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BLOG Featured Athlete Profile-Top NPC Contender Ryan Matter Shares  His Fitness and Bodybuilding Secrets
Sometimes that has meant persevering in the face of the loss of loved ones. Or using water weights and a tree when no other equipment was available for a workout. Sometimes it meant resorting to some unusual methods of bolstering protein intake. (We'll let Ryan tell you that one.)

A bodybuilder, trainer, fitness consultant and entrepreneur, Ryan's approach to fitness is the perfect embodiment of the type of hard-nosed, no-nonsense type of dedication we're always looking for to profile in this segment. In fact, Ryan's story is the most inspiring we've encountered to date.

Like most of us, Ryan grew up dreaming of one day competing athletically at a professional level.  His road to bodybuilding and personal-training success has been characterized by daunting challenges and hard-won triumphs. He shared the details of those experiences with us, as well as the life philosophies he has forged along the way.

ProSource: Congratulations on your many amazing achievements, Ryan! You're the youngest competitor to ever win a Pennsylvania NPC title, you won the Bill Grant Classic in 2009, and have competed successfully in numerous events. You have a thriving career as a personal trainer. You have a Masters degree and are working toward a PhD; you're a highly respected advisor in the fitness and nutrition fields. What lessons have you carried away from achieving these goals?

Ryan Matter: I think everyone dreams of being a professional athlete one day. When I first got into bodybuilding, I just wanted to get an NPC championship.  I actually got the Pennsylvania State title in NPC at the age of  23 (youngest to hold the title), and it was that win that gave me confidence to be the best I could be at the sport and possibly make a career of it.  I train various types of professional athletes in sports like MMA and Hockey.  I train some of the best, so I know what it takes to be one of the best.  

My goal is to constantly learn and evolve as a professional and an athlete by updating my education.  Each competition I do, I feel I learn something totally new, especially when it comes to the art and science of nutrition and training. Last show I added in chiropractic, massage, and acupuncture.  I never thought I would do something like that! In order to get better in anything, you have to evolve.

ProSource: Who do you train? Anyone we know?

Ryan Matter: My biggest client is star UFC fighter Tim "The Barbarian" Boetsch, who always encourages me to do whatever I want and to get my pro card in bodybuilding.  I want to be the best I can be at the sport and have no regrets one day as I look back.  There will never be any regrets and I will be able to call myself a pro bodybuilder.

ProSource: When you first began progress to your goal, what were the biggest obstacles?

Ryan Matter: Every bodybuilder always told me the hardest part of the sport is dieting and training. Truthfully, I think that is the easiest part of the sport.  For me, it's the external stress factors that challenge me. The best bodybuilders are the toughest people mentally.  There is no outside force that can affect a bodybuilder and his training.

When I did the Mr. PA I was putting myself through college and I didn't have much money. I couldn't afford expensive supplements and organic meats. I remember one week I had no cash and I needed food, so my meal was a can of sardines and 2 squirrels (not a stereotypical bodybuilding diet). My philosophy has always been "Whatever it takes." I grew up in an area that didn't have fancy training equipment, but was taught hard work. I can remember many times working out at my house with water weights and doing pull-ups out of my tree.

My grandmother died just 5 weeks out from my most recent show. And just before that my mother was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer. There is nothing in this world any more challenging then dealing with issues like these. I constantly preach to my clients, "You got to do what you got to do." I'd be a liar if I said these things don't affect me sometimes. I do believe God guides me through every obstacle in my way.

ProSource: Can you point to anyone who's had a profound influence on your life and training?

Ryan Matter: Mike Ciesnolevicz (my best friend Cole's brother), was a great role model in getting me started in training and nutrition.  Mike currently is a professional MMA fighter who has a win in the UFC. I can remember Mike C taking me grocery shopping in a snow storm to make me get sardines and ingredients for his " Mass Shake" Recipe, after he blasted me with a leg workout. I was 17 years old at the time and Mike was a Division 1 wrestler, so I wanted to do whatever it took to be like him. That was really the starting point of my bodybuilding career.

