Donnie Thompson is one of the most successful professional bodybuilders of all time. He won Mr. Universe three times (1988, 1990 and 1991) and Mr. Olympia four times (1989, 1992, 1993 and 1994). His best years were from 1989 until 1995 when he was plagued with injuries including back problems which caused him to lose a significant amount of weight during those years.
He is known for being a strict vegetarian and having a strong religious faith. He is married to actress Susan Sarandon and they have two children together.
Donnie Thompson’s Career Highlights:
Mr. Universe 1988 – 1996
Mr. Olympia 1989 – 1995
Mr. Olympia 1996 – Present
The man who changed the way we think about fitness and bodybuilding, Donnie Thompson is one of the greatest bodybuilders ever. He was born in Brooklyn, New York on April 9th, 1940.
After high school he moved to California where he trained at the legendary Westside Barbell Club under Arnold Schwarzenegger before moving to Florida where he trained at Mike Mentzer’s Gym. He went on to win the Mr. Universe grand slam (Mr. America, Mr. World, Mr. Universe, and Mr. Olympia) four times before retiring in 1996 after exactly 20 years as a professional bodybuilding champion.
After he retired from professional bodybuilding Thompson stayed involved with the sport as a writer and mentor to younger professionals including Branch Warren, Gunter Schlierkamp and Ronnie Coleman. He is also an ordained Baptist minister and runs his own church in Texas.
Donnie Thompson Video
Below is a short video showing Donnie Thompson in Action!
This video is also about another great legend of the sport – Dorian Yates.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: What is the most amount of weight Donnie Thompson has ever benched press?
A: He once bench pressed 585 lbs. when he was 51 years old. Sadly, the record was never properly registered by any official body.
Q: What is Donnie Thompson’s greatest achievement?
A: He won the Mr. Universe grand slam (Mr. America, Mr. World, Mr. Universe, and Mr. Olympia) four times before retiring in 1996 after exactly 20 years as a professional bodybuilding champion. He came out of retirement briefly in 2010 to win the Masters Olympia competition at the age of 61.
Q: What is the most amount of weight Donnie Thompson has ever deadlifted?
A: He once deadlifted 855 lbs. at a bodyweight of 230 lbs. during a powerlifting meet in the mid-nineties. Again, this record is not recognized as it was only during a powerlifting meet.
Q: What was the most amount of weight Donnie Thompson has ever benched press raw (without a bench shirt)?
A: He once bench pressed 600 lbs. in the late 1980’s after winning his first Mr. Olympia title. During this time he also developed his famous triceps training technique where he would lie with his back completely flat on a bench and press the weight up from just above his chest to full extension. He would usually end up doing around 25 reps.
His record bench press with a bench shirt was 690 lbs. during his 3rd Mr.
Q: What is Donnie Thompson’s favorite training split?
A: He used to train six days per week when he was younger but once he reached his mid 30’s he cut back to training just three days per week, every week.
His favorite routine was:
Monday – Chest and Biceps
Tuesday – Off
Wednesday – Thighs and Calves
Thursday – Off
Friday – Shoulders and Triceps
Saturday – Off
Sunday – Back and Traps
Q: What does Donnie Thompson think of steroids?
A: He is against their use. Donnie has stated several times that he feels that steroids actually held back the sport of bodybuilding by around 15 years. He believes if certain competitors didn’t use them there would have been more competition in the late 80’s and early 90’s causing a broader interest from the public and more competitors.
Q: What does Donnie Thompson think of other bodybuilders?
A: He is friends with many of them and has helped many get sponsorship when they were having trouble getting sponsors. However, in general he tends to be less supportive of those he feels have gained their success through the use of steroids.
Q: What song is Donnie Thompson listening to on his ipod right now?
A: He is a fan of Gospel music. His favorite singer is Kirk Franklin and he recently bought the album “Hello Fear”, by Zach Williams (this is an excellent album and I highly recommend it).
Q: Was Donnie Thompson ever accused of cheating?
A: Yes. In the 1976 Mr. America competition he was accused of being “too big” to be in the under 181 lb weight class he was competing in. The accuser even went as far as getting a judge from a larger weight division to agree to step into Donnie’s class and compete against him so it wouldn’t be one competitor running round-robin against himself!
