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Fitness influencers are full of shit (melmagazine.com)
98 points by paulpauper 52 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 77 comments

I have a hard time following what the author is trying to say exactly. As far as I can tell, he seems to be making 2 interwoven points, which have nothing to do with the clickbait title.

1. There are "fitness influencers" on instagram who are trying to build a career out of this

Ok. There are also software bloggers who are using their blogs to build up their tech careers. And startups who are using their blogs for marketing/PR purposes. I wouldn't go around accusing Robert Martin of being "full of shit" just because he wants to build a career out of the things he writes about.

2. There are some "fitness influencers" who haven't earned the credentials needed to be taken seriously

Sure, but that's the whole premise of social-networking platforms as opposed to traditional media. It seems a stretch to accuse everyone of being full of shit just because they chose to build their brand using social-media. What's next: "Everyone on the internet is full of shit"? "Everyone on Hacker News is full of shit"? "Everyone writing articles on random sites like MelMagazine is full of shit"?

Personally, this whole article reeks of clickbait and faux-outrage.

I feel like it would be more comparable to someone posting how x technology/framework/language will cure all your problems whilst the poster has never tried it, nor used it, potentially doesn't even understand it and is being paid to talk about it.

and keeps posting about working big FANG projects.

Anecdotally most of them are full of shit though. I have been around weight training a long time and so many of these people are little more than steroids, fake weights, and Photoshop. But they're more than willing to sell you their 'secret', which is always "eat good food, watch your calories, and lift weights."

> their 'secret', which is always "eat good food, watch your calories, and lift weights."

This is literally always the _secret_.

Yes, and it works! Just don't expect to look like a body builder.

So here was my take. Fitness influencing is a microcosm representative of the bigger picture on Instagram. IG is tailor made for advertising. It's visually sumptuous, low information density, one-to-many communication. Surfing IG doesn't engage the higher brain functions. It's all sentiment driven.

Marketers love that. So the platform has attracted people with marketing-oriented brains. So now we have this whole trend of influencers going on there, and basically just being marketers for one product or another, and making careers and businesses out of it. And IG is so good for that, that most of what you come across nowadays is turning out to be sponsored commercial content.

That's what I got from the article, and it's a great point, as multiple influencers actually say in the article, it's a great place to make posts that have commercial intent, but they don't even use social media, or consume Instagram, they just post their advertisements.

IG is basically becoming cable TV, one-way, minimal interactivity, people constantly pushing advertisements at you. All that's changed is some guy in a suit now assigns $X of his annual marketing budget to some roided up IG influencer and then gets on with his work day.

I'd love it if there was some platform where spending money actually reduces your reach, that's a platform I would use, specifically because it'd be a terrible tool for marketers.

Agree, I kept re-reading, and couldn't understand what was the article saying. It just tells about how there are fitness influencers and that they obviously make money off sponsored content.

The whole time, I thought it was going to say that they're not really fit at all, and are all mostly plastic surgery, implants and steroids, but not a single mention of that beyond the title and its accompanying illustration.

I also find #2 interesting. For fitness, unless your fake (which I thought the article was gonna discuss somewhat, but didn't), your creds are the photos and videos of your body and what you can do with it. That's mostly what people follow them for anyways.

I think steroids are the subtext of what motivated the author to write the article.

Except, 'look, these guys are all fairly obviously on steroids', is a tough thing to get past current journalistic standards

Almost everyone you've ever seen in an advertisement trying to sell you a legal bodybuilding supplement was on steroids. With its ubiquity, Instagram is making these unrealistic expectations even more mainstream. Just as the beauty standard for women is unrealistic, men practically have to use steroids for anyone to believe they go to the gym. These unrealistic expectations lead to unhappiness and body dysphoria. Compare Eugen Sandow, or anyone else who singularly focused on gaining muscle mass prior to the discovery/invention of anabolic/androgenic steroids, to random gym bros in your IG feed.

Yup, and the sad bit is that it takes years of lifting and researching to realize this fact. Your typical beginner doesn't have a clue and just gets discouraged.

I have been lifting hard and consistently for about twelve years. I'm pretty strong and I have plenty of muscle, but to most people I just look "fit". That's fine and all, but these people grossly underestimate what it takes to get "big".

