Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Review of Women's Health: Ultimate Fat Burn!

Trainer Amy Dixon promises to “burn a massive amount of calories in short period of time” with her DVD workout Women's Health: Ultimate Fat Burn!
   While I’m certainly on board with that promise, right now I’m liking that the workout seems suitable for a beginner.
   I’m not a fitness expert, of course, but with its easy-to-follow moves that can be modified for different levels, moderate pace and relatively short duration (40 minutes from start to finish), I think this workout presents an opportunity for those who are trying exercise for the first time.
   But that doesn’t mean the workout is easy – it offers plenty of challenge to the heart and muscles. A lot of sweating will be going on!
   The workout is a mix of cardio and compound strength moves (using a set of hand weights and moving the upper and lower body at the same time).
   There are two cardio sets alternated with two strength sets.
   The cardio sets use common moves such as marching, jogging, hops, knee lifts, kicks and jumping jacks.
   The strength sets require light hand weights, and include squats with bicep curls and lunges with rows.
   There was only one small detail I didn’t like about this DVD – the laughter of Dixon’s crew!
   She makes a comment, and the crew members react with laughter and hoots. Rather than being motivating, however, it’s actually distracting – it’s like being in a comedy club rather than working out.
   But it’s a small complaint for this otherwise likeable workout.

Women's Health: Ultimate Fat Burn! on amazon.ca

Reviews of other Women's Health DVDs:
Women's Health: Train for Your Body Type
Women's Health: The Wedding Workout

A list of every review on Fantastic Fitness DVDs

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Review of Pure Barre: Pershing Square 1

Pure Barre: Pershing Square 1 is a tough workout.
   I was extremely pleased that I was able to get through it without wanting to curl up and die.
   Carrie Rezabek created the Pure Barre technique, and it is adapted nearly entirely from the Lotte Berk Method of exercise.
   Because I have used other DVDs using that heavily incorporate the Lotte Berk Method, I was mentally prepared for my thighs, buns and abs to burn with Pershing Square 1.
   And that’s just what they did during this compact, 45-minute workout.
   When doing workouts that use the Lotte Berk Method, a person really needs to give themselves a break.
   Don’t expect to the complete workout all at once if you’re trying it for the first time.
   That’s what I did going into Pershing Square 1: I decided to be happy with what I could do before I started the workout. When I could do it all, I was thrilled.
   Pershing Square is an intersection in downtown Los Angeles (I thought when I bought this DVD that is was some sort of exercise pattern.) Rezabek and four other women are in a studio on the square for the DVD.
   The women use a small exercise ball, but you can do the workout without it (one of Rezabek’s crew demonstrates moves without the ball). I dropped the ball, so to speak, quite often as the moves with it are quite hard.
   The crew is also wearing some kind of sock with grip on the bottom, but I did the workout in bare feet and was fine.
   Pershing Square 1 is divided into three main sections: Thighs, behind, and abs. You can do sections of the DVD if you’re starting out.
   Each of those sections, in turn, are divided into three smaller ones, with a different exercise used. After each section is a welcome stretch for the part that was worked. Stretching after strengthening is key to the Lotte Berk Method.
   The first part of the workout, though, is the warmup. Lotte Berk workout warmups often contain pushups, planks, side planks and tricep dips.
   It's a bit shocking and even upsetting! If this seems to much for you, forget about it, do your own warmup and then skip to the main workout, which starts with thighs.
   Thighs are exercised by putting one hand on a balance (Rezabek and her crew use a window sill, I used a chair), standing up on tippy-toes and doing a series of squats, some with feet in a V, others with the feet together. Some exercises use the ball positioned between the thighs.
   The behind section starts with a person standing upright at the balance. One foot is raised at a 90 degree angle to the other, and the bent leg is pushed back repeatedly. It’s absolutely killer on the hamstrings.
   The behind section then moves to the floor. Lying on one’s side, feet slightly forward, the top foot is moved back and forth and in small circles.
   By the time the behind section was finished, my poor butt was burning. A double-pigeon yoga stretch done afterwards was hard to do. Rezabek said if the area felt tight that was good – it meant it had worked.
   Next came the ab section. In the Lotte Berk Method, abs are worked by placing one’s feet on the ground or the thighs parallel to the floor, and the shoulders are lifted off the ground.
   The shoulders never go back on the ground once they’re up, and the only crunching that’s done is small.
   It’s very hard, and the abs burn, but you will feel a sense of accomplishment if you can finish even just a part of this section.
   The workout ends with a final stretch.
   The DVD also includes a body positioning tutorial to show the proper form for each exercise.
   Although workouts that use the Lotte Berk Method are tough, they are also oddly addictive. The workouts offer the muscles a challenge like no other, and help to make the body look sleek and toned.

