No More Girly Fitness Bullshit.

There are a lot of popular fitness sites and social media accounts where pretty, peppy girls post smoothie recipes and quick little workout routines and fitness challenges for you to follow along with, like “3 easy moves for a sexy back” or “7 minutes to toned thighs.”

I’m calling bullshit on them.

It’s not that I have any beef with the girls who create them- they usually seem cute and fun; they’re just doing what they love. But the message is destructive, and I can’t stand idly by anymore. Typically I prefer to approach things from the positive, but when I see something popular that is just bad for humanity, I gotta poke some holes in it. I did it with fitspo, and now I’m doing it with what I can only call “girly fitness bullshit.” It’s a category category with a massive variety of offenses, but I’m especially looking at the Tone It Up girls, Blogilates, and other such similar nonsense.

Disclaimer: yes doing something is better than doing nothing. If these sites inspire/motivate you to get up and move, great. That shit is probably fun, I get it. Everyone is different. Each brand has their own unique strengths and weakness. But please stop reading now, if you don’t want to hear about why they suck.

Without further ado, 9 Reasons to Stop Following Pretty Fitness Bullshit:

  1. Inaccurate info. I very rarely see even a glimmer of evidence-based science on these sites. The girls may be “inspiring,” but they are not well-educated in exercise science, which means they are confidently sharing wrong information. Often the workouts are based around the myth that girls should do cardio or isolated dance-y moves in order to tone, rather than weight train with actual resistance. (Please don’t make me explain why that’s not true.)
    I see lots of moves being performed wrong, explained wrong, and attributed to the wrong muscles. I see a tragic lack of understanding of anatomy and kinesiology being demonstrated by anyone who says an exercise will “tone up those inner thighs” or “melt those love handles.” I see a complete disregard for the principle of Specific Adaptation, and progressive overload. Because these girls have enviable bodies and are being regarded as “experts” and “gurus” however, they are helping this inaccurate information become even deeper embedded into pop fitness culture.
  1. “Creative” = nonsense. There is this stupid trend in the fitness industry, where trainers are pressured to look creative and original by making up new shit. It makes me want to throw myself out a window. If you invented it yesterday then you do not have a right to tell me it’s great for my triceps. WTF. How could you possibly know that? What evidence is that based on? Ditto for combining a bunch of pre-existing moves into one super complicated and less effective move. Just because you named it something sexy sounding like a “scorpian shape-up!” does not make it a good idea. Plus all that “creativity” unnecessarily confuses the shit out of people who may have heard the actual names of these moves before, but now think there is something special and magical about this one that they’ll never understand.
    Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 6.34.16 PMEffectiveness > creativity. Trying to be creative is what brought us dangerous and useless shit like single leg squats with a bicep curls on a bocu ball, which has probably been named something like the “waist-bend arm-toner!” in someone’s creative nonsense workout routine. No more.
  1. Body envy is not a reason to trust someone. Anything based on the theory “Well, it worked for me!” should be fucking banned. Where is the science?? (Are you noticing a theme here?) These girls don’t seem to have much accurate information or education, but they have nice bodies and good skin, so people assume what they do MUST work! The message is: “just do what I do and you can look like me!” Except they probably do different, better structured stuff for their real workouts. Or maybe not. Maybe they just do their little candy coated workouts, eat lightly, and have good genes.
    But the problem here is that you are a unique fucking snowflake. You have unique limb lengths, unique sleep/stress/nutrition patterns, and a unique metabolism. There is a reason we invented science, and I’m pretty sure it was so that we never had to take one cute enthusiastic girl’s word for what works. (Not to mention you should never try to look like anyone else. Unless you’re attempting to be as deeply unhappy with yourself as possible, you should only ever try to look like you.)
  1. Form. God help me, the form.  When it comes to proper exercise form, the aforementioned lack of understanding and information can not only be frustrating and ineffective, but it can also be fucking dangerous.
    Real quick example: Don’t plank like Jen Selter. Not ever.
    Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 6.18.41 PM
  2. They complicate the shit out of everything. When a so-called “expert” spews out a bunch of convoluted and unscientific nonsense, everyone goes “Gosh, fitness is so complicated and confusing! Good thing she knows what she’s talking about cuz I sure as hell don’t have a clue!”
    But communication of information is important. In fact, it is every bit as important as having accurate and updated information to communicate in the first place. And sometimes the real problem is that they don’t even know what they’re talking about! Tracey Anderson (who is like the Grande Dame of Girly Fitness Bullshit), is a perfect example here. Watch her talk about how toning works, and then try to paraphrase her, I dare you. You can’t. She misuses like 20 buzzwords in a row and literally nobody, probably not even her, knows WTF she’s talking about. I can’t even handle her bullshit.
    “Yeah, but look at her body and her celebrity clients!”
    No. You’re fired. Go back and re-read #3.
  3. Those light-ass weights. Please. You’re killing me. We’re women, not baby jellyfish. We can handle a real fucking challenge. Put down the pink dumbbells.
    Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 6.22.10 PM
  4. Enough with the stupid fucking fitness challenges. “30 Day Bodyweight Squat Challenge!”  Do you know what is way more effective than doing 30 air squats for 30 days in a row? Heavy barbell squats, once or twice a week, paired with a full-body training program and good food and sleep habits, for the rest of your fucking life. Don’t waste your time on slow and ineffective bullshit, just because someone with a nice smile and a pretty blowout “challenged” you to.
  5. Condescending bubblegum language. Many of these sites use HEAVILY sugar coated pop fitness words and phrases, which continues to send the message that because we are women we need special, gentle treatment. As though we need our workouts to be non-threatening and smell like cotton candy. This message is easier to market, because it preys upon popular pre-existing fears and false beliefs. I see a lot of submissive buzzwords like “toning,” “tightening,” and “fat-burning.”
    We can do better than that. We are grown ass women with the ability to do complex shit like file our taxes and fold a fitted sheet. We have highly developed language comprehensions skills. We don’t need special strawberry-scented word definitions. Call me crazy, but I believe in treating women like adult humans who can understand what words mean, and telling them the truth.

    Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 6.51.12 PM

  6. It downplays effort. The message sent by these girls is often that you can have a great body with just a teeeeny tiny bit of extra time and effort. “Sexy 7-minute Valentine’s day workout!!” “Get flat abs in just 4 easy moves!”
    But getting results requires real effort and real consistency over the long term. It requires dedication and a desire to work hard. And it sure as hell requires more than 7 minutes. So please, let’s stop supporting people who say otherwise.

I am passionate about helping women learn to love their bodies. That includes unlearning what a woman “should” be, feeling empowered and confident in yourself, embracing your authentic power, and creating a life so kick-ass and beautiful that you hardly have any time or energy left over to think about how your body looks. 😉

That’s why I created 

The Empowered Women Project

— for women like you, who are sick of being judged for what you look like, and want to focus instead on all the amazing things you can do and be.

Please follow and like us:
  • fatbottomslim

    Yes. Just all the yes to this. So well said Jessi & I couldn’t agree more!

    • Jessi Kneeland

      Oh yayy thank you!! Also: I’m a fan of yours! 🙂

  • Very well put. I’m going to share this in my network, as it sums up all of my thoughts about the “girly fitness” trends. Thanks for writing this!

    • Jessi Kneeland

      Awesome thank you for reading and sharing!

  • Beata Rek Rodriguez

    love it…tell them like it is Jessi… You hear it everyday …all the time…enough is enough….awesome read…

    • Jessi Kneeland


  • timdnml .

    I tried to read the whole thing, but your anger intimidates me. Have you always been a bully? And if you said ‘shit’ or ‘bullshit’ 13 times. You know you could read a thesaurus while you’re on the treadmill.

    • AJ

      If you’re intimidated by a few swear words typed out (not even spoken aloud) by someone you’ve never met directed towards someone else and used in a humourous article, might I suggest that you need to eat some concrete and harden up? Also if you can’t be bothered to read an article about misinformation but can be bothered to count the number of swear words within it, then might I also suggest that you have your priorities wrong?

      • Shane

        Is concrete a carb though? It looks like it’d be a carb.

      • John Paul Jones

        Fuckin’ A, bubba, Fuckin’ A. “Eat some concrete and harden up,” awesome phrase.

      • Jessi Kneeland

        Thank you for your support my friend. 🙂

    • Sam

      I actually think the author won’t be able to read a thesaurus on the treadmill. Because she’ll be working out too hard.
      Which is her main point.

      • Jessi Kneeland

        Hahahahaha this made me laugh SO hard. Thank you for the support my friend.

    • Sean Gerhardt

      tim, just to check in… you’re a grown-ass man or woman, right?

      so buck up, buttercup. the adults are trying to talk. if you scurred, go to church.

      • timdnml .

        I’m an adult and expect to be treated like one. I don’t need to be lectured by a foul-mouthed woman with body issues. Now tell your mom I want my socks back.

        • Sean Gerhardt

          You’re a child with limited understanding. This article is NOT directed at you, or me, or any other men. It’s a woman calling out other women for falling for rip-offs, and we have the opportunity to comment and discuss amongst ourselves. It’s not written as an attack on you.

          And if frank language offends you, you really might want to re-think going on the internet.

          • timdnml .

            “and we have the opportunity to comment and discuss amongst ourselves”…unless some holier-than-thou cretin takes it upon themselves to criticize my honest opinion and manhood. I offered my opinion, and YOU started the name calling. Buck up, buttercup. Glad you’re not offended by frank language. Fuck off.

          • Jessi Kneeland


  • My husband and I just got a good laugh out of reading this! Your points are dead on. I hate when ppl sugar-coat the commitment it takes to get a strong body, and I do NOT allow my clients to think about working out in a sugar-coated way. Love the rant…

    • Jessi Kneeland

      Haha I’m happy to entertain 🙂

  • lsuite

    The subtext of Jessi’s enthusiastic and informed critique points to the conventional, destructive, sexist stereotypes perpetuated by women on other women. Timdmnl’s comments suggesting that Jessi should use a thesaurus does this too. The test of course, is “would timdmnl write similarly about a male writer dissing male stereotypes using a street-wise writer’s voice?’ Picking at style rather than engaging the content of Jessi’s blog is just side-steps the real issue she raises. The comment doesn’t refute her ideas, it asks her to behave in a more conventionally ‘lady-like’ manner. WTF?! Kick it, Jessi!

    • Jessi Kneeland


  • JeFranco sleziacci

    Not all women WANT to be as fit as possible. Many of them just want to be arm candy or trophies to look at. I don’t find them attractive but some superficial men probably do.

    • Jessi Kneeland

      I gotta tell ya… I’ve never met one of those women. Yes I train and meet plenty of women who don’t want to be “as fit as possible.” Hell, I’m not even sure I want to that! But I’ve never met a woman who didn’t WANT to be her own person, with a better relationship to her own body.

  • Jon D. Gilmore

    I wasn’t able to get through this article. The foul language was a huge turn off.

    • Sean Gerhardt

      again, as i said to Tim upthread… the adults are trying to talk. if you don’t like it, go back to the kids’ table and make arts and crafts.

      • Jessi Kneeland

        Sean hahah thank you for the support brother. 🙂

    • spider

      ** eye roll ** Well thanks for telling everyone else , we needed to know how oversensitive you are to magic words.

      • Jessi Kneeland

        Thanks for the support. 🙂

  • Dennis Moore

    shes spot on about the exercises and those who invent them.The writer is passionate about this ad I understand here hatred for seeing people being humored and snookered.This idea of telling the customer what they want to hear and how they want to do it is stealing from them and exploiting them.American business has created this monster and created customers who need their egos massaged and every thing their way.Your service should be provided to them based on whats best and whats realistic and they need to be told that upfront.If you loose them at least your conscience is clear and you have some kind of ethics.Im a guy of course but this annoys me as well watching my wife go thru all this quackery.

