A few months ago in the throes of the pandemic, I wrote a blog post about some fitness influencers that I deemed to be the “best” and the “worst.” Now, having just earned my NASM Personal Training Certification, I am in an even more qualified position to revisit that article, and take a deeper dive into each influencer’s content, and what types of results and adaptations one can expect from following their workouts. In addition to reevaluating and expanding upon my prior opinions on each influencer, I will also be adding in a few that I have discovered since my last article!
Below is my more elaborate, ~professional~ opinion on some of the top fitness influencers:
If you’re new to working out, it may feel overwhelming to know where to begin, especially in our current day and age with virtually unlimited, and at times, contradictory, information on the internet. One thing is for certain is that it is important to pace yourself; as a beginner, you may feel excited and motivated, which is great. However, it is essential to learn the proper movement mechanics and ensure you’re not getting ahead of yourself. Obviously, it’s important to challenge yourself, but there’s a fine line between a challenging workout and one that results in injury or muscle imbalances down the line.
As such, I recommend beginners to start with workouts with someone like Lily Sabri. As a licensed physiotherapist and Pilates instructor, Lily is well informed on essential movement patterns (hip hinge, squat, press, pull) and proper muscle recruitment. Throughout her workout videos, Lily not only completes the workouts with her audience, providing an example of proper form, but also emphasizes proper recruitment of commonly underactive muscles, including the transverse abdominis. In addition to providing an example of proper form, Lily also demonstrates what not to do. While Lily’s workouts are immensely challenging, she ensures they are beginner-friendly by providing regressions and progressions as needed, and delivers beautiful words of encouragement to her “familia,” all with a bright smile on her face.
One aspect I do take issue with is the fact that Lily advertises many of her workouts by promising they will to “slim down” a particular area, or that following a particular ab routine for a week will produce six-pack abs. From a marketing standpoint, I get what Lily is doing here–it helps her reach more viewers using the YouTube algorithm, and grabs the attention of potential followers. However, this is a bit misleading, especially to beginners who may not know that one cannot spot-reduce fat, or may expect results that are unrealistic. Although this is how her workouts are advertised, Lily does make clarifications in her longer livestreams, debunking the myth of fat spot-reduction and explaining that diet plays an important role in one’s health and fitness journey.
As Lily’s workouts tend to be circuit-based, her workouts focus on cardio, stamina, and endurance. While beginners will see some improvement in body composition (especially if going from not working out at all to following one of Lily’s guides), her workouts are more conducive to producing muscular endurance; this means you’ll be able to withstand a high number of repetitions of an exercise at a low weight (say, 100 bodyweight squats), but doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to lift heavier things (say, squatting 1.5 times your bodyweight) or see greater muscle hypertrophy. Her workouts are also great for isometrics, increasing time under tension, and building a solid foundation to help you advance to different types of physical activity (like weightlifting, for example). While one may not expect to gain a considerable amount of muscle, practitioners of Lily’s programs may experience some fat loss, albeit not as much as if they were lifting heavy weights. Additionally, Lily’s workouts are incredibly beneficial in other aspects other than physical adaptations; her exuberance and positive nature bring an extra special air to her workouts, which make her workouts a major mood-booster.
Simply put, Natacha is my queen. Some of the things I love most about Natacha include the versatility of her training, her willingness to try new things and be a complete beginner, her dedication to science, and the fact that she’s not afraid to lift heavy. It’s common for those new to working out, especially women, to forego weightlifting for cardio for a variety of reasons–they believe weightlifting will make them bulky or look manly, they’re intimidated by the overwhelmingly male presence in the weight room, they don’t think they can do it. Whatever the reason, Natacha serves as a wonderful example of what weightlifting can do for you as a woman: not only will it give you the muscular physique you desire, but will improve your overall health and boost your confidence!
As a personal trainer, I can tell you that the information provided in Natacha’s videos regarding hypertrophy, strength gains, proper nutrition, and rest days are spot on with the science. I particularly enjoy how Natacha disproves common misconceptions, including dismantling the notion that losing weight is the end-all, be-all. Her personal health and fitness story demonstrates that the overgeneralized desire to “lose weight” can be misleading, as one can improve one’s health, stay the same size (or even go down a dress size), and actually weigh more than they initially did. Rather, Natacha focuses on body composition, which is often a more beneficial and telling measure of one’s health.
