The Instagrind Effect

Instagram is being flooded with workout videos of young athletes “grinding”. My question is: Are they really working all that hard?

Social media is everywhere. It is stitched into the fabric of American life.  It can be a great tool. We’ve all seen social media reconnect friends, provide valuable information and raise money and awareness for great causes. Everyone remembers the Ice Bucket challenge for ALS. That social media craze raised $115 million for research. But social media also has its drawbacks. Cyber bullying is serious, but beyond our discussion. One of the biggest downfalls is that an individual can take on an entirely different persona in order to appear worthy of our adoration.  Filters and PhotoShop. Video edits. Airbrushing. The list goes on. People only let us see what they want us to see. And more often than not, it’s not reality.


This “all access” pass has given birth to what I coined “The Instagrind Effect”. Our social media feeds are littered with posts from the victims of this epidemic. You know these posts. They take videos of every single rep, edit them, put some cool filters and special effects on it with some sick EDM in the background. That’s what hard work looks like! Right?! Right?!! Didn’t you notice the sweat drip off that dude’s forehead in slow-mo? And when the droplet hit the ground, the beat dropped and the whole gym shook? This is what hard work looks like! (eye roll emoji)


Ok. I got carried away. But the Instagrind Effect is real. This obsession of posting workout videos concerns me on a few levels. Now I understand that there are athletes that post some videos to check for form or to highlight a PR that they are proud of. I have no problem with that at all.  Feedback on form is a great way to improve. And there is no greater feeling than crushing a legit PR in the weight room. But the Instagrind Effect doesn’t deal with those situations.


At the core of the problem lies the ego. So many of these young athletes are posting these videos to “do it for the ‘gram”. Why are you posting daily workout videos (often displaying poorly executed exercises)? Are you just boosting your ego? That is a dangerous road to take. Ego lifting often leads to improper loading in attempt to look awesome and bad ass. This then leads to poor execution and injury. Be careful my young social media stars. This ain’t no joke.


Why are you putting the work in? Are you trying to enhance your on-field performance or just trying to make yourself look good (and I don’t mean physically)? Is your training appropriate? Are you training like an athlete should or did you just screenshot some whack workout from These are questions that you need to ask yourself before you post that next Skrillex-laced back and biceps bro-sesh video.


The victims of the Instagrind Effect are on a constant quest to seek praise for something that should be expected of them. As an athlete, there are things that you are  supposed to do. Just as a student is expected to do homework and study, an athlete is expected to work hard to improve. That means that they need to develop skills and improve their bodies. These are expectations. We need to stop seeking recognition for something that should be standard. You aren’t going above and beyond. It’s your job! We need to clarify what we expect of our athletes. We need to ingrain the intrinsic motivation that comes with skill and strength training. Forget about the number of views or likes that your posts get and worry about your commitment to your team and yourself.


I question the intent of those athletes on their “Instagrind”. If you are so concerned with taping and posting every workout, do you have the right objective when you walk in the gym? An athlete’s intent is what separates “working out” and “training”. Training requires a purpose, a larger goal. In order to maximize each training session (which should be the goal) you need to lift with intent, with purpose. There needs to be tunnel vision. You have to focus on your purpose: Every rep of every set.


If you are worried about camera angles, lighting and photobombs, are you truly dialed in for each rep? The mind-body connection is a real game changer in performance. Training with intent goes a long way towards improving performance which leads to program adherence and long term athletic development. True hard work in the gym comes from a marriage of mental and physical intent. Stop checking your damn cinematography and ZONE IN for the hour or so you are training.


Lastly, from my experience, 97.7% (completely made up number, but you get the point) of the hardest workers don’t talk about how hard they work. They just work. DON’T TALK ABOUT IT, BE ABOUT IT. The hardest workers don’t care if people know that they hit 225 pounds on the squat for the first time. They care that 225 used to be the goal and they CRUSHED IT. When the hardest workers walk into the gym they have one purpose: Improve. They can’t be concerned with the opinions of others because they are on a mission, hell-bent on being better than when they walked in the door.


The REAL hard working athletes don’t stunt on the ‘gram for a handful of reasons:

  • They expect to reap the benefits of training because they put in the work. I mean full effort every session.

  • They don’t need a like or a retweet to validate their hard work. The only true validation comes from sweat and improved performance in their sport.

  • They know when they are working hard and when they are slacking. They don’t need to hear it from anyone else especially strangers on social media.

  • They stay hungry! They are never satisfied. They focus on what they can control, which is giving their best effort during every training session – from beginning to end.


The Instagrind Effect has cheapened the value of hard work. It has inflated the ego of so many social media users by offering a distorted view of their “hard work”. They are so concerned with double taps ❤ and hashtags that their focus has shifted from what truly matters. They are devoting more time to editing their workout videos than to their actual workout. WE need to take a stand. As coaches, parents and teammates, we need to promote REAL work ethic. We need to instill high expectations. We need to be role models and set REAL-LIFE examples of hard work. We need to rediscover the blue-collar, lunch pail work ethic. No more selfies in the gym mirrors. No more minute-long videos of biceps curls. It’s time to put our headphones in and put our heads down. And just work.


Do you really work as hard as you tell everyone? Think about it.

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