Passion. Determination. Screaming, “Yeah Buddy! Light Weight, Baby!”
This was the recipe for success for The King, Ronnie Coleman, on his route to winning 8 straight Mr. Olympia contests from 1998-2005.
Earlier this summer, the M&S team traveled down to Arlington, Texas, to reminisce with his greatness about his legendary and Hall of Fame bodybuilding career.
The first stop we made was at Ronnie Coleman’s house, where he showcased his massive trophy case and filled us in on some epic stories regarding his competition days.
Today, we take you on a tour with Ronnie, Brian Dobson, Gus Carter, and Cory Mathews, through the infamous Metroflex Gym in Arlington.
Every lifter, whether recreational, amateur, or professional, knows that the road to a better physique is paved with sweat and iron.
Ronnie’s road to being 8x Mr. Olympia was no different and if Metroflex’s walls could talk, these are the memories of supernatural strength it would share.
Time will always pass, but memories will never fade.
Metroflex first open in September of 1986 and will celebrate its 30th birthday this coming September. The famed gym has brought the best out of many IFBB pros, both in their training and on stage. One of the most filmed gyms ever, a lot of prestige surrounds those who are fortunate enough to train there.
Of course, a lot of that has to do with the early members who set the training standard. Right in the mix of things, the bar was raised (pun intended) early and set by Ronnie himself.
The 800lbs Squat
On a day Ronnie will never forget, he squatted 800lbs. You read that right, 800lbs! In fact, he squatted the weight for two reps. As Ronnie recalls, the way it all went down was he had already managed to deadlift 800lbs and was curious to see if he could squat the same amount of weight.
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He wasn’t overly confident, so he went out and bought a squat suit. The hardest thing about a squat suit, Ronnie jokes, is putting it on. It took both Brian and Gus to help Ronnie get the suit over his massive physique. At the time Ronnie felt if he could deadlift 800lbs, he could squat 800lbs, because he was using the same muscles.
Ronnie remembers sitting and trying to psych himself up while Gus was loading the weight. Then, he heard Gus turn to the camera and say, “800 solid a** pounds!” Ronnie jokes that’s exactly what it was.
On his first rep, Ronnie remembers feeling like he didn’t get low enough, so on the second rep he buried it, going deep for a full range of motion. He feels like if he hadn’t set his mind to two reps, he probably could’ve done 5 reps, at least.
In fact, right afterwards, he went to the leg press machine and performed 2300lbs leg presses. So, he still had a lot of strength left on that day. Ronnie rarely went as heavy as he could of back then. He was more focused on repetition while getting ready for competitions, often performing 600+lb squats for 15 or so reps.
Brian remembers Ronnie doing those high reps and thinking how incredible it was. He recalls Ronnie lifting 600lbs on bent over rows for reps, with perfect form, like it was nothing. He reminisces about Ronnie’s focus in the gym and the yelling methods he used to psyche himself up. All of which became his catch phrases.
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Gus states that once Ronnie got to yelling “Yeah Buddy!” you knew he was about to get 2 more reps despite how much weight he was lifting. Ronnie says it all started when he was bored in the gym one day. He was trying to find something to fire him up. “Yeah Buddy! Light weight, baby!” were some of the first things that came to mind.
The 200lbs Dumbbell Press
The dumbbell rack at Metroflex is quite lengthy. Of course, you can probably guess who and what caused it to become that way. Brian recounts on how Ronnie used to split up his chest workout, going heavy barbell workouts one day and heavy dumbbell the next.
It got to the point where Ronnie had become so strong, that Metroflex didn’t have heavy enough dumbbells for Ronnie and he was doing sets of 20-25 reps on dumbbell press. So, Brian started buying bigger and bigger dumbbells. When Brian finally got 200lb dumbbells for Ronnie, he remembers Ronnie really being able to man handle the weight.
Just being able to lift a dumbbell as heavy as that off the ground requires an absurd amount of grip strength, but also being able to press it is quite the feat of strength.
The 800lbs Deadlift
Ronnie didn’t think he could deadlift 800lbs, but Brian talked him into it.
The only reason Ronnie got the second rep up, as he remembers, is because Brian had hit him and he had to get out that anger before putting the weight down.
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That’s what training partners and friends are for, right?
Glory Days of Metroflex
Brian says, the thing with Ronnie was that he never wanted to be beaten. When they first started out, Brian could out lift him in almost everything. However, that didn’t last long.
A lot of people tried to join their training circle. Most failed. Potential trainees could make it through chest day, some made it through back day, but none could make it through leg day.
Gus remembers going outside to do walking lunges with Ronnie on leg day. They’d start off doing 135lbs. When Ronnie saw Gus getting close in strength, he’d jump up to 225lbs, knowing Gus couldn’t do 2 plates on walking lunges. Ronnie would tell Gus if Gus wanted to catch him, he’d have to do 2 plates.
The minute Gus could do 2 plates, Ronnie would jump up to 315lbs. Gus says it was truly amazing seeing Ronnie train like that.
A lot of people criticize that old style of training. Some may say that’s why Ronnie isn’t able to compete these days, while others have shown longevity in their careers. However, Brian says they didn’t know any other way and isn’t sure how things would’ve went if they hadn’t had that training mentality.
Gus reminisces on those days, often wishing they could train like that again, but time goes on. Regardless, those days were wonderful and he appreciated the era that was simply bodybuilding.