Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review of Exhale - Core Fusion: Bootcamp

Elisabeth Halfpapp and Fred DeVito are back with their latest workout DVD, Exhale - Core Fusion: Bootcamp, and this time the husband-and-wife fitness team are aiming to get your heart pumping.
   On their past DVDs, the couple presented their Core Fusion exercise technique, a mix of the Lotte Berk Method, Pilates and yoga. The emphasis was on toning the butt, thighs, abs and arms with tight, controlled movements.
   On Bootcamp, elements of yoga and Pilates are definitely still present, but there also some straightforward, more athletic moves that make for more of a cardio workout.
   Jump backs, or burpees, is the primary athletic move used to get the pulse racing. From an standing position, a person bends and puts their hands on the floor, jumps or steps back into a push-up position, jumps back to the forward position and stands up again.
   Jump backs are challenging enough on their own, but Elisabeth and Fred throw in a curve ball to make things even harder. They use playground ball, placed between the hands, and put that on the ground instead of their hands.
   The challenge to the core this presents is absolutely spectacular, and absolutely difficult. I can’t do it, and so stick with the modified exercise without the ball. There are weights present at several times during the workout, too, but they are optional. (I take definite advantage of this.)
   Despite having the name Bootcamp, which implies a person will get whipped into shape from a level of little or no fitness ability, this isn’t a beginning level workout. It’s tough.
   Well, I take that back slightly. It may be suitable for beginners if tackled in the 10-minute segments that comprise the whole 50-minute workout.
   The first segment, Cardio Flex, is a super warm-up that is comprised of yoga moves and very light cardio.
   Cardio Sun Salutations, the second segment, takes the classic yoga sequence of lunges, downward dog poses and plank positions and speeds it up. Warrior poses, and holding the plank position (the up position of a push-up) are also present.
   Next is Jump Backs Part 1, with the exercise I described before being the primary focus of the routine. There are other poses used often, too, such as chair pose – holding a squat in the downward position and holding the arms out straight in front of the body.
   Jump Backs Part 2 is more of the same, with jump backs interspersed with lunges, balancing in a sumo squat, and lifting up the ball in one direction and doing a ballet arabesque on the other.
   As Core Fusion practioners know, a Core Fusion workout isn’t complete without a belly-burning abdominal section. It’s the last main segment on this DVD. It includes roll-ups (which I can’t do without gathering momentum first) and doing arm and leg exercises while in a “C-curve,” – holding a crunch in an upward position.
   Weights are included with some of the moves in the abdominal section, but they are optional.
   The DVD has two bonus sections: A five-minute thigh and core section with the playground ball, and a five-minute stretch section that starts with some light back work.
   Following the stretch section is a good way to finish the workout. I follow it, and then add a few stretches of my own.
   Core Fusion Bootcamp accomplishes what that it sets out to do – get the heart pumping while still doing some hard-core toning of the body.

Exhale - Core Fusion: Bootcamp on amazon.ca

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Beachbody® Chronicles:
The Lean phase of ChaLEAN Extreme® is TOUGH!

In her ChaLEAN Extreme® Lean Circuit 3 workout, Chalene Johnson says if your muscles shake while doing the exercises, that’s a good thing.
   I took that to heart as I watched my poor arms quiver with effort as they slowly pushed hand weights overhead, hands facing each other.
   Johnson’s trademark constant encouragement was definitely needed while I made my way through the Lean Circuit 3 workout, the third in the Lean Phase, earlier this week.
   The Lean Phase is the third of the three ChaLEAN Extreme phases. The first two are Burn and Push. Each phase has three workouts.
   There is really only one good word to describe the Lean Phase workouts of ChaLEAN Extreme: Tough.
   I am finding them much more brutal than the Burn and Push phase workouts. That’s a good thing, though – since the Lean phase is the last phase of the program, it should be the most challenging.
   In an effort to promote lean muscle and burn fat, the ChaLEAN Extreme program emphasizes the slow lifting of hand weights until muscles fail, or reach complete fatigue (the entire program can also be done with a resistance band).
   In the Lean Phase, 12 repetitions are done of each exercise. The exercises are also compound in the Lean Phase, meaning the upper and lower body work at the same time.
   And the compound combinations can be absolutely crazy.
   One exercise was so challenging I was immediately forced to do the modification. It was the chest fly with abduction.
   Lying on one’s back with a resistance band around the ankles, an exerciser is to lift the legs straight overhead, and while lowering the weights down to the ground, lower the legs, and when raising the legs, raising the weights over the chest.
   You can bet it’s tough, and I went right to the modification – keeping the legs bent at the knees with the calves parallel to the floor, and doing the flyes.