Donnie won the Mr.
Note: Donnie prefers listening to albums as he believes it is more cohesive and takes you on a journey.
Here are some additional quotes from Donnie Thompson that were not included in the above article:
“I always believed that my best training sessions were on the days when I was in pain the most. In other words if my training session was really tough and I felt exhausted and in pain, I knew I had a good training session.
America contest and the protester ended up getting banned from future competitions.
Q: How does Donnie Thompson feel about being accused of cheating?
A: Donnie laughs and says he wished he really had been cheating!
Q: What organizations has Donnie Thompson won titles in?
However, if I trained really hard and felt good during and after the training session then I knew I didn’t push myself hard enough!”
“I like to do a lot of negative work especially when training arms because it helps strengthen the connective tissues which aids muscular contraction. To much negative work can actually damage these tissues though so I also make sure I do lighter workouts with more repetitions to help strengthen the connective tissues.”
A: IFBB Mr. Universe (1970, 1971, 1975, 1976), WFF World Championships (1976), AAU Mr.
World (1976), IFBB Mr. USA (1975, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986)
Q: How long did it take you to recover from a typical contest?
A: It varied but he would take 3-5 days off from training totally and then ease back into it slowly.
“I also like to incorporate some machine work to keep my muscles guessing and to avoid the boredom of always doing the same exercises.”
“In between my heavy training sessions I like to train at a higher rep range (around 15-20 reps) to keep my muscles used to that volume of work as well as keeping up my stamina.
Q: What were your meal plans around a contest?
A: Donnie ate a lot around contests but tried to keep it as healthy as possible. He ate more chicken, fish and vegetables and would often fast (skip breakfast) before training.
Note: Donnie has used nutritional supplements in his diet for over 20 years.
“I usually kept my contest diet the same all year round because I never wanted my body to get used to a certain intake and then have to suddenly increase it a lot closer to a contest.”
“I used to eat 5 or 6 smaller meals through out the day rather than 3 bigger ones. His favorite are Anabolic Innovations’ products.
Q: What does Donnie think about steroids?
A: “I believe that the use of anabolic steroids are for the most part, unnecessary. I believe that a dedicated athlete can achieve great results without the use of such drugs but I do understand that a lot of people have a desire to use them so competition can be kept “even”.” I would eat more or less the same stuff except I would up the intake of proteins and carbs around my workouts.”
“I would also do a couple of fasts during the year. Not eating anything after dinner and then eating again the next morning.
This helps keep my metabolism up as well as giving my digestive system a rest.”
Q: What are your thoughts about the current judging system in bodybuilding and who do you think would have won several big competitions over the past decade under a different judging system?
A: “I believe that open natural Olympia’s should have been used a long time ago. I also believe that a re-scoring of older Olympia’s would also be a good thing.
“I never really followed any set patterns with my diet. I ate a lot of the same foods all the time so I never needed to make a set meal plan.
I would just eat when I was hungry and stop when I was full. If I felt like a change in diet then I might do that for a week or two and then go back to eating the same as always. I believe that Lee Priest would have won a few Olympia’s if they used the open natural system and I also believe that Nasser would have won a few as well.
A: “There is nothing magical about doing it gradually. You just have to understand your body and its needs and adjust it as necessary to accommodate those needs.
I don’t think there is any advantage to doing a twelve week buildup anyway. You’re just keeping your body in a semi-starvation state for no good reason.”
“A good contest diet should be 6 months out from the contest but I think that the last three weeks is when you should cut things down the most.”
“I also believe that if the judges actually did their homework and studied the athletes poses they are judging, They would get a better idea of who is really the most muscular. I often found that some of the strongest bodybuilders didn’t always have the best muscle maturity and were beat by men who weren’t as strong but had better muscle maturity.”
Q: Do you know about the controversy of your win in ’83?
A: “I am aware of it, yes.”
“I would break my diet into 4 days and then have a maintenance day. However you should only be dieting for a maximum of 20 weeks MAXIMUM before a contest.”
“You have to make your diet as easy as possible.
Q: What are your thoughts of it all?
