If you like what Cathe's Maximum Intensity Strength and Body Max (or Cory Everson's Get Hard Arms, for that matter) have done for your upper body but are hungry for some new exercises to improve muscle definition, you can't miss Cathe's new Pure Strength Series. The Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps tape is wonderful and is much more than a recycling of the upper body exercises you find in MIS and Body Max. This is both a muscle building and endurance workout, as you'll gather from the number of sets involved. Here's my preview after one time through:
This workout clocks in at just under 40 minutes, and though my target muscle groups were worked to exhaustion, I wasn't totally wiped out because the workout focuses on just 3 muscle groups. Even though I'm pregnant and more prone to fatigue, I could easily tack on a half hour of cardio before or after this workout without getting too tired. I went for a walk afterwards, because I felt energized.
The workout breaks down to approximately 4 1/2 min. warm up, about 10 minutes of chest work, 10 min. of shoulder work, and 10 min. of triceps, and a short but relaxing 3 min. stretch. I'm not sure I have the breakdown exactly right, because I forgot to catch the time between the chest and shoulder sections (the sections are not as clearly delineated with header graphics as they are in MIS). Most of the sets are 10 reps, unless otherwise indicated.
The warm up is done on the floor, with very basic foot patterns but lots of big arm movements to open up the chest and shoulders and prepare for the work ahead. The music on this tape is similar to that in MIS and the Pure Strength: Strong Legs & Abs tape--percussive beat, but to be honest, I didn't notice the music too much as I was trying to do the workout and take notes.
You start with exercises for the chest. Pushups are first--several variations are shown, including challenging "decline" pushups with the feet raised behind you on the step bench, as well as the usual push ups on the floor and from the knees. You do two sets of 12 pushups.
Then you move to bench presses lying on a step bench--hope you like bench presses, because there are lots of them! You start with a "light" warm up set, then move on to heavy sets. Cathe uses a 45 lb. barbell for the heavy sets. You do two sets lying on the bench, then you set the bench at an incline by shifting a riser to the other side for two more heavy sets. Cathe says this changes the angle of the exercise slightly to target the muscles differently. After a quick stretch, you do another set of 10 using dumbells this time (I believe Cathe uses 15's). Note that, if you don't own a barbell, all of the sets could easily be done with dumbells.
You proceed to chest flyes, with a much lighter weight, still lying on the inclined bench. You do one set of 10, then 10 sets of a compound superset exercise, where you go down into a chest flye slowly for 2 counts, turn the weights, and push into a bench press. I really liked the feel of these to finish off the chest, and you definitely have to drop down in weight for these to do them with good form and control.
After a short stretch you move on to shoulder work. The first exercise is an "Arnold press" with moderate to heavy dumbells--Cathe has either 12's or 15's. You start by holding your dumbells at your shoulders, palms in, then you raise them over head, turning palms away from you at the top of the exercise. This seems like a very simple variation on the shoulder work in other videos, but I don't think I've done this exact move before--it seemed more difficult than other variations and it felt good. I think it's a less natural movement when you start with the palms in, and that's why it seems like a greater challenge. You do three sets of 10 reps.
Next are 2 sets of the "Seated Clean & Press" (I think that's what she called it?) with light weights. Cathe starts with 8's then moves down to 5's for the second set. This is another combination move. You are seated on the step, and begin with a front raise in an arc, then press over head and back to the shoulders, then arc downward. I really felt these, and was thankful only to be using 5 pound dumbells. Cathe teaches you to slow down the reps as you tire out, ignoring the beat of the music and going at a slower pace for the second half of each set.
After another quick shoulder stretch, you grab moderate weights and stand for side lateral raises, two sets of 10 reps again.
Then you move on to reverse flyes, seated on the bench--these are a little different from the way Cathe and the FIRM do these in other tapes--again, Cathe alters the angle to target the shoulder differently. You keep your palms angled in toward the step, lifting out in more of a V shape. You do two sets of these.
Next is a single set of 16 side lateral raises with light weights, seated this time. My shoulders were really burning by this time!
