Fat Burning Breakthrough

Kathy Smith
Year Released: 2000

Categories: Step Aerobics

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This is one of Kathy’s best videos yet. A 50-minute variable intensity workout that uses both step aerobics and strength moves. The workout follows the “wave” format. Each wave consists of 3 intensity zones followed by a short recovery phase and a strength segment. There are two complete waves in this video.

The choreography is more basic and is taught in short blocks so that you will not get to bore with the simple moves. Also there are modifications shown for lower and higher intensity. It would be very easy to modify the first two zones to higher intensity to get a more advanced workout.

This is a brief breakdown of the video.

Wave 1
Begins with a short warmup (~6 minutes) that uses basic moves on the floor and the step to get you warmed up.

Zone 1: Lower Intensity (~4 minutes)

Lots of repeater, hip flexor repeaters, basics combos using the basic step and v steps.

Zone 2: Moderate Intensity (~4 minutes)

Power steps with kicks, up jack repeaters, running basic steps, over the tops (narrow end)

Zone 3: Higher Intensity Lots of power lunges, double power lunges, pulsing squats to over the tops (narrow end).

A short (~2 minutes) recovery section.

Strength section (~5 minutes) One arm lat rows, biceps curls with our with out the compound move of lunges on the step, overhead presses with our without the leg extensions on the step, hammer curls with or without the lunges on the step, and more one arm lat rows. Wave 2

Zone 1: Lower Intensity (~4 minutes)

Step kicks, cha-cha’s, alternating knee ups, straddling around the worlds.

Zone 2: Moderate Intensity (~4 minutes)

Knee ups with scissors on the floor, Charleston kicks, hitch kicks, over the tops (narrow end)

Zone 3: Higher Intensity (~4 minutes)

Power lunges, power knee ups, a move similar to the 360-knee repeater, over the tops (long end), pulsing squats to over the tops.

A short ~2 minute recovery

Strength Section (~6 minutes)

Tricep extensions, side lateral raises, pushups, crunches, crunch variations, reverse curls, and spinal erector work.

A nice ~4 minute stretch/cooldown follows. There are lots of nice laying stretches for the quads and legs, with nice standing upper body stretches.

The workout is filmed outdoors in a beautiful garden. Since it is outdoors there are lots of shadows covering the workout area. At times during the workout you may have trouble seeing some of the participants clearly. This can sometimes be a challenge since one of the participant’s previews some of the more challenging moves and the more powerful moves. There is also one participant who demonstrates doing the workout on the floor without a step. The shadows never truly interfere with the workout, though some may find it visually unappealing.

At times during the workout there are some voice over instructions. At times during the workout it felt or sounded like Kathy was yelling the cues. This is most likely because of the outdoor setting, she felt as if she needed to raise her voice to be heard over the music and the outdoors noises. This is most obvious during the preview and not as noticeable once you are doing the workout.

Overall this is a great video to use when you want to get some strength work as well as cardio and want a change from the usual circuit style workout. Intermediate and advanced will be able to use this tape with or without modifications to compliment their exercise routine.

Susie F.


I really like this tape a lot. I feel like I've had a good, thorough workout with the requisite liters of sweat having flown onto my carpet, but I don't feel wiped out. I would classify this tape as high intermediate. What I also like about this tape is that it consists of step choreography that is fun, without making me think too much or have to stop the tape and rewind. It's not for someone looking for creative choreography on the step, but it is good if you want to use the step for a nice, fat- burning workout.

There are essentially two sections, which Kathy calls waves, that consist of three zones of stepping, or three sections which get progressively more intense. The last zone in each of the waves consists of lunges with power. It really gets the heart rate up there. After the first wave is a recovery and then some weight work, in which you can choose either compound moves or just stick with the upper body work. She does the back (one arm rows) and biceps and shoulder presses after the first wave, and then does triceps, pushups and shoulder lateral raises and more back after the second wave. There is some ab work consisting of what Kathy calls 100 movements, including basic crunches, reverse curls and oblique crunches. She does some exercise for the lower back also. Then there is a nice stretch at the end.

The time flies by with this tape. It's great for me whose attention span is short (that's why I like the Firm also). I like all the different short sections, which flow logically from one to the next. It isn't enough for a strength workout, but at least you get some work for every muscle group.

Kathy is very cheerful in this tape and although she isn't the queen of step, she does a fairly good job with only some cueing problems. I like her in general, and give her a lot of credit for all the years of good, solid workout tapes, including this one.



This is a good workout, but just didn't hold my interest. I was actually surprised at the intensity of the workout -- I usually associate Kathy with beginner and intermediate workouts. But this one is intermediate/advanced. The video is broken up into "waves" -- a step workout that increases in intensity until the final advanced-level "wave" followed by some strength work. You then repeat this sequence. The choreography is beginner/intermediate. I can see why others have really taken to this video -- it's often hard to find good intensity without all the fancy choreography. Even though it wasn't for me, I still have to give it an A.

