Fitness Secrets From Our 2017 Cover Guy Finalists

Get to know the top 10 cover guy finalists and their tips for peak physical fitness.

Chelsea Geach & Kieran Legg |

It’s official. Our 2018 Men’s Health 2018 Cover Guy Competition has reached its final stages. We looked for a man who has the confidence, looks, body and the lifestyle to be our Cover Guy 2018. Someone who leads by example, is fit and health-conscious, inspires others and embodies a well-rounded modern man. Our Top finalists have been announced in the November magazine.

We look back at fitness secrets from our 2017 finalists below.

MH Cover Guy Fitness

Only two winners were chosen as the winners of the Men’s Health Magazine Cover Guy Competition in 2017 but hundreds entered. With that came loads of fitness wisdom, and so we’ve exclusively put together how the top ten’s fitness secrets and how they achieved their fitness goals.

cover guy fitness advice jason buntu


They have full-time jobs, families and commitments – just like you do. The difference: they put in the work, fight through the pain, and inspire others to be better.

Related: 11 Rugby Stars Who Have Flexed Their Muscles For Our Cover Over The Years

The Champ

cover guy fitness advice jason buntu

  • Winner: Jason Smith
  • Age: 33
  • Profession: Crossfit Box Owner
  • Height/Weight: 1.85m/90kg

Jason has almost died – twice.

Once during a motocross race, when a rough landing turned his bike’s handlebars into an iron punch to the gut, obliterating his kidney and liver. And again, years later, when the scar tissue left behind by the operation to remove his mangled organ caused his intestines to knot up and put his whole system into shock. That most recent trip to the ER was in 2012; he underwent a seven- hour operation that left him bedridden for a month. He survived on water and an IV drip. “I lost 20kg, in one month, I went down from 90 to 70,” he says. For this fitness junkie, who started doing CrossFit back in 2008, being sidelined for so long put him in a contemplative state. “I started asking myself, what am I doing with my life? I needed to change things, I needed to better my lifestyle.”

His resurrection began just months later – he built and opened his own CrossFit box. In August 2017, he became the first South African to represent the country in the annual Games in Madison. He was a monster, finishing 11th overall (with a 6th-place finish in the devilish Muscle-Up and Clean Ladder). And now he’s representing Europe and Africa in the Team Series in Australia. All that, and he’s also a dad. “It’s a tough balancing act,” he admits. “But seeing the reaction I’ve had from people locally, that it’s possible not only to get into the Games but to do well, has been rewarding beyond words.

“Guys thought it was impossible. To see me do it, it’s got them all working harder.”

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  • The Monster Move: “The muscle-up. It’s a pulling and pushing combo that requires (and builds) formidable upper-body strength.”
  • Sharpen Your Competitive Edge: “Race against the clock (whether you’re lifting weights or doing cardio). I like to do as many reps as possible in a given time frame.”
  • No Weights Required: “Most guys think you always need to be lifting weights. But do bodyweight movements at the right intensity, and you’ll see the benefits immediately.”

Related: Work Out With Wayde van Niekerk: The 9-Move Routine That Will Give You Olympic Muscle

The Maverick

cover guy fitness advice jason buntu

  • Winner: Buntu Matshaya
  • Age: 27
  • Profession: Fitness Instructor
  • Height/Weight: 1.82m/70kg

In every picture of his father, the old man is either on the rugby pitch or following marching orders training for the army.

These frozen moments are the only memories Buntu has of his role model, who passed away when he was just three. “He was so active, it just sort of resonated with me,” says the fitness instructor, who’s spent his life walking in the footsteps of his idol. Staying true to this almost mythological legacy is at the heart of Buntu’s vision. “I like to think he would be proud.”

As a fitness instructor at Virgin Active, Buntu trains for eight hours a week, with sessions seeing him switch from a stint in the rower,
to sprints on the elliptical and then a series of leg-destroying stair climbs. That’s his warm-up. Then he tackles four sets of Olympic lifts – “Big fan of these, as they’re compound lifts that hit all your major muscle groups” – before finally stringing together set after set of bodyweight and weight-lifting movements.