You begin the tricep work with close grip dumbell presses, instead of the barbell presses used in MIS and Body Max. With the dumbells, you keep your palms facing in, which has a very different feel to the barbell presses from the other tapes. I found it easier to feel the work in the triceps this way. You do three "drop sets" of this exercise--the first set is 12 reps, second is 10 reps, and the third is 8 reps. Cathe uses either 12's or 15's for this exercise.
You move on to two sets of dumbell French presses lying on the step bench. With a dumbell in each hand (Cathe uses 8's), you lower and lift the dumbells over your head. Again this is similar to the barbell work in MIS, but the dumbells give it a different feel and some may feel more at ease pressing small dumbells over their head than a barbell.
Next are "cross-body kickbacks." This is similar to an exercise in Karen Voight's Firm Arms and Abs that I've always liked. The exercise is a bit hard to explain if you've never seen it. You lie on the bench, holding a dumbell with one arm, supporting the upper arm of that side with the hand of the other arm. You lift and lower the dumbell toward the elbow of the other arm. You do two sets on each side, then another set of 12 of the dumbell French press.
Last but not least are tricep dips off the bench, with or without the barbell lying in your lap. Cathe uses a 35 lb. barbell here. You do two long, fast sets (20 and 24 reps, I think). With my pregnant belly, I knew putting the barbell on my lap was out of the question, so I put a small 5 lb. dumbell there until baby kicked at it. I took that as a signal to put it away! Pat, one of the participants, demonstrates an overhead seated dumbell extension (called a French press in FIRM tapes) and Cathe mentions that those with carpal tunnel or anyone who is bothered by tricep dips should try that variation.
The short stretch is accompanied by very pretty music, and feels great after this workout. The stretch segment isn't long, but seems adequate since you've had short stretches already between sets.
Overall I was really impressed with this video. There were lots of variations of common exercises that will please upper body muscles that have grown complacent with other videos. This would also be an excellent choice for those who would liek to work just one muscle group per day--at 10 minutes per muscle group, this video would make it easy to do a section before or after a cardio workout. I think the tape is a real winner, and I look forward to the other upper body tape, which I should be able to preview next week.
Wendy Niemi Kremer
This is one great upper body workout! Cathe uses new variations and gives great form pointers. I especially love the variation on the push ups that she and Cedie demonstrate. The video is only 41 minutes long, and the time just flies. It is a great compliment to Cathe's other strength videos or to one of her step workouts.
I love the new set that she uses and was also glad to see the familiar faces of former cast members return. I feel like this group are my friends!
Grade for the video: A
Instructor comments: Cathe and her cast continue to please and to push participants to their personal best!
This is an outstanding workout for the Chest, Shoulders and Triceps. The chest work contains an elevated push-up variation which I tried (I could do MAYBE five) before returning to regular-- these are for the seriously powerful upper body and despite the fact that I am an advanced exerciser, I am in awe of those VFers who can actually do them. After the pushups, Cathe leads you through a series of bench presses and pec flies, finishing off, if I recall correctly, with a very tough superset combo of pec flies and dumbell presses.
Next, you move onto shoulders. Boy, are those Arnold presses hard! I had to drop down my weight after only a few. I very much liked Cathe's attention to specific parts of the shoulders in this section, which includes exercises for working the front of the shoulder in particular (an arching press that really works-- YOW!) and then the back of the shoulder (a modified seated fly, in a V-shape). I really felt as though my whole shoulder had been worked.
Finally, you move onto triceps, which are TOUGH! These include close-grip dumbell presses, cross-body presses and lying french presses, with the final exercise being (my favorite!) tricep dips. She really pushes you through to the end of the tricep dips, which finish with a set of 24 with the barbell in your lap when you are already totally fatigued (this is my favorite workout burn, I think, and boy does she make it burn!). WOW, does this rock as a way to end the weight training portion. I felt totally great when I was done (endorphins, anyone?).
Both the warmup and the final stretch are good, though simple, and the entire workout is extremely thorough and well put together. Like the other Pure Strength videos, time just flies by on this one.
I tacked onto this video a half-hour of moderate cardio, and felt fine. This video, just like the Back, Biceps & Abs one, goes very well with a moderate cardio workout on days where, for instance, you're not doing Interval Training. Yet another winner from Cathe, and an A+++ grade from me.
