Video Fitness

Ultimate Calorie Blaster (BSS4)

Stephanie Huckabee

The Firm's Transfirmer series Ultimate Calorie Blaster features Stephanie Huckabee leading, dressed in black and looking thin, but I did glimpse some muscles there. The other instructors featured in this workout are Allie, Allison (who shows beginner and low impact variations throughout), Annie, and Pam. They all look quite thin but not gaunt. Allie looks great! They're dressed in black and red, and there is none of that silly mugging for the camera that drove me nuts in the very first GT Firm workouts. In addition, you can actually SEE them when you need to. Stephanie's cueing is perfect, and she was motivating without being annoying or over-the-top.

The set is kind of sterile but not annoyingly so, and the music was more techno but I enjoyed it. In a cardio workout I prefer music of this type anyway. The workout is actually close to 47 minutes from start to finish, and on the DVD there is an 8 minute bonus abs routine which I did not yet do.

We start with an 8 minute warm-up which includes dynamic stretches, and uses light weights in part of it. I used two 5# bells and had no problems with this. We use the shorter section of the Transfirmer - the green part, which is 6 inches high. By the way, the Transfirmer is GREAT! I tried to tip it over and couldn't! It's very sturdy, well-constructed, and SOFT to step on!! My knees didn't complain at all doing this workout which is great because I really loved it!!

Next comes classic step without weights. Very basic choreography but not boring at all. No torquey moves or backwards things here. Nice linear moves with enough variety to keep you thinking and moving at the same time. You can easily increase the intensity by moving your arms more and making your step moves bigger, although you won't need to unless you're in super shape. This elevated my HR and that surprised even me! What was really nice was the softness of stepping on the Transfirmer! I was worried because I no longer do step, but this was fine for me!

Next comes what Stephanie calls a low impact section but it has some high impact modifications. Nothing too nuts, which was great for me! Allison is clearly visible at all times showing the low impact version.

Tall box climbs are next and we put the Transfirmer together making it 14 inches tall. This didn't give me trouble even though 14 inches is high for me, since we do the moves slowly. We don't use weights in this part either.

Then comes step on the blue portion, which is 8 inches tall. Again, I was worried, but no problem!! There are some over the top moves in this and moves off the side, but nothing that will twist your knee into strange positions. No jumping off or onto the step either. By this part in the workout I was SWEATING!! It's very challenging, and it creeps up on you!

Another tall box climb section follows, this time using light weights. Again I used 5# weights. We turn the Transfirmer vertical here and do straddle steps. This is the only part where I felt the step height was too high for me, but that's easily fixable. You can still get the benefits doing this part on the eight inch section. Other than that, this section really elevated my heart rate!

Floor aerobics again with plenty of higher impact modifications shown, but not necessary. Then we do step with the Transfirmer on the incline position. What FUN!! It's very stable and so soft to step onto! We then do classic Firm four limb with the Transfirmer in the incline position.

The cool down is done standing, then onto the floor for plank work and a final stretch. I give this workout a solid A!! I really loved it! I was quite pleasantly surprised, and can't wait to do the rest of them!


May 28, 2005

The Firm Ultimate Calorie Blaster is from the latest Firm Body Sculpting Series using the new Transfirmer. This is primarily a cardio workout with a few token strength moves thrown in to make it the signature Firm AWT method they are so fond of. The workout is about 48 minutes long and consists of a warm up, 8 different cardio segments, a cooldown/stretch, and a short abs segment.

This workout uses the Transfirmer, the newest and much improved variation of the Firm box. It's a very sturdy piece of equipment and I highly recommend it for use of this workout and other BSS 4 workouts. You can make do with a regular club step quite a few risers(although I don't recommend trying to make your club step an incline, it's too unstable IMO). The only other equipment needed is a pair of 1-3 lb. weights (I like to use my twigs from my Firm stick) and a mat for the ending ab work.

The set is a combination of modern and art deco. It's light in color and uncluttered.

There are 4 background exercisers, with one showing the beginner modifications. None of them are miked and there is no interaction between Stephanie and her crew. All members are wearing athletic apparell. Stephanie distinguishes herself by wearing all black. The background exercisers wear black shorts or pants and various styles of red tops.

The music is both instrumental and vocal. The best style to describe it techno based. Each exercise segment has its' own music block. I found the music to be energizing and to compliment the workout. The music to vocal cues ratio is excellent.

