Batman Was Natural

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By John Hansen, Natural Bodybuilding Editor

Hey guys. a heartfelt welcome to my NEW blog here on Digital Muscle.  Honored to be a part of this new and rapidly growing media site. Dan and I have known each other for a long time and I’m comfortable to say that we share many of the same values.  I’ll be serving as the Natural Bodybuilding Editor so please don’t hesitate to connect with me using any of the contact info above. OK….lets get started.

As a Natural Bodybuilder, I’m often asked why I stay natural or what inspired me to be a natural bodybuilder in the first place. It’s obvious that steroids and other drugs work (and work well), so why take the harder route when it’s so much easier and the gains are so much more pronounced by taking drugs?

I think I can trace that answer back to my childhood when the inspiration to become a bodybuilder first took root. When I was a kid, I found myself immersed in the wonderful world of superhero comic books. Being a shy, insecure young boy, I was fascinated by the stories of these magnificent superheroes who regularly saved the world all while wearing their colorful costumes and sporting muscular physiques.

I became a big collector of the superhero comic books. I read about the exploits of Spiderman, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Thor and Iron Man every month!  But the superhero who really captured my attention was Batman.

Batman was different than all the other superheroes because he didn’t possess any special powers. He couldn’t fly or leap tall buildings in a single bound. He was just a normal human being who made himself into an incredible fighting machine through extremely hard workouts and physical discipline. Batman was like the Natural Bodybuilder of the Superhero World!

My fascination with superheroes ended when I saw a picture of Bruce Lee at an antique automobile expo. For the first time in my life, I was looking at a real life superhero. Bruce was shirtless in the picture and his body was covered with rippling muscles and rock hard abs. He looked just as impressive as Batman or Captain America…..but he was real!

As I started to read up on Bruce Lee to find out how he developed his incredible physique, I learned that Bruce was a workout fanatic. He would run, stretch, do calisthentics, practice his martial arts training and spar for hours every day. His body was forged out of the iron discipline and work ethic that he practiced religiously. When the wife of “Enter the Dragon” director Robert Clouse witnessed Lee’s rock hard physique on the set of the legendary martial arts movie, she exclaimed that he looked like he was made of “warm marble”.

When I finally started weight training myself and made the decision to be a competitive bodybuilder who hoped to win the Mr. Universe title one day, one of the facets of bodybuilding that appealed to me was the extreme discipline needed to be a bodybuilder. I loved the idea of training hard, pushing the body further than it has ever been before, feeling the ache and pump in the muscles so much that you don’t know if you can get through it. I remember training in hard core gyms with no air conditioning, enduring 2-3 hour workouts in 90-100 degree heat. Squatting with heavy weights when you can’t catch your breath and resisting the urge to regurgitate your lunch in between sets.

It’s that challenge of pushing the body as far as it can go and doing it only with hard training and disciplined dieting that really got me hooked on bodybuilding. Although using drugs can enhance the physique, it also dilutes the overall experience. Overcoming the boundaries and limitations of the body by using hard work, discipline, concentration and visualization can make the experience and eventual reward so much more gratifying. Yes, being a Natural Bodybuilder is much harder and the gains are not as easy but it’s the challenge of testing your own limits and creating your physique with only an iron will and focus that make it the rewarding journey that I’ve endured.

More to come……..check back soon!!

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A three-time Natural Mr. Universe and the first Natural Mr. Olympia champion, John is the author of the book Natural Bodybuilding (2005, Human Kinetics). A 14 year columnist for Ironman Magazine, John is the founder of where he covers the NPC Florida Bodybuilding scene and interviews legendary bodybuilders. John is also the promoter of the NPC Natural Suncoast Classic and offers consultations on training, nutrition and posing – in person and online.