So although this is a 12 week program it’s actually taken me 14. I stuck to the schedule over Christmas and was so proud of myself for that, but I had a week away in Fuerteventura in January and then a week of hell (aka toothache/antibiotics/general drugged up grogginess) in February which meant the plan took longer than planned.
When I was trying to find out about Kayla Itsines’ BBG program I found out that firstly the PDFs of the workouts and her nutrition ‘H.E.L.P’ guide are out there on the internet to download for free, and were not difficult to find, in actuality I just stumbled across them by accident when looking for program reviews. I found this strange considering Kayla and her team have apparently taken action against nay-sayers of her program, why would they not take action to get a free resource removed? Regardless, I paid for the program because I have morals but if you don’t… let’s just say it’s out there and not too difficult to find. However I always feel that you’re more likely to commit to a program if you’ve forked out hard cash for it!
While I was trying to find reviews of the program I struggled to find many, and I don’t think that was from a lack of trying. I found lots of blog posts where people had said they were about to start the program and would update… but then there was never any further update. Whether this was because these people gave up or forgot or didn’t get the results they hoped for, I’m not sure. I’ve said in my ‘About me‘ page that I love to read reviews before I try a product because if I’m going to be parting with my hard earned cash I want to know that it’s going to be worth my while. Previously I’d been using Fitness Blender’s plans (my review is here), and at under $10 each they were hardly breaking the bank, however Kayla’s plan is considerably more expensive. In the end, I relied on a lot of ‘transformation’ photos on Instagram and the very active #bbgcommunity there to convince me to give Kayla’s program a try.
Let me at this point say that this program is aimed at 18-25 year olds and at an archaic 28 years old I’m technically ‘too old’ for this program and out of Kayla’s target demographic. Let me also say that the opinions in this post are all my own unbiased opinions having successfully completed the program, but also from having completed other programs. You see the thing is that as lovely and supportive as the #bbgcommunity are, it seems that a lot of them just stay doing Kayla’s workouts for forever more and therefore may not necessarily have any other fitness experience to compare the program to.
The program: You can find this information out on Kayla’s website and on a gazillion other webites, but basically the Bikini Body Guide is a 12 week program, which can also be accompanied by Kayla’s nutrition guide, the H.E.L.P guide.
The workouts – these consist of a combination of resistance workouts, low intensity steady state cardio (LISS), high intensity interval training (HIIT) and a rehabilitation session each week.
The resistance workouts are 28 minutes of activity and are predominantly bodyweight circuits but there are some occasional exercises with other equipment such as dumbbells. The resistance workouts are done 3x per week and are broken down into two circuits (a and b) which contain 4 exercises and a specified number of reps, you have 7 minutes to go through the circuit and if you get through it once within the 7 minutes you start from the beginning of that circuit again until your 7 minutes is up. You then rest and move onto circuit B. Essentially the workout is an abab format with 7 minutes for each circuit with anywhere between 30 seconds and 90 seconds rest between.
In the earlier stages these workouts are split into legs, arms & abs and full body, and then later in the program they are split into legs, arms and abs. Generally you require 2 benches, a medicine ball, a bosu ball, dumbbells and a mat to be able to complete the resistance workouts to the letter – more about that later.
The intention for the LISS workouts is that you walk or do some other low intensity cardio activity (e.g. light cycling, some other cardio machine) for 35-40 minutes between 3-4x a week and this isn’t supposed to be tagged onto the resistance workouts, it needs to be done at a separate time. You also get a day for rehabilitation where you do some foam rolling, and 1 day of rest a week. In weeks 8-12 of the program a 10 minute HIIT session is introduced each week, Kayla recommends doing this as sprints.
Nutrition – I’m going to use this opportunity to say that I decided not to follow the nutrition guide. For me the program appeared too restrictive and not enough food – estimates have been made that the daily calorie intake on Kayla’s nutrition plan is around 1600 calories. With the intensity and frequency of the workouts in this plan, I’d say that’s definitely nowhere near enough calories to sustain daily living while on this plan. My heart rate monitor has shown me burning between 300-400 calories in one of her resistance workouts which would leave me with a net of 1200 calories – not enough for my body to function or recover properly.
The cost: Initially Kayla only offered the BBG plan in PDF format, and the combination of the workout plan and the nutrition guide together is $119.97 AUD (around $88 or £62). The workout plan alone is $69.97 AUD ($51 or £36). However Kayla recently introduced the Sweat With Kayla app which is $54.99 AUD ($40 or £28) for a 3 month (12 week) subscription so slightly more affordable, and this includes the workouts and some nutrition info/articles as well as some bonus features like regular ‘challenges’. This is the option that I went for as I saw it as the most cost effective. Unfortunately at the moment the app is only available for Apple devices but you can use a web-based version of the app if you don’t have an Apple device, and this is what I did.
