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Reviews of Exercise Videos

I’m going to keep a page detailing my reactions to various exercise videos. (See also my previous post about exercise ball workouts). You can also read reviews (and sample video clips) on collagevideos.com. I’ll update this over time. Vids without comments are things I’ve bought but haven’t used yet. They include vids which seem to have the highest ratings and meet my exercise goals. See also consumersearch.com’s review of Exercise Videos. They round up recommendations from several publications and highlight the top rated picks.

To get started with exercise vids, you need to have a exercise step (apparently the Fanny Lifter–which consists of two steps– is the most versatile–). Most recent vids combine cardio training with low intensity weight training, so you should have light hand weights. Don’t make the mistake I did of starting with 8 pound lightweights. Most vids use 3 or 5 pound weights. I try the routines with 8 pound weights, and it is absolutely exhausting.

  • Ultimate Fat Burner (Denise Austin). Austin is bubbly and chipper and always talking (“You can do it!”) The exercises aren’t that much fun, but they are well-organized and make for a great workout. Highly recommended, especially the circuit training. Also, is by far the best produced. I get exhausted very quickly from this, and my only complaint is that there is a bit too much emphasis on upper body stretch (biceps, etc). The exercise using the step bench is among my alltime favorites! Finally, the camera prominently show you the foot movements. Note: you need free weights and a step bench. Highly Recommended. (I own). Update (one year later). This still is my favorite video, but if you want to get a lot of mileage out of it, I would buy a sturdy step bench.
  • 10 Minute Solution: Fat Blasting Dance Mix. Low intensity cardio exercises with Jennifer Galardi, with lots of complex dance moves. I didn’t get particularly winded, but the dance routines were complex and yes, fun. For what it’s worth, the three girls in this video are gorgeous.   BUTT & THIGH BLASTER  is an extremely mediocre workout, but the rest are ok.  Recommended with caveats but  fun.
  • Crunch: Fat-Burning Dance Party (Jennifer Galardi). This low intensity workout featured lots of rather intricate choreography and got me somewhat winded. The moves were never monotonous (a danger in these kinds of videos), and at the same time the choreography could be learned after several tries. I found it challenging but not impossible; probably one of the more enjoyable vids. By the way, I really enjoyed the background music by techno artist Daveed.
  • Crunch Boot Camp Training with Sue Hitzman. Rigorous fast-paced workout with lots of weird moves. Some emphasis on upper body strength. I didn’t like the camerawork; spare me the quick cuts, I just want to follow the moves! Personality-wise, Hitzman is a little too tough for me, but she’s an effective trainer. I don’t love this workout (too many pushups!) but I used my entire body for this one. Btw, this title was highly recommended by Consumerssearch.com Highly Recommended. (I own). (Update: After 6 months, this video still works great!).
  • Karen Voight’s Burn & FIrm. This low key workout doesn’t seem that special, but I found it effective, especially for cardio.  Although the cuing and camerawork are first place, some of the cardio (especially the side-to-side cardio) have complicated choreography. You’ll trip up a lot, but this exercise is very satisfying. Update: I still like this video, but the choreography is extremely complicated!  Definitely points off for that.  recommended
  • Billy Blank’s Tae Bo Cardio Circuit 1 Tae Bo is boxing/kickboxing with an emphasis on cardio. It was started by Billy Blanks. This workout is really fast, not too complex and only 36 minutes. Highly Recommended. (I own)
  • Tae Bo Get Ripped 2: Get Ripped Advanced Workout: (Billy Blanks). This is a fast and really intense workout; unfortunately the video production itself sucks. First, there are way too many people onstage, and the cameras are always changing to different people. Second, typically Billy models the exercise two times, and then turns around and helps other people, so we have our back to him for a great percentage of the time. I really need to see the moves modeled, and I need several repetitions before I get it. Third, I’ve been told that Billy Blanks forgets to do both sides of the body for this video, so one side of the body gets a greater workout than the other. I still think this workout will be great, but you have to get past the extraneous details of the video production. By the way, this is the only exercise routine so grueling that several people actually take a break (either for water or just to catch their breath) while the video is going on. I would take Billy Blanks Cardio Circuit 1 (listed above) before this one, but this one isn’t bad (I own). Update Dec 2008: This workout has grown on me. It is grueling and intense, but some days you need something like this.  Highly Recommended.
  • Tamilee Webb – Tight on Time: Body Blast, 3 10 minute workouts, plus a 10 minute stretching/balancing with the ball. The third set Abs to the Core are floor exercises which emphasize balancing. Challenging, but not impossible (watch out for the airplane!). The Buns exercise was good, and the cardio exercise was good (it requires a step btw). Highly recommended! I like Tamilee’s personal style. Not in-your-face, and full of helpful suggestions throughout the video. I especially like the time box on the lower right hand side; why don’t more DVD’s do that? There is a 4th exercise for ball exercise which is a bonus section.  Recommended. (I own). Update: after watching this video and reading the accompanying article about the right way and wrong way to do core exercises, I’m beginning to think Tamilee’s video is worth revisiting.
  • On the Ball Pilates Workout for Beginners with Lisbeth Garcia. Supposedly one of the most challenging Ball videos out there. Recommended. (I own)
  • Cardio Boot Camp (Tracey Mallett). Tracy is a tiny firecracker, and she runs three well-designed cardio routines that are dancey fun. She uses boxing, Tae Kwon Do and even throws a little Pilates in. A short period with light weights. Great latino rhythm, and Tracey is great! I love the music in the first segment. Highly Recommended but it is more recreational than intense. Also, there is a dance movement which requires a lot of room, so watch out.  (I own)
