Friday, July 30, 2010

Review of Results Fitness: Boost Your Metabolism

The aim of Results Fitness: Boost Your Metabolism, explains instructor Tracey Staehle, is to increase muscle mass to help boost metabolism and get the body burning fat more efficiently.
   Who doesn’t want that?
   Staehle, a personable instructor, uses a combination of strength training and cardio to achieve the goal of boosting metabolism.
   Although this 50-minute workout does eventually reach a mat on the ground, there’s no direct abdominal work, a big bonus for those who hate crunches and sit-ups!
   Rather, Staehle encourages constant use of the core muscles with exercises that require balance.
   The first 35 minutes of the workout starts with a warm-up and then progresses to the alternations between easy-to-follow strength and cardio moves. Staehle uses light and heavier dumbbells.
   An example of a strength move is doing a row with the arms while doing a forward squat with the legs, while a cardio move is shuffling side to side and doing a punch at each end of the shuffle.
   The last 15 minutes of the workout include leg lifts in an upward position with the help of a chair, floor work with moves such as shoulder presses and push-ups, and a final stretch.
   Staehle shows different levels for each exercise, starting with level one for beginners and progressing upwards in difficulty.

Results Fitness: Boost Your Metabolism on amazon.ca

Another workout that combines cardio and strength moves: Shape: Ultimate Bikini Body Workout

A list of reviews on Fantastic Fitness DVDs

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Review of The Firm: Core Solutions

The Firm - Core Solutions is a DVD that, as its title implies, focuses on the core muscles.
   Even though the muscles of your abs and back are working in each of the three 10-minute segments on the DVD, it isn’t torturous.
   The Firm Master Instructor Alison Davis leads the workout, which uses movements of the arms and legs to work the core, thus distracting a user from the possibility of burning abs!
   The segments can be done with dumbbell weights or without, and one of the women helping to lead the workout shows beginner versions of all the moves.
   The 10-minute segments, which can stand alone or be put together for one continuous workout, are Standing Abs, Functional Core and Classic Abs.
   Standing Abs gets to your core without getting on a mat.
   Moves in this section include bringing the knee up on one side and twisting toward it with one weight in both hands, and reaching up and over on one side of the body with a weight, then down and over on the other.
   Functional Core moves to the mat, but the crunches don’t come quite yet.
   In this section are such moves as the walking plank (in a push-up position on knees or toes, walking forward on the elbows and then twisting to one side and the other) and seated twists (seated on the ground with knees bent and leaning back slightly, rotating from side to side with a hand on either side of a dumbbell.)
   In the Classic Abs section we find old-school exercises such as crunches, situps and curlups.
   But there are other moves here, including facing the ground on all fours and extending a leg and arm out on opposite sides of the body. The balance challenge works the core.
   Exercisers looking to find a way to work their core continuously for a longer period of time will find it on The Firm’s Core Solutions.

The Firm: Core Solutions on amazon.ca

Another good DVD from The Firm: Tight Buns & Killer Legs

Other effective core workouts:
Trudie Styler's Core Strength Pilates
Core Fusion: Lean & Toned

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Review of Shape: Ultimate Bikini Body Workout

New York City-trainer Dominique Hall gets the body worked from top to bottom in just 30 minutes on the DVD called Shape: Ultimate Bikini Body Workout.
   Hall has a technique of combining upper- and lower- body exercises to make each move as efficient as possible.
   For example, near the beginning of the workout, she does side squats, holding dumbbells facing toward her at her chin. Soon she adds in a knee lift before each squat.
   The idea? To work “on that six-pack along with those legs,” Hall explains.
   Another great move is when she stays suspended in a forward squat, and, holding one dumbbell vertically in both hands, she twists from side to side.
   The strength moves such as these are interspersed with cardio spurts that feature moves like jumping jacks, alternating “cross-country” leg scissors and football drills.
   The strength moves also include some floor work such as “Spider-Man pushups,” which is moving one foot forward at a time while the body is at the top of a push-up, and the prone-saw lift, which is holding the body at the top of a push-up and lifting a dumbbell up from the ground, one arm at a time.
   Sounds tough, doesn’t it? It is, because the workout gets a lot done in just 30 minutes.
   But that certainly doesn’t mean it’s impossible. One of the women who accompanies Hall on the DVD modifies the moves to the most basic variations, suitable for beginners.
   There are three 10-minute segments on the DVD as well. They can be tacked onto the main 30-minute workout, or stand alone as mini-workouts on their own, as each have a short warm-up and cooldown.
   The sections are abs/core, butt/legs and a bonus cardio workout.

