Cardio is Important!

/ Posted 05.01.2014

Cardio is important

I began my diet in earnest on April 1st this year (no foolin’). My beginning weight was at 218.8 (in the morning) and my waist was ballooned out to 36 1/2″. My average caloric intake each day is around 2100-2200 calories. This daily diet consists of approximately 230 grams of protein, 210 grams of carbs and 50 grams of fats.

My training program includes four days a week of weight training. Typically,  I train chest, triceps and calves on Monday, abs and legs and Tuesday, delts, traps and calves on Thursday and back and biceps on Friday. My training is heavy, alternating between Power Cycles and Mass Cycles. I have been using the MP6 Training Program ( all of last year to increase my muscle mass and I’m going to continue to use it as I am dieting to lose the fat because the program worked so well.

As for my cardio, I have been using it sporadically in the first month of my dieting phase. I’ve always believed that if you can lose bodyfat with just your diet and not have to resort to cardio, that is the way to go. In fact, when I won the Natural Mr. Universe in 1992 and the Natural Mr. Olympia in 1998, I used NO cardio at all to prepare for those competitions. Just an extended diet designed to lose the fat slowly without sacrificing any muscle.

However, when I won those competitions, I was in my late 20’s and mid 30’s respectively. Now I am a little bit older and losing fat is much more challenging. The bottom line is that I NOW realize that cardio is essential for me to lose the fat and get ripped.

I write down my morning body weight and my waist measurement every day when I am dieting. In order to keep me motivated and on track, I have a sheet of paper taped to my refrigerator so I can see exactly where I am and how my progress is going and, because of the strategic location of the paper, I look at it several times a day. This helps me in three ways: it keeps me motivated to stay on the diet, I am able to see the “big picture” (my progress over the long term, not just day to day) and it gives me valuable feedback as to the effectiveness of my diet.

My goal each week is to lose a quarter of an inch (1/4″) off my waist each week. I’m not too concerned with the weight because I know that will fluctuate from day to day. However, overall, the weight will go down each week. That’s inevitable.

One week this month, I decided not to do any cardio at all and see what happened. The result? Nothing! I made very little progress during that week off from the dreaded cardio and, when I finally did make progress and dropped my precious 1/4″ off my waist, it took about 8 days instead of the typical 6 or 7.

The type of cardio I engage in is not that taxing because I don’t want to wander into the “catabolic zone” and sacrifice the coveted muscle tissue that I’ve acquired over the last twelve months of hard hitting workouts and increased calories. Typically, I will do 20 minutes consisting of a fast walk on the treadmill after a weight training workout. I set the treadmill machine at 3.2 mph and the incline at 8.0 and go to town, trying not to hang onto the side rails or lose my step when I’m texting and walking.

If I can do this cardio workout every day I train the muscles of my upper body (I wouldn’t even consider trying to walk, on a treadmill or anywhere else, after a leg workout), it will be enough of a cardio workout to make a difference in gradually losing the bodyfat each week.

I prefer doing the post workout cardio as opposed to the early morning cardio. Maybe it’s because I’m not a morning person but I don’t seem to respond very well to doing cardio on an empty stomach. I did this several times over the last month but I didn’t seem to notice any results from it. I prefer to do it after my workout is over when my metabolism is already jacked up. Plus, I get the same results from 20 minutes of cardio post workout as I do from 40 minutes of cardio first thing in the morning. Half the cardio and the same or better results? I’ll take that option every time.

I am also going to start adding in HIIT cardio a couple times a week to increase my fat burning results. HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. By alternating the intensity level of a cardio session, you will burn more calories and increase the metabolic rate even longer after the training is completed.

I have used HIIT for cardio several times in the past. My favorite is to use the stair master (a true torture machine on it’s own) for 15-20 minutes. By alternating the intensity level every two minutes, the workout is much harder and the duration can be much shorter. I alternate between level 7 or 8 for the low end and go up to level 10 for the higher intensity. I start off with 15 minutes and gradually work up to 20 minutes.

Because the HIIT cardio is much more intense, I will only do this type of cardio on non-weight training days. If I tried to do it before a weight training session or even immediately afterwards, I will deplete too much glycogen in my muscles and this will adversely affect my weight training session later in the day.

So, from this point forward, I will do four cardio sessions per week. I will do the treadmill after my workout 3-4 days a week and the HIIT cardio using the stair master 1-2 days per week. I will only do the HIIT cardio on my rest days in order to avoid messing up my workouts and also prevent overtraining and catabolism.

Until next time!

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Time to get RIPPED!

/ Posted 04.28.2014


I am beginning Week 4 of my scheduled 18 week diet to get ripped! After spending all of 2013 in the “off season” in an attempt to get bigger and add size, I am now dieting with the goal of being ripped by the beginning of August. As a Natural Bodybuilder, I am dieting slow in order to lose the bodyfat but still retain the muscle mass and strength.


The last time I was lean and ripped was in the fall of 2012. I dieted down to an extremely lean 180 pounds (weight taken first thing in the morning on an empty stomach) to win the Masters Pro division of the Natural Mr. Universe on September 1st of 2012. When I stepped onstage, I was a very ripped and lean 185. However, it was a physique that could have been much better. In my eyes, I thought I should have been much fuller and bigger. Realizing that it is the most ripped competitor who wins in today’s bodybuilding contests, I sacrificed size for condition. The strategy worked as I won the contest.


After seeing the pictures from the 2012 Natural Mr. Universe, I resolved to make some improvements to my physique. I decided not to compete in 2013 and just take some time off to build some more muscle mass. As a natural bodybuilder gets older, we are faced with two choices. The first is to maintain a lean and ripped physique but sacrifice size. The second is to eat a little more and stay bulky but sacrifice condition. The reason for this conundrum is changing hormone levels in the body.

As the testosterone and growth hormone levels in the body drop as we get older, it is hard to eat more calories to build muscle mass without adding unwanted bodyfat. However, if we eat less in order to maintain a lean physique, it becomes difficult to build more muscle mass. What is an aging natural bodybuilder to do?

I have been maintaining a very lean physique for the last two years. Beginning on January 1st of 2011, I began a diet in order to get ripped with the goal of making the cover of Ironman Magazine motivating me. By May of that year, I was more ripped than I had been in the last 15 years and I successfully achieved my objective and was featured on the September, 2011 cover of Ironman Magazine.


Staying lean all year long, I made the decision to compete again after a seven year retirement. I decided to enter the 2011 Natural Mr. Olympia in the Masters Pro division. Unfortunately, the extended diet (I had was now dieting for over 10 months straight) did not help my physique and I ended up flat and very unimpressive onstage in November of that year.

Being very disappointed in my return to the stage, I went back to the gym full of motivation and fire, determined to get back onstage and be victorious. When I found out that the Natural Mr. Universe contest was going to be held in Chicago, my old hometown, I decided to dedicate myself to that competition.

I bulked up to a relatively lean 215 pounds by March of 2012 and started dieting for the Natural Mr. Universe a full 24 weeks before the contest. This was a little too long, however, and by the time the contest finally arrived, I was ripped but a little too stringy and thin.


In 2013, my body needed a break from the intense training and diet program followed for the majority of the year. I was having some problems with my lower back and I was not able to resume heavy training until April of that year. Maintaining a typical 215 pound off season weight, I was having difficulty increasing my muscle mass while still attempting to stay somewhat lean.

In July of that year, I decided to loosen up the reins on my diet and allow myself to eat some more calories. While still eating healthy, I increased my caloric intake by taking in more carbs and fats. By that fall, I had gained some weight but my workouts were markedly improved.

I was using a new training system that I called the MP6 Training Program. This training involved cycles of 6 weeks long, alternating power and mass cycles. The Power Cycles allowed me to increase my strength and power. After 6 weeks following the Power Cycle, I switched over to the Mass Cycle and was able to use more resistance for the growth producing repetition range of 6-10 reps.


By the end of the year, I had managed to increase my weight to 230 pounds. Although I had inevitably gained some bodyfat, I was extremely happy with the increases in my strength and muscle mass. I was able to handle some substantial poundages and was now stronger and bigger than I had been in many years.


I had planned on beginning my diet at the beginning of 2014 but there were several delays in really getting started. Finally, on April 7th, 2014, I started my diet in earnest. Because of the late start, I will not reach my peak condition until August.

In this blog, I will detail my training and diet programs that I am following to reach my new ripped physique. My overall goal is to achieve the same shredded condition that I achieved in 2011 and 2012 but with the addition of 7 pounds of lean muscle mass. If I can wake up ripped and weigh 187 pounds, I should be in the mid 190’s for my photo shoot weight. At the age of 52 years old, putting on 7 pounds of lean muscle mass naturally is a hell of an accomplishment. I’m ready for the process to begin!!

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Natural Mr. Olympia Answers Your Questions

/ Posted 02.13.2014

Q. –    “Hi John. I’ve been reading your Naturally Huge column in Ironman Magazine for years and I really enjoy it. I just finished a contest here in Florida and placed third. Do you think it’s a good idea to start bulking up for next year’s show? I noticed that you usually bulk up thirty or forty pounds in the off season. Do you think this is a good idea or should I try to stay lean? How high is your body fat percentage in the off season when you bulk up? Thanks for your help.”

A. –    How much you “bulk up” in the off-season depends on what your physique goals are. If you are a young bodybuilder or are new to competition and you need to increase your overall muscle mass, then I think gaining extra weight in the off-season is an excellent method to help you add more size to your physique. In fact, it will be almost impossible to get much bigger from year to year by staying lean or in contest condition 12 months of the year.

Many bodybuilders misunderstand what is meant by “bulking up”. It’s not simply gorging yourself with as much food as possible. After all, we are physique artists, not sumo wrestlers. Your objective for bulking up should be to increase your overall muscle mass by forcing the body to take on new dimensions that have never been achieved before by your physique. You are looking to add muscle along with a little bit of fat before you diet back down for your next competition.


Of course, the ideal thing would be to gain all muscle and no bodyfat but the body doesn’t work like that. Putting on more muscle involves eating an excess of calories and other nutrients such as protein and carbohydrates. It also involves training that is very heavy and/or intense and the nutrition required to fuel and recover the body from this type of regimen must not be a limited amount of calories. If you are limiting the amount and types of foods you are eating, how can you ever hope to recuperate properly?

How much weight you gain in between competitions depends on your individual body. You have to be honest with yourself on what type of metabolism you have. If you are an ectomorph and find it very difficult to gain weight, you will not have to worry about limiting the amount of calories you eat in the off-season. You will most likely be able to eat anything you want in order to add some size during your bulking phase.

If you have a slower metabolism, however, then you will have to be very careful about gaining weight in the off-season. You don’t want to add so much extra weight (fat) that getting ready for your next contest will require a herculean effort in order to get back to that ripped look. Trying to lose too much fat before a competition puts your muscle mass at a great risk. This is obviously self-defeating. Endomorphs, or those with slow metabolisms, need to put on weight very slowly and really keep an eye on their waistlines at all times.

As you mentioned, I typically weigh 30-40 pounds more than my contest weight in the off-season. This bodyweight differential is based on how big of a bodybuilder you are and what type of metabolism you have. Many professional bodybuilders weigh over 300 pounds in the off-season and then compete between 240-250 pounds. This is a 50-60 pound difference but they are also very big guys. The goal to shoot for is to get as big as you can in the off-season without looking too fat. Always remember that your overall goal is to improve your physique for your next contest, not just to see how heavy you can get before you start your diet again.

My metabolism is pretty fast so I can lose fat without killing myself if I bulk up in the off-season. I don’t keep track of my bodyfat percentage in the off-season and I don’t even measure it when I am getting ready to compete. I go more by the mirror and the size of my waist. I  will routinely take measurements of my waist both in the off-season and, especially, when I start my pre-contest diet. For me, a 32″ waist means I am ripped. Some bodybuilders may get down to a 27″ waist but they probably compete at a much lighter bodyweight and/or have a much smaller hip structure than I do.

