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How to Become a Fitness Guru in 25 Easy Steps

By February 18, 2012January 10th, 2014Ethical Considerations

I’ve observed fitness gurus closely over the past several years and I believe I’ve figured out most of their secrets. The good news is that if you want to be a fitness guru, you can achieve this title by following the 25 easy steps I’ve outlined below.

  1. Master the Art of MarketingWho cares if you don’t really know the science or if you haven’t spent time in the trenches? You have money to make and the quickest route from rags to riches is to spend your days studying marketing. Granted, you’ll be pedaling shit because you won’t have anything substantial to market, but the general public is extremely naive about fitness and they’ll believe anything.
  2. Make Bold ClaimsAll gurus are empowered by the boldness of their claims. The bolder, the better. Use words like “always” and “never” as often as possible. Spend a considerable portion of your day trying to think up witty and bold one-liners to post on Facebook.
  3. Be Controversial – Your popularity is directly proportional to the level of controversy you create. Find out what’s currently popular and go gunning against it.
  4. Pick a Few Exercises and Forms of Exercise to CrucifyEvery hero needs a villain and every protagonist needs an antagonist. How will you ever be a hero if there are no villains?
  5. Pick a Few Exercises to Hail as King There are plenty of great movements to choose from; just pick a few and declare them to be superior to all other exercises, and insinuate from time to time that they’re the solution to everything – including cancer.
  6. Create Your Own Exercise Naming System Do not refer to exercises by the same names as everyone else; this makes you just like them. Your system needs to be unique, so come up with a new way to name the movements.
  7. Don’t Read ResearchWhy bother reading research? You need to spend your time studying marketing. While other jackasses are trying to understand the science, you’ll be laughing your way to the bank.
  8. Be a UserNo guru these days does it on his own; in order for you to reach the pinnacle of success you’ll need help. But why pay good money for this help when there are plenty of suckers out there who will work for minimum wage to make you successful? Find some folks to write your articles, train your clients, and do your dirty work. You belong on the beach or the golf course. And who cares if they’re struggling to pay their bills while you’re living the good life? Convince yourself that you’re helping them. Do not empower them to rise up in their own careers. Feed them a fish or two but don’t dare teach them how to fish for themselves. You need them to stay put.
  9. Learn a Bit of Scientific Knowledge then Take Huge LeapsRead a few book chapters and journal articles per year and use the little knowledge you gained to form a United Theory of Everything. A little bit of knowledge goes a long way on the internet!
  10. Build Up an ArmyYou’ll be much more convincing if you have a team of followers proclaiming you as the God of Fitness. Aim for a young and uneducated army – they’re easier to manipulate.
  11. See Things in Black and WhiteGurus don’t see things in shades of gray. Things are either black, or they are white. There is no in-between.
  12. Don’t Train Many PeopleIf you train a bunch of folks you might realize that your claims aren’t legit, and this is not good for your confidence. It doesn’t matter if you’re right; all that matters is whether you appear right. Training people takes precious time away that could be spent on marketing endeavors.
  13. Never Publicly Ask QuestionsAsking questions shows weakness, and gurus can’t be weak. If you don’t know the answer to something, don’t reach out to anyone and ask questions, and don’t read up on the topic. You need to spend your time reading marketing topics. There will be some folks who do get off their asses and learn the science, but you can simply out-market them so don’t sweat it.
  14. Never Admit that You Don’t KnowGurus must create the illusion that they know everything. If you don’t know the answer, make something up. Defend your answer at all costs.
