More than 6 million people follow Australian trainer Kayla Itsines for her fitness and healthy eating program. Although it’s called the “bikini body guide,” or #BBG as her fans call it, fitting into a swimsuit isn’t the main goal.
“To me, a ‘bikini body’ is not a certain body weight, size, or look, but rather a state where YOU are confident, healthy, and feel good about yourself and your body,” Itsines writes.
It’s a 12-week workout program that takes less than 30 minutes a day. Itsines started her Instagram page to track her clients' success stories, and the dramatic transformation pics caught on around the globe.
Itsines emphasizes a total approach to fitness -- one that combines food, exercise, and even sleep and life/work balance. Her workout program, which is available through a downloadable e-book and coaching app ("Sweat with Kayla"), is meant to be doable but intense. You can then use the same principles to keep your new habits going.
Cardio. Some sessions are “LISS” (low-intensity, steady state), where you move at one pace. Others are “HIIT” (high-intensity interval training), where you work hard and then back off, over and over.
Resistance training. You'll use your body weight or equipment such as hand-held weights or a weighted “medicine” ball.
Stretching. It helps you keep your flexibility as you get stronger.
You can mix and match workouts to get the routine that best suits you. If you’re not already active, there’s a part of the plan to help you get up to speed.
As you move through the program, you track your progress by the number on the scale and the "after" photos you take every 4 weeks. If you choose, you can share your successes on social media and get a virtual high-five from other members of #thekaylamovement.
Itsines also has a healthy eating and lifestyle plan (H.E.L.P.) that’s based on the Australian government’s guidelines for healthy eating, and says it’s a balanced plan that doesn’t cut out food groups. The e-book has a “regular” and vegetarian version. The app also has a vegan version. This review focuses on her workout.
Intensity Level: High
The Bikini Body Guide Workout is meant to be a tough challenge so you can see results in 3 months. Each 7-minute circuit is packed start to finish with exercises. The sessions are intense, and they ramp up every 4 weeks. There are detailed instructions on how to do each move.
Although Itsines’ Instagram is famous for its before-and-after pictures, she emphasizes the process and fitness, not just the results of how someone looks.
“Don’t try and rush your progress,” she writes. “Being healthy and fit is a marathon, not a sprint.” She warns to look for signs that you’re overdoing it, like exhaustion and fatigue.
Areas It Targets
Core: Yes. You'll do sit-ups, bicycles, planks, and other abdominal exercises.
Arms: Yes. One of the circuit routines includes push-ups and other moves that strengthen the biceps, triceps, and other arm muscles.
Legs: Yes. The legs circuit is packed with exercises like squats and lunges, which burn out the leg muscles.
Glutes: Yes. Your glutes will also get a workout during the legs routine.
Back: No. None of the sections directly targets the back. But you might get some back toning as you do the arm exercises and circuit training.
Flexibility: Yes. Each workout ends with a series of stretches. Itsines also suggests doing at least one rehabilitation session each week, which is a total stretching routine using a foam roller.
Aerobic: Yes. The program includes two types of cardio training:
Low intensity steady state (LISS) is cardio you do at one pace for 30 to 45 minutes. For example, you could walk on a treadmill, swim, or ride an exercise bike.
High intensity interval training (HIIT) includes intense bursts and rest. First, you exercise as hard you can for 30 seconds. Then, you catch your breath for 30 seconds. You repeat the sequence over a period of 10 to 15 minutes. Examples of HIIT exercises are jumping jacks, burpees, or mountain climbers.
Strength: Yes. Each resistance workout combines body-weight, strength training, and plyometrics (jump training). You do two 7-minute circuits of four exercises each, and then repeat both circuits, three to four times a week.
Low-Impact: No. LISS exercises, like walking and cycling, are low impact. But the circuits include some high-impact moves.
What Else You Should Know
Cost: You can get the "Sweat With Kayla" app free for a week. After that, it's $19.99 (U.S.) a month. The 12-week workout plan e-book is $69.97 Australian -- about $51 U.S. at the time this article was published. You can bundle it with Itsines’ healthy eating plan for roughly $87 U.S.
Good for Beginners? Not if you’re very much out of shape. Bikini Body does include 4 weeks of pre-training, but you’ll probably need more than that to get ready for the rest of the plan. Start with some basic fitness, like brisk walking, first. If you’re somewhat active, the pre-training is enough to get you ready for what comes next.
Outdoors: Yes. You can do this workout anywhere. For example, you could take a walk or go for a bike ride as a LISS (low-impact, steady state) workout.
At home: Yes. You can do this at home, but you'll need some room for the equipment.
Equipment required? Yes. You'll need hand weights, a weighted “medicine” ball (or you can use dumbbells instead), a jump rope, and two benches or other flat surfaces. A foam roller comes in handy for the stretches.
What the Dr. Michael Smith Says
If you already have a basic level of fitness and are willing to push hard and jump high, this plan can get you on the fast track to health. The intense yet relatively short fitness routines combined with a strong nutritional program will drop the pounds and tone and build muscle.
But it’s just a start. What are you going to do after the 12 weeks? The program can kick-start your health and body transformation, but the lasting change you’re looking for will come when you continue the lifestyle changes you’ve learned.
Is it good for me if I have a health condition?
I never want to create another obstacle to starting a health program, but in this case, if you have a medical condition, be sure you get your doctor’s OK first. This is a very intense program, so make sure any health problem you’re dealing with is under good control.
Once you get your doctor’s go-ahead, jump on in. Research has shown that high-intensity interval training is not only safe for people with diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, but you can improve your health in less time. If you have heart disease, though, look elsewhere for a less extreme way to get in shape.
For those with back or knee injuries, arthritis, or other physical limitations, find a kinder, gentler program that’s less jarring on the joints. Activity is crucial for relieving pain and preventing further injuries, but the jump training and some of the high-impact moves of the circuit training could worsen your condition.
Pregnant? Definitely run this program by your doctor first. If you regularly exercised at this intensity before getting pregnant, this program could be appropriate for you. You may have to make adjustments for certain exercises, but your doctor can give you some pointers.
And if you’re seriously out of shape, work up to a basic level of fitness with another program before taking it to this level. Even the 4-week beginner phase isn’t enough time.