That Exercise You Learned On IG Probably Sucks
There’s lots of misinformation out there. Here’s how to see through it.
Please, for the love of god, stop listening to the vast majority of Instagram “trainers”, “online coaches”, and “influencers”.
Oh, celebrities too. Especially them.
The fitness industry is in a real weird place right now. It’s basically in a wild west phase where anything goes.
Anyone can hop on Instagram, change their name, list themselves as a trainer or online coach in their bio, and boom. Now they’re a qualified expert.
Let me make something clear. This isn’t going to be some whiny blog post where I shit all over your favorite page on Instagram.
Okay, maybe it will be a little bit.
But my main priority is to help you understand that until you develop a minimum threshold of knowledge with all this fitness and nutrition stuff, it’s nearly impossible for you to tell the difference between someone who’s actually offering solid advice, and someone who’s just spewing a bunch of BS.
And there’s a loooooot of BS out there. Not just on IG. Every other person out there thinks they’re qualified to give out advice.
Chances are that you’ve probably been misled at one time or another and there’s a much better way to go about things than what you’re currently aware of.
I could spend an eternity going through the infinite amount of misconceptions and thoroughly explain why each and every single one is wrong, so instead I’m going to do something a bit more all-encompassing and effective.
In this article I’ll break down how this false information comes into existence, how it spreads, some things to watch out for, and who to follow/listen to instead.
My goal is to help you understand why there’s so much misinformation out there, so that hopefully you can begin to see through it
Much like Morpheus awakening Neo to the reality of the Matrix, I want to uncover your eyes to the absolutely amazing levels of stupidity prevalent on the internet.
I want to bring you into this new world of science-based, practical methods so you can actually make some real results, and not blame your lack thereof on things outside of your control, like genetics.
Maybe while bitching and moaning about things that annoy me in the process.
First, let’s break down why we fall for misinformation in the first place.
Usually, the BS is a little bit more appealing to try out.
While what works best is pretty simple… and boring.
But we humans don’t like that. We like flashy and exciting. We like “Ancient Chinese Secrets”, “One Weird Tricks”, and “Little Known Hacks That Doctor’s Hate”.
Now most people can recognize those as corny stereotypes, but that’s mainly because everyone has seen them one time or another in sketchy ads that will probably give your computer AIDS if you click on them.
The same things still exist, but now these same tropes have taken on a new form that most don’t instantly see past yet.
- Otherwise decent exercises that include some extra flare – combining two movements into one, adding a cute little jump or twist, etc
- Many supplements including but not limited to “Fit Tea” Fat burners, test boosters, etc.
- ”Revolutionary” and “new” workout methods.
It’s all part of the same old steamy pile of BS.
We’re drawn to these things because we as humans have this innate craving for wonder and excitement.
Not only does some odd and unique twist to an exercise probably look more fun to do, but it’s more fun to believe that there’s some complex reason for why you can’t lose weight, and it all comes down to eliminating this one horrible food which is screwing up your hormones and yadda yadda yadda.
When in reality you probably simply eat too much and don’t exercise enough.
(Not nearly as fun or exciting to believe, eh?)
But there’s more to it than that. Deep down we all want to believe we’re just one small, unexpected step away from being where we want to be.
Maybe you’ve tried and failed many times before so you look to something that appears new and revolutionary as your chance to finally see the results you’ve desperately wanted.
Maybe you struggle to stick with a diet and workout regimen so the thought of having some sort of easy way out with some small trick has an irresistible allure.
I’m sorry to burst your bubble here, but when it comes to advice, I’m more the type to go in dry.
The real issue holding you back is probably you, and the effort you’re putting forth. Or the flawed methods you’re following. No amount of hacks or tricks will help you.
Now it’s not that you’re dumb for believing some of these things.
(Not necessarily, anyway.)
The point I’m making is that we all have this inherent bias to believe the flashy and fun BS. We all want “One Weird Tricks”, not hard work. It’s normal.
