Back in the day, the legendary Steve Reeves was known, among other things, for his impeccable grooming. Hair, teeth, skin, fingernails – Reeves was Mr. Perfection. I’ve always thought the same about Lee Labrada. I remember having dinner with him once at a restaurant and, when he was finished eating, Lee immediately went and brushed his teeth.

But even more impressive, he was one of the few bodybuilders I’ve worked with who kept getting better and better right up to the time he retired. If Lee had come along a few years earlier, when the Mr. Olympia was held using two classes – over and under 200 pounds – he would have won the lightweight class, like Franco Columbu before him.

Lee had a great physique, but a small frame – 5’6’ at about 185 pounds. Small enough that, standing next to somebody like Lee Haney, he was just giving away too much size. But that didn’t prevent him from placing in the top 4 in 7 consecutive Mr. Olympia contests. And it didn’t prevent Labrada from showing up in great shape every time and continuing to improve his physique.

Legendary bodybuilders Flex Wheeler and Lee Labrada posing at a bodybuilding competition
Lee Labrada’s trap development is evident in this photo. Josef Adlt

Earlier on, I always thought that his head seemed disproportionately large for his traps and shoulders. Not by a lot, but noticeable. But year by year Lee kept developing his traps and delts and when he decided to retire from competition and concentrate on his supplement business, he had pretty much brought everything into ideal proportion.

Lee Labrada motivational quote for Labrada Nutrition
Lee Labrada went from bodybuilding to business success after retiring Labrada Nutrition

Lee has subsequently brought the same kind of intelligence and discipline to business that he did to competitive bodybuilding. Labrada Nutrition has been a great success and Lee has remained a significant force in the world of fitness and bodybuilding. At the same time, he has been and remains a devoted family man. One demonstration of that is the bodybuilding success of his son Hunter, who has rocketed up in almost no time to earn a place on the Mr. Olympia stage. Hunter has a much bigger frame than his father, a good thing in this age of muscle monsters. But he also seems to have inherited his dad’s discipline and work ethic, because no matter your genetics, you don’t achieve this kind of rapid success without a great deal of hard, consistent effort.

Bodybuilder Lee Labrada posing with a dumbbell
Lee Labrada improved every year up until he retired. Bill Dobbins

So, the “Labrada Effect” is being passed on from generation to generation. And, both of these bodybuilders, father, and son, should be role models for younger bodybuilders hoping to achieve the same kind of success: discipline, hard and consistent work, a “clean” lifestyle, and attention to detail.

When you are aspiring to greatness, EVERYTHING COUNTS!

Bodybuilder Lee Labrada with Richard Gaspari
Both Rich Gaspari and Lee Labrada were at a disadvantage from being too small in an era in which there was no lightweight category at the Mr. Olympia. Bill Dobbins
Bodybuilder Hunter Labrada The Menace Podcast

Hunter Labrada on 'TMP': 'Dad Wante...

The second-generation bodybuilder was on “The Menace Podcast.”

Read article

Lee’s Bodybuilding Contest History:

  • 1995 Arnold Classic: 4th Runner-Up
  • 1993 Mr. Olympia: 3rd Runner-Up
  • 1993 Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic: 1st Runner-Up
  • 1993 Ironman Invitational: 1st Runner-Up
  • 1992 Pro World Cup:1st
  • 1992 Mr. Olympia: 2nd Runner-Up
  • 1991 Mr. Olympia: 3rd Runner-Up
  • 1990 Mr. Olympia: 1st Runner-Up
  • 1989 Finnish Grand Prix: 1st
  • 1989 Netherlands Grand Prix: 1st
  • 1989 British Grand Prix: 1st
  • 1989 Mr. Olympia: 1st Runner-Up
  • 1988 Spanish Grand Prix: 1st
  • 1988 British Grand Prix: 1st
  • 1988 Greek Grand Prix: 1st
  • 1988 Mr. Olympia: 3rd Runner-Up
  • 1988 Mr. Olympia: 3rd Runner-Up
  • 1987 Mr. Olympia: 2nd Runner-Up
  • 1987 IFBB Professional World Championships: 1st Runner-up
  • 1986 IFBB Night of Champions: 1st
  • 1985 IFBB Mr. Universe: 1st
  • 1985 NPC Nationals: 1st
  • 1984 NPC USA Bodybuilding Championships: 1st Runner-up
  • 1983 NPC Texas Bodybuilding Championships: 1st
  • 1982 NPC Jr. Gulf Coast Championships: 1st
  • 1982 NPC Collegiate Texas Championships: 1st