Body Reform: Core Essentials

Karen Voight
Year Released: 1999

Categories: Pilates/Core Strength , Total Body Workouts

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I’m reviewing this workout, which has also been called Body Reform: Core Essentials, Core Essentials Pilates, and Core Plus More, after doing it twice (I think) a while ago.

General workout breakdown: This begins with a 5 minute warm up. 30 minutes of toning follow, divided among 5 minutes of standing legwork and 25 minutes of floorwork (with about 10 minutes for legs, 5 for upper body, and 10 for abs). A 6 minute stretch ends the workout for a total of about 40 minutes. Karen intends for this to be a complement to rather than the main part of a strength training program. She intends it to be a way to check in with your technique and either work your muscles in a different way or work muscles that are normally neglected. There isn’t enough upper body work for this to really stand alone, but you’ll feel that leg work, particularly that lying leg series.
There isn’t much impact from what I can remember, but be careful of the squat-pivot-lunge series if you work out on carpet.

Level: I’d recommend this to an intermediate level exerciser. You need to know what you’re doing, so this is not for beginners. At the same time, this wouldn’t be enough strength work for an advanced exerciser (unless you were taking it easy).

Class: Karen only. Most of the time Karen is instructing and performing the move at the same time, although sometimes she demonstrates the move while also providing voiceover.

Music / Set / Other Production Notes: I didn’t care much for the instrumental music, which sometimes doesn’t quite start on time. The interior set is rather dark and sort of futuristic looking. The picture and sound are fine.

Equipment Needed: sneakers for the standing portion, 1-2 pair(s) of dumbbells (your choice of weights), 1 pair of Green Genie balls (or any 3 lb.—or other size—weighted ball or even dumbbells), mat (or equivalent), and a towel.

Comments: Except for one series of movements this workout doesn’t require a lot of space. You need to be able to take one big step front and back and two big steps to each side; you should also be able to lie down with your legs and arms extended. I had to do the squat-pivot-lunge series diagonally across my 6’ by 8’ room, but all other movements are more compact.

DVD Notes: The DVD allows you to do the entire workout or choose one of the floorwork sessions. It is also available on DVD with YogaSculpt as Yoga & Sculpting.

Conclusion: I ended up trading this away. It never really appealed to me. Most likely the presence of floorwork was a big factor; I just can’t seem to fall in love with that kind of strength work. Also, I like working my upper body, and this is definitely skimpy in that regard. That said, I’ve read people recommend this for the lower body burn it’ll cause.
This video no longer has Pilates in the title since there is very little of Pilates in this video. Some of the moves are uncommon, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re Pilates or even Pilates-based.

Instructor Comments:
Karen is an excellent cuer and very focused on proper form and technique, as always. She exercises each side evenly and intends for you to mirror her moves.



First of all, I want to note that this video was originally marketed without "Pilates" in the title; my cover simply says "Core Essentials." I'm not sure why Pilates was added in--as others have said, this is definitely not a Pilates workout. Rather, it is a full-body toning workout similar to the first half of one of Karen's early videos, Streamline Fitness.

The workout begins with a simple, 4 minute warm-up to get your body moving; this is followed by 8 minutes of standing strength moves. The exercises consist of traditional squats and crunches, but Karen makes them unique by adding more movement. Although her cuing is excellent, the variety of the moves is a little hard to follow upon first viewing of the tape, but you do get the hang of it. One problem I had with this section is regarding how Karen uses the arms: the arm movements often seem unnecessary and mismatched to the leg work.

The main body of this workout occurs on the floor. Karen continues the legwork with extensions done both on all fours and on the side; she sometimes uses her weighted "genie balls," but the moves are challenging enough without the added weight! She also targets the arms with a tough push-ups sequence as well as several exercises with dumbbells. Karen ends the workout with abs and back exercises followed by a 6 minute cool down.

Overall, this was an average-to-good workout, but I preferred Karen's Streamline Fitness, which offers additional arm work, a tougher abs section, and relaxing yoga moves as well.

Instructor Comments:
Karen is an excellent instructor; as always, she offers meticulous tips on form throughout.

Beth C (aka toaster)


This workout is included on Karen's Yoha & Sculpting DVD. which is the only reason I have it. If it were available seperately I would probably not keep it. Overall, I felt this workout is one of those rouitnes that is not bad, exactly---reasonably fun, a few interesting moves, I wasn't watching the clock or anything. But when it was over I sat there wondering just what it was I had spent the last 40 minutes doing, exactly.

