Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Review of Trudie Styler's Sculpt and Tone Ballet

I’ve always had a fantasy of being a ballet dancer – long and sleek, fit as a fiddle, and graceful, graceful, graceful.
   I’m using a fitness DVD these days, Trudie Styler's Sculpt & Tone Ballet, that’s helping me channel that fantasy into temporary reality – and getting a workout with it.
   This DVD doesn’t teach you how to do Swan Lake.
   Rather, it’s a workout at a ballet barre – or for me and probably most other people who use this DVD, or a couple of chairs.
   Plie, releve, tendu, arabesque, a la seconde, fondu, and port de bras are among the ballet positions and moves featured in the 25-minute workout. (I learned most of these terms just from the DVD!)
The routine has a reasonable pace, allowing me to do the moves properly, and there’s many graceful stretches in between the harder positions.
   However, it’s not a cakewalk – I do sweat!
   The workout has benefitted my legs the most. Since I’ve been doing it, I’d like to think my calves and thighs have become more muscular – but not bulky, sleeker.
   James D’Silva, Trudie Styler’s personal trainer, designed the workout. The two lead it together in a lovely room inside the Italian villa owned by Styler and her husband, Sting.
   D’Silva narrates the action in a voiceover, so he and Styler don’t speak during the workout. I found this a little off-putting only for a few minutes the first time I did it, but I soon got used to, and eventually enjoyed, his soothing voice.
   This is one of four Trudie Styler workout DVDs from Gaiam that I currently own and often use.
   Another is Trudie Styler's Core Strength Pilates (click here for the blog post.)

Trudie Styler's Sculpt and Tone Ballet at Amazon.ca

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Love those kettlebells!

Recently I joined the kettlebell kick with the DVDs included in the Kettlenetics Slim and Tone Kit, and Power Body: Kettlebell Bootcamp with Angie Miller.
   Both are terrific workouts that get the cardio going while toning at the same time.
   After either of them, it’s my glutes that feel the work the most!
   And both workouts get deep into the lower back, working muscles you didn’t know you had.
   For that reason, during the downtimes during these workouts, i.e., the short few seconds while the next move is being explained, I lift my legs up high in the air one at a time to keep my lower back stretched and warm.

Kettlenetics Slim and Tone Kit from Gaiam is a set of two DVDs that is packaged with a four-pound kettlebell, which for this kettlebell workout novice is the perfect weight.
   The first DVD has a tutorial on the moves, and a 20-minute workout to get you started. But this workout is not easy! The sweat will flow!
   The 20-minute workout is comprised of standing moves that include lunges and squats, all while thrusting and swinging the kettlebell about.   The second DVD has a 40-minute workout that starts with standing moves and progresses to a series of floor exercises including push-ups where the kettlebell is lifted by one arm at a time, and side planks with the kettlebell thrust into the air. It’s tough.

Power Body: Kettlebell Bootcamp with Angie Miller is a sensible, demanding workout that is divided into seven sections that you can pick and choose, or do from start to finish for the complete kettlebell experience.
   The DVD has a tutorial to explain the moves.
   The workout’s first five sections are standing sets. Like Kettlenetics, these sets have moves such as squats and lunges, with the arms moving constantly with the kettlebell. There are also some balance challenges that target the lower back.
   The final sections have push-ups and ab work using the kettlebell. A stretch finishes things off.

Power Body: Kettlebell Bootcamp with Angie Miller at amazon.ca

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The DVDs that taught me how to stretch

