The Firm: Total Sculpt plus Abs (BSS2)

Jen Carman
Year Released: 2003

Categories: Total Body Workouts

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If this workout had a more balanced feel, it would have been a keeper for me. I didn't feel I got a good workout and did it twice and tried to modify a lot, but still didn't suit me. Jen's workout works the biceps & triceps hard, but the shoulders get nothing and you do lat pulls with an 8 lb bar which won't do anything unless you are pulling 80 lbs. So really you don't get any back work. Emily's tape has about 3-4 sets of lat rows. These workouts seem unbalanced to me. The inner & outer thigh get a few swings, but not much compared to the 1 legged dip. Those were tough & felt I only got a good workout for my quads & hamstrings and biceps & triceps.

The cardio sections felt slow, but the music in this tape was good. I did like that they had more chest work than pushups, but that & the abs weren't enough for me, even with heavy weights. Overall didn't feel like I got a good workout to keep the tape.

Instructor Comments:
Her workouts have too many pulses during the repetitions.



This is an intermediate level workout. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most advanced (such as Cathe's Intensity Series), Firm Total Sculpting is a 6-7, in my opinion. It is a well-balanced workout, in that you work every body part equally, and there is some hi/lo, step and plyo mixed in between strength sections. All the sections are short, and there are not a lot of reps or sets of any exercise.

I really like the Firm stick. It is a nice piece of exercise equipment. While it is not essential for doing this workout, I found the stick enhanced it. The ends come on and off easily, to form 2 light dumbbell-style weights. The bar is very useful as a balancing tool on the lower body work, and feels comfortable to grip on the upper body work. Some of the movements require a light bar, and a 9 pound bodybar would probably work.

The entire workout is about 55 minutes long. The warm-up was fast with lots of squats and dips (back lunges), and side to side movements. The workout consists of all the usual Firm exercises, hover squats, tall box climbs, squats with dips, but there are some variations using different counts, such as a slow 4 up, slow 4 down, 2-2, 3-1 and pulses, which made the movements more difficult. There are push-ups done on the stick, which did not feel comfortable to my hands. There are also triceps push-ups on the Fanny Lifter, with the fingers turned in, which I thought were very effective. The ab section incorporated the stick, and had some interesting movements, especially for the obliques. I would have liked the ab section to be longer. The stretch segment at the end was good, incorporating some yoga-style moves.

The sets and outfits are nondescript and the music is tolerable at times and awful at other times. If the music was better, I think this workout would be more enjoyable.

All in all, this is a good workout if you would like to do a little bit of everything, but not too much of anything. I give it an A-.

Instructor Comments:
Jen Carmen does an adequate job instructing this workout. She looks good, although she is not as defined as in her past tapes. Her personality comes across as Firm-like (scripted) but pleasant.



I liked this video much better than Maximum Cardio Burn.

The total workout is 55 minutes long and tends to alternate upper body, lower body, and cardio work. I liked the music better in this one and I liked the fewer, shorter cardio sections.

I still think the workout suffers for the new sculpting stick. At some points you have it balanced on one end and do "rows" with it, which is fine except the end on the floor kept skidding around. I can't for the life of me figure out how they kept theirs still on that shiny floor. Also, using the stick really limits the weight you can use, and they combine exercises that would be difficult to do with really challenging weights, ex: an overhead press (which I can almost use 15# for) and a sweep down, (which would be really hard for me with anything more than 7# dumbbells.) And they really don't offer enough form pointers for this stuff, not do they use good form, rocking their torsos all over the place instead of really focusing on holding their cores still.

So, I thought I got a more thorough workout, but not a super-challenging one. Definitely not as challenging as Body Sculpt (Jen's video from the first infomercial set) and not as sweaty as Body Sculpt Blaster, which really keeps the pace up.

The stretch was nice, actual yoga poses with actual yoga names, although no real form instruction.

Instructor Comments:
Jen often says "do this twice" when what she means is "do this for two counts." I find this kind of irritating, but aside from that find her to be a pleasant and capable instructor.

Renee D


Total Sculpt plus Abs was the first video I tried when I got the new Firm Sculpting Kit.I loved this tape.Especially the warmup.This was my favorite.Jen is more relaxed in my opinion for the warmup than she was in the Body Sculpt video.The music to the warmup was great too of course.I can still hear it in my head from time to time. I think it's called a Sculpt video because though it does have cardio sections in it,the cardio is shorter so you can go right back to the sculpting.My favorite exercises was the leg presses on the Fanny Lifter:you do a slow two-count up & two-count down on it while using the stick. The stick was a real help for this. Another favorite was the dips while using the FL:you have one foot in front,while you have the other on the FL & do a slow two-count down,two-count up on it.I really felt the burn on this one. My favorite cardio section was the last one,shades of Super Cardio in it. I wish the ab section was slightly longer though. But the stretch was a winner,very thorough yoga-like. Believe it or not,while filming this video,Jen had a cold.