  • Minna Optimizer Balanced Blend. Lots of stretching and yoga on the part 2 (strength). At first glance, the workout looks pretty typical, but this 90 minute tape packs a lot in. I like how they do 6 minute circuits, alternating between cardio and strength. Minna is a real no-nonsense fitness trainer; not much dancing or cheerleading going on. However, this tape accomplishes a lot! Recommended. Aesthetically, the exercisers are gorgeous, and the video production and cuing is fantastic. So far this video is the best one I’ve worked with. The stretching exercises are challenging too. The music is only so-so. Update one year later. This is still a good workout, but it was probably not as intense as I would hope. Denise Austin’s workout is much better.
  • 10 minute solution : series of 10 minute workouts: boot camp, ballet, pilates and 2 others. Tough and not particularly fun, lots of free weights. Might be better for strength than cardio. The female host seems a little too tough; also some of the routines seem really ordinary with little attempt at choreography.
  • 10 Minute Solution Carb Burner:  This is probably the only low intensity cardio workouts that really gets me out of breath. Highly recommended.
  • Fat Burning Workout for Dummies , Gay Gaspar. I don’t love this video, but Gay Gaspar is really fun and peppy. She does lot of complicated dance steps, and I can still hear the instructions in my mind (“Single single double!). She explains things well (and the Dummies production is sometimes helpful, mostly annoying). Unfortunately, the camerawork makes it hard to follow the dance steps. Update: Last time I did this video, I didn’t even get winded. You have to really try hard to make this work. (I own)
  • Kathy Smith’s Latin Rhythm Workout . A mediocre cardio workout (and awful video production), but I had fun with it. Her other dancers were so hot looking! Also, the petite Latino female instructor was fun to watch. Unfortunately, there are lots of turns and things that are hard to follow on the video.
  • Simply Ball with Pilates Principles . Very contemplative workout that is satisfying, yet intense. (I own)
  • 15 Minute Fitness for Dummies I love Gay Gaspar; this vid consists of lots of 15 minute sessions of sculpting/strength. I think Ultimate Fat Burner does what Gaspar is doing here..only better.
  • The Firm – Body Sculpting System 2 4-Pack (untried). Bargain at $16. Uses the   body bar and two level steps. In general this series is not very good (I own the whole series) but Total Sculpt Plus Abs is a very intense workout and almost makes the whole series worth getting.  Total Sculpt Plus Abs is highly recommended, but the rest of the series is unremarkable.
  • The Firm Complete Body Sculpting is a great 45 minute workout which combines cardio with weights and the typical step you find in Firm videos. The queuing and choreography was great, and the music was awesome. Highly recommended.
  • The Firm Transfirmer Workout System 4 Pack. (Included with the two level steps).  Out of the 4 DVDs, only the Firm Supercharged Sculpting is a great workout. Recommended, but only for Firm Supercharged Sculpting.  By the way, the two level exercise steps are very high well made and high quality. Update: I still like this workout vid, but when I use 10 pound weights, I can sometimes hurt my back. I use only 5 pound weights now.
  • Maximum Cardio Burn Plus Abs. Good floor exercises, but I didn’t get winded at all in the aerobics. Also, camera was somewhat confusing; director shouldn’t be switching the angles all the time; hey, I actually want to see the footwork! No quick cuts or fancy angles please!
  • Super Slimdown Circuit, Kathy Smith (untried). Compilation of best Kathy Smith aerobic vids. I bought it mainly for the cardio workout Functionally Fit: Peak Fat Burning. (I own). I’ve looked at the sculpting/toning exercises. The first two exercises for upper body and lower body look simple and easy. They look well-designed and targeted, and Kathy Smith is a good narrator. It’s a good all-in-one exercise package. My complaint is more aesthetic than athletic. The music is extremely bland jazz, and I find myself bored by the presentation.
  • Jane Fonda’s Complete Workout & Stress Reduction Original video that launched an industry. Interesting and innovative, but ultimately a poorly constructed workout program(I own).
  • Gilad: Getting Fit in Jerusalem. Israeli personal trainer does some intense aerobic workout outdoors (with belly dancer and camels!). So-so cardio workout, and the second part (with cooldown and floor exercises) are mediocre. Outstanding live music performance with Middle Eastern flavor, and Gilad is a fun (though traditional-minded) kind of guy.
  • Crunch Fat Blaster: The Next Step: First, the library copy of this vid was defective, so I can’t say I gave it a good chance. The music and the personal trainer was great! But his cuing was awful, and the choreography was too confusing. The video producer took way too many liberties; this is NOT a music video; we don’t need those quick zooms to the drummer; we need more static shots of footwork.
  • New Method 20/20 Cardio Kick (Tracey Mallett). I ordered this by mistake instead of Cardio Boot Camp. It isn’t bad; in fact exercise 2 comes directly from Cardio Boot Camp. The great thing about Tracey Mallett is she knows how to make exercises fun and employs a lot of dance techniques. It feels less like a cardio workout than a crazy Bollywood video. (I own)
  • Billy Blank’s Tae Bo Cardio Circuit 2 doesn’t give anywhere near as satisfying a workout as Cardio Circuit 1 (See above). Still not bad.
  • 10 Minute Solution Target Toning for Beginners: series of 5 toning/stretching exercises, divided by muscle area. Not bad, lots of floor exercises. The best part of it is the segmentation of the routine into different parts.
  • Denise Austin Pilates for Every Body : Denise Austin has inventive exercise routines, and this one has lots of stuff with balls and pilates stretching.
  • Cardio Pilates with Ana Caban. A somewhat interesting pilates workout with cardio thrown in. Nothing remarkable about it, but some of the pilates things were pretty wierd and challenging (have you ever tried clapping like a seal). Ana Caban is pleasant and lowkey, and that’s what I liked about it.
  • 30 Day Shred by Jillian Michaels. I bought a 3 pack of Michaels videos, and I am very impressed. This one is intended for an advanced workout, and it has three different ability levels. I like the organization of the workout and the competent camera work and the fact that none of the workouts are too hard. But I don’t like the fact that Level 2 and 3 seem to use a lot of planks, an exercise which I find unbelievably strenuous and painful. I’ll confess. I can do a Level 1 workout and come close to doing a Level 2, but Level 3 is way out of my league. Still, highly recommended because it’s a targeted and efficient workout.
{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Navier 5/25/2008, 5:53 pm

