ChaLean Extreme

Chalene Johnson
Year Released: 2008

Categories: Total Body Workouts

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I did Chalean Extreme program at the begging of the year. The program is divided in 3 phases: burn, push and lean, each one with 30 days long.

Burn Phase:
In this month Chalene is focused on making your body stronger in order to achieve the lean results that are announced. 3 days a week you do strength training with heavy weights, 2 days are focused on cardio, one with abs and one with stretch. I really like the cardio videos, they are intervals which tend to burn lots of calories and they are not easy. The strength workouts are ok, not difficult. Videos are about 45 min aprox. abs and stretch are about 20 min.

Push Phase:
In this month Chalene focuses on heavy, really heavy weights. As in the previous month, 3 days are strength, 2 days are cardio. The cardios are the same as the last month, the strength changes its repetitions from 12 to 8 and they include an "extreme" section with 3 more reps. You have to really use heavy weights in this month, like 15 pounds or more. Strength dvds are about 35 min.

Lean Phase:
In this phase Chalene combines strong movements with weights on the arms with legs. As in the previous months 3 days are strength and 2 days are cardio. The cardio videos are also intervals but they are tougher than in the previous month. In the strength you're now carrying heavy weights with 12 reps and the "extreme" 3 extra reps. Strenght videos are 40 min.

I really loved the program, it makes you stronger, it's easy to follow and fun. Anyway, I didn't drop a kg of weight. Actually I gained weight from muscle building, which is fine. My body fat percentage stayed the same. I used weights from 8 lbs to 18 lbs (which I combined some dumbels with hand weights to achieve this heavy weight). I think I didn't lose the expected body fat percentage because I didn't do the program with the very heavy weights that Chalene use. But, I definitely, got stronger.

If you're doing Chalene Extreme you will need to have the heavy weights she uses (if you are a girl like me, you will need dumbels from 5 lbs to 30 lbs), if not, I will not recommend it. Also, keep in mind you will be doing tons of push-ups.

Instructor Comments:
I love Chalene! She's always happy and giving great tips. She makes doing exercise fun and keeps you motivated. In this program she explains the movements with enough detail so that you won't fail.

I discover Chalene from the Turbo Fire dvds and I loved her since then. She made me re-enter the workout world again (I had like 5 years without consistent workout). I have 2 years now working out at least 5 times a week :).






This is my review of the Chalean Extreme basic set. I am posting my review after doing the entire program. I am HIGH INTERMEDIATE.

1.Each exerciser will tell you what weight they are using. There is always someone using bands, and you can see how she puts the band on for each exercise. There is always one male exerciser as well. They tell you what weight/band they are using.
2.All workouts have 9 exercises that are done slow. Chelean doesn’t tell us the count, just says “slow” or “super slow.” She’ll do a couple of reps, then start walking around the room. The count is very inconsistent, varying anywhere from 2/2 to 8/8, and when she does triceps she tends to go much faster. Nobody knows the count, and the cast ends up going at different speeds. Very annoying. I try to find someone who’s actually keeping pace with the rep counter and follow them.

3.The whole series is one loooong ad for SelectTech weights. She mentions the brand name SelectTech many, many times in each workout. And there’s an ad for them after the workout. The product placement is annoying.
4.At the end of the program, I had no visible or measurable results. Except that I could lift heavier, but that is true for any lifting program that uses heavier weights and lower reps. I was aiming for the muscle to burn some of this fat, lol. I started out feeling like this program was weird, with the strange combo moves and almost obsessive compulsion Chalean has to work her shoulders. But hope springs eternal, and I did the program hoping for some miraculous change - that by being “different” the program would work “better” for me. It didn’t. No weight loss or inch loss. (The D**t part was in check during the program, too, so bad eating habits aren’t the issue.) I also didn’t think there was anything “extreme” about it, for an intermediate or advanced exerciser. Chalean’s comments seemed geared toward beginners. Such as when she says, “You don’t have to be afraid of heavy weights,” or “They don’t make you bulk.” An experienced person would know that already. And "If you do pushups you'll stop hating them and start loving them." What is she talking about?? An experienced exerciser already knows whether they love pushups or not. I do them all the time and still hate them, so she can't be talking to me. ;) One good thing about the program is, it's a change from fast paced programs or endless reps, both of which can keep you from going as heavy as you are really capable of.

Burn Circuit 1:

Emily B has done some great reviews, and explained things pretty well. (I have to agree with her about the rep counter, it is so small I spent the whole workout thinking “I wish there were a rep counter,” till I finally saw it!)

Chealean tells you that you’ll lift heavier than you ever thought you could, to fail in one set of 10-12 reps.
Each exercise is a combination of two different moves.
Sometimes she combines lower body and abs, which lets you lift heavier. But for abs she works mostly obliques. Unfortunately, a lot of lower body exercises are combined with a shoulder exercise. This workout was very shoulder-intense.

I was happy not to be doing endless reps and tempo variations. But telling you to lift heavy, then combining upper and lower body moves so that it is impossible to lift heavy, doesn’t make much sense. You only fail the upper body, never the lower. I give this workout 3 out of 5 stars.

Burn Intervals:

This is a cardio and weights interval workout, to be done on one of the “cardio days” each week. Chelean tells you to get your heart rate up as high as you can, then use the strength intervals as active recovery time. The focus for the weight work is muscle endurance: high rep low weight. The problem is, the cardio is not all that hard for me. If she wants me to get my heart rate up as high as it’ll go, she needs to pick some better cardio moves. Also, this workout has a weird song with coo coo clock sound effects; it was very strange and distracting. Finally, I feel like the cardio workouts should all be straight cardio, no weights. I give this workout 2 out of 5 stars. I wouldn’t even do this one as a standalone. It’s just not that good and doesn’t have a good flow.

Burn Circuit 2:

Each exercise in this workout is a combination of two moves, just like in Burn Circuit 1. Focus is lunges, back, triceps and biceps. You don’t have endless shoulder combinations like you did in Burn Circuit 1. Therefore, I was able to lift heavier. I felt these combo moves were more comparable and this is a much better workout than Burn Circuit 1. The music was better, too. Did I just hear Suck My Kiss? 4 out of 5 stars.

Burn Circuit 3:

This is another shoulder-intense workout. 5 of the 9 exercises work shoulders. 2 of the 9 exercises work the calf. Not a whole lot of variety. Raises, raises, raises! Nothing feels worked but the shoulders, and it just feels like a waste of time. 2 out of 5 stars.

Burn it Up:

It’s athletic moves, with a one-minute rest period in the middle of the workout. I didn’t find it very challenging. I’d rather do Jillian Michael’s BFBM.

Push Circuit 1:

No combination moves in this workout. It is easier to actually lift heavy as instructed in this phase. This first workout has squats, some biceps, and triceps. In this phase, you’ll aim to fail in one set of 6-8 reps. 4 out of 5 stars.

Push Circuit 2:

This workout is mostly shoulders, like Burn 3. Another poor use of time. 2 out of 5 stars.

Push Circuit 3:

This workout does legs, back, and chest. This one uses the heaviest weights of all. She does a lot of the exercises on one leg for “balance challenge.” If you don’t like balance work with heavy lifting, it’s easy to just do them on 2 legs. 4 out of 5 stars.

Lean Circuit 1:
This phase is very similar to the Burn phase. In fact, I don’t know why they even made it a separate phase. It is combination moves for 10-12 reps, with lots of balance challenges, lots of use of the thigh toner band, and it even has some of the exact same moves as the Burn phase. Lean Circuit 1 works bi’s and tri’s. 3 out of 5 stars, because she didn’t even work the biceps from different angles, like wide grip or hammer curl, just the same basic curl over and over (and over and over). She just says keep doing the curl in the position you feel strongest. It got boring.

Lean Circuit 2:
Another shoulder workout. There isn’t much else to say about it. 2 out of 5 stars.

Lean Circuit 3:
Some pushups and plank variations, with an emphasis on core work. The Arnold Press is used to work the shoulders (yes more shoulders). I liked the core work, 4 out of 5 stars.

Instructor Comments:
I actually really liked her as an instructor. She's upbeat and motivational. She got me through 3 months of workouts that I really didn't like. That's saying something. Her instructions were clear and she explained the exercises well. The only problem with her cueing was she didn't tell anyone the counts or speed of each exercise. She had someone counting when we'd do an exercise not facing the TV, which was greatly appreciated, but no other time.



Since the details of CLX have already been posted, here's two cents from someone who went through the program. As a background, I’m a guy in my 40s who is somewhat overweight but trying diligently to lose the excess pounds.

The Good
There were a lot of pros in CLX. Overall, I really liked the workouts for a variety of reasons.

