Video Fitness

The Firm Body Sculpting System: Cardio Sculpt

Allie Del Rio

Note: This review was based on just a preview of the tape, I have not done the actual workout yet. I know a lot of people have been curious about this series, so these are my initial impressions.

This video is part of the new Firm Body Sculpting System kit, which includes three videos: Cardio Sculpt, Body Sculpt, and Ab Sculpt, along with a 3-in-1 step called the Fanny Lifter. All three videos have the same 5 cast members, who are introduced as master instructors: Jen Carman, Allie Del Rio, Lisa Kay, Christa Suggs, and Libby Heath. Libby always shows the modifications for beginners.

There have been concerns about the tape quality for this series, but it is excellent. All the tapes I received were recorded in SP mode (best quality). The picture was clear and well-lit. The music was clear and had good volume and instructions were clear as well. No problems at all.

The set is new, wooden floors, white walls and large fans. Each tape has a different theme color. I miss the Greek sculptures, but this set is pleasant too. I was surprised they had no mats or rugs of any kind. Any floor work was done right on the wood floor, ouch! I think the cast was longing for their oriental rugs as well.

The box is always referred to as the Fanny Lifter, and the one in the tape has a different surface than the one in the kit. In the tape the tops on both sections are black, and appear to be a black ribbed rubbery mat. The steps I got are solid plastic with integrated molded dots. I think the rubber mat surface would have been more comfortable for some of the moves. The bottom section is blue and 8 ˝ inches tall, the top section is purple and 5 ˝ inches tall by itself. Together they are 14 inches tall. Top dimensions are 14 by 14 for the blue step, 13 by 13 for the purple step. The boxes are very sturdy, they don't flex at all when I stand on either of them. They have reinforced the underside with a heavy grid of plastic that's part of the mold. They fit together very nicely, no gaps or play, and the corner grooves the top box fits into are deep enough that you wouldn't flip it off if you bumped the top edge by accident. The textured dots are very flat and the texture is fairly smooth to the touch. You wouldn't feel it sitting on them, but they will probably leave a small mark on your hands during pushups. I don't think they will be painful, but the original rubber mat top would probably have been more comfortable, although it appeared to have ridges. If you have the Rubbermaid toolbox, the surface is very similar and the Firm box dots are actually lower (less pronounced). I usually keep a towel handy to throw over my toolbox for tablework, which should work fine for this box too. When flipped over, the purple box rests completely inside the blue box for compact storage.

I decided to preview the Firm Cardio Sculpt first. It's the longest of the three new tapes, listed at 55 minutes, but it actually was nearly 59 minutes according to my VCR. In this tape the cast wears blue tops and black bottoms, but in different styles. The set has blue highlights, and the big fans are lit blue. Allie led this tape and was pleasant but no-nonsense. Her demeanor reminded me of Tracie Long instead of her smiling cheeriness in Fat Blaster. She gave lots of cueing and form pointers, including some "this is wrong" demo's like Tracie used to do. The other cast members worked hard and smiled a lot like in the other Firms. Jen looked as great as always, always smiling and so trim! She seems slimmer than before, while Allie was maybe a bit more muscular. Lisa Kay is blonde now and looks great too.

I only watched this tape, but I think it is very comparable to the Firm Classics in the cardio/weights ratio. The choreography is typical Firm in that it is not complicated but it looks like it would get your heart rate up there. Here is the breakdown:

Warm-up (6 minutes) - lots of marching and stretching and simple movements.

Weights section:
Pushups with hands on box
Hover squats sequence with weights on box (hover-sit, hover-stand, hover-pulse, etc)
Lat rows with one hand on box followed by leg presses with weights, then repeated for other side (long)
Bicep curls (sitting on box)

Cardio section:
Low impact - marches, step-hamstring, double step-touch, "take it from the top". A blurb appears here and in the other cardio sections telling beginners not to over-exert, "feel free to return to marching"

Weights section: French press (sitting on box)
Hover squats sequence again
Double lat row (sitting on box and leaning forward)
Lunges with bicep curls, stepping forward onto purple section of box (she has you remove it from the top of the box)
Overhead press
Plies with weights, straddling the purple box (legs are to either side)
Plies adding delt lifts (tough set, lots of quick-quick-slow sequences)
Plies adding hammer curls

Cardio section:
Fun "sambo" step aerobics using just purple section of box. Lots of knee repeaters, big arm movements, hip swinging sambo moves.