During the off-season, I will eat many of the same foods that I eat when I am dieting but I will also eat other foods and I am much more relaxed about the amount of food that I eat. However, if I see that I am putting on too much fat compared to muscle, I will immediately cut back on my food intake. Again, my waistline measurement is a sure indicator. When my waist starts to creep over the 37″ mark, I limit my visits to the buffet restaurants.

The reason I bulk up during the off-season is because I have tried it both ways and I definitely make more improvements by gaining weight in between competitions than if I stay lean. When I carry a low percentage of bodyfat all the time, my muscles tend to flatten out when it’s time to start my pre-contest diet. Bulking up, however, allows me to not only train heavier but my muscles seem to look much fuller and thicker when I diet away all the excess bodyfat. I’m committed to making improvements in my physique and, if staying lean was the best way to accomplish this, then I would do that. For me, bulking up seems to work best.

Q. –    “I am 5’5″ and weigh 170. I am trying to lose fat and gain muscle. How do I develop my inner and upper chest? I can never get the inner part. Sometimes I do declines and feel it all over and in the middle too. I believe my bodytype is endomorph. Every mistake you can name, I have done but I am learning. The most I have ever weighed was 180 after trying Size Surge 1, then I went up to 187.  Right now I am 170. Should I do cardio even though muscle is better? I work out in the morning on an empty stomach. I eat 5 or 6 times a day. Should I multiply my weight by ten and then work my way down to that weight and start cardio then? What do I do when I want to bulk up? Please help me.”

A. –    OK, let me answer your first question first. For the inner pecs, you need to do any type of chest pressing exercise using a narrow grip or an exercise where you can bring the wrists together. Doing the Bench Press or the Incline Bench Press with a grip width of about 8-9″ apart will work the inner pecs effectively. Since this hand spacing will also bring the triceps into play more than a wider grip will, I would recommend doing the standard Bench Press and Incline Press (with either barbells or dumbbells) before doing 3-4 sets of the narrow grip Bench Press. If you don’t feel this movement in the inner pecs, try doing the exercise on a Smith Machine to isolate that area of the chest.


The other type of exercise that affects the inner pecs is one where you can bring the hands or wrists together so the pectorals can fully contract. This will bring the inner pecs into play. Cable Cross-overs are a perfect movement for this part of the chest. You can do Cable Cross-overs standing or laying down on a flat or incline bench. If you try to contract the inner pecs with dumbbell flyes, the tension on the muscle will drop off before the inner pecs are fully contracted.

You mentioned that you feel declines in the inner pecs but decline presses and flyes are exercises that are designed to train the lower pecs. You may be using a narrow grip on the decline press and feeling the contraction in the inner pecs. A narrow grip on the bar will hit the inner pecs in either the decline, flat or incline position.

As for your other questions, you seem to be a little confused on what you are trying to accomplish. You mention that you want to lose fat and gain muscle. As you have no doubt already discovered, these are conflicting goals. In order to be successful, you need to concentrate on one goal at a time.

If you currently weigh 170 pounds and want to increase your size, I would suggest training no more than four days per week using the basic exercises. Use poundages that limit your reps between 6-10. Keep the amount of exercises and sets moderate to avoid over training. If you got such great results using the Size Surge program, perhaps you should go back to using that.
You mentioned that you train in the morning on an empty stomach. In order to train with the heaviest weights possible, you should eat something at least an hour before your training session. A protein shake with some oatmeal would be a good pre-workout meal. You will really notice the difference in your strength and energy levels after including this morning meal into your routine.

You should also avoid cardio in the off-season. Cardio exercise is effective for losing bodyfat but, if you are trying to get bigger, you need to concentrate on that first. Burning excess calories through aerobic exercise will compromise your primary goal of adding muscle mass and bodyweight. Remember, one goal at a time.

As for your nutrition program, you should begin by adding up exactly the amount of calories, carbs, protein and fats that you are consuming right now. Make sure you are eating at least 1.25 grams of protein for each pound of bodyweight and also analyze what types of carbs and fats you are eating on a daily basis.

Since you are maintaining your bodyweight of 170 pounds with your present diet, you will need to increase your calories in order to get bigger. Forget about multiplying your bodyweight by ten. Simply add 300 calories to your current diet and then monitor your body from there. If you are endomorphic, you will want to gain weight very slowly so you don’t gain too much bodyfat. The intense training you are doing should balance out the additional calories.

By writing down each workout and recording your diet every day, you will become more aware of what is working as you sculpt your physique. Soon, you will acquire the knowledge you need to build the body you desire. Good Luck!

Check out John Hansen’s New Training Program – MP6 Training – the ultimate cycling training program for adding both Power and Mass! Go to!


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1981 Mr. Olympia Report – Part 2

