Lee Haney's Top 10 Tips For Building Quality Muscle Mass

Roger “Rock” Lockridge
Written By: Roger “Rock” Lockridge
September 27th, 2015
Updated: June 13th, 2020
87.2K Reads
Lee Haney's Top 10 Tips For Building Quality Muscle Mass
If there's anyone that knows muscle it's 8x Mr. Olympia winner Lee Haney, and these 10 crucial tips are his most important pieces of advice to anyone looking to build a solid body!

If you’re a beginner looking to build muscle like all of the bodybuilding and fitness icons you see in the magazines and online, then you want to learn from someone who has been successful in building quality mass as well.

You wouldn’t want to learn how to play basketball from someone who’s never been in a game, would you?

There are very few men as qualified to help you get big as an eight time Mr. Olympia winner.

Lee Haney was the bodybuilder of the 1980’s. From 1984 when he upset reigning champion Samir Bannout to win the title until he defeated a young Dorian Yates in 1991 to win his eighth and final Olympia before calling it a career.

Along the way he slowly added size and detail to his physique so he could hold off challengers like Lee Labrada, Rich Gaspari, and many others from taking his title. Obviously he knew a thing or two about packing on mass.

As a matter of fact, he offers his ten most important tips for you to apply so you can develop your own “TotaLee” awesome body.

1. Nutrition is always #1

Although Haney was best known for his efforts in the gym, he’ll be the first to tell you that the biggest key to developing his physique was what he put in his body, not how he used it:

“If you’re not eating right, your body will not grow like it would if you take what you eat more seriously. Quality protein, fats, and carbohydrates will be vital if you want to build quality mass.”

2. No junk in the body

Haney was clear of what his goal was when he first started training. He wanted to build muscle, not get big:

“If you’re wanting to build quality mass, then you can’t eat a bunch of food only for the sake of getting bigger because you’ll gain bodyfat and bodyfat isn’t quality like muscle is. You have to eat the right foods and stay away from the unhealthy snacks and pizzas and those other foods that won’t help you reach your goal.”

3. If you can’t flex it, don’t carry it

This partly ties in with his last tip but Haney also wants you to consider if you might need to lose bodyfat first before being concerned with building muscle:

“Excess bodyfat serves no purpose and if you have fat that you need to lose, do that first before you worry about building muscle and adding mass. One of my favorite sayings that I’ve said to people wanting to get in shape is that if you can’t flex it, don’t carry it.”

Lee Haney Posing

4. Stimulate. Don’t annihilate

It seems the mantra of the day when it comes to training is going to absolute failure.

Keep lifting until you can’t perform another rep and if you stop before you get to that point then it was a wasted set. Haney disagrees with this theory:

“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 the pre-exhuast method of using isolation movements first like leg extensions before doing a compound exercise like squats and that made the workouts more intense for me.”

5. Foundation of Movements must be there at all times

Learn them first and keep your ego in check.

Although Haney just discussed performing isolation movements as a method to pre-exhaust his muscles, he still believes that you should learn the basic compound movements first before applying that principle yourself:

“To any beginners out there wanting to add quality mass, learn your squats, bench press, bent over rows, and those type of movements first and make sure you can perform them well before worrying about anything else. That alone will be a good start for you. Another point that should be made is to not concern yourself with how much weight is on the bar. I’m talking about bodybuilding. If your goal is to add mass for bodybuilding and physique development, then you should worry about how you’re lifting it and not how much you’re lifting.”

6. Pyramid principle. Demand and supply

Once you master the form of the basic exercises, then it’s time to increase the resistance but like with everything else he did, Haney had a methodical way to do this so it was both effective and safe:

“I really liked pyramiding the weight when I worked out. As I was training, my muscles demanded a certain amount of weight and I supplied it slowly by adding more each set. I would do a set of 20 reps with lighter weight, then added weight for me to perform 15, then more for a set of 10, and so on. I didn’t just jump to my heaviest weight off the bat.”

7. Ballistic type of training

If the goal is to build muscle that you can showcase onstage or in a photo shoot, then it just can’t be about what you lift. You also need to pay attention to how you lift it.

“The way I performed the reps was almost like a plyo movement. I slowly lowered the weight, making sure I could feel the muscle being stretched and once I was ready I exploded and lifted as fast as I could to the top of the movement to activate the fast twitch fibers. This was something I found worked not only for me but for some of the athletes I’ve trained like former World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Evander Holyfield and former NBA center Shawn Bradley. Holyfield, who was already experienced at training, added 15 pounds of muscle in a matter of weeks and this change in how he trained was the only adjustment we made to his program.”

Lee Haney

8. Recover

As much as we’ve talked about nutrition and training, you can’t spend all your time in the kitchen or gym if you want to get big. The 8x Mr. Olympia will tell you that you need time to recover and a lot of it:

“Get a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep and a 45 minute-1 hour 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.”

9. Mental attitude

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

Haney also believes you should have a visualization with your mind-muscle connection.

“See the muscles working from the inside out.”

Haney feels that having a strong mindset and pushing yourself to keep moving forward is crucial:

"I saw training partners get intense. I’ve seen Rich Gaspari foaming at the mouth, I’ve seen guys with tears as they perform the reps but they didn’t give up. You can’t either.”

10. Nutrition…again

It’s the first priority on Haney’s muscle building agenda and it’s so important to him that he offers it as two tips:

“I eat six meals a day and I make sure my calories are 30-35% protein, 50-55% carbs, 10-20% quality fats.” A gallon of water a day is also important so make sure you’re drinking it whenever you can.

The Lee Haney Games

The inaugural Lee Haney Physique and Fitness Games will take place on October 31st which features bodybuilding, fitness, and more. Please visit leehaneygames.com for more information.

1 Comment
Roger "Rock" Lo...
Posted on: Sun, 09/27/2015 - 18:43

Lee Haney's Physique and Fitness Games will take place on Oct. 31 and will include bodybuilding, fitness, strongman, and other competitions. For more information, go to www.leehaneygames.com.