Shape: Ultimate Bikini Body Workout on amazon.ca

A list of every review on Fantastic Fitness DVDs

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Review of Shiva Rea - Flow Yoga for Beginners

The DVD that got me thinking deliberately about yoga poses is Shiva Rea - Flow Yoga for Beginners.
   I did several yoga sessions at home before I tried this DVD. Because of this workout’s slower pace, I was able to consciously think about what each part of my body was doing in each pose.
   And I was able to keep up properly with each move – a nice feeling.
   I’d recommend this DVD to a yoga beginner like me.
   It’s divided into four sections, which can be done individually or as an entire workout. Done together, the workout takes about an hour and 10 minutes to complete.
   The first section is foundation flow, where Shiva teaches the concept of ujjayi breathing. The breathing, and the accompanying poses, fills my body with relaxed energy.
   However, I was surprised about one aspect of this section -- the presence of plank pose so early in a workout that’s supposed to be for beginners.
   Plank pose is essentially holding a push-up in the top position on one’s knees or feet. It’s quite difficult for someone who has never encountered it before. Shiva encourages you, while you’re in the pose, to feel your sacred strength – but I think you’d be excused for mistaking that for pain!
   If you try this DVD, and have not been doing any push-ups in any other workouts, take heart: the plank position is the hardest pose during the entire routine.
   Beginner’s backbend flow is the second section, and it features lunges on knees, half-splits, cobra and bow pose.
   The next section is the relaxing flexibility flow. It’s the shortest section at about 10 minutes, and it features stretches for the glutes and hamstrings. I’ve used this section as the concluding stretch for other workouts.
   The beginner’s standing pose flow, the last and longest section, revolves around warrior poses.
   The workout concludes with shavasana, or deep relaxation.
With this DVD, I always emerge from shavasana with a sense of accomplishment that I have done something great for my body.

Shiva Rea - Flow Yoga for Beginners at amazon.ca

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Review of Trudie Styler's Cardio Dance Flow

Want to get your heart pumping, but don’t like the idea of a hard-core cardio workout?
   Then I’ve got a DVD for you: Trudie Styler's Cardio Dance Flow.
   It’s a workout of light-on-your-feet dance moves, interspersed with some stretching and yoga moves.
   One moment you’re leaping across the living room, the next you’re in warrior pose.
   The combination is interesting and fun, and wards off cardio blahs.
   It’s the kind of workout to recommend to a friend who loves yoga and steers clear of cardio – they’ll probably dig this DVD.
   Styler, Sting’s wife, leads the routine along with her trainer, James D’Silva.
   As with the other three Styler workout DVDs currently available from Gaiam, the two of them don’t speak during the workout. Rather, D’Silva narrates the action in a voice-over.
   The music is groovy and light, and the backdrop of the countryside surrounding Styler’s and Sting’s Italian villa is inspiring.
   I’ve reviewed two other of Styler's DVDs on Fantastic Fitness DVDs, Sculpt and Tone Ballet and Core Strength Pilates.

A list of reviews on Fantastic Fitness DVDs

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Review of Turbo Jam: Fat Blaster

I have many Turbo Jam DVDs, lead by the ever-energetic Chalene Johnson, but the one I find myself turning to most often is Fat Blaster.
   As Johnson says during the warm-up, it’s a DVD to turn to when you’re short on time but still want to burn some serious calories with some serious cardio.
   The workout is comprised of the Turbo sections from some of her other workouts, put together end-to-end in one 30-minute session.
   The Turbos are very high-energy blasts of exercise that are about a minute-and-a-half long.
   Johnson takes four Turbo sections, then does each twice: The first time with less energy, and the second time with lots of energy.
   This is a method that imitates a way athletes train, using anaerobic drills.
   These drills are fun, though, with funky punches and dance moves that are the hallmark of all Turbo Jam workouts.
   The 30 minutes positively fly by.
   If you don’t want to keep going low and high in your energy output, the workout can be done at a steady pace, and one person demonstrates this.
   As with all Turbo Jam workouts, this one starts with a great warm-up that leaves the muscles good and ready to work.
   Turbo Jam DVDs are produced by Beachbody.