Note: Rezabek doesn’t always remind an exerciser that he or she can stay with the most basic stretch or position, rather than the progressively more difficult variations. Know you can always stay with the first, most basic position. Always go at your own pace and ability.

A review of Pure Barre: Pershing Square 2

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Review of Get Ripped! with Jari Love: Get Ripped & Chiseled

Get Ripped! with Jari Love: Get Ripped & Chiseled is one of Love's “all weight training all the time” DVDs, and I really, really like it.
   Get Ripped & Chiseled and Slim & Lean, which I have also reviewed, are strictly weight training DVDs. Nearly all the exercises are done with weights (dumbbells or barbells), and each exercise is done methodically one at a time.
   For example, one exercise track is biceps, another is chest flies, and so on. There are no actions that are strictly cardio, though your heart rate will be up and you will sweat buckets!
   This compared to some of Love’s other DVDs, which mix cardio and compound weight training (upper and lower body working at the same time.)
   I really enjoy doing Ripped & Chiseled and Slim & Lean.
   I can feel my muscles rejoice that they are being used to their full potential, and they burn with that intensity. Each muscle group gets worked completely and fully, and I’m able to concentrate on form.
   I also like that Love’s weight-training workouts are challenging but aren’t impossible.
   The exercises are easy to follow, and if a person needs to scale back on weights, or even stop, he or she can.
   There is even the option of completely skipping an exercise track, which are each approximately 3 ½ to five minutes long and concentrate on particular exercise. (The tricep dips may be one to skip, for example!)
    Ripped & Chiseled has many of the same exercises as Slim & Lean, such as shoulder presses, bicep curls, dead lifts and chest flies, but there are some completely different ones or new variations on others.
   Ripped & Chiseled, for example, includes pullovers for the lats, in which a person lies on their back and pulls a single weight up over their head, and scull-crushers, a violently-named exercise for the triceps.
   R & C also moves along between exercise tracks more quickly than Slim & Lean. Slim & Lean has a few seconds between each track where each exercise is demonstrated. This is also the case on R & C, but the demos are cut back quite a bit.
   Ripped & Chiseled is a great DVD for those looking to add weight training to their workout regimen.

Note: The participants in Ripped & Chiseled use a Step platform for some of the exercises, but I was able to adapt all of them to the floor. Dumbbells are required for this workout.

Get Ripped! with Jari Love: Get Ripped & Chiseled on amazon.ca

Another Jari Love DVD review: Get Extremely Ripped!

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Review of Women's Health: The Wedding Workout