Weights section:
Dips with weights, squats - repeat for other leg
Pulsing dips and squats - repeat for other leg
Triceps kickbacks sitting and leaning forward on reassembled tall box, stretch
Leg presses with weights
Sitting French press
Leg presses with weights-other leg
Stretch for legs and arms

Cardio section:
light dumbbells and purple box for four-limbed aerobics - fun music

Weights section:
Isolated bicep curls sitting on reassembled tall box
Seated side bends
New move: hands behind head, twist elbow to meet opposite knee while seated on box and leaning slightly back.
Repeat entire sequence for other side
Pec flies lying on floor with feet on tall box
Stretch for chest
Kneel on floor and lay chest over tall box - delt lifts to front
Tablework sequence for glutes and outer thighs:
Still kneeling over tall box, dumbbell behind knee, bent leg lifts to ceiling
Leg up and cross down behind other leg
Lie on floor on side, dumbbell on outer thigh, outer thigh leg lifts
Leg shoot-outs
Leg shoot-out then up and down
Pulsing shoot-outs
Repeat tablework sequence for other leg

Abs work:
Crunch sequence using various arm positions and leg positions. Allie shows different arms positions for varying intensity.

Cooldown (6 minutes) - leg and hamstring stretches lying on back, quad stretches lying on side, sitting straddle stretch, roll up to standing position for shoulder rolls, arm and neck stretches.

Allie ends with "You've just completed Firm Cardio've done a great job". Fade to black (no clapping or cartwheels).

The closing credits mention: "Based on the original Firm videos created by Cynthia Benson, Anna Benson and Mark Henrikson."

The music was generally good, some latin-influence, some techno-rock, some jazzy. I've enjoyed other soundtracks better but it was okay. There was one spot where the music seemed to switch too early. At the end of the long leg sequence, a hard-driving song came on before the last leg shoot-out section. The abs section started next and the song continued through the end. It just sounded mis-cued to me, or maybe the leg sequence took longer than they thought. I'm sure when I'm sweaty and doing it I won't even notice. For those curious about soundtracks, the music was credited to Rich McHugh, Power Productions, and Music Flex.

I was very pleased with the thoroughness of the workout. It looks like it hits all the major body parts. I can't wait to try it.

Marie B

Firm Cardio Sculpt

Allie Del Rio

My favorite FIRM workouts all fall in the Tortoise category (OK, I guess they are now referring to them as "Cardio+Sculpt"), so I went in expecting to like this tape.

While definitely not the most intense Firm workout ever made, it's still very good. I'd rate Cardio Sculpt similarly to the Cross Trainers, Firm Cardio or Tortoise.

In terms of the set, the producers have clearly been viewing both Cathe Friedrich and Crunch videos, because that's what the set looks like. Take a Crunch set complete with gigantic fans, white-wash it and add blue lights in the background to give it that airy feeling like Cathe's latest set. Dress the cast like in a Cathe video--the same colors but slightly different tops and bottoms, and use Crunch music (*literally*, the Crunch end credits music was used for the floor section at the end.) This bummed me out just a little because I liked the rock music in some of the more recent Firms, but it wasn't bad.

The new tall box (I refuse to call it a Fanny Lifter!) worked well, although when separated for box aerobics, the short 6" segment did scoot around a little bit. The full height was great for table work. And that extra inch and a half (I used to use a Rubbermaid Tool Chest) made the leg presses (3 sets!) extra challenging.

And, after doing Cardio Step Mix and TBSM last week, it was a welcome relief to not have to do *any* plyos!

Final Verdict--I liked it!

Instructor comments: Allie does a good job of cueing, is nice without being too perky, and straightforward without being robotic.

