In Shape with Rachel McLish

Rachel McLish
Year Released: 1995

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

In Shape is an older workout (circa 1994 or so) which basically gives you a total body weight workout in just under an hour. The look isn’t dated and music is sort of bland instrumental. Rachel does the whole workout alone. The set is relatively plain, done in solid colors (no fuchsia or anything extreme).

The workout is divided up as follows:

SHOULDERS: Side lateral raise, military (shoulder) press, rear delt lifts, upright rows. You do 2 sets consisting of 12 reps of each of these.
ABS, CHEST, BACK: Ab crunch sitting at the end of a bench, lean back slightly, bring legs up bending knees to meet chest. Pec flies lying on bench, lat raises. You do one set of 20 ab crunches and 2 sets of 12 reps of the other exercises.
ARMS: Tricep kickbacks, hammer curls turning wrist so it’s a regular bicep curl, wide bicep curls, lying tricep extension (arm goes laterally over chest), pullovers with one dumbbell. Rachel says she invented the tricep extension done that way.

Upper body ends here about 24 minutes into the workout.

ABDOMINALS, BUTTOCKS, LOWER BACK: Oblique crunches—sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Lean back on your hands, bend your knees and pull your legs towards your chest, twisting to alternate sides to work the obliques. Several pelvic lift variations. Ab crunch lying back on elbows with one leg straight out, the other with knee bent so it points straight up and foot is even with other knee. Bring the straight leg up to work the abs. Full sit-up with one leg bent (sort of a teaser variation). Oblique crunch lying on side with legs straight out, lift both legs (sort of like in Cathe’s workouts or Tamilee’s I Want Those Abs).
THIGHS (FRONT AND BACK), BUTTOCKS: One set of deadlifts, one set of plie squats.
CALVES, HIPS, THIGHS, WAIST: Standing outer thigh lifts, calf raises standing on one leg only, squats, one leg standing hamstring curl (Rachel has her leg in sort of an awkward position for this).
THIGHS, BUTTOCKS, LOWER BACK: Seesaw lunges—lunge on right leg, rise bringing left foot forward to meet right leg. Dip back with left leg, bringing right foot back so you’re standing in starting position again. Alternate sides. Back extension—lie on stomach, extend legs straight back and lift one leg at a time.
COOL-DOWN STRETCH: Lower body only.

This workout really does hit every muscle, and it moves slowly enough that you could go pretty heavy if you wanted to. Modifications are shown in little insets for most exercises. Rachel gives form pointers via voiceover, but the funny thing is, the voiceover goes over the regular instruction, rather than the regular instruction being muted or left out. During the upper body section, she stretches at the end of every segment, which is why the cool-down at the end is only for lower body.

Rachel’s form isn’t good on some of the exercises, though maybe at the time, it was considered proper form. Also, she does strange numbers of reps, like only doing one set of deadlifts, but two sets of most other exercises. I felt sort of unbalanced afterwards, but since I did feel this all over the next day, that may have been more mental than physical.

I think if you know proper form and want something relatively quick and simple, this might be a good workout for you. It is currently only available on VHS. I definitely wouldn’t recommend this to beginners because of the problems with form, but it definitely isn’t the worst thing out there, despite its age.

Instructor Comments:
Rachel seems to have quite an impressive educational background related to fitness. She explains the moves well and briefly demonstrates each one before you do it. She looks very fit, but not overly skinny like many instructors today. Her manner is very calm and encouraging. On the back of the cover, they show her doing various poses rather than the workout, but she isn’t at all “fluffy” in the workout. Rather, she seems calm and authoritative.



I've only done this tape once, but I thought it was a nice change from the Firm and Cathe (I haven't done a Cory Everson weight tape yet). Lots of different exercises than this Firmie is used to. I didn't feel completely and totally drained like after a Firm/Cathe tape, but I really liked the fact that she used the same weight for all the exercises - that was a nice change. I modified just about all the abs/back exercises to the easier versions shown (I have a back problem), but feel I might actually be able to work up to them without wrenching my back in the process ( I seem to have a problem with just about ALL of the Firm's ab work).

I also modified two of the lower body exercises (dead lifts and seesaw lunges) because of my back and will do tall box lifts and plie squats next time. There are enough things that I like about this tape to override its shortcomings (as mentioned in other reviews: no warmup, few stretches, demonstrates bad form a couple of times)

Instructor Comments:
Lots of form pointers (even though she quite obviously ignores a couple of them). The workout is well organized and the time goes quickly. She is encouraging and cheerful, sweats with you all the way.