The warm-up was very nice. In fact, it would make a great add-on wwarm-up to a workout that doesn't have one. There were some active stretches, a few leg moves with arm motions...very lovely, flowing routine.

The leg work was pretty decent. It did not feel too intense to me and I was not sore afterward, but I tend to avoid floor work and it was palatable here. I question whether I got enoigh of it to really DO much, but it was a nice relaxing section and I did enjoy myself.

The arm section was useless. It was mostly one long push-up. It was too short with not enough variety, and there was no biceps work at all. After the first time I did this tape I skipped it. The workout ends with a fairly standard ab section and a short cool-down.

If she cut the arm section and extended the standing legs and floor work, and maybe added some puslign sets or something to make it a little more intense, this would have been a great leg workout. As it is though, I am not really sure. I guess I would view it almost as a stretch tape---you do it to feel nice, rather than to actually "work."



This is a super beginner-level workout, but not too challenging to someone who's been doing Pilates for awhile. While not strictly a Pilates tape, it definitely has strong Pilates input. I think of it as Pilates Karen Style. You start with some standing leg work -- mostly some choreographed-type squats. You then move on the floor leg work (my favorite part). After that, there are abs, including planks and some s-l-o-w pushups (you work your abs at the same time by combining them with planks). There is also some other ab work that combines traditional style with Pilates style, and there is some arm work, too. I hope I haven't left anything out. It's really quite well-rounded and an outstanding workout if you're new to this type of thing. The music is pretty cool, too -- sort of new-agey. While this workout didn't challenge me (because I'm pretty experienced with Pilates), I would highly recommend it for beginners. A+.

Annie S.


I just got done doing Core Essentials and am writing this while it is fresh in my head. I did not expect this tape to be a heavy strength training tape and I wanted to try it because I like muscle conditioning workouts on the days when I don't go to the gym. I got exactly what I expected and liked it very much. It started out with a short warm-up followed by some standing leg exercises like one legged squats and an interesting lunge sequence that was different from the typical lunges you do with weights. Karen does not use weights during this leg section and she says that using your own body's weight with correct form is another way to get results. I do agree with this because I do not want to develop any size to my legs, instead I want them to be strong and firm with a lean look. (even at the gym I use very light weight and I only do this twice a week). I especially like the Leg and Buttocks section while lying on the floor. Karen teaches with precision and limited reps and she targets 360 degrees around the legs. Doing the exercises slow with the 3lb. weight balls really got me feel the exercise.

I think the abdominal section was different from any ab work I've done before. She makes a point of reminding you to keep your abs flat while you're working them. After just having a baby, this was just what I needed. I found it very effective for me to concentrate on pressing down on the towel that she recommends folding under your lower back. It is not the type of ab work that makes you work to failure but nothing in this tape is meant to be kick-ass. I found that it is gentle on the body with a "pilates feel" to it. The push up sequence is quite difficult for me but I think I can do it in time. I especially liked that it concentrates on the triceps.

I have some of Karen's other tapes that are more advanced and I think that she is offering a shorter intermediate workout here. I can always do her Energy Sprint if I want a tough cardio workout, but I actually see myself doing this workout more because it takes less time and focuses on the parts of my body that I like to workout at home. I am one of those who does not mind her no nonsense attitude because I never get tired of her tapes. Her cues are always helpful for getting correct form so I enjoy listening and watching her I exercise.



Emily has already done a thorough breakdown of Core Essentials, so I'll just add my (somewhat rambling) thoughts. This workout, as Karen states, is to help build core strength in the body, specifically targeting the abdominals, buttocks, and torso. It isn't meant to be a muscle-building workout, so if you're looking for that, you won't find it here. The production quality and music are similar to Streamline Fitness and YogaSculpt. Karen is alone on the set, and there are various artsy (but not distracting to me) camera angles and lighting. Karen sometimes instructs in real time, and sometimes in voice-overs.

I enjoyed the choreographed lunge/squat combo, but as Emily stated, it can be difficult on the knees if you're on carpet since there are lots of pivoting from a squat to a side lunge position. Karen does mention that you have to be careful and unload your weight if you're on a carpeted surface. While it is definitely a lighter workout for the legs, if you concentrate and really focus on your torso muscles, you'll find that these sequences can really help your balance. Form is very important here, as it is with all of the exercises in this workout. If you cheat with your form, especially in workouts like this that focus on core strength, you won't get much out of the exercises. The floor legs section is a cross between the Method side series from Precision Toning and the tablework from Firm Hare or Sculpted Buns, Hips & Thighs. The side series doesn't use weight, and the buttocks/hamstring table work uses a green genie weighted ball (or a dumbbell) squeezed behind the knee. Again, if you squeeze the ball (or dumbbell) hard, you'll really feel it.

