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Why context is key in consumption of fitness media

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Why context is key in consumption of fitness media

While working with a client the other day, someone walked up to me and showed me an Instagram reel asking me how to do a certain exercise in the reel. While it was nothing unsafe or impractical (here’s to you, Joel Seedman - don't do what he does); the fact that my brain instantly went to showing them a similar movement with different equipment that would more appropriately suit their needs/ability level was an indicator that this needs to be talked about.


So, there’s a lot of fitness content on the internet. It is readily accessible and anyone can pay Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg a small fee to have a checkmark next to their name when they regurgitate whatever information they are fed. There’s more information than ever, more people sharing it, and more people accessing it - and not all of it is bad. In fact, I would go so far as to say that *MOST* (note: “most” is only the largest portion of it) is actually useful. 


Now, just because I said most of it is useful doesn’t mean it is being given to us properly so we need to be mindful of our consumption of any media. How can we be mindful of our consumption of fitness media? First and foremost is considering context. 


What is the context in this instance? Well, largely speaking, it’s you.


What are you training for/what are your goals? Hypertrophy? Weight loss? Speed? Strength? 

If you are an athlete, what part of the season are you in? Are you in the off season?

What level are you at? Beginner? Experienced? Former athlete? Current athlete?

What are your preferences? 

What means do you have to train (facility, equipment, etc)?



Example of a problematic post:


There are more questions you can ask yourself, but I think you get the point by now. A separate Instagram reel the other day bothered me because it was another piece of fitness “advice” that claimed to be the only correct way to do something which completely ignores context (link: https://www.instagram.com/reel/C0DYQT3uCXK/?igshid=MzRlODBiNWFlZA==). 


Breaking it down:


For people who don’t click that link, we have a young man trying to compare two different ways of doing an RDL and claiming only one is desirable. The method he claims to be the best includes having a lot of time under tension and a longer, slower eccentric portion of the movement. I am not going to lie to you, that would be ideal for a large portion of the population - a longer, slower eccentric creating tension will lead to larger physiological adaptations such as hypertrophy/motor unit recruitment/strength. The second clip he uses shows a much faster eccentric which he suggests is wrong - but it is in no way “wrong”. In fact, it would be preferred for athletes depending on the time of year and physical qualities they are attempting to train. 


Now the tricky part - to explain why rapid eccentric loading is good without straying too far from the intended purpose of this post. Athletes do not compete in controlled settings (eamples: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dddpWhUdUAA, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQ9y-Brgy_U). How many slow and controlled eccentric movements did you count here? By my count, I just see two of my favorite athletes growing up in Chicago - but no slow and controlled eccentrics, just rapidly changing situations and athletes responding to them. Here’s one of the most successful strength coaches of the past 30 years doing exactly what this “influencer” says no to do (RDL Oscillatory | XL Athlete). While the faster RDLs do not fully simulate the demands of these individual athletes, the body having the capacity to quickly absorb a load and then quickly redirect it is a trait that needs to be trained and why context when consuming fitness related social media is so key. 


At the end of the day, be mindful of what you consume (and just consume less digital media and spend more time interacting with people) and if you have a question, just ask a coach. Most of us are itching to share our expertise, we just hold it in because we know that most “normal” people don’t want to know about most of the stuff we know.


See you at the gym,


Zach Anderson, CSCS

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