Written by Ron Harris
19 November 2021






The Martian Chronicles

Meet Martin ‘The Martian’ Fitzwater, 24-Year-Old Rising Star


By Ron Harris


Another Star Was Born


I came up in this sport and industry in a time when pro cards were exceedingly difficult to acquire. In the 1980s and ‘90s, if you were good enough to win the USA or Nationals in that era, you were already good enough to immediately start winning pro shows and would be a top-five threat at the Mr. Olympia. Names like Kevin Levrone, Shawn Ray, Flex Wheeler, Vince Taylor and Chris Cormier serve as evidence to this fact. That’s why the older members of the media like me have bemoaned the relatively lower quality of new pros in more recent years. It’s now common for men to win the USA or Nationals and never even place top five at a second- or third-tier pro show. Where are all the stars? The 2020 IFBB North American, held in a tent during the pandemic’s first and most devastating year, produced not one but two excellent examples of top-notch talent. You’re all familiar with the 26-year-old who won the super-heavyweight and overall titles, Nick Walker; who weeks later got fourth place at the Chicago Pro and more recently won the New York Pro en route to his first Arnold Classic and Mr. Olympia. On that same night, a big 23-year-old kid from Denver by way of Wyoming won the heavyweight title and also earned pro status – Martin Fitzwater. Thanks to training videos from his sponsor GASP, we watched him grow and prepare for his pro debut in Texas this past August. There, he finished a highly respectable fourth place in his first flex-for-pay outing. It’s been a while since we’ve seen someone so young who was so good, so it’s time we all got caught up to speed on Martin “The Martian” Fitzwater!


A Lifelong Athlete’s Next Sport


I often remark that there are two types of men that get into bodybuilding. The first comes into the sport/lifestyle out of insecurity; perhaps bullied, physically weak, and hoping more muscle will conquer their inadequacies. The others are more rare, those who were always athletic and often somewhat muscular already, for whom bodybuilding is the next logical progression as they had used weight training to improve their athletic performance and fell in love with both the lifting and the changes they saw in their bodies. Martin is a poster boy for that second category. His father put him in wrestling at only 3 years old, and he would be immersed in grappling until he was 16, in those later stages competing in three to four national tournaments a year. Since he was also playing up to three other sports a year, he got burnt out on wrestling and gave it up as he had little time for anything else in life. The wrestling coach also happened to be the high school’s track coach, and convinced Martin to start that in sophomore year. A natural, he won the state title that first season. By the end of high school, he was ranked eighth in the USA for the shot put, and had also been an all-state football player all four years. Did I mention he graduated with a 4.0 GPA too? That earned him a full scholarship to the nearby Division I University of Wyoming in Laramie, where he considered Physical Therapy but instead chose to pursue a degree in Pharmacy. “I could have gone somewhere else,” he admits, “but I grew up in a small town of 1,500 and was afraid to go to a big city.”


Finally, the Weights Are Used to Build a Physique


Martin may only be 24 years old, but he’s already been training for a while. At 9 years old he began doing push-ups and sit-ups to improve his performance on the wrestling mat, and at just 11 he was introduced to the iron. Fitzwater’s father gave him what many consider the bible of training, Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding, which he laughingly refers to as his ‘gateway.’ “I tried my best to apply it to athletes,” he explains. Though he wasn’t trying to get any bigger necessarily, Martin’s young body began to grow. His father encouraged him to eat three to four huge meals a day, and especially advocated red meat as a muscle builder. His family owned a cattle ranch, so beef was plentiful, and they were also avid hunters and fishers, and Martin ate his share of deer when they were in season. By age 13, bitter opponents, their coaches, and parents were accusing him of using steroids at middle school wrestling matches. By 14, Martin began to immerse himself in bodybuilding. “I watched every video in the series Kai Greene did for MD, along with everything on YouTube from Jay Cutler and Phil Heath,” he recalls. He really hit his stride and began growing much larger at age 18 when he started college. “I still never felt like the biggest guy, because I was always in the school gym with other shot-putters,” he tells us. “There were a few of them that were about 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds, and crazy strong.” Martin didn’t even realize he was strong himself until he joined a local commercial gym. “They saw me doing deadlifts with 500 pounds for reps and freaked out,” he says. “And to me that wasn’t anything special at all because those other guys did that all the time.”