Obviously dependent on where you plan to do the program there are other potential cost outlays such as a gym membership or the cost of purchasing the equipment to be able to do this program at home. I already had a fair amount of equipment and I just modified exercises to accommodate for areas where I didn’t have the equipment required.
The benefits of this program:
- The results – I saw a definite increase in my strength, general fitness levels, flexibility and appearance during this program, and this is a sentiment that seems to be echoed by a lot of Kayla’s ‘army’. As the program progresses you progress onto more reps or harder variations of the various exercises and by the end I could do more press-ups, my burpees were quicker and I was managing to complete some exercise moves that I definitely didn’t think I’d be able to do. See my next post for specific information about my personal results following BBG.
- The challenges – This is only an option when you have the Sweat With Kayla app but each time you complete a challenge it records your time, and then you repeat the challenge 3-4 weeks later which gives you the opportunity to beat your previous time. By the last time I completed the leg challenge I was 8 minutes faster than my first attempt, and that was a great motivational tool.
- The ease – The workouts were pretty easy to follow and understand and if using the app you can go into each exercise during the circuit if you need more instruction. This stops the timer while you figure out what it is you’re meant to be doing! You tend to do a lot of the same exercises, or by the time you reach a week that features a certain exercise for the first time, you probably will have already come across it in one of the challenges, which makes the exercises more achievable.
- Each workout targets the whole body – Even though a resistance workout might be called ‘legs’, it doesn’t mean that your arms and abs are completely under-utilised. For example, you might do squats into shoulder presses in a leg workout, or snap jumps in an ab workout, so multiple muscle groups are being worked.
- The app – There are some nice features in the app, like for example little motivational quotes that other members of the BBG Community have written that pop-up mid-workout (although I only noticed this in week 11 when I happened to look at the screen at the right time – other times I was surprisingly too busy exercising to notice!). Or you can change the week that you’re on if you were on holiday or ill. You can preview the workouts so that you know what’s coming, and at the end of the workout you can share a trophy image to Facebook to show everyone you completed your workout. Plus the app does all of the timing for you (see cons) so you don’t have to be juggling a timer and a PDF or print out of the guide.
- The Community – #bbgcommunity, #kaylasarmy or whatever you want to call them, there’s a hugely active and supportive community on Instagram to keep you motivated and inspired. I’ve had a lot of positive interactions with other women following the BBG and have enjoyed being part of the community that comes from following a high-profile fitness plan.
The drawbacks of this program:
- The amount of workouts and time commitment – This is the biggest drawback for me. By weeks 11 and 12 you’re looking at 4 LISS workouts, 3 resistance workouts, 1 HIIT workout, 1 challenge workout, 1 rehabilitation workout and 1 full day of rest a week, and none of those workouts can be done back to back. That’s 10 workouts across 6 days, which essentially means that to complete the program to the letter you need to workout twice a day. Maybe this is the reason the program is aimed at 18-25 year olds because perhaps they are more likely to be in school/college/university and have more time during the day. I work full-time, I get up at 6am already, commute an hour each way and have other commitments so 2 workouts a day isn’t feasible. Therefore a lot of the time I only managed 2 LISS workouts and I didn’t do any of the rehabilitation sessions. I like to exercise but in my opinion there’s more to life than that. The time commitment did frustrate me because Kayla sells the ‘less than 30 minute’ workouts, but in actuality I’d rather workout for an hour in one go than try and fit in 2 separate sweat sessions in one day.
- The equipment requirements – Kayla says that this plan can be done at home, but most people don’t have 2 exercise benches, a medicine ball, a bosu ball, dumbbells, a smaller step and an exercise mat at home. I have 1 bench, an exercise mat and some adjustable dumbbells, and I found something else to act as my ‘small step’. Just the bosu ball on it’s own costs around £100 and is only used a handful of times so not worth the purchase. I had to modify any exercises requiring 2 benches, a bosu ball or a medicine ball. Also due to space limitations and the height of my workout bench, bench jumps weren’t happening unless I fancied a trip to A&E. I think it’s fair to say that unless you have a heavily equipped home gym or have the space/money to buy the equipment required, then you can’t complete the program exactly as written at home. Even doing it in the gym may be difficult because if you’re going in peak time you won’t win many fans hogging all that equipment for half an hour! I suppose it depends on the equipment levels at your gym.
