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Home » OSL Blog » Lee Haney: The 8-time Mr. Olympia’s Life, Workout, and Diet

Lee Haney: The 8-time Mr. Olympia’s Life, Workout, and Diet

August 8, 2019

Key Takeaways

  1. Lee Haney won eight consecutive Mr. Olympia titles, beating Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is currently tied with Ronnie Coleman, who won his eighth in 2005.
  2. Haney was the youngest to do so at the age of 24 and also the youngest to retire from bodybuilding competitions at the age of 31.
  3. He now spends his time as a youth mentor, consultant, and trainer focusing on nutrition and fitness no matter your age.

The Golden Era of bodybuilding was an incredible time for bodybuilders. The classic physique was king and those who could pose were able to take the title.

No one knew this better than Lee Haney. He started winning titles as a teen in 1979 and didn’t stop until he retired in the early 90s.

Lee Haney competition
Lee Haney won titles from 1979 till the early 90’s.

Lee Haney won the most Mr. Olympia titles ever, beating Arnold Schwarzenegger’s record of seven wins. Lee won eight Mr. Olympia titles consecutively from 1984-1991. Ronnie Coleman matched Lee Haney’s record in 2005 when he also won his eighth consecutive Mr. Olympia title.

When Lee beat Arnold’s record, he became the greatest bodybuilder of all time with an incredible eight Mr. Olympia titles. Phil Heath also won seven Mr. Olympia titles from 2011-2017, tying Arnold’s record of seven wins. Lee was also only 24 years old when he first won the Mr. Olympia title, making him the second youngest title holder (after Arnold who was only 23). 

Lee Haney and Arnold
Haney beat Arnold’s record by winning 8 Mr. Olympia titles.

We’ve covered Haney’s journey through his bodybuilding career already. You can check the three-part series out here:

Today, we’re going to focus on Lee Haney’s life, diet, and workout routine. We’ll also talk about how he spends his time now that he’s retired from bodybuilding.

Lee Haney: The Beginning

Lee Haney

Lee Haney was born on November 11, 1959 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He dreamed of being a professional football player all through school, but a leg injury derailed his dreams. Instead, he chose to focus on becoming the best bodybuilder he could be.

Lee’s entire life revolved around fitness and bodybuilding. As a young boy, he wanted to build strength and be revered like Samson and Hercules.

He preferred physical chores, for which his father had plenty to do. When he was 11, he asked for a weight set from his parents for Christmas.

He received a dumbbell and weight set, as well as a Charles Atlas weightlifting brochure. From there, he was hooked.

Lee Haney
Lee Haney as a teenager winning at a bodybuilding competition.

He devoured every weightlifting magazine and book he could find. Haney started entering competitions at the age of 16. He didn’t place well in his first competition but learned much from the experience. Lee went on to win the Teenage Mr. America contest in 1979 against a very tough field of competitors. This big win gave Lee the confidence that he could be a successful bodybuilder. 

Lee Haney: Life After Mr. Olympia

Lee Haney retired from the world of IFBB bodybuilding after the 1991 Mr. Olympia contest. He was just 31; the perfect age to become an entrepreneur.

And what better way to channel his love for nutrition and fitness, than to create a gym. That is what launched Lee Haney as an entrepreneur, but he was only getting started.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways Haney has filled his time since his bodybuilding days.

1. Gym Owner

In 1993, Haney opened a gym in Atlanta, Georgia. The gym was called Lee Haney’s World Class Fitness Center. 

With 20,000 square feet of space, he was able to offer a variety of options for every type of gym-goer. There was the section for free weights that appealed to the bodybuilders and serious lifters. This section was known as “Animal Kingdom.”

Lee haney gym
Lee Haney opened a gym in Atlanta called Lee Haney’s World Class Fitness Center. 

He also offered a wide assortment of equipment for the rest of the fitness seekers:

  • Recumbent bikes
  • Elliptical machines
  • Body masters
  • Treadmills
  • Nautilis equipment

The gym was wildly popular in the area. While he trained people of all fitness levels, he also worked with some stars as well. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Steve Harvey, and Evander Holyfield are just a few of the names he worked with.

Lee Haney training
Haney trained people of all level at his gym including celebrities & bodybuilders.

