Mike O’Hearn speaks with Lee Haney about the health crisis in bodybuilding (and beyond) for younger individuals who desperately try to catch up in older age.

Lee Haney needs no introduction. He is a 8x Mr. Olympia champion, a world record only tied by Ronnie Coleman. Haney represents the absolute elite in pre-mass monster bodybuilding history. He has also gone on to dedicate his life towards fitness and health for new generations – becoming appointed as chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports by Bill Clinton. So what does Haney feel about bodybuilding today with the many young deaths plaguing the sport? In Generation Iron and Barbend‘s latest episode of The Mike O’Hearn Show, special guest Lee Haney expresses the urgency of being healthy as young as possible – instead of waiting until mid-life.

Mike O’Hearn considers Lee Haney more than a role model for him in bodybuilding. He calls him a leader of the pack showcasing what was possible. To say that O’Hearn was inspired into bodybuilding by Haney is an understatement. But more than just the massive muscle and elite trophies – Haney’s focus on health in bodybuilding are what stuck with O’Hearn the most.

Lee Haney has always said, “Stimulate, not annihilate” when it comes to bodybuilding and fitness. Those words carry much more weight today – as the conversation about health in bodybuilding has reached a pinnacle point. There has been much discussion about the dangerous level of drugs and PEDs modern athletes use. As well as the dangerous levels of weight and size champion bodybuilders achieve these days (leaning closer to 300 pounds in weight). It is the exact opposite direction that Haney took bodybuilding.

With a vast background in fitness education, and personal experience as a champion bodybuilder to boot, Lee Haney sits down with Mike O’Hearn to talk about the importance of educating young people in today’s society. Not only for aspiring bodybuilders – but for the entire culture at large.

Lee Haney believes that young people are more unhealthy today believing that they can make up for it in middle age. Both Haney and Mike O’Hearn want to express the urgency that this is not the proper course. Let’s jump into it.

“America now has a sick society of young people because we are not taking care of teaching them the basic fundamentals of good nutrition and exercise.”

Lee Haney dispels the common thinking of being invulnerable during youth

Lee Haney stands out from other bodybuilding champions in one major way. He knew his hard limits while pushing the boundaries of what his body can do. So instead of going the eventual path of mass monsters like Dorian Yates or Ronnie Coleman after him – he focused on lighter weight and more volume. In a previous interview, Haney admitted that his frame couldn’t handle a training and diet regimen like Ronnie Coleman. Despite this, he was still able to rise up and become a world record holding Olympia champion.

Perhaps it was simply a different era, but Lee Haney exemplifies having your cake and eating it too. He was able to focus on longevity and health during his prime bodybuilding years. He was also able to become a 8x Mr. Olympia champion. Many athletes today believe that the only way to succeed in the sport is through heavy PED cycles and massive weight. Lee Haney avoided that while also succeeding.

As Lee Haney sees it, not only has bodybuilding today become more unhealthy – but the entire culture of America has become unhealthier. Part of this is due to systems outside of young people’s control. Processed foods became far more popular. Fast food is now around every corner. And if you happen to have little money – this are the cheapest options to keep yourself fed.

However, Lee Haney also believes that mentality has shifted. The basic fundamentals of fitness and health education are not being stressed enough. Due to this – many young folk believe they can live fast while they are young and worry about health when they get older. This is problematic thinking. That’s like building a house first and then handling the foundation later.

“We looked at statistics showing that, you know, this new generation, and I’m saying it now, they’re not living past 50 years old. Because of fast foods. Because of not taking ownership of their health. They’re dying prematurely.”

The growing problem with heart disease at younger ages.

While Lee Haney doesn’t reference drugs specifically, he does point out that heart disease is one of the leading causes of pre-mature death. This holds true not just in bodybuilding but in the American culture at large.

“And as a lot of guys are finding out… is that a lot of us our sick from heart disease. Well my ticker is perfect. My arteries are nice and clean by way of my bloodwork because I never used steak in my preparation off season or on.”

Lee Haney focuses here on nutrition as a whole. What we put in our bodies will have a long term effect on our health. Mostly in ways we can never really notice until it is too late. This is true for PEDs and steroids as well. But Haney here focuses on items such as red meat and processed foods often consumed during the offseason.

Young bodybuilders often want to try and do whatever it takes to be the best and worry about long term health later. The problem is – no amount of money can make up for years of unhealthy habits while you are young. The tragic irony is that young people often feel very health even as they eat junk. It’s not until they are older when the real issues occure.

“So bringing kids up in the way that they should go and managing age should begin with good nutrition. And managing age doesn’t mean just as you grow older, it means even when you are in the bodybuilding level of just getting started, to intermediate, to advanced bodybuilding.”

RELATED: Bodybuilders Are Dying: An Investigation Into Modern Bodybuilding, Health, & PED Use

Wrap Up

Lee Haney is more than just an old bodybuilder complaining about a new generation he doesn’t understand. He is a well educated man who, to this day, still teaches health and fitness education to individuals. Through both personal experience and his education – he has valuable insights into how the new generation should alter course for longevity in bodybuilding and beyond.

You can watch Lee Haney’s full comments in his conversation with Mike on the latest episode of The Mike O’Hearn Show. Check out new episodes every Friday only on Generation Iron or wherever podcasts are downloaded.

Derek Dufour has been managing all digital operations on the Generation Iron Network for over six years. He currently manages a team of editors, writers, and designers to provide up-to-date content across the GI Network.