- The intensity – I’d imagine that the reason there are a lot of blog posts about starting this program but not so many reviewing it at the end is that these workouts are hard work and the plan requires a lot of determination to stick to. Not to mention time and money! Perhaps people think that if they’re not completing every workout then they’ve ‘failed’? The resistance workouts are high intensity because if you’re trying to get through each rep as quickly as possible to get most ‘bang for your buck’ within 7 minutes then it’s going to be high intensity. Therefore I’m not sure whether the ‘resistance’ workouts then become more of a cardio workout than a resistance workout. But whatever, you’re going to feel shattered by the end of each resistance workout.I guess this is also a benefit because my metabolism was sky high while doing this program which meant I could eat more!
- The repetitiveness – Not only are the circuits within the workout repetitive due to the abab format (so you’ve done ‘a& b’ and you think you’re done, only to realise you’ve got to do it all over again!), but the workouts within the program are repetitive because the resistance workouts are scheduled in 4 week blocks where you repeat the workout from week 1 and 2 again in week 3 and 4 (again with the abab format). This means that essentially you do each 7 minute circuit at least 4 times in 4 weeks, and more if you can complete the circuit quicker than 7 minutes. Also the exercises within the program become quite repetitive by the end, I became sick of step-ups for example – you can have too much of a good thing. If you don’t get bored easily then you’ll be fine, but if you like variety in your workouts then perhaps BBG isn’t for you.
- The web app – I can’t comment on the app for Apple devices but the web app was incredibly infuriating. Sometimes it would randomly sign itself out mid-workout and if it then thought I’d completed the workout I couldn’t get back into it. Sometimes the workout timer would start and then think the 7 minutes had passed in 5 seconds and end the circuit. Or during a LISS workout the timer wouldn’t count down properly and 3 hours later it still said I’d only done 10 minutes. Ultimately these workouts rely on timing and the app timer is incredibly unpredictable. There has been a recent update so whether this has improved it or not, I don’t know.
- The lack of warm-up – Coming from a Fitness Blender workout program, I was surprised to see no mention of a warm-up as part of the BBG workouts. The resistance workouts are so intense that I’m sure you’d cause yourself an injury if you didn’t warm up first, so I put together my own brief warm-up to ensure that my muscles were ready to go. There is a warm-down option after the workout but I feel a warm-up is just as important, if not more important!
- The fast-moving progression – Apparently you can do these workouts even if you’re a beginner, and there’s a 4 week pre-BBG plan to get you ready for the real deal, however I personally feel that if you’re coming from a background of no exercise, 4 weeks isn’t enough time to be ready for BBG. One of the benefits of this plan is it’s progression, but it’s also one of the drawbacks. Arms are a weak point for me and in week 1 you’re meant to be doing 15 full press-ups, along with a whole host of other press-up type moves. I would imagine that 15 full press-ups would be unachievable for most women in week 1 of a program without significant previous experience. If you struggle to complete the full amount of reps in the early weeks then this is going to be an issue later on in the program. For example, I could just about do 30 jump lunges without a break but then the next week I suddenly had to do 50. I found this quite demoralising at times and often found myself wondering how I was supposed to do 20 spiderman press-ups when I can’t even do 15 normal ones! Ultimately the solution is to complete the ‘alternative’ exercise, but it can be disheartening to have to do the ‘alternative’.
Would I recommend this program?
Ultimately yes, I would recommend the resistance portion of this program, but perhaps not the program in it’s entirety, mostly due to the large time demands. I feel that 2 workouts a day isn’t in the realm of the ‘beginner’ to exercise and possibly encourages an unhealthy attitude to exercise, making you feel that you have to workout twice a day to see a difference. It can also make those who can’t commit to that amount of workouts a week feel like a ‘failure’ and cause them to be discouraged and quit the program. To me life is about balance, I’m paid to work so that takes the majority of my time, I want to exercise to look after my body but I also need time for ‘life’.
If I were to recommend this program then I’d recommend completing the 3 resistance workouts a week, completing 2-3 cardio sessions a week and having 1-2 rest days. I’d also recommend eating nutritious foods with plenty of carbs and protein to fuel the workouts, but not restricting your calories. But as I said, I’m not a qualified trainer. I will go into more detail about how much I ate per day and the specific results I saw in my next post which will be a results post.
Please just ask if you have any questions, and please, no nasty comments, I wanted to provide my own honest and un-biased opinion of BBG. I know that loads of girls and women out there love it but I want to give any girls/women considering the program a balanced view. Has anyone out there done BBG? What were your thoughts?