You there! Help me, please! I just wanted to learn about strength training on the internet, and now I’m pretty sure I’m in some kind of neo-fascist radicalization pipeline.

It started with an innocent New Year’s resolution to start doing some resistance training. After all, experts recommend it for everyone—it’s great for strength, longevity, mental health, sports performance, and self-esteem. But now, everywhere I look online is about two steps away from an Oath Keepers rally.

First, I just wanted to get a beginner strength routine. I found a podcast episode called “Why Everyone Should Lift Weights,” but about fifteen minutes in, it pivoted from whether you need a trainer to how strength training breeds self-reliance. I finally turned it off when they used the phrase “a bit overzealous” to describe Timothy McVeigh.

I still don’t know if barbells are better than machines.

My mom has osteoporosis, so I’m interested in the bone-density benefits of strength training for women. But all the strength coaches I see online seem to be training for some kind of deadly combat? This guy says he is a “tactical fitness specialist” who “has worked closely with” the Israeli Defense Forces. I searched “best bodyweight exercises,” and now look! My YouTube feed is full of people doing burpees in body armor, and conversations about mental toughness, the carnivore diet, and testosterone replacement therapy between Jordan Peterson and a former Navy SEAL who was indicted for war crimes.

I just got a sponsored Instagram post captioned “Heavy Squats, Megan Markle, and Today’s Me-Me-Me Culture.”

Maybe if I come at this from a lifestyle angle, it’ll be less hardcore. Okay! See? This podcast episode looks nice; it’s called “Choosing a Gym for Non-Jocks.” Hmm, wait, the previous episode is titled “Inconvenient Truths About Dating.” What’s this podcast even called? What the hell is a “Theta Male?”

Side note, are there any strength coaches who aren’t fortyish white men with shaved heads and beards? Oh wait, here’s a woman! Shit, that’s an old video of Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Crossfit gym.

Let’s see, this guy says you can get strong with homemade sandbags. That sounds simple. Hmm, “primal training makes us warriors like our forefathers.” I know all our ancestors are originally from Africa, but judging by the number of videos on this channel about Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka, I don’t think that’s what SpartanStrength1488 has in mind.

Maybe I just need some sleep.

Oh god, no, please no. I accidentally left my YouTube auto-playing after that bench press tutorial, and now it’s halfway through a four-hour Q&A called “Gift or Curse? Muscle Building Impacts of the COVID-19 Vaccine.” My algorithm is fucked.

When did everyone get so into Brazilian jiu-jitsu?

I googled “top lifting hashtags,” and they’re #squat, #barbell, and #letsgobrandon. Also, a lot of people recommend @PracticalMuscleGain, but it seems defunct. The most recent posts are about cancel culture and “thugs” in June 2020, and then something about going on hiatus in light of “recent personal developments,” dated January 7, 2021.

Are dips better than push-ups?

Shit, shit, shit. I downloaded this free e-book about how to deadlift, and now I’m getting targeted ads for skull balaclavas and emails titled “Rise Up Brother” from

Wait, wait, wait, don’t go! Sets of five or ten? How low should I squat? Please don’t leave me!