Instructor comments: Cathe is her usual best in this video, providing very thorough instruction and pushing you to complete even the sets you swear you will never get through. I did wonder, however, if this one is the last in the series that they taped, because she seems less smiley in this video than the other two. Nonetheless, a fabulous job by Cathe.
WWWendy and others have described this tape very well, so I'll add my opinions. Another winner from Cathe! I really enjoy the different variations of the exercises that Cathe uses. I also like the way that she mixes up light and heavy weights in the Pure Strength series. I did this workout yesterday after previewing it twice, and I definitely feel today (in a GOOD way)! I love the pushups off the bench and the incline presses for the chest. The Arnold presses and the clean & press (?) for the shoulders are great and effective, too. There's a great variety of the triceps work as well. I just love the triceps dips off the bench with the barbell in your lap (one of my favorites from MIS as well). My only MINOR complaint with this tape is that I wish that Cathe had added an ab section to all of her strength tapes, but I know that she advocates doing abs only a few times per week. Great tape--I'm sure this series will make the Hall of Fame in no time!
Instructor comments: Cathe's cuing in the Pure Strength series is impeccable. She really describes the correct way to do the exercises. I've been doing Firms for awhile, and it's nice to have some real form pointers here. Cathe is so fit now--she and her crew are absolutely inspirational. She is knowledgeable, yet friendly and nonintimidating. Like always, when I do a Cathe tape I feel as if I am in the class with her.
A thorough, interesting and VERY challenging workout for the chest, shoulders and triceps. This workout includes lots of variations of tried and true exercises, along with new combination exercises (supersets).
First, a short warm-up that emphasizes arm movement. Then right into chest exercises. Cathe does decline push-ups off her step, some of the background exercisers do the standard version on the floor. Then on to lots and lots of barbell chest presses, first a warm-up set, then a standard set with heavy weight, then a couple more sets with the bench on an incline, using heavy dumbells for the last set. Yow! It's getting pretty hard at this point. Thankfully, she drops down in weight for chest flies and the next exercise which combines slow count chest flies with two quick chest presses. Even at the lighter weight and after my third time through this tape, I'm at failure and can't complete the last two sets of this compound exercise. I really like Cathe a lot, but at this point in the workout, I admit that I find myself questioning her count and thinking some evil thoughts about her. She even enlists background exerciser Mercedes to keep count, but I'm telling you that there can't possibly be that many more left! Maybe she and Mercedes are in cahoots and there's a conspiracy to work my chest until it falls right off?
Happily, it's time for shoulders. Instead of military presses, Cathe does Arnold presses. She says they're tougher than standard militaries, but I find that the rotation on this feels like a more natural movement. I'm glad I like them, because we do them for a while. And then some. At this point, my memory is getting a little foggy, but I think that you do seated lateral raises, then some standing lateral raises. My favorite shoulder exercises come at the end: they are reverse flies in a V-position (Cathe explains this one better than I can) and then another compound exercise, the clean and press, which combines a kind of front raise with an overhead military press. Why do I like the last two exercises the best? Because Cathe recommends a light weight on these. She says these are meant to define, rather than build mass and, hey, I'm all for lightening up whenever I have a good excuse. Even though a lot of time is spent on the shoulders, these go by relatively fast.
Are you ready for your triceps? Hope so, because this tape works them better than any other video I've done. There are multiple sets of close-grip bench presses using heavy dumbells. Ouch! There are reclining French presses with dumbells. Double ouch! There are cross-body kickbacks using dumbells. Hey! How come my left arm is no longer obeying me? More cross-body kickbacks. There goes the right arm. Well, at least now I'm even. A finish-up set of French presses. Right here, my arms are spastically flapping through an approximation of a French press. Cathe keeps reminding us about those teacups on our elbows. I'm wishing there was more than tea in those cups right about now. To end? Dips off the bench with your loaded barbell. Some light stretching and I start to like Cathe again.
Of the three Pure Strength tapes, I find this one the most difficult. In a mere 40 minutes, using just a bench and weights, Cathe packs in a great and interesting variety of exercises. As is true of all the Pure Strength tapes, the goal is building strength, so there is plenty of rest time built into the workout. I'm convinced that I will be seeing great results from this tape and I'd recommend it to any intermediate or advanced exerciser that wants to sculpt the upper body. This is an awesome upper body workout.
