listens to: R&B,
hip-hop, house music
Sponsors: BMR Sports Nutrition
MC: What’s your current training like?
AR: Right now my focus is on strength and conditioning. My weightlifting coach is Jim Gyllenhammar, the Swedish National Weightlifting coach. He programs all my Olympic weightlifting. And then I have Peter Glas, who programs my running. I do the rest. I train twice a day. I mix Olympic weightlifting, bodybuilding, powerlifting, CrossFit, and running. I swim on Thursdays, which is a recovery day, and I take Sundays completely off.
MC: How did you develop such outstanding abs?
AR: When I was young I watched Jean-Claude Van Damme and Stallone movies. I really wanted a body like that, so I did lots of sit-ups, leg raises, and push-ups. When I was 10 years old I had a six-pack. And that’s also why I did karate and Thai boxing. I really don’t work my abs that much now. I’m working on my weaknesses.
MC: What’s the most common mistake people make when training abs?
AR: The big mistake I see is that lots of people use extra weights and machines when they’re training abs. You don’t have to use more weight than your body. There are many exercises that you can do slower and with more control to make it more challenging.
MC: When did you get interested in CrossFit, and why?
AR: I have always prioritized getting stronger and faster. A couple of years ago I was done with my athletic fitness competitions and I always need to have a goal, so I started working out at a CrossFit box called F4L CrossFit. Once you do CrossFit, you can’t go back!
MC: How did your body change when you switched over to CrossFit?
AR: I put more muscles on my legs and kept all my muscles on my upper body. But I noticed that it’s only my legs that get bigger. Other than that, I’m stronger, faster, more flexible, and have fewer injuries.
MC: Do you currently mix CrossFit workouts with bodybuilding-style training?
AR: I do bodybuilding training, and I do it as rehab. It’s more to strengthen my joints and ligaments. I don’t really need more muscles to get stronger in my weightlifting. But when I get stronger I probably build more muscles. So that’s a win-win.
MC: Has the CrossFit training helped your core development?
AR: My biggest weakness has always been my core muscle. I had a back injury when I was 17 years old, and I couldn’t do deadlifts and back squats for over seven years. I’m working on my core muscles every day so that I don’t get injured again. But since I started with Olympic weightlifting I’ve become a lot stronger. I can deadlift, back squat, clean and jerk, and it’s not my core and back that’s the problem. Now I am working on the strength in my legs.
MC: What kind of supplements do you take?
AR: I have used BMR Sports Nutrition for four years, and it’s the best. It really helps me to get stronger, get more focus during my workouts, and recover. I need the best supplements since I have to work out 11 to 12 sessions every week. And I train for three to four hours every day.