High Voltage

Margaret Richard
Year Released: 1993

Categories: Total Body Workouts

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High Voltage is a 60 minute total body workout led by Margaret Richard, host of the PBS exercise show Body Electric. It was originally released on VHS, but is also on DVD on her two-DVD Classics collection. This workout was shot outside a Florida marina. Joining Margaret are two familiar faces from the Body Electric show: Joe and Jules. You will need a mat (for the floorwork), a chair (for support during calf work), a folded towel (for the hamstring and inner thigh work), and light weights (several sets recommended; Margaret uses a range from 3 to 8 pounds, while Joe and Jules use one pair of 3 pound weights only). I use 5 lb. dumbbells for the workout, except for shoulders (where I use 3 lbs.). Ankle weights can also be used during the floorwork to increase the intensity.

If you’ve never done Margaret’s workouts, her workouts use light weights and high repetitions. She doesn’t count reps, but works the muscle to fatigue in a time frame of about three to three-and-a-half minutes per muscle group. A variety of rep patterns and tempos are utilized for each section, including singles, “power pulse” (pulse twice while in the contraction), pulses, slow rep speeds (up 2, down 2; up 3, down 1, etc.), and alternating.

This workout is divided into two halves that can be done separately on alternate days, or together for a full 60 minute workout. Margaret and crew are wearing different outfits for each half.

The workout is as follows. If you have the Classics DVD set, each segment is chaptered.
-Warmup (graceful arm movements and light dynamic stretches, including some squats)
-Calves (heel raises holding onto a chair for balance, both in parallel and turnout)
-Quadriceps (plie squats, including pulses; mid-range stationary lunges with the back knee directly under the hip)
-Hamstrings #1 (working the right leg only: starts in prone position for bent leg raises, then moves onto all-fours for hamstring curls and bent-leg raises)
-Gluteals (bridgework, or supine gluteal tucks; including knee presses)
-Hamstrings #2 (repeat the Hamstring sequence on the left leg)
-Abdominals (crunch variations)
-Deltoids (shoulder press/pec deck combo, rotator cuff work, standing bench press, and a unique scissor move)
-Back (standing bent rows and rear delt flyes)
-Streching Transition* (Margaret stretches the muscles worked in the first half of the workout.)

At this point, you can stop the workout, or continue on to the second half.

-Pectorals (pushups, pushups alternated with back stretches)
-Triceps (standing French press, tricep kickbacks, and a behind the back move which also works the rear deltoids)
-Biceps (standing curls, both to the front and side)
-Obliques (standing side crunches aka tick-tocks, done on one side only holding dumbbells before doing the other side)
-Outer Thighs (side leg lifts, shootouts, and an interesting rotation move)
-Inner Thighs (side leg lifts done with the bottom leg in both a bent and straight leg position, and a lift-leg extension combo)
-Cool down (a series of graceful arm movements)

*Margaret designates this as the warmup for the second half, or a cool-down for the first half.

Although the exercises are fairly standard, the high repetitions, various rep patterns, and Margaret’s twist on some of the exercises will make your muscles burn. The music is a nice mix of R&B and jazzy pop, that is both calming and energizing. The only things I don’t like about this workout is the warm-ups, stretch transition, and cool-down. The stretch transition should not be used as a warm-up for the second half, as it isn't really a warm-up (just like the warm-up in the first half isn't either). The cool-down doesn't provided much needed stretches for the muscles worked in the second half. This workout can be found on Margaret’s Classics collection (a two-DVD set, which also includes three of her other older workouts). While the outfits are dated by today’s standards, this classic workout is useful even today, and I highly recommend it for all fitness levels.

Instructor Comments:
Margaret is quickly becoming one of my new favorite instructors. I really like her low-key, down-to-earth style (with a great sense of humor), and she also gives excellent form pointers and cues.

Garrie A


High Voltage was shot in 1993 and is available as part of The Classics four workout, two DVD set. It's shot outdoors on a wooden deck at a marina. Margaret has two young, male and female background exercisers who have appeared with her before.

This is a 60 minute workout that you can split into two half-hours if you prefer. I normally don’t like long workouts, but this one flew by, as do most of Margaret’s workouts, at least for me.

Margaret is known for her killer floorwork that sets your butt and thighs on fire and this was no exception. How could she possibly make those outer thighs work harder? By adding, literally, a twist. Yikes! I have to say that my legs and butt have never looked better since I've been doing Margaret’s DVDs. The Firm’s fannylifter never gave me these results.

The standing quad work was painful but effective. Squats and pulsing squats, the sets were varied with heel raises. As MR says, "Working the quadriceps is one of life's special delights!" I can see more definition in my thighs.

She did a long segment for calves, an area neglected by most instructors. My skinny calves have actually gained a little bit more shape.

Upper body had endless pushups so I sat part of that out. She varied the set by having you do two pushups, then stretch back into child’s pose, then resume and repeat. This woman is a pushup machine.

Triceps work was tough as always. My excuse for not completing it was that the blood was rushing down my arms making them numb. She seems fond of having us hold the weights behind our backs and then lift them, sort of running them up and down the lower back and butt. This after having lifted them in every possible way before to pre-exhaust them. Oww!

Two minor complaints:

1. I didn't like her ab work. It's strictly crunches, and mostly works the upper abs. I do planks or lower hip lifts instead. She did weighted oblique side bends, which I skipped, since I never use weights for abs.

2. There was minimal stretching between chapters and the final stretch was a bit dancy and didn't stretch my legs enough.

I continue to add to my Margaret Richard DVD collection and always look forward to working out, instead of dreading it. There is a reason this woman has been a fitness queen for decades and, fortunately for us, shows no sign of stopping.

Instructor Comments:
Margaret's personality is impish and engaging, and she’ll make silly jokes or tap her foot to the music, while you are struggling just to breathe and keep up. Someone once described her style as "killing you softly." She gives form pointers constantly, which keeps you focused. Margaret has a couple of wardrobe changes, and they are very bright colors, for you fitness fashion mavens. I wasn't distracted by the clothes, but rather by her amazing arms! I'm guessing she was in her late 40s at this time, too. It was pretty funny to see the 20-something guy using 3 lbs. for arms while Margie was using 8s. His arms looked flabby by comparison.