Trainer Emily Samuel has taught in some of the best gyms and studios in New York City and Los Angeles, but exercising at home is still one of her favorite ways to break a sweat. “I love how creative you can be,” she says.
Even before the pandemic, Samuel was gaining a serious following on Instagram—200K and counting—for the fun and engaging exercise videos she posts to her feed. “I wanted to create something for people who don’t have gym access or who can’t afford a membership,” she says. (Check out her Wix site Body By Emily.)
Still, it took several years of trial and error to figure out how to produce the type of workout programming people want to save and share. For our Wix Fit Spotlight series, Samuel shares tips for doing just that, plus the most important things to consider when filming a workout video of your own.
What do you like the most about at-home fitness?
Emily Samuel: There are so many different things you can do with household items. You can do hip thrusts or step-ups off your couch. A lot of people use brooms to do banded workouts or water bottles as hand weights. It’s really fun.
You can also wear whatever you want—sometimes I work out pretty much in my pajamas. And you get to pick the setting, too, which I think is really cool. You can be indoors or outdoors, in your living room or bedroom. You can choose whatever your vibe is that day. (Related: What is green exercise and how can it benefit your fitness business?)
Same for the music. You don’t need to listen to whatever the gym is playing. Spotify has a ton of different playlists. You can type in “treadmill” and treadmill playlists will pop up. I also use words like “get moving” when I search. I love that you can be your own DJ at home.
Your feed is so fun and engaging. How do you approach content creation for Instagram?
Emily Samuel: I genuinely want to help people stay active, so I give people workouts that I would want to do if I had minimal equipment or not a lot of space. I try to put myself in the viewer's shoes and think about their training needs. I make sure that the workout is fun, yet challenging because I can’t do workouts that are boring or unrealistic. There are a lot of online workouts that look impressive on Instagram but are there mostly for entertainment. I call that “entertrainment.”
"I learned to stay true to myself and my audience—rather than try and show off—and that worked."
I want to train people, so I listen to the people who follow me. I’ll ask them what they want to see next, and I’ll go through every answer, even if there are 200 of them, and make tally marks for each category. Then, I’ll create content in the order of popularity. It makes people feel like they have a say in what’s coming out on my Instagram, which they do. You can do this on a smaller scale, too, when you’re just starting out. It’s all about listening to your audience.
What are some other ways you connect with your community?
Emily Samuel: I learn about my audience by the videos they save. Booty-building videos always perform well. Same for anything with two people working out together—those videos do really, really well. I will also tell them to DM me if they have questions about specific things. I will go through 99.9 percent of them and answer them. I answer questions under my comments. I try to talk to people so that they feel like they have a voice on my platform.
Could you share a few tips for shooting workout videos?
Emily Samuel: My first tip would be to make sure you don’t have too much going on in the background because it distracts the viewer from the exercise. And wear workout clothes that pop against your background. You don’t want to blend in. (Related: How to start your own fitness clothing line)
Second, keep the camera at a 45-degree angle. It’s the best middle ground to see what’s going on in the front and the back of the body at the same time. For the caption, always include clear instructions and the name of the move, plus how many sets and reps people should do. Be very specific. And always have a really clear cover shot.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned about creating fitness content over the years?
Emily Samuel: Looking back, my video quality was crap—it was just so blurry, and I used way too many pieces of equipment. I also didn’t label any of the videos or exercises. I noticed that the simpler the better. (More advice: How to shoot a workout video like a professional producer and 8 ways to up your Zoom exercise game.)
I tried to do more impressive and difficult workouts, and over time, I realized that this wasn’t helping anyone because half the people who were following me weren’t at that fitness level. Again, it comes back to the question, are you trying to entertain people or train them? I learned to stay true to myself and my audience—rather than try and show off—and that worked.
Do you have a checklist you go through to make sure your at-home workouts meet your objective? Or is it more of a gut check?
Emily Samuel: I always ask myself: Is this relatable? Can the majority of my audience do this? Will they leave this post learning anything new? Does this provide value to someone else?
This extends to other projects, too. A few years ago, I launched a fitness kit with bands, sliders and a jump rope. My main focus was to keep the kits simple yet effective, and I wanted to make sure they worked for all fitness levels and people: college students, CEOs, models, anyone. That’s the core of my goal, whether it’s with merchandise, Instagram videos or anything I launch in the future. Once you know your values, you can apply them to everything you create.
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