Senior bodybuilder bulks up


After an announcer calls his number, senior Matt Karis flexes one of the mandatory poses during his first bodybuilding competition. Karis placed fourth in the teen division, competing at Jefferson High School in Rockford on Oct. 9. Photo by Drew Mutchnik

Oiled-up, spray-tanned and wearing only a Speedo, senior Matt Karis walked onto the auditorium stage for his first bodybuilding competition at Jefferson High School in Rockford. At the competition, Karis was told by the announcer to turn and flex at every angle to show off the physique he had been training for months to achieve.

“Before getting on the stage, I was really nervous,” said Karis. “Once you’re on there, it’s a different thing.

“The feeling of being nervous just disappeared. I knew that all the time I spent preparing was for this, it was finally worth it just for that feeling on stage.”

At the Oct. 19 competition, bodybuilders were called up to the stage by the numbers they wore on their swimsuits and told to pose and flex in certain positions. Karis was in the teen group for competitors 19-years-olds and younger. There were several other groups at the competition.

“It’s definitely weird being one of the youngest guys there because you see yourself in the gym and you’re like, ‘I look good,’ but then you see older people that look five to 10 times better than you.”

Despite being nervous for his first competition, he was glad to see that there were other teenagers he could talk to, Karis said.

“There’s a pump-up room that you’re in beforehand,” said Karis. “Just a bunch of dudes in Speedos and spray tans, lifting weights.”

Karis began seriously lifting after gaining weight during quarantine. His physique caught the attention of other gym members.

According to ex-bodybuilder Chris Manousselis, who has spent time training Karis, Karis’ smaller waist and wide shoulders are strong bodybuilding physique.

In addition to an intense lifting schedule, bodybuilding places a heavy emphasis on cardio. Karis wakes up early in the morning for cardio training, and then does more cardio after school followed by weight training in the evening.

In the weeks before a bodybuilding competition, competitors begin to prepare with a rigorous diet.

According to Manousselis, it is important that bodybuilders consume foods low in carbohydrates and fats but high in protein to maintain muscle mass.

According to Karis, he ate only ground turkey, egg whites, chicken and lettuce in the two weeks leading up to his competition.

“After the competition, me and my buddies went to Texas Roadhouse,” said Karis. “We ate so many of those little bread rolls, so I’d say I got my carbs in after.”

Having played football since fourth grade, Karis said his decision to pursue bodybuilding instead of football for his senior year was one of the hardest decisions he has had to make.

“I really just have passion and love for just being in the gym for hours at a time and never get bored of it,” Karis said.