  15. Be Arrogant and Overly CockyTell people how smart and/or strong you are. Brag relentlessly. Whenever the slightest thing exciting happens in your life, announce it to all of your Facebook and Twitter followers. If you have a strong squat, then you are smarter than everyone who is weaker than you. If you have a good physique, then you are automatically more intelligent than those with inferior builds. People need to know this!
  16. Don’t Reply on Social MediaTake the time to create a blog, a Facebook page, a Facebook fan page, a Twitter account, and a Youtube account, but don’t reply to any of your fans. You need to appear busy, like you’re training Olympians around the clock. Don’t be bothered by pedestrians!
  17. Surround Yourself With Clones and ParrotsDon’t surround yourself with brilliant scientists, physical therapists, biomechanists, or exercise physiologists as they’ll just impair your ability to be cocky when you realize that your theories aren’t so earth-shattering and are lacking in substance. Find some folks who think exactly the way you do and promote each other round the clock. This will help you feel better about yourself.
  18. Don’t Credit Others or Acknowledge Competing TheoriesYou need to appear innovative, but since you don’t train people or read much, this will be quite difficult. Don’t fret; simply steal other people’s ideas without giving them credit. And no matter how great a colleague’s work, do not draw attention to it. You might lose followers. Do not ever promote anyone else’s articles, ideas, or theories unless you’re an affiliate. You are not a teacher. You’re a businessman dammit!
  19. Don’t Conduct Research ExperimentsTo reach guru status you’ll need to come up with some bold theories. Don’t ever try to figure out ways to find answers to the questions your theory formulates. Don’t ever utilize the scientific method. Your theories could in fact be wrong and this would be detrimental to your image. Rather than waste time investigating theories, spend your time creating new theories. Let the researchers waste their time investigating your claims. You need to “stay ahead of the research.”
  20. When Research Proves You Wrong, Refute It at All CostsYour claims will inevitably become popular due to your supreme boldness and the backing of your army. Researchers are bound to start conducting experiments to test your theories. If the researchers’ findings support your theories, then blast this evidence all over cyberspace. But if the researchers’ findings don’t support your theories, what do those skinny geeks know anyway? Refute their claims at all costs and don’t ever falter.
  21. Confuse Popularity With SuperiorityWho cares if some folks in the field take issue with your claims? Clearly you’re superior to them – you have more followers. While they’re busy training folks, taking courses, conducting experiments, and reading research, you’re on the golf course pretending to train Olympians. Don’t be bothered by folks who care about the science and their petty claims.
  22. Resort to Name-Calling and Despise Those Who Disagree with YouWhen people call you out, just refer to them as “haters,” “contrarians,” “armchair experts,” or “meatheads.”  These people are evil and are trying to get in your way of taking over the fitness world. If another expert disagrees with you then you must find a way to knock him down immediately. Those who disagree are “unbelievers” and do not deserve your respect.
  23. Justify and RationalizeWho cares how annoying you are with your marketing tactics? Caveat emptor, right? Anything to do with health and fitness has to be good for the public even if your flawed logic is readily apparent. Justify and rationalize your actions by telling everyone that you’re “busy helping as many people as possible.”
  24. Reinvent Yourself Every Few Years – A quick and easy way to make money is to simply change your mind about a particular topic and do a 180°. Create a new product that discusses your revelation. Your followers will be very happy that they’re finally allowed to perform a banned movement or eat a banned food item and you’ll be exalted.
  25. Create a Cult People long to be part of a group and receive attention. Eventually your army will be large enough to transform into a cult. Create a hierarchy system and use mind control tactics. You do not want to encourage free-thinking as this could backfire on you. You need to intimidate and brain-wash your followers. Use fear tactics and make sure your underlings know that the second they rise up and formulate thoughts of their own they’ll be ousted from the club.