In addition to her “Science Explained” videos discussed in my original article, Natacha has released many videos answering common questions regarding weight loss and exercise; here answers are incredibly well-informed, and she encourages her viewers to read peer reviewed studies from legitimate medical and scientific journals that she herself references. Furthermore, Natacha seems to have made it her mission to debunk inaccurate fitness fads seen on Instagram and TikTok, such as waist trainers. Through these videos, Natacha is helping spread evidence-based fitness information that will properly, safely, and most effectively aid her followers in their fitness journeys.
In terms of results and adaptations, Natacha offers a variety of programs that will yield different physical results. Her home-based programs, Home and Home Reload, are more similar to Lily Sabri’s workouts, as they feature higher repetitions of exercises at a lower weight, as they are designed to be completed with minimal equipment; thus, these programs are most beneficial for beginners in terms of physical adaptations. Her home-based programs focus more on muscular endurance and all-around benefits of exercise, while providing the added convenience of working out from home. In the advertising for the programs, Natacha is honest about the results one will see, explaining that for beginners, the program is most likely to produce increased muscle mass, but will likely only help maintain muscle mass for those who are used to higher volumes of training (say, weightlifters). For me, Home Reload was a lifesaver amid the pandemic, as it did indeed help me maintain muscle mass, and also helped me feel more “on track” in such a hectic time.
Conversely, Natacha’s gym-based programs, such as Cut and Build, are specifically designed for anyone looking to improve their body composition and gain strength by focusing on high-volume training and lifting heavy weights (lifting 70-100% of one’s one rep-max for a smaller number of repetitions). These programs are Personal-Trainer-Approved, as the they focus on big compound lifts like squats and deadlifts, incorporate multiplanar movements, include many variations to keep the exercises interesting and to recruit different muscles, and provide videos that demonstrate regressions, progressions, and a demonstration of how to properly execute the movement. In addition to focusing on body re-composition through hypertrophy-focused weight lifting, Natacha’s programs incorporate advanced plyometric moves and HIIT workouts, which not only spice up the program, but also contribute to positive adaptations in athleticism and cardiovascular health. Thus, following Cut and Build will likely contribute to increased muscle mass, decreased adipose tissue, and adaptations in strength, reaction time, and cardio (with the added benefit of that great feeling exercise gives you!).
Beyond her programs for purchase, Natacha provides useful sample workouts in her YouTube videos, as well as follow along workouts and examples of her workout split across her platforms. These not only will give followers a good idea of what her programs would entail, but also provide excellent examples of the types of workouts she engaged in to produce her physique and skills. Detailing her workout splits is particularly important, as she emphasizes the need for rest days for proper recovery for overall health. An uninformed viewer who may believe that it’s necessary to push oneself to their ultimate limits will get to see that, it is actually more beneficial in terms of performance and muscle building to not push yourself to your absolute limit everyday. Rather, as Natacha illustrates, having a few (2-4) intense weights sessions per week is enough to yield positive benefits in terms of body composition with a lower risk of injury. Additionally, her workout splits in the past have included gymnastics classes, which she partook in for fun. This is an important activity to highlight, as it prioritizes enjoyment, which is the key to long-term exercise adherence.
Overall, I think Natacha is a beneficial influencer for beginners and hard-core fitness enthusiasts alike. She has a positive and constructive mindset towards fitness, and serves as an inspiration for anyone interested in fitness, regardless of their experience level.
Again, as mentioned in my previous article, Bryan Kest isn’t your usual “fitness influencer,” but his philosophy and yoga classes are likely some of the most beneficial things to include in your life. For those of you not lucky enough to attend Bryan’s in-person classes, his catalogue of classes on PowerYoga.com has just about any class you can think of–intense isometric circuits, Power Yoga vinyasa flows, lengthy and trippy yin classes. Admittedly, you won’t come out of a yoga binge looking like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but that’s not the point; as Bryan will likely express in whichever class you choose, the point of these classes is wellness. In other words, Kest’s classes focus on maintenance of range of motion, maintenance of strength and muscle endurance, improvements in balance, releasing of tension, and injury prevention, with the added mental benefit of meditation. The point is to mirror gentler forms of exercise, such as walking, which are beneficial to your health and keep you moving. As mentioned when discussing Natacha, recovery is incredibly important to overall health. If you are used to intense workouts and are averse to taking much-needed rest days, a Bryan Kest class is likely what you need most.
In fact, just about everyone is in need of a Bryan Kest class. If you’re a beginner, these classes are a perfect way to dip your toes into the exercise pool, as students are encouraged to take it easy, listen to their bodies, and take breaks when necessary. If you fancy yourself a bit of an exercise-expert, these classes are also beneficial to you, as they will help humble yourself and reframe an overly competitive, “hustle and grind” mentality. Most of all, these classes are designed primarily for meditation purposes, which have been found to produce immense benefits in terms of mental health. Perhaps most importantly, Bryan’s wisdom and the theme of each class centers around preparing each student for handling whatever life throws their way in the most positive way possible.
