Pyramid Lower Body

Cathe Friedrich
Year Released: 2002

Categories: Balance/Medicine/Mini/Stability Ball, Lower Body Strength

What I really like about this tape is its' versatility - Cathe describes it as a tool to gain lean muscle mass, which is very appropriate, particularly for someone who is beginning strength training. As someone with extensive strength training history, I would classify it as a high volume endurance workout (as there is no rest between sets of exercises). However, it is extremely versatile in the fact that you could easily increase the weights lifted and pause the video/DVD and take a rest period (about a minute), thus returning the strength/mass building focus. It is performed pyramid style, 12 reps at lightest weight, 10 reps at next lightest weight, 8 reps at heaviest weight and back down the pyramid. Please note that for maximal gains, you should not be able to complete any more than the prescribed number of reps for that weight with perhaps the exception of the first set, which I liken to an exercise specific warm up.

Warm Up - Nicely done - Cathe warms up the muscles using dynamic range of motion techniques (ie she moves big muscle groups) and performs sets of squats and lunges without weights as a warm up. She does a really terrific forward lunge, backward lunge combination which is fabulous for strengthening the hip area (where the hips are kept square).

LEG PRESS - Cathe uses the high step for this with 5 bricks underneath. As someone with pelvic stability problems, I lowered my step to 4 bricks and concentrated on technique. Cathe's technique is impeccable in this and you can tell she has rehearsed well as she gives salient form reminders, especially in the later sets. She encourages you to drive the weight through the heel on the lead leg to effectively target the hamstrings/glutes. She could also mention not to land back on the ground with a thud and to keep the hips squared the whole way through. When doing a leg press try and tap the ground lightly, maintaining tension in the leg muscles rather than flopping back down which is what I did originally (yes, even we exercise professionals can make form errors!). This really ramps up the intensity of this exercise!

LUNGES - Cathe again demonstrates perfect lunge technique - she didn't say anything about squaring the hips, but I am certain that she has mentioned it in other videos. Her form is perfect, her hips do not drop or slop and it is an absolute pleasure to watch. The great technique serves as a reminder to focus, focus, focus on those hips and gluteals. The lunges were done 1:1 time and the faster tempo occurred without compromise in form.

SQUATS - Cathe probably has the best squat technique I have ever seen in an exercise video. Her pelvis remains in neutral alignment the whole way through (especially where there is a tendency to stick one's butt out and tilt anteriorly at the bottom of the movement). Her choice of placing squats after lunges was a good one as my legs were already quite fatigued. There is a danger of getting into trouble with just a barbell when you are lifting heavy weights - I lifted 60 pounds for the squat section (I am strong in this area) and decided that I was going to work harder in the previous exercises so I could reach fatigue with less weight. She again performs the squats in 1:1 time - which is adequate, but I personally prefer a slower tempo.

DEADLIFTS - Cathe gives good form pointers in this exercise and reminds us to focus on the hamstrings/glutes/lower back. Her shoulder blades are retracted, her pelvis is in neutral and she is a pleasure to watch. SNM shows close ups of the cast performing this exercise - Brenda does a particularly good job of isolating the hamstrings and keeping the shoulder area stable. Cathe uses 3:1 timing in this exercise to my delight, focusing on the eccentric portion of the exercise. You have some versatility here - you could go 2:2 for something different.
CALVES - Standing calf raises - 3 sets only - sensible choice as a smaller muscle group.

LYING STABILITY BALL WORK - Here Cathe moves to the floor and uses a stability ball for more hamstring/abductor and adductor work. I am in awe of Cathe's form here, she performs each exercise with amazing precision, the glutes are lifted and the hips are still. Some of the cast members struggle a little with this and I have sympathy for them as this is rather advanced work. It could also be a problem if you are tall and have long limbs (like myself). I could not perform the number of reps of the single leg hamstring bridge, rather I concentrated on technique and did a double leg bridge instead. Cathe moves a little too fast for me in this set - I would have preferred her to move much slower and with a lot more control. She does slow the pace down in rolling the ball back towards her whilst focusing on the adductors. An excellent exercise - you work the hamstrings dynamically and need a lot of glute/lower ab support to execute it properly. This is followed by some adductor squeezes (probably not necessary as we did plie squats - didn't mention this in the squat section, sorry :) )and some very effective side lying leg lifts against the stability ball. Cathe encourages you to flex your ankles, however the movement is more concentrated into the hips/glutes/outer thigh if the foot remains relaxed.

Cathe concludes with a thorough (and well earned) stretch.

Overall, I would rate this tape an A - due to its' versatility - it could be modified for a beginner, less sets and no ball work and also modified for the advanced (heavier weight, greater rest pauses), slower ball work. My only small criticism is the speed of the ball work - whilst Cathe's form is flawless, it is problably too much for a taller individual (I would recommend to slowww down)

Instructor Comments:
Cathe Friedrich's strength workouts are among the best I have reviewed. Cathe is extremely professional in her approach and her workouts are well planned and rehearsed. Her technique, particularly for squats is exceptional which is a big plus for extremely visual learners.

Liz N