Legendary bodybuilder Lee Haney is arguably one of the greatest competitors in the history of the sport. In a recent video posted on his Instagram, Haney shared some of his top tips regarding training, diet, and coaches to ensure safe contest prep.
Lee Haney enjoyed a successful run in bodybuilding primarily during the 1980s. During his career, Haney went head-to-head with fellow icons like three-time Mr. Olympia Frank Zane, six-time Olympia champ Dorian Yates, and Lee Labrada.
After dethroning former Mr. Olympia winner Samir Bannout, Haney racked up eight consecutive Mr. Olympia titles, winning every edition from 1984-1991. He shares the record for the most Olympia wins with bodybuilding legend Ronnie Coleman at eight. What makes his achievements even more impressive is the fact that he hung up his posing trunks at 31 years old.
Haney opened up about his start in bodybuilding as a youngster whose primary source of learning was through magazines. However, he believes the training principles he grew up with got lost through time. The old-school veteran criticized the modern mass monsters for weighing size too heavily and not focusing on maintaining proper proportions and symmetry.
He pinned the blame on inexperienced coaches who misguided the participants. He argued that the training systems being used did not do enough to add muscle maturity or separation, resulting in bigger but less quality athletes.
The 63-year-old pushed back on the stigma surrounding mental health issues in bodybuilding by calling on the competitors to be more open about their challenges and talk to others in a similar position. He admitted the mental stress he had to endure to compete in the sport.
Lee Haney shares top tips for a safe contest prep
In a recent Instagram post, Lee Haney shared some of his top tips to make contest prep safe for the competitors.
He started by stressing the importance of keeping a healthy body fat level during the off-season to avoid longer cuts.
“I want to share some awesome information that I feel would help you as far as contest prep is concerned.
“First thing I want to talk about is safe contest prep. That’s very important. You’ve heard me say stimulate, don’t annihilate,” he said. “That holds true whether it’s training, nutrition, or prep during the last few weeks before a show. You want to be careful about doing that. Let’s start with prep as it relates to the time needed for a show in a proper way. One of the things I always emphasize is if you can’t flex it, don’t carry it.
“That statement is made to say keep your body fat under control so you don’t have to fix it. When you go through that kind of a deal, losing 40 or 50 pounds of weight, you’re going to stress the systems. That’s not a healthy thing to happen. What I advise and did, if the competition was in October for the Mr. Olympia, I would start prep around the first of the year.
“That didn’t mean I was eating like a bird. It just meant my workouts, training were set before I slowly walk my way down each month. I never had to hair up and fix anything.”
Haney shared two of his favorite philosophies for training.
“Never allow your body fat to get too high. That’s very important. First, determine the type of training system you’re going to use. There’s two I strongly recommend. When we are young, most of us can work out six times a day and get great results from that even with muscle maturity. However, it could somewhat leave the body taxed. A straight six is okay if you’re carrying a lot of body fat.
“If you want to get your weight down. The other system I prefer is the 3 on and off 1. It allowed me to grow because the body had the extra day to recover. Doing that type of program, the safest way to go about it would be the push-pull kind of program.”
He urged the contenders to keep a nutrition log at all times.
“As I said, you want to start your prep about seven to eight months out. What I would recommend too is not allow your body fat to go crazy. I practice staying anywhere between 15 pounds over my last competition weight.
“Another thing is make sure you keep a good nutrition log. A good nutrition log is extremely important… You need to become a mad scientist. Document the amount of protein, fats, and carbs so you have a road now to take you back where you need to go. Understand the science of nutrition and calories.”
Haney warns against the dangers of dehydration and inexperienced coaches
Lee Haney further warned modern bodybuilders against dehydrating their bodies to the extreme. He also shared safe and effective ways of achieving the same goal.
“You want to avoid the dangers of dehydrating. We’ve had a lot of athletes that die from not drinking water or taking diuretics. Where did this craziness come from? You can’t survive without water. When it comes to lowering water, you don’t have to stop drinking it. You want to make sure you keep a good complex of multi-minerals in the system at all times. You don’t want anything removing the minerals from your body like diuretics. Be careful with that. There’s natural diuretics like B6 along with horsetail grass. Hot tea and lemon act as natural diuretics. So, you’re flushing but not losing your minerals.
“Then, about two weeks out from the show, I would use a garbage bag to sweat the water out. So I’m still drinking and losing it out from between the skin and the muscle. For multi-mineral, magnesium and potassium combination is very important. The ratio should be 3:1 (magnesium to potassium)… do not discontinue drinking water. Be smart.”
He believes carb cycling can play a crucial role if done effectively.
“Let’s talk about carb depleting. What happens in this process, depending on your size, seven weeks out of the show, you break your carbs down like I’d bring them down from 400g to 100g. Never zero because 100g to me was like 0 because of my size. Also because I practiced those. I’d bring them down for 4 days and then take it up all the way up to 800g carbs before the show… What happens is when you carb load, your muscles will overcompensate and you get that nice pop in your muscles for you to hit the stage. You want to practice it, the science of carb depleting and carb reloading.”
To conclude, Haney fired shots at the coaches who did not have the proper qualifications or never even competed in the sport.
“Let’s be careful with coaches. A lot of you have coaches that help you with prep and that sort of thing but listen, if you have a coach that doesn’t have any credentials, hasn’t been on stage and competed, and it’s just a person with a small/regional show win, you need to fire that coach.
“Find somebody with experience that has been there and done that. Someone who doesn’t have a backlog of injured clients they worked with.”
Lee Haney recently expressed a similar sentiment when talking about the longevity of Frank Zane and other old-school bodybuilders. He reinforced his message to avoid overtraining and focus on being healthy even after retirement.
His latest message will surely help many up-and-coming competitors with making their contest preps safe and effective.