The choreography in this workout is pretty basic. All segments are built in the same fashion. Two to three basics moves a strung together to create a block. You repeat the block a couple of times, then learn 2-3 more moves for the next block. Most cardio segments are 3 blocks long. Like I said, the moves are pretty basic, with no complicated turns, pivots, or direction changes to throw you off. The only difficulty someone might have is with the transitions. The Firm uses tap transitions to change lead legs whereas most newer step and floor aerobic workouts use what's called a tapless transition. So if you've been doing newer aerobic workouts, you might need to pay extra attention at the transitions.

The Warm Up:
This segment uses the 6 inch section of the Transfirmer, although it starts with some basic floor patterns. Moves in the warm up include the body wave, heel lifts, back cross steps, side leg lifts, step hamstrings, sambas, and step glute raises. The warm up ends with a 4 limb segment that uses the 6 inch section and light weights. Here you do front shoulder raises with a top tap on the box, hamstring curls with a rhomboid pinch, and side to side squats with a hammer curl.

1st Cardio Segment: 6 inch Step aerobics
Moves in this segment include basic steps, sambas, step glute raise, v-steps, knee steps to an L-step and over the top. This segment can be made more intense by using the 8 inch section of the Transfirmer and/or adding propulsion to some of the moves.

2nd Cardio Segment: Low impact aerobics on the floor
Moves in this segment include basic march, step touch to double step touch, low jacks, side lunges, heels front and side, squats, calf pumps, V-steps, and tri-star. Stephanie does show power options for most of these moves to increase the intensity. The beginner modifier keeps everything low impact.

3rd Cardio Segment: Tall Box Climb (uses 14 inch Transfirmer)
Moves in this segment include basic climb, side tap, side tap w/ knee raise. My biggest objection with this section is that the beginner modifier is using the 14 inch box. I believe most beginner would have a hard time with that height and I think it would have been better to show the beginner modifier using the 8 inch section of the Transfirmer.

4th Cardio Segment: Step w/ 8 inch Section of Transfirmer
Moves in the segment include alternating basic step to A-step, grapevines, step taps, step hip ligts, low jacks, turn steps, over the top, lunges from the step, knee lifts. The beginner modifier does use the 6 inch section of the Transfirmer, which I would also recommend to those people (like me) who suffer with knee issues. Stephanie also shows power options for some moves to increase the intensity.

5th Cardio Segment: Tall Box Climb w/ Light Weights, Box in a vertical position
Moves in this segment include basic climb to basic climb w/ a straddle, step up taps to a step up tap w/ a heel drag. Arm movements include hammer curls, side lateral raises and rhomboid pinch. Once again, the beginner modifier used the 14 inch box, which I thought was a mistake.

6th Cardio Segment: Low impact aerobics on the floor
Moves in this segment include V-step march, step touch, grapevine, hamstring curls, squats and low jacks. Stephanie shows modifications to make the moves more intense, such as pony steps, skater move, plyo squats, and regular jacks.

7th Cardio Segment: Step Aerobics on Incline Step (don't try to modify your club step on this routine, it's too unstable)
Moves in this segment include knee lifts to hesitation repeaters, press steps to step glute raise, squats or plyo squats, basic step to L-step to step tap, and over the top. Stephanie does show some power modifications to make the segment more intense.

8th Cardio Segment: 4 Limb on Incline Box w/ Light Weights
Moves in this segment include front-side press steps w/ upright row, four count lunge w/ clean and press, side squats w/ hammer curl/side lateral raise, four count rear lunges.

Cool Down, Stretch, and Abs:
The segment starts with very basic floor moves that eventually get you on the Transfirmer to do calf and hamstring stretches. You exit the Transfirmer and do stretches for the lower back and side of the body. You transition to the floor for ab work, which consists of planks on elbows and side planks. It's really pretty short and IMO, doesn't constitute a real ab workout. You end with more stretches, including mermaid, child's pose, cat pose, and a chest stretch.

The DVD also includes a bonus 8 minute ab segment led by another instructor. This segment uses more traditional ab work and exercises for the lower back. If you add this on to the ab work in the main workout, you'll have worked your abs pretty throughly.

