Known as ‘The Predator‘, Kai Greene is one of the greatest bodybuilders in the modern era of the sport. After winning numerous competitions and placing highly in Mr. Olympia shows throughout his career, he’s become widely recognized around the world for his incredible physique.
Not only that, he appeared in the 2013 box office documentary, ‘Generation Iron‘, and launched his own supplement brand in 2015.
However, things weren’t always plain sailing for Kai – he had a tough childhood growing up, and spent most of his youth in foster homes after being orphaned at 6-years-old.
This is his story:
“Bodybuilding is an art. Your body is the canvas, weights are your brush, and nutrition is the paint. We all have the ability to turn a self portrait into a masterpiece.”
Full Name: Leslie Kai Greene Weight Height Arms Chest 265 - 275lbs (120.2 - 124.7kg) 5'8" (172.5cm) 22" 58" Thighs Year of Birth Nationality 33" 1975 American Profession Alias Era Professional Bodybuilder The Predator, Mr Getting It Done 2010 Weight 265 - 275lbs (120.2 - 124.7kg) Height 5'8" (172.5cm) Arms 22" Chest 58" Thighs 33" Year of Birth 1975 Nationality American Profession Professional Bodybuilder Alias The Predator, Mr Getting It Done Era 2010
“The person with the biggest dreams is more powerful than the person with all the answers.”
- 1994 NGA American Nationals – overall 1st
- 1996 WNBF Pro Natural Worlds – 1st
- 1997 NPC Team Universe Championships – 2nd
- 1998 NPC Team Universe Championships – 3rd
- 1999 World Amateur Championships – 6th
- 1999 NPC Team Universe Championships – 1st (Pro Card)
- 1999 World Championships, Slovakia – 4th
- 2005 New York Pro – 14th
- 2006 Iron Man Pro – 20th
- 2006 Shawn Ray Colorado Pro/Am Classic – 14th
- 2007 New York Pro – 6th
- 2007 Keystone Pro Classic – 3rd
- 2007 Shawn Ray Colorado Pro/Am Classic – 1st
- 2008 New York Pro – 1st
- 2008 Arnold Classic – 3rd
- 2009 Australian Pro Grand Prix – 1st
- 2009 Arnold Classic – 1st
- 2009 Mr. Olympia – 4th
- 2010 Arnold Classic – 1st
- 2010 Australian Pro Grand Prix – 1st
- 2010 Mr. Olympia – 7th
- 2011 New York Pro – 1st
- 2011 Mr. Olympia – 3rd
- 2011 Sheru Classic – 3rd
- 2012 Mr. Olympia – 2nd
- 2012 Sheru Classic – 2nd
- 2013 Mr. Olympia – 2nd
- 2013 Arnold Classic Europe – 2nd
- 2013 EVL’s Prague Pro – 1st
- 2014 Mr. Olympia – 2nd
- 2016 Arnold Classic – 1st
- 2016 Arnold Classic Australia – 1st
- 2016 Arnold Classic Brazil – 1st
- 2009 – Overkill
- 2010 – Redemption
- 2013 – Generation Iron
“I am a believer. I believe that we shape and create the life that we choose – and I believe that the tool that we have to do that, is our mind.”
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York (USA), Kai experienced a difficult childhood – he was orphaned at the age of 6, and raised in foster homes for over 10 years.
He struggled to find a place in the community, and felt like an outcast for much of his youth. As a result of this, the future champion began misbehaving in school.
He continued misbehaving to the point he was at risk of being kicked out from both his school, and foster home.
But there was one positive Kai held onto in his early years, weight training. He used the gym as an escape from his problems, developing his physique from the age of 13, in 1988.
Introduction to Bodybuilding
Blessed with great genetics, Kai realized that his physique was growing at a much faster rate than others his age.
Fortunately for Kai, his 7th grade English teacher realized his potential to succeed as a bodybuilder. Knowing about Kai’s unfortunate situation, the teacher introduced him to bodybuilding, and began encouraging Kai to compete in teen shows.
