With over 136 million posts on Instagram tagged #workout to scroll through, there’s almost a limitless number of exercise routines to look at these days.

From bronzed body builders with washboard abs pumping iron at Gold’s Gym to aerobics aficionados doing squats to synthesized beats, Instagram offers us a window to the world of working out like we’ve never seen. And many of these people want you to join the action through likes, shares and becoming followers.

But is it smart to build your own routine around strangers on Instagram?

 

Ian Rumsey gets that question all the time. He’s a performance specialist at Novant Health Sports & Performance Medicine, powered by EXOS who warns people to be wary of social media workout advice.

“While it’s awesome to be inspired to work out, if you’re exercising improperly, you can really get hurt,” Rumsey says.

So the next time you’re thumbing through a new post by your favorite fitness social media influencer, consider these tips before breaking a sweat:

 

Tip 1: Check their credentials to see if they can give “legit” advice

Like any other social media platform, not all users go by their real identity. How can you tell if the fitness inspirations you follow know what they’re talking about?

Checking their bios is a start, Rumsey said. But the most important part is to research the person’s background and ask yourself a series of questions like: Does this person have the right education and training? Is he or she a part of a nationally accredited program?

“You’ve got to take a step back and determine how much of that Instagram post is considered worthwhile information and whether you should following that person’s routine in the first place,” Rumsey said.

Of course, there’s a huge difference between mimicking the movements of a social media influencer and working with a professional. That leads us to Rumsey’s second piece of advice.

 

Tip 2: Know the difference that comes with working with a professional

“The benefits of working with a professional performance trainer is that they are going to be able to pick up on your individual and unique movement patterns and that they can quickly assess what you need to work on,” Rumsey said.

On the flip side, when you’re watching someone’s movements through an Instagram post, it’s most often that you won’t pick up on those unique, individual movements that comprise a killer workout. This, Rumsey warned, can eventually lead to an injury caused by a lack of oversight.

“Some Instagram influencers that have a lot of followers might be more concerned about how cool a workout looks than be concerned about whether this is the most effective way to promote this movement for other people to follow,” he said.

Ideally, you should strive to take workout tips from a certified professional like Rumsey, who has trained individuals from all ranges of experience levels—from high schoolers to Division I college athletes.

 It’s also important to know that while dozens of organizations certify fitness professionals, not all of certifications are created equal.

Certifications like the ones from the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Council on Exercise and the National Strength and Conditioning Association are representative of what fitness-savvy Instagrammers should look for.

 

Tip 3: Know your alternatives

One of the biggest concerns professionals have about the rise of Instagram-inspired workouts is that the risk of injury runs high. A lot of Instagram posts don’t go into enough detail about how a certain body movement is made or how it’s done, Rumsey said.

“It’s these information gaps that help experts like this step in and protect people from falling into the pitfall of getting hurt while following a clip of a suggested workout,” said Rumsey. “Most Instagram posts out there don’t go into detail and describe the different movement modifications that can be made for the same workout routine.”

Case in point: when you’re dealing with an injury or issue like lower back pain, it’s not that easy to find safe alternative workouts that would help you protect your back.

“You can want bigger biceps or want to squat heavier weight but performing typical movements without proper technique can wind up getting you hurt if you are new to exercise,” said Rumsey. “That’s where working with a professional can help because there are ways you can achieve your fitness goals without hurting yourself.”

The bottom line: While Instagram can be a great motivator for you to get up and be active, watch out before you make those mirror moves. Instead, try to follow the form and technique of a professional.

You can find professionals like Rumsey at one of the Novant Health Sports & Performance Powered by EXOS locations in Charlotte or you can search and follow your own professional of choice. Either way, the most important move you can make when it comes to working out for Instagram is not to get hurt.

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