I was very fortunate to have done my first show with guidance from experienced bodybuilder Jeff Gibson, who was a previous Mr. Keystone title holder. Another one of my best friends Nathan Miller is also a successful bodybuilder and he helped me train and diet for my first show. These guys were competing around the same time I was, so my first time dieting and training wasn't so bad. When you know other people who are putting themselves through the same misery you are, you kind of hide all the struggles you're feeling. I do remember week one of bodybuilding training, plain as day. I did forced repetitions with Nate until I couldn't move my arms, and then I wasn't allowed any carbs afterwards. It was that point where I knew bodybuilding and recreational lifting were two totally different things.  Nate and I fell in love with it because it separated us from everyone else.

ProSource: How did you develop your training program? Did you have a personal trainer, or did you create it yourself, with routines from magazines, or with the help of a friend?

Ryan Matter: I developed my program by myself from training with my training partners and learning from my clients. I really have to give them the credit for where I am.  Nate and I had Jeff teach us the basics of the sport and then we kind of evolved from there. Every serious bodybuilder has taken a look at the Arnold Encyclopedia before, which was a great start for us to understand body parts and basic anatomy. When I went to college and started learning biomechanics from Professor Dan Gales and training philosophies from Brian Wilt, that's where I started putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Without Nate's help and assistance, I would be nowhere near where I dreamed of being. Dr. Wilt used to call us brothers because we were both similar in build and we always worked out together. If there was something I didn't know, Nate did, and vice-versa. We both then pursued our Master's degree and soon PhD's.  We were and still are an unstoppable team!

I also have to give a shout out to my previous training partners like Billy Autry, the Antes Family, my faithful clients, my mom/dad/brother, my family, my friends, and everyone else who stuck with and dealt with me through my career. Watching my training partners train is what made me think of different ideas for myself.  They are the ones who helped me get where I am today.

ProSource: How would you describe your eating habits?

Ryan Matter: Fortunately I was raised well with great basic eating habits. When you go into a bodybuilding nutrition program, it is of course a whole new bucket of worms.  There is no room for slipping up or cheating.  I remember Jeff wrote Nate and I up our first diet, and we didn't care what it was or how it tasted, it was going into our bodies.  I had to cut out the chocolate, which was certainly a hard task. My first show, I used the Dr. Atkins philosophy with no carbs and understanding ketosis: it worked for the most part. The older I get the more I realize you have to understand glycemic index, insulin, hormones, and so many other factors in order to be the best you can be.

I was very blessed to have done my internship under top professional Diane Graham who is an extremely respected clinical nutritionist.  You can read any nutrition magazine you want in the field, but they have nothing on nutrition knowledge and expertise like Diane.  Understanding human biochemistry at the molecular level like she does makes me feel guilty calling myself a nutritionist. I remember Diane telling me the older I get and the more I learned nutrition, the more carbs I would take in.  You just need the right kind of carbs, the right amount of carbs, and consumption times are vitally important as well. As always, Diane was correct and I actually take more carbs in now then ever, but just many different types. I eat different ethnic vegetables, fruits, antioxidants, legumes, lentils, meats, all of it. My meats consist of elk, moose, bison, chicken, various types of fish.  Just like my training, my nutrition is a little unorthodox. Like I said before, bodybuilding is an art as much as it is a science.

ProSource: Any more nutrition advice for our readers?

Ryan Matter: I am around a lot of UFC stars being that I get to work with Tim Boetsch and be at his fights. I got into an interesting conversation with Forrest Griffin, who is a UFC legend.  He was telling me how the sports nutritionist he worked with was doing insulin blood testing on him during exercise, which is awesome stuff.  When he was done, he was starving, but his nutritionist said he was only allowed 4 carrots based on the blood level prognosis.  He was so frustrated he gave up on it and said he couldn't diet for 6 months.  He also told me his favorite pre-workout food is black beans, which in the professional sports nutrition world is a text book "no-no." I always say, if you think it works for you, it works, there is no such thing as a placebo. The mental aspect involved in this overrides anything, I strongly believe.

Nutrition is something you've got to figure out yourself.  The way I diet is different than the way Tim diets and is different than the way anyone else diets. There are foods that are better than others, but then there are things sometimes that happen that leave me scratching my head at the end of the day.  I always say "Every time I think I have it all figured out, I realize I don't." When I tell my bodybuilding followers I diet with Bison, they think I'm crazy!

