From humble beginnings
Ronnie Dean Coleman came into this world on May 13, 1964, in Monroe, Louisiana. He grew up in nearby Bastrop, raised by single mother Jessie Benton along with a younger brother and two younger sisters. Always big for his age, Ronnie tried various sports but excelled at football. His high school coaches and teammates remember him as the hardest-working kid on the squad, the only one who hit the weight room all summer long to get bigger and stronger for the gridiron in the fall. Ronnie was also a hard worker when it came to helping out his family, always holding down one or two jobs after school and on weekends to do what he could to ease his mother’s financial burdens. After high school he played football for Grambling State University, but was also quite serious about his studies. He graduated Cum Laude with a BS in Accounting. A stable career as a CPA was his plan at the time. Had his plan come to fruition, chances are we would never have heard of Ronnie Coleman in the bodybuilding world.
The move to Texas – and the toughest years
Ronnie left Louisiana for Dallas, where he expected to find greater job opportunities in his chosen field. Instead, he was denied time after time in his quest, and delivered newspapers, and pizzas for Domino’s to make ends meet. “Domino’s was the hardest job I ever had,” he recalls. “I dreaded every day working there, but I knew I was destined for something better.” One day while skimming through the want ads in the newspaper, he saw that the police department in Arlington, a Dallas suburb, was hiring. The idea of better pay and job benefits appealed to Ronnie, and he joined the force. He had always lifted weights, and continued to do so in the police station weight room. In 1989, one of his fellow officers persuaded him to check out Metroflex Gym, which had been open just two years, but was already known as the best hardcore gym around, home to many competitive bodybuilders and powerlifters.
Metroflex Gym and early glimmers of greatness
Metroflex Owner Brian Dobson talks about the first time he met Ronnie.
“I was in need of a training partner and a police officer named John Morgan told me about a rookie cop that was unbelievably built and was working out at the police gym just to stay in shape. He got Ronnie to come visit me. When he walked in he had on a red old-fashioned sweat suit like you would buy at Sears. The sweats were so tight on his legs and arms that I could see all of his veins poking through. I knew immediately that I was looking at a genetic freak. At first, Ronnie was a little apprehensive, but I am very good at coaxing people into competing. I don’t think he believed me when I told him he could be Mr. Olympia. But it turned out to be very prophetic. I gave him a free membership to be my workout partner, and to compete for the gym. Ronnie always likes a good deal, so he took it. I knew he was going to go all the way to the top of the sport even then.”
Ronnie’s training background was as a powerlifter, and many of the exercises and techniques used by bodybuilders were foreign to him. Dobson passed on his considerable training knowledge and expertise, and the results were simply astounding. Brian was a very strong man, but within a year, the 5-11, 215-pound ‘beginner’ with 20-inch arms had grown to 230 pounds and eclipsed him in every lift. Within a year, he could squat 500 pounds for 20 deep reps, deadlift over 700 pounds, leg press nearly a ton, and do walking lunges in the 100-degree heat of the parking lot with as much as 350 pounds on his back. He could bench 500 and row 405 for reps, and all completely drug-free at this point, it should be said.
1990 – on stage for the first time
Brian took Ronnie to compete in his first bodybuilding contest after he had only been training at the gym for four months, and he won with ease. The promoter of the 1990 Mr. Texas, Glyke Zguris Dixon, still remembers that fateful day.
“When he first stepped on the stage, and my contest was the first stage that he stepped on, I heard gasps. One of my judges came up to me afterwards and made comments that his upper body and especially his arms were of the caliber of Mr. Olympia. As a promoter, I often did not want to hear comments about the competitors, whether positive or negative. However, at the night show, I took a closer look and yes Ronnie had the “guns” of a superstar already. He did not yet have the leg development, and I always felt that his calves were “high calves,” and that might hinder his search for Mr. Olympia. He certainly has overcome his weaknesses and he had enhanced his strengths – hat is the key to bodybuilding – show them the strong points and hide the weak points during the posing.”
Months later, he swept the Heavyweight and Overall titles at the 1990 NPC Texas Championships, and went on that fall to enter his first pro qualifier, the NPC Nationals. That year, the contest was held in Los Angeles and was drug-tested. At least some of the competitors took that seriously, as they dropped down into lower weight classes from the year before. Ronnie took third place behind Jerry Rodgers and Edgar Fletcher in the Heavyweights, as Al’Q Gurley won the lightheavies and the Overall.
