Matt TuTuthill Shrugging in Orlando

Interview with the Deputy Editor of Muscle and Fitness Magazine, Matt Tuthill

Out of all the interviews that I’ve conducted, this one has to be one of the more unique ones. Matt Tuthill isn’t a bodybuilder, powerlifter, or guru of the field. He’s an average guy, a fantastic journalist, and has one of the coolest jobs out there. You’re not going to find any workout programs or groundbreaking training information below. Instead you’ll get to read, first-hand, how he found his way to M&F, his first time meeting Arnold Schwarzenegger, his new book, and his true thoughts on whether Mike O’ Hearn (his most recent story) is natural.

How did you get into training?

I started with the weights kind of late in high school. I really learned the ropes at Springfield College. I played three years of football there: my sophomore, junior and senior year. Freshman year, I was on the field for a couple of days before they told me my medical papers weren’t up to date. By the time I got all of the right things in order, the whole playbook was installed, and I felt like I could really use that year to get my ass in the gym and get ready for that level. That never happened (laughs) but I learned a lot in the gym. I met a great guy, Phil Naiemy; he was a competitive powerlifter. I was doing my meathead workouts and he came up to me and said, “Uhhh, come do this stuff with me instead.” It was hugely eye-opening for me. I didn’t realize how little I knew… That was the big take away for me. There’s something to learn from everybody.

Genetically, I really have nothing going on. I have a large frame, but I can’t gain muscle very easily or lose fat very easily… I’m this weird in-between. Everything has been getting there the hard way. I’m lucky that I had Phil and those coaches at Springfield.

You majored in Sports Journalism and Communications but you decided to get your C.S.C.S.?

When I left Springfield, I caddied for a little bit and did some freelancing for Muscle & Fitness. I went to write for a daily paper in Vermont for a few years, but when my wife’s job forced her back to New York, so I was in Queens with no job. I would walk down the streets throwing my resume at people and spend the rest of my time at the gym. They needed trainers, so I got my NASM certification in 2009. After training clients for two years, Muscle & Fitness hired me when they moved to the east coast. My NASM certification was about to expire so I studied for my C.S.C.S and got that. Now, I have the C.P.P.S., which is Jim Smith and Joe DeFranco’s certification, and it’s by far the most useful certification I’ve earned.

Matt Tuthill
Matt and Thomas Jane

Were you reading Muscle & Fitness when you first got into training?

It was always my favorite magazine. I was reading it before I even knew what they were saying. I was a kid, so if I saw Arnold was on the cover, I would make my dad buy it.

You once wrote that you used to do sit-ups in front of a Terminator poster?

Yeah… I had the T2 poster above my bed. I was like 9 or 10 years old, I’d weigh myself, pedal on my mom’s exercise bike for like 5 minutes and weigh myself again. I kept repeating that (laughs). I’d do my sit-ups and push-ups. I was fat and had no stamina, but I’d tell myself I couldn’t quit because Arnold wouldn’t.

So he was really an icon for you?

Yeah, I just always dreamed of being able to meet him someday and talk to him. Arnold and his movies captured a big part of my imagination. Everything that wasn’t him fell short.

Well, you have met Arnold. What was that like?

The first time I met Arnold, it was so crazy. It was the day he was being shadowed for his 60 Minutes interview. I’m sitting in line with all of these reporters, and when he heard that I was from Muscle & Fitness, he stopped to talk to me. The magazine and Joe Weider (the founder of M&F) meant so much to him, so he used all of his time to talk to me. All the other reporters got shut out.

Arnold is now our Executive Editor. My boss is friends with him, so it’s odd to be in that casual of an environment with him sometimes. I’ve had a few meals with him; it’s just him and a very small entourage – security and his assistant. And it’s great to know first-hand that he is a genuine guy. He’s great to be around. The 10-year-old me would shit himself.

Is it weird for you to be on the other side of the magazine, giving the advice?

(Laughs) I’m not in the business of giving advice. I’ll leave that to the Editor-in-Chief and the Training Director. Those guys are known in the industry for their physiques and their knowledge. In the beginning, they had me writing some tips for the readers, but I tried to get as far away from that as possible. It doesn’t matter how many letters I put after my name; no one cares or wants to know my views on training. I love training and I can’t imagine my life without it. I go as hard and as heavy as I can. I just squatted 405 and I’m proud of that. I expect to crack a 500-pound deadlift before the year is out. But I got those certifications to relate with the people who really in the trenches with high-level athletes and competitors every day, so I can speak the language and really understand what they’re doing. I’m a journalist of the field. My job is to interpret what the real experts of the industry say and think.

What has it been like to work in the fitness industry?

I’ve encountered a lot of amazing things and people, but I’ve also have encountered some discouraging things as well. The good stuff has definitely outweighed the bad. I love meeting the cover guys I write about and finding out they’re nice, normal people. Fitness models are looked at a certain way, but some of the smartest people I have met are fitness models.

What is your training like now?

