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Ronnie Coleman in the new documentary “The King”

Ronnie Coleman in the new documentary “The King”

Geschreven door Nathan Albers
Geschatte leestijd: 5 minuten About great achievements, heavy weights, heavy setbacks, and eternal optimism. The documentary about 8-time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman and his battle against the deterioration of his body.

Premiering next week: Ronnie Coleman in “The King”

Next week, a new documentary premieres about the life of Ronnie Coleman and his medical problems over the past years. In my opinion, a must-see for the true bodybuilding fan. ‘The King” by the makers of Generation Iron. Coleman is one of the greatest bodybuilders in the history of the sport. However, perhaps his greatest achievement lies outside the stage. In his relentless optimism amidst the deterioration of what was once the most impressive body on earth.

Superman in a wheelchair

When I was about seven years old, I saw Christopher Reeves as Superman for the first time. If the teacher at school would ask what I wanted to be when I grew up, then I knew from now on. Flying, shooting lasers out of my eyes, and seeing through walls, that was even cooler than becoming an astronaut. But then you grow up, and bit by bit fantasy is replaced by reality. You realize that ‘your Superman’ is just an actor, with all the human limitations that come with it. I was 18 when Reeves fell off a horse and became paralyzed from the neck down. Superman fans worldwide must have felt a similar feeling. The man who once reversed time by flying rapidly around the earth could not even walk anymore. Watching your hero deteriorate and be reduced to a shadow of their former self sucks.

The king

But Christopher was of course not really Superman, just an actor in that role. My inspiration when I seriously started bodybuilding around the age of 23 was a real Superman. Not an actor who relies on special effects, but someone who could really achieve inhuman feats. “The cost of redemption” was the first DVD about bodybuilding that I bought back then for motivation and inspiration. The film shows Ronnie Coleman at his peak. He already had all 8 of his Mr. Olympia titles at that time, making him, along with Lee Haney, the best-performing bodybuilder ever. Even better when you look at the total number of victories in competitions. In that DVD, Coleman showed his daily routine in the ‘off-season’, the bulking period where nutrition and training are focused on growth. So at his strongest. And man, was he strong! For bodybuilders, muscle strength is secondary to muscle mass. Unlike powerlifters, it’s not about the weight they train with, but about the muscle mass that training results in. Ronnie, however, loved (and still loves) to train super heavy.

“Light weight baby!!”

He was not like some contemporary bodybuilders who refine the cultivation of muscle mass to an exact science in terms of nutrition and training. He trained and ate like a beast. Was that necessary? Maybe not. His genetic potential was so great that he probably could have achieved just as much on stage with less heavy training. But heavy training is just part of Ronnie.

Did Ronnie Coleman train too heavy?

According to Ronnie himself, he didn’t train too heavy. This is evident, among other things, from his response to someone’s comment on Instagram that heavy training is responsible for his current condition. According to Ronnie, the problem is mainly hereditary, and hip replacements would be common among the men in his family. His back problems would have been caused by American Football in school. If he could do it all over again, he would train even heavier. In a trailer for the new documentary “The King,” we hear one of his doctors searching for the cause in the heavy training. He also expresses his concerns about the fact that Ronnie wants to continue training in his current condition. Physically, he doesn’t think it’s good for him, but he understands that Ronnie ‘needs this’.

What is too heavy?

Some videos of Ronnie are legendary. Like the leg press shown above with just over 1040 kg (8 reps). Or squatting and deadlifting with over 360 kg (both 2 reps). Other examples you can all find on Youtube:
  • Incline chest press with 90 kilogram dumbbells (7x)
  • Flat chest press with 90 kilogram dumbbells (12x)
  • Barbell chest press with over 220 kilograms (4-5x)
Consider that these are often heavier weights than he normally used, partly to make the DVD more interesting. During the squatting, for example, he says that during the recording. But even with these weights, you could say as a bodybuilder that it was relatively not overly heavy. Because you’re not looking so much at the weight but at the number of repetitions you do with that weight. That tells you what relative effort your muscles require. That also tells you whether someone focuses more on muscle strength or muscle mass. The number of repetitions Ronnie trains with in the examples is actually not that crazy for bodybuilders, who often do somewhere between 6 and 12 repetitions. If you see that almost every plate in the gym is placed on the leg press, then it’s not surprising if you think: “That’s too heavy.” But if you then see that he does 8 repetitions with that weight, then you can only judge that he’s not training too heavy. He’s just too strong.

Genetically fucked

Were such trainings too heavy for Ronnie? In hindsight, of course, you can say that someone, in whose family hip problems are common, is not wise to train so heavily. In that respect, Ronnie is genetically fucked. Getting genes with which you can achieve superhuman muscle mass and strength, combined with genes that make your skeleton less capable of bearing loads. That’s a bit like giving someone the most beautiful voice in the world with vocal cords that fall apart after ten years of singing. Ten years of beautiful singing only to never be able to speak again. Would you sing?

No regrets

Ronnie does. Referring back to the number of reps per exercise, you could say of that deadlift and squat with 360 kg that he had no business there as a bodybuilder. ‘Only’ one or two repetitions, that’s something you leave to powerlifters. But about that squat, Ronnie says in an interview promoting “The King” that there could actually have been three more repetitions in it. That he stopped at two, that’s what he regrets.

The fallen king

It’s always painful to see people slowly deteriorate. After countless hip and back surgeries, it’s a deeply sad sight to see Ronnie shuffling forward on two crutches like an old sick man. But at the same time, you can only admire his endless optimism. He just keeps going despite all the setbacks. I felt depressed when I lost a few kilos of muscle mass last year. Then you see Ronnie, reduced from the most muscular man on earth to a senior rehabbing with 10-kilogram plates. You see his total refusal to give in. Ronnie chose and chooses bodybuilding, his gift and his curse. You can think what you want about it. You can make accusations about steroid use, about ridiculously heavy training, about bodybuilding as a ridiculous sport. I can’t blame you for any of that. For me, however, Ronnie remains a hero, the king.

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Personal Trainer? Check out the All-in-one training and nutrition software!

Completely new version with everything you need to make your personal training even more personal and automate your business.
Available to everyone from spring 2024, sign up for a special launch discount.

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