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Ronnie Coleman vs. Lee Haney: The Battle Between 8x Mr. Olympias

Throughout the history of bodybuilding, some of the finest athletes inspired many newbies in the fitness field, creating a huge legacy. Two of them won the same number of titles and yet lived vastly different lives. Ronnie Coleman and Lee Haney claimed the Mr. Olympia crown eight times in a row. Yet, being over a decade apart, they saw the sport in different ways.


Lee Haney ruled the bodybuilding world throughout the 80s. Winning eight titles in a row throughout the decade, the legend contributed to the sport in more ways than one could imagine. After winning his pro card in 1983, he entered Mr. Olympia the following year only to immediately begin his winning streak.

Ronnie Coleman, on the other hand, entered the bodybuilding scene sometime later in the early 90s. Having served as a police officer before and acing in college football, Coleman quickly gained a reputation for being a genetic freak with his intense training and ability to grow big quickly. He began his Mr. Olympia journey in 1992 but kickstarted his winning streak in 1998.


Haney found his calling towards bodybuilding in his teens when muscular physiques fascinated him. Apart from the general perception of mythical figures such as Hercules, the icon also drew inspiration from ‘The Black Prince’ Robby Robinson. After receiving his first weight set at the age of 12, Haney gradually began training towards his dreams.

Coleman, on the other hand, never knew he’d pick bodybuilding for a career. He was a linebacker on his college football team before he decided to join the police department in 1989. Meanwhile, the icon also discovered bodybuilding during his service when one of his colleagues recommended MetroFlex Gym for his workouts. There, the owner, Brian Dobson, saw potential in Coleman and offered him a free membership if he competed with him at the Mr. Texas competition. The icon won, and it launched a new career trajectory for him.

First and last Olympia

Haney won his first Mr. Olympia title in 1984, dominating the 80s with his jacked yet poignant physique. He retired after winning his last title in 1991, thus ending on a high note.

Coleman won his first title in 1998, crushing the late 90s and early 2000s with his genetically superior physique. He won his last title in 2005 but was dethroned when he decided to compete one more time in 2006. His last try was in 2007 when he finally decided to hang up his posing trunks.

USPs of Lee Haney and Ronnie Coleman

Haney’s philosophy was all about prioritizing quality over quantity. He would perform workouts with heavy weights and lower sets – similar to a high-intensity training plan – to build mass. He combined this with maintaining a low body fat percentage to give him the perfect balance between increased size and higher-quality definition. This technique also sets the blueprint for future bodybuilders.

Coleman, on the other hand, began training through powerlifting. He built his name and physique around feats of pure strength, with his record-breaking 800 lbs squats and more. His routine, therefore, involved heavy compound lifts even during regular exercises like the bench press.

Life after bodybuilding

Haney eventually retired in 1991, after winning his last Mr. Olympia title at 31. After competing, he began his journey as a trainer and offered the same philosophy to his clients that once won him a record-breaking number of Mr. Olympias. He also authored numerous books surrounding his experience with fitness.

Coleman faced more tragedies upon retiring. Throughout his bodybuilding career, he sustained injuries on his back, hips, and neck that he only completely addressed after his retirement. Across a span of almost two decades, the bodybuilding icon went through 13 surgeries and countless procedures. Currently, he’s limited to using crutches and a wheelchair to move around.

Both legends made a name for themselves in the hall of fame of bodybuilding. While they won the same number of Mr. Olympia titles, their approaches were very different from one another. Fans, however, look up to both of them for their legacies.

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