This is a 50-minute workout integrating a 4 lb. mini-bar into classic Pilates exercises (volume 21 of the Body Bar Master Your Body series). Per the box, the mini-bar is used "as a resistance tool, a balancing prop and an alignment support."
Clare Dunphy leads the workout. There is one background exerciser, Brie, who demonstrates less intense modifications.
Pilates Strength comes on a DVD along with Innovative Stretch (which also uses a mini-bar). However, I have the VHS version so I cannot comment on any DVD features.
The Body Bar people describe Pilates Strength as intermediate, with which I agree. However, prior familiarity with Pilates exercises is really important with this workout, as Clare rarely names which exercise we are doing. Also, although Clare offers some good form tips, she does not really instruct how to do the Pilates exercise itself.
The Body Bar's mini-bar is 2 feet in length (regular body bars are 4 feet long) and sold in 2, 4, 6, 9 and 12 lb. weights. I don't have a mini-bar, so I used my Firm Sculpting Stick with the twigs removed. Without the twigs the Sculpting Stick weighs 4 lbs. and is 33" in length, and it worked fine. A very strong exerciser might be able to use a regular lightweight body bar, although the 4-foot length will occasionally be awkward. However, a better option for most people who don't have a mini-bar or a Sculpting Stick would be to get a 2-3 foot wooden dowel (closet pole width) from a home improvement store. The only other equipment needed is a yoga mat. Two yoga blocks are optional to modify one exercise.
The set is one of the usual Body Bar ones -- it's pleasant enough. I wish I could say the same for the music. Usually the music in Body Bar workouts is decent, but I found myself really hating the music in Pilates Strength. I'm not normally fussy about music as long as it is reasonably appropriate to the type of exercise. The soundtrack on Pilates Strength is a sort of mishmash, sometimes kind of jazzy, but often suggestive of a cliched movie matinee score (the hero finally realizes who he has truly loved all this time!). None of it enhanced the Pilates moves, and after a while it just got on my nerves.
On to the actual workout. What makes this workout different from other Body Bar videos by Clare Dunphy (and which, I think, turns into a weakness) is that Clare sticks closely to classic Pilates exercises. She begins with a series of traditional matwork exercises, starting with an interesting version of The Hundred. Holding the mini-bar out away from the body during some of the ab exercises added additional challenge to core stability. On other exercises, though, using the mini-bar didn't seem to add anything at all -- kind of an inconsistent effect.
The mini-bar does make a good alignment tool, particularly during Bridge and during the Side Kick Series (where it helps keep the hips level).
I liked the mini-bar best during the swimming segment, where we lifted up one end of the mini-bar with an outstretched arm while the opposite leg lifted.
On some of the exercises, like planks, Clare didn't use the mini-bar at all.
Clare finishes the workout with some moves she says are adapted from Pilates apparatus. This includes a series of very controlled lunge-type movements, similar to some of her other workouts. Unfortunately, this segment reminded me of all the reasons I like those workouts better, and why wasn't I doing one of those instead?
I purchased Pilates Strength on a whim without reading any reviews or other input about it. I like Clare and enjoy her other Body Bar videos like Ripple and Elements of Form, and was hoping Pilates Strength would present more of her fusion approach. Alas, it does not (although to be fair, Pilates Strength is actually what it advertises -- Pilates with a strength element).
Clare can be wonderfully creative with the body bar, but I think in this case she was too constrained by adhering to the classic Pilates format. For those interested in a Pilates fusion approach using a body bar, try one of Clare's other workouts, especially Ripple. I would also recommend Deep Definition or Equanimity over Pilates Strength.
I've enjoyed Clare in her other Body Bar workouts like Ripple, Elements of Form, and Balance, Line and Strength. However, Pilates Strength just doesn't showcase her creativity with the body bar.
November 11, 2005