Although he competes in a vastly different sport, Mitchell Hooper can appreciate the superhuman strength and sheer determination it took for Ronnie Coleman to become the most decorated bodybuilder of all time. While the reigning World’s Strongest Man can toss around kettlebells and overhead press heavy logs with relative ease, he had to eat a proverbial slice of humble pie after attempting to match some of the eight-time Mr. Olympia winner’s best lifts.
In a video posted on his YouTube page on Nov. 16, 2023, Hooper took on the improbable challenge of performing a Coleman-inspired back workout that included three basic exercises using loads that gave him a newfound appreciation for the living legend’s accomplishments in the gym.
Besides boasting an incredibly muscular and symmetrical physique, The King earned plenty of praise for his ability to train with the strength of a powerlifter (which Coleman was at one point). Known for working with extremely heavy weights and pushing himself to the point of failure, Coleman set personal records in some staple lifts that still seem unfathomable years later, including military pressing 315 pounds (143 kilograms) for 12 reps and squatting and deadlifting 800 pounds for two reps. Combining that powerbuilding approach with a high-protein diet and an ultra-disciplined lifestyle helped the Louisiana native collect 26 IFBB pro show wins, including eight consecutive Mr. Olympia titles from 1998-2005.
However, even for Hooper, who became the fourth person to win WSM and the Arnold Strongman Classic in the same year back in April 2023, Coleman’s training style seemed well beyond his capabilities. Still, the Canadian strongman showed he’s no slouch by making easy work of the first back exercise.
The three-part workout begins around the 1:05 mark of the video.
Coleman famously completed two reps of an 800-pound conventional deadlift in the 2000 documentary Ronnie Coleman: The Unbelievable. For most people, replicating that feat would be downright impossible. Yet for Hooper, who has pulled 1,000 pounds, matching Coleman’s best deadlift didn’t present much of a challenge.
The 28-year-old started with a warm-up set of 575 pounds (260.8 kilograms), showcasing picture-perfect form by driving his hips forward during the lockout phase. Before performing his next set, Hooper pointed to the peanut tattoo on the inside of his left ankle and noted that he got it to pay homage to Coleman’s “Ain’t nothing but a peanut” signature catchphrase.
After a final warm-up set of 685 pounds (310.7 kilograms), the accomplished strongman raised the stakes and attempted to hit 800 pounds (362.9 kilograms) twice just as Coleman did more than two decades ago. Unsurprisingly, Hooper had no trouble matching The King’s best deadlift, completing two clean reps.
[Related: 7 Tips to Perfect Your Deadlift Form]
Six years after setting his deadlift PR, Coleman smashed 10 reps of barbell bent-over rows with a total of 515 pounds (233.6 kilograms) in the 2006 documentary Ronnie Coleman: Relentless. A taxing exercise that targets your lats, spinal erectors, glutes, hamstrings, and scapular stabilizers, this row variation requires excellent core strength to execute safely.
Despite his strongman background, Hooper didn’t have nearly the same level of confidence about being able to match Coleman’s bent-over row record as he did during the deadlift. Starting with a warm-up set of 405 pounds (183.7 kilograms) that already looked challenging, Hooper added another 50 pounds (22.7 kilograms) to the barbell.
“It’s funny how this is a really light deadlift, but when you pick it up and you’re now in the context of “you have to row it” the feeling is completely different,” he explained during his rest period.
Ultimately, Hooper didn’t even attempt to match the weight Coleman used in his prime. Instead, he topped out at eight reps of 455 pounds (206.4 kilograms) before moving on to the final exercise.
The session concluded with Hooper trying to go toe-to-toe with Coleman’s T-bar row record of 12 reps of 505 pounds (229 kilograms) set in 2006. He began with an easy warm-up set of 315 pounds (142.9 kilograms), which set the stage for a short discussion about the impact of lifting heavy.
“It’s a reality that every strength athlete has to face — that if you push yourself to the limit over and over and over it can result in long-term damage,” Hooper explained. “All you’re doing is shifting risk profiles. It’s important to recognize that pushing yourself to the limit does increase the risk of certain musculoskeletal issues down the track but it also completely diminishes the risk of others.
After sharing his insight about the dangers of training to the extreme, Hooper shifted his focus back to the corner of the gym for what turned out to be his final set of T-bar rows. As was the case with the bent-over rows, Hooper didn’t come close to matching one of his icons.
The winner of the 2023 World’s Strongest Man competition maxed out at 10 reps of 405 pounds (183.7 kilograms), proving that The King truly was (and still is) on another level.
Featured Image: Mitchell Hooper / YouTube