Hardcore: High Step Challenge

Cathe Friedrich
Year Released: 2005

Categories: Total Body Workouts

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When this workout first came out, it wasn't my favorite. I found the cardio sections boring, and it felt a little haphazard. I was always reluctant to get rid of it, though, and would sometimes just skip the cardio sections for a strength circuit workout that wasn't too bad.

Over the past 5 years or so, my workout tastes have changed a bit, and I don't need organization and choreography as much as I used to. I appreciate Cathe's circuit workouts where she really mixes things up and you keep moving. Over the course of the workout, you do work the entire body, and I don't feel like any area was skimped on or overworked. It just isn't the typical, work the back, then work the chest, etc. Mixing it up makes it more interesting and fun to me.

Some of the cardio sections are more intense and high-impact than others, but most of them are fairly intense. So this workout can give you an interval effect, with your heart rate going down a little during the strength (except when I'm doing leg moves and pushups!) Overall, I find I get a good cardio effect from doing this workout. The pace and choice of exercises usually keeps my heart rate going.

One thing I really like about this workout is the music. Cathe has lately been using mostly instrumentals, especially with her strength and circuit workouts. This one has a lot of vocals, and is more fun and energetic. No, it's not music I would listen to on my own, but it is fun when working out.

Instructor Comments:
After many years, Cathe is still the instructor I reach for the most. She pushes me and encourages me to keep going even when I don't want to. I find her especially encouraging in this workout.

Lisa C


Iím reviewing this workout after doing it twice (except the stability ball abs segment, which I havenít done).
Since others have already broken down the video, Iíll just add a few thoughts.

The cardio step portions are enjoyable. Cathe doesnít pause to break things down much, so this may mean a bit of a learning curve for those newer to step, but the flip side is that you donít have to slow down and wait for the breakdowns once youíre familiar with the routine. The combos are fairly basic in terms of choreography but not so simple that youíll have time to get bored in the four rounds (two on each side) of repetition that each cardio combo undergoes. Thereís no TIFTing (Ďtaking it from the top,í or stringing the combos together).

I like the overall format except the repetition of (usually) the exact same lower and/or upper body strength exercises right in a row, just with different equipment. Since the reps are already on the high side, this just makes them even higher, and without any real rest period in between this workout ends up being much more about endurance. (This is probably a plus for some folks, but Iím moving more and more away from higher and higher reps.) It can be a little tricky to choose the right weights, because ideally you want to be able to make it through all of the reps with the dumbbells but still have something left for the reps with the band.
As you might guess, thereís a lot of work for the lower body, especially the quads, and the shoulders definitely get more than their fair share. I would like to have seen Cathe use the band to even more advantage by including something stronger for the back, like a seated row. This is light on the chest work, but considering Cathe and other video instructors tend to overwork the chest in relation to other muscle groups thatís not such a bad thing - unless this is the only strength video you ever do.

Familiarity with basic step and strength exercises is needed, so I wouldnít recommend this to beginners. That said, this is a great ďCathe for the rest of us,Ē you know, those of us who canít or donít want to pull out an IMAX or Bootcamp daily. You get out of it what you put into it, so if you use appropriate weights and give your all to the cardio intermediates to int.+ will find this a solid 45-50 min. of suitably challenging exercise. I consider myself an int./adv. in both cardio and strength, and I found this a decent workout, a good choice for those days when Iím looking more to maintain.

I acquired this workout after some smart VFers suggested one could use a BOSU with it. Specifically, I used my BOSU in place of the high step (which I donít have) during the strength segments and just used my regular step during the cardio portions (although if I felt braver I might try doing it all on the BOSU). One benefit of using the BOSU in place of the high step is that youíll get additional balance challenges. One obvious disadvantage is that youíll need more space than if you just used a high step (because otherwise the workout is relatively compact).
Like others, I used heavier dumbbells than what Cathe and crew used and used different weights for different body parts (this seems to have been made about the same time as Catheís other beg. / int. workouts, where she also uses 3 lbs. throughout). I also used the tubing that came in my Cathe step kit, which is probably of mediumish (although perhaps on the low side of that) resistance. As I find with most videos using this piece of equipment, the tubing gave me an appropriate amount of resistance on some exercises but too much or too little on others; I personally would have liked to have a couple of options for tubing lying around.

Instructor Comments:
I agree that Cathe seems subdued here in comparison to some of her other videos, but as usual she cues well enough, is encouraging, etc.



About me: I'm an advanced exerciser who can handle high impact. I like most of what Cathe puts out.

Breakdown: Length: 68 minutes Level: Intermediate/Advanced Impact: Mixed, jumping jacks, plyo jacks Music: Vocal, at times difficult to hear, in general good beat and interesting. Some chant like music at the end.

This is a circuit workout that alternates cardio with weight training. The cardio segments are much shorter than the weight segments.

