I’ve wanted to try a Tracy Anderson workout DVD ever since I read a column written by Leah McLaren in the Globe and Mail a few years ago.
McLaren was writing about the Tracy Anderson Method, a hot new workout technique that both Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna had adopted and were practically endorsing publically.
I’ve read that Madonna has since moved on, but Paltrow is still loyal to Tracy Anderson, an American trainer.
The main reason I hesitated from buying Anderson’s Mat Workout DVD was because I couldn’t get it directly from amazon.ca or amazon.com without going through a secondary seller or paying an astronomical shipping rate.
But I finally gave in a month ago and ordered the Mat Workout directly from Anderson's website. I felt it was time to try it.
The workout is aimed at giving you a “long, lean, sexy, defined look” and a “teeny, tiny dancer’s body,” according to Anderson.
The only equipment needed is a chair and a light pair of hand weights, no more than three pounds.
Anderson leads the exerciser through a series of moves that leave the abs, arms and butt burning. Ironically, while this is called a “Mat Workout DVD,” most of it is done standing up, with only the last few minutes done on the floor.
I’ve got quite a bit to say about the 57-minute workout, so I’m going to write the rest of this review in point form - the things I liked and disliked.
- Anderson’s emphasis on body flow. She’s all about letting the rest of your body move in response to the work a single part may be doing. For example, when you’re facing a chair, holding onto it, and lifting a leg out to the back, you’re encouraged to lean forward and back with your upper body if you want. It makes for a more relaxed workout, rather than keeping the rest of the body nearly still while one part works. “It’s really important that your whole body be involved,” Anderson says.
- She frequently changes the angle from which a muscle is being worked. It seems she switches just as soon as you’re sure you can’t do a single more repetition, and you are happy to do a different exercise. This is especially true for the standing portion dedicated to toning the butt. She moves seamlessly through moves such as bringing the knee up high beside the body to extending it to the side. The burn is there, but there is some relief from frequent angle changes.
- There is a good warm-up and cool-down. With a series of quickly-moving yoga-inspired stretches such as side angle pose and standing forward bend, Anderson gets the body limber at the beginning of the workout and stretches it out nicely at the end.
- It’s not too bad for an exercise beginner. The moves are relatively easy to follow, and if broken up into small bits at first, the workout can be done.
- The abdominal section is amazingly doable – I was able to get through it without stopping for a rest! That doesn’t mean it’s easy – my abs were burning. But Anderson’s approach of lying on your back, putting your legs a bit apart and lifting up your head up slightly from the ground seemed to get the work done without an accompanying I’m-surely-going-to-die feeling.
- The no-weight arms section is a terrific upper-body workout. With arms out at a 90-degree angle to the body, Anderson moves them forward and back, up and down and in a smacking motion to get the arms burning. It’s only a seven-minute section, but it feels like an eternity.
I didn’t like:
- Anderson's claim that heavy weights create bulk. She begins the weighted-arms section by telling exercisers to never go above three pounds in each hand – anything more will create bulk, she says. Since I’ve been doing an excellent weight-training program on DVD called ChaLEAN Extreme, I know Anderson’s claim of bulk is complete B.S. I’ve been lifting heavy weights in a slow, controlled manner with ChaLEAN Extreme, and my arms have gotten smaller and definite muscle tone has appeared. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t use light weights for this workout – Anderson goes at a quick pace, and so light weights are essential so injury isn’t caused.
- There’s not a lot of narration of the moves, and very little explanation of proper form. Anderson sometimes doesn’t even say when she’s changed from one exercise to another, forcing a person to watch closely. She doesn’t show a lot of personality, and there is just a smattering of encouragement to exercisers here and there.
That said, Anderson’s lack of talk may be an enduring quality for those who don’t like a lot of excess chatter when they’re working out, and like a “do-it-and-get-it-done” type of workout. The lack of constant narration does fit in with her “go with the flow” exercise principle.
- Anderson's statement that she really doesn't like people using other workouts. Forget that! I'm going to keep using the DVDs in my fine collection -- exercise variety keeps me motivated!
Will this workout help me achieve a “teeny-tiny dancer’s body?” I must admit being sceptical about this, since petite I am not. Perhaps I’ll need to write a follow-up entry to let you know if Anderson’s promise comes true.
A list of every review on Fantastic Fitness DVDs
The Beachbody Chronicles: My adventures using P90X, Insanity, ChaLEAN Extreme and TurboFire