I Tried Netflix’s New Fitness Content. Here’s Why It Didn’t Cut It for Me

11 minute read

On December 30, just in time for New Year’s, Netflix launched a series of workout classes in collaboration with Nike. The program will eventually offer 30 hours of exercise dropped in two batches, a collection that pales in comparison to massive back catalogs of programs like Peloton or even popular YouTube fitness gurus who post new workouts every day. Likely, Netflix is testing the waters for a larger expansion into lifestyle programming, leaning heavily on the Nike name to lend the pivot into fitness legitimacy. But zooming through the workouts, I found that, so far at least, Netflix falls flat on the fitness front.

I initially set out to sample Netflix’s Nike workout classes over the course of two weeks or even a month. It turns out, many of the classes are so short (just five or ten minutes) and there are so few, I needed only a few days to get a sense of what was available on the platform. Indeed, by Day 3, I made a major discovery that led me to abandon Netflix as a workout resource entirely.

Read More: The Big Business of Being a Peloton Instructor

Day 1: The hunt for the classes

I try to locate the Nike-branded classes. At the time I started this experiment (January 3), the classes were not being served up to me on my home screen, though Netflix now seems to be pushing the workouts to more users. (When I checked on January 5, I saw it in my New Releases section.)

First, I open the iPhone Netflix app and search “workout.” The results show two Nike workout classes but also a random collection of movies (Southpaw), documentaries (Human: The World Within), and Beyoncé’s Homecoming documentary. To be fair, Beyoncé did some insane core work in preparation for that Coachella performance, so I guess the algorithm is working. Sort of.

I turn to the Netflix app on my TV and do find what appears to be the Nike workout hub. Sorting through the classes is a disaster. Look, maybe I’m spoiled by Peloton, but that app allows you to curate tens of thousands of classes based on factors like length of workout, type of class, which part of your body you want to exercise, preferred music, and favorite instructor. The Netflix collection offers absolutely no ability to search and narrow down your options. Instead, classes are grouped together into “shows” like “10 minute workouts” (but…what kind of workouts?) and “kickstart fitness with the basics” (but…how long are the classes?). In each “show” are episodes, i.e. classes.

I open “two weeks to a stronger core” and find a mishmash of classes. Some are labeled yoga classes, some labeled HIT, some labeled “bodyweight burn.” Immediately, it’s clear that these classes are aimed at users who do not know exactly what kinds of workouts they like and are hoping to explore a variety. That would be great if the instructors offered more guidance on proper form so relative newbies can avoid injury. As it stands, instructors jump into the class without much instruction. And for someone who already has a routine or is hoping to form one—arm day, leg day, cardio day, yoga day, etc.—the inability to curate based on those factors will prove a major deterrent.

Some classes are 35 minutes and some are 5 minutes. Why? Unclear. Bafflingly there are seven classes in the “two weeks to a stronger core” group. Am I supposed to do one class every other day? All seven classes twice over two weeks? No explanation given.

Indeed, lack of information and transparency seems to be a major theme. The titles of the classes also do not provide crucial information like whether you need equipment. Only after I flick on the first abs class do I realize it’s only five minutes and, no, I didn’t need to drag those weights over to my TV. I finish and switch over to Bodyweight Burn: Lower Body Basics, which is 11 minutes long, hoping for a bit more of a challenge. After all, “basics” doesn’t always mean easy—squats and planks are basic moves, but do them long enough and you’ll definitely feel it. But it’s impossible to tell from scrolling through the classes how difficult each one is, and sadly, I find that this one is not particularly strenuous. I give up and cue up a weightlifting class from a competitor.

Day 2: Where’d the music go?

My editor sends me a Netflix blog post about the classes that provides the details I was missing yesterday, like length of class, equipment required, and challenge level. It’s annoying that locating this information requires a Google search. Right now, all the classes seem to be labeled “beginner.” Later in the week, I’ll find there’s a wide range within this “beginner” category, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Today, I search specifically for yoga classes on the Netflix app. Several of the episodes are advertised as “flow” classes, which typically means the class will be made up of a series of movements that you slowly build upon for an increasingly challenging experience. The one I try doesn’t feature a flow at all, but a series of disappointing exercise drills that are yoga-adjacent—a limited number of yoga poses mixed with Pilates and bodyweight strength exercises that most yoga teachers would never include in their classes. Next I start a 20-minute flow, which delivers on its promise of being structured like an actual yoga class, though I doubt anyone who is already devoted to a yoga studio will be tempted to abandon their regular practice for these workouts: The classes I found did not exceed 20 minutes, whereas habitual yogis often seek out 60- to 90-minute sessions, and the Nike classes on Netflix do not seem to offer more advanced moves like arm balances or inversions.

