The Firm: Maximum Cardio

Carissa Foster
Year Released: 1999

Categories: Floor Aerobics/Hi-Lo/Dance

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This is a 46 minute mostly cardio workout from the Firm. Its led by Carissa Foster with a group of background exercisers. The set is the old Firm mansion set. You will need a short & tall step, a small weighted ball, and a variety of dumbbells. They also use a barbell but I consider it optional and just use dumbbells because I dont have a barbell.

You go through a series of different cardio routines: floor aerobics, light 4 limb work, step aerobics, ball aerobics, and some tall box climbs. Some of the routines are the same that Jen does in Super Cardio ("sports drill" w/ the ball).

After about 30 minutes of cardio you move into some barbell work-which I find odd in a cardio workout, but because its a Firm (masters/ creators of Aerobic Weight Training) its expected. So you grab your barbell and do about 10 minutes of leg press, upright row, and lunges. She also does some pushups and tricep dips and finishes with some ab work and a stretch.

I use this as a cardio workout so I usually just do the first 30 minutes of cardio and then forward to the ab work, skipping the strength work altogether.

Carissa is a good lead and cues well. I would rate this workout a solid intermediate and I worked up a nice sweat with it. It is enjoyable and fun and the music is upbeat.



This workout has already been broken down, so I am just going to add my opinions on the workout.

I absolutely ADORE this workout. It is one of my cardio staples. As I have read in other reviews, it is the easiest of the three Firm Cardio workouts (Cardio Burn with Tamela Hastie and Power Cardio with Dale Brabham). I found Cardio Burn to be too weight-heavy (and the weights utilized during the warm-up and stretch weirded me out) and I have not attempted Power Cardio in full, only from selected tunes that were put into other Firm compilations, and they were all very high impact.

The music is amazing, even for an Anna Benson production (she has an excellent music standard as it is but this is extra nice!), the cuing is excellent, Carissa is an inspiration to look at, the choreography is fairly easy to follow (I am not good with choreography but I mastered the moves after two or three times). As another reviewer said the workout has a lot of 4-limb moves, really does fatigue the arms. I use 5# dumbbells and would not recommend anything more than that. She does some high impact but I would mostly say low impact on the step and with the 4-limb. She does do a strength section at the end (short, around 10 minutes) after the cardio (which clocks in at about 30 minutes) with a barbell but the moves are too quick to heavy up, it is more like aerobic strengthening. Then she finishes with a brief ab segment and the stretch. For a cardio day I usually skip the 10 minute strengthening and move to the ab and stretch for a 35 or so minute workout.

It really is an excellent workout, has a GREAT fun factor, and it is “true” cardio unlike other cardio workouts from the Firm (:cough: Firm Cardio :cough:) which are really strength workouts with aerobics mixed in, in my opinion. It has an unmistakable Anna Benson-Firm flair (with the mansion set, etc.). If you like Anna Benson productions and have not yet tried Maximum Cardio, I would highly recommend this for it’s fun factor and it’s great music. A+!

Instructor Comments:
I really like Carissa Foster. She is excellent with her cues and like I said an inspiration to look at – she’s slender and built and has legs up to “here”! I have the old Fitprime Core First with her, as well as Firm Super Sculpt where she is a co-instructor but Maximum Cardio was really her best workout.

Emily B.


I receieved this tape about a year ago and have never been happier. Cardio Burn is a really fun workout but not easy to do all the time since the impact is SUPER high. Max cardio i feel ive done a superb cardio workout without feeling so burned out. I sort of wish they had a little less weight section and more just cardio and abs at end. I also find a lot of Firm videos who have abs in the beggining of a workout like Core Cardio, Better Buns, and Hare and Tortoise much better than a warmup.
Carissa starts out with a fun warmup and you use a weighted ball (more like my daughters' play ball for me) its baout 7 minutes.

Then she starts out with some step lunges alternating legs quickly-more of a cardio based while holding the ball in her hands while pushing forward and up. Then jogging back and forward and some light jumps.

