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January 13, 2023 1 Comment
Being one of only two individuals to have ever won eight Mr. Olympia titles, there's no arguing that Lee Haney is one of the most successful bodybuilders of all time. And even though it's been years since Lee Haney stopped professionally competing, he has found multiple ways to remain relevant - and needed - in the bodybuilding community.
Lee Haney also played an interesting role in the history of bodybuilding as he reigned champion during a key transition from the Golden Era to the time of Mass Monsters. Somehow, he managed to create a massive physique that also had definition and an aesthetic appeal, a task that few lifters can achieve.
In this article, we're going to take a closer look at this pivotal bodybuilder, covering everything from past achievements to what he's doing now.
This article will discuss:
By mixing the monster muscle mass of today's bodybuilders with the symmetry and proportions of the Golden Era, Lee Haney built a physique that included the best of both worlds. This coveted combo is probably how he managed to win the title 8 times and become one of the most accomplished bodybuilders to ever grace the Mr. Olympia stage.
We know that Lee Haney was a hugely successful bodybuilder, which we'll get into in more detail shortly. But, we're going to first talk about where the Lee Haney Mr Olympia 8-time winner is now and what he's currently doing.
Lee Haney retired from bodybuilding in 1991 at the age of 31, quite literally meaning he had the rest of his adult life in front of him. Lee Haney's bodybuilding career provided him with the foundation he needed to live the life he wanted. It showed him what he was passionate about and what his career focus should be.
Let's take a closer look.
In 1991, one of the first things Lee Haney did was open several gyms, including Lee Haney's World-Class Fitness Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
Over the years, Lee Haney has trained some of the top athletes in the world, including Evander Holyfield, Gary Sheffield, The Rock, Shannon Sharpe, and Sean Bradley.
His gyms have waned a bit over the years, but he still remains active in the fitness industry, serving as a trainer and coach.
Lee Haney has also applied his lifting knowledge to various media outlets. He has authored numerous books, including Totalee Awesome: A Complete Guide To Body-Building Success, Fit at Any Age: Exercise to Stimulate, not Annihilate, and Lee Haney's Ultimate Bodybuilding Book.
Lee Haney also has a program on Trinity Broadcasting Network called TotaLee Fit with Lee Haney. Haney uses his TV program to teach and discuss various aspects of both physical health and spiritual health. He routinely invites other Christian athletes to join him as they spread their knowledge to other aspiring youth.
Lee Haney has remained active in the bodybuilding community. With his true passion for the sport, combined with his faith in Christianity, Lee Haney is a selfless and humble individual with a strong desire to improve the lives of his fans around the world.
Preaching fitness to help others create healthier lives for themselves is his mission. During this time, Haney has accumulated multiple top-level accolades, including:
Not only did Lee Haney know what he was going to do professionally at a young age, but early on, he also met who he'd spend the rest of his life with. In the 2nd grade, at 6 years old, Lee Haney met his wife, Shirley, for the first time. While they didn't start a romantic relationship until the 9th grade, they are still together to this day and have two children.
There is not a lot of information on his family, at least that which is easily accessible, as Lee Haney prefers it that way. But we can end with this: Lee Haney and his wife are still married and living a happy and fulfilling life.
With achievements in both his professional and personal life, let's now take a walk down Lee Haney bodybuilding history lane to see how it all began and the success he saw in his earlier years.
Lee Haney was born in 1959 and grew up in Spartanburg, South Carolina. As a child, Lee Haney was fascinated with the superhuman muscularity of the heroes in stories and religion. Being raised in a Christian family, the Biblical figure Samson was a favorite of his, as was Hercules from Greek Mythology.
This deep interest spilled out into his personal life early as Haney first began weight lifting at the age of 12 with a clear plastic weight set that used sand to adjust the load. This in itself speaks to his lifelong lifting commitment. After all, who starts weight training at 12?
At the age of 14, Lee Haney's physique already began taking shape. His impressive size made him a prime pick in high school sports. He was an all-star football player and had originally planned on pursuing football as his sport of choice with the hopes of turning it into a career.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), Haney suffered a leg injury, which immediately put his journey to NFL fame on permanent hold. Like a truly great sportsman, this didn't stop Lee Haney. It just forced him to pivot and pursue another path. Fortunately for lifting fans, Haney chose bodybuilding.
With Samson and Hercules as his heroes, Lee Haney started his work to become one of the greatest and biggest bodybuilders of all time.
Lee Haney started his bodybuilding career at his local YMCA in South Carolina. Here, he met his famed coach Danny Rogers, who took Lee Haney under his wing and guided him through the weight room.
