The Ultimate Body Sculpt and Conditioning with KettlebellsLauren Brooks
Year Released: 2008
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A friend was kind enough to lend me this DVD, and I am really glad I had the opportunity to try it. I am a high intermediate exerciser but am fairly new to kettlebells (been using them for just over a month or so). I had heard excellent things about instructor Lauren Brooks, especially her excellent form pointers, and so I mainly wanted to take a look at this DVD to review Lauren's exercise demos and to make sure that my own form was correct.
The Main Menu for this DVD reads as follows:
KETTLEBELL SAFETY AND SIZE
In her brief (<2 minutes) Intro, Lauren talks about how she is both a certified RKC kettlebell instructor and a clinical nutritionist. She also introduces her long-time client, Robin Duncan, a fit woman in her 50s who joins Lauren for the workouts. The recommendations for Kettlebell Safety and Size appear on-screen accompanied by Lauren's voiceover. She suggests that women who are in shape start with about 15-18 lbs (up to 8kg); men can go even heavier than this.
The Exercise Demonstrations cover ALL of the moves included in the workout, which is nice. They are short (about 1 minute each), but Lauren does do a thorough job of breaking down each movement. Here are the exercises which are included (as they appear on the submenu, correcting for typos):
2. Suitcase Deadlift
3. Two-Hand Swing
4. One-Hand Swing & Alternating Swing
5. Overhead Swing
6. One Arm Clean
7. Front Squats
8. Kettlebell Push-Ups
9. One Arm Rows
10. Russian Twist
11. Pullover Crunch
12. Mountain Climbers
13. Back Lunge
14. Squat Thrusts
15. High Pull, Catch & Squat
As you can see, no all of the exercises are actual kettlebell moves; Lauren incorporates some bodyweight exercises into the workouts to increase the cardio effect. Selecting "Workouts" takes you to the following submenu:
JOINT MOBILITY WARM-UP
QUICK FULL BODY FAT BLAST
SCULPT AND CONDITION IN UNDER 40 MINS.
The Joint Mobility is a 6-minute segment that can be used as a warm-up for either of the two workouts. It begins with neck, torso, and shoulder stretches. Lauren performs a full body roll and then travels down the body to roll the hips, knees, and ankles; she finishes by rolling out the wrists and forearms.
The Quick Full Body Fat Blast is a shorter version of the main workout which can be done in about 13 minutes. This workout is performed in one minute rounds: you will perform two different exercises for 30 seconds each within each round, and then you will rest for 30 seconds before moving on to the next round. Here is the breakdown of rounds:
#1: front squat and two-hand swings
#2: push-ups and squat thrusts
#3: deadlifts and mountain climbers
#4: clean, squat & press (left & right)
#4: one-arm rows (left & right)
#6: high pull, catch & squat plus alternating cleans plus alternating swing plus overhead swing (this round is 2 minutes)
#7: abs cool-down: forearm plank and Russian twist
The 40-Minute Sculpt and Conditioning Workout follows a similar pattern, but here the rounds are 2 minutes long with a 1 minute break in-between. Also, every time you complete two rounds, you go back and perform a second set of those same two rounds. The breakdown is as follows:
#1: suitcase deadlift (left & right)
#2: one-arm row (left & right) and alternating swings
Repeat 1 and 2
#3: front squat (left & right) and clean & press (left & right)
#4: tricep pushups plus squat thrusts and overhead swings
Repeat 3 and 4
#5: back lunges (left & right) plus alternating cleans and mountain climbers
#6: high pull, catch & squat plus two-hand swing and alternating swings
Repeat 5 and 6
#7: abs cool-down: pullover-to-crunch and Russian twist
In her Conclusion, Lauren talks about how using kettlebells helped her to get back in shape just months after her pregnancy; she is enthusiastic about the benefits of using kettlebells for anyone.
Overall, I think this DVD is generally well-done. However, it didn't quite click with me, as there where several things I didn't like about it. To be fair, I will list both what I did and didn't like so that others can make their own decision.
What I DID like about this DVD:
*I like that Lauren is a certified RKC instructor AND a clinical nutritionist (although the later doesn't really come up here).
*I liked the inclusion of exercise demos for all of the moves. These were helpful, if brief.
*I liked the inclusion of two workouts, both a shorter workout (and one that was truly short!) and a longer one that was still well under an hour.
