Published: 06:00, 10 February 2020
| Updated: 08:40, 10 February 2020
With more than a million subscribers, Kent dad Matt Morsia is the UK's number one fitness YouTuber.
In an exclusive interview with KentOnline, he tells of his meteoric rise from frustrated PE teacher to a social media phenomenon....
When his wife started maternity leave, Matt Morsia made a decision that would change their lives forever.
He was dropping a day of work as a PE teacher at Folkestone Academy in order to focus more on his YouTube channel.
Worried wife Sarah put her head in her hands and asked: “Are you sure? What about your pension? How are we going to afford to live?”
Three years later – with 160 million views to his name – Matt has long since quit the day job.
His channel MattDoesFitness now has even more subscribers than Joe Wicks, author of the best-selling Lean in 15 books.
The former University of Kent student has become the UK’s number one fitness YouTuber – and is ranked 14th in the world.
Last summer, such was the demand for more videos, that Sarah quit her teaching job at Hythe Bay Primary School to help her husband with the channel full-time.
In the last month alone it has had 24 million views, boosted by collaborations with former World’s Strongest Man Eddie Hall.
Millions more tune in for Matt's unique sense of humour and the heart-warming family interactions with Sarah and their adorable three-year-old son, Luca.
Matt, who grew up in Folkestone, now earns more in a month than he did in a year as a teacher.
He has contracts with five companies – including Gymshark and MyProtein – to promote their products.
The 34-year-old also has an app with 1,000 people signed up for his personalised training programmes.
Speaking at home in Hythe, he admits: “So many times I was like, what am I doing?
“But it was the best decision I ever made.”
So, how did the former Harvey Grammar School pupil get to where he is today? It certainly wasn’t always his dream to be one of the world’s biggest vloggers.
In 2011, he was ranked among the top three triple jumpers in the country - representing England internationally - and had his sights set on competing at the London Olympics.
But during training Matt suffered a stress fracture in his spine and for six months was completely out of action.
When he was finally able to get back in the gym – and with Brazil 2016 a distant four years away – his new obsession became lifting weights.
Sat with Matt in their kitchen, Sarah, 34, says to her husband: “When you couldn’t triple jump, I knew you needed something to do.
“The reason I liked you anyway was because you had something you were passionate about.”
The couple married in 2012 and it was Sarah who suggested Matt start putting workouts on YouTube.
“Within a few videos I got hooked,” says Matt.
“But I reckon I did it for three years with no income – four or five videos a week, each one after a day at work.”
Ultra-competitive Matt became a powerlifter, winning a silver medal in the European Championships in 2016.
The man-mountain had to consume 6,000 calories a day to maintain a bodyweight of 16st 5lb - and was able to bench press 180kg, deadlift 320kg and squat 265kg.
He was invited to powerlifting events and drew huge crowds to watch him in action.
“I thrive on it – it’s my dream,” he said. “I’m the biggest exhibitionist.”
One day he noticed eating challenges were trending on YouTube, so he made a video where he gobbled 10,000 calories worth of pizza, McDonald’s and donuts in a day, getting hundreds of thousands of views.
His record is devouring a gut-busting 25,000 calories in 24 hours – a feat watched 5.8 million times.
Matt, unsurprisingly, is not a fan of diets and insists getting into shape is all about exercise, building muscle mass and eating in moderation.
As well as uploading videos, Matt started writing training programmes for followers.
“That started to generate actual revenue,” he says. “Within a few months it was level with the school salary.
“I knew it was a bit risky but I decided to start dropping my teaching hours.”
Matt was worried that if his hobby became his full-time job then it wouldn’t be as fun.
“But it was the best decision I ever made,” he says.
“My content was a million times better, being able to travel and have time away.”
"It would be cool to be the biggest YouTuber in the world..."
Over the past seven years, Matt has published an incredible 1,400 videos – mostly filmed in Kent.
He records clips wherever and whenever he can, which can sometimes perplex those unfamiliar with the art of vlogging.
“Old people are so suspicious,” he says. “I have been thrown out of Waitrose three times because I was filming.”
As well as regularly updating his 600,000 Instagram followers, he uploads two videos to YouTube every week.
He puts maximum effort into every single one, often working 18-hour days to give his clips the best chance of going viral.
“Any YouTuber of my size would have a video editor, but I’m a massive control freak," he says.
“The fact that now it’s my job is sick. I genuinely love doing it."
The down-to-earth couple admit the constant demands of YouTube and Instagram can be exhausting. Social media is a beast that never sleeps.
But when the hard work pays off, it's "incredibly rewarding".
Matt spent 13 hours editing his most successful video, in which part he takes on the US Navy Seals fitness test with a fellow bodybuilder.
It has now been watched 14 million times.
Unsurprisingly, having gained 1.3 million subscribers, strangers often recognise him and stop to say hello – even on a family holiday to the Alps.
In recent years, other YouTubers’ fame has propelled them onto TV, with the likes of Joe Sugg and Saffron Barker starring on Strictly Come Dancing.
So, with Matt’s star rising, what would he say if the BBC came calling?
“I would consider it because it would be so funny,” he says.
More and more people now see YouTube and social media as an alternative career path to the traditional 9 to 5.
A recent survey revealed the most popular choice of profession for eight- to 12-year-olds in the UK is to become a vlogger.
For those who want to try to make a living on YouTube, Matt’s advice is to “just start doing it”.
“My first video was terrible," he says, "I was filming in my bedroom on a borrowed camera.
“It will be awkward to start with. But I’ve now done 1,400 videos. How many hours of practice is that?”
Matt's most watched video, above, has been viewed 14 million times
Aside from making the videos, 6ft 1in Matt - who now weighs 14st 8lb, with about 13% body fat - has to maintain his sculpted physique by training two hours a day, five days a week at the gym.
"More often than not going to the gym is the last thing I want to do," he admits. "I’m tired or sore. But I know not going isn’t an option.
“It’s my business. The more I put in, the more I get out of it. You can’t have a magic life where there is no stress.”
As a man obsessed with progression, what’s next for Matt?
“I’ve cracked YouTube,” he says.
“I thought one million subscribers was unattainable. But within a few weeks of achieving it I was thinking about what comes next.
“It would be cool to be the biggest YouTuber in the world.”
Reflecting on how Matt’s decision to quit the day job has turned out, Sarah adds: “It doesn’t even seem real.
“There are a lot of times in life where you might choose the risky thing.
“If you’ve got the dedication, you can do it.”