  • Rise And Shine: “Get up and do it. You can bitch about it later, mate.”
  • Take Five: “Resting isn’t a bad thing. If you can’t finish a set, just rest and get back to it. Do what works for you.”
  • The Most Valuable Exercise: “Burpees, muscle-ups and tombstones. I love these because they work the entire body, and improve core stability.”
  • The Ultimate Shakedown: “I get most of my protein from shakes, and then eat wholefoods with every one of my meals, to bulk up my nutrition.”

Related: Michael B. Jordan, Our June Cover Guy, Reveals The Hardest Part of His Black Panther Workouts


cover guy fitness advice

  • Runner Up: Tumi Seeco
  • Age: 22
  • Profession: Online Fitness Coach
  • Height/Weight: 1.84m/90kg

Rules of engagement: Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to the weight room. I believe in controlled movements: not going too heavy on the weights, but rather making sure your muscles engage fully. I do 70% weights, 20% cardio and 10% functional training. Harder doesn’t mean faster: If you want to intensify your workout, don’t start pumping away as fast as you can. Slow the repetitions right down. Engage your muscles fully.

Take your cardio home: Skipping doesn’t require much space or equipment. My cardio is 4 000 skips a day, which I do at home.

Walk the talk: I dedicate my time to helping people reach their fitness and health goals. Before I demand such a lifestyle from my clients, I demand it from myself first. It’s about leading by example.

Be a big-picture thinker: Some days I don’t feel like doing this. But I don’t let my feelings get the best of me. I think of my goals and ask myself the big WHY? And then I get the job done.

Find your zen: My favourite place is anywhere with a beach. I love the sense of peace water brings.

The Team Player

cover guy fitness advice

  • Top 10: Dylan Nesser
  • Age: 21
  • Profession: Student
  • Height/Weight: 1.8m/ 85kg

Keep moving: Working out fills the gap left by competitive rugby and water polo. I do cardio and weight training during the week, and on weekends I try and get in the pool, on the bike, or throw in some CrossFit. I do a lot of intervals, like sprints, rowing and spinning.

Thrive on competition: I have always loved the camaraderie of sport, and the fact that it builds character. I’ve learned to love the competition, not necessarily with my opponents, but with myself. Now the challenge to constantly improve and develop is what drives me.

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Picture the pump: When I need motivation to work out, I think of the feeling I get after training.

Start where you are: You don’t need a gym – just the right attitude, and a realistic goal. There’s no quick fix for living a healthy lifestyle; it’s an ongoing process. I want to show guys that it’s not all about the end result. Developing and improving yourself is more important.

The Coach


cover guy fitness advice

  • Top 10: Hendrik van der Merwe
  • Age: 27
  • Profession: Swim Coach/Author
  • Weight: 58kg

Do what you love: I recently retired from professional swimming. I’m a 5-time world champion, and qualified for the Paralympics 3 times. I currently coach swimming for the University of Pretoria (Tuks), and I’m also a motivational speaker and an author. My goal is always to uplift the community through fitness, motivation and health. I also need to set an example for the swimmers I coach.

Set small goals: I’m a big believer in thin slicing: the smaller the goal, the more motivation you have to achieve it.

Hack your heart rate: For cardio weeks, I swim a minimum of 8km at a low heart rate, combined with high-intensity boxing, battle ropes and medicine ball. Train in different heart rate zones for optimum volume, fitness and recovery across the week. I believe in functional fitness, not only looking in shape – that’s just a bonus for being fit!

The Dynamo

cover guy fitness advice

  • Top 10: Hleketani Makhubele
  • Age: 27
  • Profession: Fitness Manager
  • Height/ Weight: 1.86m/ 87kg

Do good to feel great: I strive to inspire, motivate and help people change their lives. I achieve that by improving their bodies, which boosts their confidence and self-esteem, which positively impacts other aspects of their life.

Get your head in the game: Be consistent, be willing to learn, and work hard. In my room, I have pictures of guys whose physique level I would love to reach. Whenever I lose motivation, I look at them, and I know: if they were able to do it, why can’t I achieve the same? All I have to do is go to the gym and work my hardest.

