Critical Strength

Charlene Prickett
Year Released: 1999

Categories: Total Body Workouts

Video Fitness reviews may not be copied, quoted, or posted elsewhere without the permission of the reviewer

Show oldest reviews first

The video is set in a renovated theatre. The set is very dark and the light is unflattering to Charlene and her two background exercisers. The two background exercisers are Renee, Charlene's long time workout pal, and Pete, a newcomer. The background music is quiet an unobtrusive. Lots of different props are used throughout the workout. Charlene talks a lot throughout the whole workout and there were several times when I found myself fast forwarding through the talking segments to get to the exercises. As usual Charlene is a veritable encyclopedia of fitness information, but it does break up the continuity of the workout. If you are interested in the information presented, you may want to watch the video sometime when you are not trying to work out. In most of the segments she shows the exercises in order of increasing difficulty.

The intro shows the two background exercisers warming up (one is riding a stationary bike and one is jumping rope) while Charlene talks for 5 minutes. Then she tells you to pause the tape and warm up for 5 minutes and gives suggestions for what you might do as a warm up. If you want to listen to Charlene's intro you could warm up while she talks. If not you could just do your own warm up and then start the tape after the intro. The tape is 90 minutes long and broken up into 5 segments of varying length. I have described the individual segments in detail below. I don't think there are very many people who would want to do the entire tape through every time. But the most of the segments are short (5-10 minutes) would be good for adding on to another workout. Each segment is preceded by a title screen which states which muscle group will be worked and what conditions it will prevent so it would be easy to find a specific segment if you were fast forwarding.

The first segment works the deep abdominal muscles (transverse abdominus) and is intended to prevent sway back and protruding belly. It is 28 minutes long. Charlene talks for a full minute before she starts doing any exercises. She begins with spine range of motion stretches (like cat stretches) and talk about how to find neutral spine with your transverse abdominus contracted. Next she does shoulder & back stretches using a roller (she uses a rolling pin, while Renee uses a foam roll and Pete uses a dumbbell). Throughout the workout she show various workout gear and household items that you can use to substitute for the props. Then she leads you through several exercises increasing in difficulty while lying on your back. She starts with simple abdominal contractions and then moves to stabilization exercises, adding difficulty with each set. After that she does bridges on the floor. For the second set one exerciser stays with the floor bridges and the other move to bridges on balance balls. Next she holds a prone plank position on the elbows for a full minute while she explains the form & benefits. Then she lets you rest for a moment before holding the plank for another 30 seconds. The third set of planks she does with her elbows on the ball.

The second segment works the mid-back muscles (rhomboids and lower trapezius) and is intended to prevent rounded shoulder posture. It is 10 minutes long. She starts with shoulder retraction using resistance tubing while sitting on the ball. Pete does the exercise with dumbbells leaning over a barstool. Then she shows an anatomical model of a shoulder and talks about problems that can happen with the shoulder joint. The next exercise is tricep pushups on the wall followed by the same exercise on the floor. Then she does shoulder and chest stretches lying on either a bench or a roller or phone books.

The third segment works the neck muscles (short neck flexors) and is intended to prevent forward head posture. It is the shortest segment at 5 minutes. She does neck flexion using a hand against the forehead for resistance followed by neck stretches and lifts lying on the floor.

The fourth segment works the posterior hip muscles (gluteal muscles and hamstrings) and is intended to prevent low back, hip, knee and sciatic nerve problems. It is 10 minutes long. This segment and the following one are more like traditional muscle work then the rest. She starts with side-lying hip lifts (she calls them clams). One exerciser uses ankle weights. Then she does bridge work on the floor followed by bridgework on the balance ball (which is quite challenging). Pete uses the option of doing standing hamstring curls with ankle weights. She ends the segment with a very good stretch.

The fifth and last segment is for hip mobility and is 12 minutes long. She starts with stretching in a full squatting position. Then she does static lunges. As usual there are different options presented (without weights, with dumbbells, holding onto two chairs). She finishes up with range of motion exercises and stretches.

