Slim Sculpt

Ellen Barrett
Year Released: 2008

Categories: Total Body Workouts

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This is the second workout that I have tried in Ellen Barrett's studio series. Although I didn't click very well with some of her older workouts (e.g., Crunch Pick Your Spot Pilates), I recently tried and loved her Fusion Flow, so I thought I would look into to some of her other newer DVDs.

As with all of her studio workouts, Ellen performs this routine barefoot in a large, open studio. She has two background exercisers, Debra and Meg, who modifies the exercises to be performed without weights. The only equipment used is a mat and LIGHT weights (at most 3#, but even that felt heavy to me for many of the movements). The Main Menu offers options for Play All, Chapter Selection, and Greetings from the Studio!

Although this workout is well-chaptered, the chapters flow into each other rather than have defined start/end points. However, I will use the names which appear on the chapter menu to describe each segment in greater detail below (all times are approximate).

Warm-Up (5 minutes)
Ellen begins with gentle breaths in and out, arm circles, and plies; she concludes the warm-up with an inner thigh stretch.

Side Leg Lift Series (5.5 minutes)
Ellen picks up the weights for this segment and begins with a side arm lift, palms up/palms down. She transitions into side-to-side leg lifts, continuing with arm movements. This move ends with a squat circle. She also performs "butterfly arms" (wide, circling arms) while doing plies from side-to-side. She repeats the whole series, this time lifting the leg to the rear.

Plie Stance Series (9.5 minutes)
Ellen continues to use the weights for even more arms work in this section. Standing in a Pilates stance, she performs moves including side reaches, shoulder presses, big circles with plies, triceps overhead presses, sun arms, Pilates arm circles, Pilates chest expander, and additional butterfly arms. The legs get just a bit of work with a set of static lunges to either side.

Pulley Arms Lunge (9.5 minutes)
The name of this segment describes the first move: a single leg lunge with a one-arm "pulley" move to the rear. Additional moves include whisps around the body, back extensions with lasso arms, single and double arm rows, and again, just a bit of legs work with skater squats.

Mat Work (10.5 minutes)
Ellen begins here with a twisting move from a reclined seated position. She then comes to lying for some Pilates-inspired matwork, including single leg stretch, ballerina criss-cross, partial to full rollup, and knee drops (progressively adding increased challenge).

Final Stretch (5 minutes)
Ellen starts the stretch in cobbler's pose for a rocking butterfly move; she also performs some hip lifts. Additional stretches include a seated twist, cross-legged forward bend, and brief neck/shoulder stretches to finish.

Overall, I enjoyed this workout. It definitely had more of an upper body emphasis, although I was aware of that going in. However, I found it a bit difficult to find the right amount of weight to use consistently throughout the workout. I started off with 3#, but this quickly felt too heavy. I switched to 2#, which was better, but I found that I liked doing some movements, such as the butterfly arms, much better without the weights. So, the second time I did the workout, I tried it WITHOUT the weights for most of the exercises (I still used weights for the tricep work and rows), and I found this to be much more to my liking, as I got better range of motion from the movements.

I am glad I discovered Ellen's studio series and would definitely recommend these DVDs.

Instructor Comments:
Ellen is definitely bright and cheerful, but I certainly don't find her annoyingly so. I think she offers very good mirrored cuing in both of the studio workouts I have tried so far. I did notice that as compared with Fusion Flow, she talks more in this workout about how certain exercises are very "flattering" to a woman's shape. This didn't bother me, but I'm mentioning it should it bother someone else. ;)

Beth C (aka toaster)


This is one of the three original Studio workouts put out by Ellen Barrett (she has also done several Crunch Fitness, Flat Belly, and Self Magazine workouts). It is 45 minutes and is unique from the other two Studio workouts because it incorporates small hand weights for the first 30 minutes (I would not recommend higher than 3# weights). The final 15 minutes is spent on the floor for a Pilates mat series. This is a good video to cross-train with Fat Burning Fusion because it has an arm emphasis, whereas FBF has a leg emphasis.

