fitness · strength training · training

Exploring the world of YouTube trainers

Image description: overhead shot of runing shoes, a resistance band, two sets of dumbbells and a kettle bell beside a yoga mat on a wood floor (Tracy’s home set-up).

Despite fulfilling my January challenge by staying more or less consistent with Yoga with Adriene‘s Center (Canadians and such will need to get over the spelling of “center” as opposed to “centre”) practice, I don’t feel as if I’ve hit my 2023 stride yet. Yoga is fine, but I can’t have yoga be the whole of it. I need strength training. I need regular running. And I have neither in my life in anything like a routine. So earlier this week a co-worker said she uses some trainers on YouTube for her strength training. I asked her to send me some names and she did (thanks Gayle!): Larie Midkiff, Sydney Cummings Houdyshell, and Caroline Girvan. My task this week: to do one session with each of them and report on it.

Wednesday Morning: Larie Midkiff’s “30 Minute Dumbbell Only Full Body Workout | Strength Cardio Endurance | Giant Sets | Low Impact” This was a tough full-body workout that made me sweat. Larie Midkiff is a lowkey trainer who doesn’t talk a lot. There is peppy instrumental music running in the background. She has a sparse set-up, which is reassuring for home workouts. This workout is as described — low impact, full-body, giant sets that develop strength, cardio and endurance. After a short warm-up on the mat, we went straight into the first of four giant sets. Each giant set had two rounds of four exercises. The first round was 30 seconds of each exercise with heavier weights. The second was 60 seconds of each, lighter weights. They all involved combination of moves familiar to me: cleans, thrusters, presses, rows, sumo squats and lunges to name a few. She ended with a short cool down of stretches that felt amazing. Total time: 35 minutes (after which I needed a shower).

Verdict: I liked Larie’s style — quiet, with a sense of purpose. If you are looking for instruction, you won’t find it here (maybe she has other workouts that are more geared in that direction). But if you have experience with weights and feel comfortable with your form on a variety of familiar moves, which is the category I would put myself in, she’s really good. I will definitely go back for more of Larie Midkiff’s workouts.

Thursday Morning: Caroline Girvan’s “20 MIN Dumbbell Full Body Workout – Compound Movements | NO REPEATS“. I chose this in part because I didn’t have tons of time and in part because I wanted to be fair and compare full-body workouts to full-body workouts. This was not quite as challenging as yesterday’s with Larie Midkiff, but it was a clearly presented series of movements, 40 seconds of work followed by 20 seconds of rest. The exact exercises are listed under the video, so you can make an informed decision about whether the workout appeals to you. Other than the preamble, Caroline didn’t talk at all. But she is an upbeat young woman and her energy is palpable throughout. There is music playing throughout the workout and the timer counts down so you know when the move will change. The last three seconds of the timer sounds a tone that indicates it’s about time to switch. The next exercise shows up in the top right corner, the name of it (for example, “goblet squats” or “should press” or “upright rows”) in the bottom right, and Caroline gets into position to do the exercise, which she does with control and perfect form. There is often a form prompt at the beginning of each exercise too, such as for the Single Arm Bent Over Row where it says “CONTROL the lowering portion at all times! Think about moving through a large range of movement.” We covered quite a few minutes within the 20 minutes of active work, including two back-to-back core exercises at the end for 60 seconds each. While there was no warm-up, there was a stretching cooldown for about 3 or 4 minutes after the weight training.

Verdict: I enjoyed this workout a lot. Maybe I’m discovering that the YouTube trainers don’t do a lot of talking as they walk you through the workout. Again, I would say that these workouts assume a baseline of knowledge and experience. But if you have it, then it’s great. I thought the production value here was pretty high. Even though it 40-seconds on and 20-seconds off is a fast pace, I liked her emphasis on deliberate and controlled work, and I didn’t feel rushed. I was able to manage with the weights I have, though over time I will need to take it downstairs to the fitness centre in my building. I will certainly try more workouts with Carline Girvan.

Friday End of Work Day: Sydney Cummings Houdyshell’s “30 Minute Full Body Strong & Fit Workout | Effort – Day 1.” This workout is clearly the beginning of a series called “Effort” and wowza. I had to dial it back a few times. Sydney Cummings Houdyshell is much more what I was expecting from YouTube trainers, where she is talking throughout in that way they do in classes at the gym. She is a high-energy, pep-talking, “you can do it!” style of trainer. She does it with you, but offers enough guidance and prompts to let you know what’s coming. This was a high-intensity workout where you do 45 seconds on with 15 seconds rest for two rounds, then 30 seconds amped up for one more round followed by 30 seconds rest. Then on to the next exercise. It’s a mix of lower, upper, and core, with some cardio (burpees anyone?) thrown in. There is a bit of a warm-up to get the blood flowing and then a stretchy cooldown at the end.

Verdict: This was the hardest, possibly because it was at the end of the day but also because it tested my endurance with the pace of it and the integration of more cardio. Again there is no instruction, so if you are not sure of your form on squats, bicep curls, shoulder presses, one-legged Romanian deadlifts, or burpees you might want to get right with that before you workout with her. In the end, I think I am more likely to opt for one of the other two, but if I’m looking for cardio with some resistance training, I will choose Sydney Cummings Houdyshell.

In the end, I think all three of these trainers have something to recommend them. I imagine I will go back to all of them and over time it will become clearer to me whose programs suit me best. If you decide to check them out, my guess is that you’ll want to do the same. Their styles are different enough that it’s worth trying a few sessions with all three to see where you land.

If you have a favourite YouTube trainer, please let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear about others, or about your experiences with one of these three.

4 thoughts on “Exploring the world of YouTube trainers

  1. Hi Tracy! HASfit workouts with Joshua and Claudia Kozak are great. They have a variety of workout types for different levels of ability and lots of videos. The two are very upbeat while training and also give advice on form. I’m going to check the ones you mentioned too.

  2. So I’m curious. Why not go back to the gym for strength training? And also swimming. Don’t you miss swimming? Do you think that for you this is a life long switch to working out at home, except for running outside and hot yoga in the studio? What motivates it? After covid, and I know “after” isn’t really the right word, but after the worst of covid, I’m just so happy to be back at the gym.

    And I’ve always thought of you as a gym goer. This is a change.

  3. Betty Rocker (Bree) can be a game changer. Her “30 day Challenge” is only 15 mins/day; no equipment needed and it restored my cardio, strength, balance & endurance, not to mention losing 1.75″ off my arse! It helped this volunteer firefighter in immeasurable ways, even though I had to go so far as to modify the ‘modifications’ to suit my abilities. Haha. I was doing “push-ups” against the wall when that was the best I could do and I still had incredible results! Did I mention it was a free trial?!

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