1991 – Final amateur year
Ronnie was not an amateur for very long. His second and final bid at the NPC Nationals saw him place fourth behind Heavyweight and Overall champion Kevin Levrone, Flex Wheeler, and the late Paul “Quadzilla” DeMayo. In the years before there was an NPC Team Universe, the NPC used to send its best amateurs from the Nationals that could pass a drug test off to Europe or Asia to vie for a pro card against the best amateurs from every other country at the IFBB World Amateur Championships, previously known as the Mr. Universe. Ronnie passed the test and was flown to Poland, where he beat the best Heavyweights from the rest of the world and earned an IFBB pro card. It was shortly after this that I first met Ronnie, who was helping out the IFBB as a stagehand at the Mr. Olympia contest at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel in Orlando. I saw him walking down the hallway outside the giant ballroom where the stage was still being assembled, 22-inch veiny arms bursting from the sleeves of a Polo shirt. It actually looked as if the sleeves were cutting off his circulation. A few people were following him around, wondering who he was. There was no way to know that this man would someday be the world’s greatest bodybuilder. For the next few years, Coleman paid his dues and then some in the IFBB.
1992 – Welcome to the pro’s, new guy!
Ronnie made his pro debut at the Chicago Pro show on May 9, with an inauspicious eleventh place. Interestingly, all ten men who beat him there are now retired, and one is dead. I would bet that many of you won’t even recognize half of their names. They were, in the order they finished, Porter Cottrell, Thierry Pastel, Kevin Levrone, Henderson Thorne (who I consider semi-retired, since he only competes at the Toronto Pro show), Milos Sarcev, Kevin McGaunn, Mauro Sarni, the late Ray McNeil, Flavio Bachiannini, and Bob Paris. Right behind Ronnie in twelfth was Darrem Charles, making his IFBB debut after turning pro in 1991 at the Caribbean and Central American Championships. A couple weeks later in New York, Ronnie entered the Night of Champions and finished fourteenth. That contest was Kevin Levrone’s first of twenty pro wins, and some of those that beat Ronnie at that NOC who have since retired include Robby Robinson, Norway’s Geir Borgan Paulsen, Dan Smith, and Alan Ichinose. Darrem Charles was eleventh, and Nasser El-Sonbatty, competing in his first IFBB event, did not place at all. Back then, the weight class winners at the IFBB World Amateur Championships were eligible to compete in the Mr. Olympia if they so desired, and this is how Ronnie qualified for his first O. The contest was held in Helsinki, Finland, and the two biggest stories were the start of Dorian Yate’s six-year headlock on the title, along with Lou Ferrigno’s return to competition after seventeen years away from the stage (only to place a disappointing twelfth). Ronnie was one of seven men who ‘tied’ for sixteenth place, meaning that the judges didn’t bother to sort anyone out after the top fifteen. So in essence, Ronnie took last place in his first Mr. Olympia, still weighing around 215-220 pounds. Some more blasts from the recent bodybuilding past that finished ahead of Big Ron were Lee Labrada, Shawn Ray, the late Mohammed Benaziza, Vince Taylor, the late Sonny Schmidt, Ron Love, Steve Brisbois, Al’Q Gurley, and Francis Benfatto. This roll call of retired competitors should give you an appreciation of the longevity and staying power that Ronnie Coleman has. He truly is the last holdout of that generation of 90’s bodybuilders, yet continues to improve and win.
1993 – Climbing the ladder
Certainly it had to be discouraging for Ronnie to finish out of the top ten at all three of his first pro shows the year before, but he put his nose to the grindstone and kept working hard in the gym, the only way he knew how, and got right back in the game. In 1993, he entered four shows, all in the spring, yet failed to qualify for that year’s Olympia. His best finish was fourth at one of two Grand Prix events held in France that year, where Flex Wheeler was racking up consecutive victories in his rookie season, and Nasser shot up to third place behind Flex and Vince Taylor. At all other three contests, Ronnie was just out of the top five with sixth place. Flex won one of those in Germany, Porter Cottrell won the Chicago Pro, and Italy’s Mauro Sarni nabbed the Niagara Falls Pro Invitational. There, Ronnie was beaten by now-retired pros Jim Quinn and David Dearth. The Niagara show was most significant for being the pro debut of a 20-year-old sensation named Lee Priest, who had planned on doing the NPC amateur event held along with the pro show. As many of you know, Jim Manion took note of the short blonde kid with the freaky arms the week before out at Gold’s Gym in Venice and petitioned Wayne DeMilia to give the three-time Mr. Australia a pro card. Lee was three places behind Ronnie, in ninth.
