Video Fitness

Core Max

Cathe Friedrich

Core Max presents three 20-minute core/ab routines. Two of the routines use a stability ball, and one of those also incorporates a medicine ball.

I have the FitTV version of this DVD, which is available retail at Discovery Channel stores (along with Low Max and Stretch Max). Although there is a separate intro mentioning FitTV, otherwise I believe this is supposed to be the same Core Max offered directly by Cathe.

The exercises in the three routines are separately segmented and chaptered. There is a "mix and match" section where you can presumably create your own custom routine (I haven't tried it). There are also three 20-minute pre-mixes which scramble up the original three routines.

Cathe and four background exercisers work out in a pleasant set with Greek statutes and columns. The music is fine if not memorable. The participants wear shoes, but I think barefoot works well also.

You really need a stability ball to get use out of this DVD. Cathe and her crew use an 8-lb. medicine ball, which I don't have so I used my 2-lb. Firm Ooof ball, which was more appropriate for my abilities anyway. For exercises holding the medicine ball, you could substitute a dumbbell. However, for those exercises where the medicine ball is held between the knees, a play ball or pillow would be a more comfortable option.

Cathe gives constant instruction and form pointers. She offers a lot of encouragement to beginners and often suggests modifications, but no one in the cast does them. Given that this DVD is marketed to the general public, I think having one exerciser doing beginner moves would have been nice.

Time flows quickly in all three workouts as Cathe constantly changes the exercises. She also incorporates some mini-breaks so you can rest and regroup.

Although this is marketed as a "core" workout, I agree with one VF comment that these routines are more like "ab" workouts. The back exercises are done at the beginning of each routine, and Cathe refers to them as a warm-up. I would have liked more back work interspersed throughout each routine. Cathe also does not do any stretching after the routines, so you may want to add that in.

Core Workout 1 uses only a mat. Cathe begins with supermans and levitation holds (sitting cross-legged, you try to lift yourself off the floor with your arms; Cathe and her crew lift their whole bodies up but I could only manage my butt LOL). She then proceeds through a wide variety of lower, upper and side crunches, varying speed and leg and arm positions. Cathe ends the routine with an ultra-challenging plank sequence.

Core Workout 2 adds a stability ball. Cathe begins with supermans on the ball, then rollouts. This is followed by a pike series I found very challenging -- kept falling off the ball LOL! We then do crunch variations with feet on the ball or holding the ball with the legs, then a ball exchange from upper to lower body and back. After those it is upper body on the ball for side chops plus regular and side crunches.

Core Workout 3 begins with supermans on the mat, then we move to lower body crunches with the medicine ball between the knees, followed by more crunch variations holding the medicine ball to the chest. The medicine ball is then put back between the knees for side knee drops. We're back to holding the ball to the chest for side twists and diagonal wood chops. At this point we grab the stability ball and lie on top for side twists and more diagonal wood chops holding the medicine ball. The medicine ball is then held to the shoulder for oblique crunches, and finally we finish with variations of forward crunches holding the medicine ball.

The three pre-mixes are titled Balanced Core, Complete Core and Tough Core. I didn't particularly notice any correlation to these names with the exercises in each, except Tough Core did include the exercises that were hardest for me personally (levitation holds, planks and pikes).

I am a strictly intermediate exerciser. I found I was quite challenged by each Core Max routine but could generally keep up with most of the exercises although I sometimes couldn't do all the reps. I was certainly sore the next day after each routine. I suppose very advanced exercisers might find Core Max too easy. On the other hand, beginners would be fine as long as they listen to Cathe's instruction and are not easily discouraged when they can't keep up.

Overall I'm very pleased with this DVD. It is challenging without being overwhelming. Cathe keeps things moving, and I wasn't watching the clock. I like to do a wide variety of core work, including pilates-style stabilization. While I would say most of Core Max is actually more traditional ab exercise (i.e. crunches), it is very well presented, and will nicely complement other core workouts I own.

Instructor comments: Cathe is wonderful in this workout -- knowledgeable but very encouraging to less advanced exercisers. While I've always admired Cathe, her other workouts I've tried just weren't right for me. Her weight work has mostly been too intense, and even her beginner choreography tangles up my feet. I'm glad I finally have a video of hers I can use and enjoy!


September 21, 2005

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