Fitness & Weight Loss
Lee Haney Lee Haney

Mr. Olympia Lee Haney Gives Back to His Community

A talk with local Atlanta trainer and health advocate
Taylor Arnold

Lee Haney's training and nutritional philosophy is simple. "Train to stimulate, not to annihilate," says the former American International Federation of Bodybuilding & Fitness (IFBB) bodybuilder and eight-time Mr. Olympia.

"You are what you eat and the company you keep. Both of these health proverbs help keep my body and mind balanced."

In addition to earning multiple bodybuilding titles, the devout Christian has served as a consultant with some of the biggest nutritional supplement companies in the world, as well as chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. He has trained a number of professional athletes and celebrities including Steve Harvey, and he shared his knowledge of exercise and nutrition on his show called "TotaLee Fit with Lee Haney" on the Trinity Broadcast Network.



After retiring from professional bodybuilding, Haney wanted to give back to the community. In 1993 he and his wife Shirley purchased a 40-acre farm near their Fairburn home and created the Haney Harvest House, a non-profit mentoring program for boys. "We often hear people say, 'somebody needs to do something,'" he says. "We chose to be two of those somebodys. The mission of the Haney's Harvest House is to help establish mentoring programs through organizations within surrounding neighborhoods. Learning the values of hard work, integrity, perseverance, humility and believing in God should be present in the life of every young man."

In order to be a part of the mentoring program, boys must come from a single-parent household that is absent of a father, and they cannot have a criminal record. Haney and his volunteer staff are cheerleaders for each boy who enters the program, though some inevitably stand out. "All of the young men coming through the program are special and possess great promise. However, one of them took the meaning of perseverance to another level," Haney says. "When his mom enrolled him in the program, [Larry Heath] was shy and a little overweight. His mother did the best she could in trying to raise him and his sister with limited financial support from the government." Heath went on to graduate from Stockbridge High, and then graduated with a political science degree from Georgia State University. "He is currently enlisted in the United States Army with a little over a year left to complete his Master's degree in educational psychology," Haney says. "We are so proud of him."


lee-haney-and-jeffContinuing Education

Haney continues to share his joy of teaching and inspiring others, and in June 2010, he developed the International Association of Fitness Science (IAFS), a training program focused on educating trainers on how to use the science of what he calls "functional training." "Trainers are taught how to create exercise programs to enhance strength, core strength, cardiovascular conditioning and flexibility," Haney explains. "All of the things needed to manage age and maintain functional physical mobility. Functional Training exercises include a series of movements: pushing, pulling, squatting, pressing, curling, extending, twisting, core movements and controlled cardio drills."

Through IAFS, Haney aims to create an exercise and nutritional model that can be used to impact the health of people and communities everywhere. "It's a model that's simple yet effective," he says. "The IAFS offers three different training certifications: Functional Training (for the general population), the Minister of Fitness (designed for churches) and Ultimate Bodybuilding (for competitive bodybuilders)."


On the Horizon

Next up for Haney is his Ultimate Sports and Fitness Challenge on April 19, 2014 in Tyrone, GA. "[The Challenge] was created to serve a dual purpose," he says. "It's to showcase fitness in a way that's fun and inclusive of the different age groups: children, teens and adults. The Challenge is also the official fundraiser for Haney's Harvest House Boy's Mentoring Program."

The event will consist of a Kid's Challenge for children ages 8 to 12, a Teen Challenge for children ages 13 to 17 and an Ultimate Fitness Challenge for adults 18 and up. Each one features physical obstacles and challenges that test resilience, strength and stamina, followed by a grand finale that includes a life seminar and an awards ceremony.

harvest-houseWhether he is promoting the importance of exercise, helping clients to reach their fitness goals or mentoring young boys at Harvest House, Haney remains focused on educating others. "The best part of my life today is seeing the harvest of hard work and the lives of the people I have tried to impact," he says. "Starting first with my family, that includes my wife of 30 years and my two children, Joshua (a 2008 Citadel graduate) and Olympia (a 2012 Savannah College of Arts and Design graduate). The mentoring program means a great deal to my legacy."

In the end, his life's work is a badge of both physical and spiritual growth. "The greatest measure of a man's life is summed up in the lives he impacts during his journey here on earth,"he says. "My best self is realized by giving the proper nourishment to my spirit through praying and reading the Bible and taking care of the one and only body God has given me."


For more information on Lee Haney's Ultimate Fitness Challenge 2014, visit