Video Fitness

Sexy Abs

Leisa Hart

From the outside of the DVD case, this looked like a great workout: the box does a nice job of breaking down the workout, listing time durations for each chapter as well each bonus segment. Unfortunately, I found that the actual workout did not live up to my expectations.

The main workout is about 34 minutes long and is broken into 4 segments. The first, titled "Sexy Sculpting," is 8 minutes long and completely misnamed--at best, this section stretched and warmed up the abdominal area, but there was certainly no sculpting effect. Instructor Leisa Hart and her crew of 4 background exercisers sit in chairs and use scarves for the simple spine stretches, but I actually found it easier to forgo the prop. The second segment, "Hourglass Shaping," is a bit longer (10 minutes) but really not much more intense. This time, the moves are performed on the floor, and the scarf is again used, mostly for leverage. The moves are clearly Pilates-inspired--ie, you do a lot of c-curves with your spine--but they were not nearly as challenging as a true Pilates workout.

Performing the third segment, "Belly Flattening," was the only time I could actually feel some work occurring in my abdominal area. This section focused on the lower abs area with moves like reverse crunches and a version of the Pilates corkscrew. However, as she does in the other videos of this series (ie, Sexy Legs), Leisa moves too quickly, making many of the exercises feel jerky and unnatural. Furthermore, she does not fully explain the moves, and combined with poor camera angles, the workout is often hard to follow. The final segment is called "Back Strengthening," and I liked this one the least. Here, the cast lies face down over a stool; although Leisa states that you could use a chair with a back, I did this and found it to be very awkward and uncomfortable. This section included back stretching moves such cobra and plank; it probably would have been much more effective using a stability ball rather than a stool/chair.

The DVD bonus features included two additional workout segments, both 5 minutes long. The first is "Waistline Trimming," a series of oblique movements from a side-lying elbow plank position. The second, "Core Stretch," contains some nice yoga-like moves to stretch your midsection, although again, Leisa does not explain the movements very well. Other DVD extras include a sneak peak of the class from a camera at the back of the stage, brief bios on Leisa and each of the four background exercisers, a music only workout option, and a photo gallery (why would I want to look at poses of Leisa in various outfits?).

Overall, this video was a disappointment. I really enjoy abs work, including Pilates, and although this could have been a very good workout, it was just too poorly cued and cumbersome for my liking. However, someone who does not enjoy more traditional abs work and who is looking for a more gentle workout focusing more on stretching than toning might find something to like in this video.

Instructor comments: One thing I have to say about Leisa is that she looks amazing in this video; she seems to be in even better shape now than during the "Buns of Steel" heyday. However, I found her cueing to be inadequate, especially since she fails to fully explain many of the movements, and overall, I found her to be difficult to follow.

Beth C (aka toaster)

July 26, 2005

This is a non-traditional, pilates-based ab workout. The menu gives you the option of play feature, workout, chapter selection, special features, and audio features (this is only a choice of 2 types of Dolby sound). The workout is chaptered into intro, sexy sculpting, hourglass shaping, belly flattening, and back strengthening. There are 2 people to your left modifying down, 2 people to the right showing higher difficulty and Leisa front and center showing “intermediate”, I guess. They are in a studio with kitschy pre-teen décor complete with fuschia drapes on the wall, small flower- shaped rugs in bright colors for each exerciser and the word “sexy” projected on the back wall. Each exerciser is young and fit-looking and wears a different color of tights and exercise bra.

The intro is Leisa standing around talking about the workout to come with her 4 background exercisers demonstrating various exercises (some of which are not even in the workout!) and lasts about a minute (skippable).
The workout begins with my favorite part which is what I thought was the warm-up/ stretch while seated on a backless chair. Turns out this is the sexy sculpting segment. I thought it was a great stretch because of the use of dynamic movements and the use of a scarf to make figure eights and such.
Somehow doing something with the scarf made me stretch/feel it more. Sculpting segment? I just don’t see it. Also, do yourself a favor and don’t use something heavy for this. Find a scarf. Somewhere. I used a towel and smacked myself upside the head before I learned to modifiy/control enough to keep it away from my face. This segment lasts just about 7.5 minutes.
The next segment (hour glass shaping) is based on a lot of slow halfway down roll downs with twists both without resistance and with the scarf hooked over your feet (straight out, straight up). I was limited by the length of my towel here. To maximize the use of the “scarf”, I think you need it to be a good 4 feet long, at least (this is a guess). Ends with a brief but much-needed fold-over and twisting stretch on the floor.
Time: just under 10 minutes.
The next segment (belly flattening) is based on the reverse curl and twisting variations and crunches with legs to the side and up to target the obliques. Also, the corkscrew is featured prominently and she puts it all into a type of routine she repeats twice. There is also a (forgettable) plank with pulses (huh?) and rolling like a ball 3 or 4 times. Ends with cat stretching and the one where you are on all fours and twist your head and torso to each side trying to see your hip/butt. What’s that called? I‘ve always liked that one. Time: Just under 7.5 minutes.
Last but not least is the back strengthening segment. It is one of the more thorough back segments I’ve seen in a while. It’s done over a chair without a back (I used one with a back and it got in the way enough that I would recommend your fanny lifter or a true backless chair, especially if you are a big person like I am) with a lot of torso lifts, alternating hand/leg lifts and some down- dog like stretching over the chair. Ends seated with brief spinal twist to each side and deep breathing (with arms going up and down like you’re about to take flight) while Leisa gives you an encouraging pep talk.
Time: 8 minutes. Total workout time: 33 minutes.
The main problem I have with this section is that if you don’t know what you’re doing and don’t engage your abs and tuck your pelvis to protect your back, you will hurt yourself and your back will not be your friend. Indeed, that is the main criticism I have for this whole workout (in addition to a couple of weird, non-effective moves): the form pointers are few and far between. For this reason (and the length of the workout and choice of exercises), I would consider this an intermediate to advanced DVD (even at the lowest modifer level) because you really need to have pilates experience and be your own coach. A low intermediate exerciser could get a way with a segment done as a workout but to feel really “worked out” or for the more advanced, you probably have to do most of the workout (eg minus the first segment).

Instructor comments: This is the first workout of Leisa’s that I have done that I can recall. I think she is good. No mannerisms or idiosyncrasies that got on my nerves. Upbeat but not so perky you suspect she has her pompoms waiting off-stage. Except for a lack of form (and breathing) pointers, she was a good instructor and likeable. Good Cuing.
Overall: I give the video a B for the EXPERIENCED pilates student.


October 31, 2005

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