Finding Your Core

Susan Harris
Year Released: 2005

Categories: Total Body Workouts

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Finding Your Core is one of four new functional fitness workouts from the Tracie Long Training (TLT) group. The concept of functional fitness means that the exercises are designed to mimic the movements you perform in "real" life, often by emphasizing balance and other core-strengthening moves. In Finding Your Core, a stability ball is used (along with several sets of weights), which serves to challenge both your core and your balance during every exercise. This makes for a workout that is unique, varied, challenging, and fun all at the same time. The instructor is Susan Harris, from Firm Volume 1 fame--you would never believe that it's 20 years and several children later! As with all of the TLT workouts, Susan works out with two companions, Lauren, who is showing modified versions of the exercises, and Ann, who does some more challenging moves.

Susan begins the workout with s 6-minute warmup using the stability ball. I found her a bit difficult to follow here, as she quickly moves the ball overhead and side-to-side without always noting directional changes in advance. The warmup also includes dips, knee lifts, and a very nice segment of dynamic stretches using the ball. The first strength exercise involves sitting on the ball holding weights and not quite lifting of the ball in a squat while doing tricep kickbacks; Susan then adds in the first of many great shoulder/back exercises with a scaption pinch. Moving to lying on the ball in a bridge position, you'll do a pelvic tuck--be sure to follow Susan's great form pointers here!--a chest press, both moves together, and then leg lifts.

Coming back to a standing position, you'll squeeze the ball between your calves, you'll work your upper body by pressing your arms out to the corners of the room with a torso rotation. Next comes a series of shoulder/back work that I loved: first you'll do a 1-arm row, then you'll lie pelvis-down on the ball for a unique shoulder rotation/sweep move. Transitioning to lying sideways over the ball, you'll first work your hips wiht some leg lifts/knee ins, then work your obliques with side crunches (I found it difficult to find a good position here, as my ball kept sliding around). Going back to the upper body, you'll do push-ups with your thighs resting on the ball and then a row/triceps kickbacks series with your chest on the ball. Again returning to standing, Susan leads you through another unique shoulder move: you rest one hand on the ball and move the other arm straight out, up, and back, rotating the thumb up. Resting your shoulders on the ball, you do more upper body work with triceps extensions and lat pullovers. Then, resting your weights on your hips, you'll do some glute presses (again, listen to Susan's form tips!) before completing the side-lying series on the opposite side.

Next comes a rather tricky move: standing with one toe balanced on the ball at your side, you'll push that leg out while doing a 1-leg squat in the standing leg. You have to follow Susan's instructions carefully here, but if you push the ball slightly forward as she suggests, you shouldn't have any problems with this move, and you'll really feel it in your glutes; Susan eventually adds in an overhead press. Next, you'll lie with your lower back on the ball for some transverse abdominal crunches--again, I found Susan's form pointers to be extremely helpful. You'll also do some upper body work with bicep curls and passing a weight from side-to-side. After completing another set of crunches, you'll finish with the 1-legged squat series on the other side.

For the final standing series, you'll again hold the ball between your calves for some postural work (a move that Tracie called an "A-frame" in her previous series of TLP workouts). Additional shoulder/back work comes in the form of front and side raises here. Next, you'll do some targeted core work by kneeling, resting your hands on the ball, and rolling out to an elbow plank position. Then, rolling forward so that your forearms are on the floor, you'll work your glutes with leg lifts, leg flutters, and in-and-out beats. Moving to lying on your back, you'll place your heels on the ball, roll up into a bridge position, and then roll the ball in and out to work your hamstrings. Although this is basically a simple move, coming this late in the workout--you may not realize it, but your legs are already quite fatigued--made it extremely challenging, especially when Susan keeps the legs rolled in for a heel-toe variation. After this tough work comes a well-deserved 6-minute stretch. Staying in a lying position and resting your calves on the ball, you'll begin with a simple twist, then stretch both the hamstrings and the IT band. Sitting on the ball, you'll do a seated twist and a seated forward bend, and then Susan finishes with some nice lat and side stretches, bringing the total workout time in at 49 minutes.

Overall, I enjoyed this workout very much, especially all of the wonderful, unique shoulder work. Sometimes I find using a stability ball frustrating, as I'm unable to get my form quite right, but with only one minor exception (noted above), I thought Susan gave really excellent tips here which allowed me to make adjustments which served to improve my form. Out of the 4 TLT workouts, I think that FYC is probably the easiest, and yet it was still quite challenging--not to mention fun, too! My only (small) complaint was that the music was often so low as to be practically inaudible. Also, there is no chapter menu, but the workout IS chaptered, so you can use your skip button to move around if necessary. I would definitely recommend this workout to intermediate level and above exercisers who are looking to incorporate some fun yet challengnig functional fitness work into their routines.

