👋 Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training
My name is Matt Kouba and I was born September 10, 1985. I began weight training in my parent’s basement with my dad showing me the basics. I initially wanted to gain muscle and use the weight training as a tool to be better in sports – mainly football, which I played from 2nd grade until I graduated high school in 2004.
Over my high school years, I loved football and planned to play division 3 football in College. I committed to Carthage College to play in the fall but a few days before I was supposed to leave, I knew my passion had shifted towards bodybuilding and I needed to explore this new passion.
So instead of going to college in the fall, I got a job working as a waiter at Outback Steakhouse and prepared for my first bodybuilding show at age 19. After going through the process and giving 100% to it and seeing my body change, I knew I found my calling and this is what I wanted to do.
Six weeks later, I went to college to study Exercise Science and I received my bachelor’s degree from North Central College. I’m always broadening my education by learning by studying a wide range of topics from training, nutrition, and contest prep.
I currently train clients at Lifetime Athletic in Burr Ridge, IL and I also offer online coaching for those that live out of state that would still like to work with me and I’ve had great success using this platform to help others.
I’m married to my wife Jessica for nearly four years. We met through the gym/bodybuilding and she’s been the most supportive person since day one.
I did my first bodybuilding show in 2004 but I didn’t win my first overall at a local show until I won the Mr. Illinois in 2015, which was the same year that I met Jessica. She pushes me to be my best and is my main source of motivation to succeed and keep going.
I earned my pro card at Nationals in 2017 in the super-heavyweight class and since then I’ve done five pro shows placing between seven to 10 at all of them.
My goal for 2020 is to get into the first call out at a few shows and have a chance to be compared to the best of the best.
⏱ Describe a typical day of training
I’ve gone through many phases during my 20 years of working out. I think it’s important to try new techniques but what I’ve always gotten the best results doing and had the most fun training is when I train based on my instinct.
So I don’t keep a training log. I don’t monitor exact time periods between sets as I go based on feel and when I know I can give the next set max effort. There are MANY effective ways to train – 1000’s of exercises, a wide range of rep ranges, high volume or low volume, taking everything to failure or stopping short of failure, etc…
I always tell people that your training MUST include the following: Proper form, a strong mind muscle connection (feel the muscle working that you are intending to work), and INTENSITY. After that, you really just gotta find what works best for you!
So while I do go through different phases in my training – My bread and butter split and main points are the following:
- Monday – Back/traps
- Tuesday – Chest/calves
- Wednesday – OFF
- Thursday – Hamstrings/quads
- Friday – Shoulders/calves
- Saturday – Arms
- Sunday – OFF
A typical workout is about an hour – slightly longer for legs due to the need for longer rest between some sets that are most physically demanding. I typically do about six to eight maximum effort working sets per bodypart – or four to six for smaller muscles like biceps, triceps.
Calves and traps get about three to four working sets each. A working set is a maximum effort set where no additional reps can be completed.
So for one movement I might do three sets working up in weight that is mostly focused on warming up and getting a feel for the movement – and then one to two maximum effort sets. Then move on to the next movement.
My rep range varies depending on the exercise. For chest, I mostly stay in the six to eight rep range early in the workout then near the end it’s more like 10-12 range. Arms is anywhere between eight to 15 reps. Legs is about the same.
Over the years, I’ve found what I get the best feel doing to fully fatigue the muscle while creating the most amount of stimulus.
👊 How do you keep going and push harder?
I’m the type of person that if I’m going to do something, I’m going to give it 100%. So to me, missing the gym or cheating on my diet or missing a meal or missing a cardio session, those things are not even an option. .
When my competitive bodybuilding career is over, I need to be able to look back and know I gave it my all. I can’t settle for anything less than that and so that makes it easy to make the decisions I do to stay committed to the process and being the best I can be.
🏆 How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Well, TODAY things have been weird with gyms being shut down all across the country with the COVID-19 fears. I still have a small private location I’m able to get my own workouts in, but my one-on-one training business has taken a hit because the gym I train clients at is closed until it is “safe” for the gyms to re-open.
But since I still have access to some equipment, I’m still training and eating in a way so that I can still prepare for shows and chase my goals. Many shows have been cancelled or postponed but I’m optimistic my show on July 4, 2020 will still go on as planned.
I truly enjoy the structure and discipline needed for contest prep so it doesn’t bother me to prepare for shows even though there is some uncertainty.
I’m enjoying my workouts because it gives me something to keep my focus on while I’m unable to train clients, and it gives me a sense of purpose to attack each day and stay motivated.
Even though the equipment is limited, I’m really enjoying the simplicity of it and my workouts have felt amazing lately.
Outside of bodybuilding, in the next few years, I hope to have a child with my wife to add to our small family including our French Bulldog Stitch.
I will continue to chase my bodybuilding goals until I feel like I can no longer improve, but my last show was easily my best showing and I know I’m bringing an improved look this year as well.
🤕 How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?
Injuries are part of the process when you’re pushing your body to the max. Fortunately, most of the injuries I’ve had have been minor and I’ve been able to work around them by being smart with exercise selection and staying away from movements that hurt or have caused injury in the past.
Again it goes back to just listening to your body and being smart with your training. If I feel extra beat up, then I’ll go in for a lighter workout and not push anything that could make an injury worse.
The most common things I deal with are lower back tightness and tennis elbow flare-ups. But those things can be worked around by doing more chest supported movements to relieve lower back stress, and staying away from movements that cause pain to my elbow.
For preventative measures, I use an inversion table daily, I get a weekly deep tissue massage from Brett at Massage Mayhem, and I make sure to stretch after each workout.
🍎 How is your diet and what supplements do you use?
For most people interested in competitive bodybuilding, I usually suggest a higher protein, low fat, and then carbohydrate intake should be based on the individual’s response to carbs and their current goals.
We all know people who are somewhat lean and seem to eat whatever they want – And we all know people that go to the gym, work hard, and eat low calories who still have weight they’d like to use. The key is finding what works best for YOU.
During contest prep, I check-in with my own coach Chris Aceto pretty much every day with photos, weight, and how my workouts are going. I follow his instructions exactly for diet, cardio, and supplementation – And my training I do all on my own. We don’t really do many cheat meals but when I do it’s usually a dinner date out with my wife for a nice date night or a good old burger and fries meal.
I’m currently preparing for shows and I’m 11 weeks out so this is the exact diet I’m following. As I get closer to the show, protein intake will remain about the same, carbs will likely get lowered, and fats remain about the same or slightly lower depending on how my body looks/responds.
Personally I feel much better being leaner – I have better energy, focus, etc., during prep compared to the off-season when I’m eating much more food in an effort to put on size. The last four weeks before a show can get challenging when you get really deep into the final stages of contest prep, but at that point I feel like I’m so close that nothing really phases me and I just do what I have to do to be my best.
Here is my current diet and primary supplements used at 10 weeks out from my next show. The supplements I use are from my sponsor AllMax Nutrition, which I’ve been using since 2015 and during that time frame I’ve noticed the biggest changes to my physique.
The highest quality and best tasting supplements I’ve used – they WORK. The chicken, steak, potatoes, and veggies I’ve been getting from another sponsor of mine Fresh Basile (anyone can get 10% off their food order using the code MK10). They deliver high quality and nutritious meals to the Chicagoland area and I am very picky with my food but this is a company I trust 100% to give my body what it needs to be functioning at the highest level.
- Supplements – First thing in the morning – 1 scoop Cytogreens, 15g glutamine, 1 scoop Aminocore, 1 scoop Allmax Collegen Peptides
- With each meal – 2 caps Allmax digestive enzymes
- Meal 1 – 6 whole eggs, 3 english muffins
Allmax Vitastack, 2 caps Allmax Allflex joint supplement, 2 Allmax Omega-3
- Meal 2 – 10oz chicken, 1 cup rice
- Meal 3 – 10oz steak, 10oz potatoes
2 Allmax Omega-3
- Meal 4 (pre workout meal) – 70g AllMax Isoflex Protein, 1 bakery muffin
- Intraworkout supplements – 15g AllMax Glutamine, 5g Allmax Creatine, 2 scoops Allmax Aminocore
- Post workout supplements – 1 scoop Amincore, 7g L-leucine, 15g Allmax Glutamine
- Meal 5 (post workout meal) – 10oz chicken, 2 cups rice
- Meal 6 – 10oz chicken, veggies
2 Allmax Omega-3
👍 What has inspired and motivated you?
My motivation really just stems from being the best I can be. I don’t really compare myself to others as we all have our own unique journey. There are many physiques I admire but I know that I will never look like anyone else so the focus is simply on being the best Matt Kouba.
I don’t want to have any regrets of wishing I had done more. I make the most of each moment I have in the gym and outside the gym. Rest, recovery, nutrition are all key parts of the process so this is truly a 2- hour per day thing to be better.
My long term goal is to make it to the Olympia stage and I know how hard I’ve worked already over the last 15-20 years to get where I am, and I know it’s going to take even more effort to get to that next level. So I’m always trying to learn and push myself to new levels to reach my ultimate goal.
✏️ Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?
GET STARTED! Understand that there is no ‘perfect plan’, no ‘perfect diet’, no ‘perfect workout’. We all start somewhere and the goal at the beginning should be to set high long term goals, but also focus on attainable short term goals.
DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS. There will always be someone better – but there can only be one YOU. Enjoy the process, challenge yourself, seek new knowledge, and work your ass off giving 100% to your goals. That is how you will see real progress and when you do that it makes the journey that much more rewarding.
DON’T MAKE EXCUSES. It’s easy to come up with reasons to avoid doing something. We all have cravings or days where we don’t really feel like going to the gym. But your desire to reach your goals must be greater than that. If you give into cravings and have slip-ups – then you truly don’t WANT your goals as bad as you think you do.
TAKE IT ONE DAY AT A TIME. Many people get overwhelmed thinking about the future and how they are going to reach these big goals. It all starts with one step. My focus is always on TODAY – make today as perfect as possible – then tomorrow I’ll wake up and do the same. If you add up a lot of those perfect days of diet, rest, intense training, proper supplementation – then results will come.
🤝 Are you taking on clients right now?
Yes, I am always taking on new clients. In fact, I have some clients that I’ve been working with long term and they like the accountability and I have some clients that work for me for a period of time and then take the information they’ve learned and apply it to their own.
I work with a variety of clients from top level professional athletes, first time competitors, and even normal every day people that are just looking to improve their fitness level or appearance. Whatever your goals are I’m sure I can help you reach them!
📝 Where can we learn more about you?
I would like to have a YouTube channel in the future but right now my main priority is taking good care of the clients I already have and building my training business.
I mainly use Instagram to post content about my own bodybuilding journey and I also throw in some instructional information and my every day life. I like to make my Instagram an accurate reflection of me as a person while placing an emphasis on fitness/bodybuilding.
Please follow me @mattkouba – and feel free to shoot me a DM on Instagram if you have any questions or are interested in working with me.