Under Construction While Working Construction


Martin chose to leave college before completing his studies and would work in construction for the final two years before he turned pro in 2020. The highly physical job presented certain challenges to improving as a bodybuilder, as one might expect. “I tried training before work a few times, and I always felt like I might get injured lifting that early,” he says. “So I trained after eight to 10 hours of hard manual labor, and there were many times I was dragging ass.” As he grew and got heavier, progressing from 230 pounds to 240 and 250, the day job began taking a higher toll on his body. The most taxing phase was during his prep for the 2020 North American. “We had to build two huge decks, which meant carrying hundreds of boards every day, plus I had to tile a couple of bathrooms. Being bent over on the floor like that all day obliterated my lower back.” Still, he feels the grueling experience of bodybuilding with such a physically demanding job helped build character. “So many bodybuilders complain if they have to do any kind of work at all,” he says. “Now that I have transitioned into personal training and online coaching, it’s a cakewalk compared to when I was working construction.”


Feeding the Young Beast


Martin fully recognizes that the only reason he was able to continue gaining muscle mass in that time span was firstly because he had an understanding boss who allowed him to take meal breaks as needed, and more importantly, he has a truly insane appetite. “In the off-season I eat 8,500-9,000 calories a day,” he says. “My carbohydrate intake is usually over 1,000 grams daily.” Martin found he does best with high protein, high carbs, and low fat. “When I tried adding extra fats like nut butters, I got bloated and it hurt my appetite for my next meal,” he reveals. Martin eats clean year-round, eating plenty of chicken, turkey, red meat, and egg whites for protein and rice, Cream of Rice, and potatoes for carbs; with the fats coming from the meat and poultry. His “cheats” are Rice Krispies Treats before the workout, and intra-workout Gatorade. Even with all that food, Fitzwater was still limited in his gains by all the calories he was burning working construction. “Once I stopped doing that and all the food could really do its job with muscle recovery and growth, the gains were dramatic,” he tells us.




The Mile-High Mecca


Had Martin stayed in Wyoming, there’s a good chance he wouldn’t be a pro yet, and he certainly wouldn’t have placed top four in a pro show. Dylan Armbrust isn’t just the owner of Armbrust Pro Gym, he’s also a noted coach. Martin enlisted him to help improve his posing, and he began making the two-and-a-half-hour drive to see him on weekends. Brett Wilkin had recently moved to Denver from Iowa. The two met in the gym and decided to start training together on weekends when Fitzwater could make the trip. After nearly a year of this, Martin knew it was time to leave Wyoming. “It was either move to Denver or to Dallas where GASP, my sponsor, is based,” he explains. “But Brett and I made such perfect training partners and we were both making so much progress together that I knew I had to be in Denver.”


One aspect of Denver Martin didn’t need to adjust to was the altitude. Most have trouble acclimating to the thinner air at elevation, but not him. “Denver is about 5,200 feet above sea level, but my area of Wyoming was 7,200, a half-mile higher,” he says. “When other schools came to play football, they had to have oxygen tanks and masks on the sidelines for them.”


In addition to being one of the best gyms in the USA west of the Mississippi, Armburst Pro Gym has a very famous member in seven-time Mr. Olympia Phil Heath. Martin was fortunate enough to get to know the champ away from the crowds and bright lights. “I was able to spend some time with him more so before he decided to come back for the 2020 Mr. Olympia, and it was one of the coolest experiences ever,” he tells us. “I got to see the ambassador and mentor sides of Phil, and he gave me and Brett so much great advice about how to get to the top. He basically took us under his wing, and I will always be grateful for that opportunity from a living legend.”


