Haney and Coleman: A Pair of Eights

The two icons who share the record for the most Mr. Olympia wins of all time.

Haney and Coleman: A Pair of Eights


Other than a few years Haney spent in Los Angeles in the mid-80s, both men have lived their entire lives in the American South. Haney was born and raised in the small city of Spartanburg, SC. His counterpart was born in Monroe, LA, and grew up in the nearby town of Bastrop. Cotton mills were their likely employers had they remained in the communities of their youth. They didn’t. Bodybuilding was Haney’s ticket out. After his California sojourn, he settled in Atlanta, GA, in 1988. For two decades, he owned a gym there. Coleman attended Grambling State, a one hour drive from Bastrop, where he played football. Then he moved to Arlington, TX, and worked as a policeman even after discovering his proclivity for growing gargantuan.

The South imbued their personalities, as evidenced by their perpetually gregarious dispositions and smooth-as-molasses drawls. The devoutly Christian Haney offered up aphorisms like, “The world wasn’t built in a day, and neither were we.” And Coleman psyched himself up before sets with sayings that could’ve originated on Louisiana plantations: “Ain’t nothin’ but a peanut!” Neither man is known to curse. Coleman even infused his nutrition with down-home staples: grits with most every breakfast, a couple of dabs of barbecue sauce on his chicken breasts (even when dieting), cornbread in the off-season, and the occasional glass of lemonade to wash it all down.

Haney’s best-known saying is “Exercise to stimulate, not to annihilate.” It’s a prescription for moderate reps and intensity.


Haney’s best-known saying is “Exercise to stimulate, not to annihilate.” It’s a prescription for moderate reps and intensity. And it placed him in historical conflict with Dorian Yates—the HIT man who bridged the six-year gap between Haney’s and Coleman’s streaks. Yates employed minimum volume and maximum intensity, driving working sets to failure and beyond with a strategy of, well, annihilation. In contrast, Haney and Coleman were less concerned about reaching failure and only sometimes raced through that stop sign with techniques like forced reps and dropsets.

Following his idol Arnold Schwarzenegger, Haney went with relatively high set volume. For example, when working delts, he typically used five to six exercises and 20–24 sets. Coleman did four to five exercises and 12–16 sets. (In sharp contrast, Yates did only three exercises and three working sets.) Despite Coleman’s reputation for hoisting heavy metal, you might be surprised that it was Haney, not Coleman, who regularly pyramided at least one exercise per routine, progressing to an apex set of 6–8 reps. After his early training years, when he mixed powerlifting with bodybuilding, Coleman aimed for at least 10 reps on virtually all sets and seldom missed double digits—except for a few celebrated times when the video camera was rolling.


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