This was the motivation he needed to turn his life around.
Kai at the age of 17.
Over the next 5 years, Kai entered numerous unofficial teen bodybuilding shows. As Kai was much bigger, and more developed than other teenagers his age, he dominated every show that he entered.
Kai continued his success towards the end of his teenage years. By the age of 19, he’d earned his Pro Card in a natural bodybuilding federation, the 1994 NGA American Nationals.
It was this early success that made him realize he had a future in the sport. Kai’s mind was set on becoming a bodybuilding icon.
After taking home another trophy in the 1996 WNBF Pro Natural Worlds, Kai set his sights on competing in the NPC federation. However, he knew the NPC was filled with much larger athletes, and as a result of this realisation, he quickly stepped up his game.
Kai chose to spend the following year further developing his physique. The teen champion was determined to come-back with an incredible package, capable of placing in the big leagues.
Kai on-stage at the 1994 NGA American Nationals.
First NPC Competition
By 1997, Kai had sculpted an incredible physique for his age (22-years-old). He stepped on-stage at the 1997 NPC Team Universe Championships, aiming to score highly.
Although he didn’t win, Kai placed a close second in his first big competition – an impressive achievement for the young hopeful.
At first, Kai found the ‘big leagues‘ hard – he couldn’t replicate his performances in the teen shows, placing 3rd and 6th in the 1998 NPC’s and 1999 World Amateur Championship, respectively.
However, it wasn’t long until Kai found his feet. By the end of 1999, Kai had established himself as a rising star by winning the NPC Team Universe Championship that year.
But that wasn’t the only thing he took home.
As well as walking away with the trophy, Kai had fulfilled his ambition of becoming an IFBB professional bodybuilder. At the age of 24, he’d earned his Pro Card.
“In the summer of 1997, I set my sights on gaining professional recognition with the IFBB. It was brought to my attention that in order to gain Pro status, I would have to first qualify through their amateur organization called NPC.”
Taking A Break
Kai’s first show as a Pro was the 1999 World Championships in Slovakia. He placed a respectable 4th, but he wasn’t happy with his performance.
Determined to make a name for himself in the IFBB, Kai took 4 years away from competing in bodybuilding shows. He spent his time away training hard, motivated to sculpt one of the greatest physiques in the world.
Return To The Stage
After 5 years away from the spotlight, Kai made his comeback at the 2005 New York Pro. But it wasn’t a successful return for The Predator – he placed 14th.
Kai struggled for the next 2 years, entering 4 shows and only placing in the top 3 once. However, he was determined to make a name for himself, and worked rigorously to improve his physique.
Eventually, the Predator was rewarded for his hard work – bouncing back from defeat, and finding success at the end of 2007.
By the age of 32, Kai had finally won his first professional bodybuilding competition – the 2007 Shawn Ray Colorado Pro/Am Classic. But he was just getting started.
Kai (left) celebrating his win at the 2007 Shawn Ray Colorado Pro/Am Classic, with Shawn Ray (right).
Winning The Arnold Classic
Over the next 4 years, Kai entered a further 9 shows, taking home a further 6 trophies. During this period, he won the Arnold Classic in 2009, which was his biggest victory to date.
Kai was handed the trophy by none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger himself. Along with this success, he also qualified to enter his first Mr. Olympia competition.
At this point, The Predator set himself a new goal – to win the prestigious Mr. Olympia show.
Mr. Olympia Shows
At 34 years old, Kai appeared in his first Mr. Olympia competition in 2009. Although he didn’t take home the trophy, he did place a respectable 4th in a fiercely contested line up. Which included Phil Heath, Branch Warren, and Jay Cutler.
Over the next 5 years, The Predator stepped on stage at the Mr. Olympia a further 5 times. He constantly improved on his performances, placing 2nd three times.
However, during this period, Kai wasn’t able to compete for the Sandow trophy. He chose not to compete in the 2016 Mr. Olympia for unknown reasons.
Kai with Arnold Schwarzenegger after winning the 2009 Arnold Classic.
