Friday, February 25, 2011

Review of Personal Training with Jackie: Crunchless Xtreme Abs

The name of Jackie Warner’s workout DVD, Crunchless Xtreme Abs, is a bit of a misnomer.
   In my mind, a crunch when exercising is anytime you are on the floor and lift your upper body to the point your shoulders are off the ground.
   And there is plenty of that going on in this workout, believe me.
   It would be more accurate to call it Situpless Xtreme Abs, as this movement isn’t found on the DVD.
   Aside from labelling, I have absolutely no other complaints about this workout – it is fabulous.
   It got my abs burning, my heart pumping and the sweat pouring – and it was fun! I felt the work later, too – I told my husband it felt like my upper abs had been scraped against a cheese grater.
   The first of the two 15-minute routines on the DVD is standing ab work, a concept made famous by Shaun T in his Hip Hop Abs DVDs from Beachbody.
   There is a bit of a warm-up, but it is slight – you get right into working the core with movements such as lateral punches.
   Other moves in this section include lifting your legs up one at a time and bringing your straight arms down to meet them; bending over in a squat and alternately punching to the opposite foot; and squatting and rotating at the torso.
   Jackie uses weights in some of the exercises, but they can be done without just the same, and I found myself not using a weight a lot. The exercises were challenging enough on their own!
   The second 15-minute routine is the floor work, and it’s tough.
   Here you’ll find crunch action, including lying on one’s back, twisting the legs out, bringing them in and crunching the upper body to meet them; and doing a side plank and bringing the top knee up and crunching down the top elbow to meet it.
   The plank position (holding a push-up at the top) is used judiciously in this section, as it does wonders for working abs. In this position, several exercises are performed including twisting at the waist, lifting up one leg at a time and doing burpees (jumping up from plank than jumping back into it).
   There are plenty of good modifications shown in this section, so all the moves, though challenging, are definitely do-able.
   Both 15-minute sections have very short cooldowns. I did sections together, standing then floor, and then did my own stretch, as I do at the end of every workout.

Crunchless Xtreme Abs at

Review of Personal Training with Jackie: Xtreme Timesaver Training

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Beachbody® Chronicles: Feel like you're in a martial arts movie with Kenpo X from P90X®

“You’ll feel like you’re in a martial arts movie. It’s a lot of fun,” I promised my husband about Kenpo X, one of the 12 P90X® workout DVDs that I wanted him to do with me.
   After I showed him moves from the workout such as block-hammer and drag-claw-punch, he was sold.
   I did Kenpo X by myself for the first time on Friday. My husband joined me on Monday morning when we had the day off together.
   “As advertised?” I asked as we stretched afterwards.
   “Yes, that was awesome,” he said.
   That’s what I thought the first time I did it.
   Tony Horton, creator of P90X, promises at the Kenpo X intro that after you’re done the workout, you’ll feel like a million bucks.
And he’s right!
   I got a great cardio workout, and felt oddly refreshed afterwards. My husband felt the same way.
   Kenpo X is based on a type of martial arts called Kenpo karate, which is characterized by the use of quick movies in rapid-fire succession.
   Punches, kicks and blocks are at the core of the workout, served up in different varieties and combinations.
   Each combination begins slowly and begins to increase in speed. For added impact and motivation, some awesome yells are added in the last few reps of each combination.
   Between the two of us, my husband and I must have beat up at least 500 bad guys by the end of the hour-long workout.
   We could get some bad guys two at a time, such as a move where you knee one in the gut and get the other in the groin with a back kick.
   There were “breaks” during the workout, 1.5-minute sessions where you can get water and towel off, but quickly return for some high knees and jumping jacks before going back to beating people up.
   One part of the workout I skipped because it goes against all I have learned about exercising safely is the deep floor stretches that happen in the warm-up. I did the standing stretches that run for about five minutes at the very beginning of the workout, but skipped the five-minute section that follows where Tony and his crew hit the floor for deep yoga-style stretches that I did not feel my muscles were warm enough yet to do. On other workout DVDs, you are constantly being told deep stretches are only fit for the end of the workout when the muscles are nice and warm.
   There is another short but decent stretch at the end of Kenpo X that targets the back of the legs. My husband found these were enough for him.
   As I do with most workout DVDs, I also did my own series of stretches at the end of the workout.
   I’m looking forward to feeling like a million bucks again with Kenpo X.

