The first professional bodybuilder I saw in person was a New Zealand champion. Even though he was well below the level of the top Americans, it was an amazing experience and I’d never seen anything like it. It’s incredible how much muscle the body can carry.
But Ronnie was on a different level.
In 1999 I read a Flex magazine. It was dog-eared and barely hanging together, but turned out to be one of the biggest game-changers of my life. It sparked my passion for weight training and bodybuilding.
It also contained the first images I saw of Ronnie Coleman. The magazine was out of date by that point, so Ronnie was listed as merely another Mr Olympia contender, a title which he’d actually already won the first of 8 consecutive times.
Back then I didn’t understand that the Mr Olympia was the most prestigious and important contest in bodybuilding, but two years later when I got the opportunity to see him in person, I did.
It wasn’t long after his 2001 Mr Olympia win, and he was “competing” in the New Zealand Grand Prix. Chris Cormier, another one of the best of that era, was also there, but Ronnie was so good that it was still basically a joke.
Friends in High Places
The person in charge of the show lighting at the time is a close friend, so not only did I get free entry, I got to go backstage. Ronnie in pictures is one thing, seeing him on stage was far more impressive, but standing a few feet from him backstage was verging on unbelievable.
Ronnie Coleman, The Muscle Explosion
As incredible as Chris Cormier was, Ronnie was different. People talk about his “hanging muscle”, and maybe that’s the best description of what set him apart. He just looked superhuman and huge, as if he was wearing a ludicrously exaggerated rubber muscle suit, except it was real human tissue.
All these years later, I realize that seeing Ronnie Coleman backstage was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Out of all who’ve been crowned Mr Olympia, Ronnie is arguably the best. He was utterly dominant, a genetic fluke whose balance of sheer size and pleasing shape we may never seen again.
If you enjoyed this, you might like Trying to Determine the Real Health Risks of Steroids or My journey to Safe, Pain-Free Squat Technique.
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