Video Fitness

Strength, Balance & Flexibility

Although I am a frequent visitor to Video Fitness, I somehow missed out on Christi Taylor all together until now. That's too bad, because it turns out that she is a terrific instructor. I have been looking for new types of workouts after burning out on step aerobics and Cathe Friedrich's Maximum Body Strength (does anyone else get overdeveloped quads and calves from too much stepping and squatting?) and "Strength, Balance & Flexibility" seemed like something out of the ordinary.

Indeed, this tape is truly different and challenging. I like this tape not only because it is a solid strength program, but also because it seems to help stabilize my core and improve my posture. There is quite a bit of work for the neglected stabilizer muscles in the lower back. She also does a good job of fully working out the upper hips/buttocks, which is great because I can't seem to reach that area with traditional donkey kicks and leg lifts. Most of your other major muscles groups are worked extensively as well. And, although this is not a cardio tape, your heart rate will soar during some of the leg work. Christi includes more stretching than your average strength tape and many of the moves are totally unlike anything I've done before.

There are a few flubs on this tape. Some of the counts are not equal on each side of the body, but there's nothing as severe as on the Tae Bo tapes and they do make an attempt to edit out the biggest problems! The music is fine, but maybe too familiar (the track has appeared on CIA and Cathe Friedrich tapes already). I could always use more shoulder work and the tricep exercises are not as challenging as everything else on the tape. Overall, however, I'd rate this workout as excellent. I consider myself an advanced exerciser (I run many miles a week and typically use Cathe Freidrich's tapes) and I have found this tape to be fun and challenging enough to include in my weekly rotation.

Jennifer Boss
8/26/99

More of a compound exercise workout incorporating upper and lower body at the same time using light dumbells (I used 5 lbs). Lots of squats and lunges and balancing on one leg movements. It's more of a Method/Straight Up and Sculpt type of workout that can be used on a day after Cathe or Cory strength tapes. I have to admit the floorwork is different than anything I have ever done, but it's not my type of toning tape. I like more traditional workouts for a light day - like Great Weighted Workout, Body Art, The Firm, etc. But Christi made a different tape and I admire her for it. And by the title, she tells it like it is, so there are no surprises.

MaryAnn Parker
8/20/99

Excellent video for increasing lower body endurance (lots and lots of squats and squat variations) and total body conditioning. Christi has put together a nice 60-minute workout that has a smooth, choreographed feel to it. Not choreographed like a FIRM video ( no ta-da's or anything) but each movement flows into the next really nicely.

She warms you up with lots of squats and lunges. Then you pick up your weights (5 to 8 pounds recommended, but a beginner could do the workout with no weight at all). While you are doing upper body exercises such as lawnmower rows, overhead presses, you continue to squat and lunge. You even do one-legged squats while you are doing bicep curls. So this is not a typical strength workout where you isolate just one muscle group; you'll find yourself contracting muscles in all kinds of strange places in order to do the exercise properly. For example, the whole time you are working your biceps, you have to keep your abs contracted to help you maintain a one-legged squat -- not to mention those quads and hamstrings!

The floorwork is really excellent and for most of this segment, Christi walks around and talks you through it while her half-dozen background exercisers do the moves. The floor work includes moves like the plank, tricep push-ups, supermans and the superman doing rear leg lifts.

The ab section is very fine, incorporating traditional crunches and less-traditional stabilization work. Again, Christi uses nice imagery and very specific instructions during this segment. She instructed me to stay in the top part of my range during the oblique work and I really the muscles squeezing hard. You finish up standing and balance on one leg while you are holding your weights in front of you, then to your side and then you hold your leg to the side, next, your leg to the rear. You gotta concentrate or you will fall over. :-D There is a short set for your rotator cuffs that is much appreciated.

I enjoy this tape very much. It is a thorough total body workout with a good "fun" factor as far as I am concerned. The exercises are unique and challenging and the workout goes by really fast. Christi's personality is a big plus and the production quality is good. Christi talks to you very naturally throughout the workout and encourages everyone to stop and drink water, whether it is during a scheduled break or not.

The workout is not flawless: there is a weird editing glitch in the first half of the tape, where you hear Christi giving the same instructions twice (during lawnmower rows on your right side) And she forgets to do the pulsing leg lifts for the left leg during the superman move, but you can compensate for that yourself without even having to stop the tape or rewind.

Christi is a delight. She has the gift of explaining a move you've done a million times -- and suddenly you're feeling it in a whole new way because of her little cues. She has a warm, natural way about her that is charming. I really enjoy her rapport with her background exercisers, and I get a kick out of the razzing she gives her brothers, who are kind of big, burly goodnatured types who seem a little less than comfortable doing some of the moves that require more flexibility.

