A:I was born in Worth, Illinois, a suburb southwest of Chicago. I lived in Chicago my whole life until 2010 when I moved to Tampa, Florida.
Q:You are regarded as one of the greatest natural bodybuilders ever. Why was natural the way for you?
A:One of the aspects of bodybuilding that really attracted me to the sport was the discipline and hard work needed to be a success. When I was a kid, I wasn't too active. I was more comfortable staying inside and reading comic books instead of playing sports. I was looking for an outlet and something to express myself. When I discovered bodybuilding, I knew that this was the sport for me. This was exactly what I was looking for and I knew that this was what I was going to do with my life. I loved the idea of working hard to change the look of my body and develop myself into what I wanted to be. The discipline and self sacrifice was very attractive to me. After being somewhat lazy all my young life, I wanted to be involved with something that required hard work and total commitment so bodybuilding was perfect. When I found out that bodybuilders took steroids to look like they did, I believed that they only took them a few months before the contest, not to develop their physiques. I took this approach to my training as well. I wanted to develop my physique naturally, with hard training and good nutrition. I enjoyed pushing myself to the limit to see how big I could get, how ripped I could get, how strong I could get and do it all without drugs, just myself and my hard work and discipline.
Q:How did you build your mass naturally?
A:I started bodybuilding in the late 1970's and back then, everyone used free weights (barbells and dumbbells) to develop their physiques. I saw the great Sergio Oliva guest pose at the very first contest I ever saw and he gave an impromptu seminar onstage after he posed. Someone asked him if he uses free weights or machines and he said "Free weights, no machines". LOL! I learned from reading the magazines that the best exercises to use were the compound, basic exercises for 6-8 reps using the heaviest weights possible. I competed a lot when I was a teenager from 16-19 years old so I didn't get that big during that time. When I reached my 20th birthday, I dedicated myself to bulking up and getting bigger. I dramatically increased my calories (up to 5000 a day) to put on weight because I had a very fast metabolism as a kid. I trained four days a week, working each muscle group twice a week. I did the Push-Pull system, training chest, delts, triceps and calves on Monday and Thursday and abs, legs, back and biceps on Tuesday and Friday. I totally rested on the other three days a week. The workout and diet program worked great. I was about 175 pounds for my last teenage contest and I got up to 205 pounds six months later and then all the way up to 230 pounds about 8 months after that. When I started training, I was 135 pounds so I increased my weight by almost 100 pounds in 7 years and this was totally natural with no drugs, just very hard training and lots of food.
Q:Awesome! Keys to dropping body fat?
A:Being a natural bodybuilder, I have to lose body fat very slowly so I keep all my muscle mass and lose just body fat. I always count up my calories in the off season and when dieting so I know exactly what I am eating all the time. I have to diet more strict now (less calories) than when I was younger because the body changes as we get older. I eat a moderately high amount of protein (225-235 grams) and lower fat (50 grams) and then just adjust my carbs to lose fat but keep the muscle. I also do cardio about 3-4 days per week, alternating between steady state cardio and high intensity, interval cardio. Losing fat and keeping muscle mass is like walking a tight rope and your diet and training must really be perfect to keep the muscle as you lose the fat.
Q:Tell us about Mr.Olympia and Mr. Universe…
A:I started competing in natural, drug-tested contests in 1991. For my first contest, I over dieted and came into the 1991 NPC Natural Illinois too flat. I was pissed off at myself for missing my peak so I was psyched up to compete the next year. I was reading Muscle Mag International magazine and saw that there was a contest called the Natural Mr. Universe. I called up the promoter and asked him what I would have to do to compete because it was a different organization (ABA). He said I would have to qualify for the Natural Universe by winning another natural contest first. So, in 1992, I first competed again the NPC Natural Illinois and I won the light heavyweight class this time by weighing about 3-4 pounds more but being more ripped. About 4 weeks after that show, I traveled to San Francisco to compete in the ABA Natural North America. I won the medium class, most muscular and overall titles. 3 weeks after that, I competed in the 1992 Natural Mr. Universe in Venice, California, only a couple blocks away from Venice Beach. That was a great event. Kent Kuehn, one of Arnold's old training partners back in the '70's, was the backstage expediter and he told me I had a great physique.
I kept training hard and competing in natural bodybuilding contests and I won my 2nd Natural Mr. Universe contest in 1996 in Las Vegas. I was huge that year, getting up to 243 pounds in the off season and dieting down to 208 pounds for the show. I was about 10 pounds heavier for this contest than I was in 1992 when I won it the first time. I wasn't really ripped but I was still cut while being very big and thick. I loved the way my physique looked at that show because I was so big! The judges really wanted me to be more ripped but I still won the pro division of the Natural Mr. Universe that year.
In 1997, I didn't compete and took the year off. I came back in 1998 for the first year of the Natural Mr. Olympia which was going to be held in Greece. I stayed in good shape all year, only getting up to 230 pounds in the off season and I competed at about 204 pounds but really ripped and in peak condition. I competed in the pro division again because I won a pro contest in 1996. I was in great shape that year and I had a lot of fun in Greece with my friend Rick Schaff and Tito Raymond (who was also competing).
I stopped competing in 2004 but I made a comeback in 2011 after I got into shape for the cover of Ironman Magazine that year. The Natural Mr. Universe was being held in Chicago (my hometown) in 2012 so I trained very hard for that contest and won the Masters Pro division. I was really light and a little flat (weighing only 185 pounds) but I was super ripped and I won first place again, my third Natural Mr. Universe win.
Q:Tell us about writing for Iron Magazine…
A:I started writing for Ironman Magazine in January of 2000 after doing my first photo shoot with Ironman in 1999. I wrote a back training article for them after the photo shoot. They liked my writing so I asked them if I could have my own column, answering training and nutrition questions for natural bodybuilders. I wrote my column, Naturally Huge, every month in Ironman Magazine from the March, 2000 issue until the end of 2014. That's 15 years of writing for Ironman Magazine. I finally made the cover of Ironman in the September, 2011 issue.
Q:What other projects are you working on? Can you give us all of your social media handles?
A:I started a new website at www.FloridaPhysique.com in June, 2014. I am covering all the NPC Florida Bodybuilding competitions. Florida is a huge area for bodybuilding with over 50 competitions each year. I write up Photo Reports of every contest along with Video Interviews with the winners at each event. I also film training videos of the competitors in the Florida area and I have two weekly shows on the website. The Florida Physique Report show reviews the competitions and latest events each week as well as conducting interviews with athletes, judges and promoters in the area. I also started a new show called the Bodybuilding Legends Show where I interview champion bodybuilders from the 1970's, '80's and '90's. All of these shows and interviews can be found on www.FloridaPhysique.com.
I am also promoting my own contest in Tampa, Florida. The contest is called the NPC Natural Suncoast Classic and it will be held on May 30th in Tampa, Florida in 2015. This is one of the few drug-tested bodybuilding contests in the NPC Florida schedule. I always try to bring in some exciting guest posers each year. I am having Jose Raymond and Santiago Aragon guest posing this year. I also have a Life Time Natural Bodybuilding Award presented each year. This year, the recipient will be Anibal Lopez, one of the top bodybuilders from the 1970's. I'm really looking forward to having another great contest this year!
My social media handles are:
Facebook - john.hansen1
Instagram - johnhansen1
Twitter - Natural_O
Interview done by Elliot Rivera for healtHaven.com