Video Fitness

Blast Off Pack

Richard Simmons

review of both Sweatin' On Broadway and Blast Off Packs

I'm putting both video packs together since they are now available in stores. I imagine there are folks out there wanting to try one and not sure which fits their needs best. Each come with a food mover kit, a gadget and three videos. Here's the deal-
The food mover kits is basically the same except there are two different cookbooks. The food mover comes with several meal cards so you can choose your calorie level, and several guide books that cover cooking methods and choices, portion sizes and common restaurant choices as well. It offers some basic nutrition information that is easy to understand and apply.
The gadget- Broadway comes with a resistance tubing thing and Blast comes with soft wrist/ankle weights, about 1.5 pounds per, with a gel insert that you freeze and stick in slot on the weight that can keep you cool. The tubing has two sturdy handles and you can put one , two or three bands in it to increase the resistance. However, changing tubes takes a few minutes, so unless you want to pause the tape, you will want to use the same level for the whole workout. I like the concept behind the cool weights with the blast set, but would have preferred just a wrist band that you can use for a cooling sensation. 1.5 pounds is not enough weight to get any strengthening and shaping results.
The videos- I love the broadway pack! The music is great and the moves are dancey. There is an almost one hour aero workout, a twenty min. aero workout and a 20-30 min toning workout. These tapes can be adapted for high impact fairly easily with their bouncey, fast paced dancey steps, lots of turns, pivots, kicks and jumps. The choreography changes quickly, and Richard doesn't really do a bit of cueing, so its not always clear what you should be doing. However, each sing has a routine that is repeated several times, so you do pick up the sequence after a few run throughs. Still, it can be frustrating to not know what you should be doing, if you're out of step and so on. The toning video has the best music, I think, and the moves emphasize the upper body. Richard says to bend your knees throughout to work the lower body, but he gives no instruction on alignment or form so evryone just bobs up and down. I thought it was a physiological nightmare. There's also no form instruction for the upperbody moves and the how to bit at the end of the workout does not instruct form in any great detail either. Beyond these problems, I find these videos a ton of fun- filled with fun, dancey steps, and happy participants.

The Blast Off set has three videos- all with about 20 mins. of cardio and a 20 min or so toning segment after. Richard has chosen a bunch of hit songs for these videos, and a few songs I never heard. I like most of the music, but there are a few songs that I find less than inspiring. Like the broadway pack, the cardio has bouncey steps that could easily be adapted for high impact, and the cueing is worse (I didn't think it was possible). The steps are dancey, especially in the latin theme workout, more on that later.

Richard's gang dances with abandon, so much so, that several participants look potentially unsafe with their heads flailing about. Again, each song has a routine that is repeated so you will catch on. It may be helpful to watch these several times, especially since Richard has moves he calls the sihnature and it ois different in every song. It complicates the learning process when you hear signature cued, and start to do a move, only to find it is a whole new move.

The latin tape barely qualifies as a workout. Much of the choreography consists of booty shaking. And he cues moves like a salsa or mambo step that are completely different from the salsa or mambo that is done in other video. In Richard's vids, the cast moves around so everyone has their turn up front, but in the latin tape people sit out songs, which reinforces the not really a workout feel. The women, for the most part, wear garish colors, excessive makeup, and costumes that are too tight, too low cut and low supporting. I feared that I would see more than anyone intended on an exercise video! Sports bra, anyone?? I wanted to like this video, since I like latin workouts but I never felt satisfied with this one, and I still can't figure out why Richard is practically in tears during the cool down.

The toning segments all use the 1.5 pound weights and move very fast, much too fast to increase the weights and be safe. Many of the moves don't seem particularly intelligent- lasso motions and hand jivey motions. Definitely not moves in any toning training I've seen! And Richard doesn't offer any form instruction for anything. It looks like his plies are done incorrectly and some of the participants look like they are flinging their weights and bouncing in the lower body movements. i have a fetish for safe toning, and this scares me.

Richard's cardio segments, despite their problems, are always fun, especially on days when I can't seem to find my workout mojo, but the toning programs seem ill advised.

I would reccommend both of these sets to someone looking for a cardio set that has more variety in music and steps than other beginner programs, but they should have some exercise experience- the steps and even the intensity would probably be too much for someone who hasn't engaged in activity for quite some time. The eating program has some great basic info and the cookbooks have some easy and tasty recipes. Choose a pack based on your music preferences (show tunes or hit songs), watch them a few times to see the choreography before trying it, choose a good total body weight training tape (there are lots of good beginner tapes out there) and have a great time. These tapes are fun, motivating and high spirited!

Instructor comments: Richard is always a hoot. His dramatic over the top facial expressions are hilarious. As always, his mannerisms are comical, his tone encouraging and light-hearted. He makes jokes and offers motivation all the time. However, his cueing and instruction borders on non-existant. He's funny, cheesy, encouaging and impossible to ignore.

