Year Released: 2009
Categories: Abs/Core , Athletic Stretch , Floor Aerobics/Hi-Lo/Dance , Lower Body Strength , Upper Body Strength
I’m reviewing this workout after doing all workouts, except for the Core Fusion, three times; I’ve only done the Core Fusion once.
General workout breakdown: Kaz and Nyx have already given great overviews of this set, so I’ll give some breakdowns and nitty gritty details of the individual workouts in this set as well as add some thoughts.
- Legs & Shoulders (just over 19 min.)
Your warm-up (about 3.5 min.) begins with breathing; then a combo of squats & presses (faster squats), step touches with shoulder rolls and then arm circles, step front / side / front with arms following the legs, knee lifts w/ reverse rows (press down), low jacks w/ arm sweeps side, and calf pumps with punches front that’s done on both sides; and then plies with alternate punches down into dynamic calf and hamstring stretches and then a short static deeper hamstring stretch. The standing portion of the workout runs through these exercise series: squat; upright row [I swap this out for a rotator cuff exercise, which I think is healthier for the shoulders]; superset of squat / dip rear (rear lunge) / abduction (side leg lift); plie, adding in 1-arm row – hold plie while lateral raise; standing oblique crunch; hip squat (squat with step in while holding squat at bottom); bodyweight squat – squat press series; overhead press; and static dip (lunge), adding in lateral raise while holding lunge at bottom – step in & frontal sweep (front delt raise). Then it’s down to the floor for v-sits and a crunch series, alternating between crunching center, crunching across the body, and bent knee drops. Your ending stretch (about 2.5 min.) covers the low back, quadriceps, hips, inner thighs, hamstrings, and obliques.
This should really be called Legs, Shoulders & Abs. Stephanie talks in the beginning about intervals or something, too, but other than a series of “power squats” nothing of that sort really enters the picture.
As with all of the strength workouts, Stephanie usually works in the range of 8-16 reps, sometimes varying the tempo or alternating exercises later in sets to make things more interesting. She keeps things moving at a decent tempo, pretty consistent with the tempo she uses throughout the PF. My only complaint with the pace is that it’s a bit too quick to go truly deep in squats, lunges, etc., although those who prefer to stay shallower for whatever reason may prefer it.
I have to confess I don’t really care much for the way the strength workouts are split in this set, mostly because I feel the division encourages Stephanie to overwork small muscles in relation to bigger, more important muscles. I don’t mind hitting the legs three times, but the shoulders end up getting worked three times, too, directly here and indirectly in the other two workouts, although at least in the Back, Biceps & Thighs workout Stephanie hits the rear delts / back of the shoulders, an area that often gets neglected. Still, Stephanie deliberately works the front of the shoulders in this series more often than she works the back, which over time could lead to an imbalance. I do like this leg workout more than the glutes work in Chest, Triceps & Glutes, as I prefer standing work to floorwork myself, and I like a mix of squats and lunges (sorry, dips), compared to the thigh work in Back, Biceps & Thighs, which leans much more to squats.
- Cardio (19 min.)
Stephanie calls this Cardio Rev It Up. You’ll start right in with the warm-up (3 min.) of march, v-step, hamstring curl, grapevine, chasse, samba, step knee, dynamic calf stretch, static lunge, dynamic hip flexor stretch, dynamic hamstring stretch, and a static hamstring stretch, repeated on each side. You’ll then do four “intervals” or combos or whatever. The first moves through step touch, power hop, grapevine – adding a knee and then three alternating knees, and a squat & 3-count press combo. You’ll then grab the band folded in half for push step w/ a triple step in between, step touch w/ chest press & press down, chasse w/ arms circle around, alternate knee lift w/ rotation, low jack w/ press down, and squat w/ reach overhead. You’ll then drop the band for march, march wide, football run, squat, heel lift, and step foot in. Next comes the step on the floor portion, which includes basic step, v-step, step ham(string curl), angled step ham w/ T arms, ham repeater, rock step, step knee, pivot step knee (as in turn slightly to one side), pivot 3-knee repeater, and pivot 7-knee repeater. Stephanie ends with a standing abs segment holding the band folded in half. You’ll stand and bring one knee in, twisting your upper body first with arms low and then with them higher; your in between move is standing crunches, bringing alternating knees up. A short stretch (2 min. or so) covers your obliques and low back before using the band to help stretch the hamstrings, calves, and quads.