Although I’ve been married for more than 10 years, I was curious about the DVD Women's Health: The Wedding Workout.
   What workout would the editors of Woman’s Health magazine deem to be the one a woman could use to burn fat and tone muscle in advance of her big day?
   It’s fair game to think that someone who buys this DVD might be an exercise beginner, or someone who is returning to exercise, and she may have bought the DVD mere weeks, or even days, before her wedding.
   Of course, the introduction on the DVD points out the workout could be used for any big day.
   I was happy to find this DVD fits the bill of a likely buyer. It’s good for beginners or people returning to fitness, yet provides enough of a challenge that it will keep people who have a few weeks to go before the big event coming back as their fitness level improves.
   All the exercises are easy to follow.
   The instructor, Marie Forleo, is sympathetic to the idea that push-ups and ab work can be difficult, and keeps these sections at a level many will be able to accomplish.
   The DVD also has an emphasis on body parts that may concern women before a big event: Core, inner thighs, triceps and glutes.
   The DVD is divided into sections: Warm-up, power cardio, upper body, lower body, abs and core and a cool-down.
   You can customize a workout by mixing and matching the sections, or use the pre-built workouts.
   Pre-built option 1 is the “strapless dress workout,” which, as implies, uses the upper body section of the DVD more often.
   Each day of the week is prescribed certain sections, for example, on Monday, upper body and cardio is set; on Tuesday, it is abs and core.
   Pre-built option 2 is the “short or hip-hugging dress workout,” in which the lower body segment is used more often. Workouts by day of the week are also outlined.
   These options are great for people who want a guide on what to do on which day.
   Others, like me, can put the segments together for a full 50-minute workout.
   The 11-minute power cardio section, which is terrific for a beginner, uses knee-ups, kicks, jumps and some kickboxing.
   The 11-minute upper body section requires dumbbells, and an exerciser does back pulls, shoulder presses, rows, tricep kickbacks and bicep curls. A short and very understanding push-up section is also here.
   The 11-minute lower body section features moves such as standing squats, lunges and piles in different combinations.
   The abs and core section is also practical and sympathetic to those who find such exercises challenging. The section starts with standing ab twists and crunches, then moves to the floor for plank position for the core, and bicycle for the abs.
   A four-minute standing stretch concludes the workout.
   There are a couple of bonus sections on the DVD a future bride may find useful: Love Your Honeymoon, in which Forleo demonstrates how to do a simple striptease, and Walk Gracefully, with tips on how to walk in heels.

Women's Health: The Wedding Workout on amazon.ca

Another DVD from Women's Health: Women's Health: Train for Your Body Type
Another good get-fit-quick DVD: Shape: Ultimate Bikini Body Workout

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Review of Jari Love: Get Extremely Ripped! 1000

On Jari Love: Get Extremely Ripped! 1000, Love mixes cardio and weight work.
   On the other two DVDs from the Calgary-based trainer reviewed on Fantastic Fantastic Fitness DVDs, sections that were strictly cardio are absent. The concentration is either completely on weight training of a single body part one at a time (Get Ripped with Jari Love: Slim & Lean), or compound training, with weights in hand and the upper and lower body working at the same time (Jari Love: Get Extremely Ripped).
   Not that the DVDs mentioned above don’t get your heart pumping and the sweat flowing. They certainly do; there are just not any purely cardio parts.
   On Extremely Ripped 1000, which claims to “burn up to 1,000 calories and redefine your body in one hour,” cardio intervals with moves such as knee raises, jumping jacks and speedskaters are alternated with intervals of compound training. The compound training includes moves such as squats and overhead presses together, or leg lifts to one side and a tricep dip overhead.
   The workout is an hour long, but it can easily be cut thanks to the DVD’s options of two 40-minute workouts. The 40-minute workouts use the same warm-up, abs and push-ups routine and cooldown as the 60-minute workout. It is the main workout portion that changes in each.
   I find this option welcome – the 60-minute workout is a challenge to finish, and you can even see Love and her crew straining to keep it together sometimes.
   To finish the workout at full energy and with full form (not to mention if time is tight!), I opt for a 40-minute round.
   The DVD also offers the option of doing the cardio portions only, or the weights-only portions.
   Both the cardio and compound training can be done on a Step platform or on the floor.

