Cross Train Express: Leaner Legs

Cathe Friedrich
Year Released: 2000

Categories: Lower Body Strength

Video Fitness reviews may not be copied, quoted, or posted elsewhere without the permission of the reviewer

Show oldest reviews first

Although this dvd has been reviewed quite a bit, I thought I would add a current review. This dvd stands the test of time for me. This is an extremely thorough lower body strength routine that will never leave my collection. On top of that, it’s short! The exercises have already been broken down, so I will just post my thoughts. I thought overall that the workout was extremely thorough, maybe a bit overkill on the quads (did we really need another round of squats and lunges?), and I liked that it worked one muscle group while the other rested. Cathe was encouraging and joking throughout. I liked at the end when she asked for a count and nobody knew, Cathe says something along the lines of, “You’re supposed to be helping me here!” It was awesome!

What I Liked

LOVED that the one muscle group worked while the other rested. Great alternating. When I felt my quads couldn’t take it anymore, we would switch to working the hamstrings and calves.

What I Didn’t Like

A bit too much quad work compared to hamstrings, calves, and inner thighs. But not by much. Additionally, I don’t feel that the warm up was adequate at ALL.

What You Should Be Aware Of

Those with tweaky knees, be aware there is tons of squats, lunges, low ends, pulses, etc. of that ilk here. However, my knees are tweaky, and I didn’t have a problem with this routine. Oh, and some people don't like pulses and low ends. Run away from this if that is the case; every exercise has them :)

Instructor Comments:
Cathe is professional, funny, and encouraging throughout the entire series. Her enthusiasm is contagious!



Others have broken down the exercises pretty good, so I'll just give my impressions.

Cathe keeps this moving along at a good clip; she's trying to fit in a lot in a little over a half-hour! So she goes from quads (squats) to hamstrings (quarter deadlifts) to calves (calf raises) with little breaks, except for some quick stretching.

Once you've done this a few times, you'll catch on to the pattern. She does a couple exercises then those quarter deadlifts and calf raises in between each group. For example she starts out with squats; she'll do two sets of those then on to the deadlifts and calf raises; or she'll do more squats and sit&stands then the deadlifts and calf raises.

I may not feel this workout the next morning, but by the following afternoon, my quads and butt are talking loud and clear to me:) I'm really appreciating how this workout can strengthen my legs and so help me with stepping and kickboxing. And I can so understand why it's often called "Meaner Legs"!!!!

Instructor Comments:
Cathe moves this one along pretty quickly which is good; you are working pretty hard, but with her little jokes and the way she's organized the exercise, you just keep on going. What I appreciate about Cathe is that she keeps working along with you. She never stops and just walks around correcting any of her background exercisers. She's sweating right along with you. And she actually seems to enjoy what she's doing (no, not torturing us). She really seems to love working out and working out hard!

Lydia Jasper


—Workout Description—
Leaner Legs is a solid traditional endurance/strength training routine. You get all the traditional leg exercises: squats, deadlifts, lunges, plies and calf raises. The Leaner Legs abs workout is as traditional as the leg routine – all types of crunches. Not including the abs segment, this workout clocks at about 39 minutes. You will need a high step or something similar and weights. Cathe uses a 35 pound barbell and 10 and 8 pound dumbbells. The only non-weighted segments are the calf raises which are supposed to function as an “active recovery.”

Note: I find that I have to adjust my poundage more than Cathe does. For example, I can use heavier weights for squats but have to lighten my weight during the endless static lunges to maintain my range of motion. If you only have one barbell, you can have a pair of heavy dumbbells handy.

I liked the set. The environment and lighting gives the overall video a yellowish hue which reminds me of desert sands - a nice warm tone. Overall the crew looks nice and their fitness levels are inspiring. I like the new mix crew members better now (from the intensity and body blast series) for the reason that the energy levels and enthusiasm is higher. In Leaner Legs, the crew feels almost non-existent as they do not utter a word and the camera never focuses on them. This really makes it feel almost like it is just you and Cathe working out – and I kind of like that. The chaptering is disappointing in the CTX DVDs as they are not as detailed compared to Cathe’s newer releases. With Leaner Legs you get the following chapters: warm-up, the workout, ab work, stretch. Although I love the overall soundtrack for the CTX series, the music featured in Leaner Legs, although nice to listen to, is my least favourite – it does not provide that motivation, especially when you need it.