A: “It doesn’t bother me. Everyone has an opinion.” You will be living in a small confined area with no cooking facilities for most of the day, so foods that require a lot of preparation like vegetables should be avoided.”
“I would also make sure I had loose fitting clothing when I went out.”
Q: What is your take on cola drinking?
A: “I don’t think it’s a good idea for people trying to get really lean, especially Cola itself.
Q: It almost seems as if you are one of the few people who isn’t bothered by it considering how you are the only person who is giving interviews about it and is quite outspoken about your feelings on the matter.
A: “I don’t mind, its part of the sport and I’ve always been up front about everything.”
Q: Do you think recent events have made bodybuilding more of a spectacle than a sport?
Aspartame has been proven to be detrimental to health in a number of ways. It’s much better to avoid it.”
Q: What sort of supplements do you take?
A: “Well, I don’t like Creatine because it causes water retention. I prefer a naturally high carbohydrate diet anyway so I don’t need that form of carb intake.
A: “It always was to some extent, but yes I think it has become more of a “spectacle” than a sport.
Q: Would you change anything about how you prepared for your contests if you could do it all over again?
A: “Yes, I would have spent a lot more time in a sauna and under sun lamps.
Q: Too many people rely on saunas and tanning to get rid of water and give the appearance of being ripped when really they don’t have the muscle size or definition to compete at that level.
A: “I do use a little cream sometimes for cooking but I don’t like using it as a beverage as some people do.”
“I think that you should always drink 24oz of water per pound that you weigh. That is what works best for me.” It really isn’t considered cheating in the sport and would have helped me a great deal.
Q: Would you take anything back that you said or did during this time?
A: “No, I stand by everything that I’ve done.”
Q: What was the best year of your career?
A: “There wasn’t just one best year, it was a combination of several years of hard work that paid off.”
Q: Do you mind if people criticize you?
A: “I don’t really care what anyone says about me.”
Q: Would you ever pose nude if it helped your career?
A: “No, that’s not what I’m about.”
Q: What about using drugs for a contest?
A: “It would be silly to do that. I don’t need to and I wouldn’t gain anything by doing so.”
Q: Some people try to make it an art to see who can emaciate themselves the most.
A: “If that’s what they want to do then more power to them, but I don’t think its necessary.”
Q: Why did you choose this profession? Did you ever think of doing anything else?
A: “I don’t think that I would have made a good accountant.”
Q: Do you have any regrets about how you handled your career?
A: “No, I really don’t have any major regrets about anything in that regard.”
Q: How do you stay so positive about everything?
A: “Thats just the way I am. There are more positive things in life than there are negative ones.”
Q: What do you think of the new up and coming pros?
A: “I don’t really keep up on who is doing what these days but the sport will always be there so I am sure that someone will get back on top again someday.”
Q: What do you see yourself doing in another ten years?
A: “I don’t know, I’m not too much into looking that far into the future. I’m just trying to enjoy myself now.”
Q: And you are successful at doing that. Well I think that is about all the questions that I had for you.
Do you have any closing comments or anything that you would like to say?
A: “Thanks to everyone that has supported me down through the years.”
Q: Is it true that some pros take their own blood before a contest to replace the liquid they lose from dehydration?
A: “I can’t say if that is true or not but I can tell you that I never needed to do anything like that.”
Q: How do you feel about the judging in bodybuilding?
Sources & references used in this article:
Aloe vera plant gel separator by D Thompson – US Patent 4,395,942, 1983 – Google Patents
Method and apparatus for surface finishing fabric with coated wires by CF Redman, DJ Thompson – US Patent 6,119,319, 2000 – Google Patents
Method and apparatus for surface finishing fabric with coated wires by CF Redman, DJ Thompson – US Patent 5,996,194, 1999 – Google Patents
Keychain configured as a shark by D Thompson – US Patent App. 29/158,160, 2002 – Google Patents
Keychain configured as a frog by D Thompson – US Patent App. 29/158,161, 2002 – Google Patents
Pull toy configured as a gecko by D Thompson – US Patent App. 29/157,132, 2003 – Google Patents
Apparatus for guiding longitudinal travel of tubular fabric by A Nielsen, PD McCartney, DJ Thompson… – US Patent …, 1995 – Google Patents