Video Fitness

Cathe Friedrich: Circuit Max

What a nice surprise to find this is a tough signature-Cathe workout, but it's NOT as tough as Body Max or Interval Max and it IS a lot of fun. Best of all, this is a workout that I look forward to doing. Dread Factor = ZERO. Circuit Max is definitely for experienced exercisers with a solid cardio base, but would be very easy to modify down to low-impact and lower-intensity. Background on me: I'm an advanced-level exerciser and a long time fan of Cathe's workouts.

Here's what I love about this workout: first, that you get an unbeatable cardio and toning total body workout with a great stretch at the end in 65 minutes; the variety of the cardio segments; that I don't have to drag out a bunch of different sized weights; seeing Cathe and her crew looking so psyched to be there; a really interesting new set. My big nitpick is that the warm-up and first hi/lo section take up a lot of floor space.

The 5 minute warm-up is a simple hi/lo routine with double grapevines and some "bob and weave" moves, easy kicks and punches. It uses a fair amount of floor space, but you can angle your grapevines and adapt it to the space you have available if your space is limited. The stretching is more dynamic than static. The music for most of the workout is instrumental -- this really dates me, but some of the music sounds like Herb Alpert (was that his name?) and the Tijuana Brass. The cast is made up of familiar faces (Rhonda, Lisa and Hope) and the addition of some new faces , two GUYS!

The workout is then divided into 6 circuits: each contains 5 minutes of cardio followed by 2 minutes of compound strength work, using light-to-medium-weight dumbbells. In my opinion, each cardio circuit got a little more intense and a little more complex in terms of choreography. The first 2 are hi/lo, next 2 are kickboxing and the final 2 are classic Cathe stepping.

The hi/lo is simple and athletic. The first hi/lo segment uses a lot of lateral space. Cathe includes some short power blasts to spice things up, such as a plyojack with 2 jumps pattern and a lot of side leaps. The second segment was more fun, with some up-and-backs and turns and ponies and twists. I found it a little more intense and it used less floor space.

Next come the 2 kickboxing circuits: one of the floor and one on the step. I think the workout starts to really liven up here -- a huge, welcome surprise, because I usually place kickboxing at the bottom of my fun list. There's a floor combo in here that's a blast, where you shuffle forward, cross-punch, and leap back. As soon as the kickboxing moves to the step, the intensity kicks-up a notch. There are power 7s with speedbag arms, alternating front kicks with a hopover the step, jumpropes onto the step, ("keep your feet on the grid!") I thought this part was hard.

The final 2 cardio segments are classic stepping. The first step segment has a lot of familiar moves: the long hopover the step from Power Max and the killer sequence of uneven squats over and over the step from MIC. Oh and plenty of power 7s and scissors too. The last circuit is probably the toughest (lots of swim forward lunges), but it's also the most entertaining, with a little tap dance on the step that's a riot, those beloved pendulum/squats, snake around the step, in-out-in repeater and the somewhat controversial "heel-jack- hopover and jack." (You love it or you hate it.)

After each of the 6 cardio segments, Cathe grabs a set of dumbbells for about 2 minutes of compound strength training. She uses 8s and 5s.. During one of the segments she says, "These 8s are kicking butt." You are usually either squatting or lunging while working shoulders, biceps or triceps. Cathe performs the reps quickly: the strength work is more about your heart rate, coordination and balance than gaining muscle. Cathe suggests that if you want to go heavier, just slow down your rep speed.

There's no traditional cooldown: instead you are cooling down during the final strength circuit. At the end, Cathe takes about 5 minutes to do strength work on the parts you missed during the circuit training. You do 2 sets of 1-armed lat rows, 2 sets of push-ups and 2 sets of plank work. During the plank work, I recommend distracting yourself from your quivering muscles by counting the number of sweat droplets that fall off your nose. I've done Circuit Max 3 times and my current highest droplet count is at 6.

There's a really nice stretch at the end. The music switches to really light, pretty piano and string music. And you're done. I clocked the whole workout at 65 minutes.

Instructor Notes: Cathe seems completely at home with the camera and her video audience. She talks TO us, not AT us. Lots of funny little Cathe-isms, along with a familiar sounding admonition to "Modify, Modify, Modify." As always, she is a delight: warm, inspiring and completely professional. And darned cute too.

Daphne M.

Well, what can I say, Cathe has done it again. She has created a new, unique and challenging workout that is quickly becoming one of my favorites. I remember when Cathe was looking for suggestions on her website before creating the new videos as to what her audience would want the most and I gave my vote for a circuit video with 3 different forms of cardio!!! It is almost like she created a custom made video for me. It is exactly what I wanted.