1994 – Knocking on the door
Ronnie entered three contests in the 1994 spring season. At the San Jose Pro show, he took fourth place behind Levrone, Porter Cottrell, and David Dearth. He did better in Europe, finishing third at both the French and German Grand Prix shows behind Paul Dillett and Vince Taylor. Both qualified him for that fall’s Olympia in Chicago. At the Olympia, Dorian won his third Sandow, and Paul Dillett scored his highest-ever finish with fourth. Chris Cormier debuted in the Olympia in sixth, as did Gunter Schlierkamp, who was in a five-way tie for sixteenth, or last place. It was Gunter’s first year as a pro, having won the World Amateurs the year before. Ronnie didn’t do much better in fifteenth. Though he had shown signs of being a front-runner in the spring, Coleman had definitely fizzled out at the Olympia.
1995 – First pro win
1995 saw a bigger and better version of Ronnie Coleman, as his off-season following the dismal Olympia months before had yielded somewhere around fifteen pounds of new mass. He now had a supplement contract with Met-Rx to boost his income as a full-time police officer. This was a breakthrough year for Ronnie, as he won his first contest as a pro, the Canada Pro Cup. Right behind him in second place, oddly enough, was Gunter Schlierkamp, who wouldn’t place that well again until he beat Ronnie at the 2002 GNC Show of Strength, and who wouldn’t even make the top five at his next fifteen contests. Ronnie competed in two more spring shows, taking sixth at the Houston Pro, where Nasser El-Sonbatty won his first pro show. Nasser won his second pro contest a couple weeks later at the Night of Champions, where Ronnie was third behind him and Vince Taylor. His NOC finish qualified Ronnie for the Olympia on September 10 in Atlanta, where once again he didn’t exactly light the place up. In eleventh, he was just ahead of Paul DeMayo, but behind the now four-time champ Dorian, Levrone, Nasser, Shawn, Vince, Chris Cormier, Mike Francois, Flex, and Aaron Baker. Ronnie joined the Grand Prix tour that followed, where he placed fourth in France, sixth in Russia, and third in the Ukraine. By now, Ronnie was gaining plenty of stage experience and confidence, as well as the size he would need to keep moving up the ranks.
1996 – Joining the A-list
’96 was another good year for rising star Ronnie. At his first contest of the season, he won his second pro show, again at the Canada Pro Cup. The other two spring shows would see him foiled by Flex Wheeler, first at the Florida Pro Invitational, then the next weekend at the Night of Champions. But second place to Flex was nothing to sneeze at, since Wheeler started 1996 with seven pro wins and would finish it with an even ten. The Olympia took place September 21 in Chicago, and at last Ronnie broke into the top ten with a sixth place. He actually would have been seventh, but Nasser was disqualified due to a failed diuretics test. A week later, Ronnie did three shows in three days, competing in Grand Prix events in Madrid, Germany, and England. Dorian Yates fattened his wallet by winning all three shows, and Ronnie showed his consistency by taking fifth place at each.
1997 – The calm before the storm
Ronnie competed in eleven contests in 1997 and won just one, the Russian Grand Prix. That was a critical turn of events, however, as he managed to beat several men that had been kicking his ass over and over again until then: Levrone, Nasser, Cormier, and Dillett. Kevin was victorious, however, in six other events in Europe where Ronnie’s placings were up and down: Czech Republic (fourth), England (fifth), Finland (third), Germany (fifth – Markus Ruhl made his pro debut there in tenth), Hungary (sixth), and Spain (seventh). Interestingly, Lee Priest beat him in three of those six shows, and Ronnie beat him at the other three. Ronnie competed in the Arnold Classic for the first time and was fourth, just after placing third at the Pro Ironman behind Flex and Priest. Just after the Ironman and Arnold, he went to the San Jose pro show and finished sixth. In his last Olympia before he began his reign, Ronnie was near the bottom of the top ten in ninth, behind Dorian in his sixth and final win, plus Nasser, Shawn, Levrone, Dillett, Priest, Jean-Pierre Fux, and Chris Cormier. I seriously doubt any of those men had the slightest idea that they would never beat Ronnie again in the Olympia. Kevin would get him one last time a few months later, but that would be the very last time he would edge out Coleman in bodybuilding competition.
