• Ronnie Coleman lived the dream of going from being a Texas cop to being crowned the best bodybuilder in the world eight times.
  • At 56 years old, the eight-time Mr. Olympia has to move around in a wheelchair when he needs to walk more than between gym machines.
Ronnie Coleman

Ronnie Coleman

The American athlete who achieved an unprecedented feat of winning the Mr. Olympia contest eight times in a row has endured a staggering 15 surgeries due to the toll exacted by his demanding workout routines over the years, particularly on his back and hips.

Hailing from Texas and formerly a police officer, this bodybuilding maestro reached the pinnacle of success in the sport, but his ongoing back issues have rendered him incapable of moving with the ease typical of someone his age.

In December 1996, during a gym session where he nonchalantly performed squats with an impressive 270-kilogram weight—a mere “warm-up” for him, as he could effortlessly repeat it up to 15 times without fatigue—an alarming sound caught his attention. Pain seared through his lower back as he vividly recalled, “It was painful, the disk moved. I was getting ready for the Arnold Classic.” In the poignant documentary, “King,” named after his illustrious stage presence, he recounts how the injury occurred. Despite the diagnosis of a herniated disc, his unyielding determination led him to defy medical advice, continuing to lift heavy weights, a decision that would be both triumphant and tragic.

Ignoring the advice of doctors to lift lighter weights, the individual capable of squatting over 350 kilograms persisted with his rigorous training regimen, and his dedication bore fruit. In 1998, he was crowned Mr. Olympia, a title he went on to secure consecutively until 2005, a feat accomplished only by him and the esteemed American bodybuilder Lee Haney in the 1980s.

Over time, Ronnie Coleman’s formidable presence on stage, characterized by his imposing size, sculpted muscles, prominent veins, and mesmerizing movements, captivated the judges, who consistently deemed him the finest in every contest he participated in, thereby earning the reverence of his competitors who willingly vied for second place in light of his undeniable supremacy. His transformation was awe-inspiring, with his weight soaring to 134 kilograms by 2004, nearly 40 kilograms more than his initial presentation at Mr. Olympia.

The pivotal moment that forever altered Ronnie Coleman’s trajectory occurred when he crossed paths with Brian Dobson, a serendipitous meeting that propelled him from a Texas police officer to one of the most revered bodybuilders in history. Notwithstanding his ascent to fame, the torment of his back problems persisted, resulting in 15 surgeries and an existence dependent on a wheelchair for mobility.

For Ronnie Coleman, life seemed like a dream until the onset of severe back issues. A documentary released on Netflix in 2018, titled “King,” chronicled his journey, including the significant impact of the initial serious injury—a squats mishap involving a 270-kilogram weight that dislodged a disc in his back. Despite medical caution, his determination to lift progressively heavier weights persisted, culminating in reaching 350 kilograms.

Ronnie Coleman’s remarkable resolve culminated in an unparalleled streak of eight consecutive Mr. Olympia triumphs, during which he augmented his 1.80-meter frame to an impressive 134 kilograms, 40 kilograms more than his debut weight. Alas, this extraordinary feat came at the cost of his ailing back.

The immense weights that strained his spine, coupled with the intense gym workouts and the passage of time, collectively culminated in a debilitating condition that severely impacted his body. Enduring 15 surgeries for various procedures, walking became an arduous task, necessitating the use of crutches or a wheelchair due to the precarious state of his hips.

Presently, Ronnie Coleman maintains his dedication to gym routines, his affluent lifestyle, luxurious mansion, and an enviable collection of high-end cars. Training continues to be a passionate pursuit, an enduring love since he was a 12-year-old starting his fitness journey, even at 52.

However, his struggles with mobility persist, as cardio workouts for an hour are feasible, but walking remains an insurmountable challenge, as it jeopardizes the structural integrity of the body he so meticulously sculpted in the gym. Acknowledging his indomitable spirit, one of the doctors who treated him in the documentary opined that despite his refusal to discontinue training, it would be prudent for his well-being.

Now 56 years old, Ronnie Coleman must rely on medication five times a day and use a wheelchair to attend events where he is honored or invited as a guest. The accumulation of 26 prestigious titles stands testament to his unparalleled legacy. Yet, the future unfolds with the painful reality of being unable to walk normally, a consequence he candidly addressed in the summer of 2020, attributing the root cause of his woes to surgical operations that did not go as planned.

