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Building his body, fighting stereotypes



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July 17, 2013 - Take one look at Todd Drolshagen and it's easy to see why this imposing figure's nickname is "Tank."

He's 230 pounds of solid muscle that looks as if he'd have absolutely no problem taking out anyone or anything that stands in his way.

But looks can be deceiving as this 46-year-old, who resides in the Brandon Township portion of the Oxford school district, is actually a humble man with a life that revolves around his faith, his family and bodybuilding.

"I don't do it for the attention. I don't do it to pick up girls," Drolshagen said. "I love the lifestyle. I love the sport. It's opened doors for me."

He's hoping another door will open for him when he competes in the 2013 NPC Teen, Collegiate & Masters National Championships in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania July 19-20.

If Drolshagen places in the top three in the heavyweight class, his competitive status will change from amateur to professional. That means he'll be eligible to compete for money and be able to secure sponsorships.

But he's not shooting for that goal so he can live the life of a full-time professional bodybuilder, always on the road, separated from his home and loved ones.

"I'd like to be able to use my bodybuilding career as a way to help kids and other people," said Drolshagen, who described himself as a "very strong Christian."

His physique tends to garner people's attention and he'd like to use that to help put others "on the right track" and "give them some good advice."

He already does that right now as a member of the STAND Strength Team, a group of athletes who, during their visits to schools, churches and other venues, use intense feats of physical strength, combined with an uplifting message, to inspire and motivate others to make good decisions.

"It's definitely not a fame or money thing," said Drolshagen, who noted it's really just about giving back.

"I feel I've been blessed all these years, staying healthy, not having major injuries."

Drolshagen got into bodybuilding when he was 19 years old. "Years ago, it was just kind of the thing to do," he said.

Soon, he was entering bodybuilding competitions, where contestants are judged based on muscularity, symmetry and conditioning. Actual strength doesn't come into play.

"Bodybuilding is all about the look," Drolshagen explained. "The bigger guy doesn't always win. You've got to be symmetrical."

For the record, he's benched 515 pounds and squat-lifted more than 700 pounds, so he's certainly as strong as he looks.

Drolshagen's participated in four bodybuilding competitions during his career and placed in the top five in all of them. The first three were in his younger days. He took about a 20-year break to raise his family and build a construction business, then began competing again last year.

Drolshagen took fifth place in both the masters and heavyweight divisions at the 2012 NPC Simmons/Peckham Powerhouse Classic in Dearborn Heights.

To prepare for this upcoming national competition, Drolshagen is spending about three to three-and-a-half hours in the gym each day, plus doing an hour-long cardio workout at home. He's also eating a diet that's "very, very high" in protein and contains "almost no carbs."

Bodybuilding hasn't just enhanced Drolshagen's physique. It's taught him self-discipline and tenacity.

"You've got to be very committed, very regimented to do this," he said. "I've actually learned, over the years, it kind of goes hand-in-hand with everything else if you want to be successful in life."

Drolshagen brings that determined mentality to his family, business and church. He's currently attending Oakwood Community Church in Brandon Township.

Bodybuilding has also improved his mental health.

"When I'm in the gym, it's almost like therapy to me," he said. "I might have a small problem going on in my head and by the time I get a good workout in, it's not an issue anymore."

Drolshagen made it clear the one thing bodybuilding isn't about for him is vanity.

"I don't do it for the attention," he said. "People do look at me like I'm something special, but I don't think I am."

Whenever Drolshagen goes out, he actually wears clothing that's too big for him in order to de-emphasize his body.

"I'm a very humble guy, so I try to dress down," he said. "I'm not one of those guys wearing the shirt that's three sizes too small for them. You never see me uncovered, showing off."

Unlike some athletes, Drolshagen said he's never used steroids and never will.

"It doesn't go with the whole persona I want to portray," he said.

Being a Christian family man and a steroid user "don't match," in Drolshagen's opinion. He said he wouldn't feel right preaching to people in public, then doing something wrong behind closed doors.

To any athletes reading this, particularly young ones, Drolshagen wants them to know they don't need steroids to enhance themselves physically.

"The biggest thing (a person needs) is dedication and diet," he said.

Given steroids can cause problems ranging from addiction and aggressiveness to liver damage, Drolshagen believes folks would be wise to steer clear of them.

"Everything we do, there's going to be a price to pay at a later date," he said.

Steroids also perpetuate the stereotype that anybody who looks like Drolshagen is a user.

"Whenever people see somebody in good shape, that's the first conclusion they jump to – I can take a pill and look like that," he said.

He does not believe that's fair to all those people, like him, who have achieved their physiques through hard work and clean living.

The other stereotype Drolshagen hopes to combat through his example is the "muscle-head" social stigma.

"You could be the smartest guy in the world, but it seems like if you have a good build on you, they assume you're just some meathead," he said.

In Drolshagen's case, that couldn't be further from the truth as for the past 17 years, he's owned and operated a successful construction company, Dynamic Management Group, which does everything from small home repairs to building strip malls.

Drolshagen wanted to thank everyone who's been supportive of his passion for bodybuilding. That includes John Simmons, Mark Young, Chuck Vizanko and his wife, Michelle, who "does everything for me."

"She takes care of every need I have," Drolshagen said. "If it wasn't for her, I couldn't do any of this."

He's also grateful for his loving family, which includes son Nicholas, 16, daughter Jessica, 24, and grandchildren Caleb, 4, and Blake, who's almost 4 months old.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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