/ Posted 01.11.2013

As Franco Columbu climbed the steps leading to the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday, October 10th, 1981, he felt confident of victory. Having just returned from several weeks in Hawaii, Franco had put the finishing touches to both his tan and his physique as he prepared to shock the bodybuilding world by adding another Mr. Olympia title to his already impressive resume.
81 O franco chins    It was five years ago that Franco had achieved his greatest accomplishment ever by finally winning the coveted Mr. Olympia title right here at this same location in Columbus, Ohio. His reign as the King of Bodybuilding was dramatically cut short by a terrible accident in which Franco tore every tendon and ligament in his left knee when he tripped running with a refrigerator on his back during an event at the 1977 World’s Strongest Man competition. His doctors told him he would be lucky to walk again. Competing in another bodybuilding contest was out of the question.
Franco was anxious to prove his doctors and all the other critics out there wrong. He had shown tremendous courage and tenacity in his zeal to rebuild his damaged knee and return to the stage a winner. Franco visualized himself as Mr. Olympia all year long as he trained for this contest. He knew in his heart that he would walk off the stage holding a Sandow statue by the end of the night. After all, he was the only previous Mr. Olympia winner entering the contest this year. Frank Zane, three time Mr. Olympia from 1977-79, was taking the year off after dropping to third place the year before. Even top Olympia contenders such as Boyer Coe and Mike Mentzer would not be showing up to contend for the Mr. Olympia this year.
81 O relaxed front    The reason for so many dropouts in 1981 Mr. Olympia contest had everything to do with the 1980 Mr. O. Now considered the most controversial Mr. Olympia contest in its sixteen year history, “The Sydney Affair” had cast a black eye on the sport of bodybuilding. Unfortunately, this happened to take place at a time when bodybuilding was just beginning to achieve worldwide popularity and acclaim.
Franco’s best friend and the most popular bodybuilder in the world, Arnold Schwarzenegger, had sneaked into the same contest that he dominated in the 1970’s and pissed off both competitors and fans by winning the 1980 Mr. Olympia with less than eight weeks of serious training and a physique that was a shadow of the dominant “Austrian Oak” that we all remembered and revered. The aftermath of that contest was still reverberating through the bodybuilding world and threatened to sink the number one contest in the world.
81 O relaxed side    Arnold himself was painfully aware of what was on the line as the 1981 Mr. Olympia neared closer. He knew that Franco was planning on competing in the contest,  the fifth Mr. Olympia event that he would be promoting with his business partner Jim Lorimer. Arnold also knew that his reputation would be at risk if his best friend won the contest and did not deserve it. He even told Franco that he would be on his own at the show as Arnold could not risk further controversy by being seen helping him out or showing favoritism toward him backstage.
81 O relaxed rear    As the competitors for the 1981 Mr. Olympia pumped up, it was clearly evident that there would be some surprises this year. Although superstars such as Zane, Mentzer and Coe were indeed absent from the lineup, the remarkable condition of some of the other bodybuilders would more than make up for it. The audience was in for a treat!
A total of 17 professional bodybuilders made their way onstage at 10 a.m. sharp on the morning of October 10th. Johnny Fuller, the thick as a brick British bodybuilder from England and the current (1980) light heavyweight Mr. Universe winner, lead the group onstage. He was followed by one of the true surprises of the contest, a shredded and ripped Danny Padilla! Danny was almost unrecognizable as his genetically perfect body was completely devoid of fat. Was this the same Danny who had once devoured two dozen doughnuts the night before a contest and had actually chewed gum onstage as he easily won the 1977 AFAB Mr. America show? Danny’s face was so gaunt as the skin tightly stretched over his fat-free cheekbones that the audience had to look close to make sure this really was “The Giant Killer” in the flesh!
81 O danny franco relaxed    The shapely, aesthetic and (unfortunately) waterlogged physique of Samir Bannout walked onstage behind Padilla, followed by an out of shape Steve Davis, a thick Carlos Rodriguez from Arizona and an over the hill Ken Waller. It was hard to imagine that this was the same Waller who posed down with Columbu at the 1976 Mr. Olympia as the winner of the Over 200 Pound class.
The current Professional Mr. Universe winner, Jusup Wilkosz from Germany, was competitor number 7. Jusup was a friend and training partner of both Schwarzenegger and Columbu and his thick and muscular physique looked like it would contending for top honors tonight. Roger Walker, a top six competitor last year in Sydney, was not the same bodybuilder tonight. A year ago, competing in his home country of Australia, Walker had displayed a thick, ripped physique that could stand favorably with the best in the world. Roger was so aggressive that he even pushed around Arnold himself as they compared poses onstage. This year, he would leave that top six spot open to another competitor as he also seemed to have suffered negatively from the Sydney Mr. Olympia debacle.
81 O - Roy and Tom    Ed Corney, the celebrated “Greatest Poser in the World”, was beginning to show his age as he bravely stood in the lineup. Now sporting a full head of grey hair, Corney was one of the best from the last generation of bodybuilders who was now daring to compete in the decidedly more competitive new decade of the ’80’s. Standing next to Corney was an ebony giant who looked so good, he couldn’t resist showing off his pearly whites. Roy Callendar was in the shape of his life and he knew it! Always one of the thickest and most massive bodybuilders in the world, the 1978 Mr. Universe winner was more ripped than ever before and he was ready to pull off the upset of the century tonight! Even though all the competitors were supposed to stay relaxed, Big Roy could not resist extending one of his massive thighs forward and proudly showing off the incredible separation in his freaky quads!
Immediately to the left of Roy stood the Sardinian Strongman himself, Franco Columbu! Franco was deeply tanned and looked carved out of granite as he flexed his amazing upper body. His renowned chest split into thick striations and his abs were marble hard. Franco was not about to have Callendar steal the spotlight from the contest that he believed was his destiny. Roy pointed to the pronounced sartorius muscle standing out in his displayed quadricep as Franco bared his teeth, quickly hitting several most muscular poses before Oscar State put an end to the impromptu posedown. This was going to be a war!
81 O - Danny Franco Chris   Jorma Raty, the middleweight Mr. Universe winner from Finland with lats to rival Franco, stepped onstage next. Unfortunately, Jorma only had that enormous back along with some massive arms to challenge for the title. Mike Katz, like his old rival Waller, was also past his prime. The rumor was that both Mike and Ken had agreed to help out their old friend Arnold by entering the Mr. Olympia again to fill up the dwindling lineup. The proposed “boycott” of the 1981 Mr. Olympia had both the IFBB and the promoters nervous about this year’s event.
As Tom Platz stepped onstage next to Katz, the audience gasped! Not since the appearance of the mythical Sergio Oliva had the audience witnessed such a marvel of mass and thickness. Platz smiled a charismatic grin as he acknowledged the shock of the crowd. Platz’s famous legs looked remarkably even more massive as the individual heads of the quadriceps each stood out as thick slabs of beef.
81 O Danny Jusup Tom    However, it was Platz’s upper body that had the audience in shock. Tom looked like he had added at least 15 pounds of beef above the waist since his disappointing ninth place finish a year ago in Sydney. His pecs were massive and full and his thick, wide lats were among the best onstage. Even his much aligned arms were now big! Tom’s thick as a brick abs highlighted his amazing condition to a delighted capacity crowd. It wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that Platz’s massive physique blew every other competitor off the stage the moment he arrived!
Not to be outdone, the tall and handsome Dennis Tinerino followed Tom onto the stage. Always a top contender, Dennis showed off his mile wide shoulders and rock hard six pack abs but his appearance did suffer standing next to Platz. Hubert Metz, the 1980 heavyweight Mr. Universe champ, displayed a ripped but unevenly developed physique with one of the worst cases of gynecomastia in recent memory. Poor Hubert would suffer the wrath of the crowd all afternoon with shouts of “Bitch Tits!” aimed toward at him.
81 O - Dickerson posing    Last but certainly not least was the great Chris Dickerson. Chris had become accustomed to winning ever since he dominated the 1979 Canada Cup two years ago. Aside from the Mr. Olympia contest, Chris had won almost every Grand Prix event and the coveted Night of the Champions contest. His second place finish in last year’s controversial Mr. Olympia had established him as a favorite in this event. Zane, Mentzer, Coe, Walker, Callendar, Platz and Padilla had all been previously defeated by Dickerson. Now, he was here to claim the title that he believed was rightfully his.
Dickerson was in peak condition for the 1981 Mr. Olympia but he was lacking the impressive thickness and mass that he demonstrated in Australia a year ago. His legs were still one of the best pairs of wheels onstage with complete development in the quadriceps and the most outstanding calves in bodybuilding. His physique was one of balance and symmetry and the judges usually loved the package that Chris brought to the stage.
The prejudging would feature three separate rounds of judging. The judges would score the competitors by points with 20 points being the highest possible score. The three rounds would consist of the relaxed round, with each competitor doing the four quarter turns by themselves and then being judged in comparison with the other competitors. The second round would be the free posing round in which each competitor would pose to their own musical selection (a relatively new concept that was introduced last year at the 1980 Mr. Olympia). The third and final round would be the mandatory poses. Like the relaxed round, the mandatories would have the competitors do their mandatory poses individually and then in comparison to the other competitors.
Three months prior to the Mr. Olympia contest, IFBB president Ben Weider had conferred with the federation’s general secretary, the honorable Oscar State, to discuss who would be judging this years competition. One of the complaints about the 1980 Mr. Olympia was that the promoter, Paul Graham, had picked the judges. It turns out that many of those judges also happened to be close friends or acquaintances of Arnold Schwarzenegger. To avoid any controversy this time, the IFBB would select their own judges.
Weider decided to use an international panel of judges to judge the biggest contest in the world. The judging panel included Jacques Blommaert of Belgium, Jim Manion of the U.S.A, Winston Roberts of Canada, Sven-Ole Thorsen from Denmark, Franco Fassi of Italy, Dominic Certo from the U.S.A. and Doug Evans from Wales.
The head judge, Roger Schwab, was concerned about the selection of judges because he, too, was aware of how closely this contest would be scrutinized after the Sydney Affair. He brought to Ben Weider’s attention the selection of Sven-Ole Thorsen. Thorsen had gotten into trouble by showing prejudice the year before at the Schwarzenegger-Lorimer promoted Professional Mr. Universe contest when he had given his fellow countryman, Ulf Bengtsson, a perfect score while all the other judges had given him fourth place.
81 O franco bw    Thorsen was suspended from judging international events until the IFBB decided he was fit to judge again. Schwab understood the IFBB’s decision to use an international judging panel but he argued that only the most qualified judges should be allowed to judge the sport’s biggest event. It was especially important this year because the 1980 contest was so controversial and still fresh in the minds of the fans and competitors.
One week before the 1981 Mr. Olympia, Ben Weider informed Roger Schwab that Sven-Ole Thorsen had redeemed himself by correctly judging a competition in London so he would be allowed on the judging panel at the Olympia. How Thorsen had been allowed to judge another international show when he was under suspension was never brought up. However, Weider assured Schwab that Thorsen’s scores, along with the other judges on the panel, would be “closely scrutinized”.
81 O abs franco tom    The night prior to the contest, Weider held a meeting with all the competitors. The IFBB president assured the competitors that he had selected a qualified panel of judges and he was looking forward to a fair and honest contest. Weider was concerned with the good name and reputation of the IFBB. He invited any competitor to voice their opinions or concerns here and now so all complaints could be heard before the contest.
Some of the competitors had questions about the distribution of the prize money. Carlos Rodriquez, who was not expected to finish among the finalists, wanted the top ten to receive cash for their efforts. However, none of the competitors challenged the judging credentials of any of the judges. Perhaps some were afraid to speak up the night before the biggest contest of their lives.
As the judges put the competitors through their paces, the audience could see who was challenging for the top spot. Padilla was amazing with his degree of definition and fat-free muscle. For years, all the bodybuilding experts had told Danny that he had the “perfect physique”, if ONLY he could get ripped. This year, he had listened to his critics and was more ripped than anyone could believe. It looked like he had lost 30 pounds and, if his gaunt face was any indication, had gone through severe torture to arrive at this condition!
Columbu was also extremely impressive. Franco’s upper body was thicker and more ripped than ever before. His abs were rock hard and skin tight and his famous pecs, lats and shoulders were bigger and harder than in his last Mr. Olympia victory in 1976. Even Franco’s arms were much improved, having previously been overshadowed by his incredible torso. This year, they were holding their own with thick triceps and high peaked biceps.
81 O ab comparisonUnfortunately, Franco’s legs were way out of proportion. His calves were still impressive but his poor quadriceps could not keep pace with his award winning upper body. The thighs had come up in size from their atrophied state but the separation and definition, always a struggle for him, were non existent onstage. Add to this problem a very distracting case of gyno on one of his nipples and it was hard to see Franco winning another Mr. Olympia title tonight.
The sport of bodybuilding had changed since Franco had last won the Mr. Olympia title. In the 1970’s, very few bodybuilders had really impressive legs. The few that did exhibit strong leg development were considered somewhat of an anomaly and superior legs were not really required for winning even the top competitions.
Exhibiting great legs onstage in the 1980‘s was now a necessity for winning even a local contest. Bodybuilders such as Mike Mentzer, Tom Platz and Danny Padilla started to show bodybuilders in the ’70’s what leg development was all about. When Chris Dickerson and Casey Viator made their comeback onto the pro bodybuilding scene in the last few years, their incredible legs were part of the winning formula. Even that year’s Mr. America winner, Tim Belknap from Illinois, had a pair of legs that brought to mind a mini version of Tom Platz.
81 O platz posing    Speaking of Platz, he was quickly becoming the audience favorite each time he stepped in front of the judges for another comparison. His incredible improvement in only the last year had catapulted him to the forefront of the biggest competition in bodybuilding. When had anyone made such a dramatic transformation to their physique? It looked like Tom had added 15-20 pounds of muscle to his upper body alone since the 1980 Olympia. Incredible!
Everyone expected Platz to have the biggest legs onstage but it was the quality muscle packed onto his back, his chest, his shoulders and his arms that blew everyone away. His side chest pose now revealed a barrel ribcage and massive pectorals that kept easy company with those huge legs. His rear double biceps showcased a thick, ripped back and calves so freaky, the fibers looked like they were moving and alive! His side triceps pose hammered home thick arms and hamstrings large enough to substitute for a full leg. The audience pored out their admiration and love for Platz, a man who had surely endured torturous workouts for a full year in order to celebrate the winning physique he was proud to display tonight on stage!
A new Roy Callendar had arrived in Columbus this night looking for victory! A veteran competitor, Roy had always impressed with his tremendous muscle thickness and size but he never exhibited the hunger and desire that he showed at this show. He was tremendously ripped and hard and, combined with that size, Callendar knew that this could be his night.
As the judges compared the top competitors in the first round, Columbu scored points by constantly flexing his massive torso. Crunching down hard on his abs and pecs, Franco displayed a rock hard look that was missing from his semi-relaxed competitors. As an oblivious Padilla smiled to the audience, Franco flexed harder and never relaxed.
Platz shocked the audience and the judges with his added size. It wasn’t just his legs that overwhelmed his competitors this year, it was also his thick back, chest and shoulders that commanded attention. Dickerson showed class and poise as he displayed his extensive competitive experience to his advantage, standing relaxed but with his muscles flexed and ripped. Chris did his best to ignore the boisterous cheers for Platz, Callendar and Padilla from the rowdy fans.
1981 Olympia - Callender MM    The mandatory comparisons had the sold out audience jumping out of their seats! Platz continued to win over the crowd as his outrageous muscle mass dominated the other competitors. Padilla was the most genetically gifted bodybuilder onstage with his flowing lines, full muscle bellies and perfect proportions. However, next to mass monsters like Platz and Callendar, Danny seemed to fade in the comparisons. Could he have gone overboard in his desperate desire to get shredded?
Callendar was anxious to shake things up in each comparison he was included in. He particularly liked standing next to the pre-contest favorite Franco. He knew Franco’s weak point was his legs so he took every opportunity he could to shove his ripped and massive quads in front of the judges to show them what every open eye in the house could clearly witness.
If there was any doubt about the striking imbalance in the Columbu physique, one particular comparison between Franco, Tom Platz and Danny Padilla during the mandatory poses seemed to dramatically close the door on Columbu’s dream of annexing another title. The judges called for Platz in the middle of Franco and Padilla, Tom appearing both inches taller and wider than his two smaller competitors. Although Franco was impressively thick and ripped, Danny was incredibly shredded and Platz was hard and huge.