*I liked the inclusion of an older, very fit background exerciser (Robin).
*I liked the pleasant outdoor setting (it appears to be a city courtyard).
What I did NOT like about this DVD:
*I just didn't warm-up to Lauren. I'm not sure why; she definitely seemed competent. It may just be an age mismatch--I am nearing my mid-40s, and she appears quite young (I am guessing late 20s/early 30s). I haven't had this problem with other young instructors, but I just found myself unable to relate to her...and wishing that her background exerciser, Robin, was leading the workout!
*This may relate to the last item--and it may just be a pet peeve of my own--but it REALLY bothered me that Lauren wears her hair loose for these workouts. Normally this would not be an issue for me, but she has hair that is almost down to her waist, and she was constantly pushing it out of the way. Not only did I find this to be a distraction, but also I found it to be unprofessional.
*Although I liked the inclusion of the exercise demos, they seemed a bit short and felt a bit rushed to me. I actually preferred the exercise breakdowns by Anthony and Beth on The Kettlebell Way To Your Perfect Body Volume 1.
*Regarding the workouts themselves, I personally did NOT like the inclusion of non-kettlebell (bodyweight) exercises. I have taken up kettlebells because I want to work with the KETTLEBELL not because I want to do the same old exercises I have seen on other DVDs for years now! Also, working with the kettlebell provides plenty of a cardio effect on its own, so I see no need to "thrown in" other exercises.
*I also did not like how the same exercises were repeated in the main workout; I found this boring. If ALL the rounds had been performed and THEN the entire set was performed again, this may have been better (most other kettlebell DVDs I have do it this way, such as Sarah Lurie's Iron Core DVDs).
*During the rest periods, some of the on-screen messages are little "plugs" about Lauren's achievements. This time could have been used to give form pointers, which is what is done in the Iron Core workouts.
*Finally, I do not like the there is no real cool-down/stretch to finish the workout. It seems like many kettlebell instructors skip the inclusion of a stretch at the end; obviously I can add this on myself, but I'd love to see just a few minutes of targeting stretching devoted to some of the areas which might become vulnerable during kettlebell use, such as the lower back.
I know that not everyone will agree with me, and certainly many users love this DVD. However, if you are closer to my age and are an experienced exerciser (just new to kettlebells), you might consider purchasing Anthony DiLuglio's and Beth Chamberlain's The Kettlebell Way To Your Perfect Body (aka "A New Providence") instead of this DVD.
See comments above.
About me: I'm an advanced exerciser who loves all kinds of exercise, including dance, strength training, pilates, yoga and fusion workouts. I was recently diagnosed with some joint problems, so I can't do high impact workouts anymore. Kettlebells have been so wonderful for me, so I can get a great workout without the impact. Kettlebell workouts tend to be very, very expensive and it's important that each dvd be a good value for the money. Thankfully, Lauren's workout is not only a great value, but is easily one of my best purchases of the year! The production values are very good and it's also nice to have a dvd in a pleasant outdoor setting. The music is also pretty good but I'm usually working too hard to notice it!
I love Lauren as an instructor--she's motivating and encouraging. She is also in fabulous shape (she had a baby a few months before filming), as is her background exerciser. Her form and tips are also impeccable. There is some good material on her dvd, including a tutorial covering each exercise on the dvd, joint mobility warmup, a 12-minute fat blaster workout, and 40-minute workout. I like Lauren's workout because she does a kettlebell move, and then follows it up with a bodyweight exercise. Given that I have the attention span of a small child, I greatly appreciate this! Lauren does each workout barefoot and I have begun to do the same. I'm not worried about dropping the kettlebell on my foot and it really helps me to grip the floor much better. Here are breakdowns of and comments on each of the routines/workouts:
Joint Mobility Warmup (approximately 6 minutes)
1) Neck: Look side to side (over the shoulder), turn ear to each shoulder
2) Obliques: Reach wall to wall, keeping hips stables
3) Shoulders: Reach wall to wall, turning opposite palm up (both palms are up at the end of the movement), shoulder rolls/circle front to back, back to front
4) Hamstrings/hips: Full body roll, letting arms dangle
5) Hips: Hip circles in each direction, pelvic tilts front to back (Lauren notes how these are used in kettlebell swings)
6) Knees: Knee circles in each direction (keep knees soft)
7) Ankles: Rotate foot in each direction, switch legs
8) Wrists and forearms: With fingers clasped, circle wrists, switch directions
I really liked the joint mobility warmup. I actually feel loose and ready to go. She includes a few more exercises than Anthony does in the original AOS Providence and I think they help a lot (e.g. ankle circles).