Muscle Definition – I saw quite a bit of muscle definition, especially in my shoulders and arms. I didn’t measure prior to starting the program, but the results were noticeable. I’m bigger all the way around and even though I had been working out prior to CLX, my muscles are bigger and far more toned. As such, the program really delivered here.

Cardio – There wasn’t much cardio in the program, but I did do the Burn Intervals workout every week. Those who skip it are making a mistake in my book. Not only do you build up your muscle endurance, but it’s a great cardio workout as well. I saw increased results on my elliptical that I’m chalking up to Burn Intervals.

Explosiveness – Again, I think this is partially due to Burn Intervals, but I’ve noticed a definite improvement in my “twitch” muscles as well. My 10 year old son pointed out that I’ve gotten faster and quicker while we’re playing football. I’m bigger, stronger and faster. Good stuff.

Sets – The background sets were pretty decent, well lit and pleasing to look at.

Background exercisers – I really liked the background exercisers. The chick with (supposedly) 7 kids is an absolutely beautiful woman and there were a variety of folks to draw inspiration from (like the 60 year old woman in amazing shape).

Chalene – Some folks find her annoying, but I didn’t at all in my first Chalene experience. She provided good tips, was good about reminding the audience to use good form, rarely missed a count and usually let the audience know what she was lifting. That little woman can lift quite a bit and I was extremely impressed. I was exceeding her weights by the end, but there’s no doubt that knowing what she was lifting spurred me on to try bigger weights. Big props for Chalene.

Music – It never got annoying, which is pretty good for any workout. I can’t say it ever pumped me up and most times I didn’t even realize it was playing.

Enjoyment factor – This is a pretty big key. The workouts were somewhat enjoyable and weren’t so torturous that it made me want to stop. It’s just not as grueling as P90x or Insanity and therefore much more geared to beginner/intermediate exercisers who only have 45 minutes to work out and don’t feel like being punished.

The Bad

Weight loss – I’ve slowly lost a total of 35 pounds since March, but my weight loss rate was really reduced in CLX. I lost only 10 pounds in 3 months, which is very disappointing. Considering that I want to lose another 30 pounds or so, it gives me pause on whether or not I should try CLX again.

Missing day – The CLX workouts are on days 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6 (no day 2 or 7) but I work out on Monday through Friday. The Day 6 workout wasn’t well situated to being a Tuesday workout, so I had to sub something else in there. As such, I only did the Day 6 workout once in 3 months and it felt like a waste.

Lack of abs – Yeah, there’s an ab workout, but it’s a 15 minute add-on to Burn Intervals. Well, Burn Intervals is already 48 minutes long and very tough. I was simply too tired and out of time to do the ab workout. As a result, my abs haven’t seen any work in 3 months and there’s a noticeable lack of toning there now. Given how much you need your core for the Lean Circuit, it seems very shortsighted to want someone to do abs when they’re wiped out. Not to mention that Burn Intervals is already the longest workout and there’s that “missing” day 2 workout. It would have been far smarter to create a cardio/ab workout for day 2.

Too many squats – I get that my quads are huge muscles and therefore need to be worked. But there are sooooo many various squats in CLX that my knees would be fatigued by the end of the week. I don’t have knee issues, but those that do might have a much harder time with CLX.

A big thumbs-up for CLX. It’s not perfect, but it’s a darn good workout and suitable for most folks out there. It’s pretty enjoyable, fairly effective and different than many other workouts out there.

Side note: I did buy the Bowflex SelectTech weights and I’m very pleased with them. One of the two has a small “wiggle” in the weights, but that’s nothing serious. They’re really a space saver, easy to use and change quickly. I used the 2.5 pound differential much more than I ever expected. I highly recommend them for everyone out there.



This is a 3 month series of workouts designed to help people lose weight by lifting heavy weights. It is truly different than anything else out there, and overall, I think it is a nice system. However, it is not really meeting my expectations and I am actually pretty disappointed about that. Judging from the excitement over these workouts in the forum, I am very much in the minority on this!

Here is the rotation:

Day 1 - Circuit 1
Day 2 - Rest
Day 3 - Circuit 2
Day 4 - Burn Intervals & Abs
Day 5 - Circuit 3
Day 6 - Burn it Off & Recharge
Day 7 - Rest

Month 1=Burn Circuit (combo moves)
~ 8-12 reps plus sometimes an "extreme set" where you do 3 more after a 10 sec rest.