The thing is, you probably already know a lot of what you need to know. Exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, cut the junk food. Lift weights to build muscle and do cardio to burn more calories and assist in burning fat.
That’s not to say there aren’t many common misconceptions, but most fitness and nutrition common sense is on the right track, so that if you work hard and put some reliable effort forth towards it, you will see results.
What’s more important you learn are practical methods to actually applying the basics consistently, without stopping and starting every few months. What you probably need more than anything involves behavioral change strategies and tips to develop strong habits and routines.
Totally not sexy compared to some superfood which supposedly boosts your testosterone ten-fold, right?
What a lot of these so-called “experts” out there are doing is overcomplicating the process, pushing people further away from common sense, and making it all ever more difficult with methods that may look cool, but aren’t practical.
You’re going to want to naturally revert to what appears to be the more fun or easier option, but you need to be smarter than that. It’s time you swallow the red pill, cut through the BS, and start doing things the right way. It’s not the easiest pill to swallow, but nothing worth having ever comes easy.
It all comes down to this stupid little game we call marketing.
What works is often brutally boring and simple – not sexy or very marketable whatsoever.
I’ve read from and studied under many fitness marketing experts, and there’s one common theme that comes up.
They tell you that you have to try and work around this. Come up with a unique way to present the same old ideas to spark some new life into them. Tag some new flashy name to the good ol’ reliable method every professional already knows about. Find some new angle to present it with, or some specific feature to highlight that many aren’t aware of.
Just repackaging of the same old ideas.
This is what you often see with the fads that come and go. There’s been a variety of low carb diets, styles of circuit training, and HIIT that have come and gone and then come around again every 5, 10, or 20 years. It’s never anything all that new. It’s just an old idea with nice shiny new packaging.
It’s actually very interesting when you talk to guys who have been around for a while, and have seen some things come up 2, 3, 4 different times, all spun a different way.
Behind all of these fads is some smug bastard who knew exactly what he was doing raking in the $$$, while an army of ignorant “fitness experts” who fully bought in to the idea promote it further.
These so-called “experts” take the bait, accept this new flashy fad as their gospel, and then this nonsense spreads like a wildfire as they share it with everyone who looks to them for advice.
While a skilled marketer can twist these boring but effective methods into something appealing, many fads were built from the ground up with the priority being marketability and not effectiveness, so naturally they’re much more prevalent.
Without having a base of knowledge in nutrition, physiology, exercise science, and simply a decent amount of experience actually applying it all yourself, it’s hard to tell what’s good and what’s not. Your bullshit meter hasn’t been calibrated whatsoever.
The thing is, you don’t have to be an actual fitness expert to be great at marketing, and oftentimes these skills don’t coincide within the same individual. Trust me, I’ve tried to master both, it ain’t fuckin’ easy.
Hopefully this begins to paint the picture of why poor information is so prevalent and valid information that actually works isn’t. Not only do we have a bias to believe the BS, but the people promoting it often have much better skills at garnering attention and building a following than those sharing solid information.
Actually being knowledgeable, sincere, and more of a bookworm than a people person sort of works against you. Yet those are often qualities the most knowledgeable fitness coaches possess.
Your only hope in seeing the light is by having that bullshit meter up to regulation. So in the next few sections I’m going to go through what to watch out for, so we can try and fine-tune that bad boy.
There’s more to being an expert than just looking like you work out.
Obviously if someone is in amazing shape, they must know a thing or two right?
Yes and no.
Personal experience and success with fitness is incredibly valuable. Even as a fitness coach, there are some things that are difficult to learn without going through it yourself, even if you’re educated and experienced helping dozens of other people.
That’s really what it comes down to right there. Expertise is a result of all 3 of those things – education, experience helping others, and experience working on yourself.
Someone may be incredibly book smart, but without experience, will often struggle to effectively implement the ideas in practice.
