How to Write Great Fitness Articles That People Will Actually Read.
In this article I’m going to show you how to create articles that are clear, concise, easy to produce, and appreciated by those who read them.
I’ve learned the hard way how to mold my writing into something that people actually take the time to start — and finish — reading.
The internet has changed the way people consume content, and with it we as content-creators have to deliver our message in a format that is both useful and digestible. Otherwise, no one will listen.
At our core, creators want to be heard.
If you want to write just to purge feelings or submit a stream of consciousness without regard to formatting, get a diary or a private blog.
If — however — you want to actually reach people and impact lives, then it’s time to mold your musings into something that will hold the reader’s attention and… …get your message across!
Who Am I?
I’m a former pro baseball player and a current strength coach. I’ve been blogging since 2009 and got paid to write for the first time four years later. I’m now working on my second book and work as an editor for a baseball website.
I’ve written dozens of articles for fitness and baseball publications such as T-Nation.com, Bodybuilding.com, The Hardball Times, Collegiate Baseball, and others.
I was proud to receive feedback from my editors on how easy I made their job, which is what you want if you desire consistent work and consistent views of your work.
In this article I’ll teach you how to write and format a blog post or article, and how you can impress an editor and reader alike with your logical, concise and actionable message.
Step 1: Form a Cogent Argument
I majored in Philosophy in college. If I learned one thing, it was that any time you give an persuasive argument, it should build with premises that support a clear conclusion.
Your article must be easy to follow and understand. As the coaching content editor for EliteBaseballPerformance.com, I can tell you that most articles I read and edit don’t have a clear direction, overall premise OR conclusion — it’s often not clear what writers are trying to convince their audience of.
Articles must have a clear, concise message: what are you trying to convince the reader of?
What new belief or skill will they possess having completed your article? It can be one main point or a few points depending on the format. This should be conveyed in the title and introduction, so let’s start there with examples:
Example Main Points & Titles
- How to Increase The Size of Your Biceps
- How to Get Six-Pack Abs With Minimal Effort
- Five Ways to Increase Your Bat Speed
- Learn How to Improve Your Writing Skills
- 4 Easy Steps To Writing Better Articles
- The Best Way to Throw a Slider
All of the above titles accomplish the following:
- Explain what the reader will gain
- Have a central point that can be clearly defended and explained
- Are concise and clear
- Are actionable (more on this later)
What a Cogent Argument Looks Like
Here’s how your article will be formatted if someone stripped out all the filler and flowery language, leaving only the skeleton of premises (supporting concepts) and the conclusion. The conclusion is the main point.
The General Format:
Explain the main point to the reader in the introduction.
- Premise #1
- Premise #2
- Premise #3
- (any additional premises)
Re-state the main point, which is now the logical, obvious and convincing conclusion of the article based on the premises you provided.
This seems really obvious, right?
You’d think so, but I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve read or edited that never make it clear what I’m learning at the beginning, either because the author never states it plainly enough, hides it within a huge mass of text, or doesn’t actually provide it at all.
Most amateur writers get an idea, start writing, and keep digging a deeper hole that they fill with knowledge that has some value, but not really value to support a central point or the argument as a whole.
Example Article Skeleton
- Improve Your Sprint Speed By Squatting Deeper
- Introduction:Define “deeper” as full range-of-motion and state the conclusion that using them will provide greater gains in sprint speed than the alternative, doing partial squats.
- Premise #1: Full range-of-motion squats recruit more muscle fibers, meaning they increase strength faster.
- Premise #2: Full range-of-motion squats challenge and improve rate of force development by the central nervous system.
- Premise #3: Full range-of-motion squats recruit more of the muscle groups that improve sprinting.
Conclusion: Because of Premises 1, 2 and 3 (briefly re-state), full range-of-motion squats are unquestionably the best choice for those who want to (restate your audience) increase their sprinting speed.
The above is what every article should look like when stripped down to it’s most bare bones.
And, we could easily re-tool the title, calling each premise a “tip” or “reason.” Titles like that are motivating to read, which is why they are so popular. Three Reasons To Squat Deeper for Increased Sprint Speed would be a good alternative title.
How To Do This
When you get an article idea, quickly mock up an outline just like I did above.
When you get better at it, you won’t need to do this — you’ll start writing then go back and mold it into shape as you go.
But to start improving today, start with an outline. Make sure your premises clearly support the conclusion, which is the main point and title of the article.
Step 2: Article Length & Breaking It All Up
A common mistake by new authors is the stream of consciousness — they write and write and write and write, filling up huge blocks of text without line breaks, headings or images.
If you’ve made it this far, scroll back up to the top and look at my pattern — what do you notice? You’ll see that I rarely create paragraphs longer than five lines, and I break text blocks up as quickly as I can without hurting the flow ideas. This makes the whole article feel easier to read and much more skimmable.
