Fitness Secrets From Our 2017 MH Cover Guys

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

Chelsea Geach & Kieran Legg |

Hundreds of guys entered the Men’s Health Magazine Cover Guy Competition but only 2 winners were chosen. Here is the exclusive story on the two winners as well as the rest of the top 10 on how they achieve their fitness goals.

They have full-time jobs, families and commitments – just like you do. The difference: they put in the work, fight through t h e pain, and inspire others to be better. We partnered with Versace to bring you their hard-earned lessons. Leverage them to start your cover guy journey.

Head to @menshealthza on Instagram to see the cover guy posts and keep up to date with the latest Men’s Health news and posts.

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The Maverick

Winner: Buntu Matshaya

Age: 27

Profession: Fitness Instructor

Height/Weight: 1.82/ 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. It’s exhausting stuff, and he fuels accordingly: with a giant breakfast of fruit, oats, peanut butter and a protein shake. Because he leads classes throughout the day, Buntu can’t let his energy levels tank, ever. He supplements his major meals with snacks of nuts, eggs, and fruit. It’s just about enough to see him over the finish line, giving him the resources to recover and do the same thing all over again tomorrow. “My friend once told me, you always have another level.” For rest days, he meets up with the Khanki’s Angels Men’s Netball Club every Sunday for a pick-up game. Players make weekly donations of blankets, shoes, or jerseys to local homeless shelters, orphanages and schools. “Fitness started with me looking up to my dad, and now it’s become more than just a part of me – it’s my life.”

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.”

IG: @bun2muchhigher


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The Champ

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 this year, 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.” Jason credits much of his prowess in the box to a solid foundation of Arnie-inspired bodybuilding training And most importantly, he tries to squeeze as much out of every day, hour, or minute as he can (including spending as much time with his kids as he can). Jason’s happy to be here. He’s almost died twice to be here, and he’s not letting any opportunities slip through his grasp.

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.”

IG: @j_smithsa

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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.

IG: @tumiseeco

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The Team Player

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.

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.

IG: @dylanneser


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The Coach

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 you 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!

IG: @coachlegsofficial



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The Dynamo

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.

IG: @hleketani_


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The Rebel

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.

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 SnapChat dog filter, and surprise – you’re cute again

IG: @mrviveiros


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The TRI Guy

Top 10: Talton Cooke

Age: 25

Profession: Entrepreneur

Height/ Weight: 1.78m/ 80kg



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.

IG: @talton_douglas

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The Trend Maker

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.

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

IG: @shakirgaliem

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The Soldier

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.

IG: @brandon_duxbury



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