Hardcore: Muscle Max

Cathe Friedrich
Year Released: 2005

Categories: Total Body Workouts

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Muscle Max is a 68 minute full body strength training workout led by Cathe Friedrich. This workout was part of her Hardcore series from 2005. Cathe is accompanied by Lorrayne, Rhonda, Brenda, and Cedie. For this workout, you will need an 8-inch step, a barbell (optional but recommended), multiple sets of dumbbells (I use a range from 5 to 20 pounds), and a resistance band (Cathe and crew use medium tension but a lighter or heavier band can also be used).

After a brief warm-up, Cathe begins with the first of two lower body sets. The first set is as follows: dumbbell squats (a warm-up series of 24 reps), barbell squats (one long endurance set with varied rep speeds and "low ends", or slow pulses in the bottom range in counts of 7 or 3), and static barbell lunges (one set per leg; this is also a long endurance set with varied rep speeds and "low ends"). You'll be glad the lower body work is over, at least for now! Chest is next. It begins with two sets of 12 push-ups (with an 8 second rest between the sets), continuing with two sets of dumbbell pec flyes (first set with a 2-2 count, second with a 4-4 count adding supination at the top), and finishing with a "bonus burn" set of push-ups (including tempo changes). After this, it's time to work the back. You begin with two sets of barbell bent over rows (with an underhand grip), bent over dumbbell rows (one set per arm, using the tempo changes in the "bonus burn" push-ups), and barbell ribcage pullovers (one set).

Ready to work the legs again? You begin with leg presses (step-ups) with the resistance band underneath one end of the step. Two sets are performed on each leg. The lower body work finishes with two long sets of pulsing plie squats (holding one dumbbell and passing it from hand-to-hand). Shoulder work is next. It begins with two sets of slow dumbbell lateral raises, before moving into a "bonus burn" set using the resistance band (with the band set using both full range movements and pulses; believe me, your shoulders will be on fire!). After two sets of slow upright rows, you finish with a unique barbell exercise which Cathe calls a "Front Raise into a Rear Delt Squeeze." I've also seen this exercise performed with dumbbells in an old Rachel McLish VHS tape, which Rachel calls "Uprights." Two brief sets are performed.

Whew--onto biceps! You'll begin with two sets of slow barbell curls (done to a 4-4 tempo), before moving into "partial curls" with dumbbells. These are similar to the Crazy 8's in Cathe's Maximum Intensity Strength and Body Max workouts, but not exactly the same (plus dumbbells are used here). The last upper body muscle group to be worked is triceps. You begin with a superset of French presses and tricep dips, performed twice. The tricep work finishes with kickbacks using the resistance band. Both full-range and pulsing moves are used.

Core work is next, beginning with prone extensions (Supermans). Cathe then moves into a supine for position for a methodical series of crunch variations, plus jackknifes, hip lifts, and v-sit oblique crunches. A short stretch (about 5 minutes), concludes the workout.

Although this workout is labeled advanced, intermediate exercisers can also benefit from it too. Just use ligher weights and perform less reps and/or sets. The "mix and match" option on the DVD menu allows you to customize your own workout, by selecting an exercise one at a time. When using this option, the DVD will return to the "mix and match" menu after each exercise. There are also four premixes: Timesaver (full body, 56 minutes), Upper Body Push/Pull (33 minutes), Lower Body only (23 minutes), and Upper Body only (42 minutes).

This was my first Cathe strength workout, and it remains my favorite. It's extremely versatile (with the "Mix & Match" and premix options), and doesn't overwork or underwork anything. Cathe gives excellent form pointers throughout. The music is decent as well. I highly recommend this DVD for intermediate and advanced exercisers.

Instructor Comments:
Cathe gives excellent cueing and form pointers, and is warm and personable. I also find her physique inspiring.

Garrie A


I am not very familiar with Cathe's workouts. For years I avoided her, thinking that she was for the uber-fit and advanced home exerciser. I started with Kick, Punch & Crunch, which earned a permanent place in my collection. I tried a few of Cathe's weight workouts, but none have stayed with me...until Muscle Max.

I generally prefer low-weight/high-repetition workouts, but I see the merits in building muscle and strength. This is my first "heavier" weight dvd. I really like it. I have done it 2x a week for the past 3 weeks and I'm seeing progress in my strength and endurance.

I like that the majority of the workout is upper body; I have tons of lower-body-only workouts. And, amazingly enough, the paltry 15ish minutes of lower body in Muscle Max are KILLER! Wow, I'm GLAD it's short! And it's nothing spectacular, but those low-end squats/lunges, plus step ups with a band, just hit the spot so well!

I haven't done the ab work yet; I tend to skip abs, frequently. (Oh, alright...always!) Overall, a good addition to my collection. I am looking forward to trying some of Cathe's other heavy weight offerings.

Instructor Comments:
Cathe is so professional. The production values are great; things flow fairly well. She sure does like her equipment, but hey -- if I had more space, I probably would too! She's incredibly ripped in this dvd (she appears a bit "softer" in recent releases), but I find her physique very motivating.



