If you frequent health and fitness Instagram accounts, you’ve likely stumbled across before-and-after photos of women who have tried the latest and greatest trend: the Bikini Body Guide, aka "BBG". Or, you have developed a massive girl crush on its founder, social media celebrity Kayla Itsines, whose obsession with white Nike trainers and affinity for colorful Instagram-worthy fruity breakfast bowls is something we can all relate to. The BBG is no joke. The more you dig into the #BBG hashtag, you start to get what all the fuss is about and the more you’re sold by the fitness program’s promise. At least that’s what happened to me six months ago. Now, having just completed week 24 of the BBG guide, I can say it was oh-so worth it.
As a lifelong cardio fiend, I simply couldn’t fathom how a 3-times-per-week, 28-minute resistance-based workout would make that much of a difference. But that’s exactly what the BBG was boasting, if not proving, with all of the real women on social media showcasing real results. It simply seemed to good to be true.
I’ve always had a hard time qualifying anything as proper exercise unless I was running. This false notion led me to ignore resistance training, which meant I was missing out on an essential part of fitness. Over time, my body stopped reacting the way I wanted it to from long distance jogs and I constantly felt burned out, like I was giving so much energy to something that wasn't paying off. I knew I needed a change. By the time I looked into the BBG, I had already heard whispers of it from friends and acquaintances. The program seemed fair, doable, and well planned. Meanwhile, the visual results of the program emblazoned all over social media were striking, even when they were subtle, and did not harness an ounce of gimmicky flare. I decided to give it a go.
Who is Kayla?
Kayla Itsines and her fiancé Tobi Pierce are both experienced personal trainers and the masterminds behind the BBG. Kayla herself studied Personal Training at the Australian Institute of Fitness and ran a private studio in Adelaide. After posting pictures of the incredible results of her clients, Kayla’s popularity began to pick up. What followed were her Bikini Body Guides, Healthy Eating Lifestyle Plan, social media accounts, Sweat with Kayla App, and website kaylaitsines.com. Considering how hard it is to stand out these days on social media, Kayla excelled – a glowing testament to her popularity, Kayla’s Instagram account has nearly 5 million followers.
What is BBG?
The BBG guide is a 12-week program curated for women. It centers on resistance training exercises three days per week, usually targeting a specific part of the body – arms, legs, or abs. Each sessions lasts for four, 7-minute circuits, totaling 28 minutes. The circuits are structured in an easy-to-follow format with pictures demonstrating each and every move, guiding you along the way.
On the days of the week you don’t partake in the resistance training, Kayla suggests you do a form of low intensity steady state (LISS) cardio or high-intensity interval training (HIIT). LISS cardio is meant to be of low-moderate intensity, so a light 45-minute walk or bike ride suffices. Kayla’s HIIT sessions don’t come into play until a few weeks into the program and last a mere 15 minutes, during which time you sprint as fast as you can for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest. This continues until the 15 minutes are up.
Albeit short, the workouts are effective and tough. I often walk away from a 28-minute session completely winded and drenched in sweat. But even during my circuits, I never feel like giving up, knowing that the 7-minute finish line is never too far out of reach.
Then, there is rehabilitation and rest, which is just as important as the workouts themselves. As her favorite way to rehabilitate muscles, Kayla is a huge supporter of foam rolling and even sells a self-branded foam rolling guide and foam roller to match. I personally didn’t think there was anything particularly special about her foam roller, so I bought one from elsewhere, and YouTube is equipped with enough instructional videos to make the foam rolling guide unnecessary fluff. Either way, Kayla introduced me to foam rolling, something I would otherwise never have thought to be important.
What I like most about following Kayla’s protocol is that as long as I get in my resistance training sessions, I don’t feel too guilty about not having time or caring to do the LISS cardio or HIIT components. Being active and moving throughout the day is enough for me to still reap the rewards of the three-days-per-week program. However, the exercises get much more challenging over time and the LISS and HIIT sessions eventually become more obligatory in nature, rather than optional.
I didn’t follow the Healthy Eating Lifestyle Plan that is supposed to supplement the program, because I already have my own way of nourishing that works for me, but Kayla only promises results from the BBG when you eat in the way she suggests. Luckily, her dietary suggestions aren’t too restrictive – you can have your carbs (phew!) – and most emphasis is placed on low-fat meals.
My BBG Feedback
Overall, BBG changed the way I approach exercise and I don’t think I could ever go back to exclusively running to keep in shape.
The results also came quickly. After the first week, I already felt leaner and stronger. However, I didn’t start to see results until I jumped into the BBG2, which follows BBG1 and takes you through week 13 to 24. Kayla advises you to take a picture of your progress every four weeks so you can track your results, the idea being that it is harder to notice changes by simply glimpsing in the mirror. Pictures help you to stay motivated by even the most minute of progress. My goal was never weight loss, so I didn’t keep track of my weight. However, I paid close attention to my arms and abs, which had been neglected during exercise for most of my life, and I was impressed by the results!
As far as negative feedback goes, I had my issues with some of the exercises, their order relative to other exercises within a circuit, and their lack of diversity. Some of the exercises came off as potentially harmful. I am all for challenging my body, but I found myself modifying certain exercises because they didn’t feel healthy for my joints, especially my knees. Then, there was the issue with the order of the exercises. Within a circuit, I often found myself asked to do a pushup sequence after a similar pushup-like sequence, followed by yet another pushup-like sequence. The order of exercises within a circuit sometimes felt unplanned or random, not taking into account the difficulty of the exercises following one another. When this happened, I felt exhausted and teeming with lactic acid in my muscles after just a few sets. Meanwhile, while the BBG targets most muscle groups with a variety of exercises, after 24 weeks of the program, I started to get bored and was hoping for the introduction of different exercises. Overall, however, these were light complaints that never affected my loyalty to and excitement for the BBG.
After 24 weeks of BBG1 and BBG2, there is not yet a BBG3 to jump into. Now, I can either repeat BBG2 or download the Sweat with Kayla App, but it costs $20 per month and according to reviews, is a repetition of exercises I can already find in both BBG1 and BBG2 guides, which already cost me $70 each.
Despite Kayla Itsines’s popularity, following the BBG still feels like uncovering a secret – a key to the body you never knew you could have. Kayla makes a point to motivate strength, confidence, and a positive body image among her followers, and the community spirit is motivating, with some followers arranging meet ups in cities around the world.
My experience with the BBG was eye-opening, fun, and a breath of fresh air after years of exhausting myself with cardio. I will continue with the BBG and hope to reach new levels of fitness along the way.
Plank Image from Shutterstock