Stay tuned to Fantastic Fitness DVDs for The Beachbody® Chronicles - a series of articles about the adventures my husband and I have using ChaLEAN Extreme®, TurboFire®, P90X® and Insanity®.
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Friday, February 18, 2011

Review of The Booty Barre from Tracey Mallett

Make way for a great new entry on the ballet barre workout scene.
   The The Booty Barre DVD, from fitness expert Tracey Mallett, is challenging, gets the heart pumping, and pays amazing attention to the lower body.
   The core of the workout is 32-minute routine that takes ballet as its main inspiration, although there a few moves that will be recognized by people who do Pure BarrePhysique 57 and other Lotte Berk Method-inspired workouts.
   Plies, arabesques, attitudes and grand battements are among the ballet moves found in the core routine, performed with the aid of a chair.
   Other moves include standing on tippy-toes and bending up and down; doing a squat then lifting the leg high out to the side; and facing the floor, head resting on the arms on the chair’s back and lifting the leg, in line with the rest of the body, in tiny pulses.
   It gets rather relentless after awhile (sweat was pouring down my face), but the workout still remains manageable to do.
   Mallett’s Booty Barre workout is an hour from start to finish.
   The first section of the workout is a terrific nine-minute warm-up that gets you ready for the action.
   Then comes a 10-minute arms section, which requires three- to five-pound hand weights and includes moves such as shoulder raises, flies and tricep dips.
   The final 12-minute section, following the core routine, targets abs and flexibility.
   This section includes push-ups, side plank, bicycle, and what I like to call “sinkhole ab work.” This is when a person sits on the floor, bends their knees, grasps under them and leans back. From this position, small pulses are done from the abdominal region.
   The workout finishes with an excellent five-minute stretch.
   Because I am now doing ChaLEAN Extreme, which does a terrific job of targeting arms and the upper body, I skipped the arm sculpting section of the DVD after the warm-up and went right to the super core lower-body routine.
   It targeted the butt, thighs, calves and even the core, as a pulled-in tummy and good posture is needed to perform the exercises well.

The Booty Barre at

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Friday, February 11, 2011

The Beachbody® Chronicles:
TurboFire is a lot more fun than Insanity!

This morning I did a TurboFire® workout, which made me feel like I was in exercise heaven after I was in exercise hell last week with Insanity®.
   Gone from my TV screen was the stark high-school gym of my nightmares, the setting for Shaun T’s Insanity workouts, and in its place was a cheery, brightly-lit exercise studio, the setting for Chalene Johnson’s TurboFire workouts.
   Gone too were the gasping, moaning and groaning crew from Insanity, and in its place were the happy, smiling faces of the TurboFire crew.
   I was a member of that happy, smiling crew as I did a 45-minute TurboFire class that featured three periods of high-intensity work. I kept up perfectly and only modified exercises once or twice.
   This was in contrast to last week’s foray into Insanity, which killed me with the core 15- and 20-minute sections of the two workouts I did. At some points, I was forced to do the moves at half the pace of the Insanity crew.
   Like Insanity, TurboFire has a scary “don’t do this unless you absolutely know you can” warning before the workouts, but I don’t fear I will be carted away to hospital by paramedics after doing TurboFire like I do during Insanity.
   I’ve got to thank Chalene Johnson for creating TurboFire, a cranked-up version of her wildly-popular Turbo Jam cardio workouts.
   TurboFire offers the same solid cardio work of Insanity, but at a much more manageable level. The plyometrics and sports-style training drills of Insanity are replaced with fast, funky punches, jabs and kicks in TurboFire.
   All of this begs the question, of course – will I go back to Insanity?
   I probably will. After all is said and done, I don’t mind a ridiculous workout challenge so that I’m reminded on a regular basis there is always a new goal for which to strive.
   But today I’m enjoying the knowledge that I finished a challenging cardio workout without melting into a quivering, defeated mass.

