Video Fitness

The Firm: Upper Body Sculpt

Janet Brooks

Oh my. This video surprised me since I wasn't in LOVE with Calorie Killer. It is a short, but tough workout for the upper body. You can make it work for you as in all weight training videos. Add more weight, it's tougher, lower the weights, it is a little easier. You actually don't use the sculpting stick that much. Focus is placed on dumbells instead. The warmup does use the stick and I felt it was a little too fast in the upper body movements, but that is probably my only complaint. You warm up your upper body using the stick, mimicing bicep curls, overhead presses, etc. Once you get into the work out, Janet is straight forward. You do some combo exercises to bring the heart rate up (tapping the blue portion of the fanny lifter, while doing upper body with weights for instance). The exercises aren't long, but with 8 - 10 lbs., I felt them. She does use rhythm changes and as usual with the Firm, you are never bored. There are some interesting pushup and tricep variations using the two-part fanny lifter. One hand is on the short box and the other one is on the tall box as you do pushups and tricep dips, switching the next time around. I really liked those moves. The time flys by and voila you have worked your upper body. Janet ends with a few planks, tapping your knees to the floor and in the second set alternating leg lifts. Variety is the key here. I give this an A for short, but very sweet (only 30 minutes).

Instructor comments: Janet Brooks is a pleasant instructor, although I still have to get used to new Firm instructors after enjoying the old (not in years) stand-bys. I feel like she is being told to "smile" once in a while from behind the camera. She is definitely no-nonsense, but very likeable.

Janet ONeil

July 27 , 2003

This is one of the newer firms. It has the same bright, clean set as other titles in this set, and the same group of genial instructors, this time led by Janet Brooks. It uses the fanny lifter and sculpting stick from the body sculpting series, although I got by just fine with a rubbermaid step and hand weights.

The warm-up features basic step-touches augmented with some light work with the sculpting stick, minus its ends. This included stretch work. I used no weights at all, which was fine for a warm-up. It was the only part of the tape where I really felt like I ought to have the stick.

The workout then proceeds to three seamlessly flowing sections that each work various body parts. You do short sets of each exercise, sometimes with pulsing reps. Most of the time you mix up the body parts within the group you are working on, for example, the third section features a back set, a biceps curl then a triceps press on one arm, then you repeat on the other arm. In a few instances you stay with one body part at a time, as in a longg compound shoulder set. It moves at a brisk, but not confusing pace and Janet always tells you if you should be using your light, medium or heavy weight.

The exercises definitely favor push-ups and shoulder work, but other body parts get adequate attention. There is a short plank section they try to pass off as core work, then an equally short final stretch.

I am familiar with other firm workouts, so I felt right at home here. I think that I have found for me a higher-rep approach is more challenging, so I would rate this as a more intermediate tape. Beginners could keep up without a problem (and in fact the short sets might be good for them) and as they progress, they can increase the weights and get a greater challenge. I think advanced exercisers might have better options though.

I think that for people new to exercise, the firm is an excellent over-all comprehensive and friendly system and I have recommended their program to many people. This tape is a worthy addition to that collection, and will be a great choice too for people who know and love the firm already.



Firm Upper Body Sculpt is one of the BSS2 add-on workouts. It uses a sculpting stick, Fanny Lifter, and a few sets of dumbbells. I used my High Step and 5, 8, 10, and 12 lb. dumbbells throughout. The set is light and pleasant, and matches the exercisers’ pink and black outfits.

This is a relatively thorough upper body workout, as it works all the muscles of the arms, and includes exercises for the back and chest. The following is a list of exercises in this workout.

