The Firm: Strength (aka: Strong Body)

Pam Meriwether
Year Released: 1995

Categories: Circuit Training (cardio and weights)

Firm Strength (originally known as Variety: StrongBody) is a 57 minute cardio + strength (AWT) workout led by Pam Cauthen-Meriwether (in this workout, sheís known by her maiden name only). Itís part of the 1995 Variety series later named the Cross Trainers. This workout takes place in a faux library/study setting that is different from the usual Classic Firm mansion. Pam is accompanied by several women, including some Firm instructors who went on to lead their own workouts (Allie Del Rio and Kelsie Daniels). For the workout, youíll need several sets of dumbbells, an optional barbell, a short step (6 to 8 inches, just for the post warmup stretch), a tall step (12 to 14 inches), and optional ankle weights. Pam and crew use wooden steps, but if you have The Firmís Fanny Lifter or TransFIRMer, or the High Step with Risers, that will work too.

After a brief warmup to some nice funky music, and stretch to jazzy music (using the short step as a prop), Pam begins the main workout with the first of three cardio intervals. Itís a four-limb tune (using light dumbbells), consisting of samba steps with delt flyes and bicep curls, and step squats with hammer curls (later adding a leg abduction, or side leg lift). Your first strength tune is next, and focuses on the lower body with short sets of lunges and dips, with a set of squats to change sides. The toughest strength set is next: a superset of pushups and triceps French press, performed twice. After a brief set of plyometric jumps and marches, you finish off the triceps work with a short set of tricep kickbacks. A series of tall step leg presses is next (on both legs), followed with a short set of squats to finish. An unusual upper body exercise follows this: T-bar rows, where a barbell is loaded heavy on one end, and a towel is wrapped around the top end of the bar. You straddle the barbell and pull the bar towards you using the towel. Before doing another set of these, Pam does two sets of bicep curls, one medium weight set, and a slow set using ďvery heavy weights.Ē After your final set of T-bar rows, Pam picks up dumbbells for a set of double arm bent rows.

Your second cardio break is next, and requires no equipment. It consists of marches, kicks, plyos, hamstring curls with a sashay step to change sides, and a march-march-triple pattern. After this, itís time for the second set of leg press, supersetting with dips (reverse lunges). Ready for more back work? This time, youíll perform one arm bent over rows. After working the right side, Pam performs a set of upright rows using a barbell (with other cast members using dumbbells) before doing rows on the left side. The final cardio break is next, and is another four limb tune using light dumbbells. It consists of a step knee, cross mambo and triple step, with a three knee repeater to change sides (itís not as complicated as it sounds). Overhead presses and tricep kickbacks are added to this pattern. Once this pattern is performed several times, Pam picks up heavier weights for a set of plie squats with bicep curls, changing the arm movements to upright rows at one point. Following this, you return to the light weights for the original four-limb pattern. Your final standing lower body tune is next, consisting of ďbasic trainingĒ (toe touches and squats) alternated with a set of squats (using the dumbbells or barbell). Before going down to the floor, Pam performs a tough series for the shoulders: side lateral raises, front raises, and overhead presses (all done with little or no rest between exercises).

After adding ankle weights to both legs, the floor work begins with inner thigh work on the right leg. More tricep work follows, in the form of supine tricep extensions. The first set of ab work follows, consisting of basic crunches and an interesting ribcage pullover/reverse crunch combo (using the dumbbells on the pullover). Following this is the second set, which is a standard series of basic, reverse, and combo crunches (nothing special). Pam then proceeds to doing the inner thigh work on the left leg before removing the ankle weights. Your third and final set of ab work is next, and consists of isometric reverse crunches and reverse crunches with oblique twists. A well deserving two-part final floor stretch concludes the workout.

This is one of my favorite Firm workouts, and has withstood the test of time for me (Iíve used it off and on for four years). Itís one I come back to time and time again. The pace is slow and methodical, allowing you to use your heavy weights. Pam performs various rep tempos within most sets (3 counts down, 1 up, 2 up and 2 down, singles, etc.). I also love the jazzy music in this workout, as it puts me in a calm mood while Iím working hard! That said, there are a few quirks Iíd like to point out. First, the barbell is used in two different configurationsóthen loaded heavy on one end and light on the other (for T-bar rows), followed with evenly balanced weight (for upright rows and squats). The changes are not done in real time, and you must decide whether you want to use a barbell for just the T-bar rows or for the other exercises. If youíd like to use both, pause the DVD before the second cardio break, and quickly change your barbell. If you donít have a barbell, you can do either one of two things during the T-bar rows:
-Do both sets in the double arm bent row position, or
-Do a set of 16 one arm rows with the right arm, perform the biceps work, then do 16 rows with the left arm (keep count yourself, since Pam does rep tempo changes on the second set of T-bar rows).

The rest of the workout can easily be performed with dumbbells. Regarding the cardio breaks, they are fairly low-intensity, and primarily there to help you catch your breath and flush the lactic acid out of your hard-working muscles. Finally, the first two sets of ab work are performed with ankle weights. If you have back problems, be very careful with using ankle weights. You may want to forgo them entirely, and just use a dumbbell on the upper inner thigh (during the inner thigh work). If you donít mind the slightly dated look of this workout, itís one I highly recommend for intermediate and advanced level exercisers. Beginners who have familiarity with basic weight training moves can use no weights or light weights, and build up to using heavier weights.

Instructor Comments:
Pam has a nice physique, a low-key, friendly demeanor and cues well. She gives an ample amount of form pointers, but not enough for those new to weight training (in my opinion).

Garrie A