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Lee Haney Criticizes Today’s Bodybuilders (And He’s NOT Wrong)

  • 5 min read


by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

If you’re reading this article, there’s a high probability that you already know who Lee Haney is. While the article isn’t strictly on this bodybuilding legend, if you have no clue who he is, I highly recommend you hit up Google and ask.

That being said, one of the greatest bodybuilders ever was on a podcast where he chimed in on today’s bodybuilders and the look they showcase on stage.

What he said was… not exactly what many people expected, yet what most assumed would be said. It’s no industry secret that people pay to see the freak show. They go to bodybuilding shows to see the biggest freaks on stage. But at what point are we going too far down that road?

Look, while the great Lee Haney mentioned that guys like Nick Walker are simply too big, we expect that from bodybuilders coming from a different era.

In fact, we’ve touched on this before in another article that I published on different bodybuilders from various eras, giving their opinions on the other eras and who had the best physiques on stage.

But, let’s have a little fireside chat on the topic of today’s bodybuilders. Some may agree, others will disagree, and the rest will agree to disagree.

Side note: If you want to check out the full interview with Lee Haney, head over to Ron Harris’ channel.

Lee Haney Doesn’t Like the Look Today

Before people start yelling in the comments, “screw that guy!” and all sorts of nonsense, I don’t see anything where Lee Haney is outright bashing the sport of bodybuilding or even tearing down today’s bodybuilders.

Instead, what I see is a man who came from a different era with a different view and perspective on things. You have to remember that he came from an era where guys like Frank Zane and Arnold brought physiques that weren’t anywhere close to today’s bodybuilders but rather brought better lines, tighter midsections, and symmetry.

I can’t blame his viewpoint because he’s not wrong. Today, most bodybuilders are mass freaks, and while I don’t agree with that look or direction, I fully understand that the “freak factor” is a spectacle and puts butts in seats.

If all the bodybuilders today had physiques like Zane, Nubret, Arnold, Labrada, and other greats, would we be complaining? No, because we wouldn’t know any different.

It seems like things really started to take shape when Ronnie Coleman was so dominant. The reason he was winning was because he dwarfed everyone (while bringing a complete package to the stage). Hence, why he has a mantle full of Sandow trophies from the Olympia.

Ticket Sales Say Majority Like the Look Today

People walk, and money talks. You can’t deny the fact that the Olympia sells out every year, even with the mass monsters being the main attraction. Could some of the audience be there for other divisions, such as Classic Physique? They could, and I’ll touch on that shortly.

But the fact that arenas are being sold out and the judges are clearly leaning towards the biggest guys on stage, it means everyone needs to bring a similar package if they want a shot at winning the show.

Do I personally think this is best for the sport? No. And it has nothing to do with mass monsters versus more “classic-looking” physiques. My biggest concern is the health of the athletes. I really don’t feel many people talk about this enough.

There’s absolutely nothing healthy about a man who is 5’ 5” weighing 300+ pounds. People can say all they want about athletes who got the jab, but I’m looking at things from a heart health standpoint, and being that big is essentially turning these athletes into a ticking timebomb. Their lifestyle, food intake, drug use, and more have already lit the fuse. How long that fuse is before things explode is anyone’s guess.

So, I’m looking at things through a different lens. I like the sport of bodybuilding. I just don’t like the extremes that the athletes are going to “win at all costs.” I don’t want to see people doing irreversible damage to themselves or losing their lives for a sport that, unless you’re in the top five, you can’t make a living from.

Is Classic Physique the Next Main Attraction?

Honestly, it’s hard to say. And as much as I enjoy watching the Classic Physique division, my fear is that the division will die off and lose its luster when Chris Bumstead retires and hangs up his posing trunks.

Let’s call it what it is… Chris owns that division and has it locked up. The Olympia is his for the taking. HE is everything that embodies Classic Physique. And overall, I think he’s great for the sport.

I don’t know how many years Chris has left in him; he’s already done so much for the sport, but at this stage, he has a fantastic business that he owns, a beautiful wife, and a baby. Does he really NEED to compete? Financially, he’s fine. There’s no reason to put his body through all of that anymore, especially with his illness that has sidelined him a few times already.

All in all, I’m a huge fan of both bodybuilding and Classic Physique. I simply wish the Men’s Bodybuilding division would tone things back a bit. In my head, I’m looking at guys like Andrew Jacked as the ideal men’s bodybuilding physique (but that shouldn’t come as a surprise since I’ve always liked Dexter Jackson’s physique). But, who am I, right? I’m just some writer who is on the outside looking in.