Ronnie Coleman, an eight-time Mr. Olympia champion and living legend hailed as the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) in bodybuilding, now finds himself, at 59 years old, reliant on two crutches or a wheelchair to move. The question arises: What led to these injuries, and why did multiple spinal surgeries fail to provide a complete recovery? Furthermore, can he ever fully regain his mobility? Unraveling this tale of heavy metal, pain, and perseverance, The Barbell delves into the journey of Ronnie Coleman, seeking both insights into his health concerns and the profound lessons his positive attitude imparts.

As eloquently recounted in his autobiography, “Yeah Buddy!,” Ronnie Coleman endured his initial back injury while attempting a 500-pound squat at a mere 17 years of age during a powerlifting meet. He vividly describes the moment when an intense burst of pain struck his lower back, likening it to a flash of lightning searing through his entire backside.

Subsequent injuries followed even before his foray into bodybuilding competitions. While attending Grambling State University, Coleman earned a spot on the football team as a walk-on during his sophomore year. Unfortunately, injuries to his neck and back during his senior year challenged him to confront and endure persistent pain.

So, what transpired in the life of world-famous bodybuilder Ronnie Coleman that irrevocably altered his trajectory and bodybuilding career?

A Fabled Legacy: Ronnie Coleman’s Rise to Prominence

Heralded as one of the greatest bodybuilders in history, Ronnie Coleman secured the Mr. Olympia title an impressive eight consecutive times and notched 26 IFBB professional titles. However, despite his monumental achievements, Coleman’s mobility has significantly declined.

The Present-Day Ronnie Coleman: A Glimpse into His Age and Weight

Born on May 13, 1964, in Mississippi, Ronnie Coleman currently stands at 58 years of age. In the prime of his professional bodybuilding career, he weighed an astounding 300 pounds (136 kilograms).

The Unraveling of Ronnie Coleman’s Journey: Surgeries and Their Impact

Renowned for his remarkable powerlifting and bodybuilding prowess, Coleman relentlessly pushed his body to lift the heaviest weights conceivable. However, this came at a substantial cost, ultimately reshaping the course of his career and life.

The Rigors of Training: An Imposing Toll on Ronnie Coleman’s Health

The intensity of Coleman’s training regimen exacted a severe toll on his physical well-being, leading to a loss of mobility. As a result of numerous surgeries and other medical interventions, the 58-year-old bodybuilding icon found himself confined to a wheelchair, grappling with a significant reduction in mobility.

A Life-Altering Injury: The Turning Point in Ronnie Coleman’s Career

In 1996, a brutal squatting routine caused Coleman to dislocate a disk, an injury that went untreated initially, changing his life irrevocably. This setback culminated in severe spinal issues, accompanied by detrimental damage to his back, shoulders, hips, and neck, all attributed to the arduous weightlifting demands. A herniated disk followed, compounded by 13 surgeries and persistent workouts post-diagnosis, aggravating his existing health challenges.

The Quest for Recovery: Challenges Faced by Ronnie Coleman

Enduring a harrowing journey, Coleman underwent two hip replacement surgeries and various treatments in a bid to alleviate the pain stemming from damaged intervertebral disks. Unfortunately, rather than attaining complete recovery, the surgeries further compromised his mobility, presenting a poignant illustration of his health struggles.

The Current State of Ronnie Coleman: Mobility and Determination

In light of his retirement, Ronnie Coleman confronts an array of health complications that profoundly impede his mobility. Presently reliant on crutches due to spinal cord problems and related health issues, Coleman’s unwavering determination defies the odds. Despite his physical challenges, he continues to train, albeit with lighter weights, remaining actively engaged in the bodybuilding and fitness community.

A Ray of Hope: Glimmers of Progress

Through exercise and therapy, Coleman has exhibited remarkable progress in regaining some of his mobility, enabling him to walk with assistance. His unwavering commitment to maintaining an active presence within the bodybuilding sphere serves as an inspiration to many aspiring bodybuilders.

An Entrepreneurial Venture: Beyond Bodybuilding

In addition to his illustrious bodybuilding career, Coleman established a thriving enterprise, focusing on high-quality sports supplements and apparel catering to gym enthusiasts and bodybuilders alike.

In conclusion, the extraordinary journey of Ronnie Coleman, accompanied by an array of prestigious titles and a legacy as the GOAT, stands as a testament to the heights of bodybuilding excellence. However, it is essential to acknowledge that this remarkable path also entailed profound challenges, which Coleman faced with resilience and determination. Despite the impediments that he encountered, his tenacity and indomitable spirit endure as a beacon of inspiration in the realm of bodybuilding and beyond.

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