Shape Shifters


The UK’s leading personal trainer, Matt Roberts is a goliath of the gym and one of the world’s biggest names in health and fitness. Simon Bartlett hits the gym to find out what a life-changing training and nutrition plan can really do

How did you get into personal training?

My dad, John Roberts, was a professional football player, who played for both Arsenal and the Welsh national team, so I was involved in the world of sport and fitness from a very early age and became a sprinter when I was in my teens. From there, I became fascinated with the science behind sport. Back then, there were very few places where you could find fitness industry specialists, and I identified a gap in the market for one-to-one training – my career has subsequently evolved from an already passionate health and fitness background to one that incorporates a more bespoke approach to wellbeing.

What are the core qualities you use in personal fitness?

You have to be an empathetic listener and have a strong desire to produce for others, not just yourself. It’s about the people you’re training, not you. Most of the best personal trainers are both perfectionists and nerds – we’re obsessed with research and data.

Is it important for clients to also work out at home?

Absolutely. The human body is designed to do many different things. With this in mind, we work with individuals to plan out their ‘perfect week’. What do they need to do in terms of health and fitness every day? Then we direct them from there. We’re not just trainers, we’re programme managers too. It’s really important to manage a client’s routine so they can keep it up, whether it’s a home or gym workout.

How will the role of personal trainers evolve in the next few years?

We’re going to see a stronger shift towards artificial intelligence (AI) – it’s already proven itself as an excellent bolt-on to personal training. Clients can use it to access their programmes when they’re not in a position to consult their trainer personally. Trainers in turn, will have to become more like programme managers, rather than just focussing on the physical training, in order to help clients work with this new tech. I also think we’re going to see a strong movement toward trainers specialising in certain areas, whether that be back specialists, post pregnancy or otherwise. Clients will really find their USPs in this way and will be able to go to different providers for different needs.

How do you tailor programmes?

We have a tiered approach which helps us figure out how best to help individual clients. We always start by conducting a functional movement analysis, and also use 3D body mapping technology called Styku, which takes a scan of the client’s body to provide valuable insight such as measurements and body composition. We also discuss their diet with them in order to create a nutrition plan depending on what they need. In some cases where it may be required, we also take urine, blood and saliva samples in order to find out why a client may be having certain issues.

Is there a particular piece of equipment that you swear by?

Good personal trainers use a vast array of equipment. It’s important to be creative with what you have to hand. Barbells are particularly useful as they can be used for a variety of purposes and styles of training.

How important is nutrition in fitness plans?

We always conduct a strong analysis at the start of a client programme. Food is just as important as exercise, so it’s vital that we find out about a person’s diet and work hard to develop a way of optimising it for them. Around 25% of our clients have intensive diet plans to achieve their goals, and about 75% of them have maintenance plans which are designed to help them achieve a good standard of nutrition and keep it up. We can assess what is required for each by using our dedicated in-house nutritionist.


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