Instructor Comments:
Susan's cueing is good overall, although I had a little trouble following her during the warm-up as noted. I was impressed by her great form pointers throughout this workout, as her tips really helped me with the ball work.

Beth C (aka toaster)


This is the only TLT I have done. I am reviewing this one after previewing it once and doing it twice.

I'm an intermediate to advanced exerciser who has been working out for years both with traditional and non-traditional weight programs.

This is one of Tracie Long's new TLT Productions. It is a stability ball workout and is a functional fitness workout as opposed to a Gym style workout.

I don't know what they mean by functional fitness because many of the moves in the workout, I would never do in real life.

I enjoyed the workout. It is truly different. I'm not going to break it down because I really can't. It's definately not a gym style workout with traditional bicep curls, flys, overhead presses, etc. So, if that is what you like, you will not care for this.

There are compound exercises where you are working upper and lower at the same time but mostly you are working one part at a time. The core is always engaged.

The workout uses the stability ball and weights in truly unique ways. This really is a light to moderate weight workout.

It is choreographed but not as much as a "classic firm". There is no traditional cardio work but you go very quickly from exercise to exercise.

The exercises are deceptively hard. Form is more important than reps and speed. Susan is constantly telling you to hold in the abs. You are really working the core throughout the workout because you are always holding in the stomach. It reminded me of yoga a little. Many of the stretches were modified yoga poses for the ball.

I loved the stretches inbetween the exercises. Susan used the ball and I really felt stretched out and ready for the next segement.

Although there is a beginner and advanced modifier, In my opinion, this is not a workout for a true beginner to working out to start with.

I feel this workout requires the exerciser to have basic knowledge of weight training because there is a learining curve.

This workout is excellent for developing balance.

I think if you are tired of the same old gym style workouts and are looking for "a new way to lift a dumbell", this is for you.

I do recommend watching it at least twice before attempting it and starting with lighter weights than you think.

There are many shoulder rotation exercises that may cause an injury if you use too heavy a weight. If you have shoulder issues, you may want to skip this workout or go very very light on those exercises.

Overall I'd rate this one an A on all levels - production, choreography, cueing and originality.

Instructor Comments:
excellent cueing - friendly - Not too Chatty. Hey, it's Susan Harris. It doesn't get better than that.

Robin F. a/k/a Bebop


I will not rehash Carol's very thorough review but do want say that I agree with her favorable impression of Finding Your Core.

I also think it's less intimidating than CF--there are quite a few tricky plank moves in CF that I may never be able to do completely but everything on FYC was doable, even if I had to stop and pause several times.

The volume is fairly low on the music but it didn't bother me while doing the workout--however, this may make the workout a little less motivating over time. Plus, there's a lot of music from earlier TLPs and I'm somewhat of a stickler for hearing new music.

There's about 15 chapters but no premix, etc and the workout is about 50 minutes long so each section is a little over 3 minutes.

The stability ball is incorporated into the entire workout.

I'm definitely feeling my "core" today.

All in all--a great workout--lot's of fresh moves. Very effective and fun. Challenging but not daunting.

And Susan's instruction was terrific.



Susan Harris of Firm Volume 1 fame leads this 48 minute functional fitness workout filmed at Tracie Long's new gym in Charleston, SC. The windows behind Susan and two background exercisers show the harbor but this does not distract from the workout. The set is light and airy, the production quality of this DVD is perfect, and the music is just enough to hear without overwhelming the voice. Those of you familiar with TLP workouts will recognize some of the tunes and moves, but this is not a rehash of older workouts.

We start with a warm up incorporating dynamic stretching moves using the stability ball. If you've never warmed up holding a stability ball over your head you are in for a treat - your arms get a mini workout during this as well! In fact, there is a great deal of upper body work in this. The entire "core" is worked - from shoulder girdle to hips - not just the abs!

Alternating upper and lower body work is done both on the ball and using the ball as a balance tool. Often upper and lower body are worked together. I never used more than 10# weights and was struggling with these during some moves. The moves are traditional mixed with functional fitness moves. Think Core Secrets but much less repetitive, much less boring, and a lot more fun! Susan's cueing is good and she gives excellent form pointers throughout. One background exerciser shows more beginner type modifications and you can always see her. The camera work in this is top notch.

There is standing and floor work, and I like that it alternates. By the way, when Susan says use light weight ... use LIGHT weight. There are some rotator cuff moves toward the end where you do not want to be a hero and try to go too heavy. You will hurt yourself and defeat the entire purpose of the moves.

The last ten minutes are on the floor doing familiar core moves using the ball, but Susan adds her own special touch and your hamstrings will thank you for it! The stretch is complete and relaxing with yoga type moves incorporated.

This workout is top notch!! A+! I absolutely loved it!! I definitely "found my core"!!