Karen does a triceps pushup combo that really gets me! You pull your elbows in close to your body as you do the pushups (no cheating with a wide arm position!!!), do three, and then raise up onto your toes and hold a plank position, then S-L-O-W-L-Y lower yourself down to the floor. You repeat this sequence three times, and you'll also feel it in your abs! I normally do pushups on my toes, but I don't even ATTEMPT it here! :-) I felt better, because Karen does them on her knees, too. You then do chest flyes, and the reps are slow so you aren't really limited to light weights. I used 10 lbs. here (I usually use 15 and occasionally 20 lbs. depending on the speed and the number of reps), which was about right.

I was a little disappointed with the ab section, especially since this video is supposed to focus on core strength. This section is OK, with both traditional abs and stabilization moves, but not as tough as some of Karen's other ab sections. It uses the green genies or a dumbbells. I find her ab sections in Streamline Fitness, Great Weighted Workout, Firm Arms & Abs, and the matwork in YogaSculpt to be much more challenging. The stretch at the end is nice.

***A side note--I've done this workout using both dumbbells and Karen's 3 lb. green genie balls. I've found that I definitely feel like I get much more out of the workout using the green genies, especially for the table work and the abs.***

All in all, I find this to be a pleasant add-on tape. I'll use it as a light strength workout, in addition to my cardio or with another strength tape.

Instructor Comments:
Karen is the consummate professional. As usual, she takes a low-key, calm approach when instructing. Very clear form pointers and description of the exercises. Her physique is inspiring.

Kristin Aziz


First of all, when I got it, it was actually "Ease into Fitness", one of the three new KV videos, once I popped it into the VCR (Collage sent me my corrected copy). This just proves my theory: this entire series (Ease, YogaScupt, and CE) was rushed just to put out into the market at this time of year. There were no intro ads for her other videos and this seemed to be a cheaper video production than her past videos. The music doesn't seem to correspond to the movements a lot of the time (but I did like it).

Onto the workout... I skipped the 4-min warmup since I had just done my cardio workout, but it did look interesting. The next 6 min is standing leg work. It was interesting- very choreographed with squats and a lunge-pivot- turn thing, but NO weights at all and not very effective, IMHO- and it hurt my knees since I workout on carpeting. The rest of the workout is floorwork, which I normally love.

The next 10 minutes are lying legs/buttocks- this is my favorite part, as it was similar to GWW and the Method's 'side series' but done with no weights (it didn't bother my knees at all). The next 5 minutes is arms/back/torso. She had an interesting push-up sequence (but I'm not a push-up fan), then doing chest flies and a tricep french press combo. This was not nearly enough for me, and no bicep work at all. I would've preferred that the previous segment (lying legs/buttocks) was longer and this section omitted. The last 10 minutes are abs, this section was ok. It was very slow and controlled movements.

The ab work was more traditional than YogaSculpt, but more Pilates style than GWW--similar to Keli Roberts' Abs and More. Then it ends with a five minute stretch. What bothered me the most is the very end where she says "hugs your knees in...and we're done for today" blah, what a way to end a workout. She does state in the very beginning: "this is not to replace your workout with heavier weights. It's designed to develop strong, lean muscles and healthy joint mobility" well, it was far too easy for me. But, kudos to Karen for stating this!

The only section I really, truly enjoyed was the 10 min of floorwork for legs/butt, but that's only because I'm a floorwork fanatic- I felt it really targeted my outer thighs and butt. I'm a bit disappointed, but I will give it a few more tries. It's definitely NOT a total body workout, just like YogaSculpt isn't. I do like the total length of these two videos: 40-ish minutes is great for a light weight day. And I love the music on both CE and YS.

Instructor Comments:
As usual, KV uses perfect form and has great pointers. I just wish that more planning had gone into this (ie- the music stopping/starting) series. It really seemed like KV wanted to get these tapes out in time for the Christmas rush and New Year's resolutions. I'd love to see a truly advanced YS and CE, as I think these are really intermediate, no matter what Collage says.