With tons of fitness videos online, how can you tell what’s credible and what’s not? Learn how to sift through the junk and find a trainer/programme that meets your needs.
Even as we move into Phase 2, many of us may still find ourselves home with limited access to fitness equipment – be it by choice or simply because we lost the game of fastest fingers at our favourite fitness studio. But with the click of our mouse, the huge variety of fitness videos online saves the day.
Working out at home is not only low-cost, but it also offers privacy as well as protection from crowds and smelly gym neighbours. You get to save time travelling to and fro the gym, and there’s the convenience of working out at your own time without the need to wait.
What’s more, there’s a mind-boggling amount of online workouts we can access from home. A good number of them are free, or accessible simply by enduring a 30-second advert. This convenience and accessibility of online fitness videos, however, may be a double-edged sword.
Popular fitness influencer Chloe Ting – with over 10 million YouTube subscribers at the point of the scandal – was unflatteringly thrown into the limelight for her questionable exercise form and inaccurate fitness as well as health claims. Not just once but by a few fitness professionals such as Canadian bodybuilder and powerlifting world champion Greg Doucette as well as local bodybuilder Nian Kang, who is a certified personal trainer by the American Council on Exercise.
Yet despite all this, Chloe’s following continues to grow healthily. Subscribers to her YouTube channel have since hit a whooping 12 million. This may be credited to her ability to inspire those new to fitness, especially young women, to simply move from bed to mat.
That said, the most popular online videos or fitness instructors may get you to start moving and even inspire you to raise energy levels enough for a HIIT session, but is that workout worth your time, or your dime if it is a paid subscription to boot? Worse, improper form demonstrated in the video may cause injury on top of being ineffective.
Here are some tips to suss out fitness instructors who know their stuff and pick a workout that truly suits your needs.
1. Do background checks
When choosing a fitness instructor, be it virtually or not, you should read up on his or her background for past and present successes and/or failures as well as testimonials from existing or ex-clients. You would also want to choose someone who specialises in the goal of your choice. For instance, it may not be wise to choose a yoga master in backbends to coach you in handstands.
“I believe in leading by example. If I can’t do it or have never done it before and don’t know how it feels like, I won’t ask you to do it. If I can’t lose fat myself, who am I to teach you? That’s what I subscribe to,” says personal trainer Nian Kang (@dinokang), who recommends fitness instructors who are able to walk their talk.
His Instagram post The Final Blacklist is a compilation of recommended fitness YouTubers based on their legitimacy and level of ability. For example, tier 1 features elite fitness trainers who boast worldwide recognition, such as Natacha Oceane and Greg Docette, and tier 2 the likes of Pamela Reif and Kayla Itsines.
2. Look for credentials
No doubt, it is every fitness instructor’s social responsibility to present accurate information. Yet, as someone new to fitness, you wouldn’t know what you don’t know, would you? There is no guarantee, but trainers with solid fitness credentials would be deemed more credible than those without.
Certification boards strive for a reason. Aspiring fitness professionals have to study their craft – both theory and practical – to pass a rigorous exam that assesses not just their knowledge but the application of their programming and instructional skills. In short, the experts do the job for you – at least at the point of certification, these fitness professionals are credible and current. So the baseline is that they would do no harm with bad form or ill advice.
Some established fitness institutions and credentials are the American Council on Exercise’s (ACE) Personal Trainer Certification (CPT) and the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s (NSCA) Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).
3. Watch out for the details
There is no one-size-fits-all fitness workout; we are all unique individuals with different body types, metabolism, health conditions as well as fitness goals and needs. Moral of the story? Be wary of fitness influencers who make claims such as spot reductions (think: six-pack abs in 2 weeks). Obviously, that does not hold true for we are all at different starting points in our fitness endeavours.
Instead, look for videos that give details or descriptions of their difficulty (beginner, intermediate, advance) and intensity levels. On this note, you will need to be objective about where you are in terms of your fitness level. Your instructor may be legit but it could be a case of “too much, too soon” if you choose the wrong difficulty or intensity level.
You also want a variety of workouts that consist of compound movements – multi-joint movements that work several muscle groups at once – for they are more functional and cover a greater range of motion. This means you’ll get a full-body workout and burn more calories.
One gripe professional fitness trainers have is the bad form that some ill-qualified fitness influencers demonstrate in their videos. While the risk of injury is pretty low as most of these workouts require no equipment, it is crucial that we perform the exercises in proper form, for them to be effective and safe.
“HIIT is one of the best ways available to get results in a fraction of the time. But we know it’s equally important to help users develop good exercise habits so they can continue to progress, injury-free, in the long term,” said Ian Tan, co-founder of Ritual Gym. During the circuit breaker period, the popular HIIT studio launched the Ritual Anywhere app to offer customised 20-minute workouts. The app is free for Ritual members and costs $12.99/month for non-members.
Said Ian: “We included an introduction video, detailed cues and videos of how to do each exercise, custom recommendations depending on how you feel, and a strategy for each session.”
The Intro Session in the app features warm-up and fundamentals. All those new to the app are encouraged to go through this mini HIIT session first. Soon, Ritual Anywhere app will receive a major update that includes personalised audio coaching, so you’ll get technique tips and motivational messages as you’re doing the workout.
This brings us to our final point…
4. Find your muse
While celebrity power may not translate to actual competency, you would want to choose someone who inspires you to get moving… and keep moving! One of the greatest challenges of working out at home is that there is absolutely no penalty for cancelling on your workouts – you are strictly accountable to yourself. Hence, motivation is key.
Need a drill sergeant to yell at you to keep moving? How about a trash talker who would shame you into not giving up? An encouraging cheerleader for the sophisticated folks? The mother figure who tells you what’s good for you? Or simply someone who has honed his or her craft so well that you aspire to be like him or her?
There’s no point in doing the most effective workout by the most credible instructor if you are not inspired to follow suit. Likewise, it would be foolhardy to follow in the footsteps of someone whom you aspire to be like, but dishes out dodgy advice that may cause you harm instead.
Make the most of your home workout by choosing wisely with the above tips. Have fun, stay safe and in shape!
Laine Ng is a sports and fitness enthusiast with a background in physical education as well as the outdoor education industry for the past seven years. She is currently preparing for the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist certification by the National Strength and Conditioning Association.