12-Minute Fat Blaster (approximately 13 minutes)
(All rounds are 1 minute, with the exception of round 6, which is 2 minutes. There are 30 second breaks between each round.)
Round 1: Front Squat (30 seconds); 2-handed swings (30 seconds)
Round 2: Tricep Pushups (30 seconds); Squat Thrusts (30 seconds)
Round 3: Deadlifts (30 seconds), Mountain climbers (30 seconds)
Round 4: Clean, squat and press, right side (30 seconds) and left side (30 seconds)
Round 5: 1 arm rows, right side (30 seconds) and left side (30 seconds)
Round 6: High Pull, catch, Squat (30 seconds; Alternating clean (30 seconds), alternating swings (30 seconds), overhead swings (30 seconds)
Round 7: Abdominal work consisting of forearm plank (30 seconds) and Russian twist (30 seconds)
I felt like I'd actually DONE something in less than 15 minutes! I really liked the overhead swing (I used 25 lbs) and the fact that I could adapt everything to low-impact (e.g. mountain climbers) using my Val-Slides. That last 2-minute round is really tough!
(All rounds are 2 minutes and each round is repeated once and there is a one minute break between each round.)
Round 1: Suitcase deadlift, right and left sides
Round 2: 1-arm row, right and left sides (30 seconds each side), Alternating swings (1 minute)
Repeat rounds 1 and 2
Round 3: Front Squat, right and left sides (30 seconds each side); Clean and Press right and left sides (30 seconds each side)
Round 4: Tricep Pushups (30 seconds), Squat Thrusts (30 seconds), Overhead Swings (1 minute)
Repeat rounds 3 and 4
Round 5: Back Lunges, right and left sides (30 seconds each side), Alternating cleans (30 seconds), Mountain Climbers (30 seconds)
Round 6: High Pull, catch, Squat (1 minute), 2-Handed Swing (30 seconds) and Alternating swings (30 seconds)
Repeat rounds 5 and 6
Round 7: Abdominal work consisting of pullover to crunch (30 seconds) and Russian twist (30 seconds)
This is my favorite of the two kettlebell workouts. It's tough, but you really get a full body workout by the end. I'm just glad the abdominal work is so short. The overhead swing really is a 'money' move, as one of our VFers has said! I really feel my core on that one! As for the bodyweight exercises, those mountain climbers are really tough--I'm not sure if I'll ever be conditioned enough to where they are easy to perform.
I'd recommend this dvd for everyone. I think beginners (to kettlebells) will greatly benefit from her excellent tutorial. She talks about common mistakes that people make, and I think this is a good way to learn proper form from the very start. Beginning kettlebellers will also appreciate the shorter 12-minute workout, which will allow them to build up to the more advanced 40-minute routine. (Lauren mentions that if you want a challenge, you can repeat the 12-minute workout.) More experienced kettlebell aficionados will be challenged by this workout by increasing their kettlebell weight (though I suspect that those overhead swings will kick everyone's tail) and really taking advantage of the tough bodyweight exercises. Lauren's dvd is well chaptered, so it's easy to go back and repeat a round or two if desired. I should also note that while it's great for me (and other women) to see such an inspiring, strong female kettlebell instructor, this workout is NOT just for women. Men would appreciate this too. There's no talking down to women, no slimming talk (there is one reference to tightening up your glutes during lunges, but that's true!). The focus is on getting functionally strong and fit using a very efficient workout.
I really can't think of enough positive things to say about this workout. The only constructive criticism I could offer is that maybe her next dvd could include a good active, PNF-type stretch routine for the cooldown. Kettlebell dvds in general often don't include post-cooldown stretches. (Lauren does mention that you can use the joint mobility section for a warmup and cooldown.) Also, it would be nice to have premixes where you wouldn't have to go back to the workout menu for the main workout after the warmup. Other than those very minor issues, this is a job extremely well done. I can't wait to see what Lauren has in store for us next!
Lauren is my favorite kettlebell instructor--she's motivating and encouraging. She also seems to realize that I have a very short attention span and keeps things moving.