caption The author, Elana Lyn Gross, and Kayla Itsines. source Elana Lyn Gross
- Kayla Itsines is an award-winning certified trainer and entrepreneur whose Bikini Body Workout program and SWEAT app has a following of over 20 million.
- Kayla Itsines’s Bikini Body Guide 12 week program includes three 28-minute HIIT workouts, three cardio sessions, and two recovery days each week.
- I decided to give Kayla Itsine’s BBG a try – here’s what has happened so far at four weeks in.
When Kayla Itsines, an award-winning certified trainer and entrepreneur, was running one-on-one sessions in Australia, she was booked for weeks straight and had no way of helping clients from all around the world who reached out to her online. “This really frustrated me,” she toldForbes.
So Itsines and her partner, Tobi Pearce, founded Bikini Body Trainingin 2013. In 2014, they released the Bikini Body Guide (BBG), a 12-week workout program that users could purchase as a PDF and use wherever, whenever.
Next, Itsines and Pearce developed their program into a top-ranking fitness app,Sweat, where users can find Itsines’s curated workouts and other features like a nutrition plan, cool downs, a place to save progress photos, and your weekly workout schedule. Over 20 million women use Itsines’s app, workout plan, books, and fitness equipment.
The weekly schedule (which ramps up slowly at first) consists of three 28-minute HIIT workouts – one session focuses on legs, another on arms and abs, and one on full body – three cardio sessions, one recovery session with guided stretches, and a rest day. You can mix and match the workouts depending on what works best for your body.
I decided to give the viral 12-week BBG program a try to see if I would have results like the hundreds of thousands who tag their before and after pictures using#BBGtransformationson Instagram – here’s how I’m feeling one month in.
- I am no stranger to working out.
- I was up for the challenge, especially after scrolling through Bikini Body Guide Transformation pictures people proudly post on Instagram.
- Each high-intensity plyometric training workout includes two series of four exercises that you complete in seven-minute circuits, twice. For each circuit, you do each of the four exercises as many times as you can in the seven minutes.
- Each week, you do three low-intensity steady state cardio workouts (LISS) for 30 to 45 minutes. Itsines recommends power walking, but she says that you can also do yoga, swim, go for a slow jog, or take a leisurely bike ride.
- You can do the traditional BBG program from home. Most workouts have little to no equipment other than a mat.
- The updated SWEAT app released last year has three additional 12-week workout programs to add variety to your workout routine.
- I Survived the Kayla Itsines BBG Workout Program—and Now I’m Tougher In *and* Out of the Gym
I am no stranger to working out.
caption Me after a half-marathon. source Elana Lyn Gross
I have run four half-marathons, completed thePhysique 57 workout programandRuth Bader Ginsburg’s workout, and exercise regularly. I even finished one round of the Bikini Body Guide last year.
Regardless, I was prepared to be sore because the workout program is designed to target all of your muscles – including ones you didn’t know you had.
I was up for the challenge, especially after scrolling through Bikini Body Guide Transformation pictures people proudly post on Instagram.
caption I once worked out with Itsines and other members of the BBG community on “The Today Show.” source Elana Lyn Gross
Speaking of Instagram, The Bikini Body Guide hashtaghas almost seven million posts from a supportive community of women who leave encouraging comments and advice on each other’s posts. They evenplan local meetupsto do the BBG workouts.
Each high-intensity plyometric training workout includes two series of four exercises that you complete in seven-minute circuits, twice. For each circuit, you do each of the four exercises as many times as you can in the seven minutes.
caption Doing bicycle crunches. source Elana Lyn Gross
I often end up doing each exercise (for example 15 squats, 15 burpees, 15 sumo squats, 30 weighted step-ups) twice per circuit. There is a one minute break between circuits and a much-needed cool down to stretch when you’re done.
It’s tough … really tough. You’ll be sweaty, and you’ll savor the minute-long break between sets, but at least your hard work pays off. I find the abs day to be the most difficult, in part because I have scoliosis and can’t do all of the crunches correctly. I make modifications, like doing regular crunches instead of full-body crunches. Listen to your body and don’t be afraid to modify.
If you have the app, you can also check the alternative exercise to see if it works better for your body.
