Video Fitness

Functional Foundations: Core Strength

Tracie Long

OVERVIEW
Core Strength is the spice in my fitness collection. Most of the exercises are unfamiliar but don’t come with a steep learning curve (assuming you are familiar with the stability ball and traditional weight lifting). Some are trickier than others though but are worth the extra effort to learn because these exercises are so darn effective and will make you feel like a fitness star.

Core Strength is all about working multiple muscle groups at the same time. Whether you are executing unfamiliar moves that rely entirely on your body weight or grabbing your dumbbells – nothing is traditional; this is weight lifting with flair. Although the workout is geared more towards high reps, the reps are not endless. In fact, it is surprising how quickly we move from one exercise to the next. You cannot help but have fun with this workout because you are constantly doing something different.

The challenge in Core Strength is maintaining proper form in an unstable environment provided by focused body positioning with or without the stability ball (depending on the exercise). This added challenge and the relatively quick pace will not allow you to lift heavy but instead use light to medium weight.

PRESENTATION
Tracie, Bonnie, Cindy and JAC all look exceptionally fit and beautiful. They are working out aboard the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier. The backdrop provides a seriousness and mission driven atmosphere. The music is fantastic (one of the best in my video collection) – you get some funky beats and a wide variation of different tunes.

I am still scratching my head over why this workout included some unnecessary design effects. The workout is widescreen with a bright solid yellow border and then there are some silly animated swirls of color that take over the rest of the screen. On first glance these design features are distracting but then on doing the workout, they are unnoticeable since you are focusing on the workout itself. But unfortunately these design effects limit the overall video quality since the animation absorbs significant storage space on the disc. Without them, the picture quality could have been better. I am not utterly dissatisfied with the picture quality but knowing that it could have been better makes me think ‘too bad.’

The cueing is good but if the majority of exercises are new to you, previewing the workout and learning the exercises will be helpful in getting you through the workout smoothly. There are a few instances where the camera focuses only on the upper body on introduction to the exercise. Your legs won’t know what to do unless you are familiar with this workout.

DIFFICULTY
Core Strength is not for beginners as it requires you to have a certain foundation of fitness. The core has to be relatively strong; without this, it would be impossible to perform some of the exercises. The relatively quick pace also requires that you are familiar with the exercises more traditional counterparts or else you are guaranteed to be sloppy. With that said, you would have to be at least an intermediate exerciser to get through this workout and a high intermediate to excel at it.

The most difficult exercises are the ones that require you to balance. An example is “the frog,” an abdominal exercise where you are in plank position with a stability ball. The challenge is lifting one leg above the stability and then bringing in both legs towards the chest. To return back to plank position, you sweep the lifted leg out like a frog or the way you would swim when doing a breast stroke, while the other leg returns straight back. The frog is my favorite abs exercise in Core Strength because I feel my entire abdominal wall working.

This is a workout that will become more challenging as you gain familiarity with the exercises because a) you will be able to do more of the exercises b) you will be able to execute them with better form.

HOW TO USE CORE STRENGTH
I have noticed that many people have wondered how to incorporate a workout like Core Strength into their fitness rotation. This is something you could either do throughout your recovery week or a bonus workout on any day of your regular rotation. Would I make a rotation based around workouts like core strength? I don’t think I would because there is not enough muscle focus to build strength or even maintain it in the long run.

COMPLETENESS
Despite the challenge that Core Strength delivers, some exercises might yearn for a longer workout sessions since Core Strength only clocks at 46 minutes. Because you get a bit of everything with Core Strength, you can add on any type of workout. For example I added Cathe’s upper and lower body add-on (from her Basic Step and Body Fusion DVD) and felt thoroughly worked out.

LASTING APPEAL
Despite some quality issues, I still give this workout an A. The wide variety and continual flow of innovative exercises makes this workout fly by. Core Strength is beautifully sequenced and fun; I only wish it was longer. Whenever I am unmotivated, uninspired or my fitness routine is starting to sink, I reach for my TLPs. A workout like this is what keeps me consistent with exercise as well as continually challenged.

Instructor comments: Tracie has put a lot of effort into designing a winning routine that is both challenging and extremely fun. She has revitalized traditional weight lifting routines and makes learning these new exercises easy with her constant and helpful form pointers. Her cueing is great with only some subtle errors.

Celes

September 1, 2004

About me:

I'm an intermediate-advanced exerciser. I am currently doing a mix of spinning, Cathe (Body blast and intensities), P90X, Dancy stuff (salsa, bhangra, yoga-booty-ballet). I throw in some Mindy occasionally. I like some high impact, but not all high-impact, I do yoga, pilates, and generally hate following a routine.

I am not a huge firm fan. I love the firm bootcamp workout, and Firm tough tape, however - because I like Tracie Long and Dale Brabham.

That all being said, I went through this sudden desire to start something fresh (usually does happen during a seasonal change, especially fall, when my psyche is programmed towards 'school starts - get knew stuff' after so many years of school, college, etc.

I bought all 4 TLP dvds, and this was the first one I've tried.

It was 45-50 minutes long, and rather interesting. I enjoyed it a lot. The music is excellent, Tracie is top-form, and Jac has this smile that really reaches out to the viewer.

The workout itself was very challenging due to all the balance, and there were several moves I couldn't do (fell off the ball). I did like how she repeatedly told the viewer that it's NOT WRONG if you don't stand on one foot (on the one-legged moves). She seemed to get the fact that people will feel like they are doing the workout wrong if they put their toe down for these moves. I tried to match her, but felt okay when I couldn't.