I once had an Uber driver party with us after a night out. The guy was thin, but told me he had begun lifting and wanted to get big I asked him what his goals were and he told me "a bit bigger than you". Later that night he was in my garage and saw that I regularly train with a 250lb sandbag (not huge I know, but I'm 185lbs and I throw it on my shoulder for reps.) He was shocked because he thought I was just a casual. He understood at that point that his expectations needed to be tempered.

>men practically have to use steroids for anyone to believe they go to the gym.

Agree with most of what you're saying here, but I disagree with the phrasing "believe you go to the gym."

I believe there's a noticeable difference between men and women who lift even a little bit, and people who don't at all. I don't think you have to look shredded to have a noticeably improved aesthetic (in the majority Western concept of physical attractiveness).

When my partner started doing a dead simple lifting plan 1 hour 2 days a week, she was getting comments from friends and co-workers she hadn't mentioned she was lifting to within a month. Basically, I don't want people to be demotivated by hulk like steroid users - you can look good naturally, and there's lots of other reasons to lift anyway (dopamine hit, posture, higher strength, etc).

An example I’ve used a few times — go watch female MMA matches. Hell, go with straw weight, where the competitors are tiny. Every time they twist and bend you can just see the sort of folds that will convince women they’re too fat.

Compare the bodies of body builders (who are trying to bulk up as much as they possibly can) with those of athletes who actually need to _use_ the muscles — anything from gymnasts to team sports players to strong man competitions. Look at people who achieve insane feats like Alex Honnold. Those are not gym bunny bodies, because they simply can’t afford to have useless bulk

Re: Alex Honnold

Climbers in general have a really lanky build. They are basically carrying their bodyweight up long walls so being bulky is definitely a disadvantage. That's not to say that some climbers aren't extremely muscular. But, for example, Adam Ondra is probably one of the strongest climbers ever and he doesn't look absurdly muscular.

Re: Adam Ondra


This picture shows incredible muscle definition.

I know he's not flexing but Tommy Caldwell has an incredible build as well https://earthtripper.com/sites/default/files/styles/responsi....

I'll admit I'd really bought into the idea of Instagram as the solution to Facebook, as a place where everything was sunshine and rainbows and everyone could just appreciate art and beauty without the negativity of, well, controversial opinions. I could follow beautiful people doing beautiful things in beautiful places. I could watch and admire. It seemed, dare I say, a healthy escape.

> “You want me to say I’m influencing all these people,” he says. “But I’m the one who is really influenced by this. The way I act online is shaped by monetary incentives. If a post does well, expect to see more posts like that. If copying and pasting motivational quotes from Dale Carnegie drives engagement, I will share them all day long. I don’t care.

My opinion is different nowadays. Instagram is surely a place where exists a lot of true beauty and expression, but it's also a place full of people largely driven by societal and monetary reward, to an extent that I've come to consider unhealthy. We are being influenced, and we are influencing.

And we like that-- my social brain wants to know what society considers beautiful, it enjoys training itself on what society considers beautiful, it wants to be affirmed in the beauty of its own body. Instagram gave me exactly what I wanted. But (and I don't mean to criticize anyone here at all, considering I was and still am subject to the same pressures and influences) I don't think what I thought I wanted was healthy. I want to be happy. A constant stream of corgi videos and bikini photos and travel porn gives me little ups, but it also shapes my brain in ways I think could be damaging.

I created a new IG account when I went to Singapore & Japan this year to chronicle my journey through photos that my friends & family can see.

But between a few of them giving me “I get to live vicariously through you now” vibes, the societal pressure to follow them back even if I don’t find their feeds interesting, and the ads, it felt like the whole thing was a net-negative for me and people close to me.

I’ve gone back to just sharing my travel photos in-person.

If someone wants to find beauty they should work for a charity. There are people suffering everyday everywhere. When you help someone in need, and the happiness you both experience in the process, it is more true and beautiful than anything else. That is what's lacking from those corgi videos and bikini photos.

I guess I was thinking more of aesthetic beauty. Truly there are deeper and more lasting forms of beauty to be enjoyed in the world. But our brains are drawn persistently to images, and I don't necessarily find anything wrong with that. I just think that the overload of stimuli from social media especially Instagram can be damaging to the scope of enjoyment we could get from the real thing in real life, which would arguably be more fulfilling.

