Should You Give an Unsolicited Form Check?

Should You Give an Unsolicited Form Check?
Photo: michaeljung, Shutterstock

Not long ago, I posted a pair of videos on Instagram. One was of me swinging a kettlebell at the beginning of quarantine; the other, a more recent set. Over time I’d seen progress, and that was what I talked about in my caption. My swings were snappier, the path of the weight more controlled.

So of course some dude commented that I was doing it wrong.

I’ve gotten unsolicited form critiques before, but to see one on a progress post was just baffling. (Was he looking at the “before” video or the “after”? Unclear.) He wasn’t even my coach or trusted friend, just a person I’d never seen before who apparently follows the #kettlebellswing hashtag.

So here’s a life hack: Don’t be that guy.

Maybe you’re good at a certain lift or movement. Maybe you’re even a well-respected coach. But if you’re not this person’s coach, why the hell should they care what you think? More importantly, why the hell do you think you know better than the person who made the post?

For an idea of how silly this can get, look at the comments on just about any post by a world-class lifter.

“Do a real deadlift will ya,” says one bozo to a powerlifter who holds deadlift world records in three weight classes.

“I’m scared your gonna ruin your back” says another to an elite Olympic lifter who is casually snatching 95 kilos, or approximately the weight of a young hippo.

Recall all the reasons why it’s not appropriate to interrupt somebody in the gym to tell them you think they’re doing it wrong. They all apply on social media, too. But they’re amplified, because that person and their workout routine are even further removed from you. Maybe you have no clue how their sport works, and that’s why you think they’re “cheating” if they deadlift sumo (legal in powerlifting) or if they hitch the bar up their thighs (legal in strongman).

There’s also the issue of context: unless they posted the video specifically looking for advice (which people do sometimes, and you may absolutely answer the call), that video is not there for you to nitpick. It’s to acknowledge their progress, or document the day’s workout, or show off their outfit or whatever. If they want advice, they’ll ask.

So here is a little flowchart to help you out. When should you give an unsolicited form check? Only if you are the person’s coach or trusted mentor, and you know that they would welcome your advice in the context of social media, and you do so thoughtfully and respectfully ” ideally in a DM so as not to give the reply guys any ideas.

Illustration: Angelica Alzona Illustration: Angelica Alzona