Because of my personal needs and tastes, this is the workout I like most out of this set and could potentially do even when I’m not doing a PowerFit rotation, as this makes a good add-on option.
The third time through I used my smaller step for the “step on the floor” portion in the cardio workout, and it translated beautifully; it would have taken more effort to do the whole thing on the step, and quite honestly the reason I’m using this workouts is because I don’t want to engage too many brain cells. But that’s another option if you want to boost the intensity.
- Chest, Triceps & Glutes (18.5 min.)
The warm-up (2.5 min.) starts with breathing; you’ll then do heel lift, back cross, step glute, and toe tap with some arm movements to warm up your chest and triceps before doing full-form squats, spinal rolls, plies, and holding the plies for a static side stretch. The main portion of the exercise takes you through squat with a chest press; triceps extension; push-ups and a table series with a triceps kickback and a straight leg lift, moving into a bent knee raise and then a rear press; seated French press; supine leg sweep into a triceps press, adding in a single leg bridge lift; bridge, adding in legs in & out; pec flye, adding in a crunch; bench press, adding in 1 knee and then both knees in; and basic crunch, adding in arm sweeps center & side. Your stretch (2 min.) starts with knees to chest, then moves up to seated for a chest stretch and a double & then single triceps stretch into a side bend, then moves into a table position for a spinal release, before rolling up to standing for a body wave and some final breaths.
Stephanie calls this Tri-Trainer, but it’s more Chest, Triceps, Glutes & Abs. This may be my least favorite of the PF strength workouts, mainly because this has a few exercises that to me are awkward (not everyone finds overhead French presses bothersome, but with my cranky elbow I do) and this has a lot of floorwork (other than bridgework, I don’t normally care for floorwork, unless it comes in the guise of Pilates).
- Back, Biceps & Thighs (19 min.)
Your warm-up (3 min.) begins with breathing, then you side lunge, full-form squat, spinal roll, wide march, march narrow, squat & biceps curl, squat & abduct, knee lift, and low jack, adding in some arm movements like a row or punch to help warm up the back and biceps, too. You’ll end with some static side lunges. The main portion of the work leads you through squat w/ feet narrow & hammer curls, double bent rows, plie squat & angled biceps curl, lat row, posterior flye, biceps curl across the body, spinal roll to release the body, kneeling lat pulldown [note: Stephanie pulls the band down behind the head – I know a growing number of physical therapists and like-minded trainers consider the equivalent gym machine version of this a no-no, so I lean back slightly, engaging the abs to support the spine, and pull the band down towards the chest instead], side-lying abduction & biceps curl, inner thigh lift, side plank w/ hip lift, T-rows & heel taps, and crunches w/ band. Your stretch (2 min.) begins lying, then rolls over, pressing heels to glutes to stretch out the lats. You’ll then move into table to release the spine and abs. You’ll come to standing to clasp the hands together, then side bend and then round the back while crossing the arm over; you’ll squat to round and release the spine.
Stephanie calls this Power Sculpt, but again it’s Back, Biceps, Thighs & Abs. I like this one a little more than its companion, Chest, Triceps & Glutes, but it still has some flaws for me. Stephanie alternates between back and biceps work, which means that the biceps get way too much attention, at least for someone who cares more for functionality than appearance, as I do. And why does she not continue the back theme and work the low back here, too, instead of doing yet more crunches? Also, this isn’t a perfect complement to CT&G: CT&G’s floorwork focuses on the glutes, but by doing squats and abduction work here in BB&T the glutes come into play again. Plus, what happened to the hamstrings? They get some indirect work in CT&G, but why so little hamstring love, Stephanie?