I tack on a 10-minute HIT abs class that turns out to be far more challenging than the core class I took the previous day. It helps that this instructor, unlike the ones I encountered on Day 1, actually explains the purpose of the exercises and cues users on how to do the moves rather than throwing beginners into the deep end with no instruction on proper form for a plank or squat.

I’m warming up to the lesson when I notice that, puzzlingly, there’s no music in the background of the class. Only the instructor’s bland aphorisms and heavy breathing break up the silence. It’s…kind of creepy? The music in the other Netflix classes isn’t exactly Grammy-worthy. It’s all generic, wordless pop. But it’s something.

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Day 3: In which I abandon the Netflix app for my new favorite instructor

My only positive experience so far has been with a trainer from the HIT class on Day 2 who introduced herself as “K.G.” in a charming New Zealand accent, so I’m determined to take another one of her classes. A Google search suggests that K.G.’s name is Kirsty Godso.

Kirsty, it turns out, already has 276K followers on Instagram and is a very successful Nike athlete. She has trained the likes of Kaia Gerber and Olivia Rodrigo. I search her name in the Netflix app and am served…all of the Nike workout classes on the platform. Not helpful. I scroll through the options trying to locate her face and eventually come across the one other class she teaches, a 30-minute pyramid class. The plank circuit kicks my butt. I’m officially a Kirsty fan. I may or may not follow her on Instagram now.

After perusing Kirsty’s posts about her Nike workouts, I begin to suspect that Netflix is not creating this content at all but just plopping Nike’s already recorded classes onto their streaming service. I download the Nike Training Club app on my phone, and sure enough, I find the exact same workouts currently available on Netflix, plus hundreds (probably thousands) more.

This isn’t a secret: Netflix does say on its blog that it’s bringing the Nike Training Club classes to its platform for the first time. But a cursory search of Twitter reveals that I was not alone in thinking that Netflix and Nike were collaborating on all-new workouts.

It turns out that these classes are completely free on the Nike Training Club app, which offers a far superior experience. Nike Training Club actually lets you sort and curate classes by muscle group, time, instructor, etc. There are specific workouts for pregnancy and postpartum (including using your stroller!), workouts for runners, workouts with Megan Thee Stallion. It even tells you which classes do and don’t have music, depending on your personal preference. (So that explains the eerily silent class.)

At this point I abandon the Netflix app, which is simply not designed to narrow down which classes you want to take, and stick with Nike Training Club app. It provides more information, offers more variety, and can be projected onto your TV. I save a few classes with Kirsty for later in the week.

Read More: How Even Super-Short Workouts Can Improve Your Health

Over the next 24 hours, I try to puzzle through why Netflix and Nike would team up for this venture. Nike’s motivation seems clear: They want to expose their classes to a wider audience, promote their brand, and maybe sell some of the cute workout merchandise that the instructors are wearing in their videos. It does seem strange that there’s no branding for the Nike Training Club app on the Netflix platform—instructors never mention it, nor do the descriptions of the episodes. But presumably Netflix isn’t keen to advertise that the same classes are available for free on another platform.

Still, why wouldn’t Netflix drop more of Nike’s videos on its platform so that those seeking to develop a daily or weekly routine would keep coming back to take new classes? Why wouldn’t they redesign the interface to make it easier for users to search and curate? And couldn’t they have invested more marketing dollars in promoting the trainers on the platform? Users often flock to a workout and stick with it because of their parasocial relationships with fitness gurus: TikTok fitness influencers, for instance, have built entire brands on their classes by sharing details about their personal lives, showing off their home gyms, and filming videos of their daily diets.

My guess is that Netflix is using these Nike workouts as a trial balloon for future ventures into lifestyle content. They’re probably tracking how many users engage with the videos, for how long, and whether they stick with the program. It’s easy to imagine the streamer churning out recipe videos to compete with the New York Times Cooking’s YouTube channel, education content to compete with MasterClass, along with fitness classes to compete with a platform like Apple Fitness+. They’re relatively cheap to produce, especially compared to, say, Stranger Things, and lifestyle videos are among YouTube’s most popular streams.

But, for now, it will be hard to tempt anyone from a platform like Peloton or Mirror or even YouTube to Netflix’s Nike Fitness classes. The Netflix platform simply does not support the type of curation, variability, and catalog size that are offered by their competitors. Current Netflix members might take the classes if they encounter them while browsing, but if the streaming service is hoping to use its fitness content to entice new subscribers, it’s going to have to do a lot better than offering something people can get elsewhere for free.

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Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com