Next comes 4 box stepping segments..the first one you just toe-step while holding 5-8 pound dumbells while lifting them to your shoulders..this is performed slow and steady and i like this one.
Next comes another set of box alternating V steps with your dumbells as you alternate upright rows, along with alternate step lunges on box. Then some light delt lifts. Then more step ups with delt lifts and leg lifts.
Then after that she steps pretty fast and steady holding 2-3 pound dumbells doing lat rows pretty quickly. Then some stepping on box with no weights alternating hamstring curls. this is where her cueing is a bit off. But i could keep up..and if you cant on this one..just march or step to your own thing while she is doing this one.
After that she goes back to floor aerobics where you do light jumping and jogging and then comes some marches with light dumbells and plyos!! Then her last high impact with the oof ball again doing high jogs and light jogs...this is where youll start to sweat the most! But its a fun workout with LOTS of variety..and thats what i love about the FIRM. Her last cardio is some slow step ups on the tall box..remember,,if you cant do these then do some lunges on the floor the way youd be if stepping ....its just as effective..and she does this very shortly so dont worry.Cardio Burn does the fanny lifter climb for a long time...almost feels like 10 minutes!! But its more like 3 or 4. But Max cArdio is way cool and never keeps me board one bit!
Next comes some lunges, lat pulls with barbells (use dumbells if you dont have a barbell), tricep dips with tall box step, more dips and pushups and then Abs which i wish werent so short...but you can always do some of your own abs or another ab set from a different tape i recommend 5 day abs from the Firm. Good Luck...this one is worth it!

Instructor Comments:
She is a joy to watch although her cuing in one box step is a little off...she is pretty much easy to follow



Let me start out by saying that I am a FIRM newbie, and I'm directing this review primarily at other newbies. I always stayed away from the FIRM because of the original ones with their very suggestive approach (I want a workout, not soft core). Well, somehow I ended up buying this, hoping to use it as cross-training cardio for my step. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. (It appears that the suggestive approach went out the window some years ago.) I did find the FIRM's shorthand version of cuing somewhat difficult to get used to. I also think that doing weight work at the speed that the FIRM does it could be a problem if your (MY) form isn't good. Still, I find this video an enjoyable change of pace from step, because the choreography is varied and fun. It's even inspired me to do a little weight work(I usually feel that I don't have the time) and other FIRM tapes now.

In summary, if you are thinking about trying out the FIRM, this might be a fun one to start with.

mel VF


This is one of the 3 newest Firm releases. I was pretty excited to get this tape, but it was very disappointing to get a brand new tape that has the feel of an old over used tape. Many of the sections from Maximum Cardio have shown up in multiple firm parts before the actual workout was release to retail markets. I own many of the "parts" and with all the repeating footage this tape just wasn't either "new" or "exciting".

The workout is approximately 50 minutes in length. This includes a short warm up and cool down and the workout itself.

Like the usual Firm production it includes a large class. The workout includes an aerobic phase that alternates floor aerobics, step aerobics, and four-limbed aerobics with lightweights. Most of the aerobic sections are fairly easy to learn and to execute. As apposed to its counterpart Cardio Burn, the aerobics is moderate impact with plyos and high impact mixed in. The weighted ball is used in the warm up and also in some of the floor aerobics segments. You don't have to have the ball you can substitute or use nothing at all. I don't really think that the ball adds much to the workout; it's just a nice addition to the routine.

The cueing in many of the step aerobics could have been cued better. Cueing was either late, or inaccurate. Making some of the transitions a little sloppy. So you may find you were alternating legs while Carissa was doing one leg at a time. Its not a big deal, but you will notice it. The floor aerobics sections use moves like grapevines, shuffles, jump roping, and drills with the ball doing jogs and high jogs. The step sections are mostly variations on a basic step, with some pivot turns and lots of repeater moves. The four-limbed aerobics on the step included moves like lunges and glute lifts on the step and the floor four limbed aerobics used squats and alternating squats and marches all using light weights and traditional upper body moves like overhead presses, delt lifts and bicep curls.

After the aerobic and four limbed sections you move on to weight work. The weight work is really not worth mentioning. You don't fully work any of the muscles that are hit upon. It's almost an after thought. The weight segments is approximately 10-13 minutes long. I think it would have sufficed for this tape to have more cardio and four limbed aerobics rather than the weight work at the end.