- Core Fusion
Core Fusion is your core-focused workout, then your recovery workout; the first half focuses on strengthening the core while the second half focuses on flexibility. My DVD doesn’t want to play well, so I’m not going to be able to give as good a breakdown here as I have with the previous workouts. Your warm-up starts with breathing before you squat & round, push step w/ reach around, v-step w/ body wave, step knee, samba, full form squat w/ side bend, and spinal roll. For core work, you’ll primarily do a number of crunch and crunch variations, but if I remember correctly there’s also a short standing series to work on balance. For flexibility work, Stephanie does a nice variety of athletic and some yoga-inspired stretches for both the lower and upper body. She covers a lot in a short amount of time, holding things a little longer than she does at the end of other workouts but still nothing that most would consider a very long hold.
This is a perfectly nice little workout. Between this one and the three core workouts in PowerFit Harmony, this is probably the one I personally like best. Despite that, I don’t anticipate using it again, even if my disc did play perfectly, because this type of workout generally just isn’t to my taste. (I’d rather do Pilates for corework, especially since neither my low back nor I care for bunches of crunches; I’d rather do yoga rather than yoga-inspired fusion moves; and I have other stretching routines I prefer to use that suit my personal needs a little better.)
Level: I’d agree with those who say that done as shown these workouts are beginner / intermediate. I’m not sure I’d recommend this to someone who had never exercised before, as Stephanie assumes familiarity with basic aerobics terms. But this is great for someone who may not be an absolute beginner but who’s still working out at a beginner level for whatever reason: those who’ve graduated from “this is how you do a a squat and/or a grapevine” videos but need something to bridge the gap into intermediate workouts, those who are restarting, and those who have dialed things down for health, pregnancy or post-pregnancy, or other reasons. This would also work well for a travel workout, especially if you know you’ll be wiped out and won’t have the time, room, or energy to do much but still want to get something in to maintain your fitness. All that said, with some creativity, as many have said, an intermediate could make these work, not just on light days but perhaps even on moderate days.
I knew going in that these would be on the easy side for me at my usual fitness level, intermediate / advanced. But I’m not at my usual fitness level right now. After starting and stopping due to, well, life over the past year and a half I needed something easy – and short – to ease myself back into working out regularly so I could work back up to my regular level of working out. (I suspect if I had gotten this earlier on I may not have gone through such long spurts of not working out…) These fit the bill.
Class: 2 women join Stephanie, who instructs live as she does the whole routine. No one shows modifications, not that they’re really needed.
Music: standard-issue exercise video stuff, some of which I’ve heard before on other releases (Leslie, Shape or Michelle Dozois’ individual releases, maybe even a Karen Voight release, that sort of thing).
Set: open, brightly lit interior space with a big “window” at the back, fitness equipment neatly organized along the back and sides, and some plants arranged along the sides. It feels like you’re meeting Stephanie at a boutique studio type of place.
Production: clear picture and sound, professionally done camera angles that were predominantly helpful (there were maybe a few times I wanted to see Stephanie instead of a background exerciser or her legs instead of her face, but I had little trouble following the workouts through visual cues, which I had to rely on once or twice when I had some sound issues with my DVD set-up in my workout space).
Equipment: As has been mentioned, Stephanie only uses one resistance band of a medium level of resistance. It’s worth nothing that Stephanie’s band is short, only 4 feet in length. To increase the intensity, use a band with a stronger resistance and/or add ankle weights or dumbbells where appropriate; to decrease the intensity, use a lighter resistance band or a band of similar intensity but longer length or drop it altogether for some moves.
Stephanie and crew also have a mat for all workouts except the cardio one; depending upon your flooring, you may want to grab one, too, for floorwork.
Space Requirements: These workouts are nicely compact. At 5’8” I was able to fit all workouts within six 2’x2’ puzzle mats, or in an area 6’ wide by 4’ deep.
DVD Notes: Each workout is on its own separate disc, kind of a waste of DVD space, but some will appreciate this touch, I’m sure.
