Meet Kayla Itsines and Tobi Pearce, the power couple who are revolutionising the fitness industry with a programme that’s about so much more than getting a bikini body in 12 weeks.
"I don’t necessarily want a bikini body,” Tobi Pearce says in mock-seriousness after spending the morning on a photo shoot for CLEO with his business partner and girlfriend of three years, Kayla Itsines. “I hope not,” Kayla replies with a wry smile. The couple are perched close together on the couch during our break for lunch, explaining their different individual training styles. Kayla follows the principles of the 12-Week Bikini Body eBook that made her Instafamous around the world, with a fanatical following of 4.8 million who call themselves “Kayla’s Army”. The programme is based on high-intensity workouts that never surpass the 30-minute mark, and results in leaner thighs, toned arms, as well as a flatter stomach. It’s a workout that troubleshoots all the areas most women gripe about. Tobi’s one-hour training, on the other hand, varies at different phases of the year.
“One part of the year, Tobi will be really unfit cardio-wise, but able to lift heavy weights. Another part of the year, he’ll be cardio fit and lift relatively lighter weights,” Kayla says. “His training chops and changes whereas mine doesn’t. I’m always fit. I’m always strong. I’m always healthy. I’m always eating the same foods… just like my guides.”
The pair from Adelaide may spend their workout time differently, but it was a shared approach to training women that stood out for them when they first met. And as you might have guessed, their love affair began at the gym…
“It’s a typical story,” says 24-year-old Kayla. One where the two personal trainers bonded over how others would laugh at them for training their clients with “old-school” techniques like box jumps and burpees. Tobi lied about his age at first, because he knew Kayla would assume he was a 19-year-old party boy. (“I told her I was 25,” Tobi says.) “It was fine,” Kayla responds. “He’s obviously very mature and acts like a 40-year-old.” They ran bootcamps together, and after their schedules were so packed with clients they couldn’t possibly fit in any more work, they decided to take it online and write the eBook that has become the start of their worldwide fitness empire.
We seriously doubt those same people are laughing now…
Hard work pays off
While you might be familiar with Kayla (and not to mention her abs and the amazing body transformations of her clients, which she posts on Instagram), Tobi is a huge part of the business behind the scenes. Having dropped out of a double-degree in law and commerce to start the company, Tobi, 23, runs the marketing side of the brand. And like most media-dubbed sensations, their success definitely wasn’t a fluke. This couple spent a whole year co-writing the two eBooks – one based on workouts and the other on nutrition – before launching the first in January 2014. They even sought out two of the highest-ranking members of the Dieticians Association of Australia to critique the nutrition portion of their programme before publication to make sure everything was backed by science.
Success means sacrifice
Kayla and Tobi also put in a lot of tough work to get their business off the ground. It’s the same philosophy Kayla preaches in her workouts: you aren’t going to get results if you don’t put in the effort. “It was really bad when it first started,” Kayla admits when asked how they both managed to find time for their relationship, while training their growing list of clients and building their online business.
“You used to scream at me,” Tobi teases.
“No, I did not! I was just upset because he would get up at five in the morning and be back at 10 at night, and then just go to sleep.”
Tobi adds, “Kayla took over the bootcamp and training side of the business, so she would do that in the mornings and we wouldn’t see each other. Then I would be working all day, and she’d come back to do photo shoots and create content [for their website kaylaitsines. com]. We’d have dinner, then I’d go to the gym and come back to make work calls to New York. She’d go to bed, then I’d go to bed later. It was only for a few months, but it felt like a thousand years.”
“It was really bad,” Kayla says, reflecting back on that time. “That’s the start-up of a business, though; those are the sacrifices you have to make. For anyone who is starting out, it’s not going to be easy. It’s really hard.”
“But it was the same mentality we used with our eBooks,” Tobi says. “There were no shortcuts.”
The couple have gone from running the business out of the spare bedroom of their rented apartment to leading a staff of 25 people, located in their Adelaide office and on the other side of the world in the United States. Women everywhere love her. So, what do they think is the secret to their success?
“It’s because we aren’t saying you’re going to have shredded abs in 12 days,” says Tobi. “We want to help people to become the healthiest, happiest versions of themselves forever. Forget all the fads and scams. It’s not about being ‘awesome just for my wedding’. It’s about being awesome and confident forever.”
“The whole reason we created the guide was not to baby people,” Kayla adds. “We’re teaching you to be a better, stronger, more confident, more disciplined person but we’re not going to stand over you. It’s just like, here’s your guide, and once you’ve done it, no-one helped you. You did it yourself. It’s like giving you the confidence to achieve anything.”
KAYLA’S 15-MINUTE BLAST
Once a week, set a timer for seven minutes and try to finish this circuit as many times as you can. Rest for one minute, before repeating the circuit for another seven minutes. Ready, set… go!
1 TUCK JUMPS
Start off with both feet on the floor, slightly further than shoulder-width apart. Bend at the hips and knees, ensuring your knees point towards your toes. Continue to lower your body into the squat position, keeping your back at 45-90 degrees of your hips (1). Once in the squat position, propel your body upwards into the air as high as you can (2), tucking in your elbows and knees (3). Release, then extend elbows and knees, before landing in the squat position. Do 10 reps.
2 SNAP PUSH-UPS
Jump back into the push-up position (1 and 2), making sure your back is straight and your hands are wider than shoulder-width apart (3). Bend your elbows and lower your torso until your arms form a 90-degree angle (4). Push through your chest and extend your arms back into the starting position. Transfer your body weight to your hands and quickly jump your feet in towards your hands, then back out into the push-up position. Do 15 reps.
Begin in the squat position with your left hand touching your right toe, ensuring that you twist through your torso and not your knees (1). Propel your body upwards as high as you can, extending your legs (2). Land in the squat position, touching your right hand to your left toe. (3) Jump upwards again and land in starting position. Do 10 reps on each side.
4 JUMP LUNGES
With hands on hips, plant both feet on the floor slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Step forward with your left foot, then bend both knees to 90 degrees. Your front knee should align with your ankle and your back knee should hover off the floor (1). Propel your body upwards in one explosive motion, making sure to engage your core (2). While in the air, position your legs so you land in a lunge, your right leg forward and left leg back (3). Repeat the jump lunge on this side. Do 20 reps.
5 BENT-LEG RAISERS
Start by lying on your back and placing your hands underneath your butt. Then, keeping your back on the ground, lift your feet up and bring your knees into your chest (1). Extend your legs up and out again (2) then lower them to the ground repeatedly without touching your legs to the floor (3). Do 20 reps.