Karen Voight's Sleek Essentials is a 3-DVD set consisting of cardio, strength, and stretch components. During the summer of 2005, I participated in a 12-week test group for this program (along with at least 15 other VFers) and saw very good results (for my about my results, visit my home page at www.geneseo.edu/~cholette/SEResults.html).
Karen’s materials described the program as a “triple threat”—i.e., a balance of cardio, strength, and flexibility training. The three DVDs address each of these three areas of fitness; each is about 50 minutes long and features Karen leading a class of 4-5 in a bright indoor studio. The DVDs are all very well-chaptered and are described in detail below.
Sweat (51:32 minutes)—This is a cardio-focused routine that consists mainly of kickboxing moves. Jumps and hops are added for increased intensity, but on modifier always shows the low-impact option. The foam roller is used for the bonus abs segment only. Music for this workout is fun and somewhat funky, and it coordinates well with the movements. The chapter breakdowns (along with times in parentheses) are as follows:
• Warm Up (5:28): simple foot and arm movements (including side punches) plus some static stretches for the lower body
• Twist and Punch (7:11): sequence includes front straight punch, cross punch, and knee lift, eventually adding hops to increase the intensity; also includes a side squat with inner thigh work sequence
• Bob and Weave (7:22): chasse with hamstring curl plus a sequence that includes front straight punch, cross punches, and uppercuts
• Lunge and Lift (6:35): sequence starts with front knee lifts and adds hops and a jumping jack for intensity; this combines with a second sequence of rear leg extensions and hamstring curls; a series of lunges are performed in-between the two sides
• Jump and Kick (7:20): front knee lifts turn into a sequence with knee lifts, a rock step back, and then a kick, adding floor touches and jump kicks for intensity; additional shorter sequences include a side to side hop, a box step with a knee lift, and a side leg extension with a jump; section ends with side diagonal step with an arm swing to cool down
• Butt and Thighs (5:10): lying on your back, you place one foot on the opposite knee and then raise your hips; you also do several sets with you foot in the air and then with your hips static as the leg moves up and down; moving to hands and needs, you do hamstring lifts with a bent leg a various paces, including slow, fast, quick-quick-slow, and fast; the entire sequence is then repeated on the other leg
• Bonus Abs with Roller (5:56): here you use the foam roller to work your abs from four different positions: 1) lying with your shoulders resting against the roller and crunching down then up, 2) lying side ways on the roller and crunching down and up, adding a leg lift, 3) lying with your hips on the roller and lifting into an elbow plank position, and 4) holding the roller under your knees for a reverse curl and then a double curl
• Cool Down (6:30): a series of stretches completed on one side of the body and then the other: lying hamstring stretch, seated side stretch, seated forward bend, seated twist, and side plank stretch with one knee on the floor; the segment ends with a seated lat stretch and a final seated forward bend with legs bent
Strength (49:40 minutes)—This is a full body weight workout that uses the foam roller as well as two sets of dumbbells (light and heavy). The foam roller is used throughout, sometimes for balance, sometimes as part of the movement. The music here is light, jazzy, and mostly unobtrusive. The chapter breakdowns (along with times in parentheses) are as follows:
• Warm U (6:37): moving stretches for arms, side steps with knee lifts, lunge and reach, squat and reach, and leg push off move
• Bonus Cardio Blast (5:14): begins with a simple diagonal step with knee lift; moves into a series of back steps, shoulder press with front step, uppercuts, and hooks; also includes hamstring curls, slow and fast side punches, a side shuffle move with a knee lift, and a side squat with a jump
• Legs and Butt (6:42): holding one heavy dumbbell, you perform plie squats and then single leg squats with a one-arm row; next come rear leg extensions using the roller for balance and then rear lunges with a twist while holding the roller
• Arms and Shoulders (7:26): using your light weights, you perform single and then double front shoulders raises, flies balanced on one leg, single-arm lift to the side and to the back using the roller for balance, a front raise with arms bent at 90-degress, side bicep curl with an overhead shoulder press, bicep curls with a twist, and a double-arm row
• Upper Body (10:04): lying vertically over the roller (i.e., so the roller supports you from your head to your tailbone), you use your two heavy dumbbells to perform chest presses, flies, lat pull-downs, and tricep presses, sometimes performing the moves while balanced on one leg; next comes a tricep push-ups series with your knees on the roller and moving into a push-up-plank-leg lift sequence; finally, you’ll do two versions of tricep kickbacks and then finish with stretches for the wrists, forearms, and lats using the roller
• Abs (6:06): starting with the roller behind you in a seated position, you do a c-curve dropback, barely resting against the roller before using your abs to pull you up; returning to lying on the roller, you perform traditional crunches, side bends, then cross-side reaches; next, you raise both feet off the ground for toe dips and finish with a bridge stretch
• Cool Down (7:15): lying face-down with the roller under your hips, you’ll raise on your hands to stretch your abs then reach back for a quad stretch; next comes a forward bend seated on the roller, lunge with one knee on the roller, and finally seated sided stretches and a forward bend with your hands on the roller
Sleek—this is a stretching and flexibility routine that mixes dynamic yoga postures with more traditional stretches; the roller is worked into many of the moves. The music here is light, jazzy, and mostly unobtrusive. The chapter breakdown is as follows:
• Warm Up (9:02): focuses on breathing, standing forward bends, twists, side stretches (using roller for balance), and chair pose
• Strengthen (10:57): core work from cobra, plank, and all fours positions; includes cat/cow stretches and incorporates the roller for a cobra stretch at the end; finishes with a shoulder/back stretch using the roller and a neck stretch
• Lengthen (6:07): chair pose with twist plus triangle pose and side angle; the roller is not used for this segment
• Balance (7:32): begins with a lunge series; incorporates the roller for balance: knees on the roller, lifting one leg, and side elbow plank with legs on the roller; ends with several bridge variations with feet on the roller
• Core (8:42): abs work, including several small isometric movements with the spine in a c-curve, some traditional crunches, and abs stabilization exercises lying on the roller; ends with bridge on the roller
• Streamline (8:34): side plank stretch with hand on then off the roller; reclining leg stretches lying on the roller; back stretches lying with the roller horizontally under hips, and a few final stretches lying on the floor with legs in diamond shape (cobbler’s pose)
I think that these are solid intermediate level workouts, although I see them as being easy to modify up or down. I like kickboxing, so I found Sweat to be fun, especially the 3rd and 4th segments; that extra butt work, while short, is killer! Strength definitely had a functional fitness feel to me, especially with the twists and the balance work, but it is a bit light on the lower body (however, Karen makes up for it by frying your triceps). At first, I hated the tough plank work at the beginning of Sleek, but it got more tolerable as I got better at it. This workout is great for working through any kinks in your body, and I especially liked the final two segments. Overall, my favorite parts of this set are probably the abs/core work and the stretches (especially with the roller--yum!).
I think fans of Karen Voight will really like these series; it also might be good for those who found Tracie's TLTs to be too difficult/too strange, as the moves here are a bit more traditional yet still have that functional fitness flair. Also, there aren't many roller workouts out there, and it's a nice little piece of equipment that can be used in a variety of ways. I enjoyed participating in the SE test program and would definitely recommend these workouts.
I think that Karen has gotten more and more comfortable in front of the camera as time goes on. Here, she is professional, yet she seems quite relaxed, even jokey at times. As always, she provides excellent mirrored cueing.
Beth C (aka toaster)
December 20, 2006