I tested six popular fitness YouTubers to see whose videos are best
A full week of pain, sweat and questionable dance moves
With gyms having been shut for a couple of months now, many of us have had to turn to different ways to prove all those Gymshark purchases were actually worth it. Lost without the grunts of a man double your size next to you and bored of running around Town Moor, YouTube workouts have become the new norm (much to the annoyance of our poor housemates in the room below).
There is no escaping the huge amounts of videos now available, but how do we know which ones are best?
Lucky for you, I have put myself through a week of pain, sweat, and tears in an attempt to crown the fitness queen of YouTube. Each day I took on a few videos from each of the contenders, making up some of the most well-known fitness influencers on the platform, judging each against categories such as enjoyability, variability, and difficulty of the workouts.
So, after a week of dancing, donkey kicking and planking – who came out on top?
Day 1 – Chloe Ting
Day one was Chloe Ting, a name that brings back the memories of baking banana bread, sunny walks and 5k run challenges of Lockdown 1. She gained huge popularity last summer, with her challenges and transformations shared across social media platforms.
I started out the week strong with some of her most popular workouts, which are a part of the two-week challenge. Sadly, none promised a one-day transformation, so I cannot show you six-pack abs or a Kim K booty, but with the accessibility and enjoyability of her plans, it’s not hard to see how such successful transformations can be achieved.
The actual workouts are very short, ranging from five minutes to half an hour – so those pushed for time could easily fit them in during the day. Waiting for your Deliveroo order? Bored in a seminar? Waiting for your housemate to stop hogging the shower? Why not fill the time with a quick 5-minute ab workout? The workouts themselves are incredibly easy to follow.
All the exercises are relatively simple, allowing for even the least coordinated people to figure them out, and there is always an explanation and preview of each exercise.
The workouts are enjoyable enough for the time taken to do them. The exercises, while simple, are quite repetitive (which does make them quite dull). However, Chloe Ting is perfect for anyone in need of a quick start into the world of YouTube fitness, with simple but effective plans to follow that do not take much time at all.
Day 2 – Pamela Reif
Pamela Reif was my guide for day two – also another Lockdown 1 favourite and certainly a step up.
Pamela always gets straight to the point. Unlike most videos, there is never a long introduction to which you have to fast forward five minutes. The one problem with this is that there is never any explanation of the exercises due to the lack of breaks between them. For beginners, or those of us that lack any coordination, this poses a challenge, and more time is spent not falling over or staring at the screen trying to figure out what she is actually doing rather than exercising.
The workouts are definitely a challenge – my bright red face and sweaty mat being a testament to their difficulty – and a good deal of time was spent complaining about how she makes it look so easy. But challenges can be good, and for those who are looking for more intense workouts, Pamela is your gal.
Her channel has a huge variety of videos available, from dance workouts to more intense hour-long HIIT workouts. The videos are somewhat enjoyable, and Pamela’s great taste in music helps this, but for some, the difficulty of them might take away from this enjoyment. So, if you are looking to be extremely sweaty, red in the face, unable to talk and looking for a physical and mental challenge (honestly some of the moves make my degree look easy), then these workouts are for you.
Day 3 – Lilly Sabri
Still feeling rather sore from the day before, Lilly Sabri dragged me through day three. Slightly less known than the previous two, but still with 2.1 million subscribers, Lilly Sabri has gained huge popularity with free plans promising smaller waists, hourglass shapes and lifted booties.
Whilst these titles might be attention-grabbing, the type of results in the titles are entirely aesthetic and often cannot be achieved in the time given. It is clear, however, that the titles are simply clickbait as Lilly frequently stresses the importance of long term goals and commitment to see results. With all the clickbait on the internet these days, we cannot really blame her for following suit.