This time of year, after working out inside with one of my fitness DVDs, I like to stretch outside, taking in the fresh air and the sounds of summer around me.
   I love a good stretch after a workout – it’s a reward for all the hard work.
   How did I learn how to stretch?
   With DVDs, of course!
   The following DVDs have excellent stretch routines, which I follow individually inside when the weather is cold.
   When the weather is warm and I take things outside, I mix and match stretch poses from them all.
- Perfect in Ten: Stretch, lead by professional dancer and Pilates teacher Annette Fletcher, is an excellent DVD for those looking for a sensible stretch routine. There are five 10-minute sections of different types of stretching for upper body, back and hips; legs; sedentary lifestyle relief; sports stretch and intense stretch. I use the first two sections for upper body, back, hips and legs, and find they target all the spots I want to stretch: arms, hamstrings, glutes, core and calves.
- Lunar Flow Yoga, lead by yoga master Shiva Rea, has a forward bends and twists section that I absolutely love to follow after a workout that has targeted my legs and glutes. With yoga poses such as the double pigeon, seated twists and bound angle pose, all done at a relaxing pace, this routine puts me in a calm sense of mind after a workout.
   (I wrote about another one of Shiva Rea’s DVDs, Creative Core and Upper Body. Click here to see the post).
- The Exhale: Core Fusion series of DVDs all have excellent stretch routines. For example,  Exhale: Core Fusion - Pilates Plus has one that’s excellent for stretching the core after abdominal work, while Abs and Arms has a routine perfect for stretching the upper body and hips.
   (I wrote about Core Fusion’s Lean and Toned DVD on this blog. Click here to see the post).

Perfect in Ten: Stretch at amazon.ca
Shiva Rea: Lunar Flow Yoga at amazon.ca

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Review of Leandro Carvalho's Brazil Butt Lift

Leandro Carvalho, creator of the Brazil Butt Lift workout, guarantees “your butt will change” if you use his DVDs.
   His guarantee appears on the level. Your butt does lift.
   But here’s the thing: you’ll not only see your butt change, there will be other parts of your body that will change as well.
   I saw changes in my back and arms, as many of the moves in workouts call for you to keep your arms raised above your head.
   The DVDs I am writing about today come from the basic Brazil Butt Lift package, currently available from beachbody.com and amazon.com. (Beachbody, the producer of these DVDs, also offers a Brazil Butt Lift “Maximum Results System” on its website.)
   From the basic package of DVDs, I regularly use three of the workouts: Bum Bum, Bum Bum Rapido and Cardio Axe.
   Carvalho’s signature workout is “Bum Bum” (pronounced boom-boom; it’s Brazilian slang for butt), a fast-paced, intense cardio workout that lasts for about 30 minutes.
   This is tough stuff. Squats and lunges in different varieties and patterns, with spurts of dance moves in between, comprise the workout.
   Forget about leaving your arms by your sides – they are constantly engaged, with Leandro, encouraging you (sometimes in Portuguese!) to keep them up high in the air, your chest lifted.
   Sweat will be pouring down by the time the workout is done.
   There’s only one thing I wish were longer: the warm-up. At about one minute 30 seconds, it’s far too short, especially considering the intensity of the following workout.
   I usually warm up a little more on my own before I start the workout, with leg and arm lifts and some light leg stretches.
   Bum Bum Rapido, a shorter version of the workout which is equally as intense as Bum Bum, has a much better warm-up, which then moves into more butt-blasting squats and lunges.
   Cardio Axe is a fun dance workout with samba patterns at its core. It’s less intense than the Bum Bum workouts, but it still gets the heart pumping.
   Like the other Beachbody series of fitness DVDs (Turbo Jam, Hip Hop Abs), Brazil Butt Lift aims to adequately cover both sides of a well-balanced workout regimen: cardio and sculpting.
   With that in mind, the other workouts in the basic Brazil Butt lift package are High and Tight, which uses a resistance band and ankle weights to further concentrate on lifting the butt; Sculpt, a tip-to-toe sculpting workout and Tummy Tuck, a 15-minute abdominal workout.
   There is also a Basics segment that takes you step-by-step through many of the moves used on the DVDs.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Review of Shape: Get Lean in 4 Weeks

Shape: Get Lean in 4 Weeks is a sensible workout on DVD designed and led by trainer Yumi Lee.
   It's divided into four segments: three 20-minute workouts that can each stand alone or be mixed and matched, and a 15-minute ab toner.
   I personally do two of the segments regularly.
   The first is the “20-Minute Fat-Burning Routine,” a kickboxing cardio workout. It’s easy to follow, and if you follow Yumi’s tips on how to lift your legs properly, you’ll get your abs working through the whole routine.
   And it’s effective – it gets the heart pumping.
   The second part I use is the “20-Minute Metabolism Boost” which mixes cardio intervals with strength training. Light dumbbells are used during many of the strength moves (although push-ups are found here, too).
   Like the Fat-Burning Routine, Metabolism Boost is also easy to follow and gets the heart going.
   The last two segments on the DVD are the “20-Minute Total-Body Interval Sculpting Workout,” a toning routine using light dumbbells, and the 15-Minute Ab Toner.
   I have several Shape magazine exercise DVDs, and find that in general they are all like Get Lean in 4 Weeks: Easy to follow, and suitable for beginners to advanced exercisers as different versions of exercises are shown.
   Because this DVD, and many of the others from Shape, are divided into segments that are 20 minutes or less, it allows people to tackle fitness in smaller increments – advantageous for a beginner, or those short on time.
   Another Shape DVD I currently use that I wrote about on this blog is Shape: Best Ever Hollywood Workout, hosted by Gunnar Peterson. (Click here to read about it.)