1998 – The Reign of King Ronnie begins
Ronnie began this landmark year of his career with a loss to Kevin in San Jose, but proceeded to trounce Kevin en route to winning the Toronto Pro show and the Night of Champions later that spring. Then it was on to the Olympia in New York on October 10th. For this event, Ronnie worked with an up-and-coming nutritionist named Chad Nicholls, who Flex had referred to him. It would be a partnership that endured for many years to come. A sold-out crowd of 5,600 fans was there to see who would succeed King Dorian. The heavy favorites were Flex Wheeler, who now had fifteen pro wins under his belt and what many considered the most perfect physique of all time, and Nasser, who had been a very close second to Dorian the previous year in Long Beach. Ronnie didn’t get nearly as much publicity leading up to the show, but it didn’t matter once he walked onstage and showed off 250 pounds of striated, dry muscle. Flex pushed him hard and actually won the symmetry round, but when the dust had cleared, Ronnie had beaten him by a slim three-point margin. Since he had barely beaten Flex, few assumed Ronnie would hold on to the title for any length of time, not like the six years Dorian had been Mr. O, and certainly not close to the record eight years that Lee Haney had ruled bodybuilding. Surely, either Flex, Nasser, Shawn or Kevin would get their hands on that Sandow next. But unfortunately for all those great athletes, at 34 years old, Ronnie was just getting warmed up and entering his prime.
1999 – Unbeatable
Now that he was Mr. Olympia, Ronnie skipped the spring season and concentrated purely on training to retain his title, as Dorian and Lee had done before him. After all, when you’re number one, what do you have to prove? The strategy proved wise, as he won his second title with a perfect score, in the first year that the event moved to Las Vegas. Flex Wheeler was so upset at being runner-up to Ronnie again that he turned his back to the judges and audience, removed his medals from around his neck, and put up his finger in the ‘number one’ sign to show that he felt he had been cheated. Ronnie traveled to England and Rome to win two Grand Prix events, beating Flex a second and third time for that year.
2000 – Three for three again
2000 was déjà vu all over again. Ronnie went to Las Vegas to win his third consecutive Sandow with a perfect score, now weighing in the 260’s. Again he won two shows in Europe shortly afterward, but this time there was a surprise in the form of a young upstart named Jay Cutler. Jay had finished only fourteenth in his initial Olympia in 1999 and eighth in 2000, but at both Grand Prix shows he was runner-up to Ronnie. This would set the stage for their re-match a year later at the Olympia.
2001 – Coleman slips and Cutler comes close
Ronnie must have decided he wouldn’t mind a Hummer and an extra hundred grand in his checking account, so he broke tradition and competed at the Arnold Classic in March, winning handily at a ripped and streamlined 250 pounds. To this day, there are still many who consider this the best ‘look’ Ronnie has ever displayed, as his waist was tight, he was thick and full all over, and his condition was spot-on. However, he paid a price for competing in the spring, and was slightly off at the Olympia. As luck would have it, Jay Cutler showed up looking absolutely phenomenal and in the shape of his life. Suddenly, it seemed as if Ronnie was not unbeatable after all. The judges had Jay beating Ronnie in rounds one and two, the entire prejudging. Going into the night show behind Jay, Ronnie somehow managed to rally and win the last two rounds and pull out a win with a six-point lead. Ronnie finished off the year with a trip to New Zealand for a Grand Prix show, which he won handily.
