Video Fitness

30-Minute Breakthrough: Upper Body and Core

Keli Roberts

Breakthrough Upper Body and Core (“BUBC”) is a half-hour workout focusing on upper body and core strengthening. The moves have a functional fitness slant (in other words, not the same-old, same-old).

The set is the same one as Keli’s earlier stability ball and foam roller workouts (it appears they were all filmed at the same time, but for some reason the releases have been staggered). It’s a bit dark but that didn’t bother me. Music is generic but upbeat and does the job. There are two “back up babes” (as they are credited).

Keli does the entire routine with one set of dumbbells (looks like maybe 5 lbs.) and one medicine ball. She doesn’t suggest any poundage. For the dumbbells I started with 5 lbs., but quickly pulled out my 3 lb. and 8 lb. sets because 5 lbs. often felt too light or too heavy depending on the individual exercise. For the medicine ball I used my old 2 lb. Firm Ooof ball. I could have gone heavier, but a couple of the exercises require a med ball big enough rest both feet or both hands on, and my heavier balls are too small for this.

BUBC is very well chaptered as follows:

Warm-up (which I disliked but it is easily skipped).
Set One: bilateral bent-over row, push-up with ball under hand, med ball hand to foot pass.
Set Two: unilateral row sequences, push-up with med ball row hand to hand, med ball under feet plank/hip extension balance.
Set Three: clean and press, push-up both hands on med ball, V-sit med ball rotations with touch down.
Set Four: biceps curl with one leg balance, lateral raise, back extension with med ball.
Set Five: push-up and row, prone rhomboid lift, hands on ball plank.
Stretch (brief, but uses the ball nicely).

Besides the main workout, there is a “bonus block” with a segment from Keli’s upcoming lower body workout, plus behind the scenes and outtake footage (which looks like the same material from the two earlier Breakthroughs).

I am always looking for light weight, non-traditional, functional fitness upper body routines, and this one fills the bill. Keli designed the routine herself and her knowledge and experience really show. I especially appreciate the variety, and the emphasis on back strengthening and shoulder stabilization. Keli instructed well, with excellent form tips, and I enjoy her upbeat, informal personality (“I‘ll buy you a beer!” she crows when one of her background exercisers manages a difficult plank).

However, I already know BUBC won’t be a favorite. I hated the warm-up, mainly because it featured squats and impact moves which are problematic for my knees. There are way too many sets of push-ups IMHO (although at least the sets are short). A couple moves involving the med ball looked potentially unsafe, and no modifications for those was presented (Keli nearly slips during one of the push-up sets, and one background exerciser kept falling out of the second plank series). A couple of the dumbbell exercises were done too fast for me (the clean and press). As already noted, I found using only one set of weights didn’t properly challenge me through the routine. Mainly, though, the routine has a chaotic, thrown-together feel to it. We were constantly up and down, and sometimes Keli’s set-up took longer than I thought it should (especially when she took time out to joke with her background exercisers).

That being said, I would overall recommend BUBC since good functional fitness upper body workouts are fairly rare, and this one is widely available at a discounted price.

Instructor comments: If I ever had to vote for a single, all-time favorite video instructor, it would be Keli. Going all the way back to Cher’s 1992 tape, Keli has consistently demonstrated effective routines in a wide variety of formats and difficulty levels with intelligence and humor.


August 30, 2007

In this video from her "Time Saver Workouts" series, instructor Keli Roberts presents a fast-moving workout focused on upper body and core work. Keli and her two background exercisers are in brightly lit, colorful studio, and they use light dumbbells plus small medicine balls throughout the workout.

The workout is structured into five mini-workouts, or rounds, each of which consist of an upper body exercise with weights, an upper body exercise using the medicine ball, and finally, a core exercise (usually incorporating the ball). Keli begins with a quick-paced, 4-minute warm-up that consists of moves such as shoulder rolls, squats, reaches, knees, and a jump in and out of plank. The exercises in each round are listed on the back of the DVD case as follows (note that every round contains some type of push-up and/or plank move, so those with wrist issues may have problems):

Workout 1
Bilateral bent over row - Push up with ball under hand - Med ball hand to foot pass core stabilization

Workout 2
Unilateral row sequences - Push up with med ball roll hand to hand - Med ball under feet plank/hip extension balance

Workout 3
Clean and press - Push up with hands on med ball - C V-sit med ball rotations with touch down

Workout 4
Bicep curl w1/leg balance - Lateral raise & external rotation - Back extension with med ball in hands overhead

Workout 5
Push up and Row - B Rhomboid lift - Opposite hand and leg raise

Keli concludes the workout with approximately 3 minutes of nice stretching for the upper body, bringing the total time in just shy of 30 minutes. Each round is individually chaptered, so you could easily shorten/customize the workout. The Main Menu of the DVD list's Keli's Introduction (very short overview), Play all Workouts, Select Workout (chapters), and Bonus Features. Bonuses include 3 3-minute clips from other workouts (Breakthrough Lower Body and Core, Flexibility for the Inflexible, and ASAP: Abs, Spine, & Posture), bloopers and behind the scenes, and previews of other workouts by Keli.

Overall, this was a pretty solid workout, and the time just flew by. I was a little put off by the fact that Keli used light weights throughout--her light dumbbells were appropriate for some of the exercises, such as the rhomboid work, but most of the other moves demanded heavier weights. However, there is a lot of flexibility to this workout, and it probably could be customized to meet the needs of most experienced beginner to intermediate exercisers.

Instructor comments: Keli is more high energy in this video than I've seen her in some others (such as WHFN Upper Body Burn); she is also chatty with her two background exercisers, who both wear mikes but don't talk much. However, I was quite disappointed to see her use the same dumbbells throughout the workout--she knows better!!!

Beth C (aka toaster)

September 10, 2007

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