Evolution: 4 x 4 Step

Marcus Irwin
Year Released: 2003

Categories: Step Aerobics

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I’m reviewing this workout after doing it 2-3 times.

General workout breakdown: This has already been described in detail, but I’ll just add a few comments.
The warm-up is just over 5.5 min., the cardio portion almost 57.5 min., and the cool-down / stretch almost 6 min.
I’m a home exerciser who loves choreography. I’m not an aerobics instructor, so I use the Evolutions for access to fun, interesting choreography that I can do to work out both mind and body rather than to pick up combos or techniques to teach to others. This works well enough for that, and I don’t mind the occasional “When you teach this to your class…” statement.
Overall I’m with the camp that likes this one more than not, but it’s not my favorite Marcus (see the end of my review).
I prefer the first half to the second, mainly because the choreography’s a little more straightforward, the slicing goes a little more smoothly, and there isn’t quite as much filler in the first half. I don’t mind the filler moves and repetition / TIFTing as much as others, but there are moments in here when even Marcus comments that maybe he’s marching a little too much. Certainly when I was working up from basic to complex step workouts I was more than fine with that.

Level: I’d recommend this to at least intermediate exercisers who are experienced steppers comfortable with moderately complex choreography.
I consider myself an int./adv. exerciser, although I feel more like an intermediate plus when it comes to step, not because I find choreography tricky – in fact, I consider myself a big choreo hound, able to pick up choreography that’s taught at least halfway decently with relative ease – but because I just don’t have the cardio endurance on the step that others do. This is a doable, moderately challenging workout for me in terms of cardiovascular and choreography. No, this wouldn’t be one I’d reach for on a day when I wanted to work off a big dessert or something, but my tired feet and brain reassure me I’ve spent my workout time well the days I feel this is a good fit.

Class: 2 back-up babes join Marcus, who instructs live. Yes, they all mess up, but as Erin notes Marcus is supposed to have filmed videos in pretty much one take, plus the background exercisers are fellow instructors, many of whom learn the routine when they show up to film their own videos. It’s also worth noting that many of them are also from European countries where English is a second language at most.

Set: This is the earlier “black abyss” set, with TVs on rolly carts lined up along a dark back wall. It’s worth noting that one of the background exercisers wears black pants (but a white top) while the other and Marcus wear black tops (but white pants).

Production: clear enough picture, very quiet sound (be prepared to crank the volume way up, and don’t forget to crank it way down before you pop in your next video). I agree that the camera angles could have been more helpful in parts, but at least they show the lower body, even if they cut off the feet (in some later Evolutions they’ll zoom in on someone’s face just when there’s a change in foot pattern). And the black screen with the rotation e pops up from time to time, usually before TIFTs but sometimes between blocks or other run-throughs.

Equipment: step (Marcus and company use Reebok steps) and sneakers that can pivot on your step and workout space’s flooring.

Space Requirements: You’ll need to be able to move comfortably all around your step. I had no trouble fitting this in my workout space (8’ wide by 6’ deep, give or take a foot), but I wouldn’t want to try to squeeze it in a significantly smaller space.

DVD Notes: This has a separate chapter for the introduction (I’m not sure why later Evolutions don’t have this), warm-up, each of the 8 choreography blocks, and cool-down, plus Evolution previews.

4x4 Step vs. Step Fusion vs. Step Pro vs. Step Tools
4x4 is probably my least favorite of the 4 Marcus Irwin step titles currently available on DVD (well, 5 if you count the step portion on Topless Blocks. Although the production issues and down time bother me less than others, they are two reasons why I’d rather reach for Step Pro or Step Tools, both of which also have a warm-up and cool-down, instead. The main reason is that I’m kind of “meh” about the second half and its choreography. I’d rather do Fusion or Topless Blocks, but right now I’m keeping this because a “meh” Marcus is still more enjoyable than too many other offerings out there.

Instructor Comments:
Marcus is one of the better cuers out there. He breaks down everything and cues descriptively enough that I can dust this video off after too long of a break from it and have little trouble following it. Marcus mirror cues, but he tends to provide directional cues somewhat sparingly, waiting until just when you need them, and he also provides some additional directional guidance like telling you to turn to the inside or to use the leg that’s closest to the television. Sometimes he relies on gestures (pointing, grabbing his pants on the leg you’re starting on) rather than verbal cues, not just for direction but also for the name of combos, but since he frequently uses the “watch me” method to show the next layer you’ll want to watch him closely anyway.
I love Marcus’ personality, with his giggle, his concern for and joking with his back-up crew, and his self-deprecating humor. He’s so natural on camera you feel like you’re right there with him, and yet he never loses sight of the fact that he’s an instructor filming a video.



A lot of great things have been said about Marcus on the forums but I just didn't like this workout that much. For some background on me, I'm an intermeidate exerciser who loves complex choreography. My favourites are Christi Taylor and the G-Force guys.

The dark set was an immediate turn off for me and the production values just aren't up to par yet. There were a lot of times when his feet were cut off and you couldn't see what he was doing. The background exercisers make a fair number of mistakes and, as a previous reviewer said, so does Marcus.

I did the second half of the workout today so it's most fresh in my mind. I found it to be very slow going. The choreography was good when it was put together but there was a whole lot of filler in between. It took a long time to break down the combos with a lot of repetition of steps. This would be good for someone who has difficulty with choregraphy and needs a lot of repetition. His workouts are meant for group fitness instructors who need to have a detailed breakdown. For me, however, this was incredibly boring. After awhile I found myslef continuing to do the combos while he was step-tapping and talking. Even more reptition. Someone can correct me on this but I think he's doing 16-count combos where most instructors do 32-count. So you get half as much choreography in the same amount of time.

