In an age of blogs, vlogs, and social media, it's easier than ever for a person to broadcast their thoughts to a worldwide audience. And no one is taking advantage of those platforms quite like fitness pros, many of whom offer everything from digital coaching to online seminars available to anyone with a laptop and a desire to learn. Some trainers have even become minor Internet celebrities, gaining huge (and well-deserved) followings through their particular mash-ups of fitness knowledge and written wit.
The challenge, of course, is knowing who to follow. That's why we've narrowed down the must-read list to these 15 personal trainers and strength coaches making big moves both online and off. In addition to being world-class coaches, these influencers are using the Internet to share their voices and knowledge with the world. Each entrant in our list uses a personal blog, social media, or both to engage communities of health and fitness fans on the regular. Below (listed in alphabetical order by last name) are the 15 must-read trainers for 2013.
Note: Trainers marked with an asterisk (*) are new to this year's list.
Did your favorites from last year miss the cut? Read to the bottom for a recap of the big shifts on this year's list.
Adam Bornstein is a smart writer and obsessive researcher unafraid of tackling controversies. He's also a really nice guy. Greatist is a (not-so-secret) fan — but for good reason. As the former fitness editor of Men's Health and editorial director of Livestrong, Bornstein has gone solo, re-dedicating himself to his blog and co-writing "Engineering the Alpha," a New York Times Best-Seller, along with John Romaniello, who also appears on this list. Bornstein is known both for his ability to disrupt common thinking around our health and to back it up with rock-solid reporting. If you want to feel better or to just learn something new, Bornstein is a good place to start. — ZS (Photo courtesy of Adam Bornstein.)
Eric Cressey is arguably one of the smartest people in fitness, and he's obsessed with bringing his particular brand of genius to the world. The founder of Cressey Performance works with an unparalleled cadre of sports pros to optimize training techniques for every fitness level and body type imagineable, and his work has begun to revolutionize how high-profile athletes train. Now, with a new seminar series and active blog, Cressey is lifting the veil on the industry's best-kept secrets and inspiring thousands to get better results. Want more from one of the best minds in fitness? Check out the Cressey Performance newsletter for the best and latest in exercise. — DT (Photo: www.ericcressey.com)
After she had her son, now-trainer Kellie Davis decided it was time to drastically revamp her lifestyle. That meant tossing all the junk from her pantry and dedicating herself to at least three hours of gym-time per week. Then she really got into it — she read up on all things fitness and nutrition, and with a little time (and a lot of hard work), she competed as a National Physique Committee Figure Athlete. As a former Language Arts teacher and English major, Davis continues to write with one key goal in mind: help women achieve optimum health. She’s the co-author of "Strong Curves," a fitness and nutrition guide for women to not just look good, but gain function, strength, and mobility. — NM (Photo: www.motherfitness.com)
James "OPT" Fitzgerald*
CrossFit has exploded onto the sports scene in recent years, turning elite fitness from a hobby into a competitive, measurable sport. Since winning the first-ever CrossFit Games in 2007, James "OPT" Fitzgerald has made a name for himself as competitive exercise's most analytical coach, using his science-based methodology to produce some of the world's fittest athletes. When he's not coaching his stable of world-class athletes through a WOD, Fitzgerald can be found updating his blog with free workouts and an encyclopedia's worth of insight on testing the limits of human performance. — DT (Photo: http://optexperience.com)
Claiming to “piss awesomeness daily,” Gentilcore is the co-founder of Cressey Performance in Massachusetts and is well-known for training many high-profile baseball players. In his heart of hearts, Gentilcore is a strength and conditioning specialist who wants nothing but to deadlift the heaviest weights imaginable (and to teach you how to do it yourself). What separates him from the pack is his focus on increasing strength in order to improve at any and every other activity. Whether your game is football, CrossFit, or golf, Gentilcore firmly believes he can bring you to the fore of any sport by removing muscle imbalances, honing flexibility, and, above all, increasing major lifts. Any objections can be immediately silenced by his tremendous breadth of work. — NE (Photo: Kim Lloyd.)
What do you get when you combine equal parts personal trainer, social media guru, and Internet entrepenuer? We're not entirely sure, but Jon Goodman is working hard to find out. The Toronto-based trainer, lecturer, and three-time author has spoken all over the world on the best methods for getting people fit, and he founded the Personal Training Development Center to connect professionals all over the fitness industry. Recently, Goodman's been focusing on his new online empire: Viralnomics, a social media blog built on lessons he learned while creating and marketing fitness content. Follow Jon on Twitter to learn what's new in fitness, social media, and the astounding amount of overlap between the two. — DT (Photo: www.jonathangoodman.ca)
What happens when you combine video game superheroes and working out? In 2009, Steve Kamb decided to combine two passions (gaming and fitness) to create his popular website and healthy philosophy, Nerd Fitness. Nerd Fitness' motto is "level up your life, every single day," which means questioning fitness trends and myths while aiming to be the best you can be. Kamb's techniques focus in particular on the Paleo diet, bodyweight workouts, and functional movement. — SB (Photo: www.nerdfitness.com)
Rog Law is on a mission to make the world a sexier place. The trainer, writer, and minor podcast celebrity has made a name for himself helping clients transform their bodies, but he's also passionate about having fun along the way. Rog's blog is brimming with humor and insights into human psychology that can stop you in your tracks — just don't blame him if you miss a few pop-cultural references along the way. — DT (Photo: Helen Adilia Arceyut-Frixione)
Don't let Dr. Layne Norton's world-class physique fool you. This pro bodybuilder/powerlifter/scientist/trainer is one of the fitness industry's most well-rounded minds, and when he's not busy researching what's behind the world's biggest nutritional questions, he's imparting wisdom to his loyal online following. For so-called "BioLayne", that often means criticizing big names and mythbusting long-held beliefs about food and exercise — but never without the research chops to back it up. Need advice on the fly? Find Norton on Twitter at @BioLayne, where he's known for dishing out tough love to nearly every fan in need. — DT (Photo courtesy of Layne Norton.)
