I would have to say that overall these are very short intermediate-level guided pilates workouts with some good variations on traditional exercises using a soft playball behind the back (while doing sit-ups/roll-backs) or wedged beneath the rear while doing lying exercises. The exercise difficulty & progression reminded me of a shorter slightly easier version of some of Karen Voight's core routines, although the BenderBall production would be considered fairly average in comparison to Karen Voight's. The music was soft and non-descript - I do wish the music had been better - see my comments on the music to cue ratio below. And overall I thought the length of the workouts could have been longer - more reps, a few more exercises. Or include at least one more workout in the basic infomercial kit for the price.
So the basic infomercial kit came with 'The Bender Method of Core Training' and "The Bender Method of Buns & Thighs', both workouts on one DVD. The DVD came in a CD jewel case, not a DVD case (no cover/spine inserts). The kit came with a green 8" playball, two blow-up straws and two plugs, a informational brochure and - that's all! Strange, I expected a diet guide or other supporting material. The brochure states that you can get additional member services by going to the website http://www.benderball.com/member but this URL did not work for me. The kit was shipped from Van Nuys, California via USPS in a white box-sized box.
The ball is a sort of soft playball that reminds me of a child's inflatable moon ball - the material is softer than a rubber playground ball. It's very easy to inflate with a few puffs. I found mine flattened a bit after one lower body exercise where you do bridges with your full body weight & heels on the ball... but I ended up deflating it after working out and plan to reinflate whenever I do the workouts, so that doesn't worry me too much.
The workouts were filmed by FitFlix - Mindy Mylrea's company. So they don't have the polished production that Savvier had on the infomercial Gliding workouts but they are better quality than Mindy's All About Legs & early FitFlix productions. There are a variety of camera angles that caught all the relevant action - only twice did I notice the camera hurrying to pan to the action so to speak.
Leslee instructs with two background exercisers in a studio setting that looks like a living room corner - beige carpet, neutral walls, a plant silhouette in a window. Leslee & the background exercisers are wearing capris & sleeveless tops and they look fit and relaxed.
Leslee cues pretty much non-stop. Her voice is not harsh and although she gives lots of instruction and she commiserates with you (states 'I'm feeling that one') she doesn't irritate me like Mari Winsor does. She even promises that an upcoming stretch is 'almost as good as eating chocolate'.
The music is soft instrumental and some of it had a good pop melody but the vocals are so much louder than the background music that it's not easy to hear. I thought the music matched the production which came across like a relaxed guided pilates workout, not a fast-paced frenetic strength-training workout. I wish the ratio of music to voice had been louder. Leslee's voice level varied especially when she was positioning with her head to her chest and her mike got closer to her mouth. But it wasn't incredibly distracting.
The Core Training DVD has three short workouts - Level 1 (beginner), which is 3+1/2 minutes long, Level 2 (intermediate) 6 minutes long and Level 3 (advanced) 6 minutes long. The Buns & Thighs workout is 23 minutes long from warm-up to cool-down.
I was disappointed that the abs workouts were SO short (three workouts at increasing intensity clocking in at 3.5, 6 and 6 minutes total. The lower body workout was 23min total. I just felt that for $12.99 + $8 S&H (plus tax in Calif) that the workouts could have been longer to justify the price. With Jari Love's 1-hour workouts retailing for $5.99 and Amy Bento's workouts going to retail for $11 I guess this Vidiot has just become more discriminating I guess!
I thought the concept for the rollback ab exercises were suprisingly effective - they seemed counter-intuitive to me at first. It would seem that rolling back onto a small soft playball would provide more support and reduce the range of motion and actually limit the sit-up effect. But it actually made it much harder! It's kind of like rolling back on a large stability ball - but much less stable & supportive, so I felt like I was using my abs more.
When Leslee does slow roll-back and sit-up pulses I really felt the burn. I thought the beginner ab routine was very basic and short, the intermediate could have used more reps - but I thought the advanced workout was definitely TOUGH. I think doing both the intermediate and advanced workouts together will be my favorite combo - a good challenging 12 minutes. I think my abs will definitely be sore tomorrow.
On the Buns & Thighs workout I felt it was a more a beginner-intermediate level floorwork workout, not enough reps to really feel the burn. I guess I'm a hardcore Cathe addict, I love heavy-duty strength training or lots of lunges & squats for lower body work - I've never been a fan of floorwork. But I enjoyed using the ball for the donkey kicks and bridges - I thought the hamstring work was excellent. So I think there's a place for this one for if I'm too sore or I've got an injury and can't do squats. This workout certainly went quickly.
BREAKDOWN BY EXERCISE/TIMES:
The Bender Method of Core Training
Instructions 3 min
-inflating the ball
-raising the intensity
Level 1 Workout 3.5 min
2) oblique rollbacks
3) overhead stretch
Level 2 Workout 6 min
2) overhead stretch
4) overhead stretch
5) oblique rollbacks/arm scoops
6) oblique rollback pulses
7) overhead stretch
8) toe dips with ball under rear
9) alernating toe dips
10) overhead stretch
Level 3 Workout 6 min
1) oblique upper/lower cross sit-ups
2) overhead stretch
3) alternating oblique sit-ups
4) overhead stretch
5) oblique upper/lower sit-up pulses
6) slow sit-ups
7) sit-up pulses
8) obique upper/lower cross sit-ups
9) slow sit-ups
10) overhead stretch
11) lower ab twists
12) lying stretch
13) overhead stretch
14) side stretch
Stretch 1 min
The Bender Method of Buns & Thighs
Intro & Warm-Up 1.5 min
1) squats w/chest press
2) side lunge w/ball press
Glutes & Hamstrings 7.5 min
1) lying inner thigh squeezes
2) bridges w/inner thigh squeezes
3) bridges w/alternating leg lifts
4) lying overhead hamstring stretch
5) hamstring lifts w/feet on ball
7) hamstring lifts
8) hamstring stretch
Side Kicks 5 min
1) side-lying leg lifts
2) leg swings
3) leg lifts
4) repeat 1-3 on opposite side
Kneeling Glutes 2 min
1) donkey kicks w/ball behind knee