Do yourself a favor, and practice with Bryan Kest. You can thank me later.
You may be wondering why I’ve grouped Cassey Ho and Chloe Ting together? The reason is clear: they have extremely similar styles of workouts, and thus can be analyzed together.
Although these two ladies are not necessarily my go-to’s for an at-home workout, they would definitely be helpful for anyone looking to get into working out. One word of caution may be to research proper form and muscle activation prior to engaging in one of their workouts, simply because these two influences don’t spend as much time explaining proper form as they could.
As a beginner, you may be more likely to see body composition improvements than someone who is more accustomed to working out. However, if you are someone who is used to working out at higher intensities, you may not experience the same kinds of results. Cassey Ho in particular likes to make claims about the strength gains one may receive from her Pilates training. While Pilates is a great form of exercise and is helpful for improving muscular endurance and for rehabilitation purposes, you won’t necessarily build as much muscle doing a Blogilates “Summer Shred” workout (or a Chloe Ting workout, for that matter), as you would doing a Natacha Oceane gym-based workout program, for example. This is because Cassey and Chloe’s workouts function similarly to Lily’s workouts by focusing on higher-repetitions at lower weights, in addition to focusing more on movements that target more specific, smaller muscles (often stabilizaer muscles) rather than exercises that target larger muscle systems. As such Chloe and Cassey’s workouts burn fewer calories, and produce greater muscular stability and endurance (the ability to exert force consistently and repeatedly over time) rather than hypertrophy and maximal strength levels.
This is something that I think is misunderstood in regards to Chloe and Cassey’s workouts, and may even be misunderstood by Chloe and Cassey themselves. Cassey in particular likes to release TikTok videos where she defends Pilates with the bizarre and frankly bothersome idea that muscular men “can’t do it.” This annoys me for a number of reasons, but particularly because it misunderstands the different types of strength adaptations that different sorts of exercise yield. For example, a man who primarily engages in weightlifting for maximal strength gains may not have as much muscular endurance when it comes to bodyweight prayer lifts as Cassey does. But at the same time, Cassey likely doesn’t have the maximal strength to bench press as much as that man, because that’s not the way she trains. It’s not necessarily that she’s “just as strong” as a man–she’s objectively not. But she is strong, just in a different way. I also don’t appreciate these kinds of posts she makes, because it encourages comparison to others in one’s fitness journey, which is completely wrong. When embarking on a health and fitness journey, and in life in general, the only person you should be comparing yourself to is yourself. Especially in the fitness space, there is an exorbitant amount of individual variations, some of which, like genetics, are out of your control. As a 5 foot 2 in woman, I am not as genetically inclined to reach a 300 lb bench press as quickly as a 6 foot 5 in man would be. And there’s nothing wrong with that! What’s important is seeing advancements in whatever area you are training. If you are training by following Cassey or Chloe’s exercises, and you notice you can do their side leg lifts for one minute straight, when you used to only be able to withstand 30 seconds of that torture, then great! That means you are making improvements. Focus on those types of advancements and your individual achievements rather than whether you’re “as strong as” anyone else.
On the whole, Chloe and Cassey’s workouts are more geared towards beginners, and may not be as beneficial for more experienced exercisers. By engaging in Chloe and Cassey’s workouts, you won’t build as much muscle mass as you would if you engaged in more intense resistance training. And this means that you may not lose 10 pounds, and that you may not even see improvements in body composition or a huge increase in muscle mass (it is possible that you will, just not a guarantee). Individuals partaking in their exercise programs are more likely to yield results that Chloe and Cassey themselves have earned–muscles that are great for endurance, but are smaller in size and perhaps not as capable of lifting maximal loads. If that’s the adaptation you’re looking for, then these are great exercise options for you. However, beware that this may not be the best long-term weight-loss or muscle building option, and that you may want to progress to more challenging workouts if you find yourself plateauing or no longer finding these workouts difficult.
Two of the best influences I’ve discovered since my last fitness influencer article are Caroline Girvan and Sydney Cummings. Caroline, a certified personal trainer from Ireland, and Sydney, a NASM-CPT located in the Southern U.S., have some of the most intense resistance training home-workouts I’ve ever done. These were seriously a life saver amid the pandemic, especially as I sought out something more similar to my typical gym-workouts prior to March 2020.