I will grow into this workout as my core strengthens, and I really enjoyed it.

I will do another TLP today. Perhaps core cardio.

Instructor comments: Superb. Tracie knows her stuff, is completely non-giddy without being robotic. She is very professional and also sophisticated at the same time, while somehow imparting warmth.

I think Tracie has what it takes in this industry to make it as 'leader of her pack'.

I had a good experience with TLP - I ordered 3 days before I got them. I also had forgotten to order one of the dvds (I wanted all 4) and Tracie told me to place another order and she would refund shipping, which she did.

Leela

9/3/04

Core Strength is part of the 2-DVD Functional Foundations set released by Tracie Long Productions (TLP; the set is also referred to as the “Yorktowns” because the workouts were filmed on the USS Yorktown). It is challenging and unique 47-minute strength workout which uses various sets of dumbbells and a stability ball. The choreography is fun and different, and while the moves themselves are fairly simple, I had trouble following along the first time through; it was easier the second time, but it will still take some additional practice on my part to get the moves down since the exercises are so unfamiliar. Throughout the workout, you actually will recognize many of the exercises—e.g., rows, kickbacks, squats, militaries, etc.—but most of these moves incorporate the ball and/or add a balance challenge, making them also unique and different. The DVD is well-chaptered, as it is broken into 4 groups of scenes (1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-18) as well as 18 individual chapters.

Starting the warm-up seated on the ball, you’ll do “chops” (twists), knee ups, and simple stretches for the lats, hip flexor, and calf. Moving to the floor for a push-up series, first you’ll do a push up with rotation (one-arm row), then a “thread the needle” move in which you start in a plank position, pull in one knee, and then rotate it out to the side—these are really challenging! Luckily, some more traditional strength work comes next with row and kickback combos on the ball. Both combos are performed lying face down on the ball: for the first, you’ll do a back extension series without weights, then move into one-arm rows and tricep extensions, and for the second, you’ll do a double-arm row with a shoulder rotation and front one-arm push. The next series involves single-leg squats (there are quite a few of these!). First you’ll do a single leg squat touching one weight to the ground (front, side, back), then squat on the same leg with an alternating overhead press. Moving to a seated position on the ball, you’ll raise your arms in an “X” position, alternately moving them across the body and then going on to a triceps French press. You’ll then balance on the same leg for bicep curls and rear dips before repeating all of the moves with the opposite leg. Going back to the ball, you’ll lie face up this time for chest presses, triceps work, and bridge variations using the weights. This segment closes with a side lunge/tap series, adding “clock” lunges (a sort of shortened forward lunge) with a biceps curl.

The next segment gets your heart rate going even more with jumps and hops. You’ll jump forward, walk back, jump 90-degrees to the side, walk back again, then repeat the series hopping on one foot. A tough segments of dips with one foot on the ball follows: placing the top of one foot on the ball behind you, you’ll do scaption work while rolling the ball out and in. Shoulder rotation work comes next with a move called the “A-Frame”; this is combined with a good morning/triceps extension combo. Then it’s back to the floor for more TOUGH core work with the ball. First, you’ll lie over the ball in a plank position and protract/retract your shoulder blades, but then you’ll roll your feet in for a “pecking bird” pushup that is really challenging. Following this are back extensions with rotation (lots of rotating and twisting movements in this workout!) and then what even Tracie calls an “advanced plank” on the ball: you lift one leg out to the side, then pull the knee in for a “frog” move that I absolutely could NOT do. Excursions come next: in a kneeling position, you hold the ball overhead and lean backwards, using your core to raise you back up. Finally, you lie sideways with the ball inbetween you feet, “walking” the ball forward and back. The final three sections are performed on the floor. You’ll again use the ball for bridge work, this time lying on the floor with your feet on the ball and rolling the ball in; a bicycle crunch with one foot on the ball follows. The last bridge move involves “marching” your feet on the ball; again, this is very tough! But you’re not done with the core work yet: lying back over the ball, you’ll do weighted crunches and then a “crocodile” move where one arm moves across to meet the other while stepping out to the side. Okay, NOW you are done, and Tracie leads you through a nice stretch, first draped over the ball for quad and shoulder stretches and then seated on the ball for moves similar to the warm-up.

As with Core Cardio, I think that the more I do this workout, the more I am going to enjoy it! Because each segment lasts only a few minutes, you’re always moving to something new, so there’s not much of a dread factor (well, maybe a little for all of that core work!). Also, I love the balance work, which keeps the workout fun and interesting (and, on a good day, makes me feel strong and graceful). This is definitely a workout for intermediate/advanced exercisers; a strong core would also be a great asset in this core-focused strength workout.

Instructor comments: Tracie provides excellent mirrored cueing; she never makes any mistakes, and her form is perfect. However, I found that she does not fully explain the exercises in this workout. It is almost like she assumes that you are already familiar with the exercises, which would be fine if she was doing only basic, familiar moves (e.g., a bicep curl), but the exercises here are so different and unique that more explanation is necessary. The camera angles don’t really help either: sometimes, the camera focuses on a close-up of Tracie, and the full move is not shown until after Tracie begins. Furthermore, the workout is filmed in something similar to a wide-screen format, with bands across the top and bottom that serve to further restrict the viewing area (although this does allow the names of the exercises to appear on-screen, which is a nice bonus). As I said above, I had an easier time with the workout the second time through, and I’m sure that as I learn the choreography, I will have no further problems with Tracie’s cueing. Joining Tracie on the Yorktown are her fellow TLP instructors, all of whom do a good job.

Beth C (aka toaster)

May 2, 2006



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