Warm up

Cycle 1: Cardio (low impact, on high step, very easy)

Leg Press with band (really gets into the glute)

Tricep Push ups on high step (made me sick to go from high heart rate with the leg press to face down pushups)

Leg press with shoulder press (not possible if you don't have a high celing and shoulder exercise with 3 lb weights did not feel effective)

Dips using high step

Side push ups (Cedie shows modification and uses terrible form)

Cycle 2

Cardio (high impact, jacks, jacks and more jacks)

Squats, Deadlifts

Barbell rows

Rows with band for back

Push ups

Cycle 3

Cardio (fun with crescent kicks and other kickboxing moves but very easy)

Leg Press

Hammer punch lunges (this would have been better as a cardio move)

Barbell curls

Overhead press with band

Cycle 4

Cardio (more jacks, fast feet shuffles)

Plie Squats (same as in Muscle Max and Gym Style Legs)

Lateral Raise

L-Fly type move with band but standing

T-Back squeeze with band (same as in Gym Style Back, Shoulders, Biceps)

Isolation flys (difficult to go from on the floor doing flies straight to cardio)

Cycle 5

Cardio (Zig zag shuffles, not possible for those with impact or feet issues)

Calf raises (yowch after those shuffles)

Decline push ups

Upright rows

Rear delt fly with band

Hover squats

Abs (very similar to Muscle Max, not very interesting)


I'm trading this workout because it feels too random to me. I like workouts that are very well organized (like Cardio and Weights where you work one body part at a time.) I also felt like this workout didn't shine in any area. It was an okay overall workout but nothing jumps out. It's just a bland workout with lots of recylced moves. I can't see this workout being a plateau buster like Bootcamp because it isn't tough enough. I can't see it building muscle because there isn't a focus on weight work. It was enjoyable but because I can't see it advancing me fitness wise, it doesn't have a place for me.

The overabundance of jumping jacks in this series is also annoying. The cardio is also very unbalanced. A couple of segments like 1 and 3 are very easy while others like 5 are much tougher. The weight work is also so long that your heart rate drops way down. Some of the more interesting moves like the band work is repeated in all the other Hardcore workouts so I don't feel I need I them again in this workout. A little variety would have been nice. All in all, I think Cathe has done better circuit workouts.

Instructor Comments:

Cathe is ripped to shreds in this workout. Her cueing is late and inadequate especially in the cardio sections. Her form is impeccable. She is encouraging without being overly perky or annoying.

Elisabeth (pipsqueak3211)


This workout really went by fast. Cathe describes it as a stamina building workout, and I would have to agree. The circuits move very quickly, so it is a good idea to have all your equipment handy when you start to avoid have to pause the workout before each new exercise. I really enjoyed the cardio bursts, as well as the way the exercises were split up. Doing multiple exercises for the same body part over different circuits worked well for me, as it gave me a chance to rest a particular muscle before using it again. The workout really did just fly by, and did not feel as though it was actually 68 minutes. I would almost say I was having fun if I hadn't been working so hard. By the time I finished, I was drenched with sweat, but I had a big smile on my face. I would give this video an A, and have to say I enjoyed it as much as Bootcamp (another favorite of mine!).

Instructor Comments:
Cathe always has superb form with weights, and provides plenty of form pointers. I also appreciate her motivating chatter (even a little whooping now and then) here and there, although I know that this can and does annoy some vfers.

Hilarie Dansie


Workout Length 68 minutes
Level: Advanced
Equipment: High step or fanny lifter, various dumbbells (heavy), barbell, resistance band. Mat optional
Date Released: 2005
Availability: Cathe.com , Collage Video

The first time I did High Step Challenge I really didnít like it. It felt very rushed to me. Cathe moves very quickly from one exercise to the next and sometimes she left my head spinning! The cardio segments are very intense and I wasnít prepared for that either. The second time I tried it I didnít even make it through the first strength segment (more on that latter).

By this point I was ready to put this one on my trade list but some folks on the forum convinced me to give it another chance. Iím glad I did! This time I had a printout of the list of exercises from Fitness Video Fanatics to guide my way. This helped a lot. Once I knew what exercises to expect I could prepare ahead of time and have the equipment I needed ready. This time I actually almost enjoyed it!

The format of this workout is cardio cycles alternating with weight work. The whole body is worked in the weight sections, with a nice balance between upper and lower body. I do find that the upper body segments are sort of oddly arranged. Each segment doesnít concentrate on one part of the upper body Ė itís mixed up, but not evenly. So in the first segment you do mostly triceps but a little shoulders. I think it would have been better to split up the upper body segments evenly like she did in Muscle Max and Cardio & Weights.

There are exercises in this workout that I really like and some that I really dislike. Most of it is traditional leg press, squats, bicep curls etc. but she mixes it up with some different twists. All of the leg presses are done with the band, which I donít really like so I use dumbbells instead. The second set she does with light weights, adding an overhead press at the top. She says this is to work on cardio endurance. I donít really see the point of it. I also have a hard time because my ceiling isnít high enough to do an overhead press when Iím on top of my high step. So I just do regular leg press with heavy weights.

One exercise I particularly like in this workout is decline push-ups with your feet on the short step. After a set of push-ups she has you go into a core exercise where you step your toes off the side of the step and back on again, alternating sides. I can really feel that one along the spine and in the core.

The cardio sections here are very intense and mostly high impact. Lots of Catheís usual jumping up and down :). They are quite similar to what you might see in an IMAX blast or in the KickMax blast section. So be prepared to modify if you need to.

After five cycles of cardio & weights you go down to the floor for abs (which Cathe is now calling ďcoreĒ :) ). One thing that really annoys me about most of the Hardcore workouts is that they filmed the ab & stretch segments separately but didnít leave you enough time to move your equipment and put a mat down. So youíll need to pause the DVD here and clear all your equipment out of the way.

The actual abs section is quite short, not particularly interesting, but effective enough. The stretch is pretty good though. Iím impressed with the stretch segments in all of the Hardcore workouts. They are much longer and more thorough than what sheís done in the past. Instead of trying to choreograph moves together she just goes right into the stretches.
Overall Iíd give this workout a B+. Itís a nice, challenging, total body workout in typical Cathe style. Itís deficiencies can be overcome if you plan ahead :)

Instructor Comments: