Crunch Burn & Firm Pilates

Ellen Barrett
Year Released: 2004

Categories: Pilates/Core Strength

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I posted a review of this workout below, but wanted to update it. I did get rid of the workout like I said I would in my original review, but then I reacquired it at some point later when I bought a 3-DVD set of Ellen's Crunch workouts. And, I found over time that I really enjoy doing this workout once in awhile. I still don't like how she repeats everything on both sides, but I enjoy the light weight work with the fusion type flow. And, it's a standing workout, something that I prefer over floor work.

Although the workout happens on a typical Crunch set with typical Crunch background exercisers, I find that I focus on Ellen in this workout and don't mind them as I usually do. Doing this workout gives me a glow. My arms feel well worked out using 2-3 pound workouts, although I would classify this more of a cardio workout than a strength workout. If you like either cardio or strength without mixing them (as I did at the time of my original review), you won't enjoy this. But, if you like a mishmash of styles, then this might be for you.

Instructor Comments:
She really sells this being a standing Pilates workout. I don't necessarily think that it is a Pilates workout, more of a Pilates inspired workout. She's encouraging and enthusiastic in this workout.

Laura S.


This is one of the Crunch pilates fusion workouts featuring Ellen Barrett, before she started her own Studio series. As I work through her Crunch workouts after having already done most of her Studio workouts, I am finding the Crunch workouts to be more athletic and traditional, but still infused with Ellen’s charisma and knowledge of pilates technique. This workout incorporated light weights so I consider it a prelude to Studio Slim Sculpt and Skinny Sculpt. This workout is not as difficult as those Studio workouts but is still a challenge. Ellen leads with several female and one male background instructor. One of the girls provides beginner modifications and does not use weights. The set is the classic Crunch open set, and the music was pretty good and included some tunes I thought I recognized from 10MS and/or Firm workouts. Ellen gives really clear instructions and reminds you about your posture and to engage your core. They work out with sneakers although I think you could just as easily (if not even easier) work out barefoot. I did the workout barefoot. They look like they are using about 3# weights and I did the same. That was about an appropriate amount of weight.

The workout is about 45 minutes long and includes a long warm up (about 7 minutes), a non-weighted standing pilates aerobic segment (about 7 minutes), then three standing pilates aerobic tunes which take up another 20 minutes, then down to the floor for about a 10 minute pilates mat series which includes some weighted arm work and some unweighted ab and core work. The workout moved quickly with no time wasted, and includes lots of plies (it is an Ellen workout, after all), reaches with and without the weights, lots of step touches and some mambos, and quite a bit of backwards and forwards lunges. My knees did NOT like all those lunges and by the end I really had to just walk it out during the lunge segments. Because of this, I decidedly like Crunch Fat Burning Pilates and her later Studio workouts better – I’m glad she doesn’t use all those lunges later on.

The workout really was pretty intense and the weights made it even more so. Besides the lunges I really did enjoy myself and will probably reach for this on a semi-regular basis, when I just want something different. It has a cardio impact but also lots of toning, so like others said it is fairly hard to categorize. Collage rates this as beginner-intermediate but I would rate it intermediate. Probably a keeper for any Ellen fan. It wouldn’t be my highest recommended of the Ellen Barrett collection but it’s a decent workout. Grade B.

Instructor Comments:
Ellen is very enjoyable. She isn’t quite as mystical as she is in her later Studio workouts, tending to be more athletic and down to business. She gives very clear cuing and she mirror cues. She gives clear instruction on pilates technique.

Emily B.


I can't remember the breakdown on this but I remember really enjoying it. Not sure how to categorize it either since it wasn't really cardio but not all toning either! Most was done standing with pilates moves done upright. It needs some sp ace for side to side and a lot of leg movements. I used 3 lb dumbbells for the arm movements and found my arms got a decent toning workout just from holding the weights (I"m beginner esp in toning department!). I"m not sure someone advanced would feel anything and if you don't focus on the moves and control them you wont' feel much either. this workout could be made extrememly easy I think but I tried to focus on the moves and I got a good workout. at the end is matwork that was fun but challenging. seems like the overall length was around 45 min. I'd like to do this one more but time constraints hinder this so I'll do it whenever I can since I enjoy it.

