Video Fitness

Back Fit with Pilates

Fran Fisher (Gern)

This is a great video but may be viewed as too easy by many fitness worshippers. I'd give this an A+ for anyone with back problems or who wants to dabble in pilates. The set is very plain--just Fran, a mat, and one of those marbled cloth backgrounds. I don't like the darkness of the background. It's dreary. There is music but so soft I hardly noticed it.

Here's a breakdown:

Short warmup consisting of gentle sideways movements and walking followed by a 12 min. easy stretch hitting all major body parts.

Next is 18 minutes of matwork interspersed with "physical therapy" exercises:

The Hundred
Single leg stretch

P.T. Cobra while tightening abs and glutes

10 pushups
Childs pose
Cat stretch
Double leg stretch
Shoulderstand with leg scissors (this was hard--like doing a split in the air--I call this move "advanced"!)

PT--cobra with wide legs tightening abs and gliutes

Wide leg pushups (10)
Seated twist
Flex/point lift (lower ab move)
Leg raise
Preteaser exercise --balance and pivot

Then 12 min. of strength

One arm row (2 sets of 10)
Front leg kick
Rear leg kick
upright front row
one arm overhead press
two arm overhead press
front raise
arnold press
diagonal raise
one arm laterals

Final stretch


Instructor comments: Fran is a great instructor. She is calm and clear. I like that she never rushes a move and that she looks and dresses like someone I might take a fitness class with--your average fit girl like any one of us.

Sandy M


I received this video from Dawn P. over two months ago- three?- after promising I would review it in return. Well, a couple of things have changed since then, so here I am finally getting to it.

I previewed the video when I first got it and I groaned. Although I could tell that Francesca Gern was a very competent instructor even if not a Pilates instructor, I just couldn't get into the set, the outfit or the water breaks. This, I have to admit, was part of the reason that I put off actually doing it for so long.

For the workout you need a dyna-band or other such band and a pair of dumbbells. You could wear sneakers, but it's not necessary. I didn't. The workout begins with a brief warm-up and then some stretches for the upper body and lower body. Then it alternates between Pilates movements and Physical Therapy exercises. The Pilates exercises are the Hundred, the Single Leg Pull, the Double Leg Pull, the Single Leg Stretch, the Double Leg Stretch, the Bicycle, the Rollover and Scissors (I may have left one out, but I think that's it). The other exercises are two versions of pushups (one on knees with legs crossed, the other on toes with feet wide), Cobra and Child's Pose (again, I may be leaving one out).

Once we're done with the mat, we come to the wall and begin some weight work for the shoulders. Exercises included Lateral Raises, Military Presses, Lat Rows, Front Raises and Leg Lifts to the front and back. Afterward, we go back to the floor for a stretch, which is very similar to the stretches we did for the warmup.

The minuses:

+ As mentioned above, the visuals might not be up to the standards people have come to expect.

+ She discusses Pilates breathing in places, but doesn't demonstrate it during the exercises. Also, she talks about using the Pilates "C-curve" while you're down on the mat to imprint the spine, but her description makes it sound like your neck and pelvis will be curled off the floor.

+ This isn't a total body workout- it targets the torso muscles and maybe a little more upper body because of the pushups. For the length of this workout (over 45 minutes), I'd like to do a full body workout.

The pluses:

+ Gern has excellent form on all of the exercises. Also, she counts clearly and at an accurate pace throughout the workout.

+ The pace of the workout is, in my opinion, what the average exerciser should follow to get the maximum benefits from the exercises (I include myself in this category).

+ Although she doesn't go into great depth about Pilates instruction per se, she does discussing imprinting and the importance keeping the spine on the mat (this is open to interpretation among Pilates professionals, and she's in good company).

+ I was too busy doing the workout and paying attention to the cues to care or even notice what was going on with the set.

+ The workout itself. Her exercises were sequenced very nicely to alternate which parts of the body were worked. Although she doesn't offer a great variety of exercises, it's more than enough to target the core (including the chest). I used very light weights and she doesn't call for a lot of repetitions, but not even one day after the workout my chest and the rest of my upper body are nicely sore.

Conclusion: This is a very good tape. If you're someone who buys "parts" tapes, you should include this in your library. If Gern were to re-film this and add on some exercises for the biceps and some functional lower body exercises (squats, lunges, etc.), she could very easily market this as a total body tape.

I would feel confident buying such a workout or any other release from Gern.

Instructor comments: Gern shows excellent form and is both no-nonsense and friendly.

Deb (aka dnk)


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