Renee Drellishak

I don't know that I love this workout as much as I do many of the older FIRMs with the classic set and louder, more choreographed music, but I do really like it and enjoy seeing Allie and the other FIRM instructors in a new setting. Jen just radiates in this one (even moreso than she does in Body Sculpt) and the other 3 instructors are glowing and fun to watch too.

The warm-up is fun and energizing. I always get a bit off balance with the kick-dip-kick. I think that throws me off because the dip is back at an angle so I lose my balance not going back straight. So I've been trying to remember to just go back straight and I do better.

Push-ups are my least favorite exercise, so to start out the workout with them just doesn't spark my interest. (I'd rather have something fun and upbeat -- for example -- I just love it when Cathe starts Rhythmic Step off with the rhythmic L -- so much fun!) So what I've been subbing (because I can get some more push-ups just a few minutes later) is some short box step sequences (just basic ones like Jayne did in Volume 6) but with some fun jumps and lifts here and there to get me a little more energized.

If I compared this workout to the layout of other recent Inter/Adv. Circuit Training videos (Karen Voight's Cardio Sculpt, Kathy Smith's Fat Burning Breakthru, Breakthru Body Blast, Denise Austin's Ultimate Fat Burner), I'd say that Cardio Sculpt has the opposite formula of the others. The others do more cardio, with shorter strength training segments in between, whereas Cardio Sculpt is more weights with an occasional cardio burst. I've always enjoyed cardio work more than weight work, so I wish there was a little more cardio in this one, but the weight work is solid too, so that's nice.

The cardio segments are very simple to follow and are all low impact -- reminds me of the cardio segments in the Basics. My favorite cardio segment is the 3rd one with the short box and the weights. The music is fun and the moves are in sync with the music. And it's a bit more challenging than the other cardio segments.

The fun with the weight work begins for me after that 3rd cardio segment when we sit on the tall box and do the oblique work. It's innovative, refreshing, yet accomplishes something. From that point on, I get energized thinking I'm getting to do something fun and new. I also like how challenging those front arm lifts are. I tried them the first time with 5 pound weights and there was no way I could lift them. Surprising! I ended up doing it with 3 pounders.

I don't use the box with the table work though. I did the first time through (and with the weight behind the knee) and didn't feel like I was working that hard. So since then I've done the table work on my knees and elbows with ankle weights. Much more effective. And I don't use the box for the push-ups either -- much too awkard. Nor do I stand over the short box for the plie' squats. They probably were just trying to save on space or not move the box around or show that there are many uses of the FL or maybe this helps with form for the beginners. But for me, it just seems to not be necessary for all that they use it for.

I liked that they gave you 3 different options for hand positions in the ab work, but I haven't been able to get comfortable with the crossing the arms like she does for the 2nd stage. The bulk of my wrists makes me hit the floor earlier nad it bugs me, so I've just been going straight from the 1st position to the 3rd, which makes it more challenging anyway. I like the long lever leg work with the abs. Seems to work the lower abs well.

Last note is on the music (no pun intended :)). It's good music, but not GREAT like in previous FIRMs. Again, comparing it to the many other recent Circuit Training videos out right now, the music is very similar. But I miss the great music of the past FIRMs.

All this being said, I really do like this workout. I just had to personalize it to help me get the most enjoyment out of it. I'd give FIRM Cardio Sculpt an A-.

Instructor comments: Allie was bright and bubbly as usual. Her cuing was right on. I wished that she would have announced the specific lower body move coming up instead of just saying "Get your weights for heavy lower body" because I use different weights sometimes for squats, leg presses, or lunges/dips. But I'm sure I'll get used to which set is coming up next as I do this more.

Renee Allen

As I have stated in my other reviews of the first 3 BSS1 tapes, I am not a fan of these three, so I will not waste time on a very loing review…I will just tell briefly of my experiences with this one.

There was a time, a long time ago, when the choreography was very simple and my very choreographically challenged feet could handle it with all of the grace int he world. Then there was more and more short box work introduced and i started to feel like a sloppy pretzel. And then Goodtimes came in with their gadget...