—Review (Legs)—
Get ready for huge droplets of sweat and even a bit of trembling! Leaner Legs is a tough little routine that is designed for at least intermediate exercisers. This workout is much harder than a 30 or so minute leg workout would seem to be given the hurried pace and the fact that you practically dive right into the workout. The warm-up is surprisingly short, clocking at about 3 minutes. It incorporates no stretches but instead a series of non-weighted squats. Perhaps Cathe was trying to pack as much punch as possible given the promise of a time-friendly workout routine.

>From a timeframe perspective, the nonstop action can be advantageous if you are looking for a slightly longer leg workout because you can press pause to towel off, drink water or like I do, grab a pencil and scratch in your rep count and poundage. I have tried this workout without pausing and with pausing. I find that I sweat a lot more and get the most out of my workout when I pause it periodically because I can use heavier weights, do more reps and more importantly, execute better form. Also instead of treating the calf raises as a recovery period, I can do them with heavy weights instead.

Overall, I think this workout does a great job at working the legs but I need more glute work! I like to add on a short floorwork section that emphasizes the glutes. For example I tried Slim Series Firm It Up! floorwork right after Leaner Legs and I felt thoroughly worked out.

The variety of exercises are too few to keep up the interest levels and fun factor for some but this really is a no nonsense workout that gets the job done for the most part. Sometimes we just need to get back to the basics of traditional weight lifting and Cathe does a great job at keeping us motivated and coaching us through these effective though arguably less interesting routines. I liked using the high step in this workout, especially for the lunges as it adds a balance challenge. The highlights of this workout are the challenges thrown in: sit and stands or hover squats, endless static lunges and low ends (especially during plies). Completing these exercises, even if that means doing less reps with heavier weight makes you feel that you have truly accomplished something great.

Being one that tends to prefer workouts that incorporate a good mix of traditional and not so traditional leg exercises, Leaner Legs will never make it to my ‘top picks’ list but nevertheless, it does deliver a good workout. Not only are my legs getting stronger but my overall body’s endurance is increasing too. I always feel refreshed, strong and wasted at the same time on completing Leaner Legs, especially when adding on floorwork, which always feels so much harder after this workout. Leaner Legs still outshines many recent productions, which reveals that this workout was way ahead of its time. I can still see myself reaching for this workout in the future as I like the overall feel of the CTX series and I feel that with modifications, this workout can help me reach a higher fitness level.

—Review (Abs)—
Similar to the leg routine, this is a no nonsense workout. The abs are blasted through continual crunches that vary in style. Nothing fancy – these are just basic exercises that are easy to learn and bring on the burn. Despite its simplicity, I like this abs workout along with all the other CTX abs routines as they are short, effective, flow nicely and have no dread factor. With that said, this is an abs routine that I can reach for often.

Instructor Comments:
Cathe is very natural on camera and it feels like she is actually talking to you. Her form is great and the cueing is as good as it gets. Cathe talks a lot but it is all relevant to the workout as you get great form pointers and words of encouragement.



I've done this workout twice. Whew. The other folks reviewing it put it succinctly--Meaner Legs, indeed. If discomfort (the good kind) and sweat are any indication, my legs are gonna look pretty buffed by the time it's warm enough to wear shorts.

A word of warning: the pace of this one is manic compared to PS-Legs and Max Intensity Strength. I really love both those tapes because I like going heavy and doing slow reps. And I love, love, love the rest/recovery/stretch times. Forget it in Leaner Legs. It's all about WORK. The first time I did the tape, I used at 35lb barbell and was OK until the static lunges. Let's just say I didn't do all of them. Same with the plie squats. The second time I did the tape, I lightened my weight for both static lunges & plies. While I barely made it through the static lunges and first set of plie squats, I couldn't do the second round of plies because my legs were shaking so bad that my entire body was quivering. It was pretty funny! Talk about complete muscle failure--whew. I figure that I should be able to make it through all of them in a few weeks.

Overall, I really like the workout, even the ab section. The longer-than-usual stretch is wonderful--she even does that one that hits your glute & primiformis. I know that I'll see some good results from the entire workout--especially since I'm going to rotate it with Pure Strength and MIS. Everyone else who has reviewed this tape thus far has provided a good description, so I won't rehash. Low ends are a new dimension of torture. My thighs were burning by the end of the second set of squats. Believe it or not, the sit-and-stand squats felt easy in comparison (by the way, anyone else notice Rhonda trying to stand the whole way up early during those?)

The music was kind of disappointing. I loved hearing ZZ Top's "Legs" on Pure Strength. Leaner Legs' music isn't as motivating to me, for some reason.

The crew was good--mostly familiar faces. Have to admit I missed Cedi--she's been in most of Cathe's tapes since Mega Step Blast & for some reason, I think she's cool. I like that Cathe has "real people" working out with her, not models or anorexic types.

