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Ronnie Coleman unable to walk after ANOTHER back surgery

I’m not too up to speed on the bodybuilding social media circle, alas. But, a friend recently told me about Ronnie Coleman’s back surgery and how he’s now confined to a wheelchair as a result. Needless to say, I was intrigued and shocked.

Ronnie Coleman is closing in on 52 years of age and definitely past his best physically. The most striking change is his lack of size – he’s no longer 300 lbs of ripped muscle, far from it actually. And it’s understandable, as he’s no longer getting on stage and competing, there’s no requirement of the IMMENSE drug doses it takes to get anywhere near the size he attained – and he’s a genetic freak. Seriously.

Nevertheless, he is still bigger than most will ever be and certainly looks better than any 52 year old around your neighbourhood. Although it’s never been all about looks, there’s more to the health and vitality puzzle than the superficial exterior. What can you do with your body? Can you play with your grandchildren? Are you mobile? How’s your posture?

Upon some very basic research, I found this was the most recent in a long list of surgeries Ronnie’s undergone………….

• December 2007 – Laminectomy of L4-L5 discs
• July 2011 – Disc decompression of L3-L4 discs
• December 2011 – Fusion of neck C4-C5-C6
• July 2014 – Left hip replacement requiring 2 screws
• August 2014 – Right hip replacement requiring 4 screws
• July 2015 – Fusion of L3-L4 discs

And we can now add a February 2016 11 hour back surgery to the list. This surprised me and it may surprise many of you too. I knew about his hip issues, but I never realised he’d had back trouble dating back so many years – years when he was still competing.

What does this illustrate?

It reminds us the body has limits. As capable and sometimes miraculous as the human body can be, there’s a cap on its’ abilities. You can only get so strong in this case. And boy, was Ronnie Coleman strong…………..his 800 lb squat has been seen by just about everyone who’s set foot in a gym. Ironically, it’s that very 800 lb x 2 squat he says he regrets most; because he didn’t do more reps.

We all know he could easily have done more reps, but it’s not for me and you to say.

The following quote is pretty viral at present (sorry if you’ve seen it already)………….

“So you guy’s still wanna be like me, you still want to have the same work ethic is I had. Well as you can see I’m 8 X Mr Olympia and I can’t walk. I endured an 11 hour major back surgery last Tuesday. Do I have any regrets?, if I had a chance to do it all over again would I change anything? Yes if I had a chance to do it all over again I would change one thing. That is when I squatted that 800lbs I would do 4 reps instead of 2, that is my only regret in my career. Those 2 reps I did still haunts me today because I know I had 4 in me but the coward in me only did 2. That is my only regret.”

Becoming great requires doing things others won’t, or can’t. Ronnie Coleman is no exception. He trained like a starved lion. He lifted “heavy ass weight” as he called it. Doing so won him millions of fans around the world and inspired a few million more on top of that to get in shape and push themselves that bit harder and further. Even I’m partial to a good Ronnie Coleman training video from time to time. Yeah Buddy!

With all these ailments and injuries though, one may ask: who’s the real winner – Ronnie Coleman or nature? I would say Ronnie Coleman on the condition that he’s able to recover sufficiently and be an agile and mobile human being once again. But let’s not forget there are many other ‘victims’ of the iron game who’ve endured similar torrid paths with much less to show for it. Where’s their status? Who cares about them? Are they destitute? Probably.

Serious heavy lifting is dangerous and it always will be. I love lifting heavy and prefer it far more than ‘pump work’ or ‘fluff’, but loving it means I’m forced, by default, to pay ample respect to such an activity. Did Ronnie’s sometimes questionable form/technique contribute to his injuries? Heavy weight + insecure technique = injury in every book. Some people (very few) have won the genetic lottery in order to dodge such outcomes. And it’s every bit a lottery; how do you know you’ve got the genes to withstand years of abuse via lifting ultra heavy? You only know when the story is over. As genetically blessed as Ronnie is, it seems even his joints and frame could only endure so much, for so long.


The career of Ronnie Coleman demonstrates a fundamental law of nature: For everything you gain, you lose somewhere else. It just comes down to whether what you gain is worth what’s lost as a result. For Ronnie, it was. He may lose a pain free life as a senior citizen, but he’s set his name in stone as an all time great in a sport he adored. Would he have done so if he hadn’t been so driven, so intense, so extreme? Unlikely.

Everything we do has the potential to carry long term implications – especially weightlifting. Weightlifting has the potential to better your life in an inordinate amount of ways, but it also carries the potential to harm, and humble you when taken too far. 800 lb squats are feats only few can realise, and to do so requires extremes that often times the body retaliates to in the form of illnesses or injuries later in life. It sucks, but it’s true……..your past can catch up with you, for good or for bad, and even the great Ronnie Coleman isn’t immune to that.

Nobody is inhuman.

I would like to wish Ronnie Coleman a speedy and successful recovery, and more importantly I hope he’s reunited with his love as soon as possible; the gym. 




JR @ Straight-Talking-Fitness View All

The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.

10 thoughts on “Ronnie Coleman unable to walk after ANOTHER back surgery Leave a comment

  1. There are two basic ways to think of resistance training. The first is to build muscle for the sake of health, particularly for those of us over 60 who want to get back some of what we’ve lost.

    The second is to build muscle and strength for some competition, and that doesn’t necessarily mean becoming more healthy.

    Last summer, I watched a YouTube video of Eddie “the Beast” Hall setting a new world record for the deadlift: 1 rep at 463 kilos or just a hair over 1020 pounds. The guy lifted the equivalent of a half-ton pick up truck with his bare hands (well, actually, he used straps).

    There’s no denying that Hall is incredibly strong, but I can’t believe making a career out of lifting insanely heavy weights is going to be good for you.

    I don’t say any of this to disrespect Coleman. He’s obviously a dedicated athlete and I’m sorry for his troubles. My wife had just one hip replaced and I know the struggle she’s gone through to recover.

    But as you said, everything you gain in that sort of sport costs you something down the line. At my age, I can’t afford to push myself to the point where my body starts falling apart. That’s what I’m trying to prevent by strength training.

  2. A great and very timely post! If you beat up your body, with or without pharmaceuticals, you WILL pay the price. The connecting tissue you’re shredding along the way does not care about your ego. At 65 with fifty years of resistance training behind me and feeling fantastic, I am here to say that moderation, even in fitness, gets it done.

      • Great question. For me it was easy–it’s always been what I’ve enjoyed. For most of the time a vanity thing as well, but having a respect for the extremes. There’s a fine line between pushing yourself hard and punishment. As much as I loved weight training, the three years I spent in the intense learning of Shotokan has benefited me greatly as far as flexibility and range of motion, even to this day. Train hard, train smart and enjoy!

  3. Yeah– he would do two more reps–bullshit bravado–Ronnie is an example of what happens when you take a multitude of drugs over many years to get a freakish and synthetic body–he should do the honorable thing and warn people not to do what he did to himself. Instead–looking at his FB page you would think he was still training heavy and looking great.

    • Anyone who thinks Ronnie Coleman was ever natural and not taking steroids should have their IQs tested, that’s for sure. The reality is, that’s the same story for pretty much any ‘bodybuilder’ – even the gym rats. I know people who have very average physiques compared to Ronnie and use a fair few helping hands from vitamin S. Obviously Ronnie and those his size are using a mountain of drugs, and really I think it comes down to genetic luck as to whether these massive guys don’t die from steroid abuse.

      It’s not a game I fancy playing for sure. Thanks for your comment!

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