Open Colleges

How To Become A Professional Physique Model

by Elizabeth Harmon
Posted: May 03, 2016

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Have aspirations to be a fitness or physique model? Read this training guide, and you’ll be participating in professional fitness competitions faster than you think!

The world of competition bodybuilding has really grown and evolved over the last few decades, with the last five years in particular seeing a host of new entrants to this competitive field of fitness. A few decades ago, competing was mostly about bodybuilding, now there are multiple categories for entrants to concentrate on. 

We recently spoke with Open Colleges' trainer Matthew Burns from New South Wales, about his exciting and varied career in the fitness industry. Take a look at Matt's original interview about competition prepping here if you missed it.

He’ll be entering the Male Fitness Model category in the upcoming Australian Natural Bodybuilding Federation’s (ANB) South Coast Physique Championships. 

Physique Model Training Guide: Professional Fitness Model

Matthew started out with a Bachelor of Exercise Science degree and while studying, Matthew gained his personal trainer qualifications and set to work helping people reach their fitness and nutrition goals.

After university, Matthew taught Physical Health and Performance (PHP) at a high school before working at Open Colleges as a Workplace Assessor for Fitness. He now teaches 3 popular courses; Statement of Attainment in Fitness Foundations, Certificate III in Fitness (Gym Instructor) and Certificate IV in Fitness (Personal Trainer).

Matthew also works as a professional physique model and is now preparing for his upcoming competition. We caught up with Matthew again, to find out specifically what he eats, some training guide advice, and exactly what it takes to become a winner in a competition like this. 

1.    When do you start preparing?

It’s important to maintain a high level of fitness and nutrition throughout the year, so my training now is very much the same as it always is. However, I start focusing on the competition approximately 12 to 13 weeks beforehand.

For the first competition I took part in, back in 2012, I started training 22 weeks before, but trained more than I should have done and ate less than I should have. I’ve now educated myself more and have been able to put a much better training plan in place.

2.    How has your training changed over time?

For my first competition in 2012, my preparation took much longer and I trained too much. For example, I did five days of weight training each week, at about 60 – 90 minutes per session.

I also did six or seven days of cardio each week, at 40 minutes per session. I’m now only doing three days of weight training and no cardio.

The picture below is Matt as he is just beginning his training. He's made some changes to his body through structured sculpting and regimented, sensible eating and training plans since this photo was taken. Check out the original article on Natural Bodybuilding here. Updates to follow! 

Physique Model Training Guide: Professional Fitness Model

By learning from my past experience from my first competition, I’m no longer second guessing what works. I’ve also increased my overall understanding of fitness and nutrition.

I’ve educated myself on my diet, understand more about water fluctuations and can see how stress and sleep have a big impact on water retention and your scale weight. This has all allowed me to fine tune my preparation for this second competition. 

3.    Do you increase your calorie* intake?

For my first competition, I had a bad relationship with food and it was very regimented. This time around, my whole approach to diet has changed dramatically, which has really helped.

I’ve worked out that my maintenance calories, which is the number I need each day in order to function properly and remain at my current weight, is 2100. However, to keep losing body fat, I need a 500 calorie deficit.

Between Monday and Friday I’ll therefore consume only 1450 calories each day. However on the weekend, this increases back to 2100. I normally split this into five meals a day*.

4.    What does your diet consist of around competition time?

Many people think that you can only eat protein and vegetables, with meals such as plain chicken, broccoli and rice. That’s how I was the first time around, but now, I make sure I have enough carbohydrates, fats and protein in my diet.

My fibre is also a lot higher than it used to be. 

5.    So can you eat whatever you want?

Physique Model Training Guide: Professional Fitness Model

I am still eating everything and am not restricted from any foods, just as long as I hit my daily macronutrients targets, which are my carbohydrates, fats and proteins. But I obviously can’t eat ice cream every day as otherwise, I’ll go over my carbohydrate and fat limits.

6.    How do you monitor your progress?

I always track where I’m at in my targets. I track my girth measurements every week and get an average idea of what I’m weighing each and every day of the week. As we get nearer to the competition, I’ll continue to check where I’m at in terms of my rate of fat loss.

7.    Do you adapt your program as you go?

If where I am is consistent with my target, I’ll keep everything as it is. If progress starts to plateau, I’ll have to evaluate whether that’s happening because of changing water weight, whether there are fluctuations in stress, or if it’s sleep-related.

If it’s not, then I’ll have to make an adjustment somewhere. I could do this by increasing cardio or making a restriction in my diet. I’m not doing any cardio at the moment, so I would probably start by doing that.

8.    Do you have to practise anything else for the competition?

Yes, posing has started this week, so I will continue to practise that from now, up until competition day.

9.    How is your training at the moment? Are you on track?

At the moment, everything is on track. Nothing has really stalled and so I’ll continue to lose body fat at the same rate that I had originally planned.

Leading up to the competition, I just need to try and maintain my strength and make sure I’m getting enough sleep and stress levels are managed.

Physique Model Training Guide: Professional Fitness Model

We’ll catch up with Matthew after the professional fitness model competition to see how he got on!

*In Australia the correct measurement of energy is the kilojoule, but anecdotally, many fitness experts tend to use the calorie system as it may be easier to calculate “on the fly”. To convert calories to kilojoules use a reputable online converter


Elizabeth Harmon

Elizabethis an experienced Freelance Social Media Consultant based in the south of England. She works with a growing number of clients all around the world, showing businesses how to use social media more effectively and helping them to get the maximum benefit from it.

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