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Denise Austin Mat Workout Based on J.H. Pilates

After seeing The Method Precision Toning, and being somewhat confused as to which was actual workout and which was explanation/demonstration of exercise, I was looking for a video that had a workout from start to finish. Also, Precision Toning had virtually nothing for the upper body. There were some decent reviews of this video on Amazon, so I bought it.

The Good:

Denise explains what "neutral spine" is very clearly, using a live model. There are two approximately 20 minute workouts, the first primarily Pilates exercises, and the second Pilates mixed half and half with Yoga. The exercises should be familiar to anyone who's been exposed to either discipline, and I like the way the exercises follow each other. The Yoga positions comprised the bulk of the upper body exercises--positions which support body weight such as the Plank and Cobra positions. There was one interesting exercise that she calls a hip-extender, where you cross your leg over your knee while standing and then lower yourself into a squat, touching your fingers to the floor. Denise does explain how to modify some of the exercises for beginners, but she is not as flexible as Jennifer Kries, so you don't feel like it's a lost cause before you start, which is easy to do with Precision Toning. Denise is chatty, but the volume has been turned down considerably.

The Bad:

Denise is not the best person to learn technique from in either discipline. She visibly sways on the standing Yoga positions, and despite her constant exhortations to "activate those abs" she is clearly using her arms and back (on exercises such as the Teaser), which indicates a lack of abdominal control. The really soft mat (almost a thin futon, if you ask me) she uses can't hide that. If you're going to teach it..... Also, she gives virtually no indication of number of reps to do of each exercise, so you have to count yourself. While she is somewhat toned down in this video, she still lapses into occasional baby-talk ("swimmies"--indeed!) and claps at the end. The first three minutes of the video are devoted to advertising all of the other tapes she has out, so you have to fast-forward through it. There was even "And now for our feature presentation", as if you were at the movies. That stuff should either be at the end of the video, or on an insert. The video is only 52 minutes to start with, that time could have been spent on exercises instead. The rest of the Pilates explanations were on the skimpy side, and I would recommend Precision Toning if you really want to understand what's going on. On the second workout, the video goes back and forth between the studio and the desert--I suspect from her Yoga Essentials video with the audio tape--and that is distracting because the desert shots are all from a distance. If you are prone to back problems, you would be better off starting with a Callanetics tape until your abs are in good shape.

The Bottom Line:

I liked this video because it actually had two workouts from start to finish, which gave me an indication of what a Pilates-type workout could consist of. If you can't stand Denise on a daily basis, watch the video a couple of times, write the exercises down and do the workouts without her. If you are already familiar with both Pilates and Yoga, this is not the worst video out there. It cost $9.99 at Target--I like shopping there for exercise videos, the prices are decent and there is usually a good selection. Go in with a friend or two and split the cost. I will probably be using this until The Method brings out a "workout only" Pilates tape.


This video mixes Pilates with yoga, creating two 20-minute workouts for all fitness levels.

I'm new to Pilates and yoga, and found this video easy and fun. I think this is great for beginners. I've actually used it four times already and plan to keep it in my rotation.

The video promises noticeable results in only three weeks, however, its so easy that I wouldn't expect to see great results for my abs without adding extra ab work.

I do think it's a great way to relax and improve flexibility.


This video contains two (approximately) 20-minute workouts, both roughly based on Pilates with the second set also including some Yoga moves.

The first workout is very much for beginners, focusing on ab work with low-level roll-ups, a modified hundred, modified teasers, and a lot of warm-up and warm-down stretching. While I now find this workout a bit tedious, it provided exactly the right amount of motivation and early stage muscle conditioning to keep me practising until I was ready to move up to the next, more dificult, 20-minute workout.

After a month of the first workout, I felt ready to beginthe more challenging workout- and what a difference! Gone was the slow and smiling Denise I had come to depend on, gone was my smug belief that Pilates were childishly simple- gone, even, were Denises' first workout companions. Doubtless they fled before this new, boot-camp-instructor Denise.

After viewing the advanced workout once or twice to get the feel for it, the workout proved much more challenging, and, to me, infinitely more fun. Instructions here are minimal, transitions (in particular the sun salute) are very fast, and Denise's trademark brightness is subdued, but still there.

The beauty of this video is that it is perfect for those just starting out, or just returning to excercise after a hiatus. The first workout is not at all difficult, but does begin to excercise the muscle groups that are relied on in the second workout. The second workout, particularly when done in conjunction with the first, gives one a much more defined sense of accomplishment, though at no time do you get the feeling you simply cannot finish.

The only problem I have had is with a strange transition made during one part of the second workout. Denise goes from an extended plank position, straight into leg pull down, straight into a T-position on each side, straight into a leg pull. My wrists absoloutely KILL on these! You might be able to slap together a little remedy for this by saving the T-stands for the end of the workout and inserting crisscrosses, single straight leg stretches, or hip circles.

Overall, this video is very effective for motivating even seasoned athletes to take a 20-minute break EVERY DAY to work out by relying on an interesting workout (the second one) and an easily attainable fitness goal.

Instructor comments: Denise is once again your ever-cheerful personal Cheerleader, which is perfect if that's the sort of motivation you need. The set and music leave a little to be desired (I would have preferred an entirely outdoor setting, instead of the very brief Nevada desert shots included in the second workout), but for inspiration for a beginner or intermediate student, this is a wonderful choice, and Denise is, of course, highly motivating. Besides, anyone who can look that great after 42 years and two kids (she says she worked out on the mornings of both deliveries!) must be doing something right.

W. Neil

With strength work, I am an intermediate exerciser, who doesnít really want to move up to advanced work. I have really enjoyed getting into workouts on the ball and Pilates as an alternative to traditional weight work when I am tired of lifting weights.

This DVD has a section where Denise, with a background exerciser as a prop, explains how to do Pilates and the basics (like breathing and pulling in the navel and neutral spine). Then, there are two workouts; the first is a Pilates-style workout while the second is a combination of yoga and Pilates moves. Throughout it, Denise is calm and serene, not at all peppy.

Workout #1

Denise leads a group of background exercisers in a large room with red walls and pictures from the southwest on the walls. I liked it after a bit. She starts with a couple of stretches and then moves through multiple Pilates and Pilates-style moves. The moves are fairly simple. She gives form pointers, but not much instruction on how to actually do the moves. The music is gentle and non-descript.

I found this workout fairly simple and was bored by the slow pace. She did embed stretches throughout the workout that felt wonderful. But, I donít see myself being drawn to this workout enough to actually do it on a regular basis.

Workout 2

Itís called a Pilates workout with yoga, but I would reverse that or say itís 50/50. She starts with a couple of stretches and then goes into a series of flowing yoga moves. She follows these up with several plank positions. If you have wrist/hand issues, you will not enjoy this section. She then does teasers, double leg stretches, bridge positions, and hundreds.

The shots alternate between her (by herself) in the studio and her in locations in the southwest with big red rocks as a backdrop. Again, she gives form pointers with little to no instruction on how to actually do the moves.

This workout is harder than the first one. I did not enjoy it because I really donít know how to do the yoga moves and the whole thing just felt harsh on my system. Someone who knows yoga better might enjoy it more.

Instructor comments: She is calm and serene throughout the workout. The energetic, peppy Denise does not appear.

Laura S.

September 9, 2004

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