July 2003

The Blast Off pack is another installment in Simmons' exercise/nutrition packs. It comes with a foodmover and all its instructional materials and a cookbook (different from the Broadway cookbook). A toning gadget- a pair of wrist/ankle weights- 1.5 pounds per, that have a fabric pouch where you can insert a gel pack (included) to help you feel cooler while wearing them. It also has three videos- they each have a cardio session about 25 minutes long and are followed by a toning session that, I think is about 15 minutes long.

The cardio tapes each have a different musical theme- disco, latin and hits. Most of the songs are recognizable hits like Believe and Evil Ways (hits) and Need to know and shake your bon bon (Latin). Hits and Disco both are set in an exercise studio with some funky panels and colored lights, latin looks like a Don Pablo restaurant with a bar and terrace level. In hits and disco, most of the exercisers wear standard workout apparel, but a few wear drapey blouses over shirts and pants. In latin, most of clothes are skin tight, garishly loud colored, low cut tops and plenty of short skirts. There isn't a sports bra in sight. There were moments when I wondered if anyone would fall out since the necklines were low and the cleavage- plentiful.

Combined with the heavy make up and the fact that the participants sit down at the tables, then join in and then sit down again, the latin tape doesn't really look like a workout. And it barely feels like one. The choreography is very simple, low impact and consists of lots of standing around and waving your arms or lightly shaking your hips. what makes this tape complicated is that Richard's cueing is nonexistant, and when he does cue, he uses the names of arm motions, not foot work, or he uses terms for various moves, like salsa, and does a move that is completely different from the salsa step you might know from other workouts. Confusing!

Baillaimos (spelling?) is a fun cool down but Richard is so wrapped up in the choreography that he barely even tries to cue, and occassionally, the filming goes black and white and the cast dances with veils (while doing the same choreography). Yeah, its a little odd. Regardless, the moves themselves are easy and the routines are repeated alot so it isn't impossible to catch on.

The other workouts are more straightforward. Though Richard still has a tendency to cue by arm pattern and not foot steps, the steps themselves are more straightforward and the movement more continuous than in the latin tape. Some of cast members do high impact variations of many steps, but these are low impact routines. The confusing part in the hits and disco tapes is that Simmons has a move called the signature, each song has one and each one is different. So when he cues signature, you may do the signature from the previous song and end up way off in the choreography. However, like all Richard's tapes, each song has a routine, repeated a fair number of times, so you can catch on.

I like the music, but found the camera angles added to the confusion from the lack of cueing. I don't know if its lack of cueing or a choreography issue, but I found the transitions awkward and overall I never had as much as I have when doing Simmons' broadway tapes or even his classic oldies tapes.

The toning portions border on useless. Most exercisers will quickly find the 1.5# weights too light to see body changes, but the reps are far too fast to add much weight (if any) and still be safe. The instruction is lacking as well, especially for the lower body. Richard says "plie" or bend your knees but never gives any instruction on form or safety, and uses questionable form himself. In other words, buy a seperate weight training/sculpting tape, like from Tamilee, Donna Richardson, Gay Gaspar (dummies) or Kathy Smith.

For Richard fans, this pack is more difficult (both choreography and intensity) than the oldies but much easier intensity than broadway. I thought the routines were harder here than broadway, but it was not because of the steps- they were easier here, but didn't flow as well so they felt awkward. I think the cueing may be worse here too. This isn't a bad collection for cardio workouts, but its far from his best.

The food mover is a wonderful tool to intro nutrition info. Exercisers would definitely want to add a weight training program and maybe a stretch tape. Richard ends with a stretch song but uses more gentle movement than stretches. These are really motivating tapes, with good music, happy exercisers and an enthusiastic, motivating instructor. It wouldn't be the first Richard program I'd reccommend to an exerciser, but for folks willing to put in the time to figure out the choreography, the recognizable pop music and happy faces will probably keep you coming back.

Instructor comments: Richard is his usual self in this pack. He's goofy, funny, motivating. He can inspire you to get off your butt, though his cueing leaves a great deal to be desired.


This workout is a really fast, fun workout that never fails to get me going. I love the pace and I really like the workout. When I previewed it, it seemed like it was going to be too fast moving, but when I got into it, I had no trouble keeping up. It seems a bit faster than some of Richard's other workouts, but the steps are about the same in terms of complexity.

There were a couple of things that I find I really dislike about this one too.

There is one guy in it who really bugs me. He seems like he is trying to be "cool" instead of having fun and doing the workout. I have to purposely force myself to look away from him because it really ticks me to see someone who obviously just wanted their 15 seconds of fame and is not taking Richard seriously. I think everyone else looked like they were having fun in a workout video...

There is also another woman in there who, I think the camera man must have had the hots for, because we get to see far too much moving cleavage.

Other than these few annoyance, I really do like this workout and reach for it often. It is bright and fun. The music is is 80's style - some of it is recognizable, some of it not (I think a couple of the tunes were custom made for the video). The tunes you'll recognize are: Maniac, Freeway of Love and Upside Down.

Cori (ziggy2306

February 16, 2004

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