Haney has done extensive work with major sports players as well. He would create unique programs tailored to their specific sport to help give them an edge. Some of the pro athletes that have worked under Lee Haney include:

  • Sean Bradley, Philadelphia 76er’s
  • Gary Sheffield, Florida Marlins
  • Shannon Sharpe, Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens
  • Fred Stokes, St Louis Rams, Washington Redskins, New Orleans Saints

The building was eventually sold in 2006 and the gym was forced to close. But that wasn’t all Haney had up his sleeve as an entrepreneur.

2. Author

Lee Haney Book
Totalee Awesome: A Complete Guide to Body-building Success.

Even before opening his gym, Lee was writing and publishing books. He started in 1987, with Totalee Awesome: A Complete Guide to Body-building Success.

After his experience in bodybuilding and becoming Mr. Olympia eight times over, he wrote another book. Lee Haney’s Ultimate Bodybuilding Book.

Lee Haney book
Lee Haney’s Ultimate Bodybuilding Book.

The 8-time Mr. Olympia’s Revolutionary Program for Building Mass, Strength and Power debuted in 1993.

In 2000, Haney wrote a book about his life experiences titled Beyond the Pump: MY Testimony….Lee Haney.

Most recently, Haney authored Fit at Any Age: Exercise to Stimulate Not Annihilate in 2018. He used his experience as a lifelong fitness enthusiast and bodybuilder to help people of all ages.

Not only does Haney emphasize functional fitness for any age, but he also writes about proper nutrition. His books offer readers valuable knowledge on sustainable growth and physical development.

3. Television Show Host

Lee Haney also hosted different TV shows centered around fitness. In the 80s, he had a show on ESPN called Lee Haney’s Championship Workout

The show saw various pro athletes and bodybuilders work out live. People could follow along in their own home gyms, or use the routine at a later time. It was one of the first bodybuilding TV shows that aired and gained traction.

Lee Haney tv show
Lee had one of the first bodybuilding TV show on ESPN: Lee Haney’s Championship Workout. 

There are still quite a few of the episodes that can be found on YouTube if you have some nostalgia for the Golden Era of bodybuilding.

In the late 90s, he started TotaLee Fit with Lee Haney on Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). This show was another exercise program that people could follow at home. He also offered nutrition and spiritual guidance for viewers, as the network is Christian focused.

Lee Haney tv show
His 90’s show was TotaLee Fit with Lee Haney on Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN).

The show is still being shown today and has other Christian athletes join him, as well as his wife. They discuss topics relevant to the show and also work out together.

4. Consultant

Lee Haney Coach
Haney with Paolo Tassetto, a weightlifitng coach. Now Haney is a coach & a consultant of his own.

Even though the gym days are long gone, Haney is still working with aspiring fitness buffs. Now, he offers training sessions in person, online, and over the phone.

He will tailor a lifestyle program specific for your goals and where you are currently in your health and fitness journey. You start with a consultation and then work through a program with him. 

Haney also works as a consultant for coaches on injury rehabilitation and off-season workout programs. Celebrities and athletes regularly seek him out for his knowledge and expertise.

Lee Haney trainer
Lee Haney offers training session in person, online, & over the phone.

His focuses are:

  • Flexibility
  • Nutrition
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Core stability
  • Overall strength

Haney also offers a 60-day Transformation Challenge on his website. It’s currently closed, but you can check back to see when he will host one again.

5. Speaker

Lee Haney also does speaking engagements and has been to over 30 countries for various events. 

He will conduct a seminar focused on his latest book called “Fit at Any Age.” He mostly does seminars for:

  • Church congregations
  • Communities, especially retirement or senior living
  • Businesses focusing on the health of their employees
Haney seminar
Haney does speaking engagements and seminars for various events.

The seminars include nutrition education as well as fitness instruction.

6. Fitness Certification Creator

Lee now hosts a radio show called TOTALEE FIT Radio which focuses on people who have used his fitness program. 

He’s also created a certification program for those interested in becoming part of the fitness industry. The International Association of Fitness Sciences (I.A.F.S.) certification teaches how to become a fitness expert and bodybuilder.

He interviews people who have been certified in his course, success stories, and offers valuable nutrition and fitness information.

7. Bodybuilding Qualifier

Lee haney
Haney created bodybuilding competitions after taking part in many.

