The Dark Side of the Male Fitness Internet


One of the internet’s most popular fitness personalities is a dead bodybuilder named Zyzz. Is he the key to unlocking the links between toxic masculinity, objectification and fringe politics? Episode 5 of our video series.

Amanda Hess
One of the internet’s most popular fitness personalities is a dead bodybuilder named Zyzz. Is he the key to unlocking the link between toxic masculinity, objectification, and fringe politics?Published On

The internet has ushered in an era of hyper-visual culture, and the shift is so seismic that it’s starting to affect a group of people who have previously escaped the harsh body spotlight: heterosexual men.

This doesn’t just have aesthetic consequences. It has political ones, too.

In some corners of the fitness internet, men mourning their lost social dominance are seeking to reclaim their masculinity physically in an attempt to look like “real men,” even if they don’t feel like them. In Episode 5 of “Internetting,” we trace the radicalization of male fitness, from the absurdist bodybuilding icon Zyzz to the supplements on sale in the Infowars gift shop.

I don’t even lift bro,


More episodes in this series

Episode Notes

The Zyzz phenomenon was previously covered on BuzzFeed’s “Internet Explorer” podcast, in which co-host Ryan Broderick gave a special shout out to Zyzz’s “perfect, perfect hip bones.” “Muscle in the Age of Instagram,” by Daniel Kunitz, is a great primer on the wider fitness trends at play here. In it, he quotes the social psychologist Viren Swami, who explains, “Men are losing power in terms of gender equality,” and “one way they try to reassert their masculinity and dominance is through physical power.” Some internet men are experiencing so much cognitive dissonance over all of these social changes that they’ve come up with a new, more masculine term for tending to their appearance: “looksmaxing.” Still lost? A comprehensive glossary of male internet culture, explaining everything from cucks to Chads, can be found here.

Three times during the season, we’ll be answering your questions over on our YouTube channel. Share your deepest, darkest internet quandaries at or comment on this page.

Amanda Hess is a critic-at-large. She writes about internet culture for the Arts section and contributes regularly to The New York Times Magazine. She has written for such publications as Slate, ESPN the Magazine, Elle and Pacific Standard. @amandahess Facebook

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