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Friday, July 9, 2010

Review of Personal Training With Jackie:
Power Circuit Training

Beverly Hills trainer Jackie Warner shows that good things come in threes on her DVD, Personal Training with Jackie: Power Circuit Training.
   On the DVD, Warner takes the follower on a workout that methodically goes from bottom to top, starting with the quads and ending with the obliques.
   Each segment of the workout, which concentrates on a different body part, has three exercises, which are done for one minute each. Then, in the power burn section, the three exercises are repeated in the same order for one minute. Each segment, then, lasts four minutes.
   For example, the quad workout section is comprised of “sissy squats,” then a much harder motion of starting from an upright position, putting one knee down on the floor at a time then rising again, and then forward lunge squats. The three are then repeated in quicker succession.
   The body parts worked are quads, hamstrings, glutes, triceps, biceps, chest, back, lower abs, upper abs and obliques.
   I found the lower and upper ab sections to be the most difficult. I could really feel those parts working and burning.
   I liked the power burn sections best. They seemed less difficult because each exercise was done with fewer repetitions.
   I think Jackie has accomplished what she set out to do: Work all the major body parts in a compact, 40-minute session. It’s tough, but it get things done.
   It’s a strange sensation: Although the time goes by quickly, this workout doesn’t feel rushed. And all the moves are very easy to follow, so there’s no time wasted learning a complicated routine.
   There’s a warm-up at the beginning of the workout, but it’s not very long. Some may feel they need to move around a bit more before the hard stuff starts.
   The main workout on the DVD is the 40-minute session, but there are also four 15-minute workouts to choose from, all which reprise moves used in the main workout. They are 15-minute total body, abs only, and upper and lower body.

Personal Training With Jackie: Power Circuit Training at amazon.ca

A list of reviews on Fantastic Fitness DVDs

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Review of The Lotte Berk Method continued

This post is continued from another. Click here to see the beginning of the article.

The next DVD is Burn Fat Now: Muscle Eats Fat, which has a lower-body section done at a barre or chair.
   The upper body section on Burn Fat Now is one I turn to again and again. I’ve never lifted dumbbells quite this way – standing and bending the knees and tucking the hips forward and the abdominals in while the bicep curls and other moves are performed. It works not only the arms, but the back and core as well.
   High Round Assets, as one would guess, works on the much-maligned butt area, continuing moves learned in Basic Essentials but increasing the number of repetitions greatly.
   High Round Assets starts with a warm-up which, rather surprisingly for a routine that targets the lower body, includes some push-ups and tricep dips.
   Then comes the butt work, done against a chair, wall or barre. The work is comprised of small leg lifts, with a straight leg and then bent, and then small leg lifts with the upper body parallel to the floor. The glutes beg for mercy!
   The workout then goes to the floor for back dancing, which is done lying on one’s back and repeatedly lifting up the hips into a tuck.
   Hip Hugger Abs, a DVD I do often, is a really tough abdominals routine that starts with holding the upper body off the ground, then one arm at a time, then both, up in the air. Next is lifting the legs up and down one at a time with the upper body still lifted.
   Lotte Berk abdominal curls follow, and then comes the plank position, which is like holding a push-up in one position, but in this case resting on the elbows.
   Each of the four DVDs I wrote about above have a bonus section – a 10-minute advanced workout continuing to work the part of the body targeted by the DVD.
   These bonus “body blasts” are very tough, geared toward the advanced exerciser or someone who feels they need to take their Lotte Berk Method workout to the next level.