Carl Paoli doesn’t just teach people how to get jacked; he’s all about helping athletes move better. In 2006, the former elite gymnast (and gymnastics coach) discovered CrossFit. Ever since, he’s trained some of the most renowned CrossFit athletes, merging his traditional gymnastics knowledge with the relatively new sport. He’s the genius behind Gymnastics WOD, a site devoted to free daily workouts for all skill levels. He currently works as a strength and conditioning coach and runs Naka Athletics, a training program dedicated to action sports athletes. — NM (Photo courtesy of Carl Paoli.)
"Roman" has had a big year since we featured him on our 2012 list: He got engaged, became lead fitness advisor for Schwarzenegger.com, and watched his first book, "Engineering the Alpha," (written with Adam Bornstein, also featured on this list) debut on the New York Times Bestseller List. Known for his (justifiable) cockiness and love of "Star Wars," Roman’s canon emphasizes intermittent fasting and the role of hormones in fat loss — he even has testosterone’s chemical structure tattooed on his forearm. Now working on a woman-centric follow-up to "Alpha" and in talks to develop his own reality show, it seems nothing can stop the spread of this Roman empire. — NE (Photo courtesy of John Romaniello.)
Jen Sinkler has worn many hats, but it seems writing about fitness suits her best. A former professional women's rugby player (seriously, she's no joke!) and editor of Experience Life magazine, she now runs Thrive with Jen Sinkler, a site dedicated to sharing fitness, food, fashion, and general lifestyle advice with other women. Sinkler is certified to coach weightlifting, sandbag training, CrossFit, and kettlebells, so she's got plenty of experience and knowledge related to nearly any fitness goal. — SB (Photo: Jalbus Photo)
Nia Shanks might be the only strength and conditioning coach out there who encourages her clients (and devoted Internet following) to "lift like a girl." That's because she wants to bust the myth that women can't develop strong bodies in a healthy way. And she wants everyone — women, men, and everyone in between — to embrace who they are and become an even stronger, more empowered version of themselves. She's the creator behind the Beautiful Badass Blueprint and the Lift Like a Girl Revolution — health and fitness programs that help her followers develop strength, nutritious eating habits, and a healthy attitude toward their bodies. With a focus on real food, efficient workouts, and individualized routines, Nia works to make exercise and healthy eating both sustainable and fun. — LN (Photo: www.niashanks.com)
After founding and training at the original San Francisco CrossFit for several years, coach Kelly Starrett decided to teach others that performance isn't just about speed and strength. Since then, he's focused on developing training techniques that prevent injury and improve athleticism from the ground up. In 2010, he launched the Mobility Project, a series of 365 instructional videos (yup, one for every day of the year) on topics from deadlifting to sleep all designed to improve mobility and movement. — SB (Photo courtesy of Kelly Starrett.)
A self-proclaimed "bald beefcake," Dan Trink is passionate about helping his clients get stronger, healthier, and happier. His personal journey to weight loss and overall fitness wasn't easy, and he uses his struggles to inspire the people he works with as a personal trainer at Peak Performance gym in NYC. On his blog, he busts myths about nutrition (not all fats are bad for you) and gives advice for current and aspiring trainers (share your knowledge on social media carefully). Check out his Twitter at @TrinkFitness, where he shares fresh health-related reads from across the web. — SL (Photo: www.trinkfitness.com)
While there are hundreds of trainers churning out informative, engaging content online, this year's listmakers all innovated — and in some cases completely reinvented — their personal brands in the past year. They lectured around the world, wrote New York Times bestsellers, and launched some of the best new fitness sites in recent memory. A lot of new faces meant only six repeats from last year's list, though that's not to say 2012's influencers have been idle. Rudy Nielsen, Martin Rooney, and Bret Contreras all experienced big jumps in their followings. Neghar Fonooni moved from New York to LA, giving the Girls Gone Strong movement another advocate on the West Coast. And Jason Ferruggia continued the warpath on misleading fitness hype as only he can do.
But at the end of the day, we could only pick 15 rocking trainers for this year's list. Agree or disagree with our choices? We're curious to hear if we missed any of your favorites. After all, it's never too early to start scouting for next year's list!
Disclosure: All affiliate links on Greatist highlight products the team has either reviewed or thinks are kick-ass. Greatist's editorial team is completely removed from the business side, which handles these fancy links.