Instructor Comments:
I love Jen Carman!She is such a natural on camera.Her physique to me is inspiring:more slender,slimmer,& gorgeous of course! (More gorgeous I mean)

Tranisha N. Thomas


0:00 – Introduction
1:56 – Warm-up and stretch with Sculpting Stick (SS):
squats, leg abductor and adductor, overhead press, plie, calf stretch, one-arm row, static lunges, pushups, hamstring stretch, and bicep curl
10:16 – Hover squats using heavy weights [Beginners: SS for balance]
12:01 – Double arm lat row using heavy weights [Beginners: light weights]
13:04 – Plie squats using heavy weights [Beginners: SS for balance]
14:05 – Lat pull-down and lower to chest using SS [Beginners: no weight]
15:16 – Back stretch
15:32 – 4-count squats and 4-count rear dips with knee lift using a heavy weight on the left shoulder and SS for balance [Beginners: SS for balance only]
17:01 – Left arm overhead press using heavy weight [Beginners: no weight]
18:04 – 4-count squats and 4-count rear dips with knee lift using a heavy weight on the right shoulder and SS for balance [Beginners: SS for balance only]
19:26 – Right arm overhead press using heavy weight [Beginners: no weight]
20:28 – Low impact aerobics with option to add plyometric jumps
22:53 – Right leg press slow alternating with pulses using heavy weight on right shoulder and SS for balance [Beginners: SS for balance only]
23:53 – Static lunges with left foot on FL using heavy weight on right shoulder and SS for balance [Beginners: SS for balance only; left foot remains on floor]
24:45 – Right leg press with left leg lift and pulses using heavy weight on right shoulder and SS for balance [Beginners: SS for balance only]
25:41 – Right arm seated concentrated bicep curls using medium weight [Beginners: light weight]
26:52 – Seated hammer curls using medium weight [Beginners: light weight]
27:45 – Left arm seated concentrated bicep curls using medium weight [Beginners: light weight]
28:46 – Standing double bicep curls with narrow grip using SS [Beginners: no weight]
29:21 – Standing double bicep curls with wide grip using SS [Beginners: no weight]
29:47 – Step aerobics on 6”/purple section:
heel presses, glute lift, mambo, kicks, press straddle, and squat or plyo
32:55 – Left leg press slow alternating with pulses using heavy weight on left shoulder and SS for balance [Beginners: SS for balance only]
33:53 – Static lunges with right foot on FL using heavy weight on left shoulder and SS for balance [Beginners: SS for balance only]
34:46 – Left leg press with right leg lift and pulses using heavy weight on left shoulder and SS for balance [Beginners: SS for balance only]
35:42 – Seated French press using one heavy weight [Beginners: no weight]
36:51 – Right arm tricep kickback using light weight [Beginners: no weight]
37:43 – Pushups with tricep emphasis on FL with fingers facing in
38:17 – Left arm tricep kickback using light weight [Beginners: no weight]
39:00 – Pushups with tricep emphasis on FL with fingers facing in
39:25 – 4-limbed aerobics using “Twigs” (2lb. detachable weights on SS):
heel lift with overhead press, hamstring curl with bicep curl, and squats
42:33 – Cool down:
shoulder rolls and shoulder circles while step-touching, squats with rounded back
43:42 – Transition to floor
44:04 – Pec flies using heavy weight [Beginners: light weight]
44:44 – Ribcage pullover alternating with chest press using SS [Beginners: no weight]
46:02 – Transition to ab work
46:25 – Abs using SS:
seated lean back, twists right and left, oblique lean back, “shin crunch” slow 4-count crunch, lower ab pulses, and slow crunches toward feet with legs straight up
50:12 – Stretches for abs and lower back
51:33 – Yoga stretchs:
child’s pose, cat stretch, downward dog, runner’s lunge with back arch, spinal twist, upper back stretch, body wave with lean back, chest opening, triangle pose, wide leg forward bend for hamstrings, roll-up
56:48 – Jen’s final words of encouragement

What was good about this workout:
While the transitions are quick like all FIRM workouts, the slower, concentrated reps were a nice change of pace and worked the muscles differently. The “super sets” of back, biceps, triceps, and chest lent itself more to that wonderful pre-exhaust feeling more than spreading out the body parts throughout the workout. This workout introduced a lot of new variations on old exercises (new, at least, to the FIRM), and was never boring. The long yoga stretch at the end was a nice treat.

What I didn’t like about this workout
The sculpting stick (weighing in at 8lbs. total) seems much too light for some of the exercises (chest press, bicep curl, and overhead press). The abdominal work was not very challenging.

