Lee Haney lat spread
Credit: Mike Neveux

Year after year, he wasn’t even threatened. Lee Haney, at 5’11” and (usually) 240-something, dominated late ’80s bodybuilding, winning a record eight Mr. Olympias from 1984 to 1991 before retiring at only 31. He bridged the gap between the gazelles that preceded him and the goliaths that followed with a physique that was both aesthetic and—especially when pondering his back, chest, and shoulders—totaLee awesome. 

Lee Haney training

Stimulate, don’t annihilate. My goal was to always stimulate the muscle. I didn’t want to push it to failure because it increased my chances of injury, and I also felt that if I did enough to stimulate the area I was training then I could recover better than if I went to failure. I used methods like pre-exhaust—for example, leg extensions before squats—and that made the workouts more intense for me.”

“Arnold, Franco, Lou, Robby Robinson, all of those guys did the bench press. You also saw guys from my era like myself, Lee Labrada, Rich Gaspari, and others who used it as a foundation move to build a big chest. I would do four to five work sets and progressively increase the weight each set. My rep range was around eight reps for the first two sets and then I would do six for the other two. If I had a partner, I would occasionally do a fifth set of four. Four was as low as I would go on the reps because I didn’t want to risk injury.”

Lee Haney Mr. Olympia

“I really like pyramiding the weight. As I’m training, my muscles demand a certain amount of weight and I supply it slowly by adding more each set. I’ll do a set of 20 reps with a lighter weight, then add weight to perform 15, then more for a set of 10, and so on. I don’t just jump to my heaviest weight off the bat.”

“Get a minimum of seven to eight hours of sleep and a 45-60-minute nap during the day, if possible. I know that can be difficult for a lot of people out there to take a nap with a busy schedule, but if you can do it, it will go a long way in helping you get that quality mass you seek.”

Lee Haney behind-the-neck press

“The world wasn’t built in a day, and neither were we. Set small goals and build upon them.

“You need the attitude of a conqueror. If you’ve ever seen any of my training videos, I was wearing a do-rag. That was like my Superman cape. When I put that on, it was time.”

“The only way to isolate specific back muscles, whether it is upper or lower back, or make any back progress is through the power of the mind-muscle connection.

Lee Haney workout

“I’ve always gone behind the neck for pullups, pulldowns, and shoulder presses, and I’ve never had any shoulder problems. I go to the front on those exercises, too, but it actually feels more comfortable to me to go behind the neck than in front. And I think the contraction in my inner traps is a key reason for my upper back thickness.”

Lee Haney training advice

“I train forearms hard. A lot of big-arm guys never do a wrist curl. But I don’t have the biggest upper arms, so forearms give me some more arm muscle. It’s all about creating that illusion, so if your biceps and triceps are lagging, don’t neglect forearms. Instead, make forearms a priority.

“To be physically fit is just a small aspect. You can be a beautiful physical specimen, but if you’re empty as far as what it takes to be a person that shows up real fast. Work on the inner at least as much as the outer.”

See also: Kai Greene’s Best Training Advice and Dennis Wolf’s Best Training Advice