Shape Get Lean in 4 Weeks at amazon.ca

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Monday, June 14, 2010

The 108 push-up yoga workout - Shiva Rea: Creative Core and Upper Body

Shiva Rea: Creative Core and Upper Body has 108 push-ups to follow.
   Blink your eyes and look again.
   You read it right – 108 push-ups.
   It sounds like pure insanity, doesn’t it?
   Yoga goddess Shiva Rea, who designed and leads the workout, would likely not look at it as something that induces hardship or pain. Rather, she says following it is way to “harness sacred energy.”
   Here’s what I know: Despite the fact it is challenging, it’s a surprisingly addictive DVD, and it will put you on the way to a better upper body.
   And you don’t have to do all the push-ups in each set (there are nine sets of 12). Rea encourages you to do them at your own pace.
   There are also yoga poses between each set, which, despite having their own challenges, do provide a break.
   I can do 72 push-ups during the workout – nine sets of eight, on my knees.
   I have to admit, however, that when I first ordered this DVD I had to set it aside because I wasn’t able to put in complete sets.
   I knew I needed to develop my upper body a bit better and get it used to the push-up motion first – and luckily another DVD I owned helped me do that.
   The upper body core segment on Core Fusion: Pilates Plus was the lifesaver. (Click here to read more about another Core Fusion DVD I own, Lean and Toned.)
   The segment includes holding the body in the plank position (really, a push-up kept in the upright position for an extended length of time) on your knees, arms, or elbows.
   Then there’s a few push-ups to get you going in that direction.
   Once I’d done this Core Fusion segment a few times, I was ready to tackle Shiva Rea’s Upper Body DVD again.
   To my delight, I was able to do nine complete sets of eight push-ups on my first try back.
   And now I love Shiva Rea’s DVD of yoga-interrupted push-ups. It’s a terrific challenge, and a great confidence booster when you can get through it.
   Like all of Rea’s DVDs, it has terrific production values. It was filmed on location in Hawaii, and the music is great – both aspects of the DVD I find motivating.

Shiva Rea: Creative Core and Upper Body at amazon.ca

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Review of Trudie Styler's Core Strength Pilates

I recently added a full Pilates routine to my workout mix thanks to a DVD I absolutely love, Trudie Styler's Core Strength Pilates.
   Fitness trainer James D'Silva designed this workout, and he and Trudie (Sting's wife) lead it together on the DVD.
   Since I'm relatively new to Pilates, I have no way of judging it against any other DVDs out there, but for me, this workout is just right.
   It's definitely challenging, getting to the core, hips, legs and glutes.
   But there is plenty of stretching between each work segment, giving you a bit of time to recover.
   James, who instructs the DVD in a voiceover, also has such a calming voice it's hard to get too excited about the fact a lot of the moves are requiring all your strength and nerve to do. There's also a nice jazzy musical accompaniment.
   I'm also a big fan of DVDs with good production values, and this one certainly has them. It was filmed on location at Trudie and Sting's Italian villa, making for some beautiful visuals.
   Core Strength Pilates is one of four Trudie Styler fitness DVDs produced by Gaiam that I regularly follow. The others are Sculpt & Tone Ballet, Warrior Yoga and Cardio Dance Flow. I'll be writing more about these DVDs in the future.