We all need to just recognize and be okay with the fact that most of your audience will skim and seek out the nuggets of valuable information they are seeking. They don’t want to read extra words unless you’re writing a huge thinkpiece or book. Long-form writing isn’t dead…but it’s also a lot more dead than it used to be.
Long-form writing isn’t dead…but it’s also a lot more dead than it used to be.
How Long Should an Article Be?
It depends on your audience. Case in point, this article.
You’re reading this article ONLY because you really want to be good at writing articles, specifically for the fitness or sports community.
This article is long, much longer than I’d normally write. Why? Because my audience for this article — YOU — is a person who wants his or her name on websites, in magazines, etc. You hope to vault into expert status and you rightly assume “published writer” will help.
So, I’m writing only to people that really care. If you stop reading, then you’ll continue to write worthless garbage and not know why people don’t engage more with your writing. Editors won’t like seeing your name in their inbox and your readers will be more puzzled after reading your work.
Therefore, I’ve decided that since you really want to be great at this, I’ll support that goal by writing a really freakin thorough article. And the only people who have completed this sentence…are those people.
So thanks for reading, don’t stop now, and remember that your audience will determine the proper length of your article. If you’re not sure or don’t command enough authority (yet!) to hold people’s attention for 10+ minutes, err on the side of a shorter, less dense and simpler article.
How to Use Headings and Sub-Headings
Don’t fight short attention spans. Rather, embrace them by encouraging your readers to keep reading by making it easy to do so, and by making it easy to spot the most important points.
- Use bulleted lists like this one.
- Pull-quotes are great.
- Break up paragraphs into no more than five or six lines.
- Chop up your longer arguments by using headings and subheadings
- Use media like photos and videos to engage people and give them a break from text
Again, let’s use this article as a reference because I’m practicing what I preach.
This article looks like this:
- Main Point:I’ll Teach You How to Be a Great Internet Article Writer [H1]
Step 1 (Premise #1): Form a Cogent Article [H2]
- Support for Premise #1: What Cogency means [H3]
- Support for Premise #2: How Clear Titles Help [H3]
- Support for Premise #3: What Good Structure Looks like [H3]
- Support for Premise #4: How to Make Your Own Structure (Actionable tip) [H3]
Step 2 (Premise #2): Break Up Text to Make Ideas More Clear [H2]
- Support for Premise #1: Break up paragraphs into chunks [H3]
- Support for Premise #2: Use headings appropriately [H3]
- Support for Premise #3: Use pull-quotes, lists, photos and videos [H3]
Step 3 (Premise #3): How to Give Actionable Advice [H2]
- Support for Premise #1: Giving Knowledge versus Action Items [H3]
- Support for Premise #2: Where to fit in action items [H3]
- Support for Premise #3: What action items look like [H3]
Step 4 (Premise #4): Deciding On Length, Language & Audience [H2]
- Support for Premise #1: Defining Your Audience [H3]
- Support for Premise #2: Expert Language [H3]
- Support for Premise #3: Style Based on Content [H3]
Conclusion: If you do what I told you to do, you’ll write great articles. [H2]😎
Subheadings Go In Based on The Item’s Hierarchy
Headings come in four main styles in the hierarchy: H1, H2, H3 and H4.
- H1 = The title of the article.The editor inserts this, or it’s the title of the blog post on your website, so you don’t have to do anything except not use H1 headings again.
- H2 = Main Premise.
- H3 = Supports the H2 premise.
- H4 = Supports the H3 premise.
Pretty sensible, right? Just chop up each part of the article into chunks so people don’t go blind reading a huge mass of text.
Then, organize those chunks using headings and subheadings to show the reader where they fit in — effective use of subheadings remind the reader that you’re still supporting a larger premise.
To be fair, some text editors — like this one in Medium — only do H2 and H3 (as far as I can tell) so if you spread it out, using mostly H2s isn’t a bad thing to do. Google SEO also takes into account what your headings say, so good use of H2s that are keyword rich and relevant is important, but beyond our scope here.
Just don’t kill me because I’m using mostly H2 headings in this article…they’re just a little bigger and look right to me.
Pull-Quotes are Cool (←an H2)
When you say something profound, re-iterate it so it sticks by using a pull quote:
When you say something profound, re-iterate it so it sticks by using a pull quote.
Don’t use these too often, but use them where you really want to drive home a point.
Step 3: Give Actionable Advice
This is an H2 heading because I’m starting on the third main premise of this article. Right? Right.
What is Actionable Advice? (←H3)
*Note: I used an H3 right here because it was so close to this H2 heading. It just made it less confusing. If it was farther down the page I’d probably use H2 again for dramatic effect.
Okay, back to the actionable advice example story…
…You see an older powerlifter in the gym. He’s HUGE and super strong — you’ve seen him bench press crazy weights and yet he seems approachable. You walk up and ask him what you should do to increase your bench press, because you only max out at 250lbs and you’d like to one day bench 550lbs like he does.
Sure! Here’s what you do! he replies.