I feel an obligation to do what we print in the magazine. I was so involved with editing Mike O’ Hearn’s column for a couple of years that I did his power bodybuilding program for 18 months. I’ve tried a ton of other stuff that we’ve put in the magazine; 5/3/1, the Cube Method… I just downloaded the app for the Summer Shred program. I like to put myself through the experience that the reader would have with our technology and programs.

Duffy Gaver wrote the Summer Shred program. He’s a former Navy SEAL, who trained Chris Hemsworth for Thor and Brad Pitt for Troy. His program is awesome. I’m exposed to a lot of cool new stuff in terms of training and tech.

How often do you train now? I know you have a crazy commute.

I’m in the gym at 5:30 a.m. with my training partner. I’ll meet him three or four times during the week, and once on the weekend. I also live near the beach, so I like to swim and kayak, too.

The Rock showing off one of the covers Matt wrote.

Any tips for readers who have busy schedules like you?

Make the time. I’m not going to give some tip like, “Do pushups and squats at your desk.” I believe in carving out that time to do a full session. Could you do that other stuff? Sure, but I’m not that person. With my two-plus hour-long commute, I fit the demographic for someone who would want those little things, but I really believe in making the time.

What are some of your most memorable interviews?

Mike O’ Hearn was a great interview. Terry Crews was great, The Rock and John Cena as well. Steve Weatherford, Thomas Jane, Drew Brees. I could go on… And Arnold, of course. If you talk to any of those guys, you really understand that it is no accident that these are the guys who made it as far as they did. Terry Crews came into the office after his first cover, and he was so happy. He stayed to have lunch with all of us; we were having pizza, he was eating steak and salad. Polite conversation turned into one of the greatest motivational speeches I’ve ever heard, and it was all just off-the-cuff for him.  Everyone wanted to get up and run through a brick wall after talking to him. There’s a reason guys like that are so successful.

You wrote about Mike  O’ Hearn recently. I like that you addressed the steroids issue so heavily. Do you actually think he is natural?

I’ve known the guy for a long time, and he’s always told me that he’s natural. So when a guy maintains for that many years that he’s natural, the question really is: “Do you think Mike is a pathological liar? Is he another Lance Armstrong?” No, I don’t think that. He has been so adamant that he is natural and there’s no evidence to the contrary.

On the other hand, it’s a very fair question. You can make a good argument that I’m being naïve. Here’s this guy who is bigger and more ripped than Arnold was in his prime. Straight-up, he is more ripped AND bigger. If Arnold has admitted to taking steroids, how can this guy say otherwise? Is it probable that Mike O’ Hearn is natural? No, it is quite improbable. But is it possible? Yes, it is, and until I’m proven otherwise, I have to take him at his word. Did I go through his trash and look for sharps containers and syringes? No, but there’s a lot of evidence that he is natural. He’s competed in these natural bodybuilding and powerlifting federations where, on top of blood and urine tests, you also have to take a lie detector test. These guys take that shit seriously. On their website, they not only have the Wall of Fame (which Mike is a part of) but they have the Wall of Shame. If you get caught, they embarrass the shit out of you, and they don’t want you anywhere near their meets again.

Nature produces freaks sometimes. People in the industry say that Ronnie Coleman got his pro card naturally. Did he do it later? Yeah, sure. The story goes that he didn’t know what to do with drugs before he went pro.

The other thing about Mike O’ Hearn, and this might not be politically correct, but if he were black, I don’t know that we’d be having this discussion. I think you see some black guys like him in the NFL and people just go, “Wow, look how gifted he is.” Then a fucking white Irish guy shows up looking like that and they go, “You cheating motherfucker.” Just because you’ve never seen it, doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

We leave no room for outliers, which was the whole point of the story. Anyone who defies convention, we don’t like that. It makes life harder to think about that kind of stuff. Whether Mike is natural or not is not even the point. We don’t want to deal with shit that we don’t understand.

You just wrote a book with Robert Irvine?

I’ve been editing his column in the magazine since 2011. I think he liked how I was helping him organize his thoughts and get his point across. He asked me if I wanted to do a book, and what really intrigued me about it was that it’s not about “Get arms like me,” or “Get abs like me.” It combines his philosophy and basic training template, and has a lot of great recipes. The crux of the whole thing is that you have to believe you can change. Nothing else matters unless you can straighten out  that part first. He’s going to turn 50 in September, and he looks like he could get up on stage at a bodybuilding show. He’s a brick shit house. I’ve been on the set of his show, Restaurant: Impossible, and I see what he’s like behind the scenes. He genuinely wants to help people. And he’s another guy who can make people run through a brick wall. That’s what he tried to do with his book. He really wants to coach people and help them.

Matt Tuthill and Robert Irvine
Matt and Robert Irvine.

Who is your next cover guy?

We’ll announce that soon. He’s a true legend, an NFL Hall-of-Famer. I’m excited I had the chance to write this one.

What’s next for you, if there is something next?

For now it’s good. There are still stories I want to tell, and a lot of people I want to connect with. I don’t feel like I’ve done everything I can do here. I do want to write books and not all of them about fitness. It’s hard to tackle a book and full time… It’s not a recipe for a balanced life. So doing another book would require me to step out, and I’m not quite there yet.

Get Big and Get Nasty

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