2002 – Ronnie as an underdog? A controversial loss
The Weider magazines seized the opportunity to promote Jay Cutler as the incumbent Mr. Olympia, and over the following year provided Jay with a publicity blitz like never before seen. But the big rematch never materialized, as Jay shrewdly decided to forego the Olympia that year and focus on winning his first of what would be three consecutive Arnold Classic titles. Ronnie, after having had to listen to critics talk about how out of shape he had been in 2001 (though he was far from it), overcompensated and arrived at the Olympia a ripped but drawn and overdieted 247 pounds. This gave his old nemesis Kevin Levrone a chance to best him, even though Kevin’s legs were no longer as impressive as they had once been. Ronnie won both rounds of the prejudging with perfect scores, but Levrone turned the tables on him at the finals, winning the posing and posedown rounds. Ronnie still won by nine points. The surprise of the evening was Gunter Schlierkamp, who vaulted to fifth place at a ripped 300 pounds, after failing to do any better than twelfth place in four previous Mr. Olympias. Ronnie went over to Holland to win a Grand Prix event, but returned to the GNC Show of Strength the next weekend to the most controversial loss of his career – to none other than Gunter! As popular as Schlierkamp was among fans and among the Weider camp, the win seemed all but impossible to justify and left Ronnie with a bitter taste in his mouth, as well as a burning desire for revenge. That revenge would be sweeter than a Wonka bar, my friends!
2003 – Redemption
2003 was the Year of ‘Guntermania’ in the Weider/AMI magazines. Jay was still being promoted as a threat to Ronnie’s crown, since he had announced his intention to go for the Olympia again, but it was Gunter Schlierkamp who was touted as the man that Ronnie should be quaking in his boots about. Those of us who know physiques were scratching our heads and thinking, are they serious? Do they really think they can brainwash people into believing that Gunter, with his wide waist and big joints had a chance in hell of becoming Mr. Olympia, just because he had managed to beat Ronnie in a bullshit decision at the GNC? Apparently, the Weider/AMI camp was dead serious. Gunter’s image was plastered all over the covers and inside their issues, and his GNC win over Ronnie was dredged up over and over again. Meanwhile, Ronnie Coleman was busy in Arlington, making damn sure that he not only won the Olympia again, but did so in such convincing fashion that anyone who had doubted him would end up feeling like an idiot. Two months before the show, he filmed the training DVD “The Cost of Redemption,” which was documented in great detail in this column. Had Gunter or any of Ronnie’s other rivals been able to watch the video before the contest, they would have known they were screwed. And indeed, from the second Coleman walked onstage at 287 ripped pounds, thicker than ever before from head to toe, the contest was over. Gunter repeated his fifth place from the year before, which many thought was a gift this time, as he wasn’t as full or sharp. Jay managed second place as he had in 2001, but he was never in the running to topple Ronnie. Ronnie won his sixth Mr. Olympia title with a perfect score, shutting up every critic and serving notice that he was not to be trifled with. He did one Grand Prix show in Russia and won it with ease.
2004 – Not of this world
To say that the 2003 Olympia had taken the wind out of the other men’s sails would be an understatement. Any brief glimmers of Ronnie’s vulnerability were gone. The man was going to be forty years old by the time he went for his seventh title, but the standard effects of age on athletes seemed to not apply to him. Again, Cutler, now a three-peat Arnold Classic champion, was pushed as the heir apparent. And another monkey wrench was thrown into the mix with the addition of the Challenge Round, which seemed specifically designed to snatch Ronnie’s stranglehold on the Sandow. How else can you explain the fact that the scores from the prejudging, in which Ronnie held a monstrously large lead, were tossed out at the beginning of the Challenge Round and the competition was essentially re-started? But Ronnie was not worried, and had no reason to be. This time he was an earth-quaking 296 pounds. Admittedly, he was not as sharp as he had been the previous year, but Cutler had also given up some condition to compete in the 270’s. Ronnie won his seventh title with yet another perfect score, then went to Europe and won Grand Prix events in England, Holland, and Russia to finish off the year with some more change in his pocket and three more wins to his credit, bringing his total IFBB victories to date to an even twenty-five.
This would be the year Ronnie hoped to tie the great Lee Haney’s record of eight Olympia wins. Though Dexter Jackson was sitting this edition of the event out, Coleman still faced strong opposition in the form of Jay Cutler, who had improved his back to the point where many felt it equaled Ronnie’s in the rear double biceps pose. Gustavo Badell was also in excellent condition and eager to ‘beat’ the king again, as he had in the previous year’s Challenge Round. The close match-up between Ronnie and the much-hyped young Russian giant Alex Federov never materialized, as he showed up out of shape and with a disfiguring pec tear. Cutler put up a hell of a fight, but in the end, 280-pound Ronnie emerged triumphant and joined Haney as the greatest Olympia champion ever. Should he break the record in 2006, it would take another athlete a full ten years of winning the title to exceed his achievement. The odds of this happening are very, very slim, as it’s hard to imagine someone coming along with his combination of genetics, work ethic, faith, and sheer love for what he does.