Each week, you do three low-intensity steady state cardio workouts (LISS) for 30 to 45 minutes. Itsines recommends power walking, but she says that you can also do yoga, swim, go for a slow jog, or take a leisurely bike ride.
caption Me after a long run. source Elana Lyn Gross
The key is to keep your heart rate low and to go at a steady state, unlike in Itsines’s high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, where you sprint for 30 seconds then rest for 30 seconds, repeating for 10-15 minutes.I usually speed walk in Central Park as LISS and run in the park for HIIT.
You can do the traditional BBG program from home. Most workouts have little to no equipment other than a mat.
caption With my “personal trainer” in real life. source Elana Lyn Gross
Although you don’t need a gym membership to do BBG, I find that going to the gym makes me work harder. I take fewer breaks and feel energized by the people around me.
When I see people working with their personal trainers, I get some satisfaction knowing I’m also “working out with a personal trainer,” just through my phone. I’ve even had people come up to me to ask what app I use while I’m working out with SWEAT.
The updated SWEAT app released last year has three additional 12-week workout programs to add variety to your workout routine.
caption Using the new Sweat app. source Elana Lyn Gross
Thenew workoutsfeature multiple trainers and programs like yoga instructorSjana Elise Earp’s”Body and Mind” (a Vinyasa-style yoga and recovery workout), Itsines’s BBG Stronger (a BBG-style workout that incorporates gym equipment), and certified trainerKelsey Wells’sSweat PWR (a weight training and resistance workout), and Post-Pregnancy (a post-natal program that focuses on core strength).
I haven’t done the full 12-week BBG Stronger program yet, but I’ve tried a few sessions and like that it teaches you how to use various fitness equipment correctly.
caption The resistance workouts are no walk in the park. (Although LISS can be!) source Westfield
So far, I feel healthier and empowered, in part because of the supportive BBG community. The women on Instagram and it’s been fun having people leave encouraging comments on my posts and vice versa. I am excited to see the results at the end of the 12-week program. (Wish me luck!)
If you are thinking of trying Bikini Body Guide, I highly recommend it. The 28-minute workouts and short HIIT sessions are quick and convenient. Check off LISS by speed walking with your dog or walking or biking to work.
It can fit into your busy lifestyle better than an hour-long class or long run. Everyone’s fitness level and experience is different, but it has been beneficial for me.
I Survived the Kayla Itsines BBG Workout Program—and Now I’m Tougher In *and* Out of the Gym
Every fitstagrammer worth her salt in mountain climbers adores Kayla Itsines. The Aussie trainer, founder of Bikini Body Guides and the Sweat with Kayla app, is practically fitness royalty (all hail the queen of bosu burpees!). Her washboard abs (a thing of legend) and message of body positivity have inspired countless women to embrace their muscles and become their strongest, most confident selves.
My sister introduced me to Kayla’s 12-week BBG program one gloomy day in January. I was neck-deep in the post-holiday slump, feeling guilty about overindulging over the holidays, yet unmotivated to go for a booger-inducing run in the NYC tundra. I was also recovering from a hypothyroid condition that had zapped my energy for months and added pounds to my waistline. When my sister assured me, you can do BBG in your living room, I was half-sold. What sealed the deal was Kayla’s Insta feed of epic transformations-all real women of different shapes and sizes from every corner of the globe kicking ass and looking powerful. And each one had started exactly where I was-in a health and fitness rut. Now they held their heads high, empowered by what they had accomplished through BBG-stronger, fitter, more capable bodies. (Related: Kayla Itsines Shares the #1 Thing People Get Wrong About Transformation Photos)
On that bitter winter’s day, as I scrolled through success stories snuggled in my PJs, I got more and more pumped. “The Eye of the Tiger” began to swell in my ears. I could imagine the sweet taste of victory. I leaped from my couch (all right, a tad melodramatic, but that’s how I like to remember the moment) and texted my sister: Sign me up for #KaylasArmy!
Here’s what you should know about Kayla’s 12-week BBG program.
You’ll need basic equipment: dumbbells, a medicine ball, a bench (I substituted a step ladder or a sturdy chair at home), and a bosu ball (easy to find at a gym if you do the BBG workouts there).
At the beginning of the challenge, you perform two 28-minute resistance workouts per week (one abs/arms and one legs/cardio) and an optional third (full-body). Each session is broken down into two seven-minute circuits, and each circuit consists of four exercises-you complete circuit one as many times as you can in seven minutes, then rest for 30 to 90 seconds and do the same with circuit two. You repeat the whole thing, for a total of 28 minutes. The program ramps up in difficulty level as the weeks progress to avoid plateau (for example, by week four, the third resistance workout is mandatory). On non-strength days, you complete light cardio (like walking) or HIIT training and stretch daily. (Related: The Kayla Itsines 28-Minute Total-Body Strength Training Workout)
I survived 12 weeks of intense (with a capital I), heart-pumping, wind-sucking, soul-searching, sometimes downright grueling workouts (they don’t call it #deathbykayla for nothing, y’all)-technically I toughed it out for 16 weeks since there’s a month’s worth of beginner resistance training circuits. In that time, in combination with clean eating and intermittent fasting, I lost 14 pounds. But the most surprising results were those I couldn’t measure on a scale. We’re talking serious growth, people, and not just in muscle tone! I’ve since downloaded Kayla’s Sweat app and have made BBG the centerpiece of my regular fitness routine.
If you’re thinking about joining #thekaylamovement, read on for some fitspiration.
Leave your comfort zone in the rearview.
I’m a cardio junkie. Running is my fix. It makes me feel powerful-just me and the open road, wind in my hair. What doesn’t make me feel like Wonder Woman? Push-ups, and burpees, and commandos (oh my!). I used to avoid these strength moves because they made me feel weak (a quick pause to reflect on that irony!). But, hey, I bet I’m not alone. In life, we tend to gravitate toward things that make us feel good, capable, and comfortable. Except this isn’t an option when you do BBG. The program is chock-full of daily exercises that might scare the hell (and breath) out of you. TBH, after the initial high of joining BBG, I panicked-spider push-ups, tuck jumps, raised-leg sit-ups-what did I just get myself into? But I had committed, and I wasn’t going to let my inner scaredy cat talk me out of it. So, I brushed aside my self-defeating thoughts, took a deep breath, and dove headfirst into BBG. (Related: How to Do a Burpee-and Why You Should)
I wish I could say I took to it effortlessly like a fish to water. I didn’t. For example, take Kayla’s killer compound exercise-the burpee + push-up + bench jump-a challenging move even for the fittest of Kayla’s BBG veterans. But for a rookie like me, it was like scaling Everest. My arms trembled, and my legs wobbled through all the heart-pumping jumping. I’m pretty sure I sounded like an elephant stampede (shout out to my neighbors downstairs for not complaining!). The important thing? I kept showing up. Sure, the moves were insanely difficult, but it was about more than pushing through the physical pain. What really counted was pushing through the emotional discomfort of trying something new and feeling awkward. I was facing my real, underlying fears-that I would suck at this and look stupid-and staring those ugly little self-hating critters down.
And you know what? Breaking outside of my comfort zone with BBG made me brave in other ways, too. From the moment I had seen La La Land, I had dreamt of taking tap lessons. But I was too scared to sign up for a class-What if I look like a fool? What if I can’t keep up? But my BBG experience proved I could succeed at new things, no matter how unfamiliar and unknown, and gave me the confidence to pursue my Ginger Rogers fantasy. I’ve been time-steppin’ ever since!
Prepare to step up your stamina.
As a half-marathoner, I always thought I scored pretty high in the stamina department, but Kayla’s BBG workouts really tested my endurance. Aren’t they only 28 minutes long? you ask. Oh, but they’re so much more than that! They’re a mix of plyometrics, bodyweight, and hypertrophy training. Kayla engineered these circuits to kick your ass! By the end of each 28-minute workout sesh, I barely had the energy to take a shower (thankfully, for everyone around me, I managed). Needless to say, I looked forward to non-strength days when I could go for a run and feel like myself, i.e., not a wind-sucking puddle of mush. To my chagrin, my body ached even on my cardio days. ‘She broke me’, I thought. ‘Damn you, Kayla!’ But, after the first few weeks, I wasn’t tiring as quickly on my runs. In fact, I was shaving seconds off my miles. I was becoming stronger physically, but mentally, too. I had a tougher, more persistent mindset to accompany my new, tighter muscles. I realized that half of the stamina battle was in my head. And, in most cases, as long as I believed I could endure the burn, my body would cooperate. (Related: Science-Backed Ways to Push Through Workout Fatigue)
What’s weird? This mental and emotional perseverance began to surface in other areas of my life. I had been working on a screenplay for months, a true labor of love and feeling burned out, doubting whether I could finish. But after BBG, the finish line no longer felt unattainable. Long hours of hard work? So what. I could handle the pain!
Get yourself a cheerleader.