Click to read more about the exercises in Lean Circuits 2 and 3

The Lean Phase of ChaLEAN Extreme is tough Continued . . .

This blog post is continued from a previous one. Click to read the first part of the post.

In the Lean Circuit 2 workout, exercises concentrate on working the shoulders. Because I have less-than-stellar strength in my back and shoulder muscles, I was often forced to choose lighter weights to do the required repetitions with good form.
   In the Lean Circuit 3 workout, exercises concentrate on working the chest muscles. I was able to choose heavier weights in this workout and still reach failure with good form.
   Here are some of the compound exercises that can be found in the Lean Circuit 2 and 3 workouts:
- Double arm row with single leg lift: With a resistance band around both ankles, an exerciser leans forward with a weight in each hand. Lifting up the weights in a row, one leg is lifted off the ground.
- Lateral raise with hamstring curl: With a resistance band around both ankles, an exerciser lifts weights out to the side while bending up one leg in a hamstring curl.
- Plank with a single arm row: An exercise that requires a lot of care. While holding the body in a plank position (the top position of a push-up), an exerciser lifts up one arm, weight in hand, in a row.
- Kneeling overhead press and crunch: On the knees on mat or towel, an exerciser lifts weights overhead, then brings them down and crunches over to work the abdominal muscles.
- Travelling push-ups: While doing push-ups, moving from side to side. I simply did push-ups in one place, on my knees, to modify this difficult exercise.
- Army crawl: An exercise that I was thrilled I could do without modification! Holding a forearm plank position, one knee is brought forward at a time.

Read a review of Lean Circuit 1

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®.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Beachbody® Chronicles: Let's get ready to rumble - Insanity® vs. barre workouts

One night last week I was complaining to my husband about being sore after doing Physique 57, a type of barre workout, in the morning.
   “Barre workouts are really tough. In their own way, they’re just as hard as Insanity,” I said.
   As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I knew I had the idea for my next blog entry: Insanity versus barre workouts.
   It’s a tight match-up.
   Insanity®, a series of workouts on DVD from Beachbody, is harder than hard.
   But barre workouts are also tough as nails. They require the same amount of stamina and focus as Insanity does.
   Both Insanity and barre deliver butt-kicking workouts in different ways: Insanity for cardio, and barre for butt, thighs and abs.
   Both stick with your body and mind for the hours and days after doing them.
   The toughest barre workouts on DVD I currently do are Physique 57® (click for my review) and Pure Barre® (click for my review of the latest DVDs).
   They are inspired by the Lotte Berk Method, an exercise technique that uses small, targeted movements to work the muscles of the body. Many of the exercises are done at a place to rest the hands and keep balance, such as a ballet barre, chair or sofa.
   By the time one of these workouts are done, my abs, butt and thighs are always burning and I wonder how I was able to get through it.
   The same is true with Insanity – when one of these workouts are done, I always marvel at myself for getting through it without dying.
   Insanity workouts, created and led by Shaun T, are intense cardio sessions that use movements inspired by athletic training such as running in place, hurdles, and push-ups. A lot of jumping is involved.
   While barre workouts provide targeted toning for the lower body and Insanity a supreme workout for the heart and lungs, both also get deep into the other’s zone of dominance.
   Here’s what I mean: While barre workouts deliver the toning goods, they are also super cardio workouts. My heart pumps like crazy and sweat gushes down my face.
   Insanity, in turn, does have toning properties, especially when it comes to moves such as push-ups. My shoulders have never felt such burn after some Insanity workouts.
   Even though Insanity and barre workouts make me grumble, I won’t put either of them aside because, at the end of the day, I love a challenging workout that delivers the goods.
   And I like variety, too. For me, boredom with a workout is the most powerful motivation killer.
   Insanity and barre workouts will continue to go head-to-head in my workout week.