As always, Cathe was primo. Motivating, light hearted, and offering encouragement when you think you were gonna drop. She definitely shared in the pain she doled out on this one! Her workouts are the absolute best out there.



Nobody will say this is an easy workout. But I might be the only one who will say I don't care for it. I just don't find it appealing. I do get a good workout, but it seems like overkill. Admittedly, my legs are my better part, so perhaps I'm not in touch with the "real world" when I call it overkill. But it seems to me a waste of time to do 75,000 squats. After all, what benefit can there be after number 25,000 :)

The warmup is completely inadequate and a recipe for muscle cramps. I do about a half-hour of cardio before I do this tape to make sure my legs muscles are hot and the blood is flowing well. You start off with squats, and in the first 5 minutes, you do about a bzillion of them. Throughout the rest of the workout, you do some other things too, such as lunges, calf raises, deadlifts -- but you go back to the squats and variations thereof a lot.

Don't get me wrong -- this is definitely a workout that will leave your legs trembly and weak. But I can get the same effect with other tapes without having to feel like I'm working instead of working out.

Annie S.


Daphne hit the nail on the head when she re-named this video "Meaner Legs." It's tough, but I love it -- in a sick kind of way. ;-) This is a very thorough leg workout, with a good ab section at the end. The stretch at the end really feels great. Cathe uses "low end" variations for most of the exercises. For example, you squat the whole way down, then halfway up, back down, halfway up, back down, halfway up, back down, then all the way up. I didn't think anything could be tougher than sit-n-stands (which also make an appearance in this video), but these are!

The ab work includes a number of rep and timing variations as well, including "high end" work -- similar to the low end work in the leg portion of the workout, but working the high end of the crunch with little pulses. The ab section is traditional ab work using crunches, reverse crunches and oblique work -- no plank positions as Cathe uses in some of the other CTX videos.

Instructor Comments:
Excellent form pointers. Reps are paced well to prevent momentum from lessening effectiveness of the exercises. All leg work is done standing (a positive thing, to me).

Lynn Lounsbury


Volume six of the Cross-train Express series packs a serious punch in a short amount of time. Legs…Legs…and more Legs! An ever ending cycle of serious lower body work. If you think for a minute that you’re going to get a chance to rest during this tape, you are sorely mistaken. Never stopping, never taking the focus off the legs is the name of the game. This maybe a workout that you’ll want to do when the kids are gone though, because I can almost guarantee that a few choice adjectives will be flying out of you mouth when you here the words “Low End”. How can two little words strike such fear?

The first time I did this tape my legs were talking to me for days and days, but each time I do it gets a little bit more fun (did I just call a leg tape fun?)

If lean legs are what your looking for then this tape will deliver. This tape is all standing leg work, no floor work or lying leg work. You’re going to need a barbell and at least two sets of dumbbells and a step up box as well as a mat for the ending ab work.

A really short warm up begins the workout. Lots of body weight squats. Then be prepared to work hard. Starting out with barbell squats of varying tempo you’re legs will be feeling it from the get go. A new curse word is then added to your vocabulary. Low End Squats. This is a killer move for the quads. Doing a squatting motion your utilize only the low end of the movement. Talk about fire in the thighs!

After than killer squat combo instead of resting you move right into deadlifts and calf raises. Then if your ready for it 3 sets of tall box work using dumbbells. I really think Cathe is rivaling Tracy Long as queen of the tall box. I started off using the 40 lb barbell, but after the first set I had to move to lighter dumbbells. Even tall box queens have to be humbled sometimes.

One Leg squats are there. Elevating on leg on the step in a static lunge position you’re going to find one more way to torture your legs! I found the first time it was hard to find just the right position for my leg/feet spacing but each time it get better and more comfortable. Be prepared to work the low end again!

Then your back to more squats and those Low Ends. If your legs aren’t toasted yet, then good thing there’s still more to come.

Static lunges, and piles are coming up. A couple sets of piles with the barbell (though I prefer to use dumbbells for pile work) varying the tempo and count and utilizing that dratted low end you’re sure to be quivering.

In between each set of major leg work you’re going to get a chance to “rest” while doing dead lifts and calf raises. Not that dead lifts are much rest!

Once your legs can no longer hold your bodyweight up, you move into some nice traditional ab work. Standard crunches, reverse curls, oblique work there all there. This ab work is a continual movement of crunches….no time to waste. And to build on the theme of torture, working the High End of the crunch. Talk about a nice burn in the abs!