    Great list! Gives me something to do over the summer 🙂

    time to lose a couple of pounds eh

    instead of sitting here on my butt all day haha

  • PinoyVid 6/9/2008, 8:35 am

    nice list. but i wonder which one is the best for me. It will leave me a couple of dollars poorer if i try them all.

  • mike 7/21/2008, 12:54 am

    This is a very complete list. One you may want to try is the Carmen Electra Lap Dance and Hip Hop videos. My wife has them, and they are actually very good fitness videos…and fun too!

  • Zoe 7/26/2008, 6:07 pm

    Nice to see that you have taken the time to create this list! If anyone is interested in pilates videos, check out my reviews:
    Pilates Workout Reviews

    I’m a pilates instructor and post short articles for my clients and others on the web.

    Peace,
    Zoe

  • sam 8/11/2008, 2:45 am

    Pilates is definetely good and useful, but i just lack time for it.

  • Weight Loss Boot Camp 10/10/2008, 12:19 pm

    I want to thank you for making a list conducive for us who want to try out new videos and/or add to our existing exercise routine. The ones that spark my interest the most are the 15 Minute Fitness for Dummies and the Super Slimdown Circuit. The 15 Minute Fitness for Dummies because it really emphasizes defining existing muscle mass. The Super Slimdown Circuit because it works on fat-burning primarily.

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