I often find that people who have experience helping others but no solid understanding of the science get stuck on outdated or inefficient ways of doing things, overvalue things that don’t matter at all, and are very resistant to change.
(Although admittedly, if you have to choose one, experience successfully helping others is the most important)
Someone who only has personal success working on themselves often demonstrates both of those shortcomings. They often struggle to effectively implement the same methods that worked for them with someone else, and get stuck thinking there’s a one-size-fits-all solution for everybody.
Sort of like when you see a kid who keeps trying to jam a square peg into a round hole.
Many so-called “experts” out there only possess the personal experience part, and are primary examples of the Dunning-Kruger effect – basically that ignorant people tend to be overconfident and overestimate their knowledge.
The thing is, even while personal success does teach you valuable things, it comes easier to some more than others due to their genetics.
Some people have a significant genetic advantage to building muscle and will always be able to do so at a faster rate. So what seems to work for them, may not work nearly as well for the masses.
Other genetic factors are muscle shape, skeletal structure, and body fat distribution.
If your muscles are shaped a certain way, you may look more aesthetic or muscular than you really are – some people’s muscles simply “pop” a little bit more. This seems to be very common in anyone with very strong West African genes. They can be very skinny, yet defined and muscular looking. I’m sure everyone has that one friend who is very skinny, but yet at the same time has lots of vascularity and really defined muscles.
Skeletal structure also plays a big role. For guys, wide shoulders are widely sought after. Building up muscle helps, but the width of your collarbone is the biggest factor. Many women work out to develop a more curvy look, which is a wider pelvis plays into the look heavily.
Now combo that with fat distribution – where you hold your fat. That’s all genetic too. Some women simply hold more fat in their butt instead of their waist, further feeding into the curvy look. Some people simply have an easier time maintaining a flat stomach and avoiding love handles due to where their body naturally stores their fat.
Basically, your genetics heavily influence how good you look. Not just in terms of ability to grow muscle and how you hold your fat, but things entirely out of your control like skeletal structure play a large role too. Many popular IG fitness people have all of these playing to their advantage.
This seems to be particularly more prevalent for women as most men’s fitness idols involve a decent amount of muscle mass. While as I mentioned some people simply do put on muscle easier, it isn’t something you necessarily stumble into. You still have to work for it, and you’re going to learn some things of value in the process.
Meanwhile, some women already fit the goal of other women without working out a day in their lives. Skinny, big butt (that’s all due to lucky fat genetics), and preferable bone structure..
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of these types giving out fitness advice. Someone that has no personal experience or success with fitness, no experience successfully helping others, and no real knowledge or education. See the issue?
This is exactly why you shouldn’t put too much faith in someone’s expertise based solely on their looks. Add the possibility of steroids, fat loss drugs, photoshop, and the brazen use of optimal lighting and angles to perpetuate an image that doesn’t represent reality, appearance is an unreliable measure of expertise.
Yet this doesn’t stop many of them out there from deciding to brand themselves as a fitness or nutrition expert while selling Ebooks for $25 that provide immensely less value compared to free ones you can find.
Social media is mostly for entertainment, which often comes at the expense of quality information.
Think about this:
When you open up Instagram, would you be more interested in seeing a short video with a series of fun looking exercise ideas, or a long drawn out monologue of how to perform an exercise correctly, and actually sit there and watch it for 2-10 minutes?
I’m assuming most would pick the former.
The entire platform is built around receiving tiny little hits of dopamine in the form of bite-sized content. Visually appealing and easy to consume content is rewarded, and unfortunately it’s not always easy to fit good info into those parameters.
(This also comes back to how typically, as mentioned before, the skills for creating the type of content good for IG and the knowledge of an actual fitness expert often don’t coincide within the same person.)
For example, one of the most integral parts of building strength and muscle is the effort you’re putting into the exercise. You should be struggling to squeeze out the last few reps of an exercise. Your form will be a bit shaky, and you’ll probably be uncontrollably making an ugly face.