Instructor Comments:
I love Ellen! She's so down to earth and 'fresh'. Great body too but although they have her showing a lot of flesh she doesn't seem to 'show it off' if you know what I mean.



This DVD has already been broken down and reviewed many times, so I will just give my personal impressions.

This was a good workout for me. I would say that I was at a low intermediate when I was sidelined due to injuries and then surgery. I am trying to get back into the swing of things and this was a good start.

I have lost some in terms of cardio, so this was actually kind of hard for me. There are tons of lunges, squats and plies, so beware! I know I will feel this in my legs tomorrow! I used 3 lb weights and I'm not totally convinced that my arms couldn't use a little more, so I might need to add on some heavier arm work later.

I am fairly new to aerobic weight training as I never could figure out where to put it in a rotation, but I really liked this. I missed the tradition pilates, but I can always do that on another day.

I think I will come back to this if I can figure out where to put it in. It was fun, though there is some dread factor due to the endless lunges (I hate lunges), but it's still doable.

If you like FB Pilates, you'll probably like this!

Instructor Comments:
Great! Upbeat and positive, but not too chatty or perky.

Krista (benemma)


This is a 45 minute workout divided between a standing cardio Pilates-inspired segment and a mat segment. Very similar in format and feel to Crunch: Fat Burning Pilates, except this one adds 1-3 lb. weights to both segments. The cardio portion of B&F is longer than in FB, making the matwork section much shorter. No Ravi drum music this time around, either. In fact, I can't remember the music in B&F at all. As in FB, one background exerciser does modified moves, mainly by not using weights. Fewer bare bellies in this one, too!
The cardio segment is pretty basic and low impact with some traditional hi/lo moves like sidesteps and mambos, but with an empahsis on extending up through the spine and the Pilates stance. The first combos don't use weights. You pick them up about a third of the way in to begin four-limbed movements. People with shoulder problems might want to either go light or preview the moves. There are many, many side lunges and several front and rear lunges, including a few lunge/knee up combos. The weights help boost heart rate; I'm an intermediate exerciser and my hr got up into a reasonable zone.
The matwork is about 8 minutes and consists of "Shave the head" (french presses), seated arm work/ab combos, lying twists and toe taps, and straddle/reverse crunches, all with weights, and single leg stretch and single straight leg without weights.
I like FB Pilates and use it a lot, and though this has a similar feel and would make a good companion workout, the number of side lunges and the shorter matwork section (not to mention no Ravi!) make me less enthusiastic about this workout.

Instructor Comments:
Very perky and seems to know her stuff. She provides some good visualization tips to help with the Pilates positioning. Some of her cues happen on the move rather than right before it and she doesn't always explain a move, so it helps to watch the video through once to see what she means.



With strength work, I am an intermediate exerciser, who doesn’t really want to move up to advanced work. Most of the time, I do traditional strength work with weight. However, I have enjoyed branching out into Pilates and workouts on the ball as well. I have a decent number of fusion and/or “Pilates-inspired” workouts which I enjoy on light days.

Other reviewers have described this workout pretty well, so I’ll just add my thoughts. This is a workout I would give a positive review to. Ellen leads the workout well and pleasantly. The set and production values are good. There was only one background exerciser I watched because I wondered how/if her pants would stay up given how low-riding they were. My heart rate was elevated during parts of the workout with the weights.

And, you will be seeing this DVD on my next trade list. It was good, but simply not good enough to keep my attention or motivate me to work out with it. Plus, it did get repetitive for me as she repeated the sets multiple times. I enjoy her Fatburning Pilates workout more, even though that workout’s start seems much slower to me. It seemed to have more of a “fun factor” for me.