The last pose called by the judges was the Overhead Abdominal and Thigh pose. Franco crunched down on his rock solid abs as he twisted his good leg this way and that way, desperately searching for a line of separation in his quadriceps (bodybuilding writer Rick Wayne later described Columbu’s thighs as looking like “a pair of overstuffed sausages”). The crowd was on the edge of their seats in anticipation as Platz failed to suppress a slight grin. He knew what was coming and so did the audience. Tom crunched down on his thickly muscled abdomen and extended his right leg slowly forward. BOOM!! Platz’s thigh exploded into an amalgam of mass and striations! The audience roared it’s approval as they were witnessing the birth of a new champion.
1981 Olympia - Abs with Franco Platz and Padilla    By the end of the prejudging, the majority of the crowd had Platz, Callendar and Padilla at the top of the roster. Dickerson, for all his balance, symmetry and beauty, seemed to be overwhelmed by the size and impressiveness of the new mass monsters. Franco, despite all his confidence and courage, could not realistically be higher than fifth with zero separation in his legs. How could anyone win the Mr. Olympia title while missing a major muscle group?
As the audience filled the Veterans Memorial Auditorium for the evening finals, anticipation and uncertainty filled the air. Would the 1981 Mr. Olympia be another controversial embarrassment like the year before or would the judges do the right thing by giving an accurate assessment of the competitors, despite their name or reputation? You could cut the tension in the air with a knife as everyone anxiously waited for the show to begin.
81 O - Corney    As expected from a Schwarzenegger-Lorimer production, the stage design and quality of the show was top-notch! No one could promote a classier or more entertaining bodybuilding contest than the team of Arnold and Jim. The Mr. International competitors were all introduced onstage with only the silhouette of each bodybuilder visible. The music from the movie soundtrack “2001: A Space Odyssey” filled the auditorium during this dramatic opening. It was enough to raise goosebumps on even the most jaded bodybuilding spectator.
81 O - Samir    IFBB President Ben Weider opened up the ceremonies. Some of the fans in the audience tried interrupting Weider by yelling out, “Where’s Mentzer?”, “Where is Zane at?”. Weider ignored the catcalls and praised the promotional efforts of Arnold and Jim Lorimer. At the mention of Arnold’s name, some of the audience booed with the memory of the Sydney Affair fresh in their minds.
“We live in a democracy”, Weider continued. “Everyone is free to express his personal opinion”. The IFBB president went on to remind the audience that Arnold has played a critical role in developing the sport of bodybuilding, “a sport we all love”. With that last line, the audience completely changed their attitude and began to wildly applaud the former King of Bodybuilding.
The Mr. International competitors were up next. A shredded Ralph Piers from South Africa won the lightweight class over Ray Beaulieu from Canada. The very impressive Shigeru Sugita from Japan, a former Nabba Mr. Universe winner, easily won the middleweight class. The hard-working Ali Malla won a tough light-heavyweight class over Les Galvin and Billy Arlen from the U.S.A.
81 O cd arms    The heavyweight class in the Mr. International was where the big boys battled it out. Rod “Thee Animal” Koontz and Mr. California Larry Jackson initially tied for second place. The nervous audience sensed another controversial decision but it was quickly resolved with Jackson winning the tie breaker, to the satisfaction of the fans. Broad shouldered Scott Wilson from California took first place in this class as well as the overall. All was good and the audience seemed to be in agreement with all the decisions. Maybe the dark cloud of the 1980 Olympia had indeed passed, as Ben Weider had seemed to allude to in his opening remarks.
Before the Mr. Olympia competitors took the stage to perform their individual posing routines, the audience was treated to a sneak preview of a movie that would introduce their own Arnold Schwarzenegger to the world at large. The movie was called “Conan the Barbarian” and the voice-over that accompanied the set of color slides being shown on the big screen hinted at an upcoming blockbuster on par with “Star Wars” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.
After that dramatic introduction, Arnold himself came to the microphone. The audience went crazy for their King, chanting “Arnold!” “Arnold!” “Arnold!”. Gone (at least for the moment) were the ugly memories of a smiling, out of shape Arnold winning the 1980 Mr. Olympia and all the controversy and ill-will that went along with it. Right now, the only thing that mattered was the appearance of their Leader in the flesh.
If anyone ever doubted Arnold’s future as a politician, they should have heard his speech that night in Columbus, Ohio. As popular as Arnold was, there were still a few “fans” who were angry at his involvement in the Sydney Fiasco and they let their feelings be known as Arnold waited to speak. How the future Governor of California transformed that apathetic audience into a crowd of cheering, rabid true believers was something to witness!
1981 Olympia - Side Triceps    “I hear da boos”, Arnold began. He talked about his experience making “Conan the Barbarian”, a movie that had been eagerly anticipated for over four years now. The underlying message in Arnold’s speech was, “Do you have any idea how big this is going to be?” Arnold also praised his partner, Jim Lorimer, and even mentioned Joe Weider for the publicity he has given him in Joe’s magazines. “Some good, some bad”, Arnold added, an obvious reference to the 1980 Olympia.
Arnold then won the sold out crowd over by thanking them for their support of bodybuilding. “Thanks to you”, he said, “we have rescued bodybuilding out of the comic books and put it on prime time TV. We still have a way to go until we reach the level of sports like baseball and boxing but we are on our way.” With that, the crowd let loose all the love and admiration they felt for the King and their Leader in the bodybuilding world. The 1980 Mr. Olympia was forgotten, let’s get on with the show!
One noticeable absence from the 1981 Mr. Olympia was the annoying flood lights that would be illuminated every time the television cameras would begin filming the events onstage. After signing a three year deal with the IFBB for exclusive rights to broadcast the Mr. Olympia contest, CBS Television decided to join competitors like Mentzer, Zane and Coe and boycott the event this year.
The crew from CBS-TV was in Australia last year when Arnold won the contest. After filming the event and witnessing the unpopular decision with both the competitors and the spectators, the television giant decided to not broadcast what would no doubt be a very controversial spectacle. The event was so suspect that even the network’s own prime time news magazine, “60 Minutes”, was going to do a report on the contest. This was also never aired.
1981 Mr. Olympia - Arnold and Franco    In 1981, CBS stuck to their contract with the IFBB by paying the Schwarzenegger-Lorimer team the agreed upon $20,000 for the right to broadcast the contest. However, after the controversial decision the year before, they also decided to stay home and not even attend the event. Another black eye for the sport of bodybuilding in the eyes of the general public!
As the competitors began their posing routines, the audience, most of whom had attended the prejudging earlier in the day, knew who to look out for. The first name on that list was the Giant Killer himself, Danny Padilla. Danny shocked the audience with his amazing condition. Never had Padilla pushed himself this hard to achieve such amazing definition. His full muscle bellies were still round and big but they were completely stripped of fat. Danny Padilla was shredded!
In spite of his outstanding shape, Padilla didn’t blow the crowd away with his posing routine. Throughout the day, Danny looked laid back and subdued. Maybe he had suffered so much in his preparation that he had nothing left for the stage. His musical selection was the old fashioned theme from the movie “Exodus” and this was not enough to bring his fans to their feet.
81 O tp congrat franco    One bodybuilder who did choose the right music was Samir Bannout. Despite his bloated condition, Samir received one of the loudest ovations of the night by using a musical selection that was perfectly choreographed with his poses. The music had no lyrics, just a resounding “clang!” every few seconds. Samir timed the music with his poses and the audience loved it! They gave him thunderous applause as The Lion of Lebanon gave a posing seminar on how to do a posing routine to music!
Roy Callendar didn’t need any music to bring the house down. As Roy was going through his graceful posing routine, his cassette tape broke. Instead of walking off the stage in frustration, he continued to pose to the roar of the crowd. Callendar’s monster most muscular poses brought down the house! Aside from weak calves and somewhat bowed legs, Roy had it all. He was the biggest and most ripped competitor on stage next to Platz and he had every right to be confident!
The audience was curious to see the next competitor after Callendar triumphantly exited the stage. Franco Columbu was making his first contest appearance five years after winning the Mr. Olympia on this same stage. That Franco could walk again was a miracle after rupturing every tendon and ligament in his knee. To be competing in the biggest contest in bodybuilding after such a tragic accident was a victory in itself. If there was ever a bodybuilder that believed he could overcome anything, it was Franco!
For his musical selection, the immigrant from Sardinia, Italy chose an Italian operetta that did not generate the response he was hoping for. Instead of focusing on hitting his patented most muscular and lat spread poses during his free posing routine, Franco, at one point, slowly turned in a circle with his arms raised overhead in a poor imitation of his rival Frank Zane. Despite his amazing condition, the thick and muscular Columbu did not have the leg development to compete against Callendar, Padilla, Dickerson or Platz. However, you wouldn’t have known it from the look of confidence on his face. The indomitable Dr. Franco Columbu was convinced he was the winner!
The audience waited anxiously for the arrival of the new Tom Platz! When the Golden Eagle confidently loped onto the stage, the fans in the Veterans Memorial Auditorium erupted. Platz had trained for this contest as if his life depended on it. His physique was so thick, so freaky, so muscular, that he oozed HARDCORE out of every fiber of his being!
Tom Platz had the audience in the palm of his hand tonight as he confidently glided from pose to pose. When he brushed back his golden hair with one of his hands before locking into a single arm bicep pose, he knew he had it! The audience gasped with awe at the size and muscularity in his back, his chest, his calves. When he finally locked his knee and thrust his famous leg forward at the conclusion of his routine, the crowd screamed their approval!
Every so often, a bodybuilder will come along and exemplify everything that is magical and beautiful about the sport of bodybuilding. He may train his whole life for that one special day when it all comes together perfectly. It is a day that he will remember for the rest of his life. Win, lose or draw, he knows that he did everything humanly possible to be the very best he could be and he finally reached his ultimate potential. Tonight was that night for Tom Platz! In the hearts and minds of everyone lucky enough to watch it, Tom Platz was Mr. Olympia!!
The last headline bodybuilder to pose was Chris Dickerson. A fan of ballet and opera, Chris incorporated his passion into his posing routine. You will never see Chris Dickerson bang out most muscular poses like Callendar or Columbu. He choose poses that fit his individual structure and made sure to show the judges a variety of kneeling, standing and lunging poses that emphasized his aesthetic and shapely physique.
Chris was in outstanding condition for the 1981 Mr. Olympia. Dickerson could always be relied upon to hit his peak. His legs were among the best in professional bodybuilding and, if he didn’t have the same thickness throughout his torso that he displayed in Sydney, the Dickerson aura and confidence did not reveal it. Chris quietly believed that his physique would be the one that the judges would pick to win the title.
1981 Mr. Olympia - Danny relaxed    Finally, the time was here. The top six bodybuilders were called back onstage for the long awaited posedown! Padilla, Callendar, Columbu, Wilcosz, Platz and Dickerson. The bodybuilders changed positions as they all strived to show their best before the judges. The final scores were being calculated as the bodybuilders posed down to a sold out auditorium of screaming bodybuilding fans!
The emcee, Len Bosland, announced Jusup Wilcosz in the sixth place position. The current Professional Mr. Universe winner was making his Olympia debut at this contest and he was in very good shape. Everyone was expecting this placing and there was no surprise and just mild applause from an anxious audience. With his next announcement, Bosland would begin an unprecedented tidal wave of pandemonium and chaos.
“In fifth place….Danny Padilla!” NO! NO! They’ve done it again! The crowd screamed their disapproval and started booing with sustained volume. How could the judges be so blind? Wasn’t it supposed to be Franco in the fifth place position? What the hell was going on? How could a perfectly proportioned and sliced to the bone Padilla place behind a man with zero definition and separation in his legs?
Padilla’s face said it all as he received his fifth place trophy and check. One of the most well-liked and pleasant personalities in the sport, Danny just shook his head and smiled onstage as the boos continued to rain down on the judges. Poor Padilla had to ask himself why on earth he had sacrificed so much and dieted so hard to come in such spectacular shape for THIS!
After the crowd had finally calmed down, Len Bosland had everyone’s rapt attention as he slowly read the next placing. “In fourth place…..Roy Callendar!” Callendar seemed to look to the ceiling for an answer as the crowd now started screaming expletives at the judges and the booing reached an even higher level. How could this be happening? Had the IFBB screwed us all again?
1981 Olympia - Callender   The trophy presenter walked onstage and presented Roy with his fourth place award and money. Roy didn’t take the news as well as Padilla. Like Danny, Callendar had sacrificed a lot for this contest. He had left his wife and child at home in Canada as he spent months in the warm California weather preparing specifically for this contest. He was in the best shape of his life and he knew in his heart that he was gunning for that top spot. How in the world could he place fourth looking like this??
After several long minutes, the audience had finally gained some composure. The booing had subsided and everyone was sitting on pins and needles as they awaited the next placing. Jusup Wilcosz quietly stood off to the right as both Callendar and Padilla waited for the final decision on the left of the stage. Tom Platz, Franco Columbu and Chris Dickerson all stood in the middle of the stage, anxiously awaiting the next words out of Len Bosland’s mouth.
Everyone in the audience all shared the same thought toward the judges. “OK, you totally screwed Padilla and Callendar but there’s still room for hope. Award the title to Platz and you can still do the right thing. Don’t let this contest turn out worse than last year!”
1981 Olympia - Tom Platz legs    The audience held it’s collective breath as Bosland began to speak again. “Receiving the third place trophy……Tom Platz!” CHAOS!! Most of the audience sprung to their feet, booing and screaming at the top of their lungs! This was insane! How could  the judges be so blind? This was happening but no one could believe what they were witnessing. Not two years in a row!!!
This time, the audience didn’t stop. They kept booing louder and louder, screaming at the judges. Sitting in the first five rows, I personally had never experienced such a hostile reaction to a bodybuilding placing. People were mad! There had to be a reason for this but this made no sense!
Tom Platz was every bit the gracious gentleman as he received his trophy and check with no hint of malice. He held his massive arms out wide as if to say, “Oh well!” and then remained onstage as the crowd continued to boo the placing and applaud the man they thought should have been awarded the title.
At this point, several people started to leave the auditorium. Ever since the fifth place announcement of Danny Padilla, there had been non stop booing from this very emotional audience. Now, only two bodybuilders remained onstage. Some of the fans didn’t even care who won at this point but we all knew it could not be Franco. How could someone win the Mr. Olympia title with no legs? If Franco was to win, the audience believed, than the fix was definitely in!
A hesitant Bosland announced what everyone was expecting. “In second place…Chris Dickerson!” That was it! The audience jumped to their feet again and the booing and screaming continued. Dickerson reluctantly accepted his second place trophy and check. Didn’t he go through this same scenario just one year ago?
As Len Bosland introduced the 1981 Mr. Olympia to an angry crowd, very few could hear him over the booing and the cursing. At this point, people were actually starting to throw objects at the stage to show their disgust. Coins bounced off the edge of the stage onto the judges table as Ben Weider raised Franco’s arms overhead in “victory”. Arnold and Joe Weider dared not walk onto the stage and into the frenzied mob of screaming fans. It would be like rubbing salt into a very open and painful wound.
81 O awards   The victory photos of Franco with his Sandow trophy and his $25,000 check were all taken off stage. Arnold congratulated his best friend and Franco’s wife Anita kissed her loving husband on the cheek. An oblivious Columbu didn’t seem affected at all by  the booing from the audience. To his mind, he deserved the title and there was no controversy at all.
So, how did all this happen? Was the 1981 Mr. Olympia contest an outright fix among the judges or was this a case of incompetent scoring by a group of individuals who did not belong anywhere near the judging table of a Mr. Olympia contest?
In the analysis of the score sheets, part of the problem seems to have been the method of scoring itself. In both the 1980 and 1981 Mr. Olympia contests, the judges used a point system for each round of judging. The highest possible score for an individual competitor was 20 points. Because these were Mr. Olympia competitors and, in theory, some of the best bodybuilders in the world, no one should have received lower than a 16 in each round.
1981 Mr. Olympia - Score Sheets    At the conclusion of all three rounds of judging, the points are tallied up and the top six scores are those competitors who are in the posedown. In the posedown, the judges are told to give a first place to the bodybuilder who they feel should win the contest. Those points are then added to the total score from the prejudging.
In 1979, when the Mr. Olympia was judged in two rounds (the under 200 pound class and the over 200 pound class), Mike Mentzer received the highest point total from the prejudging. However, when he was compared to Frank Zane for the first time in the posedown, Zane was able to score more first place votes from the judges and he narrowly beat Mentzer to win the contest.
In 1980, the competitors voted to have just one class instead of splitting the competitors into two separate divisions. After 1979, the Mr. Olympia contest was always judged as one big class. This would allow the judges the opportunity to compare all the competitors during the prejudging.
Let’s look at how the judges scored the 1981 Mr. Olympia contest. After three rounds of judging, this is how each judge placed the top six competitors by using the points system.

