Friday, October 29, 2010

Review of Element: AM and PM Yoga for Beginners

I like to work out in the morning before I start the day. I find a good sweat from cardio or weight training to be invigorating, and it seems to kick start my metabolism.
   Sometimes, however, my body wants to move, stretch and feel effort in the morning, but in a calmer mindset.
   That’s when I reach for Element: AM and PM Yoga for Beginners.
   Lately I’ve been doing the a.m. workout on Saturday mornings to welcome the weekend.
   Elena Brower, a New York yoga teacher, leads the two 30-minute sections (one a.m., one p.m.) on the DVD.
   I like doing yoga at a relaxed pace -- I find yoga workouts that move from pose to pose quickly difficult and frustrating -- and that’s what Brower brings to the mat.
   The a.m. routine, as expected, is designed to invigorate.
   The routine starts from a standing position, and moves through a series of poses including sun salutations and warrior poses.
   Although the moves are done at a moderate pace, this workout isn’t a cake walk.
   In fact, I was actually surprised at how often Brower throws in a plank position (holding the top position of a push-up) into the early part of the workout. It’s not an easy pose for beginners, and combined with doing the downward dog pose, it really gets the shoulders burning!
   There is a short seated meditation at the end.
   While the a.m. routine is meant to give you energy for the day, the p.m. routine is meant to help you release and relax after a hard day.
   This routine starts in a seated position, and includes poses such as pigeon, seated twists, bound angle and seated forward bend.
   The workout is done at a nice, slow pace, with a concentration on deep breathing.
   Those who come home from work with a sore back will appreciate Brower’s attention to inhaling and exhaling while rounding the back in many of the poses.
   The p.m. routine ends with a few minutes of deep relaxation and meditation.

Element: AM and PM Yoga for Beginners at amazon.ca

Another good yoga DVD: Shiva Rea: Flow Yoga for Beginners

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Review of Bob Harper Inside Out Method:
Body Rev Cardio Conditioning

“The trainer you wanted to have is in your house,” proclaims Bob Harper at the start of his DVD Body Rev Cardio Conditioning.
   It’s a statement meant to remind you that you bought the DVD and wanted him put you through the torture ahead.
   This workout, one of three new “Inside Out Method” DVDs from the co-trainer on TV’s The Biggest Loser, is hard, hard, hard.
   Advanced exercisers will be the only ones who will be able to get through the complete 60 minutes of sweat and toil at full-blast effort the first time around.
   I was able to do the entire workout the first time I tried it, but only by doing all the modifications and releasing my energy at moderate levels throughout – I knew I would burn out very quickly if I went full blast at the beginning.
   Even Bob’s crew of two women and a man look like they are in agony at certain points in the workout, and I know they weren’t acting.
   However, you don’t need to do the whole workout the first time, and Bob even tells you this.
   I’m going to be turning to this DVD often, especially when I want to challenge my heart and muscles for a sustained period.
   Body Rev: Cardio Conditioning is Bob’s ode to the heart, which he reminds us pumps every minute from the day we were born to the day we die.
   The workout is a combination of cardio moves and weight work.
   The weight work is comprised of moves such as deadlifts, upright rows and overhead presses.
   At several points during the workout, the hand weights are swung out to the front of the body with the left and right hands, a move that kettlebell workout fans will immediately recognize.
   Then there are the cardio moves, such as jumping jacks, speedskaters, weighted jump rope and tuck jumps.
   Some of the workout gets down to the ground, with push-ups, hand-walks, mountain climbers and side plank raises.
   In addition to the main 60-minute cardio workout, the DVD also has a 24-minute “Butt and Balance” section, with its own warm-up and cooldown.
   This section mainly uses single-leg weighted work to target the glutes and legs.
   This means deadlifts, rows, and lateral raises are done balancing on one leg at a time.