If that all wasn’t enough, Haney created a bodybuilding qualifying competition in 2014. It was created as a fundraising source for his nonprofit, Haney’s Harvest House.

The Lee Haney Physique & Fitness Games is part of the NPC National Qualifier. This year’s qualifier will be hosted in Sandy Springs, GA at the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center. Lee Haney’s event will take place on November 2, 2019.

Lee Haney competition
This year’s qualifier will be hosted in Sandy Springs, GA at the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center on November 2, 2019.

The categories to qualify in are:

  • Bikini
  • Fitness
  • Women’s Physique
  • Figure
  • Men’s Bodybuilding
  • Men’s Physique
  • Classic Physique

Lee got his start at the National Physique Committee (NPC) events, so it’s only fitting that he hosts his games through the organization.

If you plan to enter this qualifier, let us know in the comments! 

8. Philanthropist

Arguably the greatest satisfaction in life for Lee Haney has been Haney’s Harvest House. He and his wife purchased 40 acres of land in College Park, Georgia in the 90s. They have turned it into a place to foster and mentor male youth from the ages of 8 – 17. 

He started this program back in 2015, and it’s based on the book by Robert Lewis, Raising a Modern Day Knight

The program instills Ten Life Skills Principles from the book:

  • Honesty
  • Kindness
  • Purity
  • Self-discipline
  • Integrity
  • Excellence
  • Perseverance
  • Humility
  • Loyalty
  • Servant leadership

Haney earned his degree in youth counseling from Spartanburg Methodist College. He grew up on a farm and knew the fruits of hard labor and having a strong work ethic. 

With so many young men needing guidance, he hopes that his farm can help instill qualities needed to be successful adults.

He uses his knowledge to help mentor young men who may not have father figures in their lives. With so many young men needing guidance, he hopes that his farm can help instill qualities needed to be successful adults.

Haney grew up with a strong connection to his father, who he admired greatly. That love and admiration has led him to become a mentor and open his land to help and serve others.

Lee Haney’s Personal Life

Haney calls himself a born again Christian. When he first began bodybuilding, he prayed to be the best bodybuilder he could be. In exchange, he would use his faith to help and serve.

At competition and as his career evolved, Lee always thanked his higher power for bringing him the gift of competing. Many were surprised to hear he retired from bodybuilding at the age of 31. Haney was the youngest person to reach his level and then retire.

But Lee Haney had other ideas in mind, and always focused on fitness, nutrition, and his faith to lead him. 

Lee Haney Family
Lee Haney married the love of his life, Shirley (left) in 1983.

Lee met the love of his life, Shirley, and married her in 1983. They went on to have two children, a daughter named Olympia and a son named Josh. We can only guess how his daughter’s name was chosen!

Lee Haney Family
Haney with his family.

Lee and Shirley have worked closely together in many of his endeavors. She takes her nutrition and fitness just as seriously as Lee. You can find them working out together and helping others to achieve their fitness and nutrition goals.

The majority of Lee’s income is made through his website selling merchandise, supplements, and coaching. While actual figures weren’t found, it is estimated that Lee Haney’s net worth is between $5 – 15 million.

Lee Haney’s Diet

While no longer in his bodybuilding days, Haney still eats much like he did when he was preparing for competitions

Of course, he doesn’t eat the amount of food he did back then. But, he takes his nutrition even more seriously now that he is getting older and passes that onto his clients.

Haney diet
During competition preparation, Haney would focus lean protein & low GI carbs.

Here are the foods that Lee would eat to get him through his competitions:

  • Protein – chicken, eggs, fish, lentils, vegan protein powder
  • Carbs – Lee Haney always emphasizes low glycemic carbs like sweet potatoes, oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, and lentils.
  • Fiber – spinach kale, greens, cabbage, green beans
  • Fruit – apples, pear, papaya, pineapple
  • Fats – mostly nuts, specifically almonds, and walnuts. Haney also ate lots of whole eggs to aid in muscle growth.
Low GI carbs
Haney favored apples, pineapple, oatmeal as carbs in addition sweet potatoes & quinoa.

Back in his competition days, Lee would eat fresh pineapple twice a day. It is a great anti-inflammatory and also offers vitamin C, fiber, and potassium. The bromelain in pineapple also helps with swelling, making it a great choice for bodybuilders. 

