Video Fitness

Step and Awesome Abs

(Intermediate-Step Aerobics, Abs Toning)

Donna Richardson is one of the most charismatic and irresistable instructors in the business, so I had high hopes for this video. Well - it's good, but not as great as I'd hoped. It's shot on location at a Mexican pyramid, which is an interesting gimmick, but the lighting (bright sunlight that puts the exercisers in a constant shadow) and acoustics suffer. The music is ho-hum disco - why couldn't they steal the Fitness Pros' soundtrack? The non-complicated step portion is broken down into several segments, which makes it easy to learn, but once you've memorized it, the pauses between segments become somewhat annoying. Donna follows with an abs routine that's basically a reprise of her "Arms and Abs of Steel 2000" workout. Overall, not bad - Donna can rise above practically anything - but her talent is better showcased on "Arms and Abs" as well as the Nike video and the late lamented "Fitness Pros" show.
Grade: B

Sue Bryant

Donna Richardson's Step and Awesome Abs

This video is an okay workout, but for the beginner/intermediate level. Donna is an awesome instructor, but this video does not have any intricate moves, or will not challenge the advanced. Its good video if you want a day when you don't have to "think" about choreography. There is an opportunity to add some extra propulsion. I have done this video a few times, but it's not one of my favorites because I am advanced. The abs section is very good, though.

Kathy Lapinski

Fitness level: Intermediate
Breakdown: 5-6 minutes Warm-up; 30 minutes Step aerobics in six segments; 7-8 minute Abs routine; 5-minute cool-down
Heart rate checks: 2
Music: generic disco/Latin
Setting: sunny Oaxaca, Mexico, one-time home to the Aztecs
Impact: mixed; mostly low-impact with optional power moves

Working out with Donna is like having your pretty, popular best friend show you the ropes. She's a great teacher, and in this tape I see hints of the fun-spiritedness that make her later release, "Donna-Mite," such a favorite among those of us who have to have fun when we exercise. Some folks might find her tied with Denise Austin in the Most Perky category, but she also isn't afraid to occasionally poke fun at her own bubbliness, and I like that in her.

This tape is really not geared for advanced steppers and especially not for the Cathe/Kari/Tim Culwell crowd. However, for a new stepper, it's a great "foundation" tape where you can safely and thoroughly learn such stepping basics as repeaters, over the top, and straddle steps without getting so frustrated you want to hurl your step at the TV. I also find the tropical setting to be much more eye-pleasing than the one in Step Reebok (which gave me the willies). The abs routine--and the wonderful tips on form that Donna shares there--were worth the price of the tape. For those who already do intense ab work, this might not be challenging enough, but I've been able to utilize Donna's technical helps when groaning my way through FIRM IV's abdominal drill. They make a difference, too. Apparently I still have some muscles in that region :)

The video is not without its problems. The music is not very energizing and the two women exercising with Donna don't play along with her the way the crew in "Donna-Mite" does. I keep wanting to tell them, "lighten up and have fun, for Pete's sake!" And there isn't enough intensity variations in it to allow you to use it on a long-term basis. If you look at it as a tutorial tape for both stepping and more intense abdominal toning, however, then you're much likelier to be satisfied that you got your $14 worth.

Grade: A-

Melissa Cooper

As this video has already been thoroughly reviewed, I'd like to add just a few comments. As a returning stepper, I welcome the slower pace and appreciate the meticulous instruction. I agree with Melissa Cooper in that this tape should be viewed as a tutorial on the way to more advanced tapes. The abs section is wonderful, but I wish it were longer.
I enjoy the Oaxaca setting - I think it adds to the charm of this tape!
If you are beginning stepper, this is a great choice. If you are advanced, as already mentioned, you won't get a lot out of this tape.

Nancy Webb

The setting is absolutely gorgeous. The workout is being held outdoors in Mexico, and it's such a nice change from being "in" a gym all the time. This is a beginner-level step workout, followed by an abs section. I didn't realize it was beginner-level when I bought it, so I was a little disappointed. Toward the end, it starts getting into more intense cardio, but by then, more than half the workout is over. This would be excellent for someone just starting. You could use it a lot before you outgrew it, because she shows power options you can add as you get fitter. But for advanced or higher- intermediate exercisers like myself, it just isn't enough.

Annie S.

Awesome Step and Abs is a good tape for the ADV BEG/INT exerciser who is new to step. No prior knowledge of stepping is required, Donna throughly goes over moves like "Basic Step", "Tap Up, Tap Down", "Knee Up", "Repeater" and "Straddle". The intensity is comparable to Step Reebok: The Video but the choregraphy is dancier. The outdoor pyramid setting is more inviting than either Reebok's or Kathy Smith's Step tape.

Donna leads a two member cast (including Gloria Quinland from the Macarena Workout) through six segments. After the third segment, a heart rate check is taken and you reposition your step to face the TV. The last segment features classic toning moves like squats, hamstring curls, and adductions. Throughout the tape, Donna demonstrates optional power moves. Still, the intensity level never rises above INT.

The ab portion is a series of stabilization exercises using the step. Again, Donna pays lots of attention to form - even showing you how to position your hands behind your head. This segment is good preparation for Keli Robert's more complex Abs and More.

Donnamite fans will be disappointed by the lack of enthusiasm shown by the cast. You don't hear a word from them and they don't look particularly happy to be there. At times, they are off in the rountine, adding moves before Donna cues them. Fortunately, Donna has enough enthusiasm and style for all!

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