The warm up is about 8 minutes and includes some light stretching. Than for the next 45 minutes Cathe performs her 6 cardio circuits. The cardio parts are about 5 minutes a piece and she moves into 2 minutes of strength work for each cardio section. She keeps the weight on the lighter side so you can do more reps and keep the heart rate up but still build muscular endurance. The first and second circuits start with hi-lo, the third and fourth circuits are kickboxing (one off the step, one on), the last two circuits are high intensity step.v The hi-lo consists of a lot of jumping. Moves include pendulums, ponies, jumping jacks and power jumps. These get my heart rate up quite nicely. The kickbox sections include jabs, speed bags and kicks. The step sections are classic cathe. Power 7's, different variations on a V step and really fun plunge lunges. Also, mostly high intensity.

For the strength parts of the circuit, Cathe does double duty moves. For example squats with shoulder presses, static lunges with tricep french presses, lunges with side lateral and front raises, etc. For upper body she provides 2 exercises each for shoulders, biceps and triceps.

After the last circuit she adds on few extra minutes of strength work for back (one arm rows), chest (push ups) and abs (plank moves) to give a more complete workout. This also serves as a sort of cool down. She moves right into a really relaxing and much needed stretch session.

I highly recommend this workout to an advanced exerciser. It is tough but, not so killer where you dread doing it. It is also great for a time restricted schedule. In exactly 1 hour, you can get strength, cardio and stretching done without feeling as though you skimped on any of them. I wish there were more videos out there like this one. I would definately love to see Cathe give us a few more circuits like this one. I LOVE IT.

Cathe is great. She looks great and I can always rely on her to give me a great workout. As soon as she comes out with a new group of videos, I am already waiting for the next ones. She is creative, intelligent and very professional.

Since the format of this video has been very well explained already, I will just add my overall impressions of this video. I have all of Cathe's videos (with the exception of the Wedding Video), and have done all 8 of her newest tapes. I'm an advanced exerciser. I was a bit disappointed by this tape. I was expecting something similar to the circuits in BodyMax, but Circuit Max is mainly a cardio tape, with a few strength exercises mixed in to add intensity. I don't feel that this tape would serve as a muscle endurance tape, especially for the upper body. I did not like the floor aerobics, because it was all high impact, reminiscent of moves from the 80's aerobics craze. I did like the floor work that was devoted to kickboxing, however. I would have preferred having the more intense circuits earlier on, but the circuits become progressively more difficult. This is definitely an advanced tape, and for those who are familiar with Cathe's earlier tapes, because it's assumed that you already know a lot of the moves, especially the ones that are done on the step. If you love Cathe and you love high impact, then this is the tape for you.

The only ab work on this tape is plank work. While I like plank work, I felt that I needed to do some additional, traditional ab floorwork after doing this tape.

Cathe is in awesome condition, and her warm personality shines through on this tape. She seems very relaxed, and the other exercisers seem to be enjoying themselves.

Abbe G

I don't like most circuit workouts, and I can't really say I'm wild about this one either, but I do like it enough to hang on to it for awhile. In this workout, you alternate cardio (5 minutes) with strength work (2 minutes). There are a total of 6 cycles. The strength work is combination work -- i.e., you work both your upper and lower body at the same time. Working both together isn't really effective for me, so I just do one body half, either upper or lower, depending on what I feel like doing that day. Overall, this is an "okay" workout, but not one I'll ever get excited about.

Annie S.

I was very disappointed with this video. I find it long and boring, and never reach for it. Here is what I don't like: (1) the hi-lo is very boring. It just seems to go on and on at the start of the tape - I think it lasts something like 13 minutes, and it is really uninspired. (2) Cathe does not respect the space constraints of home exercisers, and I must modify constantly with this tape. Modifying for space really irks me; unless I love the workout, this can be a deal maker/breaker for me. My workout space is not excessively small, in fact I suspect it is average sized. I would think that workouts for home exercisers would be designed for limited spaces. (3) the compound weight training movements do not feel effective for me. I feel like I am short changing both muscle groups when I do them. That is a personal preference thing.

On the upside, I really enjoy the kickboxing on the step, and hope to see more of that in future videos.


If you're looking for a workout that won't kill you "Cathe style", will keep your heart rate up and give you a decent workout, this is the vid for you. She does intervals of cardio and light weight work and the entire workout is designed to keep your heart rate up which for me, it succeeded in doing. There are 5 or 6 cycles of cardio/weight work. As far as complaints, if 80's bothers you, don't watch this vid. You may have to be rushed to emergency for sheer repulsion! The music and the hi/low is VERY 80's and like someone else on this site put it, very uninspiring (think Maximum Intensity cardio). She does however, do a few kickboxing routines and a step routine which I was quite impressed with because of how tired they got me and how much I enjoyed doing them, but I realize that's subjective. I also didn't care for how much floor space was necessary at the beginning when she does sort of a mini hi/low routine w/the warmup. I was all the way into my hallway tripping over stuff to try and keep up with her. So to sum it up. Music and hi-lo are very boring, 80's and annoying. Step/kickboxing cardio routines were great as well as the weight work. Workout is challenging without being murderous and does the trick. I'd keep it and I'd do it again.

Instructor comments: Cathe's her usual upbeat self in this video. If you know Cathe, you know that she doesn't change much from one vid to the next.

Evelyn Jenkins
May 12, 2008

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