The Firm: Strength (aka: Strong Body)

Pam Meriwether
Year Released: 1995

Categories: Circuit Training (cardio and weights)

Strong Body is just that... more strength oriented.

There are 3 sets of lat rows. One is very unique, done with the barbell, but you can use 2 dumbbells if you don't own a barbell. What they did was put a light plate weight at one end of the barbell and a stack of heavy dumbbells on the other. You straddle the barbell and wrap a towel underneath it, stand knees slightly bent, back flat with a slight arch, and pull on the towel, bringing the barbell up in a rowing motion. Wow! I love this exercise. I really felt it, and my form was a lot better than it is with traditional rows.

There are 3 sets of abs and the first one uses dumbbells on the chest for upper body resistance, and then you put them behind your head and bring them toward you while doing upper and lower body crunches. She doesn't tell you what size to use; I tried it with 6's and should have used 5's. There is also the traditional squats, lunges, tall box leg presses and dips, as well as a set of plie squats with rows and biceps. Traditional bicep work, shoulder work, and tricep work, both with french presses and kickbacks. Legs floorwork is for the inner thigh. Pec work is tough, and so are the push-ups! I almost died on the push-ups. I do them straight leg, and on the second set (after we worked triceps with a heavy dumbell - french presses) she says, "you may want to do these on bent knees" and of course I ignored her. I shouldn't have!!

Let's see what else. Oh yes, the aerobics. Fun, fun, fun! I was having a blast learning the steps. It starts with two low impact kicks, one plyo jump legs out, and 2 jumps legs in. You repeat it 4 times. Then you step right on a diagonal and lift the left heel, swinging your arms to the right with bicep curls. You do that 7 times, then sashay to change sides and do them to the left. Then she reduces the reps and goes into something else. Lots of fun. I think it's those sashays. I love them. The very first aerobic section does "sambas", which are really mambos to the front, with delt lifts, then tripple step to change sides and do sambas again with biceps. This interserses with squats and squats with an outer thigh lift. I use 3 lb. dumbbells. The 3rd section is the trickiest of all but not hard to learn. It also uses 3 lb. dumbbells. The warm-up is basic enough, and the beginning stretch uses a short step. I would say that is workout is more strength-oriented, which makes sense since it's called Strong Body!

I like this series better than Tortoise and Hare combined (Hare just isn't intense enough but it's *so* much fun. I need a light workout tonight and plan to do it.); however, I still love Tortoise. Tracey Long, who leads Tortoise and Hare, designed the choreography for all 4 tapes and she's excellent, unsurpassed. I wish she led the Variety series. It's not that I dislike Pam Cauthin, who leads Strong Body, it's just that her cuing is sometimes off and she doesn't always tell you what's coming up next or what size weights to pick up. I found myself yelling at the tv in some sections saying, "What do you want me to do?!" Like anything else though, once you learn the routine you won't have to worry about it.

Roberta Kagno