Overall Impressions:
Most people either love or hate the Firm. The Firm workouts have a very serious and structured feel to them while many other workouts today have an informal, come-on-in-and-be-part-of-the-gang quality to them. I, for one, don't mind the seriousness of the Firm.

I really enjoy Ultimate Calorie Blaster. I love how the cardio segments are short, so it keeps my interest. I wish the Firm made chaptered DVDs or had premixes so the workout could be manipulated to create a longer or shorter workout. I think Stephanie did a great job leading the workout. She's one of my favorite Firm instructors. I liked the music and setting. I love the Transfirmer and hope that the Firm stops with the 'new gadget for every BSS series' and just focuses on creating fun and new workouts for this piece of equipment.

I think Ultimate Calorie Blaster is probably a high intermediate to low advanced workout if you do it like Stephanie does, with the power moves and higher step height. I think that beginners will be challenged by this workout, but won't be destroyed by it. I would recommend not doing the tall box climbs on the 14 inch Transfirmer if you're just starting out.

Instructor comments: The instructors in Firm videos are scripted in what they say. Therefore, they can come off as somewhat robotic and stiff. I found Stephanie to be more relaxed and natural in front of the camera than other Firm instructors. This made her very personable. Although she does utter the occasional fake phrase (i.e. 'Wow, that was tough!'), she injects her own warmth and personality into her instruction. She cues very well throughout the workout.

Sabine Reuter

I'm a beginner who thought she wasintermediate! I'm also overweight (around 210) and found this challenging and really had to end up modifying. This is the only cardio I've done where my face got red and I was sweating buckets! I stick to a lot of leslie and george on the urban rebounder and a lot of walking but his was WAY differnt for me! I was feeling guilty over all my exercise purchases so told myself I had to pick one of the bss4 workouts to do with the transfirmer since I just got it Friday. So I ended up picking this one without knowing what it was like. Decided to halfway preview it then decided I'd better just do it or I'd scare myself out of it like I did with fitprime the other day!

anyways, this is 45 min of aerobics. I'd say pure aerobics, esp if you're out of shape/overweight. I had trouble with the choreography but I wouldn't say it's that difficult - I'm just not good at step the first time through and got confused. There are sections where you do step (I used the 6 inch part and not the 8) then do floor cardio that she calls low impact but shows some bouncier versions. most of this I followed ok but didn't bounce so much. then you put both steps together for tall box climbs. honesty i can't say she did that many but I was fried. forget the dumbbells and then later when she repeats a step series, fl oor series then tall box, I took the top box off and used the 8 inch by itself. towards the end she uses the incline and I found that fun but challenging. but like I said, i'm out of shape. I've been doing the cardios I mentioned for about 30 min-45 min almost daily for 2 1/2 months so this was a challenge. I can't imagine getting through this (esp the tall box stuff) as an absolute beginner at the size I was then!) I plan on doing this one again because it got my heart rate up and I could feel the lower body working. The arms didnt get much of a workout because I didnt use thedumbbellst he whole time plus couldnt' get the hang of the feet/arms together. maybe next time I'll add more to it. this was afun routine and although I felt I barely made it the time did go by pretty fast and I like how she did step for a while t hen floor aerobics then tall box then repeated then did the incline. she had lunges and a lot of grapevines and overall a nice aerobic routine. I'm curious to see how I do on this one 3 months from now!

Instructor comments: I like this instructor. has a 'strong' accent but I do too so it doesn't bother me.



This is a great workout! Since others have already broken it down, let me say that I was sweating buckets but having a great time! I'm low intermediate, and I modified a few times by doing steps on the floor instead of on the incline. But the cuing was fantastic and I never missed a step unless I chose to.

I cannot gush enough about the TransFIRMer and the incline work. After years of Tall Box climbs and Fanny Lifter stuff, it is such a relief to try something different that works and isn't just a gimmick to sell more workouts. I got serious cardio here, and even ditched the weights for the last four limb section.

The graphics leading into the series are great, and the set is really, really nice. It's not quite as plain as the BSS1 series, and it's definitely a relief after the experimental BSS3 series. The music was kinda early milennium workout club, but it wasn't offensive or anything.

I look forward to the rest of the TransFIRMer workouts. I have not enjoyed a piece of equipment this much since, well, ever.

Instructor comments: Stephanie is the best cuer I think the FIRM has, and I like her a lot.



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