Fitness Guru in the Making

If you choose to go this route, you will not be taken seriously by your peers, as any coach with an appreciation for science will be able to pick you apart. But you will develop one hell of a following.

To be honest, I’ve committed at least 8 of these acts myself. Most of my esteemed colleagues are guilty of several of them as well. The trick is to not commit every single one of them, to have integrity, and to balance marketing and self-promotion with good information and valuable products.

Though this article was written in jest, I feel compelled to advise caution. If I could go back in time, I’d do things a bit differently, as several years ago I was definitely a “guru in the making.” Now I’m slightly embarrassed over some of my former actions. However, such is life and I’m very proud of the path I’m currently pursuing.

If your goal is to be taken seriously in the field, then I recommend taking a different path. In a few days I’ll follow up on this article and post my advice to prospective S&C writers and professionals.


  • Cass says:


    Nothing makes me happier or is a better start to my day than a healthy dose of sarcasm…seriously, better than coffee!

    This was great, thanks! I especially can appreciate #13 and #14. I just wrote a guest article for Scott Tousignant’s blog that proves this very thing. Even as professionals, if we stop asking questions or admit we can sometimes get stuck, we might as well roll over and die.

    Here’s to always being willing to learn and never becoming this definition of a “fitness guru”!


  • Brilliant and funny article! Most fitness pros will recognise themselves in there – im definitely guilty of quite a few of them!
    At least i know what to look out for in myself (and others) now, thanks. Loved it!!:-)

    • Bret says:

      The main ones I’ve been guilty of are 2,3,5,6 and 9. From time to time I’ll commit 15 and 16, and once upon a time I was guilty of 7. Cheers Allan!

      • Lee Anderson says:

        At least you can admit that, that takes balls! I have been guilty of a few of those number one that I need to stop is hating on other systems, is just so hard when people that don’t know anything about exercise create a workout program (insanity) and sell it to the masses on TV. People buy this stuff and get nowhere, how can you not hate on that. (Good damn it, I’m a guru)

  • Michael Gray says:

    Hahaha, awesome stuff Bret! By the way, I’m pretty sure (on at least a few occasions) I’ve said that deadlifting just might be able to cure world hunger!

  • David Morales says:

    Hey Bret,
    #16 is my favorite. “You’re training Olympians around the clock”

  • Brilliant article Bret, I can think of a bunch of “coaches” who are guilty of most of these.

    • Bret says:

      Well we’re all guilty of some of them…but hopefully an individual doesn’t commit every single one of them. Maybe this post will open some of their eyes?

  • Jake Kerwin says:

    A few more:
    26. Have a fat-loss product webpage that is the same format as every other fat loss guru with an annoying popup saying “Are you SURE you really want to leave this page?” when you click the ‘back’ button.
    27. Have a picture of you that is at least 10 years old – back when you had abs and were actually following a diet similar to the one you’re trying to sell.
    28. Only support certain supps because those are the ONLY ones that work.

    • Bret says:

      Haha! These definitely belong on the list. And I can think of several whom are guilty of those. Thanks Jake!

      • Ha! When I get that nasty pop-up I can’t leave the site fast enough. I love the one that says “Oh Wait” you can have the program for just one dollar. If it works for you, you will be billed for the additional 66.77 in 21 days.

  • Jay Farrant says:

    Great article can see myself in a few of these points will think twice in what I’m saying in my next email. very funny aswell 🙂

  • Steve says:

    This sums up the dude behind….

  • Great post! Definitely forces one to take a long, hard look in the mirror. Thanks for writing it.

  • Martin says:

    This post is fantastic and I just have to comment. What is so great about it is that there is a valuable lesson in each of the 25 items. When you look closely at each item you learn how marketing works, ie by adressing a customer’s need, weather physical or psychological. If you understand why these 25 tactics work, but satisfy the same need in a truely effective manner, you have a marketing NUCLEAR WEAPON.

  • Marianne Kane says:

    Love it!

  • Nia Shanks says:

    Oh. My.

    That was entertaining, and also awesome. 🙂

  • Matt says:

    Thanks for the template! Should we perform these in order or does the order not matter? Thanks again! 🙂

    • Bret says:

      Haha! Do paired supersets to increase session-density and make sure you perform “special workouts” to increase volume and frequency without compromising intensity 🙂

  • Great article. Sad that it is true in so many cases.

  • Karsten says:

    You have a point, Bret. But I don’t like the way, you placing valid marketing principles in the same category as the more “outrageous” guru tactics There are probably more (broke) knowledgeable trainers, who can’t get their message outthere, because they have not embraced marketing than there are poorly qualified, but finanically successful trainers. We need to stop making selling our knowledge a problem. We need to embrace that it is possible to market your message effectively and with integrity (which all the best marketing teachers recommend by the way).

    • Bret says:

      Karsten, stay tuned for next week’s blogpost. There are plenty of folks who maintain a good balance, but there are many who go WAAAAYYYY overboard and give the rest of us a bad name. Trust me I see your point and agree with you.

      • Lamar says:

        These reasons are why most Trainers /Coach (myself. Included)
        Have a difficult time handling the” marketing side of training
        And remain in the test lab of the gym.

    • Karsten, I would agree with you!

      Marketing is not evil, since it is just communication.

      However, I totally agree that awesome marketing of a crappy product is just not cool, period. People pay their hard earned money to get results.

      There is nothing wrong with working to make a living doing what you love and helping others reach their fitness goals.

      I look forward to your second part Bret.
      Rock on
      Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

  • Jen Comas Keck says:

    This is a fantastic post Bret! Well done!

  • Bret,

    That made my day. Thanks for the laugh.

