Alexis Ren puts Posy Putnam through her pacesPosy Putnam

Alexis Ren’s “10 MINUTE AB WORKOUT” is something of a phenomenon. Posted in January 2018, it has since racked up an impressive 29 million – yes, MILLION – views on YouTube. Incredibly, that works out to over 34,400 views per day (as of Sunday 17th March). A quick YouTube search of “alexis ren ab workout” soon reveals countless videos of young women sharing their before and after results, as well as versions of the original video with the helpful addition of beeps to indicate when the exercise changes, or different music. It may not be the most popular ab workout on the platform (Chloe Ting boasts an impressive 102 million views on her “Abs Workout Challenge”), but it is certainly up there.

I haven’t always had a great experience with ab workouts. When I was fifteen or sixteen, I would berate myself for not completing one hundred sit-ups every day in order to get a flat stomach. In many ways for me, ab workouts only served to remind me of what I didn’t have – the more I put them off, the more I struggled with the eventual workout, and the more I felt bad about my own body. Even the very act of doing a sit-up revealed my stomach rolls.

However, recently, as I have begun to make peace with my body and all its rolls, I have begun to look at ab workouts in a new light. Ab workouts were never going to give me a flat stomach – you can’t target fat loss in that way, it’s just not scientifically possible. Instead, having a good core could become important for a different reason – as a student who sits down for most the day, good posture supported by a strong core is incredibly helpful. But a bigger thing for me was the realisation that even if I never had a flat stomach, I could still be a happy person. My happiness should not be tied to something like that. There were bigger things in life, and my value was not dictated by how little room me or my belly took up.

So, it was with this mindset that I approached Alexis Ren’s video. As the title suggests, it clocks in at 9 minutes and 58 seconds. At first, this seemed like a relatively easy amount of time to work out for, but I soon realised the catch: Alexis does not include any breaks in between exercises. Instead, after thirty seconds on one movement, she simply carries on to the next.

"The exercises themselves were fairly standard and simple"Posy Putnam

This was an issue for me in two senses – for one, it made it a struggle to complete the video continuously, and secondly, the lack of a break cut into the next exercise, as there was no time to get into position. Indeed, even Alexis herself rarely started the next movement promptly, or, if she did, this was typically the result of ending the previous exercise early. It didn’t make much sense to me why there could not just be a five-second period in between exercises to accommodate for this.

The exercises themselves were fairly standard and simple. Variations of sit-ups, crunches and planks were used throughout. Although Alexis did not give you a preview of the movements before she started, they were all fairly easy to pick up in the opening seconds. Likewise, there was a mix of easier and harder exercises, so, even though there were no official breaks, the intensity did vary.

"I soon realised the catch: Alexis does not include any breaks in between exercises"Posy Putnam

However, whilst this workout would be helpful for someone with little to no experience with ab exercises, it was the case that I felt that I could probably have just set a timer for ten minutes myself and come up with a fairly similar routine. To add to this, Alexis is only a model in the video, not speaking once throughout, so, in reality, the video itself has little to offer besides being a guide to some basic moves. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but for me, it did seem a bit too basic.

This did get me thinking, however, about the video’s popularity. Its simplicity undoubtedly contributed. But the fact that so many alternative versions of the video with improvements such as beeps or better music exist, suggests that, even in its simplicity, it may have missed a few tricks. Instead, that leaves Alexis herself as a reason for its success. Undeniably, she is gorgeous, and, indeed, she first began to cultivate a following through modelling for Brandy Melville. Now, aged 23, she has close to 14 million Instagram followers and has recently been in the news after her break up with Netflix’s rom-com lead of choice, Noah Centineo. However, what stood out the most to me was that her body was exactly the type I had once attempted one hundred sit-ups a day to gain. Of course, Alexis has much more to offer than just her appearance, but I could not help but wonder how many of the millions that have completed the workout were motivated by nothing more than a desire to look just like her.

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In many ways, that is the difficulty with all of the at-home workout videos and the people who shoot them. My own experience with these ab workouts not only shows how the reception of them will vary between person to person, but whether they are healthy or not for the viewer also can drastically change with time. For the article, I was able to do this workout every day for a week, and not be disappointed when I did not magically develop abs. I did, however, become far better at doing the movements continuously, and sitting up in my chair at my desk all day. And that was enough of a win for me.

"And that was enough of a win for me"Posy Putnam

Overall, then, Alexis Ren’s ab workout is a good place to start if you want an introduction to some basic moves, or find it difficult to motivate yourself to work out without an easy, pre-made routine. But, fundamentally, it is a very simple workout you could easily do by yourself, with a better, more motivating choice of music, and without the temptation to subconsciously compare yourself to anyone else.

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