Lotte Berk Method Four-Disc Set at amazon.ca

Review of The Lotte Berk Method

Lotte Berk began teaching her exercise method more than 50 years ago, and thank goodness she did, because today we can all reap the benefits of this dance-inspired workout.
   The Lotte Berk Method DVDs I'm writing about are a series of four from Natural Journeys, which are sold separately or together.
   The four DVDs, which have some rather vivid titles, are Basic Essentials, Burn Fat Now: Muscle Eats Fat, High Round Assets, and Hip Hugger Abs.
   All of them, hosted by Lotte Berk Method instructors, are great toning workouts.
   The basic foundation of many of the Method’s moves is the Lotte Berk tuck – pushing the hips forward and pulling in the abs. Another key to the Method is stretching, which is done often between moves and at the end of each workout in an effort to keep the muscles long and lean (the stretches are also welcome rests!)
   More about the Lotte Berk tuck, and the importance of stretching, is learned on the Basic Essentials DVD, which serves as the introductory workout out of the four.
   Basic Essentials starts with a warm-up, then moves to the thighs and seat section, performed at a ballet barre, a chair or leaning against the wall.
   The exercises in the thighs and seat section are classic Lotte Berk and stem greatly from one central pose: placing your hands on the chair or barre, putting your feet in a V and lifting up the heels. In this pose, bends are done to light up the thighs! Then comes small leg lifts, with toes pointed forward, to get the butt working.
   Next on Basic Essentials is the abdominal section. In the Lotte Berk Method, exercising the abdominals relies much, much more on stillness than repeated crunches. Holding your upper body up from the floor, you lift your arms up in the air one at a time, then both. Trust me, the abs burn.
   Lastly on Basic Essentials, before a final stretch, is the hip-dancing section. The instructor of this DVD calls it the signature move of the Lotte Berk Method, and it’s performed by resting on one’s bent thighs on the ground, putting the arms in the air and then lifting up the hips and pushing and swaying them about. It is a definite core and hip toning move!

Read more about the other three DVDs in this set by clicking here.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Review of Yoga Booty Ballet:
Total Toning Basics and Advanced Fat Burning

Yoga Booty Ballet, the workout created and taught by Gillian Marloth and Teith McDonough that combines dance, ballet and yoga, is one of my all-time favourite ways to exercise.
   It wasn’t always this way. There were many things I had to get used to about Yoga Booty Ballet (YBB), but now I absolutely love them.
   The first is working out barefoot.
   I was actually kind of shocked by this when I did my first YBB workout. I had not yet tried yoga, and was still in the mindset that one must wear proper shoes for exercise.
   That went all out the window after a couple of YBB workouts. Now I love working out barefoot, and often crave it. (You can do YBB with shoes if you are uncomfortable working out barefoot.)
   The second thing is the importance of meditation before and after some types of exercise. Not all types, mind you – I’m not in the mood to meditate before a workout if I’ve chosen a high-energy cardio one.
   But an opening and closing meditation before and after YBB workouts (and yoga workouts) is just perfect. You take a few minutes to focus your mind and your breath and on the time ahead.
   Today I’m going to write about the DVD that got me started with YBB: Total Toning Basics and Advanced Fat Burning, the one I believe was first available on the market.
   This DVD has three main portions – Rehearsal and Guided Meditation, where the moves in YBB are explained and demonstrated; Total Toning Basics, an introductory YBB workout, and Advanced Fat-Burning, a workout in which the cardio, ballet and yoga sections are amped up.
   Total Toning Basics begins with an opening meditation and good warmup. Then the other sections follow: ballet; cardio, which uses weights; yoga moves, including upward and downward dogs; abdominals, using a small ball or towel, then a stretch and an end meditation. All told, it’s about 45 minutes long.
   Advanced Fat Burning, the workout I now use most often from this DVD, again starts with an opening meditation and warmup. A fun cardio dance section that lasts just over 20 minutes follows.
   Then there’s the part that gets the butt and legs burning: the ballet section.
   The first part of the ballet section concentrates on the butt, with a series of leg lifts with the toe turned in. It seems like this part will never end, and that your butt will never feel normal again.
   But Gillian and Teigh soon move onto some stretches, then pick up the pace again with “the circuit,” a series of leg lifts to the front, side and back.
   It’s a serious toning workout.
   A Hatha yoga section follows, which has challenging positions including pigeon. This section taught me never to push myself to far in yoga stretches! Be respectful of your body and do what you can.
   The workout concludes with some resting poses and an end meditation.

Yoga Booty Ballet Complete Workout System on amazon.ca
Yoga Booty Ballet Complete Workout System on amazon.com

A list of reviews on Fantastic Fitness DVDs