Daphne M

10/6/99

I'm almost certain I'll be in the minority here, but I didn't really care for this workout. It is not a bad or sub-standard workout by any definition, but it's not my style. There is too much repetition for my taste. I may be getting cranky in my "old age" (getting close to 40!) -- it seems like the older I get, the more impatient I get with videos that don't "grab" me right off the bat. Or, most likely, it's just that I've acquired such a huge collection of videos, that I don't have the patience to stick with ones that are a little boring (for me) when I know I have hundreds of others sitting on my shelf. Nevertheless, I did find myself wishing I could somehow condense this workout into something not so repetitive. There are a lot of good exercises in here that aren't found in other videos. If Christi ever decides to make a more condensed version, I'll definitely buy it.

Annie S.
ann.s@worldnet.att.net
10-9-99

I can pretty much echo what Daphne and other reviewers have said about this video. It has been described thoroughly already, so I'll just add a few comments. The title, "Strength, Balance and Flexibility" pretty much describes it. Well, maybe it could have been called, "Muscular Endurance, Balance and Flexibility," but that isn't as catchy! For those of you who liked the style of Angles, Lines and Curves (another great video) but were hoping for something a little more intense, you will like this one. Christi takes a somewhat more athletic approach with this video than Kari does with ALC, though. This workout is great for all levels. Christi shows and/or describes less intense modifications throughout. Don't be fooled into thinking that just because you're using light (5-8 lb.) weights that your muscles won't feel it. They will! This video is great for building core strength. As Christi mentions, this is a perfect video to take traveling with you--all it requires are one set of light dumbbells and a mat or a towel. Wonderful, unique workout! Give it a try!

The newest trio of videos from Christi is my first experience with her workouts. Based on what I have seen, I'm aching for some more of her videos! She's just so friendly, and her instruction is excellent. And if/when she does make a slight cueing error, she always jokes about it. Wonderful!

Kristin Aziz
kristinaziz@hotmail.com
10/11/99

I am a huge Christi Taylor fan, but since I prefer heavier weight work I was unsure how I'd feel about this video. Well, I was extremely impressed, and it has become a regular part of my video rotation, at least once every two weeks. I'll be doing it even more frequently to start, though, as I'm recovering from knee surgery and this is one of the few total body videos I can do without modifications.

Daphne did an excellent job of describing the video, and the reasons why she likes it echo mine very closely. I'll just add some additional comments.

I was very pleased by how meticulously planned and how creative this video is. The warm up is excellent preparation for the strength work, with lots of arm movements that mimic the exercises used later. Christi then proceeds to "Phase One," where no free weights are used, which is designed to pre-fatigue the muscles. It also allows you to concentrate on form.

Although you use only one or two sets of dumbells in the workout, and the weights are lighter than I normally use, this is a video where you can just buckle down and concentrate on form, so the lighter weights were much more challenging than I expected.

Unlike most strength videos, where each exercise focuses on one muscle group, Christi's exercises have multiple, complementary goals. Daphne hits the nail on the head when she says "you'll find yourself contracting muscles in all kinds of strange places in order to do the exercise properly."

Where I run into trouble in this review is when I try to find other videos to compare it to. To say that it's like a "more athletic version of the Method tapes" would be to sell Christi and her creativity short. Like the Method and Kari Anderson's "Angles, Lines, and Curves," you concentrate on core strength and "functional fitness," stretching some muscle groups as you strengthen others, and using isometric moves and combining them with more traditional strength exercises in ways I'd never dreamed of. In fact, if someone asked me what "functional fitness" meant in relation to strength training, I'd show them this video as an example.

For those who like to vary the type of strength workout they use, this video is a must-have. If you only like to use heavy weights it probably won't be to your liking unless you're looking for something different.

FIRM fans might also want to seriously consider this one. Though it is not the lavish production style that has made the FIRM famous, it will appeal to those who like the compound exercises often seen in FIRM videos, and those who prefer more choreographed strength workouts. For FIRMies, the "balance" and "flexibility" aspects of this video would be an excellent complement to what they get from the FIRM.

While not everyone will find room for this style of workout in their rotation, it has become part of mine.

Wendy Niemi Kremer
10/4/99
wendy@videofitness.com

My strength workouts are typically gym style-Cathe Friedrich's PS Series and Maximum Intensity Strength. I bought this video to spice up my workouts with something a little different. I wasn't disappointed. This video is tough, specially done with 8 lb weights. The moves have a choreographed feel to them because you work different body parts at the same time. Although this video will never replace my gym type workouts it is a great compliment to them since I feel like I am working my muscles in a different way.

Instructor comments: This is my first encounter with Christi and I find her to be a very thourough, knowledgable instructor. She is very motivating, down to earth and lots of fun!

