Perfect Pregnancy Workout

Karyne Steben
Year Released: 2002

Categories: Pregnancy/Postpartum

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I loved this workout! It used everything I used before getting pregnant, including weights and kundalini yoga at the very end. This is not a beginner workout; if you are a beginner who is pregnant and new to exercise, I highly recommend Denise Austin's latest pregnancy workout. Intermediate or advanced exercisers used to Cathe or the FIRM, this is the workout for you, especially if you've had to slow down during pregnancy.

A little about me: intermediate level focusing mostly on FIRM, pilates and yoga in the best shape of my life. Got pregnant, survived the first trimester only to get Symphysis Pubic Dysfunction three weeks into my second trimester; hormones caused the ligament joining my pelvic bone in the front started to loosen early and shift, an incredibly painful thing that limits mobility and balance. Most days turning over in bed or side-to-side motion is painful. On really bad days, walking is a challenge; the doctor says the only cure is delivery.

Determined to keep some sort of fitness regime, if only to keep my spirits high, I decided to preview this workout, received by a kind VF Secret Santa. Surprisingly, I ended up able to do most of the workout as long as I kept my hips facing forwards and stacked for the few lower body exercises. Most of the workout focused on upper body and abs. So I used the advanced modifications for some exercises, beginner modifications for others, and skipped only one or two sets because of my peculiar limitation.

Unlike the earlier versions on VHS mentioned above, there was no funky affirmation at the very beginning. The DVD is chaptered and broken down into sections. Definitely watch the Instructional section first because it will tell you what equipment to use (hand weights, chair, step or bottom half of TransFIRMer/Fanny Lifter, sofa pillows for ab work).

It also shows you each of the exercises along with modifications. The workout itself moves quickly from section to section with little or no instruction. Cueing is okay, not fantastic, but I figured out that you're basically doing 20 of each exercise. I never worried about my heart rate going too high.

The set is rather plain with a padded floor and what looks like a gymnastics horse in the background, and the lighting is natural. Karyne is alone and does not speak during the workout, but gives instruction through voiceovers. Her slight French accent is easy to understand. The music is fantastic, a combination of house and new age, though one track in the middle section sounds a wee bit porn-flickish.

I felt like I'd done something from the FIRM when I finished, and I credit this workout for keeping me moving and sane during a pregnancy with a glitch.

A+. I intend to use this workout even when

Instructor Comments:
Karyne has the best pregnant body I've ever seen, and I was awfully jealous. She retained all of her upper body definition, flexibility and strength, and is very inspirational.



This video (so far only on VHS) is about 43 minutes long with an instructional section afterwards of around 12 minutes. This video has a definite new age-y feel to it, especially the "montage", an introduction before the workout of about 3 minutes that I think is supposed to make you experience the joy of pregnancy (well, and show you that Karyne can do a headstand). The music is also new age, but not in a distracting way. The major focus is strength training, although I was definitely sweating when I did it.
The warm up was about 10 minutes long (I think), and included head rolls, shoulder rolls, ribcage rolls, arching/rounding the back on hands and knees and other "loosening up" exercises (which are not coming to mind). The main workout starts off using a chair for balance, with optional step. During most of the workout, there are beginner and advanced variations for the workouts (I did the beginner variations). The first exercise or two also have intermediate variations. The beginner version starts with plie/ leg raises (you do a small plie, then lift one leg to the back). The intermediate version is that you step up on a step, and lift your leg back. The advanced has you step up on the step, lift your leg to the back, step down off the bench and possibly lift your leg again. During the exercises, the majority of the screen would show one view, with a small window with the variations along the side. There are other standard exercises done with a chair, such as squats (advanced doesn't use a chair, and squats as low as you can go. I think she called those childbirthing squats), stationary lunges, triceps dips, and scissor kicks (swing your right leg back and forth in front of your left). She also adds kegels from time to time (3 sets of 6, I think). There are leg/arm lifts (on hands and knees, lift a leg straight out and the opposite side arm and hold), lat rows (advanced uses a dumbbell) combined with raising the arm out to the side, a runner's stretch position where you alternate putting one arm straight forward, and other arm/shoulder exercises. She also does a series of leg exercises, including leg circles (lie on one side, knees bent, draw a circle with the top knee), leg lifts (lie on side, lift top leg), and inner thigh lifts (put top leg in front of bottom, lift bottom leg). Probably all of these exercises are out of order, by the way. She also uses some pillows to prop up her upper body, and does some cruches. The last exercise in the tape is called an endurance exercise, designed to "help you prepare your mind for childbirth". Basically, this involves sticking your arms straight out from the shoulders, and drawing small circles with your hands for about 5 minutes (although it seems longer). I think the basic idea here is that she's continuing the movement even though it hurts (after a while). I'm not completely sure how this helps you prepare your mind for childbirth, as the amount of control I had over the situation was limited (and it's not like you can give up and go home in childbirth, either!). Anyway, this is followed by a cooldown where you "connect with your baby". I'm actually not sure if you do the majority of the cooldown before the arm circles, or afterwards now, but the cooldown involves a few stretches of the arms and body.

