Society is fitness-obsessed now more than ever. Even as obesity rises, there are more and more people driven to take better care of themselves. You might say it’s the house that Arnold built, as Arnold Schwarzenneger is idolized in the bodybuilding world. However, the culture was always around, from the old Hercules movies of the 1960s, to comic book ads with brawny men kicking sand in the face of scrawny nerds. Which brings us up to the current crop of fitness models and advisors. Matt Acton is one of those guys and can boast something that no one else can: he was the first ever NPC (National Physique Committee) men’s physique pro! A seasoned competitor, sponsored athlete and published fitness model, Matt talks to us a bit about how he got started and how to begin your own path to better health.

RAINE: First question is the obvious one: you’re in amazing shape, how did you get started? Did it happen organically or was there a catalyst?

ACTON: It happened organically. I’m a lifetime athlete and was involved in basically every sport growing up. At the end of baseball in college, I took up MMA to keep myself active. Training for my first fight, I severely bruised a rib and transitioned into bodybuilding as I was already rather lean from MMA. I also had a gym class in school while studying bioscience and used that as my morning cardio which made things very manageable with my work load. For my first competition, I was onlyl 9. I’m now on my 32nd show, with 5 IFBB wins and a top 3 Mr. Olympia debut.

RAINE: You were the first ever National Physique Champion. Yet in the bodybuilding world, physique still seems to take some criticism from people who don’t consider physique competitors on the same level as bodybuilders. For example, at one show someone from the audience shouted, “the physique guys are glorified Abercrombie models.” What do you say to that?

ACTON: I have nothing bad to say about that because I know who I am and I know how I train. When I train, I beat up the weights just as hard and with as much heart and brain as any bodybuilder. I just chose this route because this is a route of overall health and fitness. Having a fine tuned aesthetic athletic body is for me! Bodybuilding is a little more of an extreme sport when it comes to dieting, putting on size and eating in the off-season. I train for athletic performance, density and detail and live a balanced healthy life all year around. My routine has few weight fluctuations and I’m perfectly fine with that.

RAINE: There’s no shortage of fitness advice and articles out there, and so much of it seems contradictory. How can people sort out the truth from the nonsense?

ACTON: I think everyone needs to approach fitness with an open mind. There’s different routes for everyone and what works for one, might not work for another. Or what is comfortable to one, might not be comfortable to the other. You can try to read and educate yourself from books and online articles. You can then see what works best for you but the most important thing to do is educate yourself before you start and try to SOAK in as much knowledge as possible.

RAINE: Raine magazine is all about creative entrepreneurs. How have you been able to successfully brand yourself in the fitness world?

ACTON: Yes and I think it’s amazing how one can do so nowadays. It’s crazy thinking of yourself as a “brand” but it’s amazing where life can take you. I still just feel like a regular kid. They call me the ninja. I have a custom dog tag from my sponsor, “NS” No Surrender, with the ninja emblem. There are four values I choose to live by which are honor, humility, bravery and courage. I also have a move on stage called the “ninja twist”. Like I said this is all funny to me!

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