The Firm: Crosstrainers - The Tortoise

Susan Harris, Tracie Long
Year Released: 1995

Categories: Circuit Training (cardio and weights)

This tape is certainly one of a kind. After reading all the reviews, both positive and negative, I found myself agreeing with at least part of each one. Biggest surprise: I actually liked the ballroom aerobics! They're not the least bit aerobic, and Tracie's cueing and rhythm need work, but I view FIRM "aerobics" the same way Wendy does, as simply a way to shake out your limbs and take a breather. I wouldn't want to do a whole tape of this stuff, but in small doses, it's a refreshing change of pace from the usual disco-type moves. I also like how the abs are split into short beginning and end segments, and the brief stretches between sets. What I didn't like: The first half DRAGS, probably due to those long 18-rep sets. Part of FIRM Strength's appeal is that everything is short, snappy and turns over too quickly for you to get bored. Fortunately, Tortoise picks up toward the end with shorter sets. Also, Tracie doesn't show very good form during the leg presses. Her leg is bent more than 90 degrees and she crouches over instead of standing straight. It looks like either the box is too tall or her barbell is too heavy, or both. Overall, I can see why some folks love this tape, some hated it, and others wound up trading it after initially liking it. I give it an A for novelty, but it's hard to say whether I'll still be using it a year from now.

Tracie Long is warmer and friendlier than I expected based on people's comments. She's no-nonsense, but in a very natural way; she neither pants sexily nor intones like a robot. Susan Harris is also much improved from her earlier tapes. Her pre-workout stretch is one of the best I've ever seen.

Sue B