Stay tuned to Fantastic Fitness DVDs for The Beachbody® Chronicles - a series of articles about the adventures my husband and I have using ChaLEAN Extreme®, TurboFire®, P90X® and Insanity®.
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Friday, February 4, 2011

The Beachbody® Chronicles: Facing Shaun T again in my second Insanity® workout

I’m apparently a sucker for punishment, because I decided to do an Insanity® workout again this morning.
   I did my first one two mornings ago, and thought it was one of the most horribly difficult workouts I’ve ever done. (Click for more about my first Insanity workout experience.)
   Having let my sore, damaged body repair itself with a day of rest, I decided I wanted to go back and try Insanity again.
   As I’ve said before on this blog, I like workouts that are challenging, and man, Insanity is off-the-charts challenging.
   I got mad that my first Insanity workout had managed to put such a dent into my body and mind, and I suddenly wanted to face down Insanity creator and host Shaun T again.
   My first workout was the 37-minute Pure Cardio, the core part of which is a 15-minute cardio section of ever-increasing speed with no breaks. Despite its short length, it was tough.
   This morning I gave Plyometric Cardio Circuit a stab. It’s a 40-minute workout, the core part of which is 20 minutes of cardio intervals (the nine-minute warm-up is nearly as crazy as the workout itself, however).
   There are two sets of three intervals each, with a 30-second water break between each interval.
   You are pushed by Shaun T to increase your speed in each interval, but constant on-screen text flashes caution you to stay at your own pace and not sacrifice form to speed up.
   That’s exactly what I did. It’s the only way I could get through the workout.
   I could keep up with some moves, such as basketball shots, but other moves I could only do at half the speed of Shaun T’s crew. That was certainly the case with “Level 1 drills,” which were essentially burpees with extra push-ups added.
   The first set of three intervals includes “suicide jumps” (short runs to either side then touching the ground), mountain climbers and power squats.
   The second set has the Level 1 drills, ab push-ups (swinging the legs to one side, landing, then back the middle and the other side) and runner’s push-ups. When I got tired, I held the plank position.
   I fared better this time around than in my first workout with Pure Cardio, partly because I am now a little more used to Insanity’s push-push-push mentality, and partly because there were short breaks present in the Plyometric Cardio Circuit that I did today.
   Next up on the Insanity list: Cardio Power and Resistance.

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Beachbody® Chronicles:
Do Insanity® in the morning, and nothing worse can happen to you for the rest of the day!