Sydney and Caroline have very similar workout styles, and their workouts are designed impeccably, incorporating circuit training (peripheral heart action training), progressive overload, multiplanar movements, and essential movement patterns; each influencer’s programs also provide a considerable amount of variety and built-in rest days. In terms of adaptations, one can expect improvements in overall fitness and a general boost in mood due to the positive demeanor both Sydney and Caroline possess. Each gal also incorporates a warm-up and cool down, which is especially helpful for beginners who may have a higher tendency for injury.
However, the amount of strength and hypertrophy you experience will depend entirely on your arsenal of workout equipment. Someone who is using makeshift water bottle weights will likely not yield the same results as someone with a full set of dumbbells ranging from 5 to 75 pounds. Although this can be considered a hindrance to some, the ability to customize your workout based on your workout equipment may actually serve as a benefit for someone just beginning their fitness journey. If you have minimal equipment, you may achieve results more similar to the ones you’d expect from Lily, Cassey, and Chloe. If you have access to heavier weights, and truly challenge yourself, you’re more likely to reap the benefits of increased strength, endurance, and some hypertrophy (depending on the muscle, movement, and weight).
Although Caroline and Sydney have similar workout styles, their styles of coaching are vastly different. I’d say Sydney is more accessible to all experience levels, as she uses her videos to explain each exercise, each movement, and uses positive affirmations throughout the workout video to inspire her viewers. Sydney also espouses positive and encouraging messages to her viewers during her cool-downs, which go above and beyond the typical benedictions of “good job” and “nice work.” On the other hand, Caroline introduces the basic structure of her workout at the beginning of each video, while not talking through the duration of the workout. Instead, she takes a more minimalistic approach by pantomiming each movement cue, and uses on-screen text to direct her audience. If you are less advanced, this may be confusing for you; however, if you enjoy working out to music (be it your own, or the music she includes), you’ll likely enjoy Caroline’s style of video.
Compared to other influencers on this list, Sydney and Caroline both focus primarily on the exercise portion of health and fitness. Compare this to the Q+A sessions on nutrition that Lily hosts, or the emphasis on sleep for rest and recovery promoted by Natacha. Even so, I appreciate the expertise (and absolute masochism) each woman has in regard to exercise, as it shows through the computer screen. Overall, while the physical benefits may vary based on each individual’s situation, the positive attitude both Sydney and Caroline bring to each video. While individuals of most experience levels will likely feel fulfilled with either Caroline or Sydney’s workouts, I feel their workouts are generally more conducive to advanced individuals, as beginners may find the pace and intensity of their styles a bit overwhelming.
Recently, I discovered Mind Pump, a health and fitness podcast hosted by a gaggle of experienced personal trainers, and I have been obsessed ever since. These guys are incredibly well-informed, and do a fantastic job of breaking down advanced concepts into digestible forms for the average amateur lifter or aspiring personal trainer. Most podcasts incorporate a helpful question and answer segment (which they call “QUAH”) in which the hosts answer specific questions from listeners; this segment illustrates the depth and extent of their expertise, and shows viewers that these guys aren’t just a bunch of meat-heads with viral tips with no scientific backing. In fact, the hosts of Mind Pump actually reference legitimate findings in their podcasts, and will make a point to highlight when they change their minds regarding certain subjects if credible findings prove their opinions otherwise. As such, their information is of the top caliber, making their podcast my go-to podcast for all things fitness.
Episodes that don’t feature the QUAH section often include interviews with a variety of individuals, including doctors, business-people, and athletes. My favorite episodes feature interviews with Dr. Jolene Brighten, a naturopathic doctor specializing in women’s health, specifically with regard to the birth control pill. Dr. Brighten’s episode illuminated just how ubiquitous birth control prescriptions are, and the potential dangers to women’s health the pill poses–dangers that aren’t typically revealed to young girls when prescribed the pill for anything from acne to period regulation to mood swings. Additionally, as a woman, her episodes were particularly helpful to me, as Dr. Brighten and the Mind Pump hosts discussed how women could work with their natural cycles to optimize weight-room gains and ensure optimal health.
In addition to the podcast, Mind Pump has its own set of exercise programs, free resources for exercisers and personal trainers alike, an app with a fitness-related search engine, and countless YouTube videos explaining how to achieve certain aesthetic goals, how to perform certain movements with proper form, and more; I’ve found that just about any fitness question I may have has likely already been answered extensively by this group. Not only has Mind Pump been an incredibly valuable resource as someone who enjoys working out, but they have provided excellent information for me as a new personal trainer.
Hopefully this deeper-dive into some popular fitness influencers was helpful to some, especially those considering participating in any of their exercise programs!