Finally a nice stretch and cool down!

The only beef that I have is the short warm up. I wish there was a bit more. Compared to the intensity of the tape the warm up was a little bit paltry. More stretches to loosen you up before the heavy weight work began would have been really nice.

With that in mind I’m so in love with this tape. I wasn’t as thrilled with the PS Legs tape for reasons I could never put my thumb on. But this tape is a keeper. For all of you who loved standing legs and wanted more this is for you. This is at least 5 notches above Standing Legs in intensity. This tape is worth its weight in gold. If leaner legs is what you want then this tape will deliver!

Susie F.


What a tough workout! None of my other strength videos make me sweat like this one. My legs were like jello by the end, but in a very different way from PS Legs. Whereas PS Legs makes my legs feel weak and spent, once you get past the Jello feeling toward the end of LL, my legs felt strong and firm all day. Endurance is definitely the focus of Leaner Legs, so it would make an excellent companion to PS Legs.

If you're a FIRMie who finds Cathe's gym style workouts boring, this one might not change your mind, but I did want to point out that this video begs comparison with Standing Legs. Like SL, it focuses on more reps and lighter weights, and like SL you are changing exercises frequently and coming back to exercises you did earlier instead of having all the sets of each exercise together. It's been a long time since I traded SL (which I didn't care for), so I'll be curious to see what SL fans think of LL. Those who find PS Legs bulks their legs too much should definitely consider Leaner Legs.

Cathe truly makes the most of every minute of this video! Most of the exercises will be familiar if you have MIS and PS Legs, but there are a few new twists. Most of the exercises have variations in speed of reps or in range of motion. One variation that's a killer is when you go down into a move, then only halfway up. She does this on squats and static lunges in particular. Another new (to Cathe) and killer move are static lunges with the back foot elevated on the step, which makes the front leg do all the work. Very tough.

The other new and different thing is that Cathe has cut out any real rest time between exercises by using a set of calf raises as "active rest." The larger muscles of the leg get a break, but you still get the benefit of those couple of minutes to work the calves.

Here's a run-down of the exercises in the workout:

Warm up: squats without weights. Workout: Cathe uses a 35 pound barbell or handweights as indicated. Since I've been generally using the same barbell weight as Cathe in PS Legs, I stuck to what she used here and that was perfect.

  • Barbell Squats
    (Note: this seems like the longest section, probably because you've already been doing the same squats in the warm up without weights. The rest of the workout passes much more quickly)
  • Quarter deadlifts with barbell
  • Calf raises
  • Leg press: 3 sets each leg, with 8 pound dumbells (relatively fast tempo)
  • static lunges with the back foot elevated on the step (uses dumbells)
  • Quarter deadlifts with barbell
  • Calf raises
  • Repeat barbell squat series
  • sit and stands with barbell
  • Quarter deadlifts with barbell
  • Calf raises
  • static lunges (can't remember if she used the barbell for this or dumbells)
  • Plie squats with barbell
  • Quarter deadlifts with barbell
  • Calf raises
  • (brief Stretch)
  • Ab work (9 minutes): OK, you know me, I've never met an ab section I wasn't willing to skip :), but I actually do this one from time to time. This is all traditional ab work, but with lots of tempo and range of motion variations, and there are some isometric holds in there, too. I do have to say the CTX series ab workouts are Cathe's best to date. The mix of exercises is good, and you get a lot done in a relatively short amount of time.
  • 4 min. stretch

I have been doing Leaner Legs for a couple of months now, and have been able to increase the amount of weight I lift for both tapes significantly. Since I had been using the same amount of weight on PS for quite a while, this was a big improvement for me. All the quad work in Leaner Legs has also been great for re-developing the muscle tone in one of my legs which atrophied quite a bit after knee surgery. I'm not where I want to be yet, but I've made a great deal of improvement.

For me, this workout is what the FIRM's Standing Legs (which I never liked) should have been. It is a regular part of my rotation, and I also think it's an excellent complement to PS Legs, if you like to work your legs twice a week and want some variety.