Not to mention every third or fourth post and story is now an ad.

I have started being just as concerned about really popular "developer advocates" on Social Media.

They find a tool or toy they like and mention how great it is (perhaps from their own company) and the mass of followers retweet and push it.

In the age of social media it's the perfect marketing strategy but the signal to noise ratio is low in my feed and I'm skeptical of anything I see on Twitter where I'm much more accepting of the _same content_ on here.

And don't forget those that do the same thing on youtube and have a huge following made of beginners.

> And don't forget those that do the same thing on youtube

Yeah...I'm starting to develop an unhealthy obsession with bits of junk electronics, office trash, and hot glue guns...


Guilty as charged, myself, for that one.

Doesn't this apply to pretty much all social media "influencers" anyway?

Yes, but I think this is still a special category because any product, diet or other lifestyle choice they promote can have very serious consequences on your health.

I think quotes are quite telling! If we define "influencers" as "brand ambassadors" (i.e. sponsored) then it's clear that they are not neutral parties relaying battle-tested, peer-reviewed science results.

I'd like to believe that you can become popular on social media, and have influence, but actually have skills, experience, knowledge and actionable advice. You can even do this without being paid for it!

Anecdotally, I follow lots of woodworkers on Instagram. Most of them work hard and have skills, experience, etc. Most of them are capable of adding to my knowledge. But many of them accept sponsorship when it comes their way.

Personally, once I start to see more than (made-up number) 10% of posts flashing (and hash-tagging) products, it's time for me to unfollow. It's subtle and insidious. Suddenly I find myself thinking "I really think DeWalt is the best brand of power tools" without having a good reason to believe that. "And if I need clamps, Bessey is the only way to roll!"


Except for the one true fitness influencer...


Which pretty much says everything about fitness influencers, no?

Thank you for reminding me of this gem.

My wife is a doctor of Physical Therapy, and I've learned incredible amounts about the human body.

Not, how to get stronger faster, but more specifically which biological processes is the body capable of?

When I read people who suggest yoga , massage, chiro, weird exercises, etc... I just wonder- Why?

There is enough information on the internet to learn there are only a few ways to change muscles. Massage, manipulations, and stretching have their own merit, but without (hypertrophy) strengthening, is temporary.

Strengthening is one of the few things that is lasting.

I genuinely feel bad for people who think yoga is going to make their sitting back pain go away. The yoga infulencers and chiros will tell you whatever you want to hear.

Edit: lots of confusion about yoga and Physical therapy. A physical therapist doesn't teach you a workout. They use each tool to solve a body problem. Yoga is general exercise and stretching. Yoga might make you stronger, but it's not likely they are targeting the weak muscles directly, but rather giving you a workout routine.

Yoga makes you strong as hell, though? Have you ever done yoga or do you think it's just stretching? It's basically a set of advanced bodyweight exercises.

Having done both Yoga and Strength training myself they're not the same. If anything, they're complementary in the same way that cardiovascular training complements strength training.

There's lots of ways to be fit, I just think OP is trying to say you can't put all your eggs in one bucket and expect all the benefits to come to you.

On the contrary OP is saying only strength training matters. This is horseshit. In Eastern traditions people who lack flexibility are considered weak and unhealthy no matter how strong their muscles are. If you can't bend you can't move.

No. That's not at all what the post said.

I even said stretching, manipulations, and massage have their own merits.

These are all used to change the body, but strengthening is the long term change.

Best practice is to do stretching, manipulations, massage before the strengthening.

But these are my Engineering summary, you can get treatment from a doctor of Physical Therapy that does this as a job.

There's yoga and then there's yoga

Not a fan of yoga but this is one of the reasons for confusion. As I understand it, there are several types of yoga, some are as you said, bodyweight exercises and some are basically adult nappy time. Not at all familiar with the terminology but when I used to do weightlifting, I had a minor injury and it was recommended I attend a yoga class. It did not help and I really don't believe it makes you stronger. I mean, probably if that's the only type of exercise, it will clearly beat running or whatnot wrt to strength.

Yeah, the adult nappy time one is usually called restorative. Things like vinyasa or hatha are pretty intense, though.