Bob Harper: Body Rev Cardio Conditioning at amazon.ca

A review of Bob Harper's Inside Out Method: Pure Burn Super Strength

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Review of Personal Training with Jackie:
Xtreme Timesaver Training

Jackie Warner’s last DVD, Power Circuit Training, featured a 40-minute workout.
   On her latest DVD, Personal Training With Jackie: Xtreme Timesaver Training, she’s cutting the time back even more to just 30 minutes.
   This time around, the celebrity Hollywood trainer has turned to compound movements – using hand weights and moving the upper and lower body at the same time – for a top-to-bottom workout.
   I really liked this workout. It was simple to follow, but not boring. It wasn’t impossible to do, but at the same time got the sweat going.
   After 30 minutes, I felt like I had definitely done something beneficial, but I wasn’t completely exhausted or frustrated.
   The workout deserves its title of Xtreme Timesaver Training.
   I also like Jackie as a trainer. She has a motivating air about her, but it’s not too bubbly – she seems to be a tomboy. I liked her saying: “Hate me now, love me later,” at a tough point in the workout.
   There seems to be a special concentration on the shoulders in the workout (mine were sore for a couple of days after), and Jackie explains that toned shoulders results in a V-taper effect that makes the waist look smaller.
   When celebrities come to her and ask to be red-carpet ready in just 10 days, she works on the shoulders to achieve the effect.
   Each compound movement during the workout is done for one minute.
   A few examples of the compound movements in the workout are: From a curtsy squat, kicking a leg and pushing an arm holding a weight out to the side at the same time; coming up from a pliĆ© squat and lifting up the weighted arms as if you were making a snow angel, and squatting forward and doing a row.
   The compound movements get the muscles working and the heart pumping, essential actions for getting and keeping fit.

Personal Training with Jackie: Xtreme Timesaver Training at amazon.ca

A review of Personal Training with Jackie: Power Circuit Training

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Review of Squeeze: 30-Day Body Transformation

Squeeze: 30-Day Body Transformation, a DVD from trainer Tracy Effinger, calls on you to methodically go from top to bottom on your body and squeeze each body part to tighten and tone.
   And it’s tough.
   I was sore for a couple of days after initially trying it, especially in the waist area, which Effinger concentrates on in one section of the workout by reaching down the body from side to side repeatedly with weights in hand.
   Actually, there are two workouts on the DVD: the 60-minute “Full-Body Squeeze” and the 30-minute “Power Squeeze.”
   Although you’ll be tortured for a full half-hour longer in the 60-minute workout, it is done at a slower pace, and so can be much more manageable, mentally and physically, than the 30-minute workout.
   The 30-minute workout also has an intensely difficult abdominal section. The ab section in the 60-minute workout is longer but less intense.
   Both workouts require light hand weights, and optionally, a small exercise ball.
   Like some other workout series I’ve written about on Fantastic Fitness DVDs, such as Core Fusion and Pure Barre, Squeeze extrapolates from an exercise technique called the Lotte Berk Method.
   Body parts are exercised with small, intense movements, and tucking the pelvis under and keeping good posture is important.
   Squeeze, like Core Fusion and Pure Barre, is very effective at lifting buns, slimming thighs, tightening abs and toning arms.
   Effinger wears sneakers during the workouts, which surprised me. On other Lotte Berk Method-based workout DVDs I own, the instructor and crew wear gripped socks or go barefoot.
   I went with bare feet, which I am used to now!
   The 60-minute “Full Body Squeeze” starts with a challenging arms section. I made the mistake of starting with heavier weights, and my arms were killing me very quickly. Light weights, from one to three pounds, are best for this opening section.
   After the opening arms routine, the sections that follow concentrate on triceps, waist, chest (push-ups), thighs and legs, abdominals and buns and thighs.
   Buns and thighs are worked in two intense sections: First, the “L,” where an exerciser lies on his or her side, putting both legs out in front to form an L (mine looked more like a V because I couldn’t sustain keeping my legs out straight in front of me the whole time). From this position, the leg is lifted up and back repeatedly – a bun burner!
   The second buns and thighs toner is done against a wall. The legs are bent and put on the wall, with the calves parallel to the floor. From here, the buns are repeatedly lifted off the ground. It’s difficult, too.
   The 30-minute “Power Squeeze” takes aim at the same body parts, but at a much quicker pace and with more intense exercises. An exercise ball is used between the legs when working the thighs and abs, which increases difficulty.
   While the workouts are challenging, Effinger’s personable instructional style helps a person reach past the burn and keep working to a more toned and tight body.

