I’ve always enjoyed changing up my exercise routine—more so out of interest than boredom. With the number of exciting fitness classes (hot yoga! indoor cycling! hot yoga-indoor cycling fusion!) available, I’ve always been too tempted to try them all, rather than commit to just one workout on a regular basis.
But despite my six-day-a-week workout schedule and the advice that recommends “mixing up” your fitness routine, I never really got the results I was hoping for. Sure, I felt physically fit, but I wasn’t seeing a lot of improvements in my physique or body composition.
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After reading all about the benefits of consistent strength training, I decided to research weight-lifting programs. The goal: finding a routine that I’d stick to so I could finally achieve the results I’ve been missing. And what better place to find a workout program than Instagram?
Three “Insta-famous” trainers caught my eye not only because of their followers’ amazing results, but also their legitimate backgrounds in exercise science: Kayla Itsines of the Sweat With Kayla app, Karena & Katrina of Tone It Up, and Anna Victoria of Fit Body Guides.
I decided to try each trainer’s latest workout program for one week each to decide which one I liked best before taking the leap—and paying the money—to commit to the real deal. My main goal: Find a program that motivated me to keep up with the workouts, and hopefully, one that I’d be excited to do at least three times a week. Here’s what happened.
Week One: Sweat With Kayla
Who she is: Itsines is a 26-year-old personal trainer from Australia who’s amassed a casual 7.1 million Instagram followers.
What you can get for free: A seven-day trial of the Sweat With Kayla app.
What you can purchase: After the trial is up, your card will be charged $19.99 per month.
Pros: Let’s rewind for a second: I tried a few of Kayla’s 28-minute workouts a couple years ago when they were all the rage. But peering at the tiny PDF-based images on my phone as I wandered around the gym wasn’t exactly working, so I gave up pretty quickly. Luckily, the app is a huge improvement. The idea is that it’s designed to do in a gym, since the workouts utilise equipment like the Smith Machine and leg press. You also need dumbbells and a little room to move around, but nothing too crazy—my apartment building gym was more than enough.
The Sweat program itself is relatively simple, but you will certainly sweat. And it’s legit strength training: Since the prescribed number of reps is low (usually 10-12), you’re supposed to use heavy weights. That’s just what I was looking for as a break from the high reps/low weight or bodyweight exercises I typically do in classes. Plus, the photos of the exercises are large and easy to follow, and there were little videos you can watch to make sure you’re doing the moves right. Basically, “sweating with Kayla” made me feel like a badass who knows her way around the gym.
Cons: The seven-minute blocks can start to drag, especially after you’ve done four to five rounds by the end of the workout. Since the app doesn’t talk to you or pace you (there’s just a horn sound when the seven minutes are up), sometimes I was tempted to just take a water break until the timer ran out. Some of the moves also got a little repetitive.
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Week Two: Tone It Up
Who they are: Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott, both certified trainers, founded Tone It Up, which has over 1 million followers on Instagram. Their brand has expanded beyond workout programs to lifestyle content, activewear, and nutritional products.
What you can get for free: Videos on their website and YouTube channel.
What you can purchase: You can buy the Bikini Series or Beach Babe program for access to exclusive workout videos, a personalised nutrition plan, and more.
Pros: It’s easy to think these two insanely gorgeous, peppy, and toned California girls can’t possibly be that nice and bubbly in real life. But they really are, that’s why I love how K&K (as they call themselves) make sure their personalities shine through in their videos. One dreary, rainy day, after doing a workout they shot on a gorgeous California beach, I felt my mood improve as the endorphins kicked in. It was almost like I was there on the sand with them.
The other perk of the Tone It Up program was the fact they offer full-length workout videos that you can follow along with. It was nice to have a trainer coach me through the exercises, whether I was watching a video in my living room or playing it on my phone at the gym. (Wireless earphones, FTW!) This abs workout was the perfect addition to cardio day, and I also enjoyed this well-balanced upper-body workout.
Cons: Since they’re intended for all levels, some of the workouts were on the easier side, leaving me feeling a little unfulfilled. Plus, some people may find their girliness a little too, well, girly, but I personally enjoyed their positive, happy vibes.
Week Three: Anna Victoria
Who she is: Another perky fitness pro from California with over 1 million Insta-fans, Anna Victoria’s Fit Body Guides have inspired tons of success stories from her #FBGGirls. She also offers body-positive motivation and advice on her Instagram and blog.
What you can get for free: You can “pay with a tweet” for a free preview of her guides, and she occasionally offers free challenges, like the #JumpstartJune challenge I signed up for. There’s also some free content on her site and YouTube channel.
What you can purchase: Her 12-week guides, which include workouts and recipes, are available online starting at $50.
Pros: Anna Victoria’s no-gym-needed workouts were way tougher than I expected! I tried a full-body video I found online, and I did three of her #JumpstartJune challenges in one week. In the accompanying PDF, she gave great advice about strength training and explained in detail her reasoning behind the heavy (7 – 9 kilogram) weight suggestions. “The higher the weight, the less it will be a cardio or high-intensity workout, and the more it becomes a strength-training workout,” she explains. She also reminds us that “muscle engagement and proper form are two of the biggest keys to getting results.”
I also really liked the moves she included, which were never boring and left my core, legs, and arms on fire (think: three-way squats). Finally, I appreciate the body-positive themes that run through all of Anna Victoria’s Instagram and blog posts.
Cons: Not gonna lie: PDFs felt a little old-school. I love her personality, but you obviously don’t see that on the page. Also, some of the plyometric moves were hard on my joints — I can only do so many jump lunges, jump squats, and burpees! I think the full guides would offer more of a progression, but the preview didn’t feel quite right for my current needs.
Drumroll, please: I decided to go all in with… Kayla Itsines’ Sweat app! I let iTunes charge me the $19.99 per month app subscription, and I plan to stick with it for 12 weeks. It seemed like the best option for me, given the convenience of having a gym in my building. If you prefer to work out at home, Tone It Up or Anna Victoria may be a better option. But the steady, consistent strength training that the Sweat app provides feels like it’s just what my body needed—at least for now!
This article originally appeared on Women’s Health.
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