The Firm: Hard Powerwalking with Weights

Year Released: 1990

Categories: Walking Aerobics
- Audio Workout

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I purchased the Hard Powerwalk tape for some variety in my workouts. I was interested in doing more walking, but wanted to do it the "Firm" way, with weights!. The tape is narrated by Susan Harris, who happens to be my favorite instructor in the Firm videos. This tape serves as somewhat of a "Firm's greatest hits" in that it features several tunes from volumes 1-4 of the Firm videos, so if you hate the music, be forewarned. I personally love these songs, and it was great to hear them again in a different setting. There were 2 new tunes included which aren't featured in any of the videos, similar to the Firm's music style.

I wouldn't recommend this video to those new to walking, the Firm, or weight training in general, because I could easily see someone using improper form with the fast repetitions especially if they're not familiar with how to hold/use dumbells, but this is "hard" powerwalk, so perhaps the "easy" powerwalk would be more suited to them. Also, it's really hard to keep proper lower body from: walking with a wide gait, remembering to push from heel to toe, and keeping proper upper body form with the weights at the same time without careful concentration. I would recommend that everyone, even advanced exercisers, practice with no weights first and carefully review the tape before actually doing it. I used 3lb dumbells and felt a nice burn, but probably could've gone to 4lbs.

The tape begins with an opening stretch to the warmup tune from Vol 3. It's a nice stretch and prepares the muscles that will be used most for the walk, but I wish they would've put a walking warmup first; I don't like to stretch my muscles "cold". The sequence includes a Slow-walk warmup after the stretch, a medium-slow walk, med-fast walk, 2 fast walks, a med-fast walk, med-slow walk, and slow walk cool down. The walk ends with a final stretch ( to the stretch music from Vol 4), and then you do a 6 minute set of ab crunches, which are nearly identical in sequencing to the abs in Vol 4. This bothered me at first, since it just seemed to repeat abs as we've done them already in Vol 4, but I thought about it later and realized that the Firm probably included a familiar ab routine to eliminate confusion while doing the audio workout. I only wish that the ab work was placed before the final stretch because I like to save the stretch for the VERY end of the workout.

Overall this was a fun and interesting workout IMHO. Intensity-wise, I would put it slightly above Basics Fat Burning. Core Cardio 1 this ain't, but it will get your heartrate up and give you variety. I liked using the weights with walking, and I liked the feeling that my upper body wouldn't be neglected or atrophy when I go walking. The upper body intensity can definitely be increased with heavier weights, and you will feel a nice burn! It reminded me somewhat of Vol 2 with the faster repeitions with lighter weights, focusing on the upper body. The upper body exercises include bicep curls, delt raises rhomboid pinch, triceps kickbacks, and shoulder press, and combinations of all of the above. I wish they would've included a set of pushups like they did in the Universal Cardio Trainer, as I feel the pecs are the only muscle group neglected in this workout. All in all, it was a good workout, and a fun variation of walking.

Susan Harris, as usual, is superb. Her voice is very soothing, yet motivating at the same time.

(submitted later on 4-4-00) I would like to make an addendum to an earlier review that I made on this video. In short, DO NOT USE WEIGHTS WITH THIS TAPE!!!! I haven't done it in a while, but I've mulled over it, and come to realize that the weights are not necessary. Anyone who is serious about a fitness program should be using separate strength training in their regimen and should not need to use the weights. They don't add much more than doing the walk without them. Of course, I had to discover this after I took a walk with a pair of 3 pounders one day and nearly sprained my wrist, and had to wear a brace for almost a week. ( I guess some of us have to learn the hard way). To support this, there's also an article over at which explains that while you only gain a fraction of increased caloric burn with the weights, your risk of injury increases logarithmically, though I'd figured this out already. I still think the tape is enjoyable, and you can still do the arm movements without the weights.