Judge Jacques Blommart from Belgium –
1st Roy Callendar (59 points)
2nd Tom Platz (58 points)
3rd (tie) Danny Padilla and Jusup Wilkosz (56 points each)
5th – Chris Dickerson (55 points)
6th – Franco Columbu (54 points)

Jim Manion from the U.S.A –
1st – Franco Columbu (59 points)
2nd – Tom Platz (58 points)
3rd – Roy Callendar (57 points)
4th – Chris Dickerson (56 points)
5th – Dennis Tinerino (54 points)
6th (tie) – Danny Padilla and Jusup Wilcosz (53 points each)

Winston Roberts from Canada –
1st – Chris Dickerson (60 points – perfect score)
2nd – Roy Callendar (58 points)
3rd – Franco Columbu (57 points)
4th – Tom Platz (56 points)
5th – 8th (all same score) – Danny Padilla, Jusup Wilcosz, Dennis Tinerino, Johnny Fuller (54 points)

Sven-Ole Thorson from Denmark –
1st – Chris Dickerson (60 points – another perfect score)
2nd – Franco Columbu (59 points)
3rd – Tom Platz (58 points)
4th – Roy Callendar (56 points)
5th – Danny Padilla and Jusup Wilcosz (54 points each)

Franco Fassi from Italy –
1st – Franco Columbu (60 points – perfect score)
2nd – Chris Dickerson and Roy Callendar (57 points each)
3rd – Tom Platz (56 points)
4th – Samir Bannout (55 points)
5th – Danny Padilla, Jusup Wilcosz and Dennis Tinerino (54 points each)

Dominic Certo from U.S.A  –
1st – Tom Platz (60 points – perfect score)
2nd – Franco Columbu and Roy Callendar (59 points each)
4th – Chris Dickerson (57 points)
5th – Danny Padilla and Jusup Wilcosz (56 points each)

Doug Evans from Wales –
1st – Franco Columbu (60 points – perfect score)
2nd – Chris Dickerson (59 points)
3rd – Tom Platz (58 points)
4th – Roy Callendar (56 points)
5th (tie) – Dennis Tinerino and Johnny Fuller (54 points)
6th (tie) – Danny Padilla and Jusup Wilcosz (51 points)

That was the accumulation of the points for three rounds. Adding them all up and eliminating one high and one low score, this is what the standings looked like going into
the posedown –

1st – Franco Columbu with 294 points
2nd – Chris Dickerson with 289 points
3rd – Tom Platz with 288 points
4th – Roy Callendar with 286 points
5th – Danny Padilla with 281 points
6th – Jusup Wilcosz with 270 points

At the evening show, the judges were asked to place a one (placement system) by the competitor they would have in first place.

Jacques Blommart had Tom Platz in 1st (he scored Callendar the highest)
Jim Manion had Padilla in 1st (he scored Franco the highest and he scored Padilla in 6th at the prejudging)
Winston Roberts had Dickerson in 1st (he also scored Dickerson 1st in points)
Sven Ole Thorson had Dickerson in 1st (he scored Dickerson in 1st)
Franco Fassi gave Franco the 1st (he also had Franco highest in points, perfect score)
Dominic Certo gave Tom Platz the 1st (he had Platz first in points, perfect score)
Doug Evans gave Franco the 1st (he had Franco first in points, perfect score)

When using the placement system at the evening show, Franco, Dickerson and Platz all received two first place votes. Danny Padilla received one first place vote and Roy Callendar did not receive any first place votes. The scores varied among each judge with no consistent winner.
The system itself was flawed but the judges were also way off the mark. Franco Fassi from Italy is a close friend of Franco Columbu so he should never been allowed to judge. Doug Evans did not have the experience to judge a major professional show like the Mr. Olympia. Sven-Ole Thorsen was also a close friend of Arnold and Franco so he should not have been used either (although he did put Franco second to Dickerson).
How could Doug Evans give a perfect score to Franco, who was obviously out of proportion with weak leg development, but only give 51 points to Danny Padilla who displayed perfect proportions and outstanding conditioning? Franco Fassi not only awarded his friend Franco with a perfect score but also placed a smooth Samir Bannout ahead of Danny Padilla.
Julian Blommart seemed to be the only judge on the panel who scored Franco lower because of his obvious imbalance in his physique. He only scored Franco with a 54 point total while giving higher points to Tom Platz, Roy Callendar and Danny Padilla. However, Blommart also had Jusup Wilcosz ahead of both Chris Dickerson and Franco Columbu.
Even more surprising is Jim Manion giving a first place vote to Padilla in the evening (the only judge to do so) but scoring him with a low 53 points in the prejudging. Did Padilla really look that much different at night than he did during the day? Manion even had 7th place finisher Dennis Tinerino ahead of Padilla during the day but then changed his mind at night. Jacques Blommart also had Roy Callendar ahead of Tom Platz in the day but then voted for Platz as the winner at the evening show.
The score sheets show that it was not necessarily a “fix” for Franco Columbu to win the contest. Only two judges out of seven had him in first place but it was his high point total from the majority of the judges (two 60 points, three 59 points, one 57 and one 54) that helped him to win the title. Platz, although he had pretty high scores, consistently scored lower than both Dickerson and Columbu. Maybe the judges felt like Platz was too overdeveloped in the legs so they gave it instead to the guy who had weak development in the legs.
Poor Danny Padilla. Padilla, who would often pose to “Short People Don’t Get No Respect”, really got the shaft. How could a bodybuilder who had a genetically perfect physique and in shredded condition score only two 56 point totals, three 54 points, one 53 and even a 51? What were these judges looking at?
In the end, the sport of bodybuilding suffered the most from the 1980 and 1981 Mr. Olympia contests. The 1981 event was even more controversial than when Arnold made his comeback because of the glaring imbalance in Columbu’s physique. When compared to the outstanding wheels of Dickerson, Padilla, Callendar and Platz, Franco truly didn’t have a leg to stand on.

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Sergio Oliva “The Myth” – R.I.P.

/ Posted 11.17.2012

The Bodybuilding world lost a legend on November 13th, 2012. Sergio Oliva, also known as “The Myth”, passed away at Saint Frances Hospital in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. The official cause of death was a heart attack although Sergio had been in ill health over the last several years and had been on dialysis for kidney failure in the months leading up to his death.

Sergio was born in Cuba in 1941 on the Fourth of July. At the age of 12, Sergio was already working with his father in the canefields of Guambaco, Cuba. When he was only 16, his father decided that Sergio should enlist in dictator Fulgencio Batista’s army. The standard age for enlisting in the army was 18 but Sergio was already tall and sturdy and, with Fidel Castro’s revolutionary army threatening to take over, Batista was looking for plenty of soldiers.
Sergio liked being a soldier and he was looking forward to spending his life as a career military man. Unfortunately, after Castro took over the country, Sergio found himself out of a job. He spent his time lounging away at the beach and dreaming of a better life away from Cuba.

Sergio’s life changed when a friend of his suggested he join him at the local weightlifting club. This small gesture turned out to be the beginning of one of the true legends in the sport of bodybuilding. Sergio’s incredible genetic structure took to weightlifting like a bird takes to air. Within six months, Sergio was able to clean and jerk over 400 pounds. The Cuban weightlifting team immediately decided to add him to the team to represent Cuba at the 1961 Pan American Games in Kingston, Jamaica.

When Sergio traveled to Jamaica, he knew that this would be his opportunity to escape his life in Cuba. Telling one of the guards who was assigned by Castro to watch over his athletes that he needed to take a walk in order to psych up for the upcoming event, Sergio had a plan. As soon as the guard was distracted, Sergio ran like an Olympic sprinter for the American Embassy. After reaching the gates without being shot, Sergio demanded political asylum.
Initially living in Miami, Florida, Sergio worked as a TV repairman. In 1963, he moved to Chicago, Illinois because he liked the name of the city (“Chee-ca-go”) and he heard that’s where the jobs were. He started off working long hours in a steel mill plant. Continuing his exercise program, he joined the Duncan YMCA. The Duncan was famous for it’s hardcore atmosphere and the gallery of renowned weightlifters and bodybuilders who regularly worked out there.
Bob Gajda, who would go on to win the 1966 Mr. America and Mr. Universe, took Sergio under his wing and showed him how to train for bodybuilding. Sergio had incredible genetics as well as a hardcore work ethic. He would work ten hour factory shifts and then head over to the gym for a workout that typically lasted three hours.

Sergio began to compete in 1963. The AAU ran amateur bodybuilding in those days and black skinned competitors were often bypassed for white, good looking athletes who were considered more appropriate spokesmen for the title of Mr. America. Sergio lost the Mr. Chicago title in his first year of competition, in part because he couldn’t speak proper English.
He came back in 1964 and won the Mr. Chicago but was continually denied the coveted Mr. America title, often losing to bodybuilders who were not even close to the awesome Sergio physique. He won the 1966 AAU Jr. Mr. America title and was allowed to win the Most Muscular award at that year’s Mr. America show but the overall award was still out of reach.