Loretta Sandoval


I bought this tape and Serious Curves 2 at the same time. Although this is supposed to be the more basic of the two, this is the one I kept. This is truly a workout for all levels of exercisers. There is enough instruction for the completely novice exerciser, and there are enough variations shown for the experienced. It's divided into several sections: core/abs/back, legs, shoulders, neck (to prevent that slouching, jutted-chin look), and I've forgotten what else. The core/abs/back section is the longest at 30 minutes, and the rest of the sections are about 10 minutes each. The total length is 90 minutes. I have found that if I follow Charlene's instructions precisely about form and technique, and throw in advanced options from time to time, this leaves me sore the next day. Especially the core section. There is another section where she does static lunges, very, very, very slowly. Five seconds down and five seconds up. Wow -- I didn't know a static lunge could be so tough! Even though I really like this video, I know there will be some who won't care for it. It doesn't move quickly -- all the movements are done slowly and precisely, and there is a good deal of instruction. Some would be impatient with it, but I find that this really fits the bill for me on certain days when I want a tough muscle workout but don't want to be slinging around weights or bouncing all over the place. Grade A+.

Annie S.


Filmed in The Palace Theatre Dance club in Calgary, this workout is 90 minutes long and features exercises for weak posture, rounded shoulders, tight pecs, judded-poked out head, tight hamstrings and problems with hips. The video cover says this video is particularly relevant to postnatal moms, baby boomers, elders, sedentary folks and anyone with poor posture or a pot belly.

The video starts off with Charlene talking about the video while Renee and Pete warm-up. she chats for about 6 minutes. The first section is for the abs. She does alot of exercises for your abs similiar to her ABSolutely video. You work the transverse abdominal on your hands and knees and also back. She also does some stretches using a rolling pin. Charlene also shows different degree's to make the workout harder. Excellent tips and form! Charlene uses a ball also to do prone bridges and plank moves. No oblique work.

The next section is the mid back muscles. She does exercises to prevent rounded shoulders. She gives a lot of information about posture. Yes, she is just chatting away during the whole exercise. She uses tubing and pulleys but Pete uses dumbbells and is prone on a stool. Wonderful tips and what not to do.

Then she does a speech about the shoulder holding a model of a shoulder bone for about 2 minutes. Then its back to wall pushups and then floor pushups (similiar to the Karen Voight pushups in Streamline Fitness). Charlene then ends this section with a good stretch where you lay on your back. She uses phone books.

The next section is strengthening the neck muscle (short neck flexors). This is to help prevent forward head posture. I've never seen this exercise in a video before. She shows you how to strength the neck by nodding down, pressing your tongue then press your forhead with your hand. She then has you lay down and do it on the floor. But of course, Charlene tries to talk as she is doing the exercise. It sounds weird when she is talking. I think she should have "coached" this section if she wanted to talk.

The next section is the Posterior Hip Muscle (glute & hamstring). These exercises prevent low back, hip, knee and sciatic nerve troubles. She starts off with "Clams" where you lay on the floor. On your side with your feet together, you lift your knee up. Pete uses ankle weights. Then she does bridgwork using a ball. Renee shows bridge without a ball. Pete shows hamstring curls. Charlene shows the most advanced hamstring work using the ball.

I don't know how Charlene can talk so much during such tough exercises!! I would have to be concentrating on my form! Charlene then has you lay on your back and pump the leg. You do 2 sets of 20 reps on each leg. Charlene calls this "flossing" the sciatic nerve.

Then you do a good hamstring stretch and more great stretches. I liked this section. The music was upbeat and good. The final section of this video is Hip mobility. To prevent tight restrictive hips. Charlene talks alot about squats being super important and highly recommends doing them. But the only exercise she shows is stationary lunges. She has the music turned off and you do 5 seconds down and 5 seconds up. You do this 8 times per leg. Pete uses 15 lb dumbbells and Renee uses 2 chairs for balance.

Charlene ends with some stretches for the hip. She calls it "Hip Scouring". Then she stretches out the hip flexor. You can do one section a day or pick a section that you need to work on. This is a very slow moving video. Charlene chats alot. If you like her style, you will like this video. She is a exercising encyclopedia! She looks great for her age! wow!

Excellent form, excellent cueing. As always very, very chatty. Charlene has a very slender ectomorph body but with muscle tone. In my opinion, she is thinner in this video. Charlene is a exercising encyclopedia. She knows her stuff!

Mandy Lee