Jari Love: Get Extremely Ripped! 1000 on amazon.ca

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Review of Women's Health: Train For Your Body Type

When I ordered the DVD Women's Health: Train for Your Body Type, I expected to find complete workouts, each unique, for different body types.
   I had no reason to expect this from anything I had read; I just assumed it for some reason.
   Rather than unique workouts, however, exercise segments that include cardio, upper body conditioning and lower body conditioning are prescribed by day according to each body type – classic curvy, lean and narrow or athletic build.
   For example, the classic curvy person, according to the DVD, should do the cardio segment on Monday, upper body on Tuesday, cardio on Wednesday, lower body on Thursday, cardio on Friday, rest on Saturday, and abs and core on Sunday.
   The lean and narrow person, however, should do upper body on Monday, lower body on Tuesday, cardio on Wednesday, abs and core on Thursday, upper body on Friday, lower body on Saturday and rest on Sunday.
   All the segments are exactly the same, just mixed and matched according to body type. The DVD doesn’t give much explanation as to the reason the frequency and order of segments is chosen.
   I decided to ignore the DVD’s day-by-day recommendations (I would definitely fall in the classic curvy category!) and instead mix and match the segments for a customized workout, which the DVD allows you to do.
   Each segment presents a solid challenge to the exerciser, and for that reason I am recommending this DVD. The routines are easy to follow.
   There is a warm-up segment to open the workout, and a cooldown/stretch to end it.
   The 12-minute upper body segment uses dumbbells and features such moves as cross-presses and rows. The 13-minute lower-body segment incorporates lunges and squats with dumbbell work.
   There’s a nine-minute abs and core segment, and a 22-minute cardio segment, with moves such as knee raises and jumping jacks.
   There are three “Amp It Up” segments. One, at five minutes, extends cardio work with kickboxing moves; another, called “super slow,” has the exerciser use heavier weights and lift them at a slow tempo, while “powerflow” features yoga poses such as downward dog and warrior.

Women's Health: Train for Your Body Type on amazon.ca

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Review of Core Fusion Yoga: Energy Flow

Elisabeth Halfpapp and Fred DeVito, the creators of the Core Fusion exercise program, are back with a new DVD, and this time yoga is the focus.
   The married couple's last five DVDs concentrated on toning the body using the Lotte Berk Method and Pilates, but this time, on Core Fusion Yoga: Energy Flow, they riff on sun salutations. Fred and Liz tack toning moves onto poses such as downward facing dog and warrior.
   Like their other DVDs, this one is tough, but for some reason, I didn't find it as hard as the others.
   I think my body is stronger, and I tried the workout for the first time keeping in mind how hard the others were -- perhaps this was psychological crutch that got me through.
   There was also a thorough warm-up in section one, much better than the ones on the other Core Fusion DVDs, and I always perform better in a workout after a good warm-up.
   But, as can be expected with all Core Fusion DVDs, I did encounter one impossible move. It was contained in section five, the core/gluteal toning section. Using yoga blocks under each hand, Liz, Fred and their crew lift their bodies up off the floor from a sitting position, like an Olympic gymnast would on the rings.
   I didn't bother with this at all, and simply modified the moves with my body on the ground.
   Like the other Core Fusion DVDs, Core Fusion Yoga is divided into five 10-minute sections, which can each be done on their own or as a complete workout. A bonus section, a final stretch and shavasna, rounds out the workout.
   Section one is the warm-up, which has poses such as standing forward bend and cow/cat.
   Section two is Sun Salutations part 1, which contains push-ups leading to upward dog pose; warrior pose then pulsing forward on the front leg; and downward dog then bringing one leg up and down.
   Section three, Sun Salutations part 2, contains more of the same moves as in section two, but side angle poses enter the mix.
   Section four is Chi Gong and Hip Opener Stretches. Here Fred and Liz move exercisers through side-to-side lunges with flowing hands, and balance challenges such as bringing the leg forward and back without it touching the ground. A welcome set of stretches follows.
   No Core Fusion DVD would be complete without core and butt-blasting exercises, and they are found in section five. In this section is the impossible move described above, and then gluteal work from a position facing the ground on all fours, accomplished by lifting up one leg at a time.

