Mat Fraser Talks Back Surgery, Chest Hair Aesthetics, and Electronic Muscle Stimulation

Mat Fraser, the winner of the 2017 Reebok CrossFit Games and Fittest Man on Earth™, stopped by the Reebok CrossFit Games Update Studio to answer a few questions from Facebook and Instagram. Here are some of the most interesting nuggets we took away from the interview (lightly edited for length and clarity).

As soon as he realizes he hates an exercise, he focuses on doing it as often as possible.

As soon as I see a workout where it’s like oh, I don’t want to do that… that’s pretty much what my next thirty days is gonna consist of: just that.

He’s a huge fan of electronic muscle stimulation (EMS).

I’ve been using the Compex a lot lately, you know, it just helps stretch the things that are tough to stretch. After the 2016 Games my ankles were in a bad spot, I couldn’t go below parallel. (…)  And it was like, two sessions with the Compex and boom, fixed. So I have to give credit where credit’s due, and that thing kinda saved my ass last year.

He thinks his chest hair probably slows him down.

It definitely makes you less aerodynamic. I’m definitely pulling a couple of extra pounds of resistance when I’m swimming, so I definitely wouldn’t suggest it (…) (but) I think it looks great.

He deliberately trains certain movements while fatigued.

That was a thing I really struggled with in the beginning. Fresh, I could do, say, fifty unbroken pull-ups, no problem. But then as soon as my heart rate was up and I was breathing hard I was doing sets of five.

So the way I fixed that was I would get out of breath and then do pull-ups. And then get out of breath again, and do more pull-ups. If you have trouble doing stuff when you’re fatigued, get fatigued and start practicing.

He should have spent more time recovering from his back injuries.

I was literally one year to the day from surgery when I hit my old numbers, like 130-kilo snatch, 155-kilo clean & jerk. But that was coming back way too quickly.

I put myself in some very risky situations of thinking that I rebroke my back. So if I could go back and do that again I would have stretched that recovery out over a year and a half, two years. Just give it time. In the grand scheme of things, what’s that extra month of taking it easy? (…)

Your body needs time to heal, that’s the biggest thing. I tried to rush back and (the doctors said), “What are you doing? You’re trying to shave a week off your recovery but like you’re putting yourself in such a risky position. Just take the extra week, the extra month, give it time.

Fraser also discusses how he maintains his relationship, if he has an off season, and which Super Troopers character he relates to the most. (It’s Farva.) For fans of Fraser, it’s a must watch.

Featured image via @mathewfras on Instagram.


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Nick is a content producer and journalist with over seven years’ experience reporting on four continents. His first articles about health were on a cholera outbreak in rural Kenya while he was reporting for a French humanitarian organization. His next writing job was covering the nightlife scene in Shanghai. He’s written on a lot of different kinds of things, but his passion for health ultimately led him to cover it full time.Shanghai was where he managed to publish his first health related article (it was on managing diarrhea), he then went on to produce a radio documentary about bodybuilding in Australia before he finished his Master’s degrees in Journalism and International Relations and headed to New York City. Here, he’s been writing on health full time for more than five years for outlets like Men's Health, VICE, and Popular Science.Nick’s interest in health kind of comes from an existential angle: how are we meant to live? How do we reach our potential? Does the body influence the mind? (Believe it or not, his politics Master’s focused on religion.)Questions like these took him through a lot of different areas of health and fitness like gymnastics, vegetarianism, kettlebell training, fasting, CrossFit, Paleo, and so on, until he realized (or decided) that strength training fit best with the ideas of continuous, measurable self improvement.At BarBend his writing focuses a little more on nutrition and long-form content with a heaping dose of strength training. His underlying belief is in the middle path: you don’t have to count every calorie and complete every workout in order to benefit from a healthy lifestyle and a stronger body. Plus, big traps are cool.