KKfit Strong Lean Build Review | Spoiler: it was not good

*this is based on my own personal experience and my own knowledge/beliefs on what good programming looks like* NOTE: this is not an attempt to paint anyone in a bad light or claim I know everything. Please read the whole post before commenting.

I did the 12-week Lean Strong Bulk Guide from KKfit (my absolute goals & idols for years - honestly, I literally have a vision board of them plastered on the wall in my home gym). And it was, unfortunately, a really disappointing experience. The first few weeks were okay, but then after that, I quickly slipped into a physical and mental fatigue, where I remained for the remainder of the 12-week program.

BACKGROUND INFO ON THE PROGRAM: 5 training days per week (3 lower body, 2 upper body) and a cardio day. The workouts all have 7+ exercises, 25+ sets, high intensity using a 'one rep max' calculator, 75-ish minute workouts, 12-weeks.

BACKGROUND INFO ON ME: I have been training for 5+ years. I am a certified personal trainer. I can be neurotic at times about my health, as I place a very high priority on the way I feel and look. I drink 1 gallon of water each day, get 10k+ steps, and sleep at least 8 hours without exception. I am highly experienced with tracking macros and I tracked the entire duration of this program. At the end of this program, according to an in-body scan, my body fat increased and my muscle mass decreased.

BIGGEST ISSUE: OVERTRAINING.

If you are going to train 5 days a week, you better be adjusting your exercise-per-workout volume and your workout intensity accordingly. This program did not.

  1. WORKOUT INTENSITY. The intensity was highly inappropriate. You were to use an online calculator to figure out which weight to use during each set, so there is no room for wondering "well maybe you were using too much weight" during your lifts. I calculated my maxes during week 1 and used that data in the calculations throughout the rest of the program.

  2. EXERCISE VOLUME. 7+ exercises per workout in hypertrophy and strength phases? Maybe appropriate if you train full body 1-2 times a week, but highly inappropriate for a 5-day upper/lower split. Not to mention 3-5 sets of 7+ exercises for around 25 sets each workout. 25 sets x 3 leg days per week = 75 sets of leg exercises per week. ABSURD. In addition, there were supersets (sometimes with accessory lifts, sometimes with the a compound lifts) in a strength phases which makes no sense. Also, if I'm testing my maxes in the final week or training, I shouldn't be doing 5 working sets before my "max" set. I do see value in pyramid training for sure, but I'm not sure it should be called "testing your maxes" when there are 5 whole working sets (reps of 12,10,8,6,4) leading up to your max set of 3 reps.

  3. WORKOUT FREQUENCY. 5 days a week is doable (not recommended), but doable, if your volume and intensity is applied appropriately. 3 full ass leg days is unrealistic at this intensity. This does not allow enough time for your body to recovery and adapt to the stresses you're continually placing on it. There was so much training on top of fatigue and soreness. Recovery is just as important as training - without proper rest, recovery, and adaptation, will you not grow muscle.

My body was inflamed. I was constantly "puffy", lethargic, and crabby AF. My body image was at an all-time low. I was doing everything I could to recover from the workouts, I religiously get 8+ hours of sleep per night. I fuel my body with nutrient-dense foods. I was eating between 2600-3000 calories every single day. I was still unable to recover.

You can ask me, "well why did you continue the program/run it as prescribed when you knew your body was begging for a break?" Good question. Despite my mind and body revolting against me, I hard-headedly saw the program through because (1) I simply do not quit when I set my mind to something, (2) I paid $250 for the damn program, I'm going to see it through, and (3) if this is how my idols train, I trust them and their judgement so have to just suck it up to be like them. I am stubborn. My work ethic when it comes to training is so solid. I was fully immersed in pushing myself to the fullest that I disregarded the obvious signs that I was doing far too much.

Training THIS MUCH (6+ hours/week excluding warm-ups/cool-downs and cardio days) is UNSUSTAINABLE, even if it's just for 12 weeks. Being prescribed this much gym time can lead to dread and resentfulness of training. I went from the gym being my favorite part of the day to being anxious and dreading each workout to the point where my friends at the gym could notice how unhappy I was. When you train this much, push yourself this hard, only to feel completely depleted and weak it EXTREMELY disheartening.

After I finished the program, I took a 2 week break from the gym, and when I went back the third week (although I still had no desire to), I was discussing how I no longer want lifting to be a huge part of my life. This program really destroyed my views on and desire to lift. This was detrimental to me because when thinking about the purpose of my day-to-day life, lifting IS what lights my soul on fire. Luckily, I gave myself time to do what I felt like (which was little lifting) for a month after finishing the program and now that I've started training according to my own programming, I am again finding the love I once had for the gym. Also, my body felt and looked so much better after 2 full weeks off from the gym - inflammation went down and my body was able to fully recover for the first time in months.

What makes me angry is that this is teaching women that THIS IS APPROPRIATE. I'll readjust my training to an appropriate amount, but what about all the girls who are running themselves into the ground with this program thinking that THIS is the intensity and volume required to be healthy and fit? This contributes to the already unhealthy, unrealistic standards that many women already hold themselves to. YOU DO NOT NEED TO SPEND 6+ HOURS IN THE GYM EACH WEEK TO MAKE PROGRESS. You can if you want to and it's sustainable for you, but again, you need to train with appropriate volume and intensity.

POSITIVE THINGS:

  • Newer lifters might see progress because the relative intensity they apply is less than experienced lifters. They're not pushing themselves as hard >> lower intensity >> less likely to be overtraining (though still setting unrealistic expectations for what a good training program looks like/what is required to be fit and build muscle). The program states it is designed for Intermediate to Advanced lifters, though.

  • I can also see it being good for people who aren't used to pushing themselves hard in the gym. Making every rep count, every movement done with intention is vital to making progress and following a program usually helps with that!

  • It did focus on compound lifts at the beginning of the workouts (although sometimes they were supersets, which is not appropriate especially considering the goal of this program - strength).

  • It could expand your exercise library that you could apply to future workout programming.

  • It could help you with learning to train with one rep max calculations instead of blindly picking weights or doing standard 3 x 12 workouts for example.

  • I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I need to be better about listening to my body - to prioritize my internal cues over a a program that's not curated to me. I learned a lot about what does not work for me.

I am not trying to paint KKfit in a bad light, I think they're really sweet humans who always have good intentions. I am not claiming I am a better, more knowledgeable trainer, I definitely do not have everything figured out. I look back on ways I used to train myself and others and am not satisfied with it, but I am growing every day. I would expect someone of their capacity to put out gold-standard training programs. I simply want to inform others on my experience, so they can take these things into consideration when considering this program or programs of similar styles.

There is also a huge disconnect in expectations - I, like many others, am super inspired by KKfit, and by purchasing this program, I expected a program similar to how they train to learn how to achieve strength like theirs. In one of their YouTube videos, Kendra was talking about how she just finished the program and mentioned that they " her and Kat typically don't do pyramid-style training and it was something they wanted to experiment with because they've seen other athletes and trainers program this way for their clients". I don't love that because they didn't test it out for themselves to see if they even liked it prior to selling it for $247. When people purchase a program like this from their favorite influencer, they expect to train like that person, right? Or are my expectations unrealistic? It just kind of turns me off.

Adopting a fitness routine is not easy - that is why inactivity is a huge issue, especially in this country. I hate the idea of inspired women picking up this program, being unable to keep up with it and deciding that they're just not cut out for lifting/being fit. Fitness can and should be much simpler than this.