I love calisthenics. Calisthenics is form of strength training which utilises body weight as resistance, eg pull ups or sit ups. So when the Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint about an ad promoting it, I was eager to find out what went wrong. 

The ruling acts as another reminder for brands and marketers that exaggeration and lack of evidence can turn the most creative campaign into a PR nightmare. 

The ad 

An ad appeared on TikTok, promoting the Better Me health coaching service by BetterMe Ltd. It featured a muscular man posing in the mirror and a small “Actor portrayal” disclaimer. The accompanying voice-over said:

“I look like this and I didn’t even go to the gym.” 

The voice-over then continued:

“About 28 days ago I started Better Me’s 28-day Calisthenic Challenge. I just finished up and I can say it is one of the greatest workout plans on the entire market..." 

A complainant challenged whether the ad was misleading as it implied that viewers could obtain a similar physique in 28 days.

No half-reps here!

BetterMe denied the allegations, stating that the ad made no such claims. The 28-day Calisthenic Challenge was structured as a starting point into regular physical activity. The brand explained their use of “actor portrayals” and provided examples of similar practices carried out by competitors. They said this was due to privacy concerns and personal exposure of their users. Nevertheless, BetterMe committed to extend the duration of the disclaimer, as well as its size and font. 

The ASA's assessment

The ASA considered that viewers would understand the ad hero to have completed the Challenge and achieved a significant increase in his muscle tone without going to the gym. Similarly, a significant increase in muscular build would require more than 28 days and dietary changes. The ad implied the contrary and when asked, BetterMe did not provide explanatory evidence for its claims. 

Therefore, the  ASA considered that the ad breached CAP Code rules 3.1, 3.3 (Misleading Advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.9, 3.10 (Qualification) and 3.11 (Exaggeration).

It told BetterMe Ltd to ensure that their future ads did not misleadingly represent or exaggerate the capabilities of their exercise programme. It also told them to ensure that qualifications did not contradict the claims they were intended to clarify.


It's an interesting decision which highlights the ASA's literal interpretation of the claims made in the ad. It is possible to gain significant muscle with calisthenics and you can make significant gains in 28 days with calisthenics - especially if you are new and starting off - which is arguably what BetterMe was alluding to. 

However, using an (already) muscular actor and referring to “one of the greatest workout plans on the entire market" created a misleading impression.  As is often the case with ASA decisions, clarity and substantiation are key themes, as there was a lack of evidence illustrating the effects of calisthenics without dietary changes. Finally, the ruling illustrates the importance of ensuring that headline claims are not contradicted by qualifications.