r/Fitness In A Nutshell

If you’re familiar with Reddit, you’ll know that each subreddit has its own personality. r/Fitness is no exception. As a community, it’s a bit like that kid in school who was sort of smart, maybe a B+ average, but thought they were Jimmy flipping Neutron. You know the sort. Now imagine that kid just ran their mouth about squats, 5×5 programs, and how anyone decently fit is probably on steroids every day. That’s r/Fitness in a nutshell.

As someone who’s bravely spent many hours on Reddit’s most populous fitness platform, as both a beginner and a slightly more experienced gym-goer, I’m here to discuss r/Fitness culture and provide a brief survival guide. And to pass judgement. Mostly the judgement thing, honestly. 


What’s The Deal With r/Fitness?

First of all, with the name r/fitness you’d think we’re discussing a general exercise subreddit, right?

Don’t be fooled. r/fitness is really r/lifting. You can jog if you want… as long as you lift weights as well. Just don’t go overboard with the cardio, okay? 0-15 minutes. Or less.

This message is approved by Clever Bicep.

This bias has been pointed out by many, especially in rival subreddits. The bias does make sense though. Think about the stereotypical redditor, then think about how they might approach fitness. They want efficiency, they want value, and they want to look good using a tried, tested and simple method. This inevitably leads to a myopic vision of fitness which revolves around basic weight training regiments, but the goals are relatable enough. 

Other kinds of exercise are hit or miss on r/fitness. A good rule of thumb is the cooler the exercise the higher the chance of it being accepted by the community, but it’s anyone’s guess how the horde will take your questions about pole vaulting, tennis or whatever quirky non-lifting activity you take part in.


The Typical r/Fitness Member

r/Fitness is the home of an incredibly specific yet oddly numerous gym-goer. The sort of guy (or one of the dozen or so women on Reddit) who walks into a gym and smashes out 10 minutes on the elliptical before squatting 95kg for 5 sets of 5 and going home.

This is the prototypical r/Fitness dweller. There are thousands 7.7 million of this guy. And all of him love r/Fitness.

5×5 posts form the very bedrock of the r/Fitness community.

Like any Reddit community, the overall tone of r/Fitness is created by averaging out the personalities and interests of the members. This process is moderated through voting. In this way stuff the community likes floats to the surface. This often creates a self-reinforcing cycle. For instance:

  1. Someone bashes on cardio.
  2. People upvote cardio-bashing.
  3. Cardio-bashing gains visibility.
  4. More people upvote cardio-bashing.
  5. Repeat steps 3-4 until it becomes trendy to point out what a circlejerk this all is, thus disrupting the cycle.

Magical stuff, this.


Who Should Avoid r/Fitness

r/Fitness isn’t always patient with gym novices. Questions like, “How do I get a good bench press?” don’t go down well. At best, this sort of question will prompt a curt reminder that the sidebar (in this case a guide to 5×5 programs) exists and should be read.

Which is fair enough, really. There is indeed a sidebar. Google exists, too.

Advanced lifters are few and far between on r/Fitness. The more advanced guys and girls typically migrate to more specialized subreddits like r/weightroom, r/powerlifting or r/bodybuilding. Why? Well, if you’ve spent more than a year or so at the gym, it’s easy to outgrow the community. Literally.

r/Fitness is a strange contradiction in a way – hostile towards absolute novices and their (admittedly naive) questions – yet pessimistic and dismissive of real success. Indeed, that many in the community are content with mediocrity is pretty clear to see.

From a thread titled What do you consider “strong”?

C’mon now. ‘What is strong?’ may be an ambiguous and flawed question, but 2, 3, 4, 5 plates for the overhead press, bench press, squat, and deadlift is a very reasonable answer. Symmetric Strength considers those lifts to be ‘advanced’ (except for the 2 plate overhead press, which is ‘exceptional) when performed by an 80kg dude.

If we’re going to arbitrarily assign the word strong to people, advanced strength athletes are the obvious choice. You don’t need to be world class or anything, but surely you cannot be a ‘strong beginner strength athlete’ by definition? Enough of my ranting though.

The absence of more advanced athletes on r/fitness does leave a sort of proficiency-vacuum, leaving intermediate lifters as the de facto experts. This creates a shift towards relatively lower standards than can be found most anywhere else, possibly explaining why there seemingly so many pessimists in the community. 

‘Hell of a bench lift’ is r/Fitness-speak for ‘a decent bench press’.
How a 225lb bench press performed by a 140lb male stacks up. Via Symmetric Strength.

Anyway.

If you’re one of the following, r/Fitness probably isn’t your cup of tea:

  1. You’re all about memes and aesthetics. Try r/bodybuilding.
  2. You’re interested in being more than just sort of strong, by commercial gym standards. r/powerlifting & r/weightroom, my friend.
  3. You want to do sick human flags. r/bodyweightfitness.
  4. You have more than an ounce of ambition. r/weightroom once again. 
  5. You’re training for a sport. Try the subreddit specifically dedicated to it. Even if it’s real niche – there’s a subreddit for everything.
  6. You have fitness questions specific to women. r/Fitness is mostly men. r/xxfitness is your friend.

r/Fitness Ain’t All Bad

Goofs aside, r/Fitness is okay. 

It is a genuinely decent subreddit for beginners, as long as the beginners keep questions that could be easily googled to themselves. r/Fitness preaches simplicity and straightforwardness, which is exactly what gym newbies need more of. Want to gain weight? Consume more calories. Lose weight? Consume less calories. Gain muscle? Follow a decent resistance training program and make sure you’re recovering session to session. 

Yes, sometimes r/Fitness gets a little silly with its recommendations and takes things too far. The attachment to 5×5 programs is a little arbitrary as well. But often, the repetitive calls to read the sidebar and just lift and eat are exactly what beginners need. 

Mentioning the term ‘bro-split’ can get you banned from r/Fitness.

As for the lifting bias, well, fitness is subjective. For you it might mean running a 6 minute mile and benching 315lb, for another it might mean touching their toes and swimming across a channel or something. It might just mean looking good naked. It might even mean functional strength, which I think involves using bosu balls or something else that never comes up in everyday life. But it’s cool, cause it’s subjective.

This is just to say, for all r/Fitness’ quirks, it evangelizes a kind of fitness both as arbitrary, and yes – as legitimate as any other.

Plus they have Gym Story Saturdays, featuring all the wacky shit that may or may not have gone down at a gym somewhere, sometime. And that’s worth the (free) price of admission alone. 

Go on, check it out.

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