Tuesday 4 February 2020

Common Deceptions - Before and After Pictures

Before and after pictures, a staple of the fitness industry. Everyone has seen at least half a dozen this past week alone no doubt whether on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter etc. Some of these transformations are quite stark and look really impressive really making a personal trainer look great. Whilst in many cases the clients have made good or even great progress, the pictures are not always what they seem.

For years we have always heard about magazines and models having their pictures Photoshopped. Whilst this in endemic in the fitness industry as well with many high-profile fitness magazine's employing such devious techniques, there are more subtle tricks employed by many ordinary personal trainers, especially those selling body-transformations.

For an example of just how easy it is to hoodwink people with simple tricks watch this video news clip (opens in new window) from ABC News when they interviewed PT Andrew Dixon.

Andrew Dixon body transformation tricks
Andrew Dixon's body transformation all in the space of one hour highlighting tricks of the trade.

Below I'll share a few of the tricks employed by those PT's to mislead their clients and prospective clients and sell themselves as able to achieve better results than what they really have. Some of them may not sound like much on their own but all taken together they can create quite a result.

Table of contents


The first and foremost trick of them all.

Before: Poor lighting or no focus on providing specific lighting for the photoshoot helps give a less defined appearance.

After: Lighting tricks such as top-down lighting help accentuate the contours of the body. For PT clients any weight lost and muscle gained will be exaggerated by specifically directed lighting giving a much more toned muscled appearance.

It is quite easy to tell if specific lighting is being used to create such pictures. In many cases a darker shadow of the person lies on the wall behind or floor underneath them, unless the PT is really being thorough and Photoshops them out.

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Before: The person stands in what you could call a relaxed slouched position. Their shoulders hang down and lean forward, their belly protrudes out etc. All things that makes one look plumper than they really are.

After: The person stands with a more erect posture with the shoulders pegged back and chest out. This also helps flatten the stomach area giving a slimmer and stronger appearance. Striking a pose that helps flex the muscles or specific muscles at least to give a more toned muscled look.

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Mel V, a personal trainer from Australia caused a viral stir back in 2013 showing how to transform your look in 15-minutes by employing subtle tricks.

Muscle Pump

Before: Typically a before picture will be taken prior to any work out. This helps give a picture of the body in a relaxed state.

After: A workout of some form usually precedes the after picture. The effects this has on the body is that blood has been pumped through the muscles giving them the "muscle pump" effect, where they are swollen looking larger.

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Before: A PT won't typically inform you to avoid eating or drinking anything in the hours preceding a before shot.

After: If a PT is being thorough with the deception then you'll likely be advised to avoid eating or drinking anything substantial or at all in the hours or late evening prior to your photoshoot. The aim of this is to prevent the natural bloating drinking liquids and eating food can have on the body helping give a slimmer look.

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Greasing Up

Before: A sweat-free clean body.

After: A workout of some form will help create a more reflective effect through perspiration alone, however for those PT's who want to create very pronounced photos, oil or tanning-lotion is employed to grease up the client to help the light reflect off their contours whilst creating greater shadows in the recesses giving a far more chiselled muscular appearance.

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Other tricks

With the digital age many photo apps for smart phones allow you to alter pictures with filters. Some of these allow you sharpen a picture in specific places allowing you to accentuate your muscles. PT's overdo these sharpens and they can be quite obvious as the look can appear quite uneven across the body or even the background. You could even resize an image slightly to make someone look slenderer.

What you wear can affect your appearance as well as how you have your hair. Even a fella simply having a shave can make them look younger and leaner.

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A clip showing how simple lighting and posture changes alone make a difference.

Closing Thoughts

The next time you see a before and after picture from your local PT or a friend who has been to one take a closer look. See how many of the above tricks you can notice.

PT's are meant to take before and after shots in the same place under the same conditions to ensure a true comparison. Many however do not as they want to appear better at achieving results and are thus deceiving people. It's not just a blight of fitness magazines and big chains. For the money it costs for personal training you should be getting honest results.

If you have any questions then feel free to ask away in the comments or send me some feedback!

Lyle Richardson,
Gym Pal - Your Friend In Fitness


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