Jackie D


If you are looking for a standard strength training video. This is not it. This video consists of strength training moves for your entire body but Rachel uses a technique called "angle training." which, according to some bodybuilders, is suppose to define and cut more than increase mass. For example, Instead of doing regular old military presses to work the shoulders, Rachel has you lift the dumbells with both arms extended straight out up to shoulder height and then bring in the dumbells to your shoulders.

The first time I saw these angle training moves, I thought they were unsafe but if you listen to Rachel, she gives really good form pointers and shows you alternatives to many of the moves she does.

The upper body section is excellent, but I was not as impressed with the lower body section. Being a Firm junkie, I'm use to using ankle weights and tall box leg presses to work the legs. This tape does not use either one but you can use ankle weights for many of the exercises shown and I felt like a got a great lower body workout. Rachel also includes deadlifts in this video. If you do these, be warned that they are not your standard deadlifts. Rachel uses two dumbells for this exercise and instead of just lowering herself straight down, Rachel uses the dumbells to lower herself straight down and then "swings" the dumbells out at the bottom of the move. You really have to pay carefull attention to her instructions in this exercise but I find this style of deadlifts to be very effective.

This video is about 50-60 minutes long and is broken up into different sections according to bodypart so you don't have to do the whole tape in one day.

Overall, I think this is a great strength tape.

Instructor Comments:
Rachel gives excellent form pointers. She is a great teacher.

Tiffanee Saunders


This one hour workout is so-so for the lower body, but I really enjoy the upper body workout - one problem: she instructs a little too much, "and now we will do this, just like that" before she starts the real count of the exercise. I do this occasionally and use 8 lbs. like she does. The tricep work is especially good. As for the lower body, those bodybuilder moves are just too strange for me.

maryann parker


Rachel gets down to the basics. She explains what each exercise does for each muscle group and how to properly perform the exercise. She is serious-minded without all of the "flightiness" of some videos.



I like it! I bought this because of the good comments made on the forum about it, and you guys were right.

This is a strength-training workout with dumbbells. You work every part of your body; upper, lower, and abs. Many of the moves are unique, especially the ab work. And the lats exercise is particularly good. I was actually sore the next day after the first time, and my lats have never been sore before. Another really neat move is the seesaw lunges.

I recommend this to anyone wanting to build some muscle. All levels of exercisers can use it by simply varying the poundage. This one gets an A.

Annie S.


Editor's Note: Many of the early reviews of this video were submitted when there were few serious strength videos on the market. Unfortunately, this video does not hold up well in comparison to some of the newer strength videos on the market.

This is a pretty good total body workout tape. The first section is devoted to the upper body: shoulders, chest, back, biceps, and triceps, plus a set of "bench crunches" for the abs. Section two starts out with floor work; glute lifts alternating with sets of ab work. The ab work is tough: it's not the usual crunches that are typically done for the abs, and at first it really did in my back because some of the exercises involve lifting your entire upper body off the floor. But it seems my back has strengthened as I've done these, since my back now lasts for the duration. The second part of section two is standing leg work: squats, plie squats, side leg lifts, glute lifts, calf raises, and lunges, some using dumbbells for resistance. The only drawbacks for me are the lack of exercises for the forearms and inner thighs; otherwise it's an excellent tape. I do this tape regularly, and recommend it.

Debbie Kenny


I was bored the first few times I did this's 60 minutes of back to basics weight-training. (you'll need handweights that suit your level). It is, however, truly amazing how quickly my boredom passed when I started to see results after only a few sessions with this tape.

Most of the excercises are standard, (eg. bicep curls, rowing, squats, lunges), but her abdominal work strays from the typical crunches. She shows you how to use your whole body to work the abs. My only complaint is her stretching form...she looks like she's really bouncing thoses muscles to release them.

This is going on my "heavy rotation" shelf and I recommend it to all levels interested in building strength.



Upper Body: 23 min
Lower Body: 22 min
Abs: 8 min

This tape is two distinct workouts, upper body and lower body with abs. The upper body starts with shoulders, than chest and lats, next is bicepts & tricepts and finally tricepts and pecs. There are two sets of each exercise. The Lower body portion starts with floor work and abs, then its onto squats, lunges, calf raises, standing side leg lifts, dead lifts, etc.