Meanwhile what you often actually see is perfectly manicured BS which probably doesn’t reflect what that person actually does off camera.
Exercise selection, exercise method, meal ideas, you see it with it all.
One of the most common things I see from female “influencers” are videos of these cardio circuits where every exercise is the bastard child of two otherwise decent exercises, like a lunge and a bicep curl morphed into one movement, or unnecessary cute little jumps and twists added.
These may add to the visual appeal and make the workout seem “fun”, but what these often do is take away from their actual practical use.
Your biceps are a lot weaker than your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes – all the muscles used during a lunge. There’s no way in hell the weight you’re using for bicep curls will effectively exhaust your legs.
You’re probably better off just doing lunges with a heavier weight, and in fact, more women should probably be lifting heavy weights to build the body they want.
The same can often be said with random jumps or twists added to exercises.
You’re probably better off sticking to the basics. Squats, lunges, hip hinges, upper body presses and pulls both done horizontally and vertically, and then something for the core.
Really, there isn’t a whole lot that’s visually appealing about an actual effective workout program. You’ll be doing a lot of the same movements over and over and over again for weeks to months on end. Many of these “influencers” just videotape fluff they don’t actually do during their workout, just so they have some content to put out.
The same goes for nutrition. Have you ever seen these elaborate examples of someone meal prepping with 2 dozen containers of perfectly portioned meals?
Yeah it’s aesthetic, but hardly the most practical way to go about it.
First of all, who the fuck as nearly 30 tupperware?
But unless you’re weighing your food and tracking your macros, there isn’t really a benefit
Meanwhile here’s what actual practical meal prep looks like.
Each week I make 4 lbs of ground beef for taco meat, and a few lbs of rice and beans. I keep each in 2 huge tupperwares, take out as much as I need for individual meals, and have smaller ones to bring with me for travel if need be.
It’s not easy on the eyes and the food resembles defecate more than anything else. But it tastes good, and fits a large portion of my nutritional needs for the meals I eat them in.
It’s also easy to make. I brown a bunch of ground beef. Mix in seasoning and refried beans. Throw it all in a tupperware. Done. Now I can make burritos and a ton of other meals with it as a core ingredient.
I make the rice and beans in a slow cooker. Throw everything in it and I fuck off for the next 8-12 hours. Then I put it into a tupperware. Done.
Each of these take a very minimal time to put together. Meanwhile cooking several things all at once and perfectly separating out 3-5 different foods into dozens of individual tupperwares might take some time.
Add some things which require no time to prep like raw fruits and veggies, yogurt, etc and you have some easy, well balanced meals.
Let’s be real here. You’re probably like me and most of the time you’re too lazy to cook for yourself anyways. When you come home after a long day at work and you’re starving, do you really want to spend a few hours trying to learn how to make Low-Carb Chicken Alfredo using a homemade sugar-free pasta sauce with a side of cauliflower “breadsticks”, or do you want something quick and easy?
Do you really need fancy and aesthetic, or do you need practical? Learning how to make something new and putting in that extra effort every here and there is great, but what are you realistically going to do 99% of the time?
But again, practicality doesn’t get likes on the ‘gram.
Be wary of cookie-cutter programs, Ebooks, and “Online Coaches”
This all comes back to the fact that despite how many of these influencers look great and have the ability to create popular content, they don’t really know what they’re doing and lack actual education and experience training others.
An experienced coach knows that practicality is key, and truly helping someone takes a lot more than a random assortment of exercise and meal ideas.
This affects much more than the social media content they put out, though. Many of them sell Ebooks or exercise programs, which you need to be very careful of.
Effectively teaching an exercise takes more than just a quick demo. You might lack the proper mobility to do the exercise correctly, as in, no matter how hard you try, you will not do it with correct form. So, you’ll need another exercise that works better with your body’s current capabilities.
It takes a real professional to spot those issues and make the proper adjustments. There isn’t always a one-size-fits-all.
