Ronnie Coleman's Chest & Tricep Workout (Ironclad Routine)

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Published by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: May 13, 2024
FACT CHECKED by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
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The world of bodybuilding has been graced by many greats, but few have the motivation of Ronnie Coleman, the eight-time Mr. Olympia champion.

Known for his unmatched dedication, relentless work ethic, and awe-inspiring physique, Coleman's training methods have become the stuff of legend. I spent hours studying his social media, YouTube videos, and interviews to learn all about his workout routine.

I’m going to break down the Ronnie Coleman chest and tricep workout, revealing the principles that guided his training and the diet that fueled his success.

Let’s dive right in.

Ronnie Coleman’s Stats

  • Date of birth: May 13, 1964 (59 years)
  • Height: 5’11” (180 cm)
  • Weight: On-season: 300 lbs (136 kg) / Off-season: 315 lbs (143 kg)
  • Arms: 24 in (61 cm)
  • Chest: 58 in (147.3 cm)
  • Waist: 36 in (91.4 cm)
  • Thighs: 36 in (91.4 cm)
  • Calves: 22 in (55.88 cm)

The Ronnie Coleman Chest and Tricep Workout Routine

A person at the gym doing chest workouts like Ronnie Coleman

Ronnie designed his chest and tricep workout to push his muscles to their limits, maximizing both strength and hypertrophy.

Having tried Ronnie's chest and tricep workout myself, I can attest to its intensity. When I followed his routine, it involved a mix of compound and isolation movements, and I really had to ramp up the intensity and weight to keep up.

Let’s explore his workout variations.

Workout Variation A

Here’s a breakdown of a typical chest and tricep workout for Coleman.

Chest

  • Bench barbell press: 4 sets x 12, 10, 8, and 6 reps
  • Incline bench press: 4 sets x 12, 10, 8, and 6 reps
  • Dumbbell flyes: 4 sets x 12 reps
  • Close-grip bench press: 4 sets x 12, 10, 8, and 6 reps

Triceps

  • Tricep dips: 4 sets x 12 reps
  • Tricep pushdowns: 4 sets x 12 reps
  • Seated tricep extension: 4 sets x 12 reps
youtube

Workout Variation B

A person doing incline chest press workouts

Here’s a simpler variation of the previous workout.

We recommend this routine for beginner Coleman fans who want to build a strong chest and triceps.

I tried this variation with my beginner client, and he found this routine more approachable yet still incredibly effective.

The incline barbell press and flat bench dumbbell press helped him build a solid foundation for chest and tricep strength.

This variation includes new movements like cambered bar extensions and incline dumbbell flys.

Here’s the split:

Chest

  • Bench barbell press: 5 sets x 12 reps
  • Incline barbell press: 3 sets x 12 reps
  • Flat bench dumbbell press: 3 sets x 12 reps
  • Incline dumbbell flys: 4 sets x 12 reps

Triceps

  • Seated cambered-bar extensions: 3 sets x 12 reps
  • Seated dumbbell extensions: 4 sets x 12 reps
  • Close-grip bench barbell press: 4 sets x 12 reps

This routine keeps things simple by giving you a set rep range. So, pick a weight that’ll allow you to do each exercise until failure.

Substitutions

A person working out with a barbell for chest muscles

You can make substitutions for the following exercises to switch up your workout routine:

  • Incline bench press: You can switch this with a decline press or different angles of the incline press to target your pecs at different angles.
  • Close-grip bench press: You can switch this one for skull crushers in case your pecs are worked up from previous bench lifts.

Workout Principles

A person doing bench press workouts at the gym

Here are the workout principles that helped Coleman maximize his muscle gains, both on and off-season.

  • Use perfect form: Ronnie performed all his reps with perfect form. According to an article on Mayo Clinic, this engages every muscle to the fullest and prevents injuries that could backtrack his progress [1]
  • Use the heaviest weight possible: Using the heaviest weight possible allowed Ronnie to perform all the reps in every set until failure. According to a study on the PubMed website, this maximizes muscle gains [2].
  • Full range of motion: Coleman emphasized doing reps using a full range of motion. According to a study in the National Library of Medicine, this allowed greater muscle hypertrophy [3].
  • Strength training: Ronnie Coleman was different from other bodybuilders because he trained like a powerlifter, focusing on muscle strength and hypertrophy.