A complete list of barre workouts reviewed on Fantastic Fitness DVDs

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, March 11, 2011

The Beachbody® Chronicles:
Moving to the Lean phase of ChaLEAN Extreme®

I’ve officially moved on to the Lean phase of ChaLEAN Extreme®.
   It’s the phase in which Chalene Johnson, creator of ChaLEAN Extreme, promises that “amazing things are going to happen to your body, and we’ll have fun doing it, too.”
   I’ve been having fun so far and have seen results from the first two phases of the program, Burn and Push, so I’m optimistic Johnson’s promise will be kept.
   I enjoyed my first Lean phase workout, Lean Circuit 1, when I did this week.
   In the Lean phase, compound movements are used in its three workouts. This means both the upper body and lower body are used in each exercise. In the Burn and Push phases, it was either the upper body or lower body alone doing most of the work.
   Like the Burn phase, in the Lean phase you are encouraged to choose weights that are heavy enough that will make a targeted muscle reach failure, or complete fatigue, by 10 to 12 repetitions. (You can also use a resistance band.)
   And you are also meant to do each exercise slowly, lifting the weights in a concentrated, deliberate fashion.
   Johnson says it’s a method of weight training that will help build lean, sexy muscles, burn fat and help the metabolism fire.
   In Lean Circuit 1, the biceps and triceps are targeted with nine different challenging sets over the course of a 44-minute workout.
   There is, for example, the tricep extension in a runner’s lunge. Lunging forward and leaning over the front leg, an exerciser then does a tricep extension with both arms.
   The bicep curl with a hamstring curl has an exerciser putting a toning band around one ankle and under the other foot. Using a chair for balance, the foot with the band under it is pushed backward while the opposite arm is used for a bicep curl. It’s an exercise that’s absolutely murder on the hamstrings!
   The plank with a tricep extension is also challenging. One arm holds the body in a plank position (holding a push-up in the top position), while the other does a tricep extension, weight in hand. There is the option to doing the exercise on one’s knees, one that I certainly used!
   The high I always felt when doing the first two ChaLEAN Extreme phases was here again, so I’m looking forward to delving into the other Lean phase workouts.

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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Monday, March 7, 2011