The old man proceeds to tell you everything he ever learned about bench press in the 20 years he’s been doing it. TONS of great information, lessons learned, etc. You feel really thankful he spent so much time talking with you.
You walk away and head over to the bench press…and aren’t sure what to do. The old man gave you tons of wisdom, but should you do 3 sets of 10? Max out? Partial reps? Use chains? Use bands? Straight bar or buffalo bar?
You absorbed a lot of information from the veteran lifter, but not much of it was actionable. When information does not give clear directions of immediate action to take, it is often useless.
When information does not give clear direction on immediate action to take, it is often useless.
The next day, you walk up to another fellow lifter and ask him for his advice on bench press. What can I do, you ask, to improve my bench press? His reply:
Today, do 5 sets of 5 with 185 lbs. Do that every Monday for the next month and add 5lbs to the bar each week.
On Fridays, do 150 total push ups as fast as you can while resting as little as possible. Record your time and try to improve on it each week. After that month, come tell me how you did and I’ll give you the next step.
Right? The second guy gave you clear directions on what to do to immediately make progress. Whether or not his advice was good is up to you to determine, but the point is that his advice inspired clear and immediate action — he gave you things that you could do.
If you want your articles to be feel valuable to your readers, make sure they are brimming with actionable advice that they can use and put into practice immediately.
Don’t just give your readers advice; it will leave them frustrated because they just gave you 10 minutes of their time and yet still don’t know what to do.
Solve their problem by calling them to action and giving them the exact steps to take.
Step 4: Article Length, Language & Audience
We’re almost home! Earlier, I explained that you — dear reader — are an audience with a strong purpose to improve on something. You’re not looking for a quick fix, but rather an solution that will serve you for the rest of your life: you want to be a better writer.
So, I wrote a long article giving you LOTS of actionable advice. I knew this was long but its okay because it will serve as a reference and read the audience for whom I decided to write it.
Most audiences are not that audience. Most people on the web are the people in the bell-curve, the people who want something but not really that badly:
- They want to get healthy but don’t really want to put in the work
- They don’t want a detailed explanation, they just want to be told what to do (hence the need for actionable advice)
- They have an attention span of just a few minutes, or 1000 words, whichever comes first.
- They are NOT experts
- They do NOT understand your expert lexicon (if you don’t know what lexicon means…then you get my point)
Write For These People Unless Directed Otherwise:
- A 7th grader
- A parent with no knowledge on the subject
These are my audience every time. Why? Because when I personally choose to write, I want to make my expertise accessible to someone who doesn’t have it. I don’t care about busting out my biggest words to showcase my intelligence. I want someone who has taken the time out of their day to give to me to be rewarded with a concise, understandable explanation of how I can help them solve a problem in their life.
How you choose to write is up to you, but if you want to be viewed as an expert AND help people (which is what experts are supposed to do) then make sure you’re not just speaking to other experts. Way too many people do this and it smells to me like insecurity.
Using Accessible Language
I can’t remember the last time I said the word “premise” in real life. But, it’s a common philosophical term and I used it a bunch in this article.
Since I’m writing to those who are trying to bust into the writing world, it wouldn’t have been fair to just assume you know it. Personally, I read stuff all the time where I lose the interest or feel like I don’t belong.
I do a lot of web design (I’ve built all my own websites), and I appreciate when the “real” computer techies either don’t use their deep technical terms, or explain them to me when they use them for the first time. I’ve learned everything I know about the web from internet articles and videos, and my favorite educators who simplify for me, but don’t condescend to me.
Premise isn’t a big word, but I chose to quickly explain it just in case you hadn’t heard it since grade school. Because I want you to understand, I wanted to make sure every single reader knew exactly what that key term meant before I moved on.
Last Thing! Style Based on Content
What are you teaching? If it’s something on the web, include a screen-recorded tutorial with your article, so those who like to read can read, and those who want to see can watch.
The most you include other content in your articles, the more people will reach them.
Recently, I started a new website called SnapSoftball.com. It’s lots of softball throwing instruction, and it’s designed specifically for parents and coaches without a vast background in the sport. It’s simple and very specific to parents who want to learn but don’t have a baseball or softball background.
And the way I write blog posts for it is simple as well:
- I record a video showing the drill or piece of instruction I want to teach.
- Then, I embed it in the blog post and write up about 2/3 of a complete explanation on the topic.
This way, people can read, get a pretty good understanding of what I’m trying to teach, then watch the short (3–4 minute) video and piece it all together.
Because I can’t fully explain movements via written words, I explain what I can then let the video drive it home. They’re quick reads and are very clear and to the point.
Check out one of the articles to see how I chose to format them.
Takeaway: just think about what you’re teaching, and provide the appropriate embedded videos, photos, audio or text to best get the message across.
I’m really tired from writing, so I’m not going to summarize this with a conclusion (like I should).
But I hoped this help you better understand formatting for internet articles.
If you have a question, shoot me an email by going here to my website and scrolling to the bottom of the page.
Check out my work: