Video Fitness

Training Zone IronWorks

Sam Combs

This is a one-hour total body circuit toning video produced by Training Zone, a Dallas-based fitness organization that hosts exercise workshops and produces videos geared for fitness instructors as well as consumers. You can see their latest videos at

IronWorks is a BodyPump-like workout except with quiet music and a giant-set routine. Sam Combs is a friendly instructor who coaches non-stop throughout the workout. It has a ton of different strength-training exercises done with a lightweight barbell, dumbbells and tubing. There's a lot of variety going between body parts in giant sets but this also makes it impossible to break this tape up into upper & lower body workouts. I would characterize this as a beginner-intermediate tape in difficulty and intensity.

Interestingly, there are six brief stepping sections (1/2min to 2min) insterspersed between weightlifting exercises throughout the last half of the tape. The step routines are very basic and not long enough to sustain your heartrate, so I'm not sure why they're included - except to "blow it out" and increase blood flow, according to instructor Sam Combs. I didn't mind them, it was refreshing, but these intervals did NOT make this an aerobic workout for me - and I used an 8" step in this routine where I usually use a 6" step for intense Cathe & Mindy Mylrea-type tapes.

Sam Combs teaches this tape with two female background exercisers, Terry & Carissa, who demonstrate alternative moves and different equipment - tubing or dumbbells in place of a barbell, for example. But to truly follow this routine, you will need a barbell or dumbbells and you should have exercise tubing with handles - for example, he does hamstring curls with a lateral raise that could not be duplicated well without the tubing.

The workout is done on a wooden floor in a room with three TV sets stacked on an industrial shelf behind the exercisers and the shadow of an large slowly-moving fan appears on the back wall. It's not dark and gloomy, nor is the background overly distracting. The filming uses three different camera angles to give you close-ups and overhead views. The music is rock instrumental with occasional vocals, a good beat of about 132-138BPM but it is not very loud and at times cannot be heard above Sam's instruction and counting. Side note: The three TVs in the back shows speeded up clips and outtakes from various exercise videos INCLUDING Todd Gheisar and his team! Todd apparently filmed two videos for Training Zone last Fall and the shipping company lost the digital masters, so alas we will never see those productions, but it's a surprise seeing his routines fast-forwarding over and over on the TV screens behind Sam and his crew!

In IronWorks, all the exercises use relatively light weights and high reps - the team uses a barbell ranging between 10 and 25lbs, dumbbells (no more than 5lbs) and tubing. I don't think Sam ever does fewer than 16-24 reps for any exercise and he often varies the tempo and counts much like BodyPump or Cathe's PowerHour.

The entire workout is 55min including warm-up and cooldown (45min without).

Here's the breakdown:

4min active warm-up including stepping and some static stretches
5min of light squats and shallow deadlifts, overhead presses, static lunges, more overhead presses, shoulder shrugs
4min of push-ups, rubber tubing standing chest press-jabs, barbell bench presses.
3min tricep kickbacks and close-grip pushups
2min stepping up & down, horseshoe
1min hamstring curls with tubing, add frontal raise, then change hamstring curl to leg raise
15 seconds stepping
1.5min hamstring curl routine on other leg
1min stepping
2min barbell rows
1.5min rhomboid pinches/back flye while kneeling
1/2min stepping
3.5min barbell bicep curls w/diff tempos similar to Cathe's Crazy 8's
2min barbell curls with extra resistance tubing
1min stepping
4min static lunges with barbell
1min stepping
6min dumbbell lateral raises, barbell shrugs, barbell overhead press, dumbbell front hammer delt raises, dumbbell shrugs
5.5min cooldown with stretch, calf stretches, arm circles, balancing on one-leg, shin stretch, back stretch, overhead arms & deep breaths.

(Note: some of my times are estimates, but you get the idea!)

Sam is friendly, energetic and polite and he has good rhythm - and he chats, grunts and sighs non-stop throughout the workout. He never stops! I mean, his patter is coaching by nature and he comes across as a sincere live group exercise instructor would, asking his class for feedback or commenting on the purpose or form for an exercise, but he grunts a lot and makes comments such as "you don't have to make eye contact with me here" during a particularly difficult section and comments such as "I'm getting breathy here" quite often. I wonder if Cathe would say that remaining silent while lifting is a learned skill - after viewing IronWorks I did S&H legs and really noticed how many times in S&H she just stops talking and lifts quietly while smiling (or grimacing with us!). It's possible that instructors who teach live group exercise classes and workshops don't realize how constant patter in a video really grows old the fourth or fifth time you view it.

Sam also demonstrates several exercises and doesn't actually do them in the workout - commenting that we will do them later (not as substitute moves) and he wants to preview good form, then he doesn't return to the exercise. He does this demonstrating the close grip bench press for triceps for example, then goes onto do tricep kickbacks and tricep pushups, but no presses. He also demonstrates deadlifts towards the end of the tape before doing barbell rows, then doesn't perform them (he does very shallow dealifts in the beginning of the workout in the warm-up) - and deadlifts are one of my favorites! I think he meant to alternate rows & deadlifts at that point in the workout.

I noticed uneven counts at least twice, which happens when Sam miscounts or doubles the count on one side. For example, he does 7 slow static lunges on the left leg, then 11 fast and on the right he does 11 slow, then 7 fast. This might be a symptom of the kind of that "wishful thinking" counting done by instructors in live classes to motivate participants to finish out a set - for example Sam says "final 8 reps" on bench presses then does 16 more with some serious miscounting - "final 8 (press), now there's only 7 more (press), 7(press), now we've got 6 left (press) and here's 6 (press) - so you've done 5 reps, and he's counted 3. I thought I was going crazy and stopped early three times! I think some careful scripting or cue cards and a counter might help in this type of routine where there is such a tremendous number of reps and different exercises interspersed.

All in all, this tape has great intentions - a whole-body high-rep low-weight toning routine with lots of tempo & count changes and a big variety of exercises done in giant sets - but for me it falls short with an instructor that talks too much and music that is too soft to hear. As far as endurance routines go, I liked the format of BodyPump & PowerHour better in that you exhaust one body part in 5min before going onto the next because it feels more effective to me, but this is my own personal preference.

The giant set format of IronWorks doesn't lend itself well to breaking the video into upper & lower body workouts, so you'll need to keep this in mind. But if you're a beginnner-intermediate exerciser who likes an expressive instructor and you need an alternative to BodyPump you might want to give IronWorks a try. I think Training Zone is on the right track and Sam Combs has great potential - I hope we'll see more productions from them.

[Final note: if you like this BodyPump-like format, there are many other workouts like IronWorks already out on the market that you might consider: Keli Robert's New Body Bar Workout & Body Bar Challenge tapes, (lots of compound moves), Mindy's Pump Party (great music), Gay Gasper's 2104 Perfect Body Conditioning, Donna Read's 2K06 Body Strength section, The Anderson sisters 2102 PowerBar training and PowerFlex with Michelle Nevidomsky come to mind.]

Dawn P.
Dec 10, 2001

Video Fitness copyright © 1996 - 2009 Wendy Niemi Kremer    All rights reserved