Annie S.


At first, I was a little leery of buying this tape, since I'd read reviews of it on Collage which said Kathy's cuing was very bad here. I gave in, though, and bought it and I'm very glad I did. I'm always looking for an interesting, not too dancy intermediate step workout, and this fits the bill nicely. Here's the breakdown:


Wave 1 (3 zones, 15 minutes of stepping total)
Zone 1: Mostly knee ups, repeaters and V-steps
Zone 2: Knee ups, L-steps with side kicks, over the top, scissors (over the top with 1 leg crossing behind), jacks, running the step, hamstring curls
Zone 3: Side lunges, squats, reverse lunges, turn steps, side leg lifts

Weight Segment 1: lat rows, biceps, overhead presses

Wave 2 (3 zones, 12 minutes of stepping total)
Zone 1: Cross-over cha-chas, alternating knees, front kicks, straddles, leg extensions, side leg lifts
Zone 2: Double knee, double taps, shuffles, Charlestons, hitch-kicks, over the top, hamstring curls
Zone 3: Side lunges, across the top, squats, side leg lifts, half-hops, mambos

Weight Segment 2: tricep extensions, side laterals, pushups

Abs: 20 regular crunches, 20 obliques, 20 leg lifts, 20 reverse crunches, 20 bicycles ("pulleys" for Firm Believers)


I really like this tape. The production quality is excellent and it's filmed in a beautiful setting outdoors - a really refreshing change from the usual studios. The music is very good too. It's non-vocal, energetic music with a good tempo for step. In particular, I like the stretch music - relaxing, but faster than usual.

The tape is designed to build up in intensity in each "wave;" Zone 1 is always the easiest, Zone 2 is intermediate and Zone 3 is the hardest, with higher impact moves. However, Kathy is really good about showing both harder and easier versions of moves throughout the video, and she reminds you a couple of times that "you are in control of the workout."

There are 4 other women besides Kathy. One of them doesn't use a step so people can watch her for non-step or lower-impact modifications. Kathy's choreographer for her last 20 videos makes her debut here, showing higher impact and more dancy versions of some moves.

I'd say this tape is best for intermediates, or advanced exercisers looking for an easier workout. The moves are pretty simple to get even the first time through, and certainly after a week. Make no mistake, though. Choreography and intensity-wise, this is not Cathe Friedrich or CIA, and people looking for that kind of complexity and intensity are probably going to be disappointed. If, however, you're like me and get a little klutzy when things get really dancy, but you still want a good workout, then this is an excellent investment, especially for only $15.

Instructor Comments:
Kathy was pretty much fine in this video. I like her a lot most of the time, but *not* when she's "extra-energized," as I think Collage put it (if you have her Timesaver videos, you'll know what I mean). She only lapses a couple of times here into that hyperness, and the rest of the time she's fine. Since others had commented about poor cuing in this tape, I watched carefully for that. The only thing I saw was, in Zone 1 of Wave 2, she at one point mistakenly says leg extensions (meaning rear leg extensions) and then does front kicks, but that's it. Nothing serious at all, really. The first weight segment moves a little too quickly for my taste, and I wish the stepping came to more than 27 minutes, but overall, I really enjoy this tape and I'm definitely glad I bought it.

Lianne K.


I pulled out this dust bunny after several months and was pleasantly surprised. After doing months of CIA and Christi step, Kathy's style is much more basic, but I still got a great workout. I don't know how to classify this - it's kind of a variation of interval training where you do 3 zones of increasing intensity and then let your heart rate recover. The cardio portion is not super long - 25-30 minutes total - but I felt like I got a good workout. Kathy's cuing is not perfect, but the choreography is basic and easy to learn. I liked that the zones are fairly short so you learn the routine and then move on. For the most part impact is low and you have the choice of adding propulsion to increase intensity, but in zone three during the lunges it's probably difficult to keep up the speed without adding some impact. The weight segments after each wave are short and not very thorough - you could probably go very heavy. I just went through the motions to try to keep my heart rate elevated. The ab section consists of 100 reps of various exercises, then there is a nice stretch. Although it's not the most advanced tape and Kathy has her quirks (like the dubbed voice-overs), this tape is still a keeper for me - good for those days when I don't want to think too hard about choreography and am short on time.

Caroline Kim


I was pleasantly surprised by this workout! It's much more intense than I'm used to from Kathy Smith. It would be perfect for intermediates, but also for advanced exercises looking for solid workouts that aren't Cathe intense. I also think it would be a good intermediate choreography tape for those who have been doing basic stepping and want to learn more choreography.