If you have used Ellen’s workouts before you will recognize her signature moves such as breathing plies, butterflies (plie squats with “heart opening” arm movements), and swan extensions, and for her exercising barefoot. She emphasizes the mind-body connection, finding your “heart center,” and shaping the “female physique” without the use of heavy weights (or any weights in this workout). Using the hand weights for these moves really ups the intensity, and you will get a solid arm endurance workout. There are several arm movements throughout, including French press, fast moving military press, one arm rows and pulleys, lateral arm circles (two long sets – feel the burn!), and lots of fast arm movements throughout. Believe me your arms will be feeling it. When I want to take it down a notch, I follow one of the background exercisers (Meg) who does not use weights. You still get a great workout without weights.

If you are not familiar with Ellen, I would highly suggest her workouts for a “feel good” outcome more than a “feel the burn,” (except for those arm circles ;-) “puke in a bucket,” or “sweatfest” outcome, and to steer clear of her if you do not like the mind-body connection, or if you do not like plie squats! Also if you are a Pilates or Ballet purist and do not like fusion workouts, this might not be to your liking, although I think she succeeds at incorporating the elements of those principles correctly in her workouts. She constantly reminds you about core engagement and about proper form.

This is a highly treasured DVD in my large collection. This is one of my best “feel good” workouts that lifts my spirit and makes me feel more elongated and elegant, and just happier and more content with life. I like to use it as a vacation workout (sans weights), recovery cardio day (sans weights), or an arm endurance workout (with 3# weights). While I love FBF and Yogini, this is my absolute favorite Studio workout. The music is the best of the three and I like the moves the best too. I also feel like I get two different “types” of workouts because the workout is equally enjoyable with or without weights. The floor series is not remarkable as far as Pilates mat work goes, and I usually make this a 30 minute workout with the standing series only.

There are two background exercisers and one of them performs beginner modifications (i.e., no weights used). I really like Ellen’s clever color contrast of the hot pink and black outfits (and hot pink weights to boot) and how the background exercisers have the exact opposite outfit as her. The workout takes place in a spacious and uncluttered studio and the music is GREAT – she has a knack for picking out upbeat music that really works with the exercise moves. Collage Video lists this as intermediate and I think that is an appropriate rating, especially with usage of very light hand weights. I always work up a gentle sweat, enough to know I’m working (and the DOMS will sneak up on you) but not so much that I feel taxed or overexerted. The chaptering is good (every tune lasts about 10 minutes and you can skip to each tune) and you can play the entire workout or skip to one chapter from the DVD menu. Grade A+!

Instructor Comments:
Ellen is enthusiastic, encouraging, and bubbly, always smiling and clearly enjoying the workout with you. She does have several “Ellenisms” including “opening your heart center” and “creating the female physique” that she refers to quite often and that might annoy some but it doesn’t bother me. Like I said she highly emphasizes the mind-body connection. She smiles a lot and it is hard not to smile with her! I also enjoy that she looks very healthy and fit. I enjoy that she included her sister Meg in her original Studio workouts.

Emily B.


Blending multiple exercise principles, Slim Sculpt tones you without bulking (think dancer's physique). Slim Sculpt puts the emphasis on upper body sculpting making this workout a perfect compliment to Ellen's Fat Burning Fusion (which contained more lower body work).

The standing series runs approximately 30 minutes. Using very light hand weights (1-3 lbs max), you'll flow through precise exercises to work the upper body. All areas of the upper body, including back and chest, are hit while standing (as well as some lower body toning due to the incorporation of such stances as plies and lunges). Many of the movements are small and controlled but you will feel it! Incorporating continual movement will increase heart rate and burn calories. Lots of form pointers & tips ensure safety.

The floorwork is about 15 minutes and works the glutes, legs and core. Pilate movements as well as more traditional toning are demonstrated. Lots of core engagement, you'll feel the entire abdominal area being worked