Video Fitness

Progressive Pilates 4 10 Minute Target-Tone Workouts

Liz Gillies

I’m reviewing this workout after doing it several times a while ago.

General workout breakdown: This workout consists of four 10 minute segments intended to tone your butt, thighs, arms, and abs, with a 10 minute “total body bonus” which is actually a segment drawn from Liz’s Progressive Pilates for Weight Loss which features moves from the Pilates reformer machine adapted to the mat. The four main segments consist of traditional Pilates moves, with some yoga and dance moves thrown in, especially in the butt section. The overall pace is quick, both during the execution of moves and between moves.
For those of you who like to know how much time you have left, a small clock appears at the 10, 5, 2, and 1 minute mark.

Level: I got this video about a year ago, around the time I started getting back into Pilates. I had been away from that discipline for about 2 years after my semester-long class. At that time I considered myself an experienced beginner with limited strength and flexibility. I found this video appropriately challenging then, and I was able to do almost every move unmodified, except when my tight hamstrings required assistance.
I do NOT recommend this to a true Pilates beginner, as Liz does not provide enough instruction on form or breathing to make this an ideal first workout. You could pick it up as a second or third workout, though. I think that anyone past (or even at) a solidly intermediate level would find this too easy.

Class: Four thin young women accompany Liz, with one demonstrating modifications.

Music / Set / Other Production Notes: The music is better than average here, and the moves are nicely coordinated with the beat, thanks to Liz’s dance background. The interior set features hardwood floors and bright colors. The overall sound and picture quality are very good.

Equipment: mat (or equivalent). You could do the arm sequence without weights, but Liz and her class use them. Do NOT follow Liz’s instructions to pick up 3-5 lbs. in each hand if you are new to weights and/or to the Pilates arm series. The one book and all the other workout videos I have featuring the arm series recommend 1-3 lb. weights only. Beginners should use 1 lb. and then work their way up from there. A truly advanced exerciser could use 4 or even 5 lbs., but I would only recommend that to someone who lifts heavy weights normally, is very experienced with Pilates, and knows that she/he has excellent form. By the way, if you don’t have weights, you could use water bottles or soup cans.

Comments: Liz doesn’t mention this, so keep in mind that the purpose of Pilates is using the core muscles (abs and back) to stabilize the torso no matter what the limbs are doing. You can tone your butt or whatever with workouts like these, but the standard cautions about the myth of spot reducing still apply.
You don’t need too much space for this workout. You should be able to lie down on your mat and move around comfortably while standing.
Among my other Pilates videos with 10 minute segments, I’d rate this about the same intensity as Quick Fix Pilates (aka Quick Fix Total Mix Pilates); Quick Fix Pilates Abs & 10 Minute Solution Pilates are definitely a level above these two.

DVD Notes: I don’t remember specifics, but there was a long intro to Liz and the Progressive Pilates series. I remember being able to skip that, though. You can select segments to do, but I can’t remember if you can program the segments in a certain order without having to go back to the menu each time. You find this separately (usually pretty cheaply) or on a compilation DVD with Progressive Pilates for Weight Loss.

Conclusion: Why did I trade this? See my comments on Liz as an instructor. I hate to say it, but I would rebuy this exact same workout if it were with a different instructor (with some exceptions). That said, I know a number of people enjoy—even love—this workout, usually because of the way the moves work with the music. I personally prefer Lara Hudson’s 10 Minute Solution Pilates; I just “get along” better with Lara than Liz for whatever reason. Since I know a number of my issues with this workout are entirely due to personal preferences, I would still recommend checking this out to an experienced beginner / low intermediate Pilates practitioner looking for an easy way to fit in a little bit of Pilates.

Instructor comments: Liz Gillies is yet another injured-dancer-turned-Pilates instructor. She's not a bad instructor, but I just didn't click with her. (I’m sure she’s a perfectly nice person, and I might even get along with her if I met her in person, but something about her on screen persona just didn’t do much for me.) She’s upbeat and enthusiastic, but not too much. Her cueing is good, her form pointers few but decent, but her form is just OK. Her form may be better than it looks because (and I hate to say this because goodness knows I’d be lucky to have even this said about me) she has a slightly thicker build than the average video Pilates instructor / background exerciser, making it harder to see sometimes the little subtleties that make a difference. Her form for squats is borderline; a couple of times her knees sneak an inch or two past her toes. Fortunately her background exercisers demonstrate great form, so I would look to them when I needed a clearer view of an exercise.
Here’s where the purely personal opinion starts, so if you’re not interested, skip to the last paragraph. I think it's great that Liz has enough confidence to wear whatever she wants at her age (she appears older in the video than on the cover, although I’m a bad judge of age), but she wears this one tiny top and a couple of pairs of awfully tight pants. I spent a good portion of my preview time worrying for her about a “wardrobe malfunction,” but fortunately none occurred. And here’s a truly bizarre point that probably won’t bother anyone else: Liz is from the New York City area, so she says things like making sure your body is "on line" instead of "in line." Obviously there’s nothing wrong with that, but my time as a language teacher in that area has made me hypersensitive to such wording.
To sum up, ignoring my strange personal issues with her, my real concerns are her relatively OK form and lack of form instruction / pointers, particularly in a video that’s marketed towards beginners.


August 10, 2005

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