Ronnie Coleman then and now: the inspiring journey of a bodybuilding icon through the years

Ronnie Coleman’s shocking transformation

Ronnie Coleman after winning the 2001 Arnold Classic and following his training two decades later in 2023 (@ronniecoleman8?Instagram)
Ronnie Coleman after winning the 2001 Arnold Classic and following his training two decades later in 2023 (@ronniecoleman8/Instagram)

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Ronnie Coleman, the legendary bodybuilder with 8 Mr Olympia wins and 26 IFB professional titles, is the most successful name in the bodybuilding industry. Through intense training, Coleman, 59, achieved one of the most dominant bodybuilding physiques the world has ever seen. But his journey is a story of resilience, of how he overcame his fall, an injury that confined him to a wheelchair, and his undying spirit to survive physical limitations.

1990: Ronnie Coleman enters the world of bodybuilding

1991 Mr. Olympia (@ronniecoleman8/Instagram)
Ronnie Coleman at the 1991 Mr Olympia contest (@ronniecoleman8/Instagram)

While a police officer in Arlington, Texas, he ventured into professional bodybuilding on the recommendation of a colleague. He won first place in the heavyweight and overall categories in the 1990 Mr. Texas bodybuilding competition. His first professional victory came at the 1995 Canada Pro Cup. He defended his victory in 1996. His success s It continued until the 1997 Russian Grand Prix.

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1996: Ronnie Coleman’s first brush with injury

Russian Grand Prix (@ronniecoleman8/Instagram)
Ronnie Coleman won the 1997 Russian Grand Prix (@ronniecoleman8/Instagram)

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Coleman’s extreme training, including squats and 800-pound dumbbells, took a toll on his body. In 1996, he dislocated a disc due to a brutal squatting routine. However, he never imagined that his negligence in seeking immediate medical assistance would change his life and career forever within a few years.

1998: First Mr. Olympia victory

1999 Mr. Olympia (@ronniecoleman8/Instagram)
Ronnie Coleman after winning the 1999 Mr Olympia (@ronniecoleman8/Instagram)

1998 marked a milestone in Coleman’s bodybuilding career. Despite his slow progression in the professional bodybuilding circle, he paved the way for success by winning the Mr. Olympia title in 1998, defeating Kenneth Wheeler. He never looked back until 2005, defending the title for eight consecutive years.

2007: Ronnie Coleman’s health deteriorates

Ronnie Coleman suffered serious spinal injuries from carrying heavy loads (@ronniecoleman8/Instagram)

The 1996 injury changed Coleman’s career path. The heavy lifting, along with the untreated injury, caused serious spinal problems as well as injuries to the back, shoulders, hips and neck. His persistent workout routines caused a herniated disc and since 2007 he has undergone 13 surgeries. These procedures included two hip replacements and surgeries to relieve chronic pain caused by damaged spinal discs, forcing him to retire. The legendary bodybuilder became disabled and was confined to a wheelchair.

Post-operative journey: Ronnie Coleman’s unprecedented determination

Ronnie Coleman still trains despite his physical limitations and partial immobility (@ronniecoleman/Instagram)
Ronnie Coleman trains despite his physical limitations and partial immobility (@ronniecoleman/Instagram)

Coleman is still in a wheelchair and relies on canes. However, that didn’t stop him from training hard. Although his ability to walk again without support remains in question, Coleman began a new life of willpower that proved his physical limitations would not stop him from sweating. He remains active in the bodybuilding and fitness industry and trains with light weights. His determination, combined with exercises, has helped him regain some of his mobility and he can walk with support. A healthy lifestyle, sufficient protein intake and incessant physical activity have made him a motivational icon for the fitness industry. Coleman still isn’t ready to rest, even after setbacks. He owns and runs the Ronnie Coleman Signature Series, which offers health supplements, sports nutrition and clothing for athletes, bodybuilders and gym enthusiasts.

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