Video Fitness

CIA 2K05: Cardio Parties

Franny Bennedetto

Being a huge Cathe and CIA fan for a few years, I was really thrilled when I discovered Franny's other CIA videos. She provides the great, high intensity and FUN workouts that I have grown to love. When I heard about Cardio Parties, I put my order in way before the video was even released. I knew the video would be a winner sight unseen and I wasn't wrong. I have had it for over a month now and of course, I use it a few times a week. Like some of her other videos, there are TWO cardio videos on one tape. First, the production is high quality. Loud music, good camera angles and really cool new lighting make it a joy to watch and do. The first workout is Step. It starts out with a typical Franny warm up with stretch and goes into 40-ish or so minutes of moderately high intensity step. The moves start out a bit less intense, but it picks up 10 minutes into the routine. Which is perfect. Too much jumping early on, just doesn't feel good to me. The moves are complex but I caught on within one to two workouts. They are fun too. She does mostly new moves and a few familiar ones. She does step stomps around the step, pivots, mambos and a lot of straddle step and hop turn moves which are fun. She teaches a few moves and adds on rather quickly, not alot of taking it from the top which I prefer. When she finishes with all the combos, she TIFT's but she splits it, so it moves fast and doesnt' get monotonous. After a brief exertion check, she starts a new routine with new combos (creating a second half to the step portion). Moves are fun and intense and include reverse V's, hitch kicks, jumpropes and front, side front kicks on the step. The intensity really picks up and I am drenched by the end of the step portion. Music includes a lot of vocals of recent top 40 hits. She ends with a cool down and abs. The second workout is hi-low. I never liked hi-low until I did Franny's tapes. It is about as intense as the step portion and around 40 minues. Basic warm up moves into some well choreographed hi-low routines. She starts with easy kickboxing moves and moves into pivots, rocking horses, spin fronts and back among so other moves. She splits the routines as she TIFT. After an exertion check, she throws more hops and jumps into the routine to keep the heart rate up. The end is really fun where she does these moves called "headaches," "windmills" and pivots. The music is a really integral part of this routine as well. vocal and club music, along with that Austin Powers/60's-ish music towards the end. It really keeps you moving. It's a great high energy workout. It ends with a cool down and stretch.

Instructor Comments: Franny is awesome. She always has a smile and looks like she is having great fun. Her moves are so fresh and exciting and "with it." She is very creative and one of the best high intensity instructors on video. This video is superb and a treasure. Any experienced, advanced stepper will love it.

I think this is Franny's best work yet. I have really enjoyed all of her previous tapes, but this tape will get a lot more use from me than the others. It appears that she has really paid attention to the reviews and tried to improve on some of the things that might have bothered people in her previous tapes.

Cardio Parties includes a full step workout with warm-up, cooldown, abs and stretching. It also includes a full hi/lo routine with a fun warm-up, but is missing a cool-down stretch. Both workouts are a lot of fun. The routines have a little bit of everything - kickboxing moves, dancy moves, and athletic moves - and they all fit nicely into her routines.

Improvements over previous tapes:

  • Much less TIFTing. The method of putting the 2 workouts together is great IMO. The step routine is two section (3 combos and 4 combos). The hi/lo routine has 6 combos that are put all together in the end, but she only TIFTs after teaching the 3rd, 5th and 6th combos. You do not get sick of the first few combos like often happens in CIA routines (including Franny's 9704).
  • Both routines are pretty well balanced between the right and left.
  • The impact of the hi/lo routine does not start out super high like it did in 9905. It is still definitely hi/lo and you can get an advanced workout, but you ease into the higher impact moves. Your body is warm before you start into the jumping around and it feels great.
  • The step routine is a slightly slower pace than 9905, which felt a bit frantic to me on a few moves.
Other good points which are consistent with a traditional Franny workout:
  • Great music (not found in other videos). The choreography goes well with the music. I love the ending of the hi/lo "These Boots are Made For Walking" when the whole routine is put together. You are having so much fun by that time and the music and choreography fit so well.
  • Great choreography. Some of the moves are slightly familiar, but there are many new moves.
  • Good cueing. (Usually.) There are a few points where a new move is thrown at you with not much warning. The first time through it was a bit frustrating, but the second time I had no problems.

Minor Negatives:

  • New moves are taught very quickly and not broken down much. Actually this is a plus not a negative for me, but others who are not as familiar with Franny's tapes might find it a negative.
  • I can see some people getting frustrated with parts of her choreography. There are some sections where you are spinning around and learning things with your back to the TV. These parts are great fun, and it is worth the effort to learn the moves, but be warned that you might get a little confused when learning the routine.
  • I didn't like the abs after the step routine. My abs are a bit weak right now, and I could not keep up with Franny. Many/most of the moves are working upper and lower abs at the same time and are performed quickly and I felt very uncomfortable throughout.
  • No cool down and stretch after the hi/lo routine.
Overall, I love this tape! I purge my tapes frequently and have a very select group of tapes I will never get rid of , but I am predicting right now that this tape will be joining that select group.