    • Jessi Kneeland

      Hell yes. I don’t have a solution in terms of what a free market creates around this stuff, but boy is it frustrating at times.

  • Irene

    Thank God for this! Yes Yes Yes!

    • Jessi Kneeland

      Hehe thank you Irene!

  • Sean Gerhardt

    thank you so much, Jessi! As a man, I’ve been doing all I can to help undo this, by making sure I train my women like grown-ass women, starting a women’s powerlifting team, and reminding them that even I aspire to “lift like a girl” (which, in my mind, is the opposite of the “bro” training I did for most of my life… get aggro, curl heavy, squat to half-depth, and brag on the bench press you once did in high school).

    Sad thing is it’s not just the women in the gym… it’s a LOT of women trainers, and now men too getting into this “lengthen and tone” childish shit. But we’ll keep fighting the good fight!

    • Jessi Kneeland

      Fight, sista. 🙂 Do you follow Nia Shanks? If not, look her up!

  • Guest

    this was a great read and i really appreciated it – until i noticed all but 1 of Jessi’s testimonials come from EXTREMELY fit & attractive people and some are even self disclaiming models, etc. Just see a bit of a disconnect between your argument here and the people you are sharing with us that you’ve helped the most (or at least took the time to write a review). still, great article. really enjoyed this.

    • Guest

      The more i think about it, this comment is more suitable for the fitspo article… not so much this one.

      • Jessi Kneeland

        Hey, thank you for posting! And yes I’m certainly aware that it could come off as hypocritical that many of my clients are classically attracted with societally-accepted bodies. BUT they’re just women, and they have their own struggles and obstacles, both physically and emotionally. I work with them to go from where they are to where they want to go, and just like most of the people who connect to me online, they almost always want to go to a place of empowerment and feeling awesome in their bodies.

  • Gina

    I am VERY interested on your thoughts of and Zuzka Light with their HIIT workouts and awesome bodies. Zuzka SWEARS she only does the same workouts she gives us. I call BS on her, but either she is a genetic freak, or a very good liar.

    • Jessi Kneeland

      Zuzka is a total smokeshow. I have no idea whether or not she only does her workouts, nor do I know what she would look like genetically from any other workouts, or what her nutrition looks like. I would categorize her in this same arena in SOME ways (like body worship as a reason to trust someone) but in others, like her actual workouts… I don’t know if I would categorize them as “girly” in the same way, because that girl is strong as eff.

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    • Muscle chick training

      She’s a good liar. So is tracey Anderson.

  • newCodeYorik

    All very valid points, but what demographic are you going for? The women who can appreciate a science based approach to fitness already ignore the fitspro arena. The women who NEED to be drawn away from fitspro aren’t interested in the science based approach; they just want results. The want to “look good nekkid” to steal a phrase from a site you probably avoid. I think you’ve got a catch 22 here.

    • Jessi Kneeland

      Great question! I’m aiming for the women who have not been introduced to the science-based approach yet/much. I’m trying to bring them interesting and captivating information that appreciates and honors the goal to look good nekkid, but always has a basis in science and the sustainable results that are possible by becoming process-focused and making sure you love what you do!

  • John Kneeland

    Your points are even better than your last name!

    • Jessi Kneeland

      Lol are we related?

      • John Kneeland

        I mean, at some point up the family tree we have to be, right?

  • Kate

    Thank you for this post and I think you would also enjoy reading this, which reiterates another aspect of how women do not exercise (or eat) to their fullest potential.

    • Jessi Kneeland

      Thank you for sharing and absolutely!

  • Tiffany Snark

    I call bullshit on the whole being able to fold a fitted sheet shit. I’m 33 and I still don’t know how. If grown-up-ness is benchmarked on the ability to fold a fitted sheet I’m fucking 5 years old….really did like the article though!

    • Jessi Kneeland

      Hahahaha maybe I should do a video for the RF tribe on sheet-folding…

  • AndrewKonoff

    wait… how do you fold a fitted sheet

    • Jessi Kneeland

      Hahaha I got this comment so many times. 😀

  • Erin

    Just wondering – what is the harm if someone tries these workouts and likes the results they see? Maybe they achieve different results or it takes longer than a more-lifting centric workout would, but that’s their prerogative and doesn’t mean they are not a “grown ass woman” as well.

