One of NFL star JJ Watt’s most recent social media training videos should make you stop your scrolling and pay attention. Instead of showing off a heavyweight PR or showcasing some ridiculous exercise variations, à la reigning league rushing king Derrick Henry, the new Arizona Cardinal took a moment to warn his followers about a real issue plaguing the fitness social media space: videos with fake or weights.
Watt posted the video to his Instagram and Twitter accounts showcasing what looked to be an easy set of heavy back squats, featuring a barbell loaded up with five big bumper plates. He works through the reps effortlessly, hitting a parallel depth and firing back up like a warmup set.
If all those plates were 20 kilograms or 45 pounds, which are the heaviest plates in most gyms, he’d have been working with 220 kilograms or 495 pounds, a fairly impressive weight to be squatting effortlessly even for a big man like Watt. But if you scrolled by the clip quickly, you’d be hard pressed to notice that the red plates were actually marked 2.5 (kilos), instead of 20 or 45. Rather than working with almost five bills, Watt was actually squatting… about 100 pounds (assuming the curved Duffalo bar weighs 45 pounds).
To hammer the point home Watt removes a plate with one hand after racking the bar. He tosses it in the air and catches it with ease, then throws it down on the ground next to a normal rubberized 45 pound plate you’d find in any commercial gym. The bumper looks much bigger, but it weighs a fraction as much as the other plate.
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Watt captioned the post simply: “beware the bullshit.” He isn’t some Luddite who ignores social media; Watt is just as likely to share behind the scenes peeks at his training progress and physique updates as his contemporaries like Myles Garrett.
But Watt still made a point to call out anyone who might be posting misleading videos using fake weights or camera angles that obscure how hard the seemingly jaw-dropping feats athletes share on social media actually are. Fake weights are an issue in the world of fitness influencers, where clout and appearance often mean more than actual performance or training prowess—but elite level athletes have also been known to stretch the limits of reality from time to time to flex on the ‘Gram.
These videos—and other misleading tools, like influencers who refuse to disclose they use performance enhancing substances—spread disinformation in the fitness world, which is harmful to audiences that don’t understand the people they follow aren’t totally on the level. That smokescreen can perpetuate issues with body image and expectations about what one might realistically be able to achieve in the gym, among other problems. To put it bluntly, videos like these are examples of fraud. Watt is right to highlight this problem using his platform, and it’s a good opportunity to take a moment and think about the type of workout content that you use for inspiration and motivation.
We’re not exactly sure who Watt is calling out with this clip, but one thing is for sure: If it was an opposing quarterback, we wouldn’t want to be him when Watt lines up against him for the football 2021 season.
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