Trudie Styler's Core Strength Pilates at amazon.ca

Review of Shape: Best Ever Hollywood Workout with Gunnar Peterson

Trainer Gunnar Peterson, billed in one description as a "fitness guru behind Hollywood A-listers and professional athletes," and creator of the Core Secrets fitness program, has teamed up with Shape magazine to put out a DVD called Shape: Best-Ever Hollywood Workout.
   I use this DVD, but only one section: the 20-minute Power Burn, which I like to think gives my metabolism a good swift kick in the butt when I do it in the morning.
   This section uses a combination of squats, ab curls, push-ups and arm lifts with dumbbells to give a quick once-over of the body.
   My favourite move is the woodchop, where one dumbbell, held on either side with both hands, is moved from the top of one side of the body above the shoulders to near the bottom of the other side, the knees. (It's a twisting motion.)
   Some of the reviews on Amazon point out there is no cardio on the DVD, and I would say that's true to the extent there is no section entirely devoted to it, but the Power Burn section does get my heart rate up and the sweat going.
   The other sections on the DVD are a 20-minute "total body toning," a 10-minute "amazing arms" and a 10-minute "lower body blast."

Shape: Best Every Hollywood Workout at amazon.ca

Review of Core Fusion: Lean & Toned

While doing this DVD, Core Fusion: Lean & Toned, you may cry for mercy and want to throw things at the television. After you tackle it a few times, though, you will be shrieking with excitement at the fantastic results it gets.
   Lean & Toned is the fifth DVD from husband-and-wife team Elisabeth Halfpapp and Fred DeVito.
   I didn't think it was possible for Liz and Fred's workouts to get tougher, but I think they've managed to do it with this DVD.
   It's more demanding because of its pace. It's quite a bit faster than the four previous DVDs, and for that reason, I recommend that people who want to take Liz and Fred for a spin through their living room try one of the other DVDs first, in which the two take a slower pace and more time for instruction.
   With a previous DVD, you'll get a good understanding of their exercise philosophy, which is that form is most important, then the number of repetitions you can do. Finally, always do only what you can and be proud of it.
   The idea of this DVD having a faster pace, I would imagine, is to give users a better idea of how Fred and Liz might lead an actual live Core Fusion class in one of their numerous Exhale spas across the U.S. and the Caribbean. This DVD, unlike their previous ones, have other people accompanying them.
   Core Fusion is Fred and Liz's combination of Pilates, Lotte Berk Method, yoga and dance, and the 10-minute segments on this DVD use these methods to target and tone the thighs, glutes, abs and arms.
Read more (including a list of the previous four Core Fusion DVDs) . . .

Note: Fred and Liz and the other people in this DVD are wearing some type of special Exhale Spas socks. I do the workout with bare feet, as Fred and Liz have done in some of their previous DVDs.

Exhale: Core Fusion Lean and Toned at amazon.ca

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

More about Core Fusion: Lean & Toned

Read the first part of this blog entry about Core Fusion: Lean & Toned.

Segment one, for arms, uses dumbbell arm raises and then a series of pushups and reverse pushups (done with one's back to the floor, to work the triceps.) Segment two, for thighs, is comprised of deep knee bends (you don't need to get down close to the floor all the time), leg lifts in an upright position and squats done on the tippy-toes.
   Segment three, which seems to be targeting the abs, but I find fantastic for the inner thighs, is done seated with one's back against the wall.
   You lift up your legs off the ground in various patterns, and then, for the icing on the world's toughest cake, you pull your legs upward to the sky and then raise and lower them from this position.
   Tough, yes. In fact, I rank it among the single most difficult part of any of the many workout DVDs I own.
   Segment four, for glutes, involves placing one's hands on the wall, then doing backward leg lifts. You eventually end up with your hands in the floor, leg extended high in the air, pushing your leg up.
   Segment five, for abs and waist, includes a ridiculous (but again, effective) pretzel move. You sit with one leg in front of you, bent, the other behind you, bent or straight. First with your hand on the ground and then raised, you lift the back leg off the floor. I can't lift my back leg, and so do my best, and that is all that Fred and Liz want.    Then there's some curls with legs lifted off the ground -- also very tough.
   After all is said and done, though, this DVD gets definite results.
   Fred and Liz are also motivating. Even though your muscles may be burning with a mind-bending fury, you'll still like listening to their encouraging voices and want to do your best.

Note: Fred and Liz and the other people in this DVD are wearing some type of special Exhale Spas socks. I do the workout with bare feet, as Fred and Liz have done in some of their previous DVDs.