Ali A.
patfan@gateway.net
11/27/99

This video has already been very well described in previous reviews, so I'll just post my impressions. When I previewed the video, I didn't think it would be that tough to do. (I use Cathe Friedrich and Firm strength tapes usually.) But when I tried to do this tape with a set of 8 lb. weights, I really felt it--especially the leg work. The tape is much more challenging than it looks--you feel as if you're never going to have a chance to put down your weights. I've never done a strength workout quite like it. I think I prefer more traditional strength workouts like MIS and the PS series, but this was a nice change of pace, and I plan to use it in my rotation.

Instructor comments: As always, Christi Taylor is very motivating. She's an excellent instructor.

ab

12/18/99

I love Christi Taylor's Hi-Lo Happy Hour and since this tape received good reviews, I thought I'd check it out. Normally I do Firm tapes for my strength work,and I've got a PS rotation planned for next month. I did the tape using 5# and it was surprisingly tough. That pre-fatiguing Christi has you do really works! Next time, I'll try 7#, but I would definitely not want to go higher, nor do I think I'd ever need to.

This was a good all-around workout that really challenged the endurance in my legs (can you say "burning thighs?") and definitely had my heart rate up there during the standing work. Well-cued, well-executed. But, I'm a little disappointed to say, not fun. Not boring or agonizing or hateful, just not fun. (I guess I was spoiled by having done Happy Hour previously!) Still, I will probably keep this in my rotation when I am doing Firm-style workouts.

Renee Drellishak
renee@nwlink.com
2/6/00

This is the second tape I've tried in my new Christi Trilogy, and I'm one more step toward being a devoted Christi fan! As other reviewers have noted, it's very different from other strength and toning tapes. Christi uses compound exercises, balance moves, many repetitions, and isometrics. I consider myself quite strong, but this tape worked the muscles in new ways that were consistently challenging, and, to me, very interesting. I consider it the perfect rotation alternative to FIRM and Cathe PS/MIS. Even better, it doesn't require a lot of equipment. I used 8 lb. dumbbells this time, and may go to 10 next time on some segments. A friend who previewed this tape before I got around to it didn't like it. Now I think I know why--it's no-nonsense tough! You really have to concentrate.

Instructor comments: Christi is the gym teacher you wish you'd had in high school--friendly, straightforward, and a little pushy. She gives plenty of encouragement and form cues while she's counting out eight more reps than you think you can possibly do!

Barbara Loots
bkloots@earthlink.net
3/18/00

I wasn't a Christi Taylor fan until I met her and watched her video filming in 6/00. I had tried several of her videos and thought they were too complicated or just weren't what I was looking for. Well, since then, I have purchased many of her videos and love (most of) them.

I actually gave away my first copy of SBF because it wasn't the type of strength workout I was looking for - which was heavier like PS or even the Firm. I don't remember if I ever even did much of video. Since then, I've realized that all types of strength training are important - heavy strength, endurance and toning. I first did SBF 'live' with Christi at her gym in Maryland and ordered the video as soon as I got home.

It's totally different from anything I'm used to, and it's a nice addition to my lighter sculpting/toning rotations. As mentioned, there are a few weird edits but I really like the workout. It's been well described by others, but I just want to add that I'm glad I gave this video another chance. I think it has its place in a well-balanced fitness program - even though it's not a traditional strength workout. It makes my body feel good and I really like it.

Joni O
1/26/01

This is an older video which I believe stands the test of time. Christi was ahead of her time in putting this workout together. She leads a group of background exercisers in what looks like a workout studio. The first time I did it; part of it drove me nuts because I recognized the music, but couldn’t figure out from where. Later, it occurred to me – Step, Low, and Tone with Andre Houle. It was used in other tapes as well.

My version of the sections of this tape are as follows:

> Warm-up
> Prefatiguing – Squats and lunges, some with upper body moves (no weights)
> Compound moves with squats and weighted upper body moves
> Section using own body weight. You’re on your hands and feet or hands and knees.
> Crunches/ab work
> Exercises while laying on back for lower body, upper body, and core
> Balance moves holding weights
> Lunges and plies with weighted upper body moves
> Cool down


I felt this tape was well done and well planned. Christi gives constant form pointers and points out when beginners can take breaks and do modifications. Some of the background exercisers demonstrate modifications throughout the workout. As usual, Christi cues very well and mirror cues throughout the workout.

Embedded in the workout are a LOT of moves where you are propped on your hands, either in combination with your feet or knees. I have arthritis and the worst joints for me are my hands and wrists, so this is a MAJOR deal for me. I simply cannot do anywhere near all the moves.

Finally, although I admire this workout, it is not one I want to keep. It has a high dread factor for me. While I was doing many of the moves and feeling their effectiveness, I wasn’t enjoying them. What if there weren’t so many moves propped on the hands? I don’t know if that would overcome my dread of it – they are such an integral part of the workout.

Sorry to be so wishy washy, but that’s how I feel about this workout! (smile)

Instructor comments: I LOVE Christi and how she leads videos. She is warm and encouraging and descriptive and straightforward and stays on the beat, etc., etc.

Laura S.

September 16, 2004



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