Instructor Comments: Franny is great as usual and she looks awesome.

Lisa C.

Franny gives you both a step and a high/low workout on this tape, in that order. I like having the step first. I find that if I'm doing both step and high/low in the same workout, it's better for me to do the step first -- otherwise my legs are getting tired by the time I get to the step, and I'm more likely to trip. However, I don't think I'm likely to ever do both of these workouts on the same day. They're both an hour long, give or take, and pretty intense.

The step workout is the better-taught of the two. While I like it and plan to keep the tape, I really have to say that this workout is more draining than invigorating. You can have high-intensity and complicated choreography (a la Franny's 9905), and feel energized and invigorated when you're through. On the other hand, you can have high-intensity and complicated choreography, and feel like "what was that all about?" after you're through. Unfortunately, this workout leans toward the latter. It starts with a warmup that is too fast (frenetic comes to mind) and doesn't feel good at all. It shocks your body. Her warmup in 9905 was fast, also, but I don't feel shocked with that one. When you get into the workout, the tempo goes down a couple of beats (thank goodness), at least for awhile. The moves are fun and athletic-based rather than dancy, and for the most part I do like it. But it's really more like a mish-mash of "stuff" than a cohesive workout. The step workout is followed by a cooldown and some ab work which is pretty good.

The high/low workout is less well-taught, especially in the second half. I really like the music in this workout. I'll probably continue to do the first half of the workout, but -- gasp -- I haven't done the second part (after the perceived exertion check), except for a few minutes of it. The reason is that she introduces a fairly complicated movement that has you going every which-way, and it is very poorly broken down. I think this must be the point at which she realizes she's getting short on time and tries to speed things up. It's really too bad, because the music is getting better and better, and I'm sure I'd love this workout if it was taught better. Then, at the end, she is completely out of time and doesn't do any cooldown. It seems to be a recurring theme with Franny's workouts that she runs out of time and has to go too fast and/or leave things out at the end. Perhaps in future workouts she will either use less choreography or less complicated choreography (to shorten the teaching time), and be able to address the problem. What I would love to see is this exact same workout re-done because I know I would love it.

I'm rating this video a B, but there's one other observation I'd like to make in Franny's defense. We've read various comments that Greg T. has kind of pushed instructors to speed things up, don't take it from the top too much, etc. In many of the recent CIA's, there does seem to be a tendency to be that moves aren't broken down quite as well and things don't flow right. Perhaps Greg's efforts to improve the tapes have gone a little overboard. There can be a happy medium, as we've seen with other workouts, and especially Franny's. I would like to see Greg let the instructors use their judgment a little more about these sorts of things. Maybe the recent CIA's would have been a little better. Just an observation from a CIA and Franny fan.

Annie S.

Franny just gets better and better! Like her 9905, this video contains two complete 1-hour workouts, first step and then hi-lo (I like how they put them in that order). There is a short abs workout in between the two.

The step surpasses 9704 as my favorite Franny step routine, and in fact I like it as much as Christi Taylor's Stepping Zone, which it strongly resembles. Franny, who used to specialize in athletic Cathe-like steps, shows a definite Christi influence here. The warmup is easy, fun and intense, combining dancy kicks with shuffles and hop-turns around the step. The main part of the step is split into two separate routines ala Cathe, each with four short combos. The first half includes a rather tricky, turning and straddling combo that I had some trouble with, plus some high-impact scooting over the top (like in 9905) that can be done as speed drills. The step's second half is less complex, with a hitch-kick combo that didn't give me as much trouble as the one in 9905, a 360 and a fun around-the-world combo at the end that briefly has your back to the TV (which I don't mind, but I know it bothers some people). The music rocks! There are a number of recognizable songs, like Vogue, No Scrubs, Every Morning and You Gotta Be.

The hi-lo is also fun, but it takes up more space than any of Franny's previous hi-lo, which is a big drawback for me. Thus I've only been able to do bits and pieces of it. There are some kickboxing moves like 9905, but overall it's not as intense and a little more dancy. Again, there is great music, culminating in the Austin Powers theme and These Boots Are Made For Walking at the end.

This video has some very noticeable editing glitches, almost like parts of it were retaped and spliced in, or stuff was cut out. The "cooldown" at the very end lasts all of about 10 seconds; Franny says they simply ran out of tape and time. But those are my only complaints; I otherwise love this video and give it an A+. I want to add, if you're new to Franny, you're probably better off starting with one of her older videos, like 9704. Franny's a little dancier than usual here, and her style takes a little getting used to, especially in the first half of the step.

Instructor comments: Franny sounds a little hoarse on this video, but she's still as poised, professional and down-to-earth as always. Franny, like Christi, clearly loves her job, her fans and VF. The blurb on the box says it all - FRANtastic!

Sue Bryant

How fun is THAT???
What a great step workout!!!


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