Instructor comments: Cathe is a superb instructor. She is knowledgable, personable and professional and carries it all off with a nice sense of humor. She is one of the very few video instructors who can make you feel like you are participating in a live class. She knows her audience and, what's more, she likes us. Although I know that she and her crew rehearse meticulously for weeks before filming, the workout comes across as fresh and Cathe seems so spontaneous. She is very pretty, small with visible and defined muscle development and a knockout smile.
This video has already been explained well. Just wanted to add my comments so that this video makes it to the Hall of Fame. The whole Pure Strength series is the toughest weight videos yet. I'm so glad that we can work out at home and feel that we get an advanced workout. I know that it's not as tough as a bodybuilder's workout but for my purposes, it suits me fine. I hope Cathe makes another Pure Strength Series II with different exercises because I can tell my body is going to improve tons using this series. The tempo is slower than MIS so I can lift heavier weights. The warm-up is simple so even my husband can do it. He said that he will try MIS with me but he will have to do his own warm-up because he can't do step (even the simple moves in the MIS warm-up). But I don't think he'll have any problems with the Pure Strength warm-ups (I just need to get him to do it). The time goes by so fast with this tape but I know that I got a good workout. I like the shoulder section the best because it has the most unique moves. I like both the Arnold Press & the Clean & Press. I also like the reverse flys done with the palms facing back & done in a V. The one good thing in this tape is that I can actually do the triceps dips using the same amount of weights as the chest presses. For MIS, I lower the weights after I do the back work. So I don't lift as heavy for my shoulder, biceps, & triceps. In fact, by the time we get to the triceps section, I really have to lower the barbell weight. Then I don't have time to add more weight for the dips section. Since we don't use the barbell for the shoulders or other triceps work, I don't have this problem in Pure Strength. Plus I stay pretty heavy in the triceps work anyway because they don't seem as tired. I think it's because the upper body work is broken down. Overall, this is a well planned series of tapes.
Instructor comments: Cathe is great as usual. I'm so glad that she sticks to advanced videos. I hope she keeps them coming.
This is a very thorough tough weight only video. Cathe really gets the muscles to failure. The chest work is tough( not as many pushups as Body Max though). She starts off with 2 sets of pushups and goes into some really tough sets of Chest presses. I didn't like how you have to stop the video to up the weights on your barbell. SO I just use my dumbells for the first set and then get my heavy barbell for the rest. Then she does some chest flies and then combo of chest flies and presses. My chest is really quivering at this point. She also changes the angle of the step. Just doing this tape 3 times so far has made me much stronger in my chest. The shoulder work is very thorough as well. She just keeps adding different exercises to bring the shoulder muscles to fatigue. The triceps section is my favorite since the triceps are my trouble spot so it's important to me to work them hard. For once there are no kickbacks! Yay! I hatem'~ Instead she does this cross body kickback which is much more desirable to me. But after the 1st set, and into my second set, my arm stops working! IT just won't push the weight up. I feel like a dork. Like my brain is not working or I should say my ARM is not working. I'm definately at failure. Then to make matters worse( all in fun here), Cathe does one more set of lying down French press exercise. I can't even do it. I had to go down in weights( 6lbs). This workout has my triceps sore for 2 DAYS! Very effective. Time just flies with this tape. I usually do a cardio workout and then tack this tape on at the end. I love the upbeat music. It is much better music than Maximum Intensity Strength. This workout is much tougher then her Bodymax weight section. I highly recommend this tape if you want to really see muscles in the Chest, Shoulders and triceps. Another winner by Cathe Friedrich.
Instructor comments: Perfect form and excellent cueing. You couldn't get more from a personal trainer. It's like Cathe is right there in your living room. She is also pumping right with you and feeling every last rep like you. Cathe has an incredibly fit-muscular healthy body.
I just love the Pure Strength series. This tape really works the muscles with a good variety of exercises and goes fast! After a good, brief warmup, Cathe starts with Chest and pushups. Luckily she only does 2 sets of 10 reps. She does a variety of exercises using dumbells and the barbell to thoroughly work all muscles in the chest. I especially like doing the chest presses with the barbell on this tape. Since Cathe only does 10 reps in each set you can really load up the barbell and push yourself. She moves on to shoulders and starts with the Arnold press. The first set doesn't seem too bad, but halfway through the second set, it kicks in. It is a very good shoulder workout, although it doesn't leave me totally wiped out like some other shoulder tapes I have tried. The last is triceps. Instead of doing the typical kickback, etc. Cathe works the triceps in various ways while lying on the bench. Of course, she has to put in those dips off the end of the bench, but they don't seem as excruciating as in MIS. My only complaint with this video is that Cathe does not tell us what weight she is using and I have a hard time guessing. I like to use her weights as a guideline since I'm not exactly sure what she means when she says go "moderately heavy". Still, this tape is a must-have for all Cathe fans. I'd definitely give it and A+.
Instructor comments: As usual, Cathe is great. She just makes this workout flow and is such a natural. Of course she gets an A+.
I'm hooked on these tapes. Upper body is my focus, and these tapes definitely fit the bill. After only three weeks I'm noticing serious changes in my arms and back. These tapes, while tough, are also easy in a strange way and very doable-- it requires no motivating myself whatsoever to pull them out.
This video is very different from her strength work in other tapes. First of all, it's a nice mixture of heavy weights/low reps and lower weights/high reps. She says that's for "specific shaping enhancements" and I believe her. She also includes some new exercises in this tape, such as a compound bench press/flye for chest, arnold press and seated clean and press for the shoulders, a v-shaped posterior delt flye.
First of all, you do about 11 sets for each body part-- extremely thorough. I really, really enjoyed the chest work in this. There are only two sets of pushups. She also incorporates an inclined bench here for much of the chest work, as this focuses on the upper chest, which gives you that nice upper chest "line" that I didn't see appear until I started using an incline.
The shoulder section is not what I expected and it disappointed me just a little. For one thing, she doesn't use a barbell at all-- no military presses, which make me feel all bad and strong. All exercises are done with dumbbells and there are quite a few sets done with low weights/high reps. Also, no upright rows. All the "heavy duty" shoulder work seems to be missing-- the arnold presses are the heaviest. You use moderate to heavy weights for these and there are three sets. You can't go quite as heavy as you do for military presses because the arnold press involves a twist and it's a little harder to accomplish. There are lots of delt flyes, though, which really did make my shoulders burn.
The tricep work is great, and NO KICKBACKS OR OVERHEAD FRENCH PRESSES! I hate kickbacks. This also includes a lying down cross-body kickback, which I love, you can really feel the triceps working on these. This section really made my triceps ache, and she ended with the famous and wonderful tricep dips with a barbell in your lap. Excellent.
The whole workout is about 40 minutes. Very easy to slip it in. Worth every penny and then some.
Instructor comments: See legs review!
I go back and forth on whether PS: CST is my favorite in the series, or PS: Back, Biceps, & Abs. I think whichever one I'm doing at the moment.
Cathe does about 4 different exercises for each body part in this workout. For chest, she does pushups, bench presses, (both flat-bench, and incline), pec flies, and a superset combo of pec flies & dumbbell bench presses. I'm really glad that she's incorporated the incline presses, because I'm hoping to work on my upper chest a little more.
For shoulders, she does Arnold presses, lateral raises, seated clean & press, and posterior delt flies. The last time I did this workout, I paused the tape after the chest work and did two sets of overhead presses w/ my barbell, before going into the Arnold presses. I think I'm going to do this from now on. I know that the incline presses also involve the shoulders, but my shoulders are an area that I'm trying to develop more, so I'm trying to do a little extra work with them. Man, I feel like such a wimp with the Arnold presses. I can (on a good day) start out with 15 lb dbs, but I have to pyramid down to 12 for the second set, and sometimes 10 for the 3rd set. Since I can do regular overhead presses with a 37 1/2 to 40 lb barbell, I feel like I should be able to at least stay 15 for all 3 sets, but NO WAY!
For triceps, Cathe does close grip dumbbell presses (no barbell at all in this segment except for dips), french press, cross-body kickbacks, and dips. I've always thought my triceps were pretty strong, but after doing the cross-body kickbacks, Cathe does one more set of french presses, and my arms are quivering with 8lb dumbbells. I actually have to laugh at myself, because it just looks so funny to see my left arm (must be weaker than my right) shaking and quivering on its way back up. Cathe finishes with dips w/ the barbell.