Fuel your physique: What you put in is what you’ll get out. Feed your body quality nutrients if you want it to reach peak performance in the gym.

Supersize your gains: Do supersets to achieve a more intense workout in a short period of time. Focus on proper form, keep it clean, and feel the exercise at the right place.

The Rebel

cover guy fitness advice

  • Top 10: Chad Viveiros
  • Age: 28
  • Profession: Key Account Manager
  • Height/ Weight: .83m/83kg


Push past failure: Be the hardest worker in the room. Lift heavy, and get a spotter to let you hit reps after failure. Jog to the gym, and jog home afterwards. Push yourself, HARD.

Nail down the basics: My three go-to drills are bench press, squat and deadlift.

Pick your team: Surround yourself with people you respect and admire. We’re all influenced by the people who we spend time with. Spend time with people who will make you better.

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Feed your future body: Find time for three meals a day. Eat for the size you want to be.

Start the day strong: Breakfast is a whey protein shake, a shot of espresso, and a quick sprint.

Puppy love: Dogs make everything better. Having a bad day? Pet a dog. Lonely? Get a dog. Ugly selfie? Smack on a SnapChat dog filter, and surprise – you’re cute again.

The TRI Guy

cover guy fitness advice

  • Top 10: Talton Cooke
  • Age: 25
  • Profession: Entrepreneur
  • Height/ Weight: 1.78m/ 80kg

Related: Our Cover Guy Runner Up Came Back From The Lowest Point In His Life By Turning To Fitness. Here’s How He Did It

Show your body you mean business: Being an entrepreneur is demanding; decision-making requires a strong mind and body. I achieve this by training every morning at 5am and eating the right foods for sustained energy. If you aren’t healthy, your business isn’t healthy. Six-packs for six figures!

Tailor your training: I aim for a good balance between cardio and strength training. When I’m training for Ironman or Comrades, cardio is intense. If not, three cardio sessions a week keeps me going.

Engage your brain: Pumping beats isn’t the only way to power your way through a sweat session. I listen to audiobooks during my workouts.

No need to cut carbs: Don’t Bant. Don’t not eat carbs; just stop eating four pizzas a week!

Trifecta of gains: Deadlift, concentrated bicep curls and squats.

The Trend Maker

cover guy fitness advice

  • Top 10: Shakir Galiem
  • Age: 21
  • Profession: Student/Entrepreneur
  • Height/ Weight: 1.83m/ 77kg


Eyes on the prize: My goal physique is what gets me out of bed in the morning. Each and every day I make sure to improve my physique in the most aesthetically pleasing way. That means holding myself to a high standard – and I’m happy with that.

Max out your gym time: Put your phone in the locker. It’s only distracting you on the gym floor. Shorten your rest periods between moves, to get as much blood pumped into the target muscles.

A post shared by Shakir Galiem (@shakirgaliem) on

Go mental: With every set and rep, connect your mind to the muscle being worked out for more effective stimulation. Build that mind-to-muscle connection.

On a mission in the kitchen: My staples are chicken breast, fish, pasta, oats and greenery. The golden rule is grill your food. If you have a sweet tooth, substitute honey to kill your sugar cravings.

The Soldier

cover guy fitness advice

  • Top 10: Brandon Duxbury
  • Age: 29
  • Profession: Personal Trainer
  • Height/ Weight: 1.67m/ 69kg

Lock and load: I follow fitness training techniques from when I served in the British Army. That means functional training, weights and calisthenics. My philosophy is train hard, fight easy. If you want to be the best, you have to train your best.

Do it for those who can’t: I remember serving with soldiers who are no longer able to train, so I put in double the effort for them. Getting my body into shape was never easy, but wherever I was in the world, I was able to train and work towards being the best version of myself.

Power moves: My top 3 exercises are muscle- ups, hanging leg raises and explosive push-ups.

Shelve your doubts: Just believe in yourself. Pain is temporary; pride is forever.

Fat-slashing cardio hack:  Every second morning I do 20-30 minutes of fasted cardio. Twice a week I go for a run, and twice I do sprint drills.

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