Not much has changed for Lee’s nutrition. Eating quality whole foods has always been his method of winning competitions. Now, he teaches other people, regardless of age, how to eat properly to fuel their bodies.

We’re sure many can identify with “eating to live and not living to eat.” Like Lee Haney, we know this to be the most powerful way to live a healthy life. Eating properly to fuel our workouts is key to muscle gains, strength, and overall well being.

Lee Haney’s Workout

Haney workout
Haney managed to maintain a lean & impressive physique till today.

While he doesn’t work out as hard as he did during his bodybuilding days, Lee still finds time to get his work out it. He’s a little slimmer these days but still has an impressive physique.

He works out regularly with his clients of all ages. When he was bodybuilding, he employed a three-day work out followed by a day of rest. Here is what a typical set looked like for him:

  • Day 1 – Chest, Arms
  • Day 2 – Legs
  • Day 3 – Shoulders, Back
  • Day 4 – Rest
  • Daily – Calves, Abs

Here are some of the tried and true bodybuilding exercises that Lee Haney used in the gym:

  • Calf raises – seated, donkey, standing
  • Leg raises – vertical, seated
  • Bench press – incline, dumbbell, barbell, military
  • Curls – preacher, barbell, dumbbell, incline, legs, concentration
  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Rows – cable, upright, barbell, dumbbell
  • Pulldowns
  • Flys
  • Chest dips
  • Extensions – triceps, dumbbell

Using a split routine training the body over three days, as well as variations in exercises and training techniques, provided both symmetry and muscle mass for Haney. He dominated the bodybuilding stage for years and kept impressing people long after they expected it.

Haney's physique
Lee dominated the bodybuilding stage for years with his training routine.

His knowledge of fitness and nutrition propelled him forward year after year in competition. Now, he uses that knowledge and perseverance to help others get healthy and into the best shape of their lives.

Lee Haney’s Achievements and Awards

Not only has Lee won many bodybuilding competitions, but he has also gotten other achievements and awards since.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways he has been acknowledged through his lifetime:

  • Arnold Classic Lifetime Achievement Award given to him by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame
  • Named Chair of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness by former President Bill Clinton
  • Inducted into the National Fitness Hall of Fame

Won the Ben Weider Lifetime Achievement Award

  • Inducted into the International Federation of BodyBuilding & Fitness (IFBB) Hall of Fame

Quotes from the King Himself

Here are some quotes from Lee Haney that we identify with the most here at Old School Labs. Which one is your favorite?

  • “Exercise to stimulate, not to annihilate. The world wasn’t formed in a day, and neither were we. Set small goals and build upon them.”
  • “It takes more than just a good looking body. You’ve got to have the heart and soul to go with it.”
  • “You can’t train like a horse and eat like a bird.”
  • “Last set, best set.”

Final Thoughts

Lee Haney is considered a legend from the Golden Era of bodybuilding. His exceptional mass, almost unmatched body symmetry, and skillful posing made him a force to be reckoned with.

Since leaving the bodybuilding stage, he has used his knowledge of fitness and nutrition to help others on their health journey. He’s a firm believer in doing good in the world and helping those who are less fortunate.

Whether it’s speaking, consulting, mentoring or coaching, Lee puts all his effort in to get results. He never forgot that his prayers were answered to make him one of the best bodybuilders of all time. And he’s fulfilled his duty by using his position to help better others through health and fitness.

Did you enjoy this bio on Lee Haney’s life post bodybuilding? What do you think is the most impactful part of his life, now that he’s focused on other things outside of competition? Care to share a story of meeting Lee or how he’s helped you meet your goals? Let us know in the comments!

Disclaimer: None of the individuals and/or companies mentioned necessarily endorse Old School Labs or COSIDLA Inc. products or the contents of this article. Any programs provided for illustration purposes only. Always consult with your personal trainer, nutritionist and physician before changing or starting any new exercise, nutrition, or supplementation program.
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Old School Labs™ is the maker of premium supplements that carry on the fitness values of the “Golden Era” of bodybuilding. Old School Labs™ products do not hide behind proprietary blends, contain no artificial sweeteners or artificial flavors, and are manufactured using only high-quality ingredients.

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