So, I know a lot of people really like Marcus but he (and this workout) are just not for me. There are a lot of better options for complex step choreography.

Instructor Comments:
After all the rave reviews on the boards and comparisions to Christi I thought I would love Marcus. I didn't. He's got the sort of personality I normally like but for some reason I didn't click with him.



I'm a complex choreography lover who is at an advanced fitness level. I recently discovered Marcus, and have been on a binge. Unlike many of Marcus's workouts, 4 X 4 has an actual warm up and cooldown. It runs about 70 minutes, so it's a bit longer than a traditional workout. The DVD version is well chaptered, so making the workout shorter on days when you're pressed for time wouldn't be too tough. The set is very dark with 5 small monitors in the back with changing patterns and colors. The workout portion is split into 2 sections. There is a taking it from the top ( TIFT )in each section, but not for the whole workout. To me it was a negative. I know some people have a low tolerance of TIFT. I thrive on it IF it means putting long strings of combos together. I'm not a fan of TIFT every time the instructor adds an 8-count. One thing that I really enjoy, but that may annoy some, is that Marcus and his background exercisers mess up on occasion. I read somewhere that Marcus films every workout all in one shot, and doesn't stop or start over if someone flubs up. To me it gives his workouts almost a "live class" feel. I enjoy the unique energy of the workout, and the goodnatured laughing at them or himself that Marcus does. After all, I mess up now and then. It makes me feel better seeing that they do too. The music was good, but forgettable. Nothing that makes me hum the songs all day, but fun during the workout. As usual, I found that Marcus's style of building the combo by adding in marches and then changing them really brought the intensity down. On days when I'm feeling good, I up the intensity by jogging on the marches. I also add power to some of the moves that Marcus keeps grounded. It makes it more fun for me without having to deviate from what he's doing so much that I don't feel like I'm doing the same workout. Conversely, I did this one day when I wasn't feeling my best ( coming back from a nasty cold ) and I found most of it plenty intense, and even chose at times to stick with a lower intensity version he showed while building the combos. He does spend a lot of time building his combos, and on some days I find it a bit frustrating. I usually jump to the more complex version on those days, if I can remember what Marcus does, or jazz it up myself. To me that makes this workout one of those rare ones that can be used at many different times, by many different people with many different levels of ability, whether you're talking about fitness level or choreography. I think Marcus is an excellent instructor for those who want to build up a vocabulary of complex choreography, both because of his intuitive way of building the combos and because of his excellent cuing. He also cues mirror style, rarely using the words "right" and "left." Instead he names the move and points or holds up his hand to indicate which side. I love that, since many times by the end of a complex workout I don't really know my right from my left anymore. :-) But he's also a choreography lover's dream, because his combos are so full of cha chas, mambos, turns, etc. Everything flows beautifully, and there is a high "fun factor" for me. I borrowed this from a fellow VFer ( Thanks, Pamela! :-) ), and it's going on my wish list. It isn't my favorite of Marcus's step workouts. That honor is split between Step Xpress and Step Fusion. It is, however, a very good, fun workout, that has the added bonus of being more readily available than most of Marcus's workouts.

Instructor Comments:
Marcus shines in this workout, as in all of his others. He seems to be having fun, and his infectious smile and laugh make you have fun right along with him.



I really like Marcus, and I like this workout, but it does have some flaws. Marcus is very charming and personable and he has fun choreography -- I'm not exactly sure who to compare him to, but the choreography reminded me a little of Donna Read's 9701 in the way it flowed together so nicely. This workout is fairly low-impact and not intense -- there are no "blasts" or "bursts," you just keep moving along at a steady pace. This was a plus for me but it won't suit the intensity junkies.

The flaws: The sound in the first half of the video is terrible; Marcus's voice is weirdly muffled and it was hard for me to understand what he was saying. The sound in the second half seemed fine (though not great). Also, the workout is just too long for my tastes -- it's almost an hour without the warmup and cooldown. I don't necessarily have anything against long workouts, but this one is unnecessarily long because of too much filler -- knees up or taps side-to-side -- and also because of the way the second half of the workout is put together. After you learn the first three combos, you repeat them a bunch of times, then he adds a fourth combo, then you repeat from the top a bunch of times, THEN he starts splitting the combos, which I normally love, but after nearly an hour I'd had enough, PLUS he messes up the first time he tries to splice the combos -- by throwing in a move that doesn't even appear in the video! -- and has to start over. So the second half really could have been a lot tighter. I think it would have been a better workout if he'd tightened things up and shortened it by ten minutes or so.

Even though I was frustrated at times, I really enjoyed this workout and would recommend it to step lovers who like complex choreography.

Instructor Comments:

Elisa B.


Another great workout from one of my favorite instructors! This step workout has two sections – the first consisting of 3 blocks of choreography and 4 blocks in the second. Unlike Marcus’ Choreography 2 Go series, this is an actual workout, meaning he combines the different blocks into a full routine, taking it from the top throughout (but not too much). Each of the two sections is distinct – after you finish the first one, you don’t see those combos again. The choreography is complicated, fun, and do-able thanks to Marcus’ outstanding instruction. The music is really good too, some of it has a funky flavor to it. At the end of each section, you run through the entire routine a few times. My only minor complaint is that at the end of section 2, I thought we repeated it too many times, but maybe I’m just tired by then. The workout runs an hour and 9 minutes including the warmup and cooldown. Grade A.

Annie S.