Between 2010-2016, Kai placed 1st in 7 shows – including four more Arnold Classic victories. It was this success that cemented his place as one of the greatest bodybuilders in the world.
After becoming widely recognized throughout the fitness industry, he began building his identity. His hair, physique, and off-stage performances became iconic. He was given the nickname ‘The Predator‘ by his fans around the world.
Bodybuilding had always been an outlet for Kai’s troubles, especially as a child. However, in 2011, he found another way to express himself – through art.
The Predator began creating a collection of large canvas paintings, and held his first art show the same year. This was a surprise to the fitness community, but Kai always believed that bodybuilding is a form of art:
“As a professional bodybuilder, I’m a master sculptor. The art show made me realize that I’ve always been an artist: My medium being the human physique.
My life is what I make it, just like the art I’ve produced on canvas and on stage. This art show makes this statement. I’m celebrating some personal accomplishments and my own artistic expression.”
Kai Greene standing next to his artwork.
Kai found a strong connection with art, and wanted another way to express himself – instead of simply creating canvas paintings.
He began experimenting with different forms of art, and took to the streets and subways to share his creativity. Kai became well-known for posing in public, in masks, and costumes, entertaining his fans around America.
The Predator’s visual art attracted masses of admirers. As a result, he was asked to perform at numerous bodybuilding competitions as a ‘guest poser‘.
During these guest appearances, Kai wears unusual outfits – making both his posing, and clothing combination to form his own style of art.
Kai performing as a guest poser at a bodybuilding competition.
In 2009, Kai was approached to be featured in a documentary following his preparation for the Mr. Olympia that year. This was his first taste of being on-screen, but it was ‘Generation Iron‘ (2013) that really put Kai in the spotlight.
‘Generation Iron‘ was considered the true sequel to the iconic documentary, ‘Pumping Iron’. It was the biggest documentary release of 2013, holding the number 1 spot for 3 consecutive weeks after its release.
By 2015, Kai experienced an increase in popularity due to his art and accomplishments in bodybuilding. He took advantage of this new-found recognition, by launching his own supplements company.
His company quickly became a respectable brand in the industry – marketing a range of products, from protein powders, to pre-workouts.
“The weight is a tool. Do you focus on the hammer or the nail? You better focus on the thing you’re trying to hit.”
Kai knows the importance of warming up, and spends every workout with 15-20 minutes stretching and training abs – he believes the core plays a key role in all exercises.
Kai works one muscle group per day, believing that his body responds to this routine the best. However, he doesn’t advocate lifting heavy weights in lower reps.
The Predator focuses on improving his ‘mind-muscle-connection‘, choosing to lift lighter weights in higher reps. He enjoys performing 3-4 sets per exercise, in reps ranging between 8-20.
Kai’s workout routine will look something like this:
Day 1 – Chest
- Arm Pullovers – 3 sets with 20, 15, 12 reps
- Decline Bench Presses – 3 sets with 20, 15, 12 reps
- Flat Bench Presses – 3 sets with 20,15,12 reps
- Incline or Flat Dumbbell Flyes – 3 sets with 20,15,12 reps
Day 2 – Arms
For Biceps –
- Concentration Curls – 4 sets with 10 to 12 reps
- Dumbbell Curls – 4 sets with 8 to 10 reps
- Preacher Curls – 4 sets with 8 to 10 reps
- Reverse Curls – 4 sets with 8 to 10 reps
- Standing Bicep Curls with Straight Bar – 4 sets with 8 to 10 reps
For Triceps –
- Dumbbell Kickbacks – 3 sets with 20,15,12 reps
- Overhead Dumbbell Triceps Extensions – 3 sets with 20,15,12 reps
- Standing Triceps Extensions – 3 sets with 20,15,12 reps
- Triceps Cable Press Down – 3 sets with 20,15,12 reps
Day 3 – Legs
- Leg Extensions – 3 sets with 15 to 20 reps
- Squats – 3 sets with 12 to 15 reps
- Standing Calf Raises – 4 sets with 20 reps
- Leg Presses – 3 sets with 12 to 15 reps
- Hack Squats – 3 sets with 12 to 15 reps
Day 4 – Back
- Barbell Pull Ups – 3 sets with 10 reps
- Lats Pulldown – 3 sets with 12 reps
- One Arm Dumbbell Rows – 3 sets with 12 to 15 reps
- Seated Cable Rows – 3 sets with 10 reps
- T-bar Rows – 3 sets with 12 to 15 reps
Day 5 – Shoulder
- Arnold Presses – 3 sets with 12 to 15 reps
- Behind the Neck Presses – 3 sets with 12 to 15 reps
- Dumbbell Shrugs – 3 sets with 12 to 15 reps
- Military Presses – 3 sets with 12 to 15 reps
- Lateral Raises – 3 sets with 12 to 15 reps
- Upright Rows – 3 sets with 12 to 15 reps
Day 6 – Rest
“You have to think before you can do it. The mind is what makes it all possible.”
