Ronnie Coleman in his prime was untouchable in the world of bodybuilding. Now he has a documentary on Netflix that does him justice and cements his legacy for a whole new generation. Don’t be surprised if you shed a tear or two during the movie.
Ronnie Coleman: The King, from Generation Iron, came out over the summer, but it’s now available to watch on Netflix. It follows the highs of the eight-time Mr. Olympia, as well as his more recent repeated back injuries and surgeries. Here’s what to know from the doc and what Coleman, 54, is up to these days.
He really was the king of lifting…
Coleman shares the world record for winning Mr. Olympia the most times, beating out the likes of seven-time champion Arnold Schwarzenegger. A dip into the archives shows him deadlifting 800 pounds. The King shows old footage of the fitness icon taking on seemingly impossible amounts of weight.
“I was trying to be the best in the world. Ronnie was standing my way,” a fellow bodybuilding competitor says of going up against Coleman back in the day.
…But it took a major toll on his body.
A medical professional in The King explains that Coleman’s insistence on loading up on extremely heavy weights for years put significant stress on his body. The discs in his back suffered badly. Coleman has been battling through a series of major surgeries over the past few years, including two hip replacements and multiple back surgeries. For a man who’s spent much of his professional life as a 300-pound monster pumping iron every day, being confined to hospitals has been hard on Coleman.
He’s in constant pain and takes oxycodone to treat it.
“I actually feel like I’m about to die,” Coleman says at one point during the documentary of the pain he’s undergoing, adding that it’s intense and present “24/7.”
He opens up about taking the drug oxycodone, a powerful type of opioid painkiller, saying he swallows “four, sometimes five” 30-milligram pills “every single day. This is the highest potency you can get.”
The surgeries didn’t all go well.
“I should also inform you guys that I have another surgery Thursday because the rod came loose from the screw right after surgery,” Coleman wrote on Instagram earlier this year, before relaying the gruesome story: “I was just released from the recovery room when the nurse came into my room to check my bandages. She asked me to rollover and as soon as I did I heard a loud pop. When I rolled back over it popped again. My 2 week follow up appointment revealed a loose rod after X-rays.”
He may never walk on his own again.
Coleman has been using crutches to help him walk around, as seen in the doc. More discouragingly, he told Muscular Development in October that he may never walk again as a result of complications from operations.
“The last three surgeries have been really bad and caused a lot of damage to my body so I don’t know if I’ll be able to walk,” he said. “But I’m gonna give it my best shot.”
He still can’t quit working out.
While continuing to lift could do more damage to his body, one doctor in The King says, “For his overall well-being, I think he needs to.”
Strengthening his muscles is a way of life for Coleman, and he’s not giving up even as he fights to just stay healthy. He’s shown off on Instagram that he’s at least getting a little bit of work in to stop his muscles from atrophying.
“I am trying my best not to injure my back as I’ve just had surgery 3 weeks ago and fresh out of rehab hospital 5 days ago,” Coleman wrote. Despite his injuries, Coleman trained at a gym in Columbus, Ohio, earlier in 2018 to get ready for the Arnold Strongman Classic competition.
There’s no denying the road ahead of him is exceedingly difficult. Still, he’s felt well enough at times to do some light work.
“I’m just training so my body doesn’t atrophy as much as it already has at the moment,” Coleman wrote. “I’m really tiny at the moment but it’s all good because we all know muscles have memory.”
Coleman’s diminished stature is quite different than how he looked in his glory days, but the guy has been through a lot. According to his Instagram, a previous back surgery required him to have his intestines taken out so doctors could fuse screws into his back, then put back in place.
Even then, Coleman was trying to get a pump in from his hospital bed.
By Paul Schrodt & Jack Crosbie