Another winner from Cathe!
Instructor comments: As always, Cathe does a great job. Her form pointers are very helpful.
Wow, it's been a long time since my chest was sore, but this tape manages to do it. It also makes my triceps feel like jelly.
Like the other two tapes in the series, this one is excellent. It's broken down so that you can do each of the three segments separately, or you can do the whole tape at once. It's about 40 minutes total.
I highly recommend this series to all levels of exercisers. Even if you're a beginner, you can just use lighter weights and raise them as you progress. Cathe gives very good instructions on form, too. Grade A+!
I pre-ordered this video last summer, and was quite disappointed at what I got for the $30 Cdn that I spent. There are no advanced techniques such as pre-exhaust supersets or pyramiding (even the "drop set" is not really a drop set); this whole video is mostly 2-3 straight sets of each exercise, and I am not even fond of the exercise selection.
The Chest workout is mostly presses and more presses, which have some involvement of the anterior deltiod. Then for Shoulders, the Arnold presses and seated clean and press concentrate even more on the front deltoid muscle. A few side and bent laterals did not alleviate the "lopsided" feeling I had. In fact, while doing the close presses for triceps, my front delts were trembling instead. The triceps work is otherwise good, though it includes too many mass-building exercises for my goals.
I appreciate that Cathe performs the reps slowly enough, with longer rests between sets, so that heavier weights can be used. But so does Cory Everson in her Basic Sculpting System: Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps, and that video has a better variety of exercises, and cost me only $10.
Instructor comments: Cathe is always motivating and fun.
Pure Strength Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps is a complete super-advanced workout packed with tons of variety. Cathe includes drops sets and differnet exercises from those used in Body Max and MIS. The chest section starts with decline pushups (pushups with your feet on your a bench). These are really intense. Then comes bench presses. Cathe even includes a variation on an incline to hit the upper chest. At the end of this segment, cathe includes a superset where she alternates flys with bench presses. I had gone heavy in this section to try to challenge myself, but by this part i had to stop because i was completely fatigued.
The next part is shoulders. This section is really intense. I did this workout 3 hours ago and i can still feel my shoulders shaking when i lift them. This section is so intense that even the invincible cathe uses a 5 lb dumbell for some exercises.
The last section is triceps. My this point I was tried and my triceps were already fatigued from the other two segments. At some points during this section my chest shoulders, and triceps were shaking faster than i have ever seen them. Cathe ends this section with 2 sets of tricep dips.
Overall, i give this tape an A++. It's really intense and includes a large variety of exercise.
Instructor comments: Cathe is in spectacular shape. I can't believe she does this workout with a 45lb barrbell. She really did a great job in creating a very intense workout.
I wanted to add a more recent review of the Pure Strength workouts because there are so many new options available now. This is a classic series of strength videos that I still go back to regularly because it does great things for my upper body. (I haven’t been doing the Leg workout as much lately because I have too many other leg workouts to choose from.) Aside from P90X, these videos give me the most straightforward, gym-style, heavy workouts that I can find to use at home. The upper body workouts are around 45 minutes – shorter than P90X or Cathe’s Slow & Heavy series – so you can really give it your all without burning out before the end. It also makes it possible to add in some cardio if you want.
Chest/Shoulders/Triceps gives you classic exercises that are mostly done at a moderate speed for 10 reps. I often slow down the pec flys and the Arnold presses so that I can use a heavier weight. The workouts are quite flexible in that way. It’s also easy to shorten the workouts using the DVD since each exercise is its own chapter – just skip to the next chapter after 2 sets if you don’t want to do all 3 sets of each exercise.
This is still a really worthwhile workout to get, even though it’s ancient (5 years old!) in the world of exercise videos! If you want to start lifting heavier weights, this is a great place to start. You can use whatever weights make it a challenge for you; do 1, 2, or all 3 sets of each exercise according to your needs; and you can grow with it indefinitely by increasing your weights and doing all 3 sets.
Cathe is a pro in these workouts. I think she’s a bit more to the point/less chatty than in some of her newer workouts, but she’s still friendly and at-ease in front of the camera. All of the usual background exercisers are there, so you’ll feel right at home and have lots of inspiring women to work out with.
August 21, 2004