Kai aims to consume 1.5g protein per lb of bodyweight to ensure maximum muscle growth. He plans his meals around lean proteins, complex carbs, and healthy fats.
When he’s bulking, Kai eats 5 meals per day in slightly bigger portions. However, during his pre-contest preparation, he eats up to 7 meals in smaller portions.
In terms of cheat meals, The Predator allows himself a treat when he craves it. He believes cheat meals can help fill out your body. Kai likes to shock his body with these cheat meals to ensure that his physique is always developing.
Here’s an example of Kai’s ‘bulking‘ diet plan:
- 2 slices Ezekiel bread, 4 egg whites, 2 scallions, ¼ shredded cheddar cheese
- 2 scoops of Vanilla Protein Powder, 1-ounce almonds, 1 cup Vanilla Almond/ Coconut Milk, 1 cup blueberries, 1 cup of water
- 6 ounces of grilled Flank steak, ½ cucumber, 1 teaspoon olive oil, 1 ripe tomato
- 6 ounces of boneless Chicken Breast, 2 walnuts, and craisins, 1/3 cup of quinoa
- 5-ounces of tuna steak with7 ounces of cod, 2 medium-sized yams, 1 tablespoon butter, 2 tablespoon Parmesan Cheese, 4 stalks of Asparagus
- Kai’s ‘pre-contest’ diet will look similar to this:
- 16 oz steak, 12 egg whites, quart of white rice
- A pint of white rice, 2 chicken breasts, turkey burger
- 16 oz salmon, large green salad, 6 egg whites
- 16 oz steak with 2 sweet potatoes
- 2 cups of oatmeal with raisins, 16 oz salmon, a cup of corn
- Protein shakes, avocado or a cup of cashews
- 2 cups mixed vegetables, 16 oz steak
“Don’t let yourself be contaminated by others’ ideas of what is best for you. Cast aside the shackles of destructive thinking.”
Idols and Influences
It was Kai’s 7th grade English Teacher who introduced him to bodybuilding, and he names him as a main influence in his life. This was a key turning point in Kai’s life, steering him away from being a troublesome youth. But instead, to a very promising bodybuilder.
Kai doesn’t give much away in interviews, but he expresses his admiration for superheroes:
“We love our super heroes because they refuse to give up on us. We can analyze them out of existence, kill them, ban them, mock them, and still they return, patiently reminding us of who we are and what we wish we could be.”
“I never gave up, even when people told me I’d never make it. Never underestimate the heart of a champion.”
What we can learn from Kai Greene
Kai’s proven that it’s possible to find success, even if you’ve experience a troubled childhood, or find yourself in misfortune. Kai knew this all too well as he was raised in foster homes, which left him feeling ‘out of the community.’ But he found a passion (bodybuilding) and worked hard to make a name for himself.
One thing we can learn from Kai, is ‘never give up’. He didn’t have the dream start to his professional bodybuilding career, but he took time away to improve his physique, and came back stronger to win numerous Arnold Classic shows.
Ultimately, ‘The Predator’ has become a bodybuilding icon.