“Everybody want to be a bodybuilder, but don’t nobody want to lift no heavy-ass weights, but me.” – Ronnie Coleman
For many people, muscle mass and strength go hand-in-hand. The comics we read growing up featured swole heroes with superhuman strength. Their backs were so wide that even their capes looked small, bicep peaks so high, their sleeves almost ripped apart as they uppercut the bad guys, thighs so big, they could ignite a fire as they walked. Okay, maybe the last part was a bit exaggerated, but you get the point.
When most of us thought no human could ever be that big, the real-life “Vita-Ray chamber” a.k.a Metroflex Gym, Texas, gave us Ronnie Coleman.
While comic geeks were expecting spaceship-making billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to finally reveal they were behind Stark Industries, we saw the emergence of the Incredible Hulk from an unlikely place, the APD – Arlington Police Department.
The ex-cop is one of the strongest (if not the most) Mr. Olympias of all time. Ronnie Coleman lifted heavy and believed that moving big weight was the best way of putting on muscle mass.
Usually, bodybuilders have a favorite lift where they are especially strong. Tom Platz had the squat, Franco Columbu was known for his deadlift, Larry Scott made the preacher curl famous, but there is no particular lift associated with Ronnie. “The King” was ridiculously strong in every exercise.
Ronnie Coleman Hardcore Lifting
Since bodybuilders preach lifting with the correct form and focus on muscle contractions and mind-muscle connection instead of the weight on the bar, it is usually believed that bodybuilders are not as strong as they look. But Ronnie Coleman turned this assumption on its head.
If you trained in the Mertroflex Gym in the 90s and heard “ain’t nothin’ but a peanut” or “yeah buddy!” you knew shit was about to go down.
Coleman’s signature phrases have been adopted by hardcore lifters around the world. Do not believe us? How often do you hear a guy in your gym cry out “light weight, baby“ before he lifts ridiculously heavy? These phrases have transformed into war cries. When a lifter utters these words, he is ready to put everything on the line.
Ronnie Coleman Deadlift Strength
Before he won his first Mr. O title in 1998, the GOAT competed in the Texas Deadlift Classic annually between 1991 and 1994.
Coleman’s Deadlift PR in TDC:
- 275 lbs class: 727.5 lbs
- 242 lbs class: 725 lbs
Over the four years, The King’s best pulls varied from 695 to 727.5 lbs. His best official deadlift was 725 lbs (329 kg) in the 242 class in 1992, when he was 27.
To put this into context, Arnold Schwarzenegger deadlifted 675 lbs at 20 years old in a 1968 powerlifting meet.
Trivia: Besides the eight Sandows on his trophy shelf, Ronnie Coleman has the second-highest pro title wins under his belt (26).
Ronnie Coleman Unofficial Deadlift Record
Before the advent of YouTube and Instagram, bodybuilding fans followed their favorite athletes through DVDs and magazines. Ronnie Coleman has featured in seven films/documentaries between 1998 and 2018.
The best part about these videos, you ask?
Coleman ups the ante in every successive DVD.
Weeks before stepping on the Mr. Olympia stage in 2000, Ronnie was filmed training in the Metroflex gym in “Ronnie Coleman: The Unbelievable.”
In the training DVD, Coleman deadlifted:
- 755 lbs: 4 reps
- 800 lbs (362.9 kg): 2 reps.
Use our neat One rep max calculator, and you would find out that The King could probably do 823 lbs for a single.
Compare these to other bodybuilders who stop lifting heavy at least four weeks out of a big show to minimize the chances of injury during training.
Fascinatingly, the police officer performed the monster lifts without wearing a power suit or low-soled shoes. Instead, he did them while wearing a tank top, tights, and thick-soled boots. He should have gotten a ticket for this if you ask me.
Must Watch: Ronnie Coleman Reacts To His 800lbs Deadlift
Ronnie Coleman Squat Strength
Coleman got his craziest ideas just before Olympias, and 2003 Mr. O was no different. In a training video shot before 2003 Olympia (Ronnie Coleman: The Cost of Redemption), the 8X Olympia champ wanted to duplicate his deadlift record (800 lbs for two reps) in the squat.
Attempting an 800 lbs squat just before the Olympia showdown was a crazy idea, especially for a bodybuilder on top of the sport and going for his sixth consecutive title.
To prepare for the ginormous squat, Ronnie Coleman bought a squat suit, something he had never previously worn. As I held onto my breath for good luck, Ronnie got into position under the 800 lbs bar wearing the squat suit, a weightlifting belt, and knee wraps.
As he unracked the bar, we could see veins popping out of his bald head and neck. We knew it was showtime when we heard, “yeah, buddy!”
He came in a little high on the first rep, and he knew it. Being the champ he is, he went three inches deeper on the second repetition, clearly breaking parallel.
800 lbs for two reps. Put these numbers in our 1RM calculator, and it would tell you that he could do 823 lbs for a single.
The best part?
Ronnie later claimed that he could have gotten more reps if he was not so fixated on the double.
Surely you’re Joking, Mr.
It was no surprise that Ronnie Coleman won the 2003 Mr. Olympia supersized (nearly 300 lbs).
Must Watch: Ronnie Coleman Relives His Legendary 800lb Squat
Chronicles of Ronnie Coleman and The Squat
During a 2005 Flex magazine shoot, Coleman squatted 585 lbs for 10 reps. All of those 10 reps were deep, and Ronnie squatted until his nose bled. In today’s Instagram-crazy world, Ronnie Coleman would be Larry Wheels but with 8 Mr. Olympia titles.
