Arnold Schwarzenegger’s advice to Lee Haney

Built Report Arnold Schwarzenegger Lee Haney
Arnold Schwarzenegger teaches Lee Haney how to pose

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Ballet teacher instructs Arnold Schwarzenegger on posing.

“What you have to realize is that people are watching you all the time, they’re not just(watching you) there and there”, was the dance instructor/posing coach’s advice for Arnold Schwarzenegger at the beginning of the 1977 documentary film Pumping Iron. The movie opens with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbu in a dance studio, probably somewhere in Venice, California, going through what at first appears to look like ballet moves but are actually preparations for their upcoming Mr. Olympia contest. After sage advice from the dancer, the movie then freeze frames on Arnold as the theme song written by master composer Michael Small takes us in to the opening credits. The rest is history. For more on the theme song:

The Hall of Legends

The year was 1983, and the bodybuilding world was buzzing with excitement as Munich, Germany, played host to the prestigious Mr. Olympia competition. Lee Haney, a promising young athlete from the United States, had been diligently carving his path to success in the world of professional bodybuilding. He had risen through the ranks swiftly, impressing fans and fellow competitors with his exceptional physique and dedication to the sport. However, standing on the precipice of greatness, Lee faced a formidable challenge in the form of veteran bodybuilders like Frank Zane and Albert Beckles, who had honed their acts over years of intense competition.

Lee Haney, at the tender age of 23, possessed immense potential, but the world of professional bodybuilding is not just about having an impressive physique. It is also about the art of presentation, the finesse of posing, and the ability to command the stage with confidence and grace. Unfortunately, in his momentous debut at the 1983 Mr. Olympia, Lee’s inexperience in this crucial aspect was evident in his posing routine. He lacked the polish and finesse that came with years of practice, and it showed in the flow and transitions between his poses.

As fate would have it, an unexpected encounter at the after-party thrown by German bodybuilding promoter Albert Busek would change the course of Lee Haney’s career forever. Seated at a table alongside his wife Shirley, Lee suddenly found himself in the company of one of the greatest bodybuilders in history, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The legendary Arnold, known for his impeccable presentation and charisma on stage, was quick to acknowledge Lee’s potential, praising his fantastic physique and immense promise.

Arnold, however, offered not just admiration but also invaluable guidance. He astutely pointed out that while Lee possessed all the potential in the world, his presentation lacked the necessary finesse. Arnold, having reigned as Mr. Olympia himself, knew the importance of impeccable posing, the ability to captivate the audience, and the skill to showcase one’s physique to its full advantage. In his characteristic confident and assertive manner, Arnold told Lee that he had a solution to elevate his presentation to the next level.

Once back in California, Arnold extended an offer that Lee could not refuse. He promised to introduce him to his personal posing coach, a maestro in the art of bodybuilding presentation. This coach would help Lee refine his posing positions, create fluid transitions between poses, and design a routine that would complement his mass monster type of physique. With a new posing routine tailored to his strengths, Lee would evolve from a promising contender into a seasoned and polished performer on the bodybuilding stage.

The time had come for Lee Haney to seize this remarkable opportunity. In the following year, 1984, he returned to the Mr. Olympia stage with newfound confidence and a refined posing routine. The transformation was awe-inspiring, and it was clear that Lee had absorbed the wisdom and expertise bestowed upon him by Arnold and his posing coach.

As he gracefully moved through his routine, each pose flowed seamlessly into the next, capturing the audience’s attention and commanding respect from judges and competitors alike. Lee Haney had not only unlocked his potential but also harnessed it to its fullest extent. The result was nothing short of spectacular.

In 1984, Lee Haney secured his first Mr. Olympia title, marking the beginning of an era that would see him reign as the undisputed champion of professional bodybuilding for a remarkable eight consecutive years. He had not just won titles; he had carved his name into the annals of bodybuilding history.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sage advice and guidance had transformed a talented young athlete into a true champion, allowing Lee Haney to break the record previously held by his mentor. The passing of the torch from one legend to another was complete, and Arnold’s prophecy had come to fruition. Lee Haney would be Mr. Olympia for as long as he desired.

The story of Lee Haney’s rise to prominence serves as a testament to the significance of mentorship, guidance, and the relentless pursuit of excellence. In the world of bodybuilding, as in life, sometimes all it takes is a chance encounter, a few words of wisdom, and the unwavering determination to become a legend. Arnold and Lee’s fateful meeting had changed the trajectory of the sport and created a legacy that would be celebrated for generations to come.

Lee Haney at the 1983 Mr. Olympia Contest in Munich, Germany.

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