Squeeze: 30-Day Body Transformation on amazon.ca

A list of every review on Fantastic Fitness DVDs

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Review of Yoga Booty Ballet Master Series:
Goddess Booty/Yoga Core

I love Gillian Marloth and Teigh McDonough, the creators of Beachbody’s Yoga Booty Ballet.
   I’ve seen some online reviews slay one or both of them, but I think those naysayers are wrong.
   I find both women very motivating and encouraging.
   Who can’t help but feel terrific when she’s told to “sit up tall like the beautiful goddess that you are”?
   Their encouragement is a great help when you’re working out to one of their Yoga Booty Ballet Master Series DVDs.
   Goddess Booty and Yoga Core are the titles of a two-disc set in the series, and the exercises are tough.
   When you’re lying on a mat, your legs held at a 45-degree angle to the floor and your abs are burning, it does help to hear something distracting like “feel your connection to the universe.”
   The 45-degree angle hold is just one of the challenging exercises on the 28-minute long Yoga Core.
   Sitting in a V position is another – that is, sitting on your butt on the floor, your back tilted slightly back and your legs lifted off the ground. They do show modifications for this tough pose!
   Plank, side plank and forearm plank are other featured poses – terrific for toning up the abs and back, the focus area of Yoga Core.
   Goddess Booty, which is about 20 minutes long, gets to work on the butt, with standard (but challenging!) exercises such as leg lifts standing up and on the ground, and some more unusual poses, too.
   One such pose is sitting on the ground, bringing one leg forward, bent and parallel to the side of the mat. The other leg, swung out to the back, is lifted off the ground repetitively. Ouch – this is a butt-burner!
   Another is the frog pose. Lying facing the floor, the face and chest, and the legs bent into a triangle shape, are lifted off the ground. The legs are pulsed upwards repeatedly to work the muscles around the base of the spine.

Goddess Booty/Yoga Core at amazon.ca

Another good Yoga Booty Ballet DVD: Total Toning Basics and Advanced Fat Burning

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Review of Pure Barre: Pershing Square 2