Training is his job, but Ronnie loves to train
Ronnie’s most famous video, The Unbelievable, was shot just five weeks away from the 2001 Mr. Olympia contest. In that tape, Ronnie was dieted down close to contest condition, with all the low-carbs and increased cardio that this entails. Yet Big Ron does not let the stress and fatigue rob him of the joy that heavy lifting brings him. Dennis and Jay both brood miserably between sets, while Ronnie smiles and cracks his famous catchphrases. Speaking of the catchphrases, a lot of people like to poke fun at Ronnie for his now familiar utterances, oft repeated in his videos, such as:
“Light weight, baby!”
“Ain’t nuttin’ but a peanut!”
“Everybody wanna be a bodybuilder, but don’t nobody wanna lift no heavy-ass weight!”
These are often hollered across the gym before launching into a heavy set – which in Ronnie’s case, is just about every set. They are certainly part of his psych-up, but they are also a strong indication that training is sheer fun for the big man. It may also be his job, but in Ronnie’s case, he loves his job. At the Mr. Olympia victory seminar in 2003, Ronnie told the audience that he would always train hard, long after he quit competing. Ronnie is now 42 years old, and has made no mention of wrapping up his career any time soon. “I will keep winning the Olympia as long as God wants me to,” he has said.
But the bottom line is that Ronnie Coleman loves to train. It’s in his blood. He was lifting heavy for many years before he ever contemplated becoming a bodybuilder in his mid-twenties, competing many times as a powerlifter in the decade preceding his first appearance on stage. For him, nothing could ever take the place of the challenge that enormous amounts of heavy iron provide. The gym is his proving ground, his playground, and his sanctuary. He even has a very well-equipped home gym, in contrast to other bodybuilders who may have only a treadmill or stationary bike in the garage. Ronnie loves the gym so much he just had to have one twenty feet away from where he sleeps, for God’s sake! For those of us who share that same love of training, even though we know Mother Nature never intended us to look anything like Ronnie, he is still one of us.
Ronnie is perfect proof of this bit of wisdom: “Find a job you love, and you will never have to work another day in your life.”
Boring life? More like consistent
Until the newest DVD, “On the Road,” Ronnie’s videos did not capture any of the many guest appearances he does around the world throughout the year. What they did give you a good idea of was his daily routine. In “The Unbelievable,” we followed a week in his life while he was still employed full-time as an officer for the Arlington, Texas Police Department. Ronnie’s life consisted mainly of work, working out, eating, and sleeping – and that was it. Two years later in the second tape, “Cost of Redemption,” Ronnie had left that job and was now a full-time professional athlete. From what I could figure, the only thing that really changed is that a couple of his daily meals are eaten at Outback Steakhouse and Black Eye Pea restaurants, rather than out of Tupperware in his patrol car. By all accounts, Ronnie does not go out much, except to a few Dallas Cowboys or Mavericks games in the off-season when he’s not yet in his Olympia prep mode. You never hear about Ronnie going out club-hopping. He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t use recreational drugs, and though unmarried, he has maintained two long-term relationships over the course of his bodybuilding career so far, one to fellow pro bodybuilder Vickie Gates, and currently with IFBB fitness pro Alti Bautista. Surely, with his status in the bodybuilding world, his physique, and let’s be honest since we’re talking about what attracts many women to a man, his considerable income, he could have a different ‘girlfriend’ every week, or even keep a constant harem of five or six women at his beck and (booty) call if he were so inclined. But that’s not Ronnie.