Lilly is hugely motivational and energetic, being one of the few that continue talking throughout, shouting encouragement, and making it as enjoyable as possible for the viewer. It is hard not to pick up her energy, even if you’re running on four hours of sleep, still slightly drunk from the night before. There are always beginner alternatives to the exercises and she explains them well, so you actually feel like you know what you are doing.
My biggest criticism would be that she does not do the moves all the time; whilst this is no criticism of her fitness, it does make me lose motivation to keep going. Similarly, how am I meant to keep going when YouTube ads start running? A man telling me about Trading 212 is not exactly the hype music I need to get through a minute of burpees.
Day 4 – MadFit
Day four started with one of the most fun workouts of the week, as well as the only one I could get my housemates involved with – a 15-minute MadFit dance party. Maddie has such a wide variety of videos available from dances to advanced workouts, ranging from five minutes to an hour. It’s no surprise that the dance workouts are everyone’s favourite; who doesn’t want to dance to 2000s throwback hits?
Maddie is probably the most professional in terms of delivery of the workouts. Each video has a warmup and cool down, as well as clear, simple instructions of each exercise so they are performed correctly. She also manages to find the perfect combination between music and talking – talking enough to give thorough explanations and motivation, as well as having great soundtracks. Unlike many YouTubers, Maddie also includes quite a few workouts that involve equipment, useful for those of a more experienced level with dumbbells although some heavy books will probably do.
One thing I really liked about Maddie is the lack of clickbait titles and clear message and focus on building strength and fitness away from all the aesthetic based videos done earlier in the week. She makes sure that the exercises are enjoyable to all, hence all the fun dance workouts and challenges she has available on her channel.
Day 5 – Blogilates
I have to admit that I have always been sceptical of pilates, but I was well and truly proved wrong by Cassie Ho on day five. The blogilates channel has been around for the longest amount of time compared to the other channels, and this is reflected in the professionality and quality of the most recent videos available. Alongside this professionality, Cassie never drops her smile, even whilst holding a plank that feels never-ending.
Information on the moves is always given clearly, alongside alternatives for beginners or lower impact options, reflective of her clear experience as a pilates instructor. The exercises themselves are deceptively difficult, seemingly easy to do but quickly making it apparent that pilates is no joke. Who knew just circling my arms around would leave me unable to lift them the next day – a decent excuse for a PEC form I’d say.
These workouts are perfect for beginners, or people who ended up stuck with the box room in their uni house, as very few require a huge amount of space, equipment, or prior experience. Go in with an open mind and get ready to see just how hard pilates can be, and good luck getting out of bed the next day.
Day 6 – Heather Robertson
Day six was the turn of Heather Robertson, one of the least well-known YouTubers on the list but still raking in 1.3 million subscribers. Unlike the others I tried, there are no set plans to follow, but there are a huge number of varied workouts available on her channel. The types of workouts are generally targeted to those with a bit more experience and equipment. Most videos require at least some equipment and include exercises that are quite complex to master.
The workouts are straight to the point and lack the motivational shouting and enthusiastic smiles that are usually abundant in these types of videos. So, if this something you need to get yourself through a workout and makes it more enjoyable for you, Heather probably is not the one for you. But if you like a more serious and practical approach to your workouts, she is perfect.
And the results are…
By the end of the week, my body was well and truly knackered, muscles that I did not even know existed aching. So, I spent the final day reminiscing about the many burpees, donkey kicks and planks I had done in an attempt to conclude my winner.
In terms of enjoyability, variability and effectiveness of the workouts, MadFit came out on top in all. With so many different types of workout videos available, I can honestly say there will be something that everyone will enjoy. Even my housemates (who would probably prefer to clean the entire house and catch up on weeks’ worth of lectures before doing any sort of exercise) enjoyed it.
With the weather getting warmer, and promising news about the vaccines coming in every day, hopefully it will not be long until we can get back into the gyms we are paying an extortionate amount for and finally get out in our sports teams again. But, until then, sweating, shouting, and generally making noises your housemates may find dubious in your room will have to do.