Q: I’ve just started to learn about natural bodybuilding, and after being a tad disappointed when coming across a lot of natural physiques, I was extremely impressed by yours. I’ve been reading your many articles and watching your YouTube videos, and they are pretty inspiring. I’m 34 now and have been training on and off since my early 20s, but I was hampered by shoulder problems. They were fixed via rotator cuff surgery last year, and I’ve been training seriously, three times per week, for approximately 11 months. I’ve made some decent gains and have managed to increase my weight from 73 to 81 kilograms, and I’m still improving on my weights and reps on a weekly basis. I’ve been thinking that I should take this newfound passion and try to compete in a natural bodybuilding competition perhaps in a year’s time. I don’t have any desire to become a pro, but I thought competing in at least one contest would be a great challenge to set for myself and, being supercompetitive, I’m sure I would see it through. My questions:
1) Should I go ahead and try to compete in a natural competition as a way to push myself and set new goals?
2) Do you think I have the potential to do well?
A: Yes, I do think you should enter a bodybuilding competition. Competing is one of the best ways to fire up your enthusiasm and motivation for getting into great shape. It’s one thing to set a personal goal to get into shape, but deciding to get up onstage and compete with others, as well as present yourself to a large group of people, will really psych you up to look your best.
I started competing at the age of 16, and I didn’t know what to expect. I was training at a very small gym and I didn’t know what the other competitors would look like. I thought I looked pretty good in my bedroom mirror, but I was in for a big surprise.
I took fifth place and got my butt kicked by the much bigger and more developed physiques of the 19-year-olds I was competing against. As soon as I got over the initial disappointment of losing, however, I became much more motivated to make improvements.
My younger brother Don took pictures of me onstage as well in comparisons with the other bodybuilders. I was able to study the pictures and figure out what I needed to do to make my physique better. I started to pick my body apart, one muscle group at a time, and make a list of what my physique would need if I were going to place higher in the next contest.
Once I started to do that, I became a real bodybuilder. I was no longer training just for the ego satisfaction of looking good in a mirror. I was now analyzing what my physique needed to win a bodybuilding competition. I had graduated from just wanting to look better to building a body that could be ruled the best by a group of experienced judges who knew what to look for in a physique.
My advice to you with regards to your first competition would be to focus on getting as ripped as possible. The competitors who do the best are usually the ones who are the leanest and most ripped. Even the bodybuilders who don’t have a lot of size can often place high if they are lean enough.
Give yourself enough time to diet down so you can lose the fat slowly without sacrificing muscle tissue. Keep dieting until you are really ripped! A lot of first-time competitors become easily satisfied when they begin to see their abs in the mirror. They slack off their diet at that point or cut back on their cardio because they feel that they are already there. Trust me, you have to be much, much more ripped in your bathroom mirror in order to look good onstage. You will always look better at home and in the gym than you will when you compete.
You should also practice your posing as much as possible well in advance of the contest. Find someone from the gym or someone you know who has lots of competition experience and ask him or her to work with you on hitting the poses correctly.
As a bodybuilding judge for many years, I am always surprised at how badly so many competitors hit the mandatory poses or how they don’t stand correctly in the relaxed positions. They work so hard for months, dieting and training, but on the day of the contest they can’t properly show what they have worked for. You should be practicing your posing every day for the last eight weeks before the contest. Look at it in the same way that you look at your diet, training and cardio. It’s all part of the preparation. Good luck in your first contest!
Editor’s note: John Hansen has won the Mr. Natural Olympia and is a three-time Natural Mr. Universe winner. For information on his exciting new program, The MP6 Cycle Training, check out his Web site at www
.JohnHansenFitness.com and become a memeber. To attend the Natural Olympia Fitness Getaway, go to www.NaturalOlympia.com. Send questions or comments to John@NaturalOlympia
.com. Look for John’s DVD, “Natural Bodybuilding Seminar and Competitions,” along with his book, Natural Bodybuilding, and his training DVD, “Real Muscle,” as well as his new DVD “Natural Bodybuilding Seminar and Competition” at his Web site or at Home Gym Warehouse, www.Home-Gym.com. IM