I've never been a huge fan of Cathe's total body workouts where she focuses on one body part at a time. I really prefer circuit type workouts for total body. I've kept this one for a long time though, because I think of all of her total body workouts, this is one of the best and most thorough.

The premixes are pretty good on this one. Push-Pull mixes it up a little and it nice and short. The lower body only premix is only 23 minutes (15 if you are just doing the actual work.) And there is a Timesaver premix.

However, I just am not using this workout and I just don't enjoy it that much when I do, so I've decided it's time to pass it on. I may get the download later after I see how well the Workout Blender works, because I wouldn't mind being able to do my own Push Pull with some of these exercises.

Cathe has so many strength workouts - I just don't need them all!

Lisa C


DURATION 68 minutes
EQUIPMENT The Original Health Club Step, weighted barbell, resistance band, and various weighted dumbbells
TYPE Strength
MUSIC Very good, some recognizable early 90s stuff
IMPACT Low impact
LEVEL Advanced

This is a full body strength workout led by the advanced workout queen, Cathe Friedrich. I found the workout to be very tough without dreading it. Of course, I couldn't match Cathe on all her weight choices, so I modified down a bit. Don't let the fact that this is billed as an advanced workout deter you from enjoying it!

The exercises have been broken down, so I won't go into that again. Let's just say that I found it to be thorough and there weren't too many reps or sets to make me not want to do it again. You do short stretches between each exercise (except for the ones you're supersetting) and a nice short stretch at the end. However, I usually add my own 10 minute stretch routine at the end of every workout. I haven't found anyone except maybe Kathy Smith and Gilad who give adequate stretches at the end of their workouts.

Overall, a very effective workout, and one of my favorite Cathe strengths routines.

PROS: Unlike many people, I really liked the music in the workout. For me, the time flew by because of the music. Cathe gave many form pointers and joked a little bit, but remained professional. I liked that she added in the band work to break up the monotony. Finally, I liked that this workout didn't seem to be rushed like her Pyramids. There was time to change weights or get a piece of equipment in place. OR take a much needed breather :)

Another pro: although premixes are included, I found that at around the 33 minute mark, you can actually make this into a lower/upper body split routine without using the premix. Just stop at the 33 minute mark and pick up the rest the next day. Very nice if you find yourself running short on time. Of course, you'd have to add your own warm up the next day.

CONS: I wish that she had kept the lower body work together. I don't really like lower body work, so I would have rather she exhausted that body part before moving onto the next. Also, I wish that she had done more lower body floor work as opposed to so many lunges and squats. Stretch segment could be longer at the end too.

OVERALL: Very glad to have this workout in my collection. I guess I would rate it as between heavy strength and endurance. Not quite enough reps and sets to rate as endurance, but too many reps to be a full heavy strength workout.

Instructor Comments:
Cathe gave form pointers and joked a bit, but not too much that you are rolling your eyes that next time you do the workout.



I held off on buying this one for more than a year because I figured how many cathe strength workouts do I really need? So last week I bit the bullet and ordered it, because it has been recommended at VF so much. What a great addition to my collection! MuscleMax is a little different than my other Cathe strength stuff(PH, MIS and PS) in that she doesn’t do three sets of ANYTHING. She starts out with a set of four count reps, enabling me to go heavy. Then, she finishes it off with a varied tempo set, which is longer. She also uses the bands in this one, but no ball. Surprisingly, there were no overhead presses! There are, however, lots of pushups. I wimped out and finished up with chest presses. The whole thing wraps up in 68 minutes, and the ab work at the end is what I’d consider more traditional ab work, not so much core stabilization. I did it 2 days ago and my inner thighs and rear are STILL sore. This one is a keeper. Love the music, too!!

Instructor Comments:
Cathe really shines in this workout. She's awesome.

Peggy T


This is a thorough all over muscle workout. It is complete and it is efficient. It basically is what it says. It hits every muscle. Not overly so, not "underly" so, but efficiently. I can't say this workout kicked my behind, and I'm an advanced exerciser; nor can I say it was too easy. I can say, with a cardio workout added, it's the perfect routine. She does the usual fare - which I'm finding with her doesn't change much. You've got your squats, your static lunges, leg press with the band, pushups, flies, tricep dips and overhead presses, lat raises (with the band also), bicep curls, rows..... like I said, your usual fare. There was a nice combination move for shoulders which was new, so i must note that. She does a great little ab routine at the end. Like I said, not killer, but efficient. That's the best way I can describe this workout, but that's subjective and I consider myself to be advanced.

Instructor Comments:
Cathe is her usual self in this video. Friendly, down to business. No different than her usual upbeat, real self.

Denise Berger


This is the first Cathe strength workout I've tried, and I found it to be intense and challenging without being gruelling. However, keep in mind that this is an advanced workout, so intermediates like myself will probably need to lift less weight than Cathe (I generally used 1/2 to 2/3 of what Cathe was using) in order to complete the workout. Cathe uses a variety of equipment in this workout, including a barbell, several sets of dumbbells, a full club step, and a toning band, but I was able to get by without the barbell, step, or band (although my modifications may have further lowered the intensity of the workout).