I once read clever advice: Eat a live toad every morning, and nothing worse can happen to you for the rest of the day.
   I now know how to put this advice into practice – by doing Insanity® in the morning.
   At least that’s how I’m feeling about Insanity after trying my first workout from the popular DVD workout system from Beachbody®.
   I did – or rather, bravely attempted – the Pure Cardio DVD yesterday morning, and I’m still feeling the after-effects with sore obliques and butt. I haven’t been sore from doing a cardio workout in ages.
   As Shaun T himself says as he drops to the ground in exhaustion at the end of Pure Cardio: “That s--t’s bananas.”
   He also says at one point during the workout: “I’m not here to hurt you, I’m here to help you.”
   He could have fooled me!
   This is hard, hard, hard stuff (Beachbody claims they're the hardest workouts ever put on DVD), and I’m going to have to gather all my courage and willpower to give Insanity another try.
   Insanity is Shaun T’s recipe for a “full-body transformation” in 60 days. It is comprised of periods of maximum cardio effort followed by short periods of rest. No weights or special equipment are needed.
   Shaun T, a former track star, uses sports drills and plyometrics (jump training) to get your heart pumping at top speed and your lungs gasping for air.
   In Pure Cardio, the first workout I decided to try from Insanity, the core cardio section is just 15 minutes long.
   But it’s relentless – Shaun pushes you to do jumping jacks, heismans, push-ups, burpees and several other moves at ever-increasing speed. There are just a couple of very short water breaks.
   You can see his very fit-looking crew groaning and grimacing around him. He takes breaks, they take breaks – I took breaks, pausing the DVD to catch my breath. I also gave up on increasing speed and worked at my own pace.
   Although I can perform well in TurboFire®, or hold my own with P90X® Plyometrics, other challenging Beachbody workouts, this was different. It was harder because it was more concentrated, fiery and intense, with a nose-to-the-grindstone mentality that offers a tiny glimpse at the training of an elite athlete.
   In the other Insanity “Month 1” workouts, there are some longer and more frequent periods of rest than in Pure Cardio. I’ll have to give one of these a shot!

Stay tuned to Fantastic Fitness DVDs for The Beachbody® Chronicles - a series of articles about the adventures my husband and I have using ChaLEAN Extreme®, TurboFire®, P90X® and Insanity®.
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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Beachbody® Chronicles: Sneaky stuff in the Push phase of ChaLEAN Extreme®!

In the Push phase of ChaLEAN Extreme®, some sneaky stuff is going on.
   In the Push phase workouts, ChaLEAN Extreme creator Chalene Johnson wants you to reach complete and utter fatigue of a targeted muscle by eight slow repetitions of a weight-lifting exercise. She calls this muscle failure.
   But just 10 seconds later, she wants you to pick the weights up again and do an “extreme” set – three very slow reps of the same exercise, concentrating on both a strong lift and equally strong release.
   This eight-then-three thing happens with most, but not all, of the exercises on Push Circuits 1 and 2, the two Push phase workouts I have done so far (there are three).
   I’m actually doing 11 reps of the same exercise, not eight!
   And 11 reps is just one away from the 12 reps to failure encouraged in each set in the Burn Circuit, the first phase of ChaLEAN Extreme.
   Why is all of this sly stuff?
   In the Push phase workouts, you’re encouraged to lift heavier weights than in the Burn phase to reach failure by eight reps.
   You’re then encouraged to keep the same amount of weight for the following extreme set of three reps.
   That means you’re using more weight to do nearly the same amount of reps as in the Burn circuit.
   I guess that’s why Chalene calls it the Push phase.
   Even though it is a sneaky tactic, I like it – the notion of being able to lift heavier weights and do nearly the same number of reps as the Burn phase sets is appealing to me.
   However, in Push Circuit 2, the idea of lifting heavier weights to achieve muscle failure in fewer reps is somewhat deflated by the types of exercises in the workout. Many of exercises are different types of lateral raises that work the muscles of the shoulder.
   This is typically a weaker spot for all people, even the strongest among us, and so lighter weights easily fatigue the muscle.
   While in Push Circuit 1 I was using 22.5 pounds in each hand for some exercises using the lower body, in Push Circuit 2 I hovered around the 7.5 pound mark in each hand for most of it.
   It kind of made me feel like a weakling.
   There’s also a very poor cooldown in Push Circuit 2. It lasts just 1.5 minutes and includes a couple of standing stretches that concentrate on the legs and neglect the arms.
   I do my own stretching routine at the end of all workouts I do, and find it especially important after ChaLEAN Extreme workouts to stretch the triceps, biceps and chest with all the arm work that is done.
   I’m looking forward to seeing what amount of weight-heaviness can be snuck past me in Push Circuit 3.

Stay tuned to Fantastic Fitness DVDs for The Beachbody® Chronicles - a series of articles about the adventures my husband and I have using ChaLEAN Extreme®, TurboFire®, P90X® and Insanity®.
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