Pull out the trusty 1RM calculator again, input the details, and it would tell you that Ronnie could do 780 lbs squat for one rep. In other words, Ronnie not only managed to maintain his strength after his initial 800 lbs squat attempt in 2003, but he could now probably do the lift without wearing a squat suit.
The Front Squat
Many lifters would agree that the front squat is one of the toughest squat variations. Not only do front squats put more tension on the quads as compared to your glutes (the strongest muscle group of your body), but they are harder to execute as they demand more from your core and anterior muscle chain.
Not to mention, Ronnie Coleman was one of the meanest front squatters in his prime. In 2000, The King did a mind-boggling 585 lbs front squat for four reps.
On top of that, on July 4, 2006, at age 42, he front squatted 495 lbs for 10 reps. Put these numbers into the 1rm calculator, and it spits out 660 lbs(!) for a single.
We know you have been thinking about the hack squat. In a training video from 2000, Coleman did a 780 lbs hack squat for eight reps. The 1RM calculator would tell you Ronnie could have done 968 lbs for a single.
Ronnie Coleman Bench Press Strength
In the training video from 2003, Coleman can be seen benching 495 lbs for five reps. The 1RM calculator indicated a one-rep max bench press of 557 lbs.
Ronnie Coleman bench press PR from 2003 (Ronnie Coleman: The Cost of Redemption):
- Flat bench press: 495 lbs for 5 reps
- Incline bench press: 405 lbs for 8 reps
- Decline bench press: 405 lbs for 10 reps.
Ronnie Coleman Dumbbell Bench Press PRs
If you are still not impressed, his dumbbell bench press PRs should do the trick. In a 2000 training video, Ronnie Coleman performed 12 reps with 200 lbs dumbbells. Let us repeat that if you missed it the first time, 12 reps with 200 lbs dumbbells.
If you have ever been inside a gym, you would know that the mere sight of a 200 lbs dumbbell is enough to induce a muscle-ripping pump – given your gym is badass enough to have a 200 lbs dumbbell in the first place.
The 1RM calculator indicates that Coleman could have crushed a 280 lbs dumbbell for a single.
- Dumbbell flat bench press: 200 lbs for 12 reps
- Dumbbell incline bench press: 200 lbs for 5 reps
Note: Ronnie did not use any help lifting the monster dumbbells into position in any of the sets mentioned above.
The Imaginary Powerlifting Meet
Now that we have the three big numbers and the possible 1RMs, let us enter the metaverse and run some simulations. On second thought, we lack the required tech, so we are just going to add up his biggest lifts.
Revisiting Ronnie Coleman’s 1RM numbers:
- Deadlift: 823 lbs
- Squat: 823 lbs
- Bench press: 557 lbs
Based on these numbers, Ronnie Coleman’s total in a powerlifting meet would be 2,203 lbs (1,000 kg). To put things into context, the current raw world record in the 308-pound class is 2,458 lbs.
Although Ronnie’s numbers are based on his best lifts across several years, we can imagine the impact he could have had in the powerlifting world had he focused solely on powerlifting.
Ronnie Coleman Row Strength
In his prime, Coleman was probably the strongest rower of all time.
Ronnie Coleman Row PR:
- Barbell row: 495 lbs for 8 reps
- T-bar row: 570 lbs for 9 reps
These rowing figures come from his training DVD shot in 2000 (Ronnie Coleman: The Unbelievable). For the uninitiated, 570 lbs can only be achieved by stacking one end of a barbell with as many 45s as possible (12).
Reportedly, in 2004, Ronnie found a way to cram on a little more weight on the T-bar. He managed to slap on 580 lbs on the bar and rowed for five reps before the V-handle broke. The guy broke a metal handle! A freaking metal handle! If this isn’t superhuman strength, what is?
We would say that Ronnie would probably have gotten at least eight reps if it was not for the weak metal.
Ronnie Coleman Leg Press Strength
In the training video from 2003 (Ronnie Coleman: The Cost of Redemption), after crushing the squat, The King loads up the leg press to the brim. After the sleeves ran out of space, he put a few more plates on the sled.
The owner of the Metroflex gym, Brian Dobson, then pulls out a calculator to compute how much weight Ronnie had on the leg press machine – you know shit is getting serious when you need a calculator.
After a few “yeah, buddy!,” Ronnie Coleman smashes 2,325 lbs (1,065.9 kg) for 10 repetitions.
Ronnie Coleman Strength on Other Exercises:
- Seated dumbbell shoulder press: 160 lbs for 7 reps
- Seated military press: 315 lbs for 11 reps
- Behind-the-back barbell shrug: 735 lbs for 10 reps
- Dumbbell pullover: 160 lbs for 10 reps
- Dumbbell triceps extension: 75 lbs for 15 reps per arm
- Standing alternate dumbbell curl: 75 lbs for 8 reps
While you process all the numbers and Ronnie’s superhuman strength, I’m going to go sit in a corner and meditate (and maybe cry a little).
So, what do you do with these numbers? While you should use them as motivation to improve your lifts and get stronger, make sure you are not spreading yourself too thin as it can put you at the risk of an injury.
Remember: Ronnie did not get to his peak strength within a week of starting training. He used progressive overload to achieve his level of strength, and so should you.