The DVDs are divided into 5-6 chapters, which include separate chapters for Stephanie’s introductions and the warm-ups, useful if you’re extra time crunched or using these as add-ons. (Later PF DVDs don’t seem to have chapters, which is a shame.)
All five discs are come in one large foldout cardboard container with plastic disc holders. Each disc gets its own page or leaf or whatever you want to call it in the set. So if you want to divide up the discs because of the way you organize your shelves (for example, you like to put your cardio discs on separate shelves from your strength DVDs) or because you want to trade or sell the ones you don’t want to use, you’ll have to rethink the case situation. Those concerned about shelf space should know the whole thing takes up almost as much space as about 2 regular and 1 small plastic DVD cases together.
Comments: For the record, I’ve never done a FIRM workout, so I’m unfamiliar with Stephanie’s previous work and cannot compare what she’s doing now with what she did then. But I’m betting some of the cues that seemed different to me (e.g. using “dips” to refer to lunges and terms like “full form squat”) come out of her Firm experiences.
I have to admit that Stephanie’s hook of “just give me 20 minutes” is what reeled me in. OK, that and I found this set at a deeply discounted rate, which was probably the real reason I bit. I’m not quite the busy mom type of Stephanie’ main target audience, but I had recently assumed a few more responsibilities, and when I was adjusting to my new schedule there were days when those 30-minute workouts were just a little too long (especially when “30 minutes” really means more like 35-45…), particularly after I ended up taking a longer than expected break from working out and needed to start back. After doing these three times in a row, first singly and then doubling up the next two times through, I was more than ready to move on, but I’m keeping these in case I find myself in a similar situation again.
I have all three PowerFit sets: the original PowerFit, PowerFit Harmony, and PowerFit Plus. If I were to rank them in order of intensity, it would be Harmony as the easiest, then the original PF set, and the PF Plus as the hardest. But there isn’t a significant difference in intensity level between the three, so others may not find that there’s a real progression or may disagree with my ranking, but more importantly if you have one set you’ll be able to do the other sets. Anyway, I prefer the way the strength workouts are split in the Harmony set (push/pull and upper/lower), as the way they’re done here in the original leads Stephanie to, IMHO, overfocus on some smaller muscles, like shoulders (especially the front) and biceps, and underdo it on some other muscles, like hamstrings and low back. One thing I do like about the original series is how Stephanie takes time to do fairly decent stretch segments at the end of each workout, something she doesn’t do to the same extent in the Harmony and Plus sets.
Just as an FYI, Stephanie appears to be no longer producing PowerFit workouts. Although it will be increasingly difficult to find new copies, you’ll be able to find copies available secondhand. That’s actually a bit of a problem for me because my Core DVD is already starting to play sporadically, so if I don’t get a replacement now I may be out of luck in the future.
Stephanie cues well and provides a decent amount of form tips and instruction, although I still maintain the amount better suits someone already a little familiar with basic cardio choreography and strength training rather than a complete newbie to exercise. She mirror cues, meaning when she says “right” she means the viewer’s, not hers.
Stephanie’s more of a supportive mom type of instructor; her target audience is the busy mom who needs reminding to take care of herself, and she feels her message will resonate because she’s been there, too. That said, I can understand why some people have said they don’t feel like Stephanie gives them enough credit for their true capabilities as exercisers since she prefers the “You can do it because there are only a few more reps and you just have to give me 20 minutes” spiel rather than “Embrace your inner athlete!” or something like that.
Stephanie is a talker, but not chatterer, if that makes sense. Much of the time she’s cuing, but the rest of the time she’s motivating. I’d prefer to go without her fairly constant reminders to make the most of my 20 minutes and to focus on how great I’ll look now that I’m taking care of myself (appearance just doesn’t motivate me in the way it does others), but at least I don’t have to listen to cutesy talk about body parts or whatever. I do like that she includes “feel how strong you are” comments in addition to just sticking with the “visualize the body you want and I’ll help you get there” ones.