The main workout on Muscle Max is 68 minutes long, but the DVD also offers several premixes: Upper Body Only (42 minutes), Upper Body Push-Pull (33 minutes), Lower Body Only (23 minutes), and Timesaver (56 minutes). The full workout breaks down as follows: Warm-Up, Lower Body, Chest, Back, Lower Body, Shoulders, Bicep, Tricpes, Core and Stretch (the DVD includes subchapters under each of the above categories; see Cathe's web site for a full list of exercises plus video clip). During the warm-up, you are constantly moving rather than performing static stretches, but I liked that Cathe still managed to thoroughly stretch each muscle group that was going to be worked. Also, Cathe constantly varies the count, which adds interest as well as varying intensity to each movement. Another thing I liked about this workout was that Cathe allows plenty of time between exercises, thereby providing you with an opportunity to rest AND to change your weights as needed. I also enjoyed the upbeat music, some of it vocal.

Overall, this routine left me feeling completely worked out, yet not exhausted, which means that it was enjoyable and has little dread factor. I think that both advanced exercisers and intermediates who are will to modify can get a great workout from this video--highly recommended!

Instructor Comments:
Cathe is clearly one of the best fitness instructors out there; she is professional, cues well, and displays perfect form. Sometimes I find her way of talking to be a bit stilted, but obviously, that's just a matter of personal preference.

Beth C (aka toaster)


This workout is a grueling 68 minutes long. It is incredibly thorough and tough. Unlike most of her other full body strength workouts, the leg work is divided into two sections. This works well since the leg work is super tough. It starts with squats with lots of variations on the count: 2-2, 3-1, 4-4, low ends and pulses. It reminded me of Power Hour as it was long and brutal. Next is lunges. I was going to keep my weight at 45 but Cathe lowered hers and I wisely followed. Again, lots of pulsing reps and low ends. Very little rest between sets.

Chest work is next. Push ups followed by chest flies. She adds an interesting twist (literally) on the second set which I really felt. Just when I though chest was over she adds a second set of push ups with an extra slow count. I had some choice words about those push ups. Very tough.

Back work is next. I really disliked how she did the lat rows. There were so many changes in the rep speed that it reminded me of the Firm's Super Sculpting. Since I don't like to look at the TV while doing these (would cause me to come out of alignment,) I had to rely on Cathe's cues which were sometimes late or non-existant. Hopefully, after a few times with this workout, I'll have the rep count memorized. She also does pull overs and bent over rows with a barbell.

More leg work. I nearly cried when she announced this. First up was leg press with the band. This caused me to really cry and ask for my mother. I swear there were flames shooting from my butt. These REALLY get you deep in the glute area. I felt these more than I feel leg press with 20 lb dumbells. Plie squats were next but she added a twist were you switch the dumbell from hand to hand. Didn't feel much different to me but the extra long sets made me think I had peed my pants because my thighs were so hot (was that TMI?!?!)

Shoulders are next. Side raises are first. She doesn't do the "imagine you're pouring a big pitcher of water" thing anymore but some might still find them uncomfortable. Next are upright rows. Her tip to keep your arms wider if it's uncomfortable worked for me. Next is a new Cathe move where you do a front raise into a delt squeeze. I used dumbells since I found a barbell uncomfortable. This was tough! Front raises with the band add gasoline to shoulders already on fire. I was in pain and very glad this was the last exercise.

Biceps are next. Pretty standard here. Regular curls (which I used dumbells for instead of the barbell.) She did what seemed to be a variation on figure eights (painful and better be effective for all that pain!) I wish she had used the band here.

Triceps are last. An incredibly torturous superset of overhead press followed by dips repeated twice. I had to take a break here and lowered my weight on the second set. Zero rest between supersets and a blink and you'll miss it rest between sets. Kickbacks using the band add a new and incredible burn at the end. I enjoyed these although it was a bit tricky to get the band placed right. I'm sure it will get better with practice.

Core work finishes it off. This is MUCH tougher than Core Max. Kind of reminded me of the abs in Slow and Heavy (which I love.) Very long and high rep with little rest. Much more focus on the lower abs than is usual for Cathe.

Stretch is short but adequate. I didn't move for a good ten minutes after Cathe told me the workout was over. All in all, a good workout. Crappy music but when you have flames shooting from your butt, you really don't care.

Instructor Comments:
Professional as always. She is very encouraging but not in an annoying way. She provides good form pointers. She is very ripped in this workout.



I found the music selection to be really bad.

The warmup had this song that had that weird vocal sound effects that you find in Cher's "Believe". I personally cannot stand the way it sounds when the vocals are mixed in that way.

Then, the lunges had this awful song that sounded like background music for the buck rogers tv show back in the 70s. Maybe it sounded like that - it's been a long time since I saw the show, but that's what I immediately thought of. 70s futuristic. No vocals. VERY irritating and later on during it's interminable play, it started sounding like woo woo woo (No, it wasn't the background exercisers - just an annoying sound in the song)

Really distracting from the workout. I was so aggravated by the music, I couldn't even enjoy the workout.

So I'm getting rid of it.

I also had a sound glitch where the sound cut out and got quieter.

Instructor Comments:
Cathe is her usual self.