Photo courtesy of Kayla Itsines – kaylaitsines.com
It may not feel like it, but Spring has officially started (at least as far as meteorologists are concerned)! Although we may still be hiding a multitude of sins under our baggy jumpers, many of us will soon be searching for the new perfect diet and exercise regimen to get those perfect “crop-top worthy” abs and “skinny jeans worthy” legs. Not to mention that the summer holidays are now just few months away! Soon, we’ll all start facing that usual dilemma: how to undo all the damage of indulging in hearty winter meals and get the body swimsuit-ready in time. The idea of the perfect “bikini body” seems to be such a major concern that it has given rise to several exercise programs, the most popular of which is the Bikini Body Guide (BBG) created by Australian fitness trainer, Kayla Itsines.
The role of social media in Health & Beauty industry grows daily. Therefore, it is not surprising that people tend to be most influenced by fitness gurus with a largest number of followers, perhaps more than those with relevant qualifications. However, unlike many other self-proclaimed fitness experts out there, Kayla Itsines is qualified as a Certified Personal Trainer (Australian Institute of Fitness). On top of a successful Instagram account, her amazing transformation pictures have helped Kayla to sell thousands of copies of her e-book (roughly £36 per guide) and build a worldwide community of BBG fans.
It is no wonder this program attracts such a wide audience, from students to full-time workers and busy mums, as it addresses the main reason of physical inactivity – a lack of time.3 You are only required to exercise 28 minutes a day / 3 times a week (with two optional cardio sessions in-between). Another major benefit of this program, is that you need minimal equipment, meaning the exercises can be done anywhere – your lounge, local park or at the gym.
You could argue that, surely, half an hour of exercise at home cannot give you the same results as hitting the gym for an hour-long session! However, Itsines’ guides encourage a type of exercise known as high intensity interval training (HIIT). The principle of HIIT is quite simple: work as hard as you can (at 85-90% of you maximum heart rate) for a relatively short period of time (30 minutes including a warm-up and a cool down) with small rest periods in-between (30-90 seconds). You will get similar, if not better, results as compared to more traditional 1-1.5 hour gym sessions (also known as moderate-intensity continuous training).
But what does the science have to say about it? Actually, the science looks rather promising. There is a considerable evidence to suggest that HIIT is an effective strategy for burning fat 1, improving cardiovascular health 2, 3 and aiding weight loss 4 because it helps you to burn more calories and increase your post-exercise fat oxidation and energy expenditure more than steady-state exercise. However, more research is needed to establish the type and length of HIIT training that will yield the maximum health benefits.
It is important to mention that BBG is not a magic bullet for weight loss and will not instantly give you the body you have always dreamt of. Sometimes the results are not that dramatic after three or even six months (each guide is a 12-week exercise plan). Not surprisingly, those women who use the guide in a conjunction with a calorie-restricted diet achieve the most impressive results.
Furthermore, the program will not be suitable for a complete beginner. You are advised to build your strength and fitness levels by performing less intensive exercises for a few weeks until you feel comfortable to begin more rigorous training. It might be also a good idea to consult with your GP practitioner if you have any history of injury or ongoing issues with the musculoskeletal system.
Having completed two guides, I can testify that this program definitely tests your mental strength as much as physical abilities. Some days (especially towards the end of the first guide) felt like too much and would leave me very exhausted and sore. That, in turn, left me dreading the oncoming training sessions. Often, I would only put half the effort and feel very disappointed with myself. It is important to realise that it is ok to “fall off the wagon” and lose motivation temporarily. It’s totally normal. Allow yourself time to get back on track and stay positive even if it takes longer than 12 weeks to complete the program.
The advantages of this program are:
- A reduced time commitment and accessible equipment make this program suitable for those with a busy lifestyle.
- HIIT is showing to be more effective in improving general health, aiding fat burning and weight loss compared to longer, steady-state exercise regimes.
- The exercise plan has a nice layout and is easy to follow, so you are not wasting your time worrying about which exercise to do next.
- Transformation photos always show visibly improved body tone, with greatest results for those who followed a calorie-restricted diet (around 1600 kcal a day)
However, it is important to remember:
- The program is expensive. If you wish to purchase a complete selection of her exercise and nutrition guides, you are looking at spending around £130.
- This program is not suitable for complete exercise beginners and may not be advisable for those with musculoskeletal problems.
Overall, I would say BBG is worth a try. However, it is not the only program out there to help you get ready for Summer. Any exercise is better than no exercise at all, and the key to success is finding something that you enjoy doing.
On a cheeky note: you may want to try looking on Pinterest first to decide whether you want to spend £36 on the e-book. Second-hand guides are available on different websites (such as eBay) at a heavily discounted rate (you are welcome!).
If you have already tried this program, we would love to see your thoughts in the comments section below.