If I had to compare this tape to some others, I would say that it is a cross between the Firm and BodyPump. It consists of variations of squats and lunges and deadlifts and within the variations, Cathe varies the rhythm such as 4 down and 4 up, 3 down and 1 up, etc.. I like the majority of the exercises, and I like the variations on the exercises and I also Iike the rhythm changes. However, the tape adds up to A LOT of reps and most of the exercises are variations of squats and lunges, so I will warn anyone with sensitive knees to be very careful. I don't have knee problems, but my knees were twinging after doing this tape. I was wondering how Cathe's and her participants' knees could endure doing that workout with such heavy weight. I think that this workout works the quads very well, but I felt that I still needed more for my hamstrings and outer thighs; I was hoping for some floor work, which this tape doesn't have. I will probably do this tape once per week, but will supplement it with floor work and machines. The music in this tape was good sometimes, but there were times when I didn't like the music and the vocals in the background. Cathe is her usual superwoman self, with amazing muscle tone, strength and endurance, even right after having a baby. I like her personality in this tape; she is friendly and upbeat, encouraging and inspiring.



This is one fast-paced, high-rep workout for your legs and -- excuse me, I have to pause for air -- abs. Yes, I finished this workout hours ago, yet I am still gasping. This is a toughy, but it goes at such a whirlwind pace, with so many rhythm variations and quick changes, that it's enjoyable. Then again, I may still be in an altered state of mind. I'll know for sure tomorrow.

What makes this workout unique and enjoyable is the quick pace, changing tempos that are choreographed to the music and what Cathe calls her "active recoveries," when you get to "rest" your quivering quads with some deadlifts and calf raises before launching back into squats and lunges. This is all standing leg work, with lots of squats, static lunge variations, deadlifts, step-ups, calf raises and some killer plie squats. Leaner (MEANER) Legs is a real showcase for Cathe.

The warm-up is short, probably less than 5 minutes and consists of different tempo squats using only your body weight. I learned a new curse word less than 2 minutes into the warm-up: "low-end squats." That's when you squat and keep squatting in the bottom half of your squat range for 4 counts. On my second one of these, I felt the sweat break out on my forehead and chest. A peek at the clock confirmed that I was only 1 and 1/2 minutes into the warm-up. Uh-oh. Could be trouble.

Then the real work begins. Round One! About 10 non-stop minutes of barbell squats, barbell deadlifts, calf raises and 3 sets of step-ups with dumbbells. Be prepared to flip your barbell on end during the calf raises and use it to balance on. If you don't like doing this with your barbell (I didn't) you might want to have a body bar or a dowel handy instead. The music in LL is tough to describe. It's very distinctive and compliments the workout nicely. It's mostly instrumental with occasional "la la lalala" kind of vocals. The voices reminded me of the Indigo Girls. Cathe uses a 35-pound barbell, the same weight she uses in the leg portion of MIS. I would recommend going light when you try this workout, it is very intense without much rest between sets.

Okay, next comes Round Two. Blast-off with single-leg squats using dumbbells. These are similar to static lunges, but your rear leg is raised on the step behind you, placing all the work on the front leg and glute. You move on with a return to deadlifts and calf raises and then a really killer set of squats, including that curse word, the "low-expletive-deleted-end" squats. You will really need the short stretch here, those low ends take your breath away.

Round Three! This section is incredibly tough. It starts with barbell sit-and-stands. Ouch. Take heart though: these are tough, but nowhere near as hard as the ones in Pure Strength, since your barbell is loaded much lighter for LL. (For your sake, I hope you went light. If not -- pre-program 911 into your telephone dial!) Back to deadlifts and calf raises. I think this is when Cathe asks Rhonda for the count and all the background exercisers look at each sheepishly -- they forgot to keep track! Guess I'm not the only one who goes into an altered state of mind with this workout. OK, here comes the brutal section. One very looooooong set of static lunges at different tempos that will leave you crying for mercy. The long set gives ample time to think about which leg hurts more: the one in front or the one behind. As soon as you switch legs and that pre-fatigued rear leg goes in front, you'll know for sure which leg hurts more. It's Meaner Legs for sure!

There's more. Endless sets of plie squats, again those #^$% low-ends. Some more deadlifts, calf raises, a stretch and you're done. From the start of the warm-up to the stretch is just under 35 minutes.

You finish up with about 10 minutes of ab work. Smile! This is one of Cathe's better ab workouts. It's all traditional moves, but she shakes up her usual order of exercises by starting with reverse crunches and staying with them for quite a while. It's a good change of pace and focus for Cathe. She includes some new variations of oblique work and lots of tough stuff including isolation holds and pec decks with crunches.

That's the workout. I love it. Short, varied, very thorough and completely different pace and style from my other strength-focused leg workouts. The workout leaves my legs feeling exhausted, but not sore.

Instructor Comments:
It's Cathe. What can I say? I love her. She looks fit, pretty and happy. She has a wonderful rapport with her audience. She's produced another ultra-professional workout: from the new set to the music, everything is top-notch. Including Cathe herself.

Daphne M