  • Bret says:

    I appreciate the positive feedback everyone and am glad that this wasn’t misconstrued. Next week I’ll follow up with part II…it’s already written but I wanted to split them up so my original post wasn’t too long (I tend to get carried away with my writing!). Cheers!

  • Neal W. says:

    I really liked this, Bret. I need money pretty and I think if I follow this template you’ve laid out I should be buying my own Ferrari in no time! Thanks!

  • Dale says:

    This is great! I agree with everything but #3. In fitness circles I’m controversial because I believe that people can lose weight, and eat the foods they enjoy, simply by reducing calories overall.

    I’m a crazyman!

  • TK says:

    #26 Give yourself a nickname based on a body part of specialty. As far as I know “The Pec Guy” and “The Delt Guy” are still available! 🙂

    Just busting your chops, Brett. Thanks for a fun post.

  • DynamicRedhead says:

    I’m so dying to know who you’re referring to!

  • Mitt says:

    Nice to read. Vern Gambetta has been saying this stuff for years.

  • Will Arias says:

    # 26: If you are presenting in a seminar make sure you just talk to “important” people such as other gurus and don’t bother talking to “inferior” participants. However, give enthusiastic attention to the hot girls present. You never know…

  • Nichole says:

    You just described and

  • Tom says:

    This is GREAT!!!

    But it is a little worrying how many pros/”gurus” can pretty much be defined by this awesome list of criteria.

  • Georgette Pann says:

    This article is awesome! Number 10 and 17 are among my top pet peeves but all of them on pretty much on target ! I love this article look forward to part 2!

  • Scott says:

    Great article Brett!! It really sums up alot of the trainers out there on the Internet. They get focused on the wrong things, but its not everyone which I’m sure will be covered in part II. And you’ve got. Itching to be embarassed about, I think most people would agree you were damn integral in your rise. Keep up the awesome work!!!

  • Nick Horton says:

    HAHA! Man … I LOVE this! It’s a sad fact about our industry, brother, that many of the guru’s are full of shit.

    And that whole “think in black and white” thing … few things erk me more!

  • Peter Baker says:

    Most of this stuff reads to me like so:

    “If you don’t do this ONE exercise, you might as you kill yourself.”

    “Learn what it is in your diet that is KILLING YOU RIGHT NOW”

    Implement these FIVE tactics in your fitness plan and you’ll be banging hot bitches in no time”

    “Your doctor has a medical degree and every other trainer knows more about kinesiology than I do, BUT IT DOESN’T FUCKING MATTER because I am right.”

    I enjoyed this whole article.

  • Melek says:

    Good work! Thanks , this kicks my butt a bit more to carry on what I m doing best. You are awesome Bret . God bless you

  • Kelli Michelle says:

    Sooooo funny I love it! Trainers equal “one uppin” all over the world lol

  • Bret, I love that fact that you were honest enough to admit to committing a number of these yourself! Adds credibility to everything else you produce…glad to have stumbled across the Glute Guy via this article:

  • Rico Machado says:

    Embrace what is useful, reject what is useless.

  • Certainly don’t expect you to name on here but I am wondering of you have a certain guru in mind when writing this? One pops to me when reading 🙂

    Side note, I LOVE Advanced Techniques in Glutei Maximi Strengthening. Thought there was no one more obsessed with glute training then me until I found Rachel and through her you.


  • Naomi says:

    Thanks for always having integrity and being willing to admit short comings.

  • JD says:

    Great post! So much marketing garbage out there it’s shocking. And so many of these guys are connected – the old “my good friends new program is great, check it out.” One sleazy sales letter after another, it’s so lame.

  • JONESY says:

    haaaaaaaa Great read good job!

  • Matt M says:

    That.Was.Awesome! Thanks Bret for always being honest and insightful (the humor/sarcasm helps out too).

  • Thanks for such a funny but real post on this topic of people who claim to be Gurus based on this 25 pillars.

    I’ve also seen myself making some of the mistakes, but as you said, this is life and it’s all about choices, where and with who we decide to go…

    Keep it up with your path, because is enriching!

  • Karenn says:

    Bret, you are so funny, and adorable……….

  • amy says:

    this is HILARIOUS. its also usually people who have been working out for like 6 months.. see results and BAM next thing they’re a guru and all over youtube like a bad rash. too funny… love your blog btw!