Warm-up with sculpting stick
Push-ups on Fanny Lifter (FL)
Lat row side one
Rhomboid pinch (basically lat rows sitting on FL, leaning over your legs)
Lat row side two
Clean and press, overhead shoulder press, and clean and press again while tapping FL with feet
Bicep curls with variations
Overhead shoulder press
Push-ups with legs balanced on FL (somewhat uncomfortable, I prefer having my legs on a stability ball for the same effect)
Tricep dip with FL separated (one arm lower than the other) so one arm remains engaged throughout
Push-ups on FL with hands turned in towards each other to work the triceps
Standing chest press, arms bent at 90 degrees, then move arms back to move rotator cuffs
Tricep dip as above, switch arms so other arm is lower
Repeat tricep push-up
Front and side delt lifts with toe touches
Fold arms in front of you like a genie, and squeeze your chest (I just couldn’t do this)
French press using sculpting stick
Rhomboid press using sculpting stick
Lat rows with rotation side one
Bicep concentration curl side one
French press with dumbbells
Lat row with rotation side 2
Bicep concentration curl side one
Posterior delt fly (arms move forward to form a V, a little different than the usual move)
Plank, alternate lowering one knee then the other, then alternating lifting each leg in the air
Pikes from plank position
Chest press with rib cage pullover using sculpting stick
Stretch with sculpting stick

I had this workout, traded it, then got it back in another trade. Initially I thought it was too short to be effective, and that I might not like Janet (for some unknown reason). However, I did the workout earlier today, and can already feel the DOMS setting in. No idea why I thought I wouldn’t like Janet, she was just fine as an instructor.

I felt it was a very thorough workout for only 37 minutes (including warm-up and stretch). A great add-on workout. You can generally use heavier weights to make the workout a little more difficult. One background exerciser always shows a beginner variation for each exercise. The workout moves along pretty quickly, so it’s good to have all your weights within reach at all times. It moves along quickly because you don’t do many reps of each exercise, and since the reps are pretty slow, you’re able to go heavier.

The good thing about this workout, compared to other Firms, is that while some exercises are repeated, the entire body is worked (unlike the old Firm Parts Upper Body). Also, it’s a pure upper body workout, so you’re not switching back and forth between upper and lower like in the older Firms (which I love, but sometimes make me dizzy going back and forth from upper to lower and using ALL that equipment).

All in all, these new Firms are really growing on me! Never thought I’d say that. They’re really good if you want to mix and match, or do pieces of workouts. I just wish the DVDs were chaptered.

Instructor comments: Janet, like most of the Firm instructors, has a southern accent. She gives many form pointers throughout, sometimes showing what not to do. There were a few times she had a wide-eyed look, as though she were reading from a cue card, but she was generally pleasant and encouraging. During the rhomboid pinches she said to “kiss the muscles” or something like that, which caught my ear. But otherwise, her cues were good and I liked her quite a bit.



This is a 33 minute total upper body workout, which has been broken down by other reviewers, so I will just make some comments. I consider myself intermediate with regard to weight workouts, and this workout was tough! I used 3s, 5s and 10 lb dumbbells, an 8 lb body bar (I don't have a scultping stick), and high step.

The warmup is really good for an upper body workout. Janet warms up your upper, while doing step-touches, ham curls, etc., to warm up your entire body. The workout flows well -- she tell you which group of muscle you will be working, and what type of weights to use. She usually works one group at a time, except for clean & press, and at the end you do chest press/pullovers. There is good time to change weights and Janet stretches in between sets. The lifting speed varies between half time and 1 and 3 counts, and 2 and 2s. But the speed is not rushed, and advanced can go really heavy on these exercises.
There is a beginner doing the workout without any weights.
There are good variations on push-ups -- with one hand higher than the other, and varied hand positions for tricep pushups. I'm not a big fan of pushups (I prefer chest flies & presses), but the sets are split up so that it doesn't seem that you are doing endless reps.
Janet does a small segment of core work -- comsisting of planks with knee drops, and planks with leg-ups.
The ending stretch is short, but good. I usually add on an ab segment after this workout, as the core work just doesn't seem enough.

All in all, this is an excellent and thorough upper body workout which can be used by beginners through advanced.

Instructor comments: Janet is very low key. She seems a little stiff at first, but as the workout progresses, she gets a bit more relaxed. Her voice is pleasant to work out to.



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