All in all I would rate it as the best of the 3 new Firm Cardio's. It's not as high impact as the other 2 tapes. I give this tape a B+; it just doesn't stack up the stellar workouts they produced with Cardio & Strength. I will say that if you really love the Firm Style I think you will find this tape more to your liking.

I really wish that the Firm wouldn't use parts of a "new" tape in the compiled parts series before the workout is released.

Susie F.


review of both The FIRM- Maximum Cardio and Cardio Burn

I was very disappointed in these tapes. I am a long-time FIRM fan, and own several classic and newer titles. I concede that you will get a decent workout (as usual), but the combinations are sooooo BORING. It has gotten to the point that all of the tapes sound and look the same. From the prissy, pretty, robotic instructors to the up/down, lunge/squat moves, the yawn factor is high!!!! I've seen the same combos since Firm 4, (which I bought for $49.99- you know how long ago that was!!) The Benson sisters consider themselves "Rennaissance Women." Come on girls, get wih the program, drop the 80's attitude, and try something new.



I couldn't wait for this video to come out!!! I loved her section's in Core Cardio 1 and 2 and Bust and Butt. This is an all Carissa fabulous workout! The workout starts off with a fun warmup using a weighted ball and then goes into a fun ball aerobic segmant that is more low impact. This workout is not as high impact as Cardio Burn(Tamela) and Power Cardio(Dale). I like that! Carissa's step section are the the best! Don't expect her cueing to be like Cathe Friedrich's. But if you do the workout over and over, you will get the step. The step uses light weights and also no weights. It really gets my heartrate up! The music is fabulous!! Very upbeat:) Then comes 2 really fun floor aerobic sections with excellent music. Can you tell I love the music in this workout?!! The choreography is 1/2 low and does have some higher jumping moves and a rock kick move that is higher impact. She also does some marches with weights and some great plyo hopping moves. This really gets the heartrate up. Next comes another ball aerobic segmant which is very high impact but you can modify it to low marches and still keep your heartrate high because you are pushing a 3lb ball up and to the front alot and this really works the chest and shoulders. The side hover squats using light weights are great for the buns and legs and then you do tall box climb's (but not as many as Tamela's Cardio Burn TAll Box work). This really burns the the butt to do tall box right after the side hover squats. For the rest of the workout, Carissa uses a light weighted barbell(looks like 15lb) and she does some bent rows and hover squats and tricep dips( this is all she does for the triceps). Next comes dips using a short box but I use my 14 inch box. In between each set of dips she does a set of barbell curls and upright rows. The final ending is my absolute favorite. It is lunges onto the short step and she does pushups in between each set of lunges. Carissa is dripping with sweat all over her tights and I am dripping with sweat too:) The ab work is very short but the music seems like it should be in a motion picture. Wish it was longer. The ab work is side oblique crunches laying on your side and also some upper and lower ab crunches. The cooldown is very relaxing and fast. The stretches are all done sitting on your box and standing too. This Firm video delivers a great 45 minute cardio workout with light dumbbell/light barbell work. It's entertaning with excellent music and a incredibly gorgeous instructor. Carissa is wearing a green exercise outfit. Her golden brown hair is pulled back in an elegant ponytail. The set is the famous mansion setting with a blue background.

Instructor Comments:
Carissa is my favorite Firm instructor. Not only does she do an excellent job leading a Firm video but she does it in an elegant and classic way. On every aerobic section and every toning section, her posture is perfect. I love it how she is dripping with sweat in this video. That is rare for Firm instructors. She has the longest legs and she is a Natalie Wood clone! I hope she continues to lead the Firm video's because she is the best!

Mandy Lee


I really love the new cardios and since I have every FIRM video I think that says a lot! I think this series is better than the Tri-Trainers in intensity as well. I consider myself intermediate in strength and cardio so it is right up my alley. This is my second favorite of the three cardios, Cardio Burn being my favorite. I really think the aerobic session is one of the more difficult ones from the FIRM in intensity. It is 25 minutes long and includes short box, low-impact with some power jumps (sort of high impact then), box work with and without weights, and sports ball drills. I prefer the ab section in Power Cardio to this one, but it is a good little section. The music is fun and I like the dip/upper body work/lunge/upper body work sequence at the end. Two biceps up from me.