Instructor Comments:
I have to preface this by saying that I am usually not a fan of Jen Carmen. Typically I find her less natural than other FIRM instructors, and her method of counting often ends up telling you “last one” when there are many more to go! However, I really enjoyed Jen in this workout! She was energetic but not over the top; you can tell she genuinely enjoys weight work. And her physique is very motivating in a weight workout like this.



This is the weakest of the three videos from BSS2. It has fewer cardio segments and utilizes heavier weights, but I did not find it very challenging when compared to previous Firm videos. The abs segment is particularly weak since they incorporate the sculpting stick. This is an example of trying to use a piece of equipment when it adds virtually nothing to the exercise. I kept checking my form to see if I was doing the ab work properly because I felt no burn at all and abs are usually tough for me.
Jen Carmen is a great instructor, but the choreography and music isn't nearly as fun in this workout as it is in the other two.

Instructor Comments:
Jen Carmen is great as always. Her cueing is precise and she has just the right amount of enthusiasm.



This is actually my favorite of the BBS2. I think it works sections (inner thighs, hams ) that most Firms ignore. The sculpting stick is easy to modify to heavy up or not use at all. It is nice to use it to dip deeper or for balance though. Also, the time just flies on this tape. I thought the music was much more prominent in this video. Love the yoga stretch at the end also.

Instructor Comments:
Jen seems much more "herself" and less "Stepfirm wife". Her cueing is excellent and again she glows. She is also an inspiration to shorties like me to stick with that high box!



This workout reminds me of the old style firm workouts, with a slower lifting speed. You can definitely heavy up with weights on this one. The intensity is comparable to Cathe's Push Pull (also can heavy up on that one), making this workout a solid intermediate. There aren't that many reps for each set, but the lifting speed is varied.
It's been broken down by other reviewers so I'll just leave some comments. The workout flows nicely -- it alternates between upper, lower and cardio. I used my high step, body bar (don't have the sculpting stick) and dumbbells. The music is much better than on most of the newer firm workouts, IMHO. The cardio segments were short, but fun, and there are some options for high impact (e.g. plyos instead of squats.) She does some 4-limb, floor and some step aerobics (easy choreography.) There is enough time to change weights, bars, etc. in between the different exercises, and Jen tells you what is coming next and which weights (heavy, light or medium) to use. I enjoyed the stretch at the end -- it's about 5 minutes and the stretches are held about 10-15 seconds each. All in all, a good workout in just under an hour.

Instructor Comments:
Jen is very poised and gives good pointers. She often refers to doing a rep "twice more" which bothered me at first, and is repeated throught the workout. She seems very relaxed in front of the camera.



This is one sneaky little workout that I thought was too easy, but now I'm feeling it all over, especially in my abs. Advanced exercisers will probably find the sculpting stick too light; a barbell or heavier body bar can be substituted for some exercises.

The aerobic sections were shorter cardio bursts either using 4 limb or the purple portion of the Fanny Lifter, and I liked them. One section included plyos that were mercifully over relatively quickly, but not before I was drenched. Lower body work used some variations on the leg press which I also liked and I felt were pretty safe. Unlike Complete Aerobics & Weight Training, my knees weren't begging for mercy, and I felt in control the whole time.

This is definitely a keeper.

Instructor Comments:
I could watch Jen lead a toilet paper commercial and still like it!



Jennifer Carman, 2003 ***** (5 of 5 stars)

This is a 60 min mostly strength workout led by Jen Carman. There are 4 background exercisers with Suzan showing the beginner modifications. This is the BSS2 set-white with blue accents on the walls. You will need a variety of dumbbells, the Firm sculpting stick (optional), and a Fanny Lifter or other step for this w/o.

The warmup is kind of long but I actually really enjoyed it this AM. You use the sculpting stick to warm up your upper body and do squats and such to warmup the lower body. After the warmup Jen moves right into a heavy squat set, back work, pliets, and lat pull down with the stick-I just used dumbbells since the stick is only 8 #'s. She uses the stick in other areas of the workout too and again, I just use dumbbells because the stick is just too light to do anything with.

The majority of this workout is strength and includes moves such as: leg press (just use 2 dumbbells, not 1 and the stick), bicep curls, 4 limb work that is similar to her 4 limb section in Firm Super Cardio-(which I love), french press, pushups, tricep pushups, and more. She varies the tempo alot and uses a pretty slow tempo for a lot of it to really allow heavy poundage.

There are a few cardio segments-one on the floor and one on the step. She finishes with chest and ab work on the floor before the cooldown. The ab section uses teh 6# portion of the sculpting stick and I found it fun and effective. Not so boring & repetitive like the other ab sections in BSS2.

I would rate this an intermediate w/o done as is. If you skip the sculpting stick, use heavy dumbbells, use the 8" section of the FL, add a few more plyos (she does include some though!), and put a little pep in your step you can get a great sculpting workout with the usual Firm cardio benefit.