Rachel explains each move and shows modifications for beginers and those with out a weight bench. I don't have a bench, but a chair and step bench work fine. She uses 8 pound weights for the whole work out, but you can use less. I use 5 - 12 lbs depending on the exercise.

The only complaints I have are that a few stretches are included in this video, but I wish it included a full body stretch at the end. Also, there is no warm up, but it is mentioned that you need one before doing this tape. I use another tape to warm up and stretch out on my own, I just wish they had been included.

I do this video about 3-4 times a month and every time I do it I am pleasantly sore the next day. I have owned it for about 8 months (It was my intro to working with weights) and used it regularly, until I discovered the Firm.

Grade: A-

Tonya Bednarick


I really like this tape even though it is not perfect. Some of the moves, I feel, are probably not safe for the back like the one called side leg crunches where Rachel lies on her side supporting herself on one elbow with the other elbow behind her head. Then she lifts her straightened legs towards the elbow behind her head which involves both some torso twisting at the same time as she's lifting the weight of her legs. In fairness, an inset shows a safer modified version of the move. Sometimes Rachel demos bad form like during the dumbbell flies when her back is arched very high off the bench even though an overvoice says keep your back against the bench! Her back arches hugely again during the triceps exercises on the bench. Rachel is young, has a beautiful body and is in great shape but she should be more aware of proper form. Admittedly the video abounds with tips on form and it is helpful but when she models bad form, it's confusing. In one segment she does squats and an overvoice says make sure your knees stay over your shoes but Rachel's knees are beyond her shoes. Someone who's not familiar with proper form would probably do as she does. At the beginning of the video, we are advised to have 10 minutes of activity and stretching before doing the video. Rachel says the video is concentrated exercise and it is, which is probably why I like it. But her few seconds of stretching that she intersperses throughout the tape are rather abysmal. She says hold the stretches for at least 10 seconds as she bounces the stretch for a couple of seconds! After the hour tape there is a almost a whole minute of badly performed stretches during the "cool down" at the end.

Ok, now to why I like this tape. Since giving up the Firm due to knee problems exacerbated by the step box, I have missed weightlifting and find it too boring to do on my own. This tape, especially the first half, fills a crying need I have for some weightlifting. I do like the fact that it's fast paced. Rachel uses 8 lb. weights and I'm able to alternate between 5-10lb. depending on the exercise. She does show modifications to do without a weight bench. I use my Step as a bench. There is such a wide variety of exercises and some of them are unique enough, not ordinary crunches and leg lifts, that I find I can keep my interest up for the duration of the hour tape. One of the routines is called jet sit ups with one leg bent and the other leg straight and raise the whole upper body up to meet the straight leg. Probably another move with debateable safety but she does show a modification.

The first segment covers upper body and probably is my favorite because of the weightlifting. It includes standards like bicep curls, lateral raises, etc. but it is rather fast paced in that it moves quickly from one exercise to another and several alternating sets are done. Rachel does demo each exercise and gives just enough of a demo that you can perform the exercise correctly. I do like the fast pace because some days I'm using it to replace an aerobic workout along with a yoga tape. The second half includes some unique variations of pelvic lifts, e.g. pelvic lifts done with one leg raised straight up, which I enjoy a lot. I also love the standing side leg lifts and the buttock compressors.

I've done this tape 3 times now. I find Rachel pleasant to exercise with. She enjoys the workout but she's not perky or too vapid! She's very good at counting the reps so even if you look away from the TV you can keep up. I feel that this tape is a "let the exerciser beware tape" i.e. you have to be familiar with good form and do the modification if you feel a move is threatening to your back. Some of the moves on the second segment may not even be effective because they appear to largely depend on momentum rather than the slow repition. I'm still evaluating this tape to see if it's bothering my back.

I bought the tape at Best Buy for $12.96. The tape is just Rachel and you, one on one. The setting is pleasant with a large areas of geometric color both on the floor and in a large backdrop painting. The music is quiet jazz type music. Rachel uses a wooden weight bench and 8lb. weights.

Yvonne Delamater


As an instructor, she's fine. I just didn't like the structure of the workout.

Instructor Comments:
I was quite disappointed with this tape. Rachel is a bodybuilding champion, and author of two pretty good books (Flex Appeal, and Perfect Parts), but this video is just haphazard. Why would she do four exercises for shoulders, and only one for chest and back, which are much bigger muscles? The arm section was fine, but the leg section was all over the place, and the ab exercises scare me. I wish she had stuck to the real bodybuilding methods like Cory's Get Hard Arms.

Serena Schlueter