The Firm Parts: Tough Aerobic Mix II (aka Not-so-Tough Aerobic Mix)

Susan Harris, Janet Jones-Gretzky, Sandahl Bergman, LaReine Chabut, Jayne Poteet
Year Released: 1996

Categories: Floor Aerobics/Hi-Lo/Dance

I should state from the outset that I am not generally a FIRM fan. I have always found their workouts too fussy, requiring many and numerous equipment changes.tall box, small box, light weights, heavy weights, dowels, straps.and to top it all off, the dreaded c-word---choreography. This workout was suggested to me as a relatively non-threatening routine, with minimal choreography, and a pared-down equipment list: a step, one or two sets of weights, and a strap for the stretch. As an added bonus, the workout is broken down into neat little sections that make the time go faster and allow you to stop early without feeling like you're shutting off the workout mid-routine. For die-hard FIRM fans, this means yet another dreaded parts tape of recycled footage. But since this is my only FIRM tape.well, I didn't mind. And I was very pleasantly surprised and impressed by this workout.

Karen Taylor offers a framing introductory cue for each of the ten-odd sections. We then get Janet leading a back lunge section with biceo and delt work, Kai leading a very short march interval, Sandahl leading a squats and hops thing, Jayne leading a brief section with some basic box (step) stuff, Kai doing more step work with delt/biceps add-ins, Janet leading a very long lunge and kick section, Jayne doing some knee-ups on the step and 2 step off the side sections, Sandahl doing some "cha-cha" moves, then some more, then some more with lifts, and finally a cool-down stretch with Susan.

I generally don't handle compound moves very well, even if both moves are ones I know well (e.g. squats and biceps curls). But these guys use music with a very defined beat, and choreograph the moves so precisely to this beat that somehow I managed it. I fumbled a few times with the quick changes, but the combos are repeated so many times that I caught on. It did not get boring. In the longer sections, there would be two or three combos taught one by one, then repeated from the top. It was long enough ago that I wasn't thinking "oh great, this again" but not so long ago that the moves were hard to remember. As someone who does not get choreography easily, I appreciated this set-up.

I also liked the fact that this workout allows you to pyramid the weights, and tells you exactly when to do so, and how much to use. So many tapes periodically say "oh, you can up the weights now if you want to" or some other such vague directive. But this tape is very clear: it says "use light weights and medium weights" then essentially says "this means start with this weight as your light and this as your heavy. Then move up to that one as your light and that one as your heavy." So when they cue, you know exactly what you should be using. Since it is primarily an aerobic workout and you aren't meant to go heavy, it is very difficult to get confused.

By the end of the routine, I was starting to wonder when it would be over. The box said half an hour, but it just seemed to keep going and I get more familiar with the tape, I imagine the time will seem to go buy quicker as I am better able to remember how many sections there are and who follows whom. There were a few annoyances here: in some sections, the music felt bossy and some of them definitely cue better than others (Janet's and Sandahl's choreography took me a few tries). But overall, this tape blew me away. I could do compound moves, which I can't usually. I could do plyo moves, which I don't usually. The squats didn't hurt. The delt/biceps work did not overwhelm me. And more importantly, I conquered my FIRM phobia. If you are a FIRM newbie, this is an excellent tape to start with. I never thought I would be endorsing a FIRM tape, but this workout was fun and I liked it. So there :-)