Finally, Sergio decided to switch over to the IFBB and try his luck there. It turned out to be a good move. The International Federation of Bodybuilders judges were not as prejudiced as the AAU judging panel was. Sergio quickly won the 1966 Mr. World title and then took third place in the brand new Mr. Olympia contest, won for the second year by Larry Scott.
Sergio’s genetics were so off the charts that he would add pounds of solid muscle to his frame in only months while keeping his tiny waist the same size. After another year of ball-busting training, Sergio easily won the 1967 IFBB Mr. Universe title, held in conjunction with the Montreal World’s Fair.
Sergio was one of those rare bodybuilders who had it all. His shape and symmetry were matched by magnificent size in EVERY muscle group. Even the best bodybuilders usually struggle with bringing up one or two bodyparts. Not Sergio! He even had huge, developed forearms and long, diamond shaped calves to match the rest of his incredible physique.

Sergio was soon known as The Myth because of his mythical proportions. His arms were so big, they looked larger than his head when he hit the front double biceps pose. His deltoids looked like cantaloupes and his chest had slabs of beef for pectorals. His extremely wide lats would taper down to a tiny 29 inch waist, the same size as his tree trunk thighs. Sergio was probably the only bodybuilder in history to have his thighs and waist share the same measurement.
When Sergio entered the 1967 Mr. Olympia contest in New York, the crowd was astounded by the physique in front of them. Harold Poole, second to Larry Scott the previous two years, was relegated to the runner-up spot again when Sergio showed up. Even the rugged Chuck Sipes had no chance against Sergio. The world of bodybuilding had found it’s new King!

Sergio was so impressive in his Mr. Olympia win that the following year, 1968, he won the title unopposed! There wasn’t a bodybuilder brave enough to dare to share the stage with the Myth. But it wouldn’t be that way for long. A young upstart from Austria had just moved to America and was set on taking over the sport of bodybuilding.
In 1969, Arnold Schwarzenegger entered the IFBB Mr. Universe title to revenge his embarrassing loss to Frank Zane the year before. After a year of solid training in the U.S., Arnold was tanned, ripped and ready. He easily won the Mr. Universe contest before deciding to take on Sergio in the Mr. Olympia contest that same night.
As Arnold pumped up backstage, Sergio was furiously getting ready. Wearing a pair of butcher’s overalls taken from his previous job, Sergio would typically pump up for several hours before stepping onstage. Arnold watched Sergio prepare, sizing him up for their impending battle.
When Sergio was ready, he removed his overalls and shook his magnificent massive arms in front of him. As he stood up, Sergio slowly spread his lats wider and wider and wider. As he walked by, Arnold’s jaw dropped and he knew the contest was over.
Writing about the experience in an article for his first book, Education of a Bodybuilder, Arnold recalled that he was immediately psyched out after seeing Sergio backstage. As soon as Sergio removed his overalls, Arnold knew he had lost. Despite his incredible transformation in the last year, not even Arnold was ready for Sergio.

In order to understand his opponent better, Arnold traveled to Chicago later that year to train with Sergio and see what made him tick. Arnold was amazed at how strong Sergio was and how hard he worked. To warm-up, Sergio would do ten sets of wide-grip chins behind the neck. When it came time to actually begin the workout, Oliva would handle incredible poundages and do them with ease. On the bench press, for example, Arnold would handle 315 pounds while Sergio would do high reps with over 400 pounds.

Even more incredible was Sergio’s metabolism. Many bodybuilders in those days would starve themselves on low carbs in order to develop the definition needed to show the muscles. Sergio never had to diet at all. He would typically eat hamburgers, hot dogs and drink soda pop, even when preparing for a contest.
When Sergio was working in a factory, one of his supervisors was amazed by his incredible physique. In order to discover his secrets, his boss snuck into the lunch room during their break to see what magical foods Sergio ate to develop such size. Imagine his surprise when he saw Sergio eat two packs of Hostess Twinkies and two bottles of Mountain Dew for lunch!

Sergio and Arnold would stage some epic battles together in the 1970’s. They were the Ali and Frazier of bodybuilding. Two genetic giants each competing at their physical peak. Arnold probably never would have trained so hard or achieved such greatness in his physique without the fear and awe that Sergio inspired.

In 1970, Sergio lost his Mr. Olympia crown to Schwarzenegger. In 1971, Sergio competed in the Nabba Mr. Universe contest in London and was not allowed to compete in that year’s Mr. Olympia contest. However, in 1972, Sergio did compete in the Mr. Olympia and it was one of the sport’s most memorable showdowns ever.

Sergio achieved his life time best condition at the 1972 Mr. Olympia, held in Essen, Germany. His tiny waist was contrasted with the incredible mass and thickness in his full muscle bellies. In an era when most bodybuilders had subpar leg development, Sergio had huge quads that were full and sweeping.
Sergio lost that contest and many people argue that it was Joe Weider’s influence on the judging panel that brought about that decision. Arnold was Joe’s main man in the magazines and his number one marketing tool. It wouldn’t have been good business to have the current champ lose his title.

Sergio walked away from the IFBB after the Essen Controversy. He continued to compete in lesser known organizations like Dan Lurie’s WBBG (World Bodybuilding Guild). The WBBG held a knock-off contest called the Mr. Olympus which Sergio easily won several times. Sergio would often show up smooth for these contests but he would always win. The challenge of competing against Arnold was now gone so Sergio didn’t have the motivation to train hard like he did when he was competing in the Mr. Olympia.
I grew up in Chicago so I had many opportunities to see Sergio in the flesh. The very first contest I attended, Sergio was the guest poser. Although I had seen plenty of great physiques that night onstage, Sergio was from another world! When he hit his front double biceps pose, his arms looked like they were bigger than his head and his tiny waist didn’t even look real contrasted against all that muscle.
After he was finished with his posing, Sergio came back out onstage wearing a white bathrobe to answer questions from the audience. As he sat on a stool in the middle of the stage, people just shouted out questions from the audience. An Hispanic man in front of me yelled out, “Hey Sergio, what’s your sign man? I’m a Capricorn!”
Sergio answered all the questions with charisma and charm. When someone asked him if he used machines or free weights in his workouts, Sergio replied, “All free weights, no macheens.”

In 1976, Sergio became a Chicago policeman. It was the dream job he always coveted and Sergio loved being a cop. He was a beat cop in the Rogers Park neighborhood and he was a sight to see walking down the street. When he got the job, he had to have his uniform custom made because the uniform shop did not have clothes that would fit his massive body. While Arnold was headed toward a career in Hollywood, Sergio was walking the streets of Chicago as a cop.

In 1980, Sergio decided to return to competition in top shape again. Serge Nubret, the great bodybuilding champion from France, was promoting his own organization in Europe. It was called the WABBA organization and it featured some awesome bodybuilders who had either left the IFBB or did not wish to compete in Weider’s organization.
Sergio was now sporting a shaved head and he had regained the magnificent physique of his earlier career. In the first event, Sergio faced off against the massive Bertil Fox from England. Bertil came close to matching Sergio in pure muscle mass but no one could defeat the incredible proportions and structure of The Myth. Sergio also competed against Kal Szkalak, Robby Robinson, Tony Pearson, Dave Johns and even Serge Nubret himself in subsequent contests. In each event, the legendary Sergio always came out on top.

I would see Sergio at all the local competitions in Chicago during those years. You couldn’t miss Sergio if you tried. His clothes were as flashy and outrageous as the man himself. He would typically wear high waisted, bell bottom white pants with fancy shoes. His shirts had to be custom made with a slit in the sleeves so his massive 21 inch arms could fit. Sergio would wear numerous gold bracelets and necklaces including a massive gold medallion that became his status symbol. He invented “bling” when Mr. T was still living in obscurity and bouncing in bars on Division Street in Chicago.
At one contest that I was competing in, Sergio arrived late to watch the show. The auditorium was packed with bodybuilding fans on a warm August evening when Sergio walked in the door. As he walked down the aisle, people started to notice him (he was pretty hard to miss!). The entire audience started clapping as Sergio walked toward the stage. He began waving to everyone as they acknowledged the True King of Bodybuilding.
Sergio walked up on the stage as the audience continued to applaud him. I was standing in the wings, waiting with some other teenage competitors for our chance to pose. Sergio walked up to us and shook all of our hands saying, “How the big boys doing? How the big boys doing?”
In 1984, Joe Weider and Wayne DeMilia made an agreement with Sergio to return to the IFBB by entering the Mr. Olympia contest again. The contest was going to be held in New York City so Sergio would be returning to the same city in which he won his first Mr. Olympia title. The bodybuilding world was buzzing with the news that The Myth would be returning to the Mr. Olympia!

In a contest that was full of the old generation and the emerging new generation of bodybuilding, no one received more applause or got a louder ovation from the fans than Sergio did. Even at 43 years old and past his peak, Sergio still looked incredible on stage with his small waist, huge arms and breath taking structure.
When Sergio was announced in eighth place, the crowd erupted into boos. The fans stood on their feet and showed their support for the man who inspired so much awe and admiration over the years. Lou Ferrigno was one of the bodybuilders in the audience who was now just a fan for the person he had seen win the Mr. Olympia contest so many years ago.
Sergio, who was known for his hot temper and his willingness to speak his mind, looked like he was on the verge of walking off stage after being announced in eighth place. Rick Wayne, the gifted writer for Muscle and Fitness magazine, convinced Sergio’s wife Arlene to hand Sergio his new baby boy onstage. As Sergio held his son Sergio Jr in his arms, he approached the microphone to speak to his fans.
“Give the support to the best man”, Sergio urged the fans. “The place that I took tonight, first, sixth, eighth, tenth, it doesn’t matter. I will forever be The Myth”. The fans all rose to their feet and gave Sergio sustained applause, shouting out their support as the new group of bodybuilders standing onstage, including Lee Haney, Mohammed Makkawy, Samir Bannout and Bob Paris, respectfully paid homage to their hero.
Sergio entered the Mr. Olympia the following year and repeated his eighth place victory. Knee problems had prevented him from training his legs heavy and his mythical body was starting to show the signs of aging.
In 1986, Sergio was preparing to compete again in the Mr. Olympia when tragedy struck. In a domestic argument with his wife Arlene, Sergio was shot five times. Arlene claimed it was self defense as Sergio was coming after her. Despite his life threatening wounds, Sergio got into the car and drove himself to the hospital.

That was the end of Sergio’s bodybuilding career. He miraculously survived his gun shot wounds, including one that came perilously close to his liver. He knew that his best days were behind him and he decided to never step onstage again. When ever he attended the bigger bodybuilding events like the Arnold Classic and the Mr. Olympia, fans would line up to take pictures with him and get his autograph.
I was proud to have Sergio come out to one of the bodybuilding contests that I promote in Chicago each summer. In 2008, Sergio attended my show with old time friends Bob Gajda, 1966 Mr. America, and Bill Seno, 1964 Mr. America Most Muscular Man winner. It was a great honor for me to be able to have the opportunity to bring Sergio out on stage with Bob and Bill and honor all of them for their accomplishments in the sport.

Unfortunately, the last few years of Sergio’s life were not easy. He was in a bad car accident years ago and then caught a staph infection while still recovering in the hospital. He had lost a tremendous amount of weight and his once legendary muscle mass was now a thing of the past.
Sergio had kidney failure over the last year and he was forced to be on a kidney dialysis machine three times a week. He moved extremely slow and he looked and felt much older than a man only 70 years old. I tried to get him to come out to my show again last year but he refused because he was embarrassed of his appearance. For someone who once looked super human, it was sad to see him so thin and frail. Of course, the fans would have loved to have seen him regardless of how he looked. We will always remember Sergio for who he was and what he represented.

