Bernadett Matassa: Ab-solutely Passionate About Fitness
By: Ruth Silverman
Photos by: Kristia Knowles
Bernadett Matassa jokes about her accent making it difficult to understand her, but the IFBB bikini-turned-figure pro from Florida by way of Szeged, Hungary, couldn’t be clearer about her outlook on life. “I’m extremely passionate about what I do and goal oriented,” the 5’2” pixie powerhouse declared when asked to describe herself. “I’m the person who will absolutely never give up.”
For the one-time powerlifter—she won the ’03 European Championships in the 112-pound class—that currently means building up her bod to be competitive in figure. In fact it’s a return to that division for Bernadett Matassa , who’s come full circle since lower-back problems forced her to switch focus and she got into bodybuilding-style training. Along the way, she’s become an experienced trainer and coach, giving her all for her weight-loss clients—all of which suggests that the lady knows a thing or two about growing a physique and getting in shape.
Well-rounded in more than her bodyparts, Bernadett Matassa holds degrees in exercise science and Renaissance and baroque music. She taught music and literature at one time, sang in choirs most of her life and plays the recorder, and she played a small part in a movie called “Mountain Mafia.” As with her passion for music, her passion for fitness goes back to early childhood. “I was involved in so many things—from kickboxing to judo to soccer,” said the lifelong athlete. As a teen she was drawn to powerlifting because, “ I got tired of always competing with someone else.” It was a good thing while it lasted.
Bernadett Matassa’s journey to physique competition had two legs. Success at the Europeans led her to the U.S., and she started training with Michael Matassa. Romance bloomed, then marriage. Once the decision was made to try figure—this was B.B.—before bikini—the second leg began. The process of bringing Bernadett’s physique down for figure was one of building up—not what you might expect. She had little muscle tone. “I was chubby, but I was very strong. In powerlifting, it’s not so important how much muscle you carry. You have to have the technique; you have to have the strength.” As she discovered, training to build muscle is almost the opposite of the low-rep, very heavy weight training she was used to. “I had to totally change my diet, my training.” Did she enjoy it? “I loved it! It was totally different area.”
After getting her feet wet onstage, Bernadett Matassa took a break, during which she and Michael welcomed their son, Aiden, now 10, and built their business, BodySculpting, a 4.000-square-foot fitness center near Daytona Beach, Florida. When bikini was introduced in 2009, she was ready to go, taking first place at a number of contests, including the Fort Lauderdale Cup. In 2012 she petitioned the Hungarian federation and was granted her pro card.
Now the journey continues. “I did four or five bikini shows in two years, and then last year I transferred to figure. The judges said I am just too muscular, too ripped,” she related. “I’m crazy about conditioning, and I like to be very lean and very ripped. In bikini that’s not what they’re looking for.” What does “lean and very ripped” mean in terms a petite figure physique? “I’m normally averaging 8 to 10 percent bodyfat. I always have abs showing—sometimes obvious, when I’m getting ready for the stage, with veins showing; sometimes offseason, when I don’t have veins.”
Normally, she works out six days a week, but with the more intense program she needs to build muscle, she also needs more recovery time, and she’s dropped to a four-day program. She trains abs every day that she works out.
Her current split reflects her goals. “I need more back and more shoulders, so I’m working my upper body a lot,” she said.
Monday: Chest and back
Tuesday: Legs, biceps and triceps
Thursday: Back and shoulders
Friday: Legs, triceps and biceps
For cardio she does 30 minutes on the StairMaster, six times a week, “just to maintain.”
Bernadett stepped onstage in 2015 at 115 pounds, 10 heavier than her bikini body and “leaner than I was before.” Even now, as she’s eating more to nourish the muscle growth, she keeps her abs front and center in her training. “I train abs for or five times a week, but I focus on different parts. Say, Monday I do lower abs, then Tuesday I do upper abs, then Thursday I will do side abs
The medicine-ball exercises shown here, which are described in the box on page tk, are just a few of the many moves she uses to sculpt and maintain her very conditioned core. Competing on the Olympia stage is a major goal for this pixie powerhouse, “a dream that I will work very hard to make happen. On the other hand,” she said, her own motivation comes from more than the desire to succeed in competition. “I train 13 people a day,” Bernadett said. “They look up to me, and for them to see that I live this lifestyle and it’s doable—and that you can look like this—gives them a lot of hope and encouragement. That’s my passion.”
Bernadett Matassa Ab-solute Medicine-Ball Exercises
Though she rotates among a wide variety of movements in her ab routines,Bernadett Matassa likes the four exercises demonstrated here because “they’re a little more doable for everyone out there.”
Choose a medicine-ball size that you can handle well, she said. Beginners will probably want a three-to-five-pound ball.
1) These work the side abs, or obliques. Bend over slightly to one side—about two o’clock—holding the ball with both hands at your side. Straighten up, sweeping the ball diagonally across your body and pushing it overhead as you lean to the other side. “Try to engage your abs so that they are nice and tight,” she said. “You don’t want to lean too much, or you will engage other muscles. You don’t want to lift your feet off the ground. Make sure your hips are not turning. The only things that turn are the ball and your shoulders.”
Do 3 x 15-20 per side.
2) This move concentrates on the hip flexors and lower back as well as the ab area and is more of a stretch for the hip flexors, groin area and lower back. Bend forward at 45 degrees, holding the ball with your arms straight down in front of you. Stand, sweeping the ball overhead, holding your abs tight.
Do 3 x 15.
3) This more-advanced exercise hits the abs and obliques. Sit on your glutes with your legs off the floor and slightly bent, your abs tight and your upper body hinged back. Hold the medicine ball to one side. Move the ball from side to side. Your legs and your face are pointed forward. Again, only the shoulders move as your tight abs provide the balance. Exhale and contract on each side.
Do 2 x 1 minute.
4) This is a big-time core stabilizer and hits both the upper- and lower-ab areas. Hold the ball at your chest and squat, with your legs a little wider than shoulder width. Stand, lifting the ball overhead as you bend one leg. Said Bernadett Matassa , “You start out on two legs and balanced, but when your arms go overhead and you’re on one leg, you have to engage your abs to maintain balance.”
Do 3 x 15 per side.
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