Martin even notes that he chose the Colorado State as his first contest at age 20 because it had also been Heath’s first contest. And of course, the man himself, Dylan Armbrust, has played a significant role in Martin’s success too. “I call him my gym dad because he’s the same age as my dad,” Fitzwater laughs. “If we ever want or need a piece of equipment, he buys it. How many gym owners would do that?”




The Pro Debut


After turning pro late last summer at the North American, Martin had to figure out his next move. He came very close to jumping into the Chicago Pro just like Nick Walker did, though he would have sucked down to 212 for that division rather than battle the beasts in Open. “Going though my prep photos with Brett and my coach at the time Nelson Jones, I saw I had looked my very best at 232 pounds, so coming in 20 pounds lighter than that would have been a terrible idea,” he explains. “I got into competing to be an Open pro, not a 212, so had I done that show it would have been the only time you saw me in that division.” Instead, he went to work back in Denver adding mass, as he felt he would be competitive at 5-foot-7 somewhere in the 240s. Once he hit 260 and was ready to begin prep, picking the show wasn’t too difficult. “Timewise both Tampa and the Texas Pro made sense,” he says, “but GASP is based in Dallas so I felt like it would sort of be my hometown show.”


You know the rest. The young gun hit the Texas Pro stage at 242 pounds and managed to concede defeat only to winner Iain Valliere, runner-up Steve Kuclo, and man-mountain Phil Clahar. “It still feels like a dream,” Martin ponders. “I called my dad up excited to tell him I won my first paycheck as a pro bodybuilder. I still feel like that little kid who’s a fan of the sport and the stars, so getting that first callout with those guys didn’t even feel real to me. I love bodybuilding with everything I am, so it’s exciting that I get to live my dream every day.”


What Next?


It’s common for competitors to take long spans of time off between contests these days, but luckily Martin’s fans won’t have to wait too long. He might do the Texas show again, but there is no timeline other than he knows he will be back on stage in 2022.


“Right now, I’m just taking notes and figuring my physique out. When the time is right, I will strike. For now I’m just enjoying the process of learning my body better, training hard and making gains, and doing my best to produce educational and inspirational content for my social media and YouTube.”




YouTube: Martin “the Martian” Fitzwater



Contest History


2017 Colorado State - Second, Light Heavyweight

2018 Junior USA - Second, Light Heavyweight

2018 Junior Nationals - Fourth, Light Heavyweight

2019 Colorado State - Heavyweight and Overall Champion

2019 USA Championships - Fifth, Heavyweight

2019 North American - Second, Heavyweight

2020 North American - Heavyweight Winner

2021 Texas Pro - Fourth Place


Top Gym Lifts


Incline Barbell Press: 465 x 7

Bench Press: 465 x 8

Deadlift: 675 x 3

Icarian Hack Squat: 11 plates each side x 12

Cybex Hack Squat: 8 plates each side x 10




Why ‘Martin the Martian’?


“The Martian nickname came from when I got into bodybuilding,” Martin explains. “Everyone was so freaked out by how big I was at such a young age. I was always wearing Looney Tunes cartoon T-shirts. One day I had one with the Marvin the Martian character, and someone at the gym said they would call me Martin the Martian because Marvin was too small. The nickname stuck and I liked it so much that I have an alien doing a front double bicep tattooed on my wrist.”


Ron Harris got his start in the bodybuilding industry during the eight years he worked in Los Angeles as Associate Producer for ESPN’s “American Muscle Magazine” show in the 1990s. Since 1992 he has published nearly 5,000 articles in bodybuilding and fitness magazines, making him the most prolific bodybuilding writer ever. Ron has been training since the age of 14 and competing as a bodybuilder since 1989. He lives with his wife and two children in the Boston area. Facebook Instagram