“When you hit failure your workout has just begun.”

- Ronnie Coleman

Applying Coleman's workout principles to my own routine was transformative. Focusing on perfect form, using the heaviest weights I could manage, and ensuring a full range of motion made my workouts more effective and rewarding.

These principles not only improved my physical strength but also my understanding of disciplined training.

Mental Training and Motivation

Here's the mental training that allowed Coleman to become an eight-time Mr. Olympia champion:

  • Relentless determination: Ronnie This champion's mindset meant setting clear goals, visualizing success, and never wavering in the face of adversity. Coleman's commitment to his vision became the driving force behind his relentless pursuit of excellence.
  • Resilience in the face of setbacks: Ronnie Coleman faced numerous injuries and setbacks during his career, but his mindset was one of resilience. He didn't dwell on failures; instead, he used them as stepping stones towards greater success. This ability to overcome obstacles is a hallmark of a true champion.
  • Unshakable self-belief: Ronnie Coleman had unwavering confidence in his abilities, even when others doubted him. This self-belief fueled his determination.
  • Continuous learning and adaptation: Ronnie Coleman was not content with the status quo; he sought to improve himself constantly. He was always open to change and innovation. This willingness to evolve contributed to his sustained success.

Read More: Ronnie Coleman Workout Routine

Diet Plan for Chest and Triceps Gains

Top view of raw steak ingredients on a table

Based on what he shared in a YouTube video, here’s what Ronnie’s daily diet looked like:

  • 10:00 am: 3–5 grams of L-arginine supplement
  • 10:30 am: A cup of grits with cheese, 2 cups of egg whites, and 1 cup of coffee
  • 12:30 pm: Strong pre-workout supplement and 3–5 grams of L-arginine
  • 4:00 pm: Two 8-ounce servings of chicken breasts, 1.5 cups brown rice, 1.5 cups red beans, and 2 pieces of cornbread
  • 6:30 pm: 3 grams of L-arginine
  • 7:00 pm: Two 8-ounce servings of chicken breasts, one medium baked potato, and 10 ounces of filet mignon
  • 10:00 pm: 5 ounces of chicken breast, one medium baked potato, french fries, and one serving of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA)

Trying out Ronnie's diet plan was an eye-opener for me. Following his routine, I started my day with L-arginine and a hearty breakfast of grits, egg whites, and coffee.

The high-protein meals and multiple eating sessions throughout the day really pushed my dietary discipline to new heights.

The Principles

Close up shot of protein-filled food

Here are the diet principles that Coleman abides by:

  • High-protein meals: Given his size, Ronnie’s daily diet comprised 5000+ calories and close to 550 grams of protein per day.
  • Multiple meals a day: Ronnie had to eat multiple meals a day to maintain his physique. He even reported having to wake up in the middle of the night to get in his calories for the day [4].
  • High-quality supplements: Ronnie took supplements throughout the day to enhance his exercise routine and make up for what he couldn’t get from food.

Ronnie Coleman’s Supplements

A person making a protein shake at home

Ronnie Coleman took several supplements to fuel his exercise routine and supplement his diet.

Here’s what he took before hitting the gym:

  • Pre-workout: Taking a pre-workout before the gym allowed Ronnie to tackle as much weight as possible.
  • L-arginine: Ronnie took this throughout the day to improve his athletic performance with aerobic and anaerobic exercises [5].
  • Whey protein: Ronnie relied on consuming several scoops of good whey protein every day to meet his protein demands.
  • BCAAs: Ronnie took these before going to bed to repair and build his muscles overnight [6].

Related:


References:

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/weight-training/art-20045842
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31895290/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6977096/
  4. https://www.sportskeeda.com/health-and-fitness/ronnie-coleman-importance-diet
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7282262/
  6. https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-bcaas
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About The Author

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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