But really, an experienced coach knows that people don’t really need a complex exercise program or nutrition plan. Not really. What most people need is to consistently put a real effort towards doing the basics well. Only once that has been done consistently for a year or two, then will you graduate into needing some of the more complex modalities.
It’s probably going to be significantly easier for a young college kid still living at home to commit to a program than it is a single mom of 3 who’s still working full time. Most often, the struggles people are having are more complex than not knowing what to do.
For that reason, the solution to most people’s fitness and nutrition problems come down to behavioral change and habit formation, not some “little known trick”. This is something you quickly learn within your first year of being a personal trainer, when all of your clients aren’t following the workout program that’s “perfect” for them… on paper.
Remember what I said before. Sear this into your mind. You probably already know a lot of what you need to know. What’s more important is figuring out how to get yourself to actually do it.
Other than that, your barriers may be more due to an achy or inflexible joint that prevents you from doing most things, or you truly have no idea where to start.
These reasons are why I’ve never charged anything for any basic programs or Ebooks. That’s not to say it can’t be done well, some do. But the work required to do them right is monumental, as you need to properly teach all of the fundamentals, as well as provide an elaborate progression of exercises that will work for all body types, with in-depth instructions of when to implement them.
Essentially teaching someone how to train themselves. Which is far outside the scope of many of these cute little programs you see being sold for $25-$40 a pop.
If someone needs more help than my free content, I’d rather coach them so I know first-hand they’re actually applying it correctly and can come to me for questions, and many reputable people in the industry feel the same.
Which brings me to my next point, a lot of these “coaches” are not actually coaching. Even in-person personal trainers turned online coach often make for shitty ones, as the process requires different skillsets.
True, effective online coaching is an extremely individualized process with lots of personal contact where the professional builds a workout program and diet from the ground up based on what is most practical for your body, your goals, and your lifestyle.
The process entails lots of back and forth communication, and is subject to constant change as your body and lifestyle demands change.
If you’re more advanced, the process is more predicated on advanced periodized programming which constantly changes with the feedback and data you provide. If you’re newer to the gym, it’s more about coaching behavioral change and building good habits.
What many of these “coaches” are actually selling is just a workout program with exercise videos and macro targets they got off a calculator, sometimes without any personal contact whatsoever.
Exercise videos and “macros” are a small part of the process – the meat is in the programming and having your own personal coach to hold you accountable and help you form better habits.
Unless your coach is getting in your head and actually coaching your behavior and habits, or is actually building you an individualized program, run the other way.
Here are some people you should follow instead:
Hopefully by now I’ve given you reason to be skeptical of 99% of the fitness people you see online.
So who should you follow?
You can if you want to, although I don’t have a large following and don’t put out the most beautiful content, at least at the time of writing this. If you like my writing you’ll still like the content there.
Although if you want to follow people who have mastered the art of fitness coaching and the ability to put out great content, here’s a list I recommend:
Spencer Nadolsky (if you like memes, he’s a good one)
Bryan Krahn – Fantastic for behavioral change / habit based stuff
If you really want to go balls-deep in this rabbit hole of finding good people to follow, I also suggest keeping an eye out for Mike Israetel, James Krieger, Lyle McDonald, Brad Schoenfeld, Alex Viada, and Alan Aragon. These guys often put out a bit more advanced info, but are some of many who’ve helped lay the foundation of my knowledge.
Now run free, young grasshopper…
Hopefully this helps distinguish between fact and fiction a little bit better.
There’s a lot of bad information out there, but it’s not all bad.
The issue is, when you’re not an expert in this stuff, it’s difficult to tell what’s what. But with the lessons inside this article, you should be better equipped to find your way along the correct path.
Just remember – your default setting should be skepticism.
Look for more than just that person emulating the results you want. Are they a hobbyist or do they do this for a living? Do they have experience actually training other people or do they just put out social media content? Are you really critiquing the information or just buying into the convenient and easy option?
Let this thought process guide you.
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