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Ronnie Coleman is not your average human — case in point, this is the guy who stopped taking steroids cold turkey and felt no side effects. And in case you forgot, he also squatted 800 solid-ass pounds like it was nothing.
But just in case you needed another reminder of just how supernatural “The King” is, he revealed on The Joe Rogan Experience that he routinely lifted heavy weights and won eight straight Mr. Olympias all while dealing with a herniated disc.
“When you do something that you truly love and enjoy doing, that’s what you look forward to doing all the time regardless of how you feel,” Coleman, explaining how he was able to work through the pain, told a stunned Rogan. “As long as I’m doing what I love doing, I’m OK. If you take that away I probably wouldn’t be OK.”
For those who’ve never had the displeasure of a slipped or herniated disc, let us tell you that this isn’t a simple kink that you can eventually foam roll out. There are rubbery discs between your spinal bones, which— usually through a major injury—can push through the casing and cause severe pain and numbness.
In extreme cases, a herniated disc can cause paralysis.
Usually people seek treatment right away if there’s a problem with their disc. But Coleman, who dislocated his disk during an intense squatting session in 1996, didn’t get any such help.
“I just kept working out,” Coleman said.
In fact, he kept working out even after realizing something had gone wrong that day. “There was a loud crunching sound,” he said. “I lost a little strength. I heard it, but the athlete in you is like, ‘Let’s go on.'”
Hours after that workout session, he was still in pain and he decided to go to the emergency room.
The eight-time Mr. Olympia has been used to pain, having injured his back while powerlifting in high school and playing football in college. “If you’re an athlete you’re in pain your whole life,” Coleman told Rogan. He was even in pain while doing the interview, but called it “nothing major.”
Coleman would only get surgery on the disc after he retired in 2007. The damage, though, was irreversible at that point.
“The first time you herniate a disc it’s as if you stack a bunch of cans on top of each other and you snap one out,” he says in the interview. “Well after a while the other ones are going to start falling out of place, too.”
Since then, he’s had just about every disc in his neck and beck operated on and just two weeks ago found out about another one in his neck that will need work.
To date, Coleman’s had 13 surgeries on his spine and was almost paralyzed due to all the screws, cages, and bolts put in him. Although he’s able to move with some assistance, he’s lost most of his mobility.
“All the hardware kind of interferes with the nerves,” he said. “I used to be able to bend over and do all these crazy stretches. I can’t do that no more.”
He admits that his constant urge to workout, despite doctors’ warnings not to, has exacerbated those injuries. Now, he’s either in a wheelchair or walking around in crutches.
Does he still plan on stopping his training sessions? Not a chance.
“I look at it I’m still alive and I still workout every day,” he said.
You can watch him detail his surgeries with Rogan in the clip below.