Weight: 235 (off season), 205 (contest)
Background / Bio
John Hansen is a 3x Natural Mr. Universe winner and the first Natural Mr. Olympia winner. John is an author of the book Natural Bodybuilding (2005, Human Kinetics), he wrote his own column for IronMan Magazine for 14 years and he has promoted 15 Natural Bodybuilding competitions. John conducts interviews with the Legends of Bodybuilding on his website BodybuildingLegendsShow.com and his Bodybuilding Legends Podcast. He recently published “Bodybuilding Heroes and Legends – Vol. 1” and “The MP6 Workout”, both of which are available on Amazon.com.
Check out our interview with him and see how his story is similar to yours and how some of his secrets can help you in your lifting game.
What inspired you to get into bodybuilding?
I became interested in bodybuilding from reading the superhero comic books as a kid. I saw a poster of Bruce Lee shortly after he passed away and he was the first person I ever saw who looked like a real life superhero.
I read everything I could about Bruce Lee and discovered he lifted weights to develop his physique. I got a set of weights for Christmas that year and I started buying the bodybuilding magazines to learn what exercises to do.
When I found out what bodybuilding was, I decided to become a bodybuilder. My goals right from the start was to win the Mr. Universe contest, appear in the magazines and promote myself as a bodybuilder.
How did you do in your first show?
I placed 6th in the medium height class at the 1979 AAU Teenage Mr. Chicagoland at 16 years old.
What gets you going? More importantly, what’s keeps you motivated to keep going?
I am always motivated to look my best so I am always setting new goals for myself. I am either bulking up to get bigger or cutting up to get ripped. I do this even today when I am not competing regularly.
What is your personal fitness routine in an average week?
Monday I train chest, triceps and calves, Tuesday I train abs and legs, Wednesday I rest (or do cardio if I am trying to get leaner), Thursday, I train delts, calves and do a light triceps workout and Friday, I train back and biceps. Sometimes I do a second leg workout on Saturday or Sunday but it depends how sore I am from Tuesday’s workout.
What do you think about popular fitness trends like Crossfit and Orange Theory?
I think they’re good for the average person who needs to work out with a group of people in order to stay motivated.
If you had a weak body part how would you bring it back up?
I would figure out what exercises work that bodypart the best and learn the optimum form so I could feel the muscle working during that exercise. My philosophy on building more size is to use the basic, compound exercises for 6-8 reps with the most weight I can use for that amount of reps.
Some stubborn muscle groups may consist of more red, slow-twitch muscle fibers and they may need more reps or time under tension in order to grow. I still believe in working the muscle with heavy weights though.
For example, if my medial delts need to come up so I have a better cap on my deltoids and heavy (6-8 reps) are not working, I might do a heavy set of 6 reps on the side lateral raise exercise, drop the weight 10 pounds and do 6-8 more reps and then do it again for a third drop set.
This way, I am still using heavy weights but I’m exhausting the muscles by continuing the set and subjecting the muscle fibers to more time under tension.
What does a typical day of meals look like for you?
Breakfast: 1-2 eggs, 6-7 egg whites, 1 cup oatmeal, banana or blueberries
2nd meal: Protein drink with water and flaxseed oil, Ezekiel Muffin
3rd meal: 5 oz lean ground turkey, sweet potato
4th meal: Post workout drink – 1 serving whey protein, 1 serving carb supplement
5th meal: 5 oz extra lean ground turkey, ½ cup jasmine rice
6th meal: salmon or ground beef, sweet potato, salad
Which is more important, diet or exercise?
For getting leaner, diet is more important. For building muscle, your training is the most important but you also need the proper nutrition to build muscle.
What advice do you give to people trying to break into the Fitness Industry / Competition?
Concentrate on winning titles and then promote yourself to both the bodybuilding media and the general public (newspapers, television, etc) with each win. Have an overall plan of what you are trying to accomplish with your career and plan out your strategy for making it happen.
Too many people just compete randomly in contest after contest without a plan on where they are going or they just want “to win a pro card” with no idea how to promote themselves after they win the card.
You have to promote yourself as aggressively as you train for a contest. Don’t just post your pictures on your personal Facebook or Instagram account and expect to get anything out of it.
It takes a lot more than that to get your name out there.
What do you think is the most overrated exercise in the gym? Most underrated exercise?
Deadlifts are the most overrated exercise. Thanks to the advent of social media, I see tons of people doing heavy deadlifts and slamming the weight to the floor because I guess they think that looks impressive when they shoot a video of themselves doing it.
Most underrated exercise is the barbell row for building up the lats.
Too many people do variations of the cable pulldowns or isolation exercises to build the lats but it takes a basic compound movement like barbell rows or T-Bar Rows to really build mass in the lats.
When cutting, down do you prefer to use HIIT or just normal cardio? What’s your favorite cutting exercise?
I do steady state cardio in the morning on an empty stomach or I do HIIT cardio later on in the day after my workout. Both are good but I think HIIT cardio is more intense and is better for getting lean.
What is your diet like?
I eat a moderately high amount of protein and complex carbs along with some essential fatty acids. I eat 6 meals a day consisting of complete proteins like eggs, turkey, beef or salmon, complex carbs like oatmeal, sweet potatoes, baked potatoes and jasmine rice.
What is your supplementation like? Any particular favorites?
I take supplements from Old School Labs as well as hydrolyzed whey protein for protein drinks and Vitargo after my workouts.
If you were starting over right now, what would you do differently?
I would have trained less often as a teen, training the whole body from the start (I didn’t train legs the first two years I started). I competed in ten teenage bodybuilding contests between the ages of 16-19 years old. I should’ve only competed in 1 or 2 shows a year and spent the rest of the year bulking up and getting bigger.
What’s the best training advice you’ve ever received?
Train with free weights for 6-8 reps to build muscle mass. Keep the sets moderate and the intensity high to build size.
Favorite cheat meal?
Cheeseburger and chocolate milk shake.
What has been your biggest accomplishment in the fitness field?
Winning the Natural Mr. Universe and Natural Mr. Olympia and inspiring others to build their bodies without using drugs has been my biggest accomplishment.
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