I am going to give my 2 cents on the very successful, and wildly popular Bikini Body Guide (BBG) by Kayla Itsines. I would say most people would have either heard of it by now, have tried it themselves, or know of someone who has attempted BBG. That being said, if you have no idea what BBG is and want to know what all the fuss is about, then I am here for you.
First things first, let me give you some background information. Kayla Itsines is a business owner/personal trainer from Australia who has created a bikini body guide, known as BBG. BBG is an in-home training program performed with all body weight, and requires very little to zero equipment. The pitch and the appeal is that it can be done anywhere and anytime. You need ample space, and each workout takes approximately 25 minutes to complete. The exercise program consists of burpees, push-ups from different angles, mountain climbers, V-sits, ab work, lunges, jumping squats etc. the list goes on. Kayla not only has a boasting 6.3 million Instagram followers, but she also does a World tour where she travels to different countries in order to instruct MASSIVE group fitness classes. Women of all ages buy the tickets and show up to be a part of a very high energy fitness class instructed by Kayla herself. Since launching BBG, it has spread viral all over the World. She now has her own app connected to BBG, as well as a recently published book on clean eating. Essentially, Kayla has created an empire of BBG girls around the globe and it has taken living rooms by storm!
Caught up? Now let’s move on to my list of pros and cons regarding the BBG program! I am going to start with any negatives I can see within BBG, and end with the positives.
- The meal plan that comes along with BBG would be difficult to follow. Every day is different, and although this may prevent boredom, it also makes grocery shopping, prepping, and organizing, daunting. Prepping something different for everyday can get old fast.
- I strongly dislike the latte suggestions as snacks as it is an empty source of energy. I am unsure why the suggestion is so prevalent on her meal plan.
- The calories are my biggest issue, because I find them to be rather low. We are told through fitness marketing that low calories and high amounts of cardio (such as BBG) is how to lose weight. This is missing a massive piece of the puzzle and only targeting one very small piece.
- When we eat low calories and perform high amounts of cardio, our bodies can become catabolic. This causes our bodies to become stressed, thereby degrading lean muscle in exchange for energy, and increasing our bodies ability to store fat. When you are catabolic, there is no way of increasing lean muscle mass, which means your metabolic rate cannot increase in order to burn more fat, which means we cannot change our overall composition. To build slabs of lean muscle requires energy (calories), so eating low calories and performing a lot of cardio throws this balance completely off and will force an inevitable plateau, and then an increase in fat storage.
- There will be fat (and muscle) loss to a point, but this does not provide you with a solid base in which you can promote further fat loss for the future. Your options will be to either do more cardio, or to eat less. Both options sound terrible don’t they? But that’s the reality when you rely on cardio and eating little calories to lose the weight. This method is a quick fix in which you will run into problems down the road, vs. building a metabolic rate and lean muscle for long term maintenance.
- One good thing is the nutrition guide is well done visually and a lot of work was put into it. There is a ton of information in there, and the meals they provided are obviously just a guideline because this meal plan was designed for the general public. Another positive is they suggest eating 4-5 meals throughout the day in order to stimulate metabolism, but it’s too bad the calories are so low.
- I think if you are someone who currently has poor eating habits and does not exercise, you will see results if you followed both BBG and her meal plan, but only until a certain point. When you plateau, you will likely stay in a plateau.
- In order to demonstrate the success rate of BBG, Kayla will post transformation pictures of women who have used BBG to reach their goal. In my opinion, too many of the transformation pictures she has shared have more than BBG involved.
- I think this a transparency issue, which is one of the biggest problems within the fitness industry! With no transparency, only more confusion, mistakes, fads, and gimmicks are born. I feel some of these transformation pictures are very misleading, and as supportive as the community may be, a misleading picture can be damaging to a girl’s self-esteem. Especially when they are working very hard at something, but not coming close to the “proven”
- In some of her transformation pictures the women have gained a significant amount of lean muscle mass. When I see quad-hamstring separation, deltoids (shoulders) popping, glute-ham tie in, butt has lifted and gained mass…this is not from body weight training. Body weight resistance, which BBG solely relies on, is not enough load to promote some of the results she displays as BBG transformations.