This workout has already been broken down very thoroughly, so I'll just add impressions. I liked the setting: Kathy and her crew work out on a platform set up in front of woods. It's all very green and pleasant. There are plenty of low-impact options. There is a modifier who does the whole workout without a step, which I think is very cool--and savvy in terms of marketing. A step workout that you don't need a step to do! (That said, I am not sure that you really would want to do this workout without a step. I don't think it would be nearly as interesting). I found the choreography to be fun and varied; it kept my interest, even though it's not advanced. The combos build quickly and consist of a variety of moves, so there's really no time to be bored and there's not a lot of filler. No marching in place, not too many basics. You can also get a decent upper body workout if you heavy up and skip the compound options. It's short, but she does two sets of exercises each for back, biceps, triceps, chest, shoulders. The abs section also felt quite thorough considering how brief it is.

I didn't care overmuch for the music--it's too soft and nondescript. But there's also nothing to actively dislike about it either. I wish they had varied the choreography in Zone 3; it's basically the same in Wave 1 and Wave 2. Since you stay in Zone 3 for a pretty long time, it didn't seem like the best choice to simply repeat the same move but vary the counts. Still, the moves that you do definitely get the heart rate elevated, so they are effective. I would have to agree that Kathy's cueing is not the best. She introduces certain moves--like over the top or around the world--in a way that makes it clear she thinks some of her audience will never have seen these moves before. But then she does not break them down and teach them. Adding more explicit verbal cues would have helped. The miscues didn't bother me too much, but the cessation of cueing did. After she's taken you once through the combo, she stops cueing. She may then change the combo in different ways but not verbally cue those changes. This isn't really a problem for experienced steppers who will see what she's doing and jump right in. But for less experienced steppers or for those who do not catch on to choreography quickly, it could be a problem. Because Kathy combines basic moves and more intermediate choreography, I think this would be a good workout for those looking to become more advanced choreographically, but the lack of cueing might be frustrating.

But those are minor quibbles in what is otherwise a nicely produced, fun, and surprisingly intense workout.

Instructor Comments:
Kathy is her usual upbeat, cheerful, energetic self in this workout. She has good rapport with her background exercisers. Note to those who find themselves shell-shocked by her energy and enthusiasm in Timesaver Lift Weights to Lose Weights: She is a bit shrill early on in this workout, but her voice modulates itself as the workout progresses.



Fat Burning Breakthrough is currently my favorite Kathy Smith video. It really gets your heart rate up in each of the two waves, but you get a break after the first wave with some weights so the second wave isn't so bad. The time goes by quickly as it doesn't have too much repetition. The outdoor setting is pleasant. Madeline Lewis, who choreographed most of Kathy's videos, is exercising with the group and seems to bring out Kathy's fun personality. All of the pluses of this video far outweigh the couple of errors Kathy makes in naming upcoming moves. Highly recommended!

Instructor Comments:
Kathy Smith has improved over the years. In her older videos (Winning Workout, Ultimate Video Workout, Tone Up, Body Basics), she cued opposite regarding right and left, and gave the impression that she was more concerned with keeping her group from messing up than ensuring that the viewer will follow the workout well. If every Jazzercise instructor in the Nation can cue right and left for the viewer's perspective, then why can't Kathy Smith? Just a pet peeve of mine. In her more recent videos she does cue correctly and her form is very good, but she still has some timing problems, and occasionally has a condescending manner in dealing with her assistants. Fat Burning Breakthrough is my current favorite, because it's a good workout in a short amount of time, and she is confident and doesn't do any of the annoying things mentioned above. She makes a couple of errors in naming the upcoming move, but heck nobody's perfect.

Elizabeth P.


I just did this interval workout for the first time and was pleasantly surprised by it. I was planning to do Gin Miller's Intense Moves, another interval workout I've never tried, but the preview made me nervous and Kathy Smith seemed a bit less scary. I consider myself an intermediate exerciser, about 15 lbs over my ideal healthy weight. This workout was surprisingly tough in terms of intensity (it's always humbling when Kathy Smith kicks your butt, when she comes across as so harmless). In terms of complexity, I found it manageable and just challenging enough to keep it interesting. The high intensity segments were TOUGH. I hate lunges and try to avoid them in steady-state cardio, but in interval blasts I can see how effective they are to get your heart rate into the anaerobic range. In order to keep the video purely cardio, I just continued stepping through the short weight lifting segments.

So I grudgingly have to admit that the workout is a keeper.

Instructor Comments:
I am one of the many many VF members who doesn't particularly like Kathy Smith. Her voice seems a little too high pitched, and her demeanor (and breasts) seems a little too perky. But I have developed a respect for her ability to deliver solid, effective, well-produced, non-gimmicky workouts that are widely available, relatively inexpensive, and don't require purchasing a lot of unnecessary equipment.