How utterly horrible, I thought to myself as I finished this workout recently.
   But as the feeling of exhaustion and burning passed, a feeling of refreshment and accomplishment replaced it as I stretched, and I patted myself on the back for finishing Pure Barre: Pershing Square 2.
   Pure Barre is a technique created by Carrie Rezabek, and Pershing Square 2 is the third instalment of her DVDs. Pure Barre heavily borrows from another exercise technique, the Lotte Berk Method.
   I’ve reviewed Rezabek’s two previous DVDs on this blog: Pure Barre and Pershing Square 1. (Pershing Square, by the way, refers a Los Angeles square that's home to the Pure Barre studio where this workout was taped.)
   On each Pure Barre DVD, the thighs, butt and abs are worked using a series of intense, small movements. It’s very challenging.
   But the results are definite – my booty has definitely seen more lift and tone since I started doing Pure Barre workouts.
   Each Pure Barre DVD offers different exercises to work those the thighs, butt and abs.
   Rezabek and her crew use a small exercise ball during some parts of Pershing Square 2, but it is not essential to have.
   What is essential is to have courage to try the workout!
   On Pershing Square 2, as with the two previous Pure Barre DVDs, the warmup consists of pushups, plank positions and tricep dips.
   While a person’s body gets warm quickly, and it’s a great way to work the arms, the abrupt transition to working out so heavily at the beginning of a workout isn’t for everyone.
   If you need to, warm up more on your own before you start the workout using traditional methods such as knee raises. I certainly have!
   On Pershing Square 2, we encounter such challenging exercises as lifting one leg off the ground in front of the body, holding onto a support such as a chair, windowsill or countertop with the opposite arm, flexing the foot and lifting the leg up in tiny movements. Trust me, the top of the thighs will burn in no time.
   There’s one stretch Rezabek uses after the work that is quite difficult, and she doesn’t let the exerciser know that he or she can stay with the first pose of the stretch rather than try the others.
   It’s a runner’s stretch done on the floor, with one leg forward and bent and the other leg backward at a 45-degree angle to the ground.
   Rezabek goes on to do other variations on the stretch that progress in difficulty, but I can only do the basic one. I can’t always hold the stretches as long as Rezabek and her crew do, either.
   I wanted to point this out as a reminder that even though the trainer on a DVD may not explicitly point out you can stay with the most basic variation at all times, you certainly can! Always go at your own pace and ability.
   One of the exercises for working the behind is leaning on the support at a diagonal, lifting the opposite leg up, bending it, then pulsing it up in tiny movements. It’s hard after many repetitions.
   The last exercise sections concentrate on the abs.
   While sitting on the ground and leaning back, the exercise ball is placed between the thighs.
   While keeping one’s shoulders off the ground, the thighs are held, the ball is squeezed between the legs and the hips tucked under. Then comes a series of small crunches.
   I feel all the muscles working – and burning – in the abdominal area.
   While I sometimes wonder if I’ve lost my mind after doing a Pure Barre workout, because it is so challenging, I quickly rebound and can’t wait to tackle it again.
   I like it so much, in fact, that I’ve ordered two more Pure Barre DVDs. Stay tuned!

   Note: The Pure Barre crew wear some type of special gripped sock during Pershing Square 2. I go barefoot, and it’s absolutely fine.

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Friday, October 8, 2010

Review of The Facial Workout

We’re concerned about exercising and toning our arms, legs, and core, but what about our faces?
   It’s a question that the DVD The Facial Workout aims to answer and address.
   Its slogan aptly says: “Because the muscles don’t end at the neck.”
   While I just ordered and started using this DVD earlier this year, I first saw the concept of a facial workout several years ago on an infomercial for some skin product.
   I hadn’t really given the matter much thought again until I started working out regularly.
   I began to enjoy the sensation of my muscles working at full capacity, but started to become aware that my facial muscles craved the same feeling.
   And because I am getting older, I thought it was time to take a step in the facial workout direction to combat sagging later on.
   I ordered this DVD and started using it. The routine was developed by physical trainer Tal Reinharts.
   Now that I’m familiar with the exercises, I do many of them in bed before I go to sleep.
   My facial muscles experience the lovely, refreshed feeling I get after a workout for the rest of the body.
   The DVD wisely points out that in the face, when one muscle sags, it affects all the other areas, so all need to be exercised.
   With that in mind, the workout is divided into sections for forehead, eyes, mouth, cheeks, jaw (which includes the chin) and neck.
   Here are some examples of exercises on the DVD. There are several others.
   Forehead: The eyebrows are lifted as high as possible for a set of slow, then fast, repetitions. Then the index fingers are placed above the brows, and pressed down while the eyebrows are lifted up.
   Eyes: Narrow the eyelids, then open them fully again, for several repetitions.
   Cheeks: Move mouth side to side.
   Chin: Work the tongue muscles by curling the tongue and pressing its bottom on the upper teeth.
   Neck: Uses moves borrowed from eastern dance. With arms raised over the head, the neck is moved forward and back and side to side.

