“Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but don’t nobody want to lift no heavy ass weights.” When people talk about the greatest bodybuilders of all time, there are usually two names that take center stage. The first is the legendary Arnold Schwarzenegger of Austria who represents the “old school” realm of bodybuilding and, the second, is Louisiana native Ronnie Coleman who defines the new age of professional bodybuilding. With eight consecutive Mr. Olympia titles and 26 wins as a professional at the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB), it’s easy to see why Coleman keeps good company with The Terminator himself.
Long before he ever dreamed of taking the stage as a bodybuilder, Coleman enjoyed a normal childhood growing up in Monroe, Louisiana in the 1960s. By the early 1980s, he enrolled at Grambling State University where he first learned to use his strength and competitive edge to his advantage as a middle linebacker on the college’s football team. Needing a change of scenery after graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting in 1984, he moved to Arlington, Texas where he took an entirely different route by joining the police force in 1989.
Spending the next 11 years fighting crime on the streets of Arlington before serving as a reserve officer from 2000 to 2003, Coleman saw firsthand how his physical strength was an advantage in protecting the community. That’s exactly why he didn’t think twice when fellow Arlington officer Gustavo Arlotta invited him to join the Metroflex gym, which was owned and operated by amateur bodybuilder Brian Dobson. Finding his niche at the gym, Coleman’s potential was evident and Dobson himself made him an offer he couldn’t refuse—to let Dobson train him for the upcoming Mr. Texas bodybuilding competition in exchange for a free lifetime membership to the gym. Accepting the deal, Coleman entered the competition and, as luck would have it, took home first place in nearly every category in addition to defeating Dobson himself.
Hooked by the sweet taste of victory and the attention from his growing strength, Coleman entered his first competition as a professional bodybuilder in the 1995 Canada Pro Cup. Winning the title that year and in 1996, he went on to win the Russian Grand Prix in 1997 just as he established himself as one of the most successful bodybuilders on the professional circuit. All the while, endorsement opportunities were endless as he expanded his career beyond competitions with guest appearances at gyms around the country in addition to releasing a series of training videos including The Unbelievable, The Cost of Redemption and On the Road.
Winning nearly every competition he entered including titles like the 2000 Mr. Brody Langley, the 2001 Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic and the 2004 Grand Prix Holland, Coleman’s success took him around the world from Australia and China to Austria, Russia, England and Brazil as he became a spokesperson for the industry and an embodiment of muscular perfection. In 2001, his achievements and his promotion of physical fitness in all forms from bodybuilding to healthy eating habits and lifestyle changes brought him full circle back to Texas where he was awarded the 2001 Admiral in the Texas Navy Certificate from Governor Rick Perry. But, his accomplishments and contributions to the profession didn’t stop there.
Despite officially retiring from bodybuilding in 2009, Coleman was determined to extend his reach in the profession and launched his own health product company in 2011 called Ronnie Coleman Nutrition. Continuing to train with free weights rather than machine weights to increase flexibility and his range of motion, Coleman’s previous seven-day training routine has tapered to four days each week because of his busy schedule that’s now filled with guest appearances and tours around the world.
As for his personal life, Coleman may be an eight-time Mr. Olympia champion but he certainly hasn’t let the title—or the rest of his accomplishments, for that matter—go to his head. Instead, the devout Christian is one of humblest bodybuilders in the industry who, despite earning enough money to retire early from the Arlington Police Department, continued to put on his uniform and badge every day because serving the community was just as important to him as bodybuilding.
This compassion is part of what attracted Lebanese-French trainer Rouaida Christine Achkar to Coleman when the couple met at a Paris sports exposition in 1998. Dating for nearly a decade before tying the knot in Beirut on December 28, 2007, the pair was obviously better friends as they divorced shortly after. By 2008, Coleman found love again with another personal trainer, Susan Williamson. After eight years, the couple finally married on April 11, 2016.
Today, the 52-year-old Coleman seems to have it all from his incredible bodybuilding career to finding love and finally settling down after dedicating the last two decades of his life to the gym. Still, he hasn’t forgotten his humble beginnings or the value of hard work as he continues to influence young bodybuilders around the world with his incredible strength and determination. As if that isn’t enough, he’s even created the Ronnie Coleman Signature Series as a way “to give back to the industry and fans that gave [him] so much,” which has allowed him to pay it forward one protein supplement at a time.