The Firm Express: Ignite

Emily Welsh
Year Released: 2010

Categories: Circuit Training (cardio and weights) , Floor Aerobics/Hi-Lo/Dance , Total Body Workouts

The first Cycle of Firm Express, Ignite, is led by Emily Welsh. All of the workouts are filmed in a cute gym-like setting, with the FIRM logo in the back and a lighted white wall, which is usually lighted a faint blue, but turns into a faint red when you are going through the bursts. Emily works out with two other Firm master instructors (different in each but either Kelsie, Jennifer, Alison, or Rebekah), with the one to the viewer’s right providing modifications-supposedly. Frankly they really don’t modify anything significantly, they all work at high impact, the only modifications provided might be a slightly smaller range of motion. If you want to modify the workout, you’ll have to do it yourself. The Ignite Cycle is blue themed with all the exercisers wearing blue shirts, and the DVDs are blue as well. (There is one workout per DVD).


This was my first workout of the Firm Express series, and it moved at lightning fast speed. I am not sure how many strength gains one might expect from this “sculpt” workout, but it is undeniably a calorie burner. And personally I also think it is good for mental agility – it felt like a scratching your head while rubbing your belly kind of workout (it most reminded me of Firm’s Power Half Hour, for comparison). Hopefully as I get more used to the pace and energy of this workout, I will start to anticipate the exercises and get more out of it.

The 20 minute workout is structured in four, 5 minute mini-cycles, starting with the bursts (four bursts at 8 seconds with a short recovery) then moving on to about 4 minutes of very quickly paced strength work, then repeat with all new exercises. Two of the bursts grow in intensity, with the fourth and final burst being the most intense. The first burst (right after the warm up) was pulsing plie-plyo plie-plyo plie with heel touch (x2). The other burst which increased in intensity was the mountain climbers, with “baby” mountain climbers to regular mtn. climbers to twisting mtn. climbers. The two bursts that stayed the same were very quick front lunges (one leg, then the other), and very quick side to side lunges. The latter bursts (the front and side lunges) were difficult on the knees, so much so that I am going to sub these for another exercise in the future. Just a warning!

The strength work moved VERY quickly (I used 8# and 12# weights and will likely have to go lighter next time) and included dips with biceps, squats with overhead press, dead lift with back rows, side lunges with a chop into a French press (nice functional move, and my favorite in the workout!), side lunges with biceps, prone chest flies with leg pull ins, a bridge move with one hand shooting over body (repeat other side, no weight), one arm row in a deep static lunge (a move I recognize from Jillian’s workouts), and some very quick ab work right at the end. One of the things I really liked about this was that all of the standing work was followed by all of the floor work (i.e., no repeated up and down). My only complaint (which I think will be true of all the FE workouts) is that the cool down is minimal to zero. Their “cool down” is ab work, not a well deserved stretch.


This 21 minute workout is also structured in four, 5 minute mini-cycles, with the first and last cycle being cardio and the middle two cycles being strength. After a brief warm up of side lunges and squats, the first cardio set included a mini cardio routine (very easy to follow-not complex) with jogging and jumping jacks, followed by burst #1 which was a low jacks into air jacks. Then pick up “heavy” weights (I used 8#) for a lunge/dip combo with rows and biceps (snore) but then onto more intense work with squat burpees into pushups and back up (much better!), followed by burst #2 which was burpees. Then using medium weights-combined (I used one 8#) there is a low squat with concentrated bicep curls, then onto pushups, plank rows, and side tricep pushups (then repeat with other arm). That was a really fun set. Then back to standing for burst #3, which was plyo squats. Then back to cardio with another very easy to follow cardio routine with unweighted lunges and dips and some side squats with “muscle arms,” followed by burst #4 which was fast feet. Then as a “cool down” some standing ab work, then side plank into a side stretch. I had to add my own stretch. I liked this work out a LOT more than Cycle 1-S. I liked the variety of workouts better, it was nicer on the knees, and Emily is less chatty and doesn’t make the comments about being lazy that she does in Sculpt.


This 21 minute workout is all cardio (and all standing) with no weights used. I was expecting 100% high impact but was refreshingly surprised by more kickboxing-inspired mini-cardio routines (with mixed impact) followed by high impact bursts (so it’s not ALL high impact, maybe 70%). After a brief warm up of lunges and squats, the workout was structured by a brief cardio set, which Emily added on and made more intense, usually repeated on both sides, then finishes with the bursts which tended to be a more intense move of what you were already doing (in other words, it felt well organized and flowed into the bursts). Then start fresh with the next set. The four bursts were a low lunge plyo (two bursts on each leg, alternating), side to side plyo squat, high knees variation, and (IIRC) another squat plyo move. The non-burst cardio sets were kickbox inspired and included punch/kick variations with some plyo squats and side to side hops interspersed. Emily moved quickly but it was fairly easy to follow (I think I got confused once). On the whole a very fun and TOUGH little cardio routine. All those plyos really fatigued my legs! Emily did make one mention about you not “cheating” which I found derogatory, but wasn’t as bad as the Sculpt workout.

So, finishing with the first of four FE Cycles, I am feeling confident about the system. I think it will mostly be for cardio burning than for strength (there’s just NOT enough reps of anything to get any strength gains) but the strength portions are great for endurance. My only real complaints with the set are that (1) the cool down/stretches are minimal to zero, and (2) the modifier is a joke, but it’s OK because I know how to modify on my own. So for me, it’s not really an all in one 20 minute workout, it has to be more like 25 minutes by the time I stretch. But I WILL say that the workouts are a totally efficient use of my time for calorie burning - my heart rate gets and stays up for the entire time! I also really like that the cardio is more athletic than dancey (although Emily still tends to make it more confusing than necessary) so it’s easy to follow, and you’re never doing one thing for more than a couple of minutes, the time FLIES. Since I found Cycle 1 – Sculpt to be hard on my knees, I probably won’t pull that one out often, but the other two were GREAT, with C/S being especially fun. I would rate these high intermediate due to the high impact factor, or if modified to low impact, would rate them intermediate because there is a lot of intensity packed in to 20 minutes. Overall grade B+.

Instructor Comments:
Emily definitely has a particular style, she talks very quickly, is chatty, and moves very quickly both within exercises and from exercise to exercise. I don’t think it’s that her cuing is sub-par, it’s just that she moves really quickly with absolutely zero downtime. Depending on my mood, sometimes I really like her high energy while other times she seems exhausting and annoying. She has the same style (if a little pushier in Firm Express) here as she does in the other Pink Firm workouts. She’s more drill sergeant-y in FE. I didn’t enjoy her occasional derogatory comments (about laziness/cheating) and I hope she drops the bad habit for her future workouts. At any rate, I’m a big Firm fan, so I will most likely buy any future workouts she has.

Emily B.