Instructor Comments:
She is a good instructor: cues well, is engaging, describes moves descriptively.

Laura S.


I bought this video at Walmart at a bargain price of $5.96. I really, really like this video. I'm a low intermediate exerciser and surprisingly I did break a sweat and my heart rate was raised. The tape is 48 minutes long with most of the work done standing up. As other reviews have stated there are tons of plies, but I didn't mind. I hate lunges and Ellen did do some lunges but she added this cool mambo move which made me not dread them as much. You use 1-3 lb weights throughout the workout. The mat workout is very short, which is my only complaint. Also, if you are looking for traditional pilates then you won't like this video, there are no hundreds, teasers, or rolling like a ball. However, a lot of the moves require you to balance so you are engaging your core quite a bit. She just had really different exercises that I haven't done before. She does this swan and see-saw move that killed my outer thighs.
It is definitely worth the $5.96.

Instructor Comments:
I really enjoyed Ellen, she had great cueing, seemed sincere, not too chatty or talkative.



This video was an impulse purchase at Walmart. I took it home, popped it in the DVD player and I liked it instantly. It's not terribly intense, but it did elevate my heart rate and make me break a sweat. I used three pound dumbbells the first time I did it and 2 lbs. the second time. The 2 pounders lessened the intensity and I'll likely use 3 pounders in the future.

I thought it was a fun and interesting workout, and it has rekindled my interest in Pilates. I will use this video on days when I'm not up for a more intense workout, and I even think this is one that I could handle at the end of a workday.

Instructor Comments:
Ellen is upbeat and queues continuously without incessant idle chatter.

Helen K


This is Ellen Barrett's third Crunch Pilates video and the first which incorporates weights into the workout. Similar to in her previous video, Crunch Fat-Burning Pilates, many of the traditional Pilates floor exercises are performed here in a standing position, although Burn & Firm Pilates does include a separate matwork section (see below). The workout begins with a 5-minute warm-up consisting of simple movements such as marches and plies (there are A LOT of plies in this video!). Following this, there was a 7-minute segment that is difficult for me to define; it was too slow-moving to be cardio and might best be described as light toning. In this section, there are additional plies plus some basic ballet-inspired leg movements.

Next comes the "meat" of the workout, a 24-minute cardio segment using light weights to increase the workload. The first series includes alternating side leg lifts (the "saw") with a "swan" movement that involves raising one arm overhead and lifting the opposite leg. Although Ellen stated that we should be feeling this in our inner thighs, I found that it was actually my OUTER thighs and hips that were burning! Next comes more plies interspersed with two moves from the Pilates side series, rond de jambe and leg circles, both performed in a standing position. Continuing on, there is a segment involving knee lifts which turn into lunges and combine with a front arm raise. After that, it's back to MORE plies! This time, a standing Pilates arm zip is performed in-between sets. The finally cardio segment provides even more work for the arms: you will do a front and side mambo that turns into a front and side lunge (a bit awkward to the side) while performing bicep curls the entire time. The cardio section ends with a few additional exercises for the arms such as circles. Overall, I found the intensity of the cardio to be about the same as for the cardio segment of Crunch Fat-Burning Pilates, although this would not have been the case without using the weights.

The final 8 minutes of the video are performed on the floor, starting with arms and abs work in a seated position with the weights. Next, you move on to your back for two additional exercises, knee drops and leg straddles, using the weights as anchors. Finally, there are just two traditional Pilates matwork exercises, the single leg stretch and the single straight leg. The workout ends with a very short (1-2 minutes) cool-down in a seated position for a total of approximately 44 minutes.

I enjoyed this video and liked the addition of the weights, especially since I have been trying to add light weights to many of my cardio routines. What I did NOT like was the absence of a traditional Pilates matwork sequence; I would have much preferred to leave out the light toning segment early in the video and devote this time to mat exercises instead. Although the exercises are a bit more repetitious here, most fans of Crunch Fat Burning Pilates will probably enjoy this video as well.