Exhale: Core Fusion Lean and Toned at amazon.ca
Exhale: Core Fusion Lean and Toned at amazon.com

Exhale: Core Fusion Body Sculpt at Amazon.com
Exhale: Core Fusion Body Sculpt at Amazon.ca

Exhale: Core Fusion - Pure Abs & Arms at Amazon.com
Exhale: Core Fusion - Pure Abs & Arms at Amazon.ca

Exhale: Core Fusion - Thighs & Glutes at Amazon.com
Exhale: Core Fusion - Thighs & Glutes at Amazon.ca

Exhale: Core Fusion - Pilates Plus at Amazon.com
Exhale: Core Fusion - Pilates Plus at Amazon.ca

Exhale: Core Fusion Collection at Amazon.com
Exhale: Core Fusion Collection at Amazon.ca

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Review of Kim Kardashian Fit in Your Jeans by Friday Amazing Abs Body Sculpt

One of the best upper body workout I've ever done is Kim Kardashian: Fit In Your Jeans by Friday: Amazing Abs Body Sculpt.
   The first time I did it, my arms and sides ached for days afterwards. It's tough.
   I'd recommend it to anyone looking up to tone up their arms and back. I credit this DVD with helping to bring out muscle definition in my upper back.
   The trainer who designed the workout, Jennifer Galardi, leads the workout along with Kim.
   The first section is a good upper body warmup.
   The second uses dumbbells and a series of arm lifts for most of it. It's hard -- the sweat is pouring down by the time I finish this part, especially the end, which is a series of side planks.
   The third is a cardio section, but still with emphasis on the upper body and abs. Stair runners, done with arms on a Step or the ground and legs pumping in a running-like motion on the ground is just one of the challenging moves here.
   A final stretch follows, and there is also a bonus ab blast.

Note: Kim and Jennifer use a Step platform in the second half of this DVD. I don't have one, and easily modified the moves on the floor.

Fit in Your Jeans Friday: Amazing Abs Body Sculpt at amazon.ca
Fit In Your Jeans by Friday: Amazing Abs Body Sculpt at amazon.com

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Review of Marisa Tomei Core & Curves

Marisa Tomei: Core & Curves is a demanding toning workout that has quickly become one of my favourites.
   Key Son, billed on the DVD cover as one of Hollywood's hottest trainers, designed the workout and describes the moves as Marisa does them.
   The mellow, jazzy music that accompanies the DVD's three routines is deceptive -- this workout is anything but mellow!
   I found the routines especially demanding on the glutes and legs -- my butt really felt the work. It also contains a move that is the best triceps exercise I've ever done.
   The secret is a small circular resistance band that goes around the ankles or wrists in many of the moves. It's included with the DVD.
   When prancing and walking about with the band on, the legs and butt are worked. When put around the wrists while lying on the ground, and the arms lowered to the ground and up to the knees, the band provides an astonishingly effective triceps toner.
   And then there's the abs -- the band goes around the ankles, the legs are lifted straight overhead, and crunches are done. The legs, pressing out against the the band, are stabilized and thus make this section quite difficult. Then the legs are lifted and lowered to the ground with the band on -- ouch.
   The DVD is divided into three routines. The longest, at 20 minutes, is called body definition, and goes through a series of moves designed to work the body from top to bottom. The second is the "best legs workout," 15 minutes long, and the third, "ten moves in ten," is what it says - 10 moves to work the body when you're short on time.
   Mix and match or tack them on to a full-scale cardio workout.

Marisa Tomei: Core & Curves at amazon.ca

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Review of Kari Anderson: Reach

One of my new favourite workout DVDs is Kari Anderson: Reach - Upbeat Toning & Flexibility for a Dancer's Body.
   The DVD has won awards for the innovative workout it presents, which borrows from ballet, Pilates and yoga.
   The first section is a ballet dance-style cardio workout, with plies and leg lifts that makes you feel like an elegant dancer while simultaneously getting the heart rate up and the sweat pouring down. This is the part I find myself doing at least once a week, when I feel like getting cardio without sneakers.
   The second section is a kick-butt toning routine,
done on the floor. Included are a several plank and side plank moves with arm and leg lifts, great for the upper body, and Pilates-style abdominals and leg work.
   The last section is a relaxing stretch, which allows your mind to absorb the hard work you've just done.

Kari Anderson:Reach at amazon.ca

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