    • Jessi Kneeland

      ZERO harm!! As I wrote in another comment here, I consider anything that gets people into health and fitness a GOOD thing! There is nothing wrong with doing these workouts if you enjoy them, and for a lot of girls it DOES accomplish their goals: to move and be active without joining a gym or feeling intimidated! I love it for that. I simply wanted to illuminate some of the unspoken downsides.

      • MrsGreene

        I think I would not say “zero” harm, unless they really are getting results and they are truly pleased….it is true anything is better than nothing, but so many women who do these things then expect to look like the women promoting the methods, and denigrate themselves when they don’t get the same results.

  • Erica Kristin

    I wrote a similar essay on this and will be posting o my blog as well. love it Jessi!

    • Jessi Kneeland

      Awesome, will you tag me or send it to me?

  • nightfury85

    It’s even worse when you are criticized for telling your friends those “quick and easy detox diets” actually don’t yield long term results. Some people are so eager to get things quick and easy, instead of putting the energy to get something worthwhile. It’s sad.

    • Jessi Kneeland

      Yep it’s tough, but I’ve found the best thing you can do is lead by example! Can’t tell people what to do. 🙂

  • megnut

    While I agree with everything that you have commented on, I disagree with the way you are presenting it. If you want to break down stereotypes then you have to refrain from using them yourself. You describe these workouts as “girly” which only reinforces negative stereotypes of women being weak DUE to their gender and that being a girl or a woman is negative. And while this all seems like some linguistic exercise, keep in mind that the language we use not only describes our world but helps construct it and how we interact with it. If you want to call “bullshit” on how these exercise routines are bad then do exactly that, but do not categorize them as “girly” because I am a woman, I am a girl and I cranked out a “girly” 185lb deep squat this morning.

    • Jessi Kneeland

      I totally hear where you’re coming from, and I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts! I intentionally use language that I think my target demo will connect with, and it seemed to have worked. I could have attempted a much gentler, more toned down version of this post, but I highly doubt it would have gone viral and been able to impact as many people.

  • Rebecca P.

    You just made my life with this post! THANK YOU for writing this! (If I did, the internet trolls would have went crazy!)

    • Jessi Kneeland

      Rebecca haha oh I got plenty of them. Mostly those who didn’t appreciate the foul language.

  • Lora

    LOVE this!!

    • Jessi Kneeland

      Thanks Lora!

  • Meggie

    hahah love it! Your writing is hilarious.

    • Jessi Kneeland

      Hehe thank you Meggie!

  • chantelle

    This is so legit. Preach the truth, darling!

    • Jessi Kneeland

      Thanks Chantelle!

  • Right on Jessi. Tough topic to tackle, but worthy of discussion. The fitness industry has condescended to women since the beginning. It wasn’t that long ago we were divided into separate men’s and women’s workout rooms! Then they combined them, but made it clear which weight were “for the girls,” and which were for the men. Oh brother, er, sister. As far as I can tell, the only difference in men and women in the gym is women recover faster, and in many cases they can lift more weight respectively.

    • Jessi Kneeland

      Thanks Adam! At some point I’ll write about the other differences I see as valid programming… mostly a difference in volume, overall and for certain body parts. 🙂 Aka girls are rarely trying to get huge pecs and biceps, and guys are rarely trying to get a booty like beyonce. But hell yeah.

  • Ginger

    I had great results with Liporidex. Their products can help to boost your results from diet and exercise by increasing your energy, boosting your metabolism and burning fat quickly. You should really check them out. I was skeptical, but I am really happy I tried them.