- Here lies the issue, body weight training does not provide enough variables to which you can apply the progressive overload method. You can increase the reps, increase the rounds, or decrease the amount of time…but this does not necessarily mean form will still be perfect. At the end of the day your body weight will always be a constant load. The resistance does not provide enough muscle fiber stimulation in order to force an increase in overall lean muscle mass.
- It is possible the transformations I am skeptical about honestly performed BBG. However, I would suggest they likely performed BBG for maintenance, while weight training was the bigger emphasis. I believe Kayla should be more transparent or at least try and tell their full story.
- Not to mention, if your picture gets promoted on an IG account with 6.3 million followers this could be a big opportunity for someone to capitalize on. A lot of the times you will see the biggest transformations gain a ton of followers, and they now have their own living off of BBG. I think this is a con, because it can support the fact the transformations were misleading in the first place.
- Body weight exercises are great for maintenance, but I argue whether or not they should be as advertised to beginners as much as they are. I personally do not agree with starting beginners off with rounds of body weight dynamic movements.
- A fair majority of our society cannot perform a push-up, squat, or lunge etc. with perfect form. Most people have a lot of mechanical issues due to past or current inactivity, injury, and poor exercise habits. Body weight exercises performed for rounds are redundant if they are not being executed properly, and not to mention dangerous, as it places people at higher risks for back, neck, and lower body injuries.
- If your push-up looks a lot like you are humping the ground, and your squat mimics a folding lawn chair…you should not be jumping into a body weight training program. I would recommend strength training on machines, and fixing mechanical issues before circuit training on your own. Body weight can be a part of your program, but they do not have to be performed in a circuit with a time restraint. Master one perfect push-up first before performing X amount in X amount of time.
- BBG workouts are meant to be done fast paced, and this can also play into a greater risk for injury. The speed at which you perform an exercise does not necessarily mean strength, and does not have a direct correlation to an increase in lean muscle mass…or a decrease in body fat for that matter!
- BBG is an e-book/pdf which you download upon purchase. This makes it extremely convenient! You can pull it up on your phone, print it out…or share it with a friend! Now Kayla has an app connected to BBG, which makes the guide even more user-friendly. You can tell she tries to really connect with her audience, and makes an honest effort to improve customer service.
- The guide itself is visually appealing and very organized! It looks like a lot of time and thought went into the content, as well as the illustrations. It comes across as friendly, welcoming and it puts you in the mood to workout.
- The female character is cute.
- By using and abusing marketing and social media branding like a champ, Kayla has created an enormous, massive, absolutely “uuuge” community of women who all want to be a part of BBG. I think the community and support aspect of BBG is the entire appeal, and is what has made the program so popular.
- More girls are being made aware of their health and fitness, and can have a support group while they go at it! This is a massive PRO to not only her guide, but also to the benefit of women’s fitness everywhere. The more awareness and the more support the better, and because women supporting other women in their fitness is always a plus. The community aspect of BBG has likely added lot of value to people’s lives, kept them accountable, and may have pushed them further then they thought possible!
- Essentially, the community aspect is what makes BBG well…BBG! I believe it carries an encouraging and empowering message to women. It may not deliver all the results promised, but Kayla’s guide may have encouraged them into taking that initial step in their health. By that point alone, more doors in women’s health and wellness could be opened and discovered. The more talk and action there is surrounding women’s fitness is an overall progression in women’s health.
- Kayla’s marketing team has done an unbelievable job. By using the leverage hashtags can create, such as #bbgcommunity #bbggirls #bbg, she has created a means of connecting women from all stages of her program. In turn, this has spurred more support groups therefore giving BBG even more reach.
- Since it is a pdf. file it can easily be forwarded to the next person. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because it only makes Kayla’s movement more popular. It gave her a lot more reach, and drove more attention to her IG account which can then be leveraged into further brand creation.
- I think she is a good role model, and it is refreshing to see someone giving more holistic support for women and young girls. She keeps her IG page “PG”, and she appeals to a very large audience.
