Body Bar: Strong Step

Sherry Catlin
Year Released: 1999

Categories: Body Bar , Step Aerobics , Total Body Workouts

Body Bar: Strong Step by Sherry Catlin is part of the body bar series of workouts. Although the cover states that this is a 90-minute workout, it is actually 59 minutes. There is a 6 minute warm-up, a 22 minute step section (although your heartrate will stay somewhat elevated for a little longer as the step section is followed immediately by an approximately 10-minute long standing leg/upper body sequence), and after the step section there is a 29-minute conditioning section which includes upper and lower body moves and abs. There is a too-brief two minute stretch at the end. The set is the same basic set that is used for the other body bar workouts (much like CIA sets), and the music is instrumental versions of top 40 hits from the 70's and 80's (many of you may recognize the tracks from Cathe Friedrich's Pure Strength series and from CIA videos). For the workout you will need a step and a body bar (although you could probably substitute dumbbells for most of the exercises).

You will need a fair amount of room if you do Sherry's version of the steps, although Lashaun always shows the most basic version which doesn't require additional room. During the warm-up and the entire step section, Sherry shows the most complex choreography, Tanya Bryson shows the intermediate versions, and Lashaun Dale shows the basic steps. The workout is easy to modify. The warm-up begins with some basic steps and grapevines, which Sherry layers and eventually does a grapevine/hamstring curl combo where you are moving completely around the perimeter of the step. The step workout itself consists of three choreography blocks. The first block includes side-to-side knee lifts, V-steps, taps and shuffles on the step, and rear glute lifts. Sherry spices up the choreography and adds reverse V's, higher impact shuffles, and arabesque turns straddling the step. The second block starts with 3-knee, then 2-knee, then single knee repeaters, which Sherry makes interesting and more complex by changing the 3-knee repeater into a shuffle straddle repeater and adding turns, side leg lifts stepping over to the front and back of the step, and syncopated stomps. The third block is my favorite. Sherry does a mambo cha-cha, a turning basic step, box steps, and a 2-knee repeater combo with a step down/lunge/ballchange behind the step.

The strength section uses the body bar for most of it, although you could probably use dumbbells or an unloaded barbell for most of the exercises. Again, Lashaun shows the less advanced modifications throughout. It starts with standing leg work where you cradle the body bar and do LOTS of one-legged squats. Sherry challenges you with some balancing one-legged squats as well. You'll also do a static lunge/upright row combo off the back of the step, and for the other leg it is a static lunge/overhead press combo. For most of the upper body exercises you will be taken through the full range of motion, and then do 1/2 range of motion pulses. I could see Sherry's legs shaking during the lunge sequence! You'll also do a front raise/upright row combo that's similar to the one that Clare Dunphy does in Balance, Line and Strength. My shoulders fatigued nicely during this section. Next, there's a plie squat/bicep curl combo where you do Crazy 8's (don't worry, Sherry doesn't call them that, and you're using a lighter weight--hopefully you won't have MIS or BodyMax flashbacks! :-) ). For the back there are bent rows and a lat row/one legged squat combo. You'll do flyes for the rear delts while you rest one end of the body bar on the floor.

After that, you lie down on the step and use the body bar for some Pilates-inspired ab work with the body bar (roll-ups as you stretch the bar above your head, and crunches holding the bar behind your head). You'll also have the option of lifting alternate heels up off the step to challenge the lower abs. There aren't many reps for the abs, so you have to pay especially close attention to form. There's some tricep work next--reclining triceps french presses and close-grip body bar presses while you extend alternate legs (like Christi Taylor does in Strength, Balance and Flexibility). For the chest there are one-armed chest flyes where one end of the bar is placed on the floor (interesting use of the bar!) and chest presses. More abs next--reverse crunches with the bar behind your knees, and accordion-type twists with the bar behind your knees for the obliques. To finish up, Sherry does tricep dips off the short end of the step with the bar on her lap, seated double-arm french presses, and then for the finale...a set of 8 pushups as you hold the bar that is placed across the step. The workout ends with a brief, 2-minute segment of upper body stretches using the body bar, but no lower body stretches.

Overall, this is an intermediate level workout. I was a little disappointed by the step section. For one, it was too short for my liking. The fact that my heartrate remained elevated during the standing leg work helped some, though. Also, Sherry spends A LOT of time teaching the combos. IMO, she spends a little too much time on the foundation steps, and it gets a bit tiresome. Those of you who don't like to TIFT (i.e., take it from the top) will get frustrated. Even though the step section is only 22 minutes (plus warm-up), it seemed much longer to me because of all the repetition. When Sherry finally put all of the combos together in their final form, I did enjoy them. It was finally fun! That part was too short, though. This step routine may get a bit boring to most people after a few run-throughs. I just wasn't sure if Sherry was enjoying herself during the routine. I think if she had showed even a little enthusiasm, it would have helped the routine be a little more interesting.

The conditioning section was a little better. While it isn't a heavy weight workout, it does hit most muscle groups fairly well in 30 minutes (IMO, though, it comes up slightly short on the back and the biceps). I used a 15 lb. bar which was OK (I'd say I lift moderately heavy on Cathe Friedrich and Firm tapes for comparison), but I probably could have used a heavier bar. I've found that I usually feel this way with the upper body work on these body bar workouts. However, I the goal of the body bar workouts isn't muscle building as much as it is to develop long, lean muscles. The one-legged squats are really effective, and they really did a number on my legs! (Of course, this could be because I haven't been able to do much standing leg work for awhile because of an injury.) This is definitely an endurance workout with a Pilates flavor. I wish the ab section were longer, and there were virtually NO stretches for the lower body at all in this video, except for the obligatory brief ones during the warm-up. Grade for the step section: C- (B for the last 5 minutes of the routine). Grade for the conditioning section: B.

Instructor Comments:
Sherry is definitely a low-key instructor, which some people will like and some will not. Personally, I found her to be a little wooden. When I previewed the tape, I noticed that she used a few catch phrases during the workout, such as, "That's what I want," "lovely," and when she made a miscue or miscounted reps, "I lied." Usually when I actually do the workout these little idiosyncracies don't bother me, but maybe because the rest of the instruction was so methodical, they did irk me a little. Her cueing is adequate, but there are times that she mixes up cueing right and left lead, and her cues are occasionally late or incomplete. I was able to follow the workout, though, as the miscues were fairly minor. Sherry's form was good, and she's graceful to watch. Her background instructors, Tanya Bryson and Lashaun Dale, clearly demonstrate the modifications for both the step and the conditioning sections.

Kristin Aziz