Can you REALLY learn technique from a YouTube video?

I often walk into a club and watch trainers and instructors leading exercises that look and feel “made up” and I wonder, “where are they getting their fitness education?”. Many instructors and trainers use common sense when training their clients, but all too often, I see people teaching exercises that make no sense and I wonder if they attended a live certification workshop or certification course.

There are many ways to find information these days. With the use of search engines, social media, and sites like YouTube, we are able to access information whenever we want. Just search “BOSU” on YouTube and you will see hundreds of videos of the BOSU® Balance Trainer being used by a variety of fitness enthusiasts and in a million different ways. Search “HIIT Training” and you will find countless exercises. Search “Tabata” and you will find endless footage of trainers and instructors teaching exercises using 20/10 timing. Some videos show entire workout routines, while others focus on a specific exercise or movement. It might seem that because there are so many easily accessible “resources” for fitness pros to tap into for ideas that bypassing live workshop or training courses would be a smart choice? Well…as it turns out, that just isn’t true.

Risk of YouTube Information

First, let’s discuss the risks associated with what you might find on YouTube. Unless the video was made and distributed as “official education” by a trademarked fitness program, you really don’t know what you are getting. In other words, the exercises you might be seeing may or may not be recommended. When you watch a video of an untrained instructor demonstrating an exercise they “made up”, you cannot assume the person understands the intent, the risk versus benefit, or ways to safely and effectively weave the drill into a progressive program. So, if you haven’t gone through proper training on how to integrate specialized equipment or exercises into your programs, simply copying what you see online might make your workouts new and exciting, but potentially dangerous and unfulfilling!

Contraindicated exercises shown on YouTube…

This morning I watched a video of a trainer demonstrating a weight bearing exercise while standing on the flat side of the BOSU® platform. If you turn over your
BOSU® Balance Trainer, you will see that it clearly reads, “Standing on platform not recommended.” In fact, this is covered during BOSU® certification course and in all BOSU® workshops.

The other concern I had was over the trainer’s suggestion to lift heavy weights while standing on the unstable surface. This honestly isn’t the point of integrated balance work and could lead to injury. Ultimately, when the risks outweigh the benefits of an exercise, both safety and effectiveness are compromised.

Official Educational Videos

There are hundreds of “official” program videos available online. These are videos led by program Master Trainers, Development Team Members, and Program Creators. These tutorials not only demonstrate proper exercises, but explain how exercises can be modified to be made suitable for most levels. This is a very important point often forgotten with homemade, made-­‐up exercise videos. Unless the video has an official trademark on it and is led by a credible source, you should carefully consider it.

The Benefits of Online Learning

Of course there are advantages to learning and researching online. To top the list, it’s convenient. We all have busy lives and obligations making it hard to attend a live workshop, certification course, or conference in person. And, from time to time, we all get desperate to find something new and exciting to bring into class. Sure, it’s easy to simply Google “Exercises”, then grab and go! But, what’s the downside to just using as is?

Hopefully, you take the time to practice the exercise and think (critically) about how you’ll incorporate it into your programming, come up with progressions and regressions, and decide if it makes the cut. If you take these steps, is it really that time efficient?

Benefits of Live Workshops

There are clearly advantages to attending workshops and certification courses in person. One might argue that they don’t have the 2 hours to attend a workshop or the 8 hours to attend a certification course, but you have to look at the big picture….

…You Leave with Long-Term Resources

After attending the foundational certification course, you will not only walk away with pre-­‐designed classes or sessions you can simply redeliver, but ultimately the goal is to also take away a coaching system that will make you a better fitness professional. After attending a full certification course, instructors and trainers have the tools to create a class in record time without having to “google” anything. When I factor in the time saved month after month, week after week, and day­‐to-­‐day in planning my classes or training sessions, I see that the 8-­hour day was well worth it!

…You Can Talk to an Industry Leader

The primary advantage of attending any live workshop vs. watching a video online is to have the ability to ask questions of an industry leader or master trainer. You can’t ask a YouTube video clip a question or have the instructor in the video watch how you perform or teach an exercise. Additionally, you don’t see how other people in the room are able to handle the exercise being taught. In a live workshop, the interaction with other fitness professionals is a vital part of the learning experience.

…You Learn the Science

Let’s wrap this up with a discussion of science. Most videos are short and don’t give complete information. In other words, most resources online via YouTube are lacking any scientific research. Being a “certified” trainer means that you understand the science behind the movement. Learning and understanding the physiology and biomechanics behind every exercise you lead is absolutely critical to your success as a trainer or instructor. Knowing the purpose of each exercise you lead is just good sense and ultimately will lead to the success of your participants.

So Remember…

Investing the time and money in your fitness education can only increase your value as a fitness professional. Your clients will see improved results and you will find that your professionalism will improve your popularity as well.

Carrie Haines
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Carrie Haines

Fitness Educator at Carrie Haines Fitness
Carrie Haines has been creating and managing group fitness and personal training programs for over 15 years and lectures on fitness program development and management. Carrie has presented workshops and certification courses at B.A.M. Fitness Conference, SCW Mania, and IDEA World.

Education: ACE & AFAA GFI-C; NASM & AFAA PT-C

Master Trainer: Tabata Boot Camp®, Barre Above, BOSU®

SPECIALTY: Barre, Cycle, Management, Small Group Training, Cancer Exercise
Carrie Haines
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