Instructor Comments:
Ellen displays the same likeable personality here that she does in her prior Crunch videos. She frequently offers encouragement ("this looks great, guys!") to the viewer and class of seven Pilates students, one of whom serves as a modifier. Finally, Ellen's form and cuing just gets better over time.

Beth C (aka toaster)


BFP is a fun workout, but it helps if you like plies, since you do a lot of them here. This is a mix of standing cardio moves with an emphasis on using core stability and control, as Ellen describes the moves. After several minutes, you pick up dumbbells and use them for upper body moves as you continue the cardio step patterns. After several cycles of different patterns, you hit the floor for some pilates mat work and then do a stretch. The music is fun, and kept me going, though if I had to describe it now, I couldn't. Although I enjoy this workout, it is somewhat repetitive. If this were a video I did regularly, more than once a week, I think I would get tired of it really, really quickly. But since I do it no more than twice a week, it is still fun to me. Ellen is a really solid instructor. I'd like to see her put together a dance cardio class with a ballet flair, similar to what Jessica Sherwood attempted in the dance segment of Ballet Boot Camp. Ellen explains things very well, and seems so at home in front of the camera. I also like this tape because the people all seem unique. It seems many of the tapes I've seen lately have the cast wearing the same clothes, the same haircolor and cut, the same boobs... there is a nice mix of body types here, and, just as if you were going to a studio, a mix of outfits as well. Unlike Ellen's earlier Fat Burning Pilates, where most of the outfits seemed to be staying on with glue and required a wax, there's no "train wreck" costumes here. Ordinarily, I don't notice the outfits much, but I was expecting the worst after FBP. On the whole, this is a fun workout that I like to pull out once a week or so. it isn't the most challenging workout for me, but I do feel like I get a good sweat in and my muscles do feel pleasantly fatigued. And somedays, a fun sweat is just what I need.

Instructor Comments:
Ellen is perky without being annoying. She cues well, shows good form and has a nice movement quality. I find her easy to follow and pleasant to work out with.



After doing this DVD consistently for almost a month (which by the way is very unusual for me) I knew that I had to write a review on it.

The title has Pilates in it but it is also a true aerobic weight training workout using exercises found in Pilates. For the first thirty minutes of the workout, you will use light weighted dumbbells to do most of the aerobic weight training exercises such as plie squats, plie squats while reaching your arms (palms facing up) overhead and back (kind of like a wide shoulder press), bicep curls with side leg lifts, swan arms (arms stretching from side to side) with side leg lifts, mambos front and side with bicep curls, and back lunges with shoulder raises.

All the moves are low impact but I found you can really increase the intensity not by making the moves high impact but by paying close attention to your form and really controlling the moves. Ellen provides excellent visuals to make this possible.

After completing the cardio/strength series, you finish the workout with approximately eight minutes of more traditional Pilates floorwork which consists of shaving the head (triceps extensions w/a dumbell), stretching with legs extended to the front, pilates scissors, and exercises brining one knee to your chest while stretching the other leg away from the body. A very relaxing stretch at the end completes the workout.

As I have stated in other reviews, I'm not a big Pilates fan but this DVD and Ellen's other DVD, Crunch: Fat Burning Pilates, have changed my mind. Granted these are not your traditional Pilates workouts but a fusion of cardio, strength, and Pilates but it works for me. I adore this workout so much because it is a refreshing change from all the high impact that I'm used to doing. I'm an advanced exerciser and I really work up a sweat doing this workout. Must be all the muscle control, which is part of what Pilates is, that Ellen talks about.

The production is your typical Crunch style if you've seen other Crunch workouts. The workout takes place in an open studio. The music, while nothing fabulous, is pretty good. The only negative drawback to this workout is all the plies. There are no modifications shown for this move and if you have bad knees you may not be able to do this workout.

On a very positive note, by doing this workout and its sister workout consistently, I now have definition in my abs that I did not have before. Benefits aside, this is just a fun workout to do and I highly recommend it.