An interview with 2012 NPA Midlands Champion Matt Argall
by Jon Harris
photo by Fivos Averkiou

Hi Matt, many congratulations on your recent class and overall win at the 2012 NPA Midlands Championships. From the photos I saw you looked a very worthy winner with great conditioning, balance and fullness. How did it feel to take both the lightweight U70kg class and the overall, beating guys much heavier than you?

Many thanks for the kind words Jon. Well, it was an incredible feeling. Besides a British title, an overall win was a bit of a dream for me, especially a unanimous decision such that it was. When I was debating whether to compete again this year after a three year break, I kind of said to myself, if I did ever do it (the overall), then doing the finals again would be a certainty (this is how hard I am on myself!) The clean sweep, taking the best presentation award was the icing on the cake. Itís always something I put a fair bit of thought into, so itís nice to get recognised for that.

To give a little background info for our readers, can I ask how old are you Matt, where are you from and what do you do for a living?

Iíve just turned 34 (Bodybuilding has kept me looking young, I hope!), and live in Barnstaple, North Devon. I work as an Engineer in an Aerospace company, making fuel systems for military and domestic aviation. I did a full apprenticeship for this, so since school really. Itís quite mentally taxing, plus Iím on my feet all day, so during a diet, some days can be quite tough, but wearing the steel toe cap boots for 18 years has helped develop my calves I guess!

What's your height, and offseason / contest weight?

Iím 5í5Ē I think, and my off season weight is around 66Kg, and my contest weight is 59-60Kg dry, so as you can tell, I am fairly lean all year round.

How do you get so ripped? Can you talk us through your diet in the run up to the show?

Well to be honest, I am naturally lean, and a bit of a hard gainer, but my Ďoff seasoní helps, as I keep myself in good shape body fat wise. I like to look like a bodybuilder all of the time, not for only a couple of weeks like some people choose to do. I think itís healthier, and also makes dieting easier, as itís less of a shock/change to the body. Itís taken me a while to learn what my body responds to, so I simply tweak macroís around that.

I like to vary my food sources as much as I can, with fish, eggs, chicken, turkey, and sometimes red meat. I probably eat fish the most. Also, loads of all kinds of vegetables, twice a day. When I do officially diet, basically any rubbish foods/treats that I have built into my diet are the first to go (save one cheat meal per week), then breads, and finally sugars. I think the main point for me, is making every meal the same, to be totally consistent, and I make sure I have them at exactly the same time each day, Iím talking +/- 10 minutes maximum! This way, the body knows exactly whatís coming, and has no reason to hold on to any of the fat. I can literally tell the time with my stomach now!

I eat 6 times a day, about every 2.5 hours, and nearer the end, Iíll have a rice cake in between these meals, to really get my metabolism firing (even more than normal!), and drink around 3.5 litres of water per day. Iíll also reduce carbs a little, none before bed, as off season I like to have my oats and protein before bed, and bump up protein and fats to compensate. Doing this works well for me, meaning cardio isnít really required, but Iíll do a bit of skipping after weights, and some power walking on non-training days, plus Iíll reduce the poundageís and increase the reps when training, whilst making rest gaps smaller.

Consistency is the key.

Do you use any supplements?

I try to rely on good, varied foods as much as I can, but I supplement - Whey protein, Creatine, BCAAís and Udoís oil. Vitamins wise, Glucosamine Sulphate and Cod liver oil for joint care/damage limitation, Garlic caps, Vitamin C and Zinc. When Iím prepping for a competition, I will double my Vitamin C and Zinc, and also use L Arginine, to give me a bit of a boost. If Iím really struggling then perhaps add some Potassium supplements too.

What kind of training routine do you follow?

Iím a bit old school really, and do a three day split, Monday/Wednesday/Friday. This suits me, as a routine freak, I like my days to be the same each week, I get a dayís rest between workouts, and also leaves my weekend free. I like to train any body parts that I feel need work twice a week as a secondary muscle, itís only one exercise, (these are the bracketed body parts as an example), but other than that I do:

Mondayís: Legs + Shoulders (Biceps)
Wednesdayís: Chest + Triceps
Fridayís: Back + Biceps (Shoulders + Legs)

How long have you been involved in bodybuilding and what first got you interested in the sport? Were you active in any other sports before taking up bodybuilding?

Iíve always been into sports, as I seem to take to them well. I used to play a little 5 a side football, but enjoyed most sports at school. I could sprint faster than anyone over say 40 Ė 50 metres, then my little legs would run out of steam! So basically, anything explosive suits me. I started weight training in my lunch break at the school gym when I was 14. I canít really remember the main reason. My older brother used to train a bit, and I think looking back, as I was a bit shorter than some of my friends, I thought I could at least be stronger than them. Iíve trained three days a week, every week, ever since!

What's your competition history?

Well, a bit of a funny story really. When I first joined my gym (Phoenix) at 17 years old, a gym I still use, some guys there had competed a few times, and when I was 19, they suggested I should have a go, as I had a good shape and development, with a lean frame.