There is a picture of Sergio from the 1972 Mr. Olympia that is one of the best pictures ever taken of any bodybuilder. Sergio is hitting his patented Victory pose in which he raises both arms overhead. It is a pose that only Sergio has ever been able to execute so well. Many other bodybuilders over the years have tried to imitate the pose but they all fall short.
In order to look good in the Victory pose, you need incredibly large arms, wide shoulders and lats and an extremely small waist. You also need big legs to match the size and width of the upper body.
In the picture, Sergio’s face is calm but confident. He is smirking ever so slightly, as if to tell us that he knows how magnificent he looks. It is a beautiful picture, expressing a combination of joy, victory, pride and superiority. It clearly illustrates everything that is good about bodybuilding and it is all wrapped up in one incredible photo.
That is how I will always remember Sergio. The Cuban immigrant who came to this country and worked at hard labor jobs while developing one of the most legendary and gifted physiques in the history of the sport. He was a proud, confident champion who did things his way and his body will stand the test of time as one of the very best. Rest in peace Sergio Oliva, The Myth!
Sergio Victory Pose 72 Olympia

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Winning the Natural Mr. Universe

/ Posted 09.20.2012

Winning a Bodybuilding competition is not as easy as it looks. I’ve had my share of victories in my long bodybuilding career but I’ve also experienced some pretty tough losses too. I’ve never taken any contest lightly but sometimes things just don’t go your way, no matter how hard you try.

Last year, in 2011, I decided to compete again after a long seven year layoff. I completely missed my peak and felt really out of place onstage after such a long time away from competition. I felt both embarrassed and mad at myself for taking things so lightly and I resolved to come back and win again.

When the INBA (International Natural Bodybuilders Association) announced that the Natural Mr. Universe would be held in my hometown of Chicago in 2012, I knew that this would be my next competition. When I realized that this would be 20 years since winning my first Natural Mr. Universe title in 1992, I felt like it was destiny that I would win the title again.

I began my training program to win the Natural Mr. Universe title on January 2nd, 2012. I trained with conviction and purpose all year long and I believed in my heart that I was going to win. Because it was going to be in Chicago, many local bodybuilders were making lots of noise and posting pictures on Facebook on how they were going to be the ones to beat in the contest. I basically ignored all the internet posturing and just stuck with my game plan to make the necessary improvements in my physique. I used all the talk and the boasting to fuel my motivation and train even harder!

I began my diet at 24 weeks out from the contest. Although I was in off season training when I started my diet, I was still pretty lean so I probably didn’t need that much time to get ready. I didn’t care though because I was so hungry to win, I was willing to go through any sacrifice in order to give myself the best chance for victory. I knew that no matter what happened on contest day, NO ONE was going to train or diet harder than me. I was willing to give it 110% all year and I was pretty certain that no one wanted to win this title more than I did.

In order to not feel so uncomfortable onstage this year, I decided to do a warm-up show at least a month before the Natural Universe contest. I wanted to go through the whole process of pumping up backstage, going through the poses at the prejudging and then repeating the process at the evening show. I didn’t really care how I did in my warm-up show, it was more just to get the kinks out and feel more at home competing.

This year, I decided to hire a “contest prep guru” to make sure I hit my peak and not flatten out like I did last year.  A friend of mine recommended a contest prep coach in the Chicago area who was developing a good reputation for bringing his clients in peak condition on the day of the show so I decided to use him. This guru uses a high carb approach to make sure his clients are full and hard on the day it counts. Seeing as how I was too flat for my show last year, I thought this would be a good coach to use.

Unfortunately, my contest prep guru didn’t have the right approach for me. He had me gradually increase my carbs during the last week before my warm-up show and I overspilled on the day it counted. In fact, my weight went up five pounds on the day of the show and my waist was up a full inch the day after the show. I entered the Masters division in an NPC competition called the Sunset Classic. With only four competitors in my class, I took a very disappointing third place. After this bad experience, I decided to drop my contest prep guru and just do things on my own.

With all of my years experience, I feel like I have enough basic knowledge about nutrition and I know what works for my body. However, it’s always good to have another set of eyes who can look at your physique and give you an honest opinion on how you are looking. I did consult with a couple friends of mine who are also very good Natural Bodybuilders. Layne Norton is a Professional Natural Bodybuilder and is well known in the industry as a contest prep coach. Another friend of mine, Dave Vignasse (, also helps prepare competitors for the stage and Dave also has an extensive competitive history behind him.

Layne helped me map out a game plan for the diet in the last month leading up to the show. For the last couple of weeks, I was talking to Dave almost every day and getting his input on the numbers (protein, carbs and fats) I was eating so I could peak perfectly on the day of the show. For the last week of my preparation, I decided to not do the typical “peak week” that so many competitors used. I didn’t think it was worth the risk to carb deplete, carb load, sodium load, sodium deplete, etc, etc. After the disaster that happened with my warm-up show, I thought it would be better to just keep everything the same and glide into the show in great shape. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

For my posing routine, I decided to come out as the Dark Knight. After seeing the highly anticipated film, “The Dark Knight Rises”, over the summer, I used the film as motivation for my contest prep. I loved the whole story of Bruce Wayne/Batman and how he tried to swing back into action after a long 7 year layoff. Unfortunately, he underestimated the competition and the formidable villain Bane literally broke him and exiled Bruce Wayne to a prison dungeon on the other side of the world. It was only after Wayne embraced his fears that he was able to escape his fate and return to the dominant figure he was in the past.

Because the INBA allows for the use of props and costumes onstage, I decided to rent a mask and cape of the Dark Knight and record a voice over at the beginning of my posing routine. I related it to my own individual comeback and how I was going to win tonight. I even used the same music for my posing that I used in 1992, when I won the Natural Mr. Universe the first time. The crowd loved it and I even won the Best Poser Award that evening.

2012 Natural Mr. Universe posing routine

They say that bodybuilding competitions are won backstage before they are onstage. If you ever competed in a contest before or have been backstage when the competitors are pumping up, you probably know what I mean. The competitors that do the best seem to have an aura around them that exudes confidence. They dominate the pump-up room with their confidence and their winning attitude. When I competed in my warm-up show, I noticed that about the guy who won my class. He was very busy pumping up and quickly moving around backstage. He was gregarious and loud but not in a cocky way, it was just a means of psyching himself up for the contest. I took note of that and I thought about how I would conduct myself backstage for the Natural Universe contest a month later.

My friend from Chicago, Kimie, offered to help me out in getting ready for my contest. I told her to pick up a large mirror from the store because I wasn’t sure if the contest promoters would have any mirrors backstage in the pump up room. In addition to the mirror, Kimie also brought along a lawn chair so I could put my feet up and relax backstage. My persona is not an aggressive, psych out your opponents attitude that Arnold Schwarzenegger exemplified in the movie “Pumping Iron”. I prefer more quiet confidence and keeping to myself backstage before it’s time to battle onstage.

I’m not sure if I psyched anyone out by lounging in my chair backstage with my feet up but it helped to keep me relaxed and stress free. It also got the attention of everyone backstage. They were all looking at me and thinking, “Who the hell is this guy acting like he’s the king back here?”. I had the only mirror in the pump up room set up next to me and all the other competitors were coming by and posing in front of it. At one point, one of the bodybuilders competing in my class pulled his shirt up and hit an ab shot right in front of me. I smiled to myself when I realized that my abs looked more ripped than his.

I waited a little longer than everyone else before I started pumping up. There was another room off to the side of the pump up room that no one was using so I went back there with my “entourage” and starting preparing for the contest. I had another coat of tanning applied to me and then started pumping up, hidden out of sight from the rest of the competitors. When it was finally time to line up, I came out into the pump up room all pumped and oiled up. I don’t know if my approach psyched anyone out but it gave me the feeling of being “special” and on a different level than the rest of my competitors.

The prejudging went smoothly and I felt from the call-outs that it was between me and another competitor for first place. He was a very tall (about 6’3″) with a good upper body and in good condition. I had better legs than him and I looked better in the majority of the mandatory poses so I was feeling good about taking first. At the end of the comparisons, the head judge surprisingly called for a 3/4 back pose, not one of the standard mandatory poses. Because this is one of my favorite poses, I paused for a second and then smoothly hit the pose while the other competitors were trying to figure out how to execute the shot. The crowd roared their approval and I was certain of victory from that moment.


Video of the Final Placings

The Evening Show was a delight because I had some of my closest friends and all of my family there to support me. My nephews were able to see me compete for the first time because they were not alive or very young the last time I was onstage. I won the first place Gold Medal along with a massive sword for the Best Poser award. What a contrast to when I won the Natural Mr. Universe the first time in 1992. For that contest, I had traveled alone to California and won the title I always wanted to win without the support of my family and friends. To win the contest 20 years later in front of my hometown crowd was a great feeling!



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John Hansen wins the Natural Mr. Universe for the 3rd Time!

/ Posted 09.07.2012

Twenty years ago, in 1992, I realized my bodybuilding dream by winning the Mr. Universe title. I competed in the ABA Natural Mr. Universe contest in Venice, California and I won the overall title on my first try. I was on top of the world because I always wanted to win the Mr. Universe title ever since I started bodybuilding. One of the first bodybuilding magazines I bought featured the results of the 1977 Mr. Universe contest held in Nimes, France. Kal Szkalak pulled an upset victory by defeating heavy pre-contest favorite Mike Mentzer. Kal had the kind of body I liked, huge arms and chest with a ripped back and cannonball delts. He looked so massive and confident on the winner’s podium that I resolved one day to be standing where he was and be Mr. Universe in the near future.

It took me 15 years and and about 24 competitions before I finally realized my goal. By this time, I was 29 years old and had given up on the idea of becoming an IFBB Pro. I didn’t want to take the amount of steroids that was necessary to get to the pro level. When the Natural Bodybuilding competitions started to get more popular, I immediately made the switch. It didn’t take me long to discover that there was a contest called the Natural Mr. Universe. I knew that this was the contest I had to win to fulfill my bodybuilding destiny.

Wow, where does the time go? It has now been 20 years since that momentous day for me back in 1992. I competed until the age of 41 and decided to call it a career after 25 years of competition. I didn’t have the desire to keep competing and, at the age of 41, I honestly felt like my best days were behind me. I earned my living as a personal trainer, wrote my first book in 2005 (“Natural Bodybuilding” published by Human Kinetics), came out with two DVD’s in 2006 and 2007, started working for the supplement company Optimum Nutrition in ’07 and started promoting my own Natural Bodybuilding competitions that same year. Although I would occasionally diet for a photo shoot or posing exhibition, I had NO intentions of ever competing again in a bodybuilding contest.

Well, we all know that once a bodybuilder, always a bodybuilder. Last year, I got more ripped than I’ve been in probably 15 years when I dieted down in order to make the cover of Ironman Magazine. When I achieved my goal of being on the cover (September 2011 issue), I decided to stay in good shape for the rest of the year. By the end of the summer, I made the decision to compete again. I traveled to Reno, Nevada to compete in the Pro Masters division of the Natural Olympia contest.

Unfortunately, after seven years off from competing, I totally missed my peak at this contest. I was really flat and even looked softer than I was and I didn’t make the top three. I was so disappointed in how I looked that I immediately resolved to come back the next year and show the judges what my physique was capable of. When I heard that the Natural Mr. Universe was going to be held in Chicago (my hometown) in 2012, I knew that this was going to be my next contest.

I started training like an animal right after January 1st. My goal was to enter the Natural Mr. Universe and completely dominate the competition! I wanted to step onstage bigger, fuller and totally ripped and take first place unanimously. When you have an immediate goal in front of you, the motivation to train goes through the roof!

I combined Power Training with more traditional methods of Bodybuilding Training to improve my muscle mass and strength. I followed each cycle for 6 weeks using heavier weight and low reps (4-6 reps) for my Power Cycle Training and more moderate weight and reps for my Mass Building Cycles (6-10 reps). I made significant gains in only a few months using these cycles.

I was eating more calories and carbs at the beginning of the year but I kept my weight at 215 pounds. I measured all my bodyparts every 4 weeks to make sure I was making progress and also to keep my bodyfat in check as I got bigger. I made sure my waist didn’t exceed 34 inches in the off season. Last year, my waist got down to 32 inches when I did my Ironman Magazine photo shoot and when I competed so I wanted to repeat that condition for 2012.