Month 2=Push Circuit (no combo moves)
~ 6-8 reps plus more "extreme sets"

Month 3=Lean Circuit (combo moves)
~ 10-12 reps plus "exteme"

All of the circuit workouts have 9 strength moves and no cardio. Generally you are alternating body parts. There are lots of combo moves, usually a lower body with an upper body or core move. These workouts all clock in at 30-40 minutes.

I should mention that I did not do the rotation, so I can't speak to its effectiveness. This does not stop me from having an opinion. :-) I think it is an OK rotation with a few flaws. The biggest is that I really wouldn't want to do Burn Intervals in between two circuit workouts, even though it uses light weights. If I were doing the rotation I would need more variety with the cardio for sure, and probably additional ab work, even though I do feel the strength circuits work your core pretty well.

The Positives:

~ The package as a whole is nice and complete, especially for people who are looking for some sort of system that they can follow a while and like the extra motivation. The support materials are very nice and include:

  • a guidebook on the system and workouts with pictures and tips on how to do each exercise
  • a beautiful recipe book with pretty pictures and nice easy recipes
  • fat calipers and a workout band
  • a dvd tutorial on the moves with a bonus "kitchen makeover" section
  • a motivational CD from Chalene

    ~ The workouts are unique and truly different from anything I've seen before.

    ~ The 3 day split is interesting, since you do legs 3 days, but split your upper body parts over the 3 days.

    ~ These workouts are very short and time efficient.

    ~ Chalene really encourages you to lift heavy, and I think that is a good thing.

    ~ The ab work in this series is decent, and I like that she gives two separate workouts.

    ~ Burn Intervals was kind of fun, on its own, even though I don't like it's placement in the rotation and I thought the weight sections could be better.

    ~ There are some fun and interesting moves in these workouts. I enjoy combo moves and this has a lot of them.

    The Negatives:

    ~ I found it very difficult to lift at a slow pace with these workouts. Chalene doesn't lift the entire set, and you are left to count on your own or look at the background exercisers, who often start going faster when Chalene stops lifting. I want to go faster too. There is not a strong beat of music, so you can't use that as a guide. I'm left to rely on myself, and I usually let myself down here. I like a video workout to give me that support with the counting.

    ~ Overall, I don't love her choice of upper body moves. There are too many isolating moves for the triceps, biceps and shoulders, and I would have preferred that she include more pushups, back work and overhead presses. (There are some, but not a lot.)

    ~ Although I think her 3 day split is interesting, it doesn't offer much flexibility. You need to get all 3 workouts in every week to work the upper body properly, and there is no good way to split the upper body and lower body. For the purposes of the rotation, I get it - but it diminishes the long term potential of the workouts.

    ~ There is some whooping with her crew, and it can be annoying at times. I started to tire of the entire crew after two weeks. They started to seem fake to me.

    ~ These are missing the fun-factor for me. I'm not sure why. I think it is because with strength work, I like to feel like I have a goal or a challenge that I am reaching for, and I can't find that with these workouts. I feel they are effective, but I don't get the sense of accomplishment that I do with my other strength workouts.

    Other nitpicks (but not super important) include:
    ~ Burn it Off could be sequenced better. It isn't a real anaerobic workout, like it could be with a few tweaks.
    ~ The warm-up is the same for every workout.
    ~ Not enough stretching at the end, and no upper body stretching really

    When I saw these were called "Extreme" I couldn't help but think of P90X, and I hoped I would like these just as much. But I don't. There just isn't anything that they inspire me to do, like P90X did. I already know that I can lift heavy weights, and I don't see myself getting much stronger with this series. Although some of the individual moves are fun, overall, the workouts don't have a fun factor for me, so there is nothing drawing me to them.

    On the other hand, I do know that a lot of people are going to do great with this series. Some people are intimidated by the concept of heavy weights and this is going to encourage some to get over that, and I think that is a very good thing. I also know that a lot of people who already enjoy heavy weights will love these too, because they are so time efficient and also because they are different from anything else out there. I think others may try to do a rotation for the first time and find some benefit in just sticking with something for a few months and seeing real results as opposed to just randomly doing what you feel like.

    I'm glad Chalene made a series that everyone is so excited about, I'm just disappointed that I'm not one of those that loves this one.

    Instructor Comments:
    Chalene is fine to me, but I did not seem to repond to her like many others have. She can be a little bit over the top in some ways (with her dress, words, and mannerisms.) She can be very motivating though, and she usually does a good job with the form pointers.

    Lisa C