There was a local show coming up, the ANB South West Championships, held in Taunton, so I Ďdietedí for about 3 weeks, that basically meant not going out Saturday nights drinking with mates, or one week I went out and drank orange juice, and had some un-flavoured protein with skimmed milk for about 2 weeks. I did get even leaner doing this, and actually looked good, BUT, as I hadnít been to a bodybuilding show before, my stage time was interesting to say the least. I was first out, and on the quarter turns, and front relaxed, I literally just stood there! No flexing, twisting or anything! I wondered why the crowd were all cheering me on. As soon as I was finished, I sat in the crowd, watched the rest of the classes, and just sank into my chair. I should have won it looking at the picture afterwards and talking to people in the crowd. I got 3rd place, and was scarred for years after that, beating myself up over it, even to this day to be honest. So this was something I just had to put right, so in 2009 I decided to try and put these thoughts to bed.

2005+2006 - This was my first go at powerlifting, in the BDFPA. In the U67.5 weight category, I won both my classes in the Bench press, and also the Squat. I returned to this in 2006, in the Un-equipped bench press, and broke the southern counties record with a lift of 128Kg, at a body weight of 67.5kg. This was enjoyable, but my first love is bodybuilding, soÖ

2009 - NPA South West Championships, Novice class, I took 1st place, beating guys a lot taller and heavier than me. I was elated at this, and should have been, but before I found out about the NPA, I had already joined the BNBF, as this was the only natural federation I could find at the time when searching on the internet. Even though I wasnít too happy about the 10 year drug free policy, as for me, I would have preferred it to be lifetime clean, like the NPA stands for, but I had already joined and got the tan etc. I entered, and placed 4th, with the two above me coming 1st and 3rd in the British finals.

This disheartened me a bit, as I was simply Ďout muscledí being the nature of the novice class, but none the less, decided to still do the NPA finals. I came 4th in this, against a really tough class, also winning the best presentation trophy. The 3 guys above me were all eventual heavy weights, so again, felt a little lost as what to do next.

After a couple of good years, learning loads about nutrition and training by researching on the internet, via forums, like Natural Muscle, that I stumbled upon purely by accident, I decided I should have a go again, this time in a class Ďmore at homeí with my bodyweight.

This spurred me on, as the only frustration being in novice class was that I was beaten by men much heavier than me. I would now compete in a weight category, compulsory as a novice champion, and would stand in a good position.

So, 2012 - My comeback year to the sport. Again with the NPA, South West Championships, U70Kg, I took 2nd place in a really tough class. I was let down only by my 'rusty' stage time, as the physique presented I felt was very good, only beaten by an experienced poser, as some of the poses I hit were poor at best!

19th August - Time to put things right! The NPA Midlands Championships, U70kg, 1st Place. Mr. Best presentation, 1st place. This then took me to the Overall, and was unanimously awarded 1st place!

Are there any improvements you would like to make to your physique?

Yes, I would like to have more upper Quad/sweep and Adductor area, and perhaps some more width to my shoulders. A bit more everywhere would be nice!

What are your plans for the future? Do you intend to contest the finals this year?

Yes, I have decided to do the finals this year, all being well, as we have a little one on the way, so while Iím still in good shape, Iíll try and carry this through to the end of the year. Iím not sure about next year. I like to see how things go. Thereís certainly a few more shows left in me yet!

Do you have any hobbies or interests outside bodybuilding?

Well, this last year has been occupied renovating the house we bought last year, and to get that finished in time for the baby (DIY cardio I call it!) I have a sports bike I like to take out for little blasts when it isnít raining, and also like to play badminton, probably because itís quite an explosive game. Bodybuilding is always my first love though.

What's your take on drugs in the sport, and how much of a problem do you think it is within natural shows? Clearly, as a lightweight, you are proving that size isn't everything when it comes to winning your class or an overall title for that matter.

I like to keep myself fairly naive regarding that, as other peopleís actions are unfortunately out of my control, but then again, I do know people who have been robbed of placingís because of it. So I guess if I were in their position I would feel differently. It still bemuses me why people would even think about entering a natural show, when they clearly know that they arenít, I guess itís just the world we live in these days. I know the feds do what they can with limited funding, and the levels of testing seem to be getting higher each year, which can only be a good thing. It certainly is an experience being tested though!

It's great to have people like you Matt contributing to the forum. What benefits would you say come from being involved in an online community like Natural Muscle?

Forums are great for meeting like-minded people who share a passion as I do, so I have made some good friends as a result of that. What stands Natural Muscle apart for me is that the internet is a myriad of web pages telling you how to train and do things, when most of it is contradictory and from Ďnon-naturalí people. So at least I know any advice or tips/suggestions I do read there are from genuine people of the same ilk as me. Also, if anyone did ask a simple question, you would get a simple answer. I also like the way itís easy to find out results from recent shows and see pictures etc.

Finally, is there anyone you would like to mention or thank?

Well firstly to my girlfriend, and chief tanner, Claire, who always does a great job, and who is having our first child this year. Also to the guys at EQ Nutrition, Steve, Si and Glen, for their support in sponsoring me. A team I have just joined, so Iím looking forward to working with them and enjoying some great products.