The Beachbody® Chronicles:
Doing an Insanity® workout on Shaun T's terms

I tried to beat the horror of an Insanity® workout warm-up recently by skipping it entirely.
   That’s right: The warm-up for all Insanity workouts is absolutely horrifying.
   Jogging, power jacks, butt kicks, high knees, log jumps – these are thrown in your face the minute you start the workout routine.
   While you will definitely be warmed up when it’s finished, it’s nearly as difficult as the cardio workout that follows – when you actually get to it, that is.
   There's an annoying seven-minute stretch plopped in right between the 11-minute warm-up and the central cardio workout. In the Month 1 DVDs, the cardio workout ranges between 15 to 20 minutes.
   Don’t get me wrong. I love a good warm-up, and a bit of a stretch thrown in with it. In fact, a good warm-up is essential for me to perform well during a workout.
   I just don’t like such a long period of time between a warm-up and the workout, especially since the warm-up itself is so challenging. It’s deflating mentally and physically for me.
   So recently I took a different tack – I started with a 15-minute HIIT workout from TurboFire, then put in Insanity’s Plyometric Cardio Circuit (both workout programs are produced by Beachbody.)
   Since I was raring to go from doing a high-intensity interval training workout with TurboFire, I went right to the core 17-minute cardio workout of the Plyometric Cardio Circuit, leaving that annoying warm-up and stretch behind.
   It felt good and I was able to do it, later on I started to think about what I had done.
   I like to do a workout the way it’s designed. A trainer usually has your best interests in mind when he or she prepares a routine. Many trainers have been educated in the science behind what they are presenting and have developed what they believe to be the most efficient way to exercise.
   Although it truly escapes me why the stretch between warm-up and cardio needs to be so long, I wanted to do the workout the way Shaun T, who created the insanity program, designed it.
   So last week, when doing the Cardio Power & Resistance workout for the first time, I went for the whole 40-minute routine again: Eleven minutes of warm-up, nearly seven minutes of stretching, and about 18 minutes of cardio. I did my own stretch routine at the end.
   Cardio Power & Resistance, like other Insanity workouts, has two circuits in the central cardio segment. Both circuits are repeated twice, and you are encouraged to increase your speed in the second circuit if you can do so without compromising form.
   The first circuit in Cardio Power & Resistance is comprised of power jumps (jumping high with knees bent), belt kicks (squatting then kicking with one leg at a time), V push-ups (body is in a V position facing the floor) and tricep dips.
   The second circuit is comprised of hurdle jumps, globe jumps (jumping right, front, left and back and touching the hands to the ground each time), moving push-ups (I did regular push-ups instead), and floor sprints.
   When I was finished, I was glad that I had completed another difficult Insanity workout, and that I had done it on Shaun T’s terms.

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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Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Beachbody Chronicles®:
ChaLEAN Extreme® is a treat for the body

“This is a treat!” says Chalene Johnson on one of her ChaLEAN Extreme® DVDs as she and her crew get ready for a challenging new move.
   A treat – it’s an excellent description about how I feel about ChaLEAN Extreme, Johnson’s fitness program on DVD from Beachbody that aims to burn fat and build muscle with the slow lifting of heavy weights.
   I start my workout week on Monday with a ChaLEAN Extreme DVD. It’s a great way to ease into exercise after a couple days of rest, which I often take on the weekend.
   I feel as if the muscles in my body are being slowly massaged, and the joints are being oiled up.
   Don’t get me wrong – there’s no free ride with this workout program. ChaLEAN Extreme is tough.
   I’m currently doing the Push phase, the second of three phases in ChaLEAN Extreme (the first is Burn, the third is Lean), and you are challenged to reach muscle failure by eight repetitions.
   That means you need to choose weights that cause the targeted muscles to feel absolutely fatigued by six to eight reps. With many of the exercises, a breakdown set of three more reps is done after the initial six to eight.
   Momentum is not allowed – just the slow, concentrated lifting of the weights.
   My husband and I use Bowflex SelectTech weights, but the entire program can be done with resistance bands.
   My heart rate rises, sweat pours down my face and I breathe heavily.
   And if you keep proper form and use heavy weights as Johnson advises, you will definitely feel it deep in the muscles.
   Something about that feeling causes my body to sing and my muscles to thank me for taking the time to challenge them.
   And this feeling lasts. I feel relaxed and focused for the rest of the day, and I sleep like a baby at night.
   I think ChaLEAN Extreme is a program that’s suitable for fitness beginners, particularly those who are looking to work out but are hesitant to be jumping or moving around too quickly right away.
   Although a beginner would eventually need to add a cardio component to his or her fitness regimen, ChaLEAN Extreme can provide a basis of muscle building that will not only shape the body but also a focused mindset about exercise and how to take on its challenges.
   For fitness veterans, ChaLEAN Extreme provides a wicked at-home weight training program to add to their repertoire.
   For both groups of exercisers, it’s a real treat.

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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