Just to clarify, yoga in this context refers to ONLY the stretching.

If your instructor is having you do low rep, weighted exercises, it does hypertrophy and would improve that muscle.

Yoga is a generic term.

yoga in this context refers to ONLY the stretching.

Then you should have just said "stretching".

Yoga is a generic term.

So is "strength training", but it's not so generic that I get to just make shit up.

No strength training is specifically hypertrophy where your body creates new cells.

You are more like doing endurance training which make cells for ADP/ATP.

And you likely aren't doing it like a perscription where they target the weaknesses. Rather general.

In the context of the original post, it is clear why I mentioned yoga in that list.

There are ways to become strong other than the 3x5 Starting Strength program. Why even use the term yoga if you meant stretching? I guarantee you any Starting Strength hero who walks into a halfway decent vinyasa class will get wrecked.

Physical therapy is not lifting weights.

Read the context

Become better at communicating so people don't have to "read the context" and infer meaning in your words that exists only in your head.

That is the point of context

Anecdotal but doing yoga only two years increased my flexibility up to the point that I can put my feet behind my head without any issue. It resolved most of my pains that comes from sitting at a desk all day.

There's also a lot of power yoga poses where you do the equivalent of weightless exercises.

I agree and disagree with you. Agree 100% on the strengthening. What is often lost in the Instagram posts is you need a plan to attack things like sitting back pain that come at it from different angles such as Yoga, PT, Pilates, cardio and/or strength training. That was more of list of possibilities but you should work with someone that has experience in the field build something that fits your needs.

When I first came out of college, I had incredible knee pain when sitting for longer period. I couldn't go to class without taking motrin or something stronger depending on the day. I worked out, played sports etc, was very active, and felt no pain when doing those activities but something in my body was out of whack/alignment. I saw a few specialists, did an MRI and they couldn't find an obvious cause. My only option that route was getting cut open and maybe finding something that wasn't being picked up (which knee surgery is a miserable recovery). I started doing PT where I was told my hamstrings were like old rubberbands. So I started stretching but it wasn't progressing. I ended up seeing a rolfing masseuse once a month. Things progressed slowly. I got to a point where seeing a trainer was a good option. Eventually the kneed pain vanished but was in my back. More work and direction and the pain was gone. It took two+ years of dedication but it was worth every penny.

I'm sharing this because I understand how desperate people can feel with pain management and how confusing everything can be. My point is plenty of the information is total bullshit, but if you put the energy and money in, you can find the right team and try a few different things, you can get better. I would have never believe in the actual effects of rolfing if I never tried it. You don't have to live with the pain, try to keep working and don't ever give up on it.

I thought the same but you have to stay in a pose balancing yourself and I was amazed how hard it was and how much sweat came out of me. It seems to actually strengthen places you didn't know existed in other words.

I think people are conflating two different magnitudes of strength improvement. You will be getting a stronger more robust body from Yoga, absolutely, but you won't see any significant increases in your ability to lift weights in the context of a weight lifting program, which is fine if that isn't your goal.

The improvements you expext from a weight training program are going from lifting 40kg off the floor to 140kg+ off the floor. So a strength trainer will disagree that Yoga helps because of course the magnitude of gain is just not in the same ballpark as a strength training program expects. You would be better off sticking to good fundamental strength training if that was your goal.

Yes, I have never seen anyone taking a yoga class that has very large muscles, always lean and lengthy, typically how I hear women wanting to look and also hearing they don't want to look bulky so that would be more inline with what you are reporting but I say this knowing I have no business stating women's opinions, just what I heard.

One-sided 95% lower confidence limits were 0.83 (RMDQ) and 0.97 (pain), demonstrating noninferiority of yoga to PT. However, yoga was not superior to education for either outcome. Yoga and PT were similar for most secondary outcomes. Yoga and PT participants were 21 and 22 percentage points less likely, respectively, than education participants to use pain medication at 12 weeks. Improvements in yoga and PT groups were maintained at 1 year with no differences between maintenance strategies.


That study is for non specific pain.

Another thing that in my experience was close to magic was immersing sore limbs in ice baths. I had a near career-ending bout of RSI a decade ago. Physical therapy and fancy peripherals were unhelpful. But a couple months of nightly 10 minute soaks of my arms in buckets of ice water is the closest I've ever come to a miracle cure. Sadly, it didn't seem to work for anyone else who tired it.