The Facial Workout on amazon.ca

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Review of Get Ripped! with Jari Love: Get Ripped to the Core

Get Ripped! with Jari Love: Get Ripped to the Core occupies a middle ground – it’s somewhere between Love' searlier DVDs that concentrate on training individual muscle groups one at a time and her later DVDs that are comprised of compound movements (using the upper body and the lower body at the same time.)
   It’s kind of like the little bear’s porridge: It’s not too hot, it’s not too cold – it’s just right. It’s nicely paced, too – not too fast and not too slow.
   While I’m a big fan of Slim & Lean and Get Ripped and Chiseled , which train one body part at a time (biceps, triceps, shoulders) and I also like her compound movement DVDs such as Get Extremely Ripped, this is a perfect transition between the two types of workouts.
   For example, on this DVD, there are straightforward muscle-training exercises such as dead lifts and rows, but there are compound exercises, too, such as a squat with an upright row and a side squat with a lateral raise.
   As the title “Get Ripped to the Core” implies, there are some exercises that are geared to working the core muscles – and they’re tough!
   Spider, for example, starts from the top of a push-up position, then a person lowers herself or himself to the ground by bending one elbow at a time and then straightening it. “Up, up, down, down,” is the rhythm. This, along with plank position later on (holding a push-up in the top position), are both core burners.
   Triceps are worked by facing the ground on all fours, then lifting one leg and the opposite arm. Kickbacks are done with the raised arm. The balance challenge works not only the arms, but the core and gluteal muscles as well.
   There are some traditional abdominal exercises at the end of the workout, too.
   The workout requires a set of hand weights or a barbell. Use of a Step platform is optional; I don’t have one and I’m easily able to adapt all the exercises.

Get Ripped! to the Core on amazon.ca
Jari Love 3-Pack: Get Ripped/Get Ripped to the Core/Get Ripped Slim & Lean at amazon.ca
Jari Love 3-Pack Get Ripped/Get Ripped to the Core/Get Ripped Slim & Lean at amazon.com

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Friday, October 1, 2010

Review of Pure Barre

Pure Barre is fitness instructor Carrie Rezabek’s first DVD, named after the exercise technique she created.
   The Pure Barre technique is heavily derived from the Lotte Berk Method, which uses small movements to tighten and tone the body, particularly the thighs, butt and abs.
   It’s a method to which a a person needs to get used. There are no sweeping movements, no leaping, no jumping – just concentrated toning exercises.
   It’s tough and intense.
   I’d recommend the Pure Barre DVD for someone who is looking to lift and tone their butt – the workout really concentrates on that area to the point of ridiculousness! The behind will burn viciously.
   First, the butt is worked from a standing position at a barre (you can use a chair or countertop). Lifting one foot from the ground, first flexed, then pointed, the leg is lifted in a tiny motion. After awhile this gets quite gruelling.
   Next, the work moves to the floor, and facing the ground on hands and knees, the legs are lifted one at a time for further butt exercises.
   The behind exercises are preceded by a series of thigh toning exercises, which are done by keeping the feet together in a V, lifting up on the tippy-toes and doing a series of plies. After a while, my thighs go numb!
   The ab work is the last part of the 45-minute workout before the final stretch, and, as is typical with Lotte Berk abdominal work, it’s hard. The shoulders are lifted off the floor, and the body is kept in this position through a series of very small crunches.
   Rezabek doesn’t remind exercisers much about tucking under their pelvis during the moves.
   But in other Lotte Berk-based DVD workouts I’ve done, there is a constant emphasis on keeping the tuck, holding in the abdominal muscles at all times and keeping good posture.
   I find this seems to make a difference – my ab muscles feel as if they have worked harder if I remember to keep them in and stand tall.
   For other DVDs that use the Lotte Berk Method and more constantly emphasize proper form, see my reviews on the Lotte Berk series of DVDs from Natural Journeys, and Core Fusion: Lean & Toned.

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


Pure Barre on amazon.ca

Another Pure Barre workout: Pure Barre: Pershing Square 1

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