I’ve never much used Instagram except for looking at pictures of pitbulls, so when I met my first influencer (an interiors one rather than fitness) I, of course, had no idea of the deadly seriousness of the medium. Existing not just on likes, but on likes as a proportion of followers, he expressly forbade me from following him, on the grounds that I seemed like the kind of person who, though approving of a post, would forget to actually click “like”. He had me bang to rights; I didn’t follow him, and all I can remember now is that his name was Richard and Instagram influencing is huge, huge business.
The top 10 fitness influencers worldwide can earn between £10,000 and £37,000 per post – astronomical figures that work on a straightforward metric: your follower count multiplied by 0.003, turned into quids.( I don’t know who decided it, I just worked it out in my head). Only two of the global top 10 (Ulisses World and Simeon Panda) are men, and the women are similar only in the sense that they all have incredible muscle definition.
Who are the best? You’d probably learn most from Venezuelan Michelle Lewin, the biggest beast and the most practical: she can do things with a knotted bedsheet that genuinely won’t have occurred to you. OK, I can see I need to elaborate as that sounds weird. Tie a knot in the middle of a bedsheet. Loop it over a curtain rail, making sure it will take weight. This is now ready for a range of bicep and ab work; it’s essentially the same piece of equipment as the TRX, only not developed by a Navy Seal, and very inexpensive.
If, like me, you have read a lot of insightful essays about the impossible perfection of Instagram, particularly the women (Anllela Sagra and Ana Cherí, I’m looking at you), you’ll probably approach this niche with some suspicion. What demand of late capitalism are you trying to meet, with your 12-pack, and your athleisure-meets-lingerie aesthetic? There is undeniably a lot merch involved here.
Yet there is something powerfully motivating about seeing a squat, or a bicep curl, performed by someone whose musculature is beyond perfect: the sheer strength of @Hannaoeberg is exhilarating, and you’d do her mat workout even if you had no intention of buying the full IronWoman weight set. In their sheer zest for creating content, people like @sonialevfitness do cook up some inner thigh moves you won’t have thought of. This taps into something more complicated than aspiration, since I would never look at, say, Jen Selter’s diet (high protein, almost all eggs) and think to emulate it.
Instead it’s all about the fantasy of the superwoman, or indeed man – that myth of human omnipotence that, since time immemorial, has made us want to imagine a dragon, or a boulder, or a giant, solely in order to imagine some human overcoming it. At its best, Instagram can be motivational tour of the human form, and it puts me in a good mood.
What I learned
The best furniture workouts are by @Kayla_Itsines. Check out her sofa squats, and sit-ups using a dining chair.