In Cardio Sculpt, there is alot of short box work using the purple section of the "Fanny Lifter". I cannot even begin to keep up and, more often than not, I end up ejecting this tape early and starting a less step-py tape.

I always liked Allie and I think she is just as cute and likeable in this one as always...but I am not inspired by her like I used to be in her older Firm tapes. She used to be able to keep me so inspired and energetic for a whole workout that I would be disappointed when the workout would end...I hope that era hasn't ended.

Cori (ziggy2306)

February 24, 2004

This is a hard tape for me to review because all the "new" firms are so similar. I have Body Sculpt, Body Sculpt Blaster, Ab Sculpt, Lower Body Sculpt 1 and 2 and some of the classics. I really like all of them, and I find the new set cool and refreshing-looking. I don't have the "fanny lifter" but had no problems using my rubbermaid stool.

I enjoyed the structure of this workout a lot, with the weight sections alternating with pure cardio. To my surprise I found the cardio easy to follow, which was a huge relief as I am very uncoordinated and always worry about that with this sort of tape. I also appreciated the numerous directions to beginners. Although I am not one myself, it shows an attention to detail that I found heartening.

The firm weight training style is very distinctive, but I enjoyed seeing some longer high-rep sets here for a change. There is a long cocnentration curl sequence that I have not seen the likes of in any other firm tape, and I felt th eupper body work was a little more balanced here than in some firm tapes, which tend to favor shoulders and back. I also think their weight suggestions were much more realistic than in some of the other ones---none of this using your middle weight for shoulder work nonsense they've done in the past :-)

So I liked the cardio and I liked the weight work. Overall, I am happy. My one complaint would be that this tape felt very long to me. I have other tapes that are an hour where the time flies by. This one justf elt like it never ended. Allie was nice, and the work was fine, there was just something about the way it was sequenced that made me feel like we had been at it since the dawn of time :-) Perhaps once I am more familiar with the routine that feeling will dissipate.

Final verdict: a worthy addition to round out my firm collection, fills in some gaps from other tapes and gives me cardio I can do. I am happy with this one.



The workout has been broken down well before so I'll just post my impressions.

I'll start with some info about me. I'm an intermediate exerciser who has not done a lot of Firm. I do not have a Fanny Lifter so I am using a Club Step in lieu of.

I really enjoyed the first half of this workout. I think Allie is a good instructor that I enjoyed. The aerobics were simple but got my heartrate up. The weight work was very effective as well.

About half way through the workout the four limbed aerobics started and that is where she lost me. I learned today that I just am not a fan of aerobics with weights. If I'm doing weights I prefer for it to be controlled lifting.

Another annoyance for me had to do with my not having a fanny lifter. I found the transitions very quick and I really don't want to be adding and subtracting risers two or three times in a workout.

Instructor comments: Allie has a very pleasant personality and make the workout enjoyable.

Cardio Sculpt


I did this workout prepared to be unimpressed since I did AbSculpt first. Boy did Allie make me eat my words. Actually, I couldn't eat them because I was so winded and sweaty.

Welcome to the new FIRM. Having just finished a rotation of Classic FIRMS including the Cross Trainers and all six total body volumes, the new set seemed too austere, too corporate. Previous FIRMs were a production, including fancy sets and music. This, however, was a workout with all the frills stripped away.

What I got was a workout that was as hard, to me, as Volume 3 with Sandahl Bergman. Cardio segments were followed by weight segments, and I was drenched before we ever hit the floor to do table work or upper body work. The 55 minutes seemed to fly by, and my heart rate was up there from start to finish.

I wished there was a little more time to transition between sets; I had to pause a few times, and I did get a little lost on the 4 limbed aerobics with the purple part of the Fanny Lifter, which I quickly moved out of the way, but I got results, and that's all that matters.

A solid A. I'm impressed.

Instructor comments: Allie does a good job. I could have used a little more cuing, but it was still an excellent workout.



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