First-ever Natural Olympia Champion John Hansen Shares Guide on How to Get Big Naturally

John Hansen shares how to get big naturally
Image via Instagram @johnhansen1_

The first-ever Natural Olympia champion, John Hansen, reveals how you can get big naturally. 

Performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) are prohibited in natural bodybuilding. Therefore, natural bodybuilders have to structure the most efficient training and diet routine to naturally build the most muscle possible. The first-ever Natural Olympia winner, John Hansen, was interviewed on a podcast and shared how you can get big naturally. 

John Hansen became the first INBA PNBA Natural Olympia champ after winning the competition in 1998 in Corinth, Greece. He also was a 3x Natural Universe champ and writer for Iron Man Magazine. On the Longevity Muscle Podcast, Hansen shared how to get big without using PEDs. Hansen stated:

“I had to increase my food intake. I had to take in a lot of food. And that’s how I got big. You got to really eat a lot of food and not be afraid to bulk up.”

Eat a Lot of Calories 

Hansen said that he started out weighing 135 pounds in natural bodybuilding, and by the time he was 21, he was 230 pounds. He admitted that many people online are skeptical that he was able to gain over 100 pounds naturally. But Hansen said it is possible to do so naturally and credits it to eating many calories. 

John Hansen points out that many younger lifters want to have abs and “look sexy,” but you can’t be afraid to eat to build muscle. He said he ate more and more until his body started to gain weight. Hansen says that since his metabolism was fast and claims he was an ectomorph (naturally skinny), he was eating 4500 calories a day. However, Hansen acknowledges that everyone has a different body type, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. And that you should eat the number of calories your body responds to. 

You can see a clip of John Hansen explaining how he got big naturally in the clip below. 

John Hansen’s Training Volume for Getting Big Naturally 

John Hansen said he tried implementing pump-style training into his workouts, where he targeted a muscle group with lighter weights a few days before working out that same muscle group again with heavier weights. He would superset exercises with 70% of his normal weight and do 12-15 reps. 

After his pump training session, Hansen also had a muscle group he was targeting with heavyweights. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for him and was too much volume, leading to overtraining. Therefore, Hansen decided to train each muscle group once a week. 

To gain mass, Hansen said:

“The most weight I could use for 6-8 reps. That’s what helped me get bigger.”

Hansen that the more calories he ate, the more he trained harder and lifted heavier weights. And the heavier weights allowed him to build more muscle. 

Hansen admitted that this strategy worked well for him in his 20s and 30s. But now he eats less and doesn’t go through a bulking phase like he used to because he says it would just be stored as fat now that he’s older. 


To get big naturally, the first-ever Natural Olympia champion John Hansen says he ate a lot of calories (over 4k per day), added a meal replacement shake to his workouts and lifted heavy weights in the 6-8 rep range, training each muscle group once per week. 

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As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.