I am sure his Christian faith has something to do with it, but Ronnie chooses to lead a simpler life, free of drama and upheaval. He stays right there in quiet Arlington, Texas, close to his beloved family, rather than live in a faster-paced, glitzy city like Los Angeles or Las Vegas. There are a few pro bodybuilders with a reputation for partying and going from woman to woman constantly, even moving from state to state several times. Ronnie’s life may not seem as exciting compared to theirs, but this ‘boring’ life is actually one of his most powerful ‘secret weapons’ in being the dominant bodybuilder of his time. His life is incredibly consistent. Think about it – if you’ve seen “The Cost of Redemption,” you know he eats the same exact meals every day. He doesn’t even waste mental energy deciding what he’s going to eat! Ronnie’s day-to-day life is geared entirely toward making him a better bodybuilder, rather than seeking the next thrill or different type of pleasure. If you were to really look into the personal lives of many bodybuilders who had a very brief moment or moments of success and then fell out of the sport like shooting stars, you would find that partying, volatile romantic relationships, legal problems, and substance abuse often played major roles in why they didn’t last. Ronnie has been on top of his chosen sport for seven years running now, and I wouldn’t count out another seven years. Success has been defined by some as nothing more than doing the right things, consistently over a long enough period to bring about the desired outcome. If that’s true, then Ronnie Coleman is a true role model for others to pattern themselves after.
His training does not change
This is related to what was just discussed, but Ronnie’s training is also remarkably consistent. He has said that the way he trains now is exactly how he has been training ever since he started bodybuilding, down to the exercises and bodypart split. He doesn’t have heavy days and light days for muscle groups, or break the weeks or months of the year up into different phases. Many pro’s train very differently in the off-season, focusing on more basic free-weight movements, heavier weights, and low reps. When they are anywhere from twelve to sixteen weeks out from a contest, their workouts start to shift toward more isolation movements, more cables and machines, and lighter weights and higher reps. The only way you would know whether Ronnie was in the off-season or dieting for the Olympia, by watching him train, was by seeing how lean he was. Those fundamental movements like squats, bench presses, and deadlifts are still being done, and still being trained heavy, right up until show time. You also need to keep in mind that he also includes isolation movements, but he can do both types of exercises every week because he trains each bodypart twice a week. Few men can handle this workload, mentally or physically.
Another maxim Ronnie proves with his training program is “Keep It Simple, Stupid!” Other bodybuilders are constantly searching for better ways to train, and that’s fine, but in doing so there is certainly a lot of wasted or misdirected effort. Ronnie found what works for him, and stuck with it, never doubting himself or feeling the need to hire a trainer to push him in the gym and dream up innovative new angles and exercises to maintain his interest.
Is Ronnie Coleman the greatest bodybuilder alive, or even the greatest that has ever lived? That may be up for debate, but for the past eight years, Ronnie has been king of the bodybuilding world. Long may he reign!
- Flat dumbbell press
- Incline dumbbell press
- Flat dumbbell flye
“Cost of Redemption”
- Flat barbell bench press
- Incline barbell bench press
- Decline barbell bench press
- Barbell rows
- ‘Corner’ T-bar rows
“Cost of Redemption”
- Cable pulldowns to front
- Behind-neck cable pulldowns
- Seated cable rows
- Dumbbell pullovers
- Seated military press
- Dumbbell lateral raise, up and down the rack
- Barbell front raise
- Rear delt machine
- Dumbbell rear laterals
- Dumbbell shrugs
“Cost of Redemption”
- Seated dumbbell presses
- Superset: Machine lateral raises and overhead press
- Dumbbell front raises
- Standing cable rear laterals
- Bent-over cable laterals
- Barbell shrugs
- One-arm dumbbell preacher curls
- Overhead ‘front double biceps’ cable curls
“Cost of Redemption”
- Machine curls
- Alternate dumbbell curls
- Cable curls
- Superset: Skull crushers/close-grip bench press
- Two-arm seated overhead dumbbell extension
- Dumbbell kickback
“Cost of Redemption”
- Seated overhead single-arm dumbbell extensions
- Machine dips
- Cable pushdowns
- Front squat
- Hack squat
- Parking lot lunges
- Lying leg curls
- Seated leg curls
“Cost of Redemption”
- Leg extensions
- Leg press
- Standing one-leg curls
- Stiff-leg deadlifts
- Monday: AM Back and biceps PM Shoulders
- Tuesday: Legs
- Wednesday: Chest and triceps
- Thursday: AM Back and biceps PM Shoulders
- Friday: Legs
- Saturday: Chest and triceps
*Calves are trained twice a week, abs are hit four times a week