I think what it did was to reset my hypersensitive pain threshold back to normal, but I don't have any science to back that up. It was intensely uncomfortable (bringing me close to tears after a couple minutes) at first but then I adjusted to it.

There are many ways to change muscle. One key insight you seem to be missing is the value of flexibility. Yes, this value is temporary and requires maintenance. That doesnt mean it is not valuable.

In strength training, flexibility is very important. It is often the root of poor form that leads to weaker lifts.

The first thing a good strength coach will do is figure out your current range of motion and address how that's affecting your major lifts.

Moreso, poor flexibility can lead to injury and long term imbalances if you don't get them sorted before making big gains in strength. Like building on a lopsided foundation.

Yoga is pretty much meditation + stretching + balance exercises. It sure is overhyped if you only know it through ""influencers"" but if you dig a bit it's quite good + you don't need to go to fancy yoga studios, just use a foam pad and youtube.

Have you ever noticed all these buff dudes at the gym who look like goblins ? Well, that's because they don't stretch and focus on pecs / shoulders / arms, combine that with an office job and you'll do more harm than good

I’m building a website for my physical therapist, and just yesterday had an interview where I asked for anecdotes and case studies about his career, etc.

When I asked what the most common thing people came to him with, he immediately said, "Yoga. I started out in a clinic down in the West Village across the street from a yoga studio, most of my clients were men who hurt their backs or their necks doing yoga positions."

I think there is more than anecdotal evidence to support this - https://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/magazine/how-yoga-can-wre...

I have no idea which yoga you tried, but yoga is very strengthening to the core muscle groups when performed correctly.

Whenever I see a Pilates studio that promises longer, leaner muscles I get seriously angry.

I have actually had a good experience with CBD. I am an awful sleeper, made worse by being a long distance runner (which results in too much cortisol building up). Something was going to go wrong, as the lack of sleep and heavy training load was going to result in me burning out. I acquired some CBD and found it relaxed me noticeably and gave me the sort of deep sleep I have not had since my twenties. Just taking 4-5 drops before bed, means I feel like I could have a nice lay in if I wanted to, whereas before I would get out of bed tired feeling like I never had enough, but no way was I getting any more.

One major problem with most of the CBD craze going on is that many products put enough CBD into a product to say "contains CBD" but not anywhere near the dosage required to actually have an impact/effect on most people.

There are people in the industry who

- know what they are talking about

- have presence on social media

It's just that their numbers are incredibly low relative to the bullshitters and they don't label themselves as influencers.

A separate note, you decide if you are willing to sell out your audience.

I don't want to.

I make lots of money at my job, my studies and advice are a way for me to help people.

Selling snake oil is only going to push people away.

Why is nutrition and fitness so divisive? My most controversial comment on HN was bringing up that nearly everyone's metabolism is the same. Everyone wants to think that obesity is caused by having a slower metabolism. It's not.

Every single "buff" person shown in this article, is on steroids. People have a really hard time accepting this, they really want to believe that if you work hard enough, you can do what they do.

Sure, but there is not much to do here, those who follow these clearly steroids/photoshop/BS-fuelled influencers are not the target audience of people that produce real fitness/bodybuilding/calisthenics content.

I'll stay with AthleanX, Jeff Nippard, Fitness FAQ, Calisthenic Movement and many others... to each his own.

Whilst I agree and most of these people are just awful, there are some diamonds in the rough. I'm trying to improve my rowing and found this guy: Eric Murray. He's won multiple Olympic and world championship medals in rowing for New Zealand and just gets on with it.

His Instagram feed is good (https://www.instagram.com/kiwipair_eric/) but his YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLTbJObSiRTHW18AIntfTJw) is amazing - packed full of him tips, techniques and example workouts that I've been finding really helpful.

At least they are 'required' by law to state that a post is an ad. So a step on the right direction.

All influencers are.

Everyone who makes universal statements are full of shit.


Including me, yes.

Only Sith deal in absolutes.

Does anyone not realize this? Like, is there a reason to write this article?

Um, YES. A large majority of people see high follow counts and equate it to truth and authority.

Those people will learn soon enough...

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