I began my diet for the Natural Mr. Universe this year 24 weeks out from the contest. Although I was not fat or bulked up when I started the diet, I wanted to make sure I was super ripped when I stepped onstage. I started my diet slowly to keep my newly-earned muscle while still reducing my bodyfat to extremely low levels.

I started my diet by eating 250 grams of protein and 52 grams of fats every day. I varied my carbohydrate intake to slowly lose the bodyfat. I do not respond well off a low carb diet so I kept my carbohydrates at about 200 grams to start off with and then raised or lowered them depending on where I was at with my diet. I also had one high carb day a week where I would increase my carbs by 100 grams from my normal diet.

With two months left to go until the contest, I could see that I was definitely going to be in top shape. I was almost ready for the stage nearly 8 weeks before the contest. It was just a matter of getting harder and harder at this point and practicing my posing even more. I knew I was going to win this year!

Part 2 Next Week!


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The 2012 ABA Natural North America Contest

/ Posted 08.15.2012

For the fifth consecutive year, I have been promoting the ABA Natural North America contest in Bolingbrook, Illinois. This year’s event took place only 3 weeks before the INBA Natural Universe competition, which will take place at the same location in Bolingbrook on Saturday, September 1st.

I had 55 competitors show up on Saturday, August 11th, 2012 this year to compete in divisions such as Men and Women’s Bodybuilding, Figure, Bikini Diva and Men’s Physique. In addition to the outstanding competitors, I also brought in one of the best Natural Bodybuilders in the world to guest pose. Philip Ricardo Jr. has won multiple championships in several different Natural Bodybuilding organizations and is considered one of the very best in the sport.

I presented the Natural Bodybuilding Lifetime Achievement Award to 1966 AAU Mr. America Bob Gajda. Bob has been a big supporter of Natural Bodybuilding since I started promoting these contests and he has also been a big influence in the lives of many physique stars in our sport. It was an honor to present Bob with this award.

In the Men’s Open Bodybuilding category, Nigerian native Richard Aluko won the short class and the overall. Richard was hard as nails with no visible bodyfat anywhere on his body. He had striated muscle popping out all over his physique. Unfortunately, Richard has a bad hernia in his lower abs that is very distracting but this didn’t stop him from taking first place in the short class and winning Best Chest, Best Back and Best Legs as well as the Overall Title.

The winner in the Men’s Medium Class was Anthony “Flex” Williams. “Flex” was lean and ripped to win first place. He still needs to add some muscle but he is new to the sport and the best is ahead of him.

The Tall Class winner was Brian Noe who presented a very ripped physique to take a unanimous first place. Veteran competitor Larry Montgomery was in second and Big Phil Borowski was third. If Phil ever comes in ripped, he’s going to give the competition some problems.

In the overall, Richard Aluko could not be denied the title with his combination of rock hard muscle and extremely low bodyfat. What a genetic freak this guy is! Watch for him in the future.

The Figure Open class was won by first time competitor Kasia Puchalski. Kasia won the short class with her shapely but muscular physique and defeated Tall Class winner Ashley Abel for the overall title.

In the Bikini Diva, tall and sexy Faydra Brown won the Tall Class and the Overall. Faydra knows how to work it onstage and she definitely personifies the Bikini Diva attitude. The Short Class in the Bikini Diva category was won by Tammy Hellings.

In the always competitive Novice Men’s Bodybuilding category, Short Class winner Brook Wilkerling won the Overall. Brook made remarkable improvement from the Natural Illinois show in April where he placed a distant fifth. Over 20 pounds lighter for this contest, Brook displayed good thickness and superior leg development over his competition.

The Medium Class was won by Anthony “Flex” Williams in his second first place finish of the night. Flex beat a tough class of contenders in this class to emerge victorious.

The Tall Class was awarded to Adam Long. Adam has a great upper body with good shape and thickness. He needs to bring up his legs to match his upper body and then he will win an overall title in the near future.

The Open Women’s Bodybuilding title was won by first time competitor Aleesa Govan. Aleesa is very young but she posed like a veteran competitor, smiling throughout her posing routine and hitting each pose perfectly. Her parents, Kevin and Cassandra Govan, own a Personal Training Studio in Bolingbrook so they gave her expert instruction.

The Masters Men category was a repeat of the Men’s Open Bodybuilding Tall Class. Brian Noe took first followed by Larry Montgomery in second and Phil Borowski in third. In the Grand Masters category (age 50-59), Terrance Kowalski was in first place. In the Ultra Grand Masters category (age 60-69), Bill Busby returned to competition after almost 20 years away from the stage. Bill looked incredible and he looked like someone 20 years younger. In the overall Masters Men, Brian Noe took home the big trophy.

The Figure Masters was won by first time competitor Mary Boyer. Mary looked great onstage and you would never have guessed that this was her first time competing.

The Jr. Masters Figure (ages 35-39) was won by Amy Koehler and the Jr. Masters Bikini was awarded to Jacinta Taylor.

Jenni Whipple won both the Novice Women’s Bodybuilding and the Masters Women’s Bodybuilding as well as taking second place in the Women’s Open Bodybuilding category so she had a very successful night.

In the Men’s Physique division, Mitch Holmbeck captured the right combination of muscle size and definition along with good presentation to take first place. This was the first time that the Natural North America hosted the Men’s Physique division and it proved to be pretty popular so it will be back again next year.

Philip Ricardo Jr. gave an outstanding posing routine that combined three songs so the audience definitely got their money’s worth. Phil is not only one of the best Natural Bodybuilders in the world but he’s also a fantastic poser.

Thanks to Optimum Nutrition, ABB Performance and Pride Nutrition for sponsoring the contest. I am looking forward to an even bigger year for these Natural Bodybuilding contests in 2013!

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Natural Bodybuilding VIP Camp

/ Posted 07.03.2012

I was proud to be invited to be one of the Pros for the first Natural Bodybuilding VIP Camp, held by Natural Pro Bodybuilder Layne Norton. The event took place from Friday, June 29th to Sunday, July 1st out in Tampa, Florida. Only a limited number of people were signed up for the event because Layne wanted to make sure that all the attendees had the same opportunity to train with the pros and benefit from the experience.

Along with myself, other Natural Pro Bodybuilders in attendance included Dave “The Texas Shredder” Goodin, Brian Whitacre, 3x Lightweight Champ at the WNBF World Championships, Francisco Montealegre, 2x WNBF Pro Champion, Alberto Nunez, IFPA Pro Bodybuilder, Nicole Weeks, 3x NGA Pro Figure Champion, Paul Revelia, NGA Pro Bodybuilder, Isabel Norton, NGA Figure Pro and, of course, Layne himself, 2010 IFPA Pro International Champion.


All the Natural Pro Bodybuilders trained with each of the camp members on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We did chest and back on the first day, shoulders and arms on the second day and legs on the third day. All of the attendees really trained very hard and many of them were doing very heavy lifts in the squat or deadlift during the weekend, usually accompanied by  the screams and encouragement of everyone there.

We trained at the Powerhouse Gym in North Tampa. This is a very old school gym that looks like it’s been around since the 1980’s. It was a welcome change from the family oriented, fitness clubs that have overtaken the fitness industry. This gym was populated by powerlifters and those who like to scream and train heavy. It was my first time in the gym and I liked the heavy duty atmosphere.

In addition to the training, all the camp members (as well as the pros) were treated to a series of seminars at the University of Tampa on Friday afternoon. I was able to attend some of these seminars and they were very informative. They included talks on Bodybuilding Supplements, Periodization, Balancing Bodybuilding into your Lifestyle and Cardio and Overtraining.

The lecture I was most looking forward to was the seminar on Occlusion Training. This subject has been discussed in Ironman Magazine before. In fact, Layne wrote the article about it. This is where you restrict blood flow to a muscle group and then train that muscle with low resistance and high reps. Although the blood gets into the muscle, it is restricted from leaving. The result is new muscle growth due to the metabolic response of the restricted blood flow. I am very anxious to start this in my own training!

On Saturday afternoon, we all met up at DNC Supplement Store in Tampa for a roundtable discussion. The floor was open and the camp members were allowed to ask any questions of the pros and experts. This was a long, 2 1/2 hour seminar so many subjects were discussed and all the camp members really got a lot out of it.

All in all, the first Natural Bodybuilding VIP Camp was a huge success! I got to meet a lot of great people for the first time as well as spend time with old friends. I think this event is going to get bigger and bigger so if you are interested in attending next year’s camp, make sure you sign up early because attendance is limited. Thanks again to Layne and Isabel Norton for inviting me to be a part of the first Natural Bodybuilding VIP Camp as well as all their hospitality!


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Blasting the Delts!

/ Posted 06.09.2012

I am now only 12 weeks away from competing in the Natural Mr. Universe contest in Chicago, Illinois on September 1st. I have been dieting for 11 weeks now, slowly bringing my weight and my bodyfat down. I could be ready for the stage in as little as 4-5 weeks but the goal will be to fill out and add in more food after I get as lean as possible.

I’ve been using Power Cycles this year to build up both my muscle mass and strength. I usually alternate these Power Cycles with more high-intensity training that takes each muscle to failure with lighter weights. This break from the heavy weights helps my joints and continues to shock my muscles by using a different training system.

I trained delts and traps on Thursday, June 7th and I was using the HRT (Hell Raiser Training) today. If you’ve been reading my previous posts, you’ll know that the HRT program involves 8 regular reps followed by 4 forced negative reps. I used this program on almost all the deltoid exercises I did today. In some cases, I used drop sets in place of the Hell Raiser Training. Here is how it went.

My training partner Maks and I started off the basic, compound movement. I always include the basic exercises because these are the mass builders and they should always be a part of any hard core training program. For the delts, we always begin with either the Seated Military Press or the Seated Dumbbell Press. Today, it was the Military Press on the agenda.

I warmed up with 95 and 135 pounds before I did my first real set. With the HRT program, I only do two sets for each exercise using the forced negative reps. For my first real set, I used 185 pounds and got the first 8 reps really easy and then pushed through those four forced negatives with my training partner applying pressure for a four second count. He has to pull the weight back up for each rep so I can do those four forced negatives. For my second set, I did 185 pounds again and repeated what I did for the first set although those four forced negatives were much harder on the second set.

Next up was the Standing Side Lateral Raises for the side deltoids. I did two warm up sets before starting my two sets including the forced negatives. I did my first set with the 40 pound dumbbells for 12 reps and then moved onto to the 45’s for 10 reps on my second set. For my first set of the HRT, I used the 40’s and got the first 8 reps easy but I was only able to do 3 forced negatives because the muscles were dead. For my last set, I picked up the 35 pound dumbbells and was able to do the 8 reps followed by 4 forced negatives for this last set.

To finish off my deltoid workout, I did some Bent-Over Lateral Raises for the often neglected rear deltoids. I like turning my hands so my little finger is leading the movement with the elbows slightly bent but the arms rigid throughout the exercise. I started with the 35 pound dumbbells for 12 reps on the first set. For the next two sets, I used the 40 pound dumbbells and did 10 reps. I didn’t use the forced negatives on this exercise because this is a difficult exercise to apply the forced negatives.

We finished off our workout with heavy Barbell Shrugs for the traps. I like doing traps with delts as opposed to back. Exercises like side lateral raises and bent-over lateral raises use the traps in the assistance of the movement so it makes sense to finish off delts with traps. Plus, back exercises are typically very heavy and hard so I want to leave this heavy mass-builder for my shoulder workout instead.

I started off with 225 pounds for an easy 12 reps on the first set. For the second warm-up set, I went up to 315 pounds for 10 reps. For my last two mass-building sets, I went up to 365 pounds for two sets of 8 reps. I didn’t do forced negatives or drop sets on this exercise because the heavy weight is enough to build the traps.

More workouts coming up next week with some updated progress pics!

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