PowerFlex by Bally Total Fitness
Year Released: 1998
Categories: Strength Training (Total Body)
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Since Renee described the workout, I'll just add my comments. I think Power Flex is a no nonsense total body workout in 45 minutes. It's like a Firm Workout. You can't lift weights as heavy as Cathe's tapes but it's not light weight/lots of reps like Karen Voight's either. In comparison, I think the Firm's Maximum Body Sculpting tape is funner but I like this workout better than Tough Tape (I don't like too many leg presses). Since the reps are fast, you do feel aerobic conditioning too. The music is low so I don't find this tape exciting nor is the instructor motivating. But I like it nonetheless. It has a lot of back & shoulder work. So this tape compliments other tapes that don't have as much back work (I think some Firms are like that) or they might lack back work altogether. I also like the Clean & Press move because it works your legs as well as your shoulders. The other move I like is where you are lying on your back & the bar goes behind your knees, you can use it (a little) so that your shoulder blades are off the floor when you do crunches. I really felt this move in my abs because of the extra range of motion. I bought this workout because I wanted to try a Body Pump workout. At first, I was disappointed that we couldn't just buy the tape without the barbell. But you really can't use a different barbell because we have to switch plates really fast. It's nice to have two barbells anyway because like Cheryl stated, most people can lift more weight with their legs than their upper body. Tough Tape is a good example of a tape where 2 barbells would be better. I also like the short length of the barbell. Overall, I'm happy with this tape & barbell. I think it's worth $50. I don't recommend it for a beginner though. A person does need to know the various exercises. I'm glad it's not broken down during the workout either because that would slow down the pace.
She gives good instruction & cues well. I don't know her last name. Cheryl mentioned that it was Nevidomsky. If it is, then she really leaned down from the NAC tapes. But I'm not really sure if it is or isn't.
Since Renee gave such a thourough review and breakdown of the equipment and video I will only make some comments about the video and equipment. The equipment is very much the same as we use in the Power Flex classes at the gym except this bar is in 2 pieces which you screw together and isn't quite as sturdy IMO. I do notice when I have the bar loaded with all of the weights (38 pounds total) that it curves slightly. But it is still very sturdy at that weight although I don't think I would load much more than that on it. I plan to use my much sturdier barbell (Firm) for some of the heavier lower body work. This is not a workout though where you need really heavy weights like for Cathe's MIS or PS series because you are doing more reps at a much faster pace. The pace of the workout feels aerobic to me and even the very short rests in between the 5 min. segments is barely enough time to change weights (and they also do very brief stretches in between). I love the format of the exercises used and there are some different exercises that you don't see on other videos such as "cleans and presses". I like how she does 2 different exercises one right after the other and then combines the 2 into a superset...all nonstop. Like Renee I also use dumbbells rather than using the plate weights that they use on the video..because I can't seem to grasp those plate weights too well. Also the next time I do the video I am going to load 2 seperate barbells (one for upper and the other for lower body) so that I can move quickly between sets (I knew there was a good reason to have that second Power Flex barbell :)! I also pause during some of the sets because she does for example a set with back and biceps so that I can change weights accordingly. Fortunately she does do all the back work first so then I can quickly pyramid down (by pausing the tape) to do the biceps. On the Chest/Tricep section however she does alternate between the two so its a lot of weight changing..so using 2 barbells next time will save a lot of time! Overall I really love the format of the workout...although I have found that with this video as well as the Power Flex classes it takes several times through the workout to find the weights that will really work the muscles because of the pace and reps done. The format of the video is different enough from my Power Flex classes at the gym that it gives some nice variety. I highly recommend the Power Flex set..the workout will be a regular in my rotation so I will get lots of use out of it!
Michelle is the same lady that was on some of the Buns of Steel Platinum series. She is very likeable and cues very well. I really like her on this tape because she straight forward and pleasant.
As far as I know, this video is only available with the York Powerflex Barbell set. I got my set at Target for US$49.99. You can also order the set from www.yorkbarbell.com for $49.99 plus shipping (UPS ground).
Included in the set is the two piece chrome bar (3 lbs), two 10lb. plates (plastic-coated iron), two 5lb plates, two 2.5lb plates, and two Quick-Lock collars. Given this range of plates, you can choose resistances of 3 lbs (bar only), 8, 13, 18, 23, 28, 33 and 38 lbs (fully loaded) for the exercises.
The workout is produced by Dragonfly Productions, the same folks who produce the Crunch series. The set is simple but nice. The music reminded me of the music from Crunch TurboSculpt (may be exactly the same) minus the whoop track.
There are three exercisers--Nancy, who works at a low weight with a lesser range of motion; Michelle, the instructor who works with "moderate" weight; and Tigare (sp?) our token male, who works out with "heavy" weight. I'm a regular Firm user and I followed Tigare throughout the workout, using the same weight he did in most places.
I will now begin the very detailed--Hey, it's a new tape!--breakdown of the video. Short-attention-span people can skip to the final paragraph for my summation.