My Personal Experience
You may be wondering why I even care about reviewing BBG! I want to tell you my personal experience and fitness journey because it all started with body weight training, the exact same method as BBG. I was a very religious body weight workout gal since 14 years old, where I discovered Bodyrock.tv hosted by Zuzana Light. I was very intense, and would be at it every single day going for rounds and rounds of circuit training. I wanted to look like and be everything Zuzana Light was…and boy did I try. On top of Bodyrock.tv, I also used P90X, and then I used Insanity by Beach Body. I played hockey and soccer competitively, and I took my sports seriously so circuit training helped me feel more conditioned for my sports. I was young and intimidated by the gym, so body weight training I could do at home was ideal for me at the time (which is part of BBG’s appeal). I continued on and off (mostly on) throughout high school and university. I was still nervous about entering a gym in university, so I stuck with bodyweight training every day. I thought if I pushed harder, then I would eventually look like Zuzana …but I never did!!
I am speaking from hindsight and personal experience when I tell you that my body never changed, and I never even came close to what any of the instructors looked like! I could not help but blame myself and think, “what am I doing wrong?”. I got a bit stronger and less winded when I did my burpees and squats, but my body fat levels and muscle mass never seemed to significantly change. I was frustrated, and this is when I started to resent my body and spiraled into a very negative mindset surrounding body image. Since 14 and throughout high school, as well into university I was only exercising with body weight, and then doing cardio on the treadmill. Once I stopped the body weight circuit garbage and educated myself further into the wide varieties of strength training programs, I started to see the results I have always wanted.
Fast forward 11 years and I have found (through lots of trial and error) a style of weight training that works well for me, and I look closer to Zuzana Light than ever before. I do believe transparency is a big issue in fitness, and hindsight can tell me Zuzana Light did a lot more than the body weight training bodyrock.tv swore by. Zuzana never told her audience anything different (same as Kayla, and many other instructors) so I eventually chalked it up to the fact my body is just not capable of that level of conditioning. This ended up to not be true…and it made me realize EVERYONE has the opportunity of incredible conditioning. The problem is we are being mis-lead with the correct method to achieve it. I will tell you this for certain, if I knew the full story behind Zuzana’s level of conditioning then it would have saved me a lot of time, heartache, and effort. So this is why I am telling you, and this is what I am committed to making a living off of. I do not want other girls to feel like their body is not capable of achieving the results they work hard for, when it is really just a lack of transparency in fitness marketing.
If you have not progressed beyond body weight and light dumbbells, then you are never going to push past a plateau. Our body weight is not enough resistance to force real change in your overall composition. If you want to lose body fat and change your shape, then you need to force your muscles to adapt to an ever changing load/resistance via progressive overload. If you are strapped for time, do not have a lot of space/equipment, or you do not have a gym membership…then body weight training is your only option and therefore totally acceptable.
When you are buying the Bikini Body Guide by Kayla Itsines, you are not buying a golden ticket to your dream body. Kayla did not re-invent the wheel, as body weight circuit training has been around forever. The only difference is the social platform, marketing, and the community BBG provides. If you are buying into BBG, then you are buying into a support system and a social group, and this is what makes it so successful and so wildly popular, not the programming itself. If you are someone who would like to feel a sense of community, be able to connect with those around you, and have a sense of accountability, then BBG will be ideal for you.
In terms of its program and exercise design, BBG will not be enough to change your composition due to: 1) the limits of body weight resistance, 2) circuit training and 3) low calorie meal plan. Some (not all) of her transformation pictures keep perpetuating the strong misconception that bodies will be transformed through rounds of circuit training. You will get some results if you have never been active before, but you will plateau because body weight resistance does not provide the progressive overload necessary in order to create muscle hypertrophy.
In order to have some form of progressive overload, you either need to increase the number of reps, increase the number of rounds, or try and increase the load/resistance with bands or tiny weights. But the fact of the matter is, it is your body weight so you are extremely limited in your options of changing variables in order to create hypertrophy. Kayla provides a lot of support and motivation, but does not provide a lot of education on how to increase lean muscle mass, and why it is essential to reaching your goals. If you want to create serious change and want a true transformation, then you need to lift a load/resistance heavier than your own body weight in order to change your composition, and there is no way around that.