All in all, I think I enjoyed this video more than I've ever enjoyed a pregnancy video. I usually watch them once, and don't touch them again. I really don't know why. If you like doing strength training exercises, you'll probably like this video. While it's not a weight-intensive video, it reminded me of some of the videos that are.

Although I thought some of the dialogue got a little spacey from time to time (like the "connect with your baby" and the montage), during the exercises it's mostly straightforward and related to the exercise. I got my copy off, but the website on the cover is

Instructor Comments:
Karyne Steben was an acrobat with Cirque du Soliel, and made this video (and the Perfect Postnatal Workout, which I don't have) while she was pregnant. She has a soft voice, and an interesting accent. From time to time, her cuing is a little off (sometimes she'll tell you what's coming next a few reps away, others you don't know till she starts doing it).



There's a funny little "affirmation" section at the beginning which I found silly...but once that's over this is a good pregnancy find.

The workout is about 45 minutes long and is mostly strength based, but there are segments that will get your heart rate up if you do the more advanced versions.

The production quality is pretty good, as is the music. The set is very basic and kind of dark. The instructor is the only one on the set - variations are shown either through switching shots or picture-in-picture style. The instruction is voiceover and the cueing is fine.

What makes this a particularly good pregnancy video is the inclusion of variations for beginner through advanced for several of the exercises. For example, during one of the segments beginners hold on to a chair and do shallow squats, while advanced have the option to do full "labor squats" (basically a low squat during which you bring your hands to the floor and push your rear into the air before coming back up). The instructional section at the end of the tape shows every exercise and gives form pointers, including how to check for and accomodate diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles). There is a good variety of exercises including floorwork, pushups, tricep dips, bridges (you never go flat on your back), lunges, upper body moves, and lots of kegals interspersed throughout. She uses a small 8 to 10 inch step for intermediate/advanced step-ups (I use the blue section of the Firm Fanny Lifter ) and light weights for some upper body exercises. You also need pillows to position yourself on an incline for ab exercises (I like to use my stability ball for this). The last exercise is called "keep-up". You hold out your arms and make little circles for three minutes. It is supposed to help prepare you mentally for labor. There is a wonderful stretch at the end. The only exercise that I find fault with is an upper-body combo where you do a one-armed lat row and then go into a side lateral raise. If you use a weight that challenges your lat muscle you'll never be able to do the raise, but if you use a light weight to do the raise, the lat row is not challenging enough. I got around this by doing the moves seperately and using different weights. I imagine beginners will not have this problem. (FYI : I found and started using this tape at the 6-month mark, and prior to getting pregnant I was a somewhat advanced exerciser.)

As far as I know, the only place you can get this video is at The site has a preview you can watch. Unfortunately, it comes in VHS only. There is also a postpartum video which I know nothing about since I'm not there quite yet :)

Instructor Comments:
Ms. Steben is a former Cirque du Soleil acrobat who looks to be about 6- 7 months along during the video. She looks very pregnant yet still fit, but in a non-intimidating way. (Except for when she does a headstand type move during the opening credits - yikes! We're warned not to do this at home.) At the end of the video there is an instructional section during which she speaks directly to the camera (during the workout the cueing is voiceover style) and she comes across as quite young, but I didn't think that detracted from the workout at all.

Lore (samiam)