Despite all the evidence touting the benefits of exercise partners, I was never one for a workout buddy until I began Kayla’s BBG. The online BBG community is a force-you can find support from virtual sweat mates through the free SWEAT forum and BBG Facebook groups. But I already had my very own ride-or-die, the Venus to my Serena: my older sister. Together we were two scrappy soldiers in #KaylasArmy who had each other’s back through every bench hop, Bosu burpee, or edge of a breakdown. We never actually worked out together (we live in different cities), but just knowing that she was putting her all into it too made me work harder. Daily texts and weekly calls kept me on track. We’d alternate sharing war stories about weighted sumo squats and mountain climbers-misery loves company, after all. (Related: Joining an Online Support Group Could Help You Finally Meet Your Goals)
But, invariably, the convo would turn from commiseration to motivation. What we might not be able to do for ourselves, we could do for each other and send encouraging messages. You got this. You’re a badass. I’m so proud of you. To my surprise and delight, our sibling camaraderie began to extend beyond the workouts to include support about dating and career slumps. Though we’ve always had an oil and water dynamic, we finally found a common ground in BBG, and now our bond is stronger and tighter just like our abs thanks to Kayla.
Trust your instincts.
Even badass BBG chicks need time for rest and recovery. I learned the hard way during week nine of Kayla’s program. Midway through a set of decline push-ups (push-ups done with your feet raised on a bench), I began to lose steam. I could feel my form breaking and a slight strain in my shoulder, but I insisted on steamrolling through the discomfort. The thing is, I’d been feeling a little stronger, even began to notice a sculpted bulge in my triceps (in the right lighting, at least), and my newfound confidence silenced that inner voice telling me, ‘You’re pushing too far. Pull back now’. One tube of Bengay later, I was in pain and frustrated with myself. I knew where I had gone wrong-I should’ve trusted my damn instincts. (Related: Should You Try CBD Creams for Pain Relief?)
The minor injury set me back a few days but gave me time to reflect. The lesson? Taking a break doesn’t make you weak. Being attuned with your body and knowing when you need to recharge makes you smarter and ultimately stronger. This renewed mindset helped me set better boundaries outside of fitness, too. When it comes to work, I’m a bullet train. My brain’s always rushing through life at high speed, every moment consumed by strategizing, outlining, writing, editing, stressing, and on and on. But mental and emotional burnout is not a badge of honor. Just like my muscles need some R&R every now and then, I’ve learned to listen to my inner voice when my brain can use a break. Now I feel less guilty about pressing pause on a weekday. The way I see it, Netflix binges are a necessary form of self-care. (Related: This Is What the Ultimate Recovery Day Should Look Like)
Stop comparing yourself.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I bet Teddy would have had a thing or two to say about social media where the competition for likes and comparison game are fierce. After more than a decade of therapy, I consider myself a fairly well-adjusted, confident, and self-aware person, but I still fall prey to the pale-by-comparison trap and find myself feeling less-than when scrolling through social media. At the start of my BBG journey, I compared myself to Kayla herself, the apex of the fitness food chain. She was a superheroine, a graceful gazelle, a jumping bean of endless energy. Kayla was strong and springy and made every exercise look easy in video after video. I, on the other hand, felt sluggish and slow, my forced effort apparent with every grunt and ache. But then my inner critic began to think about how far I’d come from the beginning-I could now do twice as many jump lunges and triceps dips without stopping-and that was hella impressive. I reminded myself that Kayla was my inspiration, helping me aspire to my own personal best, not a human barometer by which to measure my achievements or failures and shortcomings. (Related: Kayla Itsines’ Sister Leah Opens Up About People Comparing Their Bodies)
And then I had an even brighter light bulb moment. ‘What do I really covet about Kayla?’ I asked myself. It wasn’t her rock-solid six-pack, but her infinite positivity and how she uplifts so many people. I figured if I can be as encouraging as she is, maybe I can make my little corner of the universe a better place, too! And, just like that, with a little reframing, I flipped the script and put my comparison to good use. The no-comparison rule may not be a new lesson (apples and oranges, right?), but BBG helped remind me why it’s so important, an essential for my mental health and well-being toolkit. Now, whenever I feel the urge to compare myself, I try to refocus my lens on everything that I’m grateful for-tap class on Wednesdays, my completed screenplay, my big sis, Netflix binges, and my stronger, healthier BBG body.
- By By Jaime Osnato