[Social Media Influencers] of Unusual Size (SMIUSs)
By Mitch Davis
I might have dated myself with that poor attempt of a Princess Bride reference, but I don’t care. Classic movie, go watch it. Anyway… Turning to social media for inspiration and motivation has been pushed aside for finding legitimate sources of information for exercise prescriptions, dealing with injuries, and everything exercise related. Although there are a tremendous number of reputable coaches out there floating through the social media stratosphere, most information being presented as legitimate is simply colorful space garbage presented by actors who know nothing of what they speak.
Before I continue to thrash the social media zealots and charlatans, I will talk briefly about the importance of using one’s personal experiences, or anecdotal evidence, as a legitimate means of coaching. As a coach takes his pen-to-paper ideas and brings them to the weight room floor, there is a lot to be said about what happens in the real world versus what happens in a laboratory. Often, humans define what scientific studies say, and there is absolutely a reason why coaches must rely on their intuition and novel ideas when creating new programs or presenting ideas. The evidence-based bullies will say that anything not stemming directly from a meta-analysis, peer-reviewed research paper is not worth your time. Although they mean well, and hope to destroy the ever-present social media influencer goons, they are missing out on the fact that there is something to be said about one’s experience.
However, studies show (the irony of me referring to peer-reviewed literature is not lost on me here, gang) that experienced coaches are far superior at drawing from anecdotal experience than their novice counterparts. This should come as a no-brainer. First, these coaches who are considered experts in their field have acquired many hours in the weight room, racking up both tremendous accomplishments and many failed experiments. All of these experiences work as a trial-and-error checklist, as coaches continue to refine their approach, working out what is beneficial and what is not. Second, these individuals are not just relying on anecdotal evidence to promote their coaching. They have studied and continue to study, searching out others who are more experienced in their respective fields of exercise science. These individuals seek out others who are going to challenge them, confront their biases, and force them to think critically when it comes to their beliefs.
So, experience matters, both in the title of an experienced coach and in the practice of gaining experience, both on the floor and through continuing education via certifications, textbooks, books, seminars, the list goes on. As for the social media dudes out there, I just don’t see an emphasis placed on education. Instead, it is all smoke and mirrors, hoping you’ll buy their training program for 9.99 as they flex in the mirror hopped up on SARMS telling you “Natty is the only way, bro”.
There are some pretty obvious ways of determining if who you’re about to take advice from is a legitimate coach or quite frankly, just a really good-looking idiot. Quick glance at their page is a good place to start. Are there more photos of them shirtless or in boot shorts than there is of them clothed (you know, like a normal person)? Second, if they make erroneous claims such as how they gained the physique that they currently have by following their unique training program. This is made worse if they make extreme claims such as massive jumps in their weight, super-human strength feats made in very short amounts of time, or claiming that they have learned they know more than others in the industry.
A great way to quickly figure out if someone is a social media goblin is to ask yourself how much they’re trying to sell you on a product. A coach is not selling you on something other than his ideas. You hire a legitimate coach to walk with you, offering guidance and encouragement along the way. The IG goblin will sell you on a product, which is almost, almost always accompanied by his 10% off code (use code jockstrap10 for 10% off). Finally, a great way to determine if someone is simply a troll is to ask yourself how many times you’ve spotted them doing something boring. These flashy stories are all clickbait. These “coaches” telling you all they do are fancy, exotic, albeit absolutely ridiculous exercises are full of it. Real training is pretty boring, very consistent, and almost never, if ever flashy at all. In fact, I would say a real coach is probably going to hurt your feelings or make you feel a bit sour about training. They’ll say things such as “consistency, across years of training is what produces results” and “I can’t prevent injury, but I can help you be more resilient if an injury ever finds you”.
Bottom line, real coaches aren’t out there trying to get likes and follows. Most of them either have such a poor social media following or none at all. This isn’t because they lack knowledge, but because they’re chasing results, not follows. They’re doing things in the real world, not in a pretend world. Do yourself a favor and hire a real coach. If the social media part really means that much to you, I’m sure they can communicate with you via memes. After all, coaches live to serve.
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Mitchell Davis is the Director of Remote Coaching at Power Train Sports & Fitness. He is a PhD candidate at Liberty University where he is pursuing his doctorate in Health & Exercise Science. He has been a coach and educator for 13 years, serving in roles such as collegiate strength and conditioning coach, high school strength and conditioning coach, adjunct professor, personal trainer, and fitness consultant.
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