  • mihaela

    Hey, I’m new here, but this is one of your first articles that I read. I just want to share my experience with Blogilates. I started working out 2 years ago, when I was just a student, and I didn’t have enough money to go to the gym. I liked the author of Blogilates, Cassey, because she was so optimistic and happy all the time, and I really felt that positivity while doing her workouts. Although the videos have silly names, as you pointed out, Cassey does explain things like…these exercises will NOT burn fat, they will only work your muscles, etc.. She really does promote weight lifting and talks about her workouts at the gym. But the videos on Youtube are for girls that work out by themselves…maybe they don’t have enough money to go to the gym, maybe they don’t have time, or maybe they just need a little bit of confidence and strength to get started… For me, Blogilates was just this: it showed me that it’s really fun and satisfying to work out, it doesn’t have to be painful and boring. I grew stronger by doing those workouts over and over again, and of course, I didn’t only do one 7 minute video a day…I would do like 6 in a row, resulting in an entire hour.
    Today, I do workout like a badass and I lift really heavy 3 times a week, which makes me very proud and gives me tons of confidence. I am also my Pilates instructor’s favorite student, 2 times a week. But I really don’t think I would have gotten here without Blogilates 🙂 I was very weak when I first started…Cassey helped me get stronger, I really owe her a lot!

    • Jessi Kneeland

      Hi! Thank you so much for sharing your experience! I actually have had a few clients with similar experiences. I call it “gateway fitness” and I’m honestly so grateful for anything that introduces you to the concept of taking good care of your body, moving for fun, and feeling confident!! Obviously the post was written purposefully aggressively and funny, but I am 100% in support of gateway fitness for the people it works for… barre class, cross fit, running, anything! I love what you wrote about not having been able to get where you are… honoring that part of your journey while now lifting weights and feeling like a badass. That’s some good energy. 🙂

  • gib14jpr

    Very good article.
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  • Liz

    amen, sister.

    • Jessi Kneeland

      Thanks Liz!

  • Lindsey Morningstar

    Oh my god I LOVE this post!! I roll my eyes at every pinterest post about “tight tummies in just 3 seconds!” with a stick-figure girl posing in the background. Pick up some heavy shit, lift it, and do it again. You are my new hero.

    • Jessi Kneeland

      Oh gosh thank you Lindsey!! For your support, reading, and commenting!! 😀

  • Tim Greig

    So many Twitterable quotes:Those light-ass weights. Please. You’re killing me. We’re women, not baby jellyfish. We can handle a real fucking challenge. Put down the pink dumbbells.
    Hilarious! I went to a fitness show yesterday and ‘discovered” Kettleworx. They had a 5lb ‘Ultra’ kits there. 5lbs. I’m not even sure what you are supposed to do with those? Toe lifts? Pretty colours though…

  • Steve Jacobs

    Very informative Jessi. My wife has been reading your blog and others. She’s been supplementing her workouts with effective protein from healthfood stores like, whole foods, and other places. Will you be writing an entry on beneficial supplements soon as well so she can enhance her results further?


  • Great article, way too many girls are scared of heavy weights even though it’s one of the ways to give the best health boost!

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  • This is a great article!!! If you really want to achieve the body that you’ve been wanting! Just like the quote: “If you still look cute after your didn’t train hard enough”

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  • Yes. Just yes. So glad you wrote this.

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  • Jessica Stone

    Jessi, I just stumbled onto your blog today and I love it! There is so much poor fitness advice out there, especially for women. As someone who just recently in the past couple years started trying to get healthy and fit, it has been as much (maybe more) of a challenge to find truthful, effective advice as it is to implement it. Thank you for calling it as it is!

  • Kristen

    I LOVE everything about this.

  • Hanna Chuparkoff

    YAAAS PREACH GIRL! I wish every #fitfam #fitspert #fitpornstar could read this. Love it

  • Letsia Samuel Motlhakane

    Fitness is fitness i like the way that you tell the truth about this topic, cause alot of people sell hype which wont help with your fitness goals, I think im personally going to your info so the women in my life can keep up with current events on health so they live a healthy life .

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  • Rosanna Brown

    I loved this blog post! Everything was so honest and on point. As someone who struggles with body image after having 3 three children, the last thing I need is these ridiculous workout routines that don’t do jack.
    Stick to hard work and become a better version of yourself!