Instructor Comments:
I really like her. I think she has a great smile, only thing that threw me off was her cuing in the warm up saying step left and she goes to our right; but, that's not as big an issue for me now as it used to be as I am much more coordinate LOL. She has great smile.

Stephanie Bridges


I never liked the Firm before this, and there are 2 things that kept me from buying their videos. 1. I'm a cardio nut; Firm tapes are not really cardio-more like muscle endurance(IMO) 2. I have a front shoulder injury which prevents me from lifting at the gym; so, lighter weights and more reps was my solution to getting strength work.

Maximum cardio starts out with a short warm-up and oof ball aerobics(that's what I call it). You continue to use the ball into the first hi/lo, which includes runs, pivots and calf pumps. This changes to short box taps and lunges with small weights. This progresses into ham curls/rhombois squeezes, hesitation repeater and clean & press. After that, you do V steps around the box and glute squeezes. No weights are used for a floor routine which shuffles side to side, heel digs, pseudo jope roping, and rock kicks. In the latter part of this workout, plyo jumps, power knees and power runs are used to get the heart rate up. Near the end, there are barbell hover squats, bent over rows and lunges & digs done a short box. A few push-ups are put in for good measure and "twisting" oblique crunches are featured in the very short ab section.

I did like this workout, but it is very similar to Cardio Burn and Power Cardio(hence they're sold as a set). While I did like this tape, I enjoyed the other 2 more(I don't know why). The intensity is intermediate(too many "changes" of equipment make this seem closer to an interval workout).

Instructor Comments:
Carissa seems like any other Firm instructor; stiff. This is a fault that I'm still not used to, and dislike. But she still conveys to you, that she's having a good time.



Sunday night I did one of the new FIRM cardio tapes that had been sitting on my bookshelf screaming “Open Me!”. After getting advice from some of my friends on the FIRM list I chose Maximum Cardio with Carissa Foster. From what I heard, this was the one with the least impact and the one you can easily modify.

I am 33, overweight , asthmatic, and a little on the uncoordinated side, this was much needed advice. I am also a FIRM believer with 68 videos (41 are FIRM). In the past 10 months since starting with the FIRM (started 3/2/99), my body has changed so much! I describe my fitness level as intermediate.

I previewed the tape and the advice I received was right on the money. The equipment used was the short step, tall step (for tall box climb) dumbbells, barbell (or dummbells held at the shoulders). This is a fun tape. Carissa looks radiant…geez, she has legs up to her bustline! Her form is impeccable and she seems like she is genuinely enjoying the workout. For a while, I thought that instructors did NOT sweat, but girlfriend proved me wrong! She cues well, in my opinion (mind you I am a klutz!) My favorite part of this tape was the box aerobics. The “sports drill” with the ball was killer! I had to drop the ball for part of it because halfway through, my arms were calling me nasty names! The floor aerobics had some moves that I am still working to get down pat, and they definitely get your heart rate up.

There was some leg work with the barbell (dips and lunges). The upper body work consisted of shoulder work rows and clean and press moves with the barbell. Also, there were some biceps and tricep work.

She was very encouraging throughout the workout saying “great job!”. At the end of one of the segments, she smiles and says, “You did it!”

One fault of this tape: I don't think the tape worked the abs well (it did "core stabalizer" moves). I suggest using 5day abs or doing your own ab work.

I absolutely loved this tape! I look so forward to doing it again real soon! I give it 2 biceps up!

I can't wait to preview Power Cardio with Dale Brabham.

Jill Averett


To buy this video,
at Since I enjoy The FIRM videos more than any other, I broke down & bought these even though I have no interest in high-impact aerobics. I figured that The FIRM would find a way to make them original & innovative. Wrong. I haven't seen some of these moves since the 1980's. Boring!

I have always found that the other FIRM tapes gave me a terrific cardio workout. Too bad they didn't stick with what works.

Fortunately, there are some interesting "Four-Limb" segments--the kind that The FIRM excells at, but not enough to make these tapes worthwhile.