The video is 50 minutes long total. The first 5 minutes is Michelle explaining the workout and teaching you how to choose weights that are right for you, and how to load and unload the bar. She also teaches the basic "functional lift" for the barbell. She says you can use padded gloves. (But although they are recommended in the insert that comes with the set, none of the exercisers use them. I did.) Set your tape counter to start at the end of this section.
The 5 minute warm-up consists of shoulder rolls, arm circles, torso rotations, punches, arm raises, squats, lower back stretches, split (stationary)lunges, split lunges with a leg extension (think of the Firm's Maximum Body Sculpting's dips and kicks done in slow-mo,) knee circles (haven't seen those since 8th grade), and a quick practice of all the basic moves with an unloaded barbell: squats, reverse grip lat pulls, bicep curls, reverse lunges (dips). The stretches last about 2 seconds and IMHO are not worth doing unless you pause the tape and hold them longer. These little mini-stretches are interspersed throughout the workout and I just ignored them after the first time.
The first segment(all segments are approximately 5 minutes long) uses a moderate weight (my buddy Tigare and I loaded our bars with 10lb plates). You do squats holding the bar down in front of you (Keep those abs tight!!!), then bicep curls, then alternating the two exercises. [This sees to be the standard PowerFlex format: do one exercise, then the second, then combine them or alternate between the two.] Then you alternate forward lunges, do overhead presses, then combine the two (lunge forward, press bar overhead, lower bar, step back to starting position.)
For the second segment we load the bar with heavier weight. I added 2.5lb plates--I think Tigare added 5s. Put the barbell on your shoulers and it's time for squats. [While you only do one set of each indivdiual exercise per segment, certain exercises, like squats, show up again in subsequent segments.] Squat down for 1 and up for 3. After that it's time for split lunges, and then we alternate squats and 3 split lunges. This is wobble territory.
The third segment, which begins after we pause the tape to catch our breath, wipe our sweaty face and gulp some water, starts wth an unloaded bar. Michelle says to grab a weight plate, but doesn't tell you why or how heavy. On the tape they use the bar as a dowel for support while doing one armed bent lat rows with a plate. Holding the plates was too awkward, so after doing the workout once, I substituted dumbells in the places where you're supposed to use individual plates. After the lat rows, you load the same plates (I used my 10s) onto your bar for bicep curls. Your first set is 1 up, 3 down, which is followed by a set of 2 up and 2 down, and then you do a third set alternating tempos. This may be almost as bad as Cathe's crazy eights. Ow, ow, ow.
The fourth segment is all legs, so add some more weight to that bar! I've got my 10s and 5s on for a grand total of 33 lbs. It starts with plie squats with the bar behind the shoulders. (I prefer the bar in front the way Cathe does on MIS.) A coupla sets of those at different tempos. Then, very slow dips (step back, down, up, step forward) followed by a set at tempo. Next, a set of calf raises.
The fifth segment is all upper body, so lighten the bar (I shucked my 5s and kept my 10s) and do a set of clean and press, then a set of bent rows, and then combine the two (1 clean and press followed by 3 bent rows). The clean and press hurts my weak little wrists a bit, though the padded gloves help. Follow this with lat shoulder raises using plates (I used 7 lb dumbells) that start at your sides and fan out until you're doing front raises, and then fan back. This is followed by alternating front and side raises.
The sixth segment is chest and triceps so we move to the floor. Here Michelle does a weird thing: She has you unload your barbell, sit with the empy bar on your lap, and then re-load your barbell. I assume this is to keep people from hurting themselves slingign the bar around, but I thought it was goofy and feel I can safely postion my bar with it loaded. Then you lie back on the floor (you could use a step bench here) and do chest presses and tricep extensions, which you then follow with another set (!) of chest presses and tricep extensions. You then unload your bar and use weight plates (or, in my case, 12 lb dumbells) for chest flyes.
The last segment is abs. Crunches with a plate on your chest, obliques with a plate on your shoulder, lower crucnhes, then upper crunches, then alernating lower and upper crunches. And finally you put the bar behind your knees, and, pressing the backs of your knees into the bar to help raise your body off the ground, do 3 little crunches and lower.
The final five minutes are for stretching. You start on the floor and stretch your lower back and hamtrings, do a spinal twist, stretch your quads, do a cobra pose for your upper back and chest, then do a cat and cow pose. Then you stand and do brief chest, back, delt, and tricep stretches. I followed this with a few more hamstring and inner and outer thigh stretches.
Overall, I like this workout a lot. I plan to treat it like a Firm workout and consider it a cardio/strength training tape since you are in constant motion and I know my heart rate stayed up. It doesn't have a big fun factor, but I didn't find it boring, and felt I got a really good total body workout in 45 minutes. I am very pleased with the barbell set, and think I got a plenty of bang for my buck. I think this video could work for anyone from intermediate beginner through advanced.
Michelle (no last name provided) did a great job leading this video. She was nice without being overly perky. Her cuing and form pointers were well-placed. She was very good about saying "Choose the weight that is best for *you*", which I think would make this a less-intimidating tape for beginners/low intermediates.