Haney was a natural talent, as his physique was already extremely impressive. As he was now lifting under the guidance of a pro, he became unstoppable.
In 1979, at 19, Lee Haney won what would be the first of many bodybuilding titles, Teen Mr. America. More than just a first win, it revolutionized the bodybuilder Lee Haney mindset.
Until then, Lee Haney had competed in other bodybuilding competitions but did not perform as well as he had hoped. His confidence wavered a bit, so this win was the ego boost he needed to continue hitting his fitness goals.
American bodybuilder Lee Haney started to take his bodybuilding career even more seriously after his first win. From 1979 to 1983, Lee Haney would continue winning an array of other bodybuilding competitions.
It was also during these competition days that Lee Haney graduated from competing in the junior nationals to the senior level. Some of his wins included various international contests in the Grand Prix circuit and Night Of Champions.
It was in 1983 when Lee Haney entered his first Mr. Olympia contest. During this time, Samir Bannout sat on the throne and was the one to beat. It was around this time that Lee Haney's size really started to peak interest.
As he had a height of 5'11 and a ton of muscle mass on his frame, he was one of the biggest bodybuilders to ever grace the stage at the time, yet still managed to have well-defined insertions and muscle heads, like what you're more likely to see with aesthetic-focused or natural lifters.
One of the variables that helped magnify his shape was the size of his joints. Lee Haney had relatively small wrists and other joints. This helped create a distinct taper that exaggerated his already huge muscles.
However, in 1983, competing against the best of the best, his aesthetics just weren't enough. Samir Bannout took 1st that year, with Lee Haney in 3rd. Many would be satisfied with a third-place win, going up against the best of the best. But not Haney. He wasn't satisfied and placed all of his energy into his training.
He returned to Mr. Olympia in 1984 and went on to win the first of his eight Mr. Olympia titles. And thus began his reign as the King of Mr. Olympia.
Here is a list of the podium winners throughout his 8-year dynasty.
At the end of his bodybuilding career, Lee Haney revolutionized the professional bodybuilding industry. At that time, Lee Haney had earned the most Mr. Olympia titles at 8.
He would keep this record until the emergence of Ronnie Coleman. When comparing Lee Haney vs Ronnie Coleman, they both received 8 titles during their career, meaning "most Mr. Olympia titles" is a record they share. We should also note that Lee Haney won his 8 Mr. Olympia titles back-to-back, another huge accomplishment.
Mr Olympia Lee Haney also helped usher in the era of Mass Monsters. Competing at 250-255 pounds, Lee Haney would not be looked at as being uniquely huge in today's competitions.
But at the time, he was the largest of the Mr. Olympia winners. He would also be the last of his era, as Dorian Yates won the 1992 Mr. Olympia contest, becoming the first mass monster.
In addition, Lee Haney has a few other interesting achievements:
Curious as to just how successful Lee Haney was? Here's a list of all of his titles. Our apologies, it's a long list!
In a world full of drop sets, training to failure, and a "no pain, no gain" mindset, Lee Haney was a breath of fresh air. Even early on, Lee Haney possessed awesome training principles.
Haney was a top proponent of the "stimulate, not annihilate" training philosophy. He believed that for muscle hypertrophy, your main movements should use the 6-8 rep range while your goal should be increased training frequency.
Lee Haney believed that your goal in the gym should be to lift just enough to create a slightly larger stimulus than the week prior.
You should then go home, eat, target muscle recovery, and repeat. And to this training principle, we say, "Yes!" It's interesting to note that the other king of bodybuilding, Ronnie Coleman's workout split, also promoted using heavy weights.
Going through Lee Haney's life and career is inspiring for bodybuilders, athletes, and really anyone wanting a successful and meaningful life. What's remarkable is that winning 8 Mr. Olympia titles is just one part of this man's impressive career. A successful author, TV star, elite trainer to top athletes, and consultant to federal fitness programs, there's not much Lee Haney hasn't done.
Haney is also a role model for young men who want to raise a family, as he has successfully cultivated his own family unit. And let's not forget, this is all on top of being one of the best bodybuilders of all time. This highlights the spirit of a true sportsman, gentleman, entrepreneur, father, and husband.
He is the epitome of inspiration.
For more bodybuilding inspiration, check out our articles on Chris Bumstead's workout split, as well as the Big Ramy workout plan and diet. You can also discover what another popular bodybuilder is up to these days with our article: Where is Bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno Today?
Photos courtesy of Lee Haney's Instagram
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