ProSource: What supplements do you use? Do you use them daily?

Ryan Matter: I believe Whey Isolate makes me look harder than anything else in the world.  I love Supreme Protein bars for my meal replacements as well.  For my competitions, I will use Flaxseed oil, CLA, tribulus, DHEA, fish oils, ZMA, Vitamin C, Creatine, various thermogenics, Glutamine, HMB, NO2, BCAA, Echinacea, Bee pollen, and others. I order all my supplements and gear from ProSource to take me to the top!


ProSource: How have the supplements helped? What benefits did you notice right away? What did you notice over time?

Ryan Matter: In order for me to be on stage and take the first place trophy home, I need supplements. I get an increase in size, vascularity, and density in my muscles from taking supplements. With trial and error I would get off supplements and would lose my gains.  I then realized I have to keep taking supplements in order for me to continue to get better.

ProSource: What are your future athletic and/or bodybuilding goals?

Ryan Matter: If you don't have goals in life to get better, what do you have?  If you were happy with what you have right now, what makes you move on?  I don't believe in the word maintain nor do I believe in the word plateau. That is just your mind being weak and you giving up.  I have a state title in bodybuilding and I recently won the Bill Grant Classic in 2009.  That show is now moved to the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City and is one of the biggest NPC shows on the East Coast. Being an NPC national level competitor is a dream for a lot of people, but it's not good enough for me.  I was just invited to do three different pro level competitions and I have to act on it. I know I can win and I am in my prime in bodybuilding. I want to be a top professional and eventually teach other people the proper guidance in training.  I also want to be the best UFC nutritionist there is.

I want to get my pro card in bodybuilding and after that Nate and I want to get our Ph.D'S in Health Science. Nate and I recently started our own business doing nutrition and fitness consulting specific to bodybuilding and MMA. We want to evolve to do other things like kid's fitness, active older adults, and other informational resources specific to all kinds of people that they can access online.  We also want to do our true passion and create a team of bodybuilders called Demon Bodybuilding. We always wanted to do this because we always thought you had to possess that demon in you to train harder than the next person, so the name kind of made sense.

ProSource: We're amazed you had time to sit down with us. Keep up the good work!

"Whatever it takes."  That's the philosophy of Ryan Matter, this week's Featured Athlete.

Ryan Matter's Training Program

I do a little unorthodox training program with my bodybuilding training.  I am a big HIT and manual resistance advocate.  I learned a lot from training my athletes, so I know what works and what doesn't.

[Editor's Note:  Do you have an inspiring success story related to bodybuilding, fitness, sports performance or an amazing physical transformation? Tell us about it and send some pictures here. You could be the next Featured Athlete!]

Day 1
set reps
Bench Press 
3 12-15 (Last set to fatigue)
Incline Dumbell Press 3 10-12
Decline Flyes 
12-15 (Last set is a drop set to manual resistance)
Cable Flyes

Burnout set, as many pushups I can in 1 minute, when you hit the minute, 3 second negatives to the floor.

Crunches        3    As many as possible in 2 minutes

Day 2
Back   set reps
Pull ups with weight
3 20-25 (Last set bodyweight negatives for a minute)
Lat Pull down 4 12-15
T-Bar row
Hammer Iso-Row 2 18-20


Burn out is manual resistance row with a towel to fatigue

Day 3

Day 4

Arms set reps
Barbell Curls
Alternate Curls
2 10-12
Cable Preacher Curls 2
Double Bicep Curl   
Dips with weight
3 18-20
Close Grip Bench 
Behind Head Dumb
2 12-15

V-Bar Cable Press 
3 10-12

Burn out- Manual resistance towel curl right to as many v-pushups as I can in 1 minute.

Day 5
Legs   set reps
Smith Squats
Walking Lunges
Until I pass out or throw up
Leg extension 3


Super set with

Stiff leg dead lift   3       15-20

Burnout Isometric Wall Sit holding weights at my sit to fatigue.

Seated Calf        3    "Double Clutch" to fatigue

Lying leg raises    4    As many as possible

Day 6

Day 7
Shoulders   set reps
H.S. Shoulder Press
D.b.Side Raises
Rear Raises
18-20 (Last Set Triple Drop Set superset with Manual Towel Upright Row)