snake oil

Jillian Michaels, Fitness Trainer Fraud?

I have no doubt that if you spent a few weeks with The Biggest Loser‘s (big lesbian) trainer Jillian Michaels, you would lose weight and tone up. But would you also manage to injure yourself because she doesn’t know what she’s doing?

In a stinging LA Times piece, James S. Fell says he “realized Michaels is not actually a real fitness trainer — she’s an actress playing the role of fitness trainer on TV and in a line of popular DVDs.”

It’s analogous to Jesse Ventura’s choice of a Gatling-style minigun to mow down guerrillas in the 1987 movie “Predator.” Most viewers thought it was way cool, but real soldiers shook their heads in disbelief that anyone would schlep such an ungainly weapon through the jungle.

Same thing with Jillian Michaels. Typical viewers think she’s great, yet the collective jaws of professional trainers hit the floor after witnessing her regular displays of poor technique and unsafe training practices.

Perhaps that has something to do with her own training.

Michaels obtained some introductory fitness certifications (National Exercise & Sports Trainers Assn. and Aerobics and Fitness Assn. of America) 17 years ago and does not seem to ever have recertified. The biography on her website goes on and on about her multimedia endeavors, but there is not a single mention of any health-and-fitness education or credentials.

So just what’s so bad about Michael’s fitness training?

And now, seemingly without any qualifications, Michaels is teaching amateurs how to use kettle bells in her latest DVD, “Shred-It With Weights.” Her toned, tanned and possibly Photoshopped physique stands proudly on the cover holding a kettle bell, while a bubble on the cover exclaims, “Lose up to 5 pounds a week!” Lose 5 pounds a week? Sure, if you start off weighing more than a Smart Car.

[…] All jokes aside, I wanted to give Michaels the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps she got some professional instruction to ensure her kettle bell technique was safe and effective. So I asked Dave Cheng, chief instructor at Kettle Bells Los Angeles, to critique her form for me.

“Her technique is appalling,” Cheng told me. “What she says in the video and what she demonstrates are two different things. She doesn’t break things down into manageable pieces that prompt people to get the correct form, so instead she is enabling bad form… I would not recommend this from a safety perspective.” Cheng also added that he thought Michaels “is simply trying to capitalize on the popularity of kettle bells without going through her due diligence.”

[…] If you dismiss Cheng’s comments as those of someone jealous of Michaels’ fame and riches, consider that he is far from the only certified kettle bell instructor disconcerted with her technique. Denver-based instructor Josh Hillis had this to say in a blog post regarding her technique: “It’s just wrong … in every way. All of it. Every single thing she does is wrong.”

Austin, Texas, trainer Jude Howe was so disgusted with Michaels’ kettle bell movements that he posted a YouTube video showing how they really should be done. “Her technique and approach was so off the mark,” he told me. “It couldn’t have been more dangerous, and I felt the need to show people proper form.”

Then again I never believed Michaels’ prowess at getting overweight people to drop the pounds was all in her instruction. I think many of her clients are simply scared into losing weight.