  • Nick says:

    Bret, you know your stuff, both training and marketing. It is funny how the bullshit commercials that are the most ridiculous get the most attention and sales. Integrity for long term success is the only true way.

  • Great post Bret.
    I’m guilty of a few of them, but like you said – try and ‘limit’ the amount 🙂

  • Aron says:

    I was linked here from another forum, and admit I’m totally new to your page, but… Isn’t it a bit ironic that we’re greeted on this page with a large popup offering us a FREE REPORT and asking us to “Subscribe Now!” Only to close the popup and see the exact same thing right at the top of the page?

    Or is that part of the point, and the popup doesn’t appear anywhere else?

  • Josh says:

    Holy crap, Bret. This article was humbling and inspiring at the same time. Thank you. (I must now go repent.)

  • Haha, nice, although guru’s are inherently lazy so way too many steps….

  • Scott says:

    This blog is quite ironic: If I wanted to become a “guru” I’d definitely come up with a 25 step list blasting other fitness experts when it comes to their ways of marketing.

    Well played.

    Fact is if you are good at what you do you should have no qualms about being a good marketer. I’m gonna get off my soap box now. Good day.

  • Lyndon says:

    Funny stuff, I have certainly seen a lot of those guys around, on the internet and TV and even in the gym I train at. You are right, most self proclaimed fitness gurus are guilty of some of those sins, the difference is whether or not you mature and learn from your successes and failures.

  • Dan says:

    Brett, this was a great read. It is nice to see a few guys in the industry actually citing research and backing up their claims. I can not say I have seen anything less than quality come from you. I have though seen your testimonial attached to a bench press ebook that was absolutely horrible. The spelling and grammar were bad enough but the content was down right embarrassing. Anyway, I hope he forged the testimonial and you would never actually promote such garbage. It was not even close to the quality I have come to expect from your writing and I can only assume you never read the thing.

  • Anna says:

    Love this! I aim to be the opposite 🙂

  • Robert says:

    this article is great!

    May I have the permission to translate it into german? Of course i will obey item 18;)

    Cheers from germany

  • Joy says:

    Good god, I gulped at a couple of them. I shall pray at the altar of integrity that I never become a guru 😉

  • Clayton Barone says:

    Six-Pack shortcuts.

    This kid that is in all of Mike’s Video’s on youtube, goes to one of the gyms I go to. He hardly ever lifts and when he does it’s usually bench press or curls. It takes every bit of me not to question his integrity.

  • Dan says:

    I will combine #2 and #3

    I will start making bold/controversial claims!

    Then I will double my personal training price 🙂

  • Cathi says:

    I had to read this to my partner as it had me howling with laughter. Absolutely spot on. Mentioning no names, it reminded me of a “staunch” raw vegan guru who a few months later was a Paleo guru extolling the virtues of some very expensive deer antler potions on his site! The same man told you to drink more water as it immediately gets transformed into clean blood. Had me howling at the moon!

  • Konrad says:

    Very hilarious, but all too true unfortunately. If people simply accepted the fact that we have not reached the pinnacle of performance related scientific knowledge, we could all rest easy in that ‘gray area,’ comfortable with the notion that it’s okay to use empirical feedback in order to continuously improve training methods. Wow, that was a mouthful.

    Good article.

  • Luke Matthews says:

    Bret, you must have wrote this after meeting Rob King from Canada as your inspiration for the article 🙂

    • john says:

      That’s the first thing I thought when I read this, I’ve also heard somewhere that Brett has given Rob a shoutout or something like that. I really hope this is not true, the guy is nothing but a conman and instead of addressing valid criticisms of his lousy practices he crys jealously.

  • DMan says:

    Wow, so true to this article. Laughed really hard, so many “gurus” out there selling moderate advice and claiming its gold. Too funny.

  • Salv says:

    I will defintely try to follow all 25 of these points. I’m in this for money after all.

  • Three years later and this article is still the best source for an insight into the process of guru construction. From each of your claims, anthropology or social psychology explanations can be developed. But the sad part is that even though this article, if sufficiently disseminated, could help us red flag gurus-in-the-making, it hasn’t. Wasn’t it enough read? I don’t kow. I saw a couple of them rising right under my nose. And a couple of others in the making, RIGHT NOW.

    I wonder if you have any comments on that.

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