Core Fusion Yoga: Energy Flow at amazon.ca

Another good Core Fusion DVD: Core Fusion: Lean & Toned

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Friday, September 3, 2010

Review of Jari Love: Get Extremely Ripped!

Jari Love: Get Extremely Ripped! is one of the fitness instructor's "next generation" of home workout DVDs.
   For example, Get Extremely Ripped, from 2009, is faster paced and combines lower- and upper-body moves which Slim & Lean, from 2007, did not.
   And this time around, there's even a theme: industrial! The "rippers" who work along with Jari wear silver and black workout gear.
   Get Extremely Ripped is a kick-butt workout that will leave you feeling like you really did something afterwards. It's undeniably tough -- 60 minutes of pure sweat and effort.
   But is it better than Jari's "first generation" of DVDs?
   I'm not so sure.
  Slim & Lean, which I reviewed on this blog, works the body from top to bottom, but there is no combining of upper and lower body during moves.
   For example, on Slim & Lean, an entire section was devoted to bicep curls, with the legs standing still. On Get Extremely Ripped, a knee lift accompanies each curl of the biceps.
   While combining upper and lower body moves is arguably more time efficient, only doing one move at a time does allow for better concentration on form, which can result in workout out each muscle more thoroughly.
   On Slim & Lean, there were very short breaks between workout sections. On Get Extremely Ripped, there are no breaks.
   For a beginner, or even an advanced exerciser, for that matter, a small break now and then can be helpful.
   My advice to someone who is interested in trying out Jari Love's Ripped workouts is to take one of her "first generation" workouts for a spin first. These would be dated 2007 and earlier and would not have "Extremely" in the title.
   You'll get a good idea of her exercise philosophy and signature moves.
   Then, ease into one of her Extremely Ripped workouts.
   I was surprised to see on Get Extremely Ripped that some members of Jari's crew actually use a Step during the workout to amp up the work on the lower body. This would be for advanced exercisers!
   Get Extremely Ripped has different workout options. The first is a full 60 minutes, with warmup, main workout, abs and a cooldown stretch.
   However, there are two 30-minute workout options. The first takes moves from the first half of the 60-minute workout while the second takes moves from the second half of the 60-minute workout. There is a warm-up and cooldown stretch with each 30-minute option.
   Dumbbells are used throughout the entire workout.

Jari Love: Get Extremely Ripped! at amazon.ca

A review of Jari Love: Get Extremely Ripped! 1000

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Review of Gaiam's Cardio Burn Sculpt

Cardio Burn Sculpt from Gaiam is a solid over-all body workout that often looks to balance challenges to exercise different parts of the body.
   For example, one balance challenge is terrific work for the side body. Facing on the ground on all fours, one arm is lifted straight out to the side, while the opposite leg is lifted out to the side and the position is held. The leg is not straight, but bent; the calf muscle is parallel to the body.
   Tanja Djelevic, the workout's creator and leader, warns that this works a muscle of the body that is rarely activated.
   She was right -- the side muscles of my body, from just above my hip to just below my chest, were definitely sore the next day after doing the workout.
   The main 50-minute workout starts with a great warmup, and moves into a cardio session that lasts about 15 minutes. The moves are easy, such as squatting and then sweeping the arms above, and the heart definitely gets pumping.
   The next 20-minute session is muscle conditioning, which concentrates on the core using balance challenges, such as lifting one leg to the front, then moving it to the back while leaning forward; and some arm work.
   While Tanja and her crew don't use weights during the arm work, people who have advanced beyond the beginner stage can certainly add them.
   A challenging abdominal session rounds out the body conditioning, and a good cooldown stretch that borrows moves from yoga, such as downward dog and cobra, concludes the workout.
   The DVD also has an express 30-minute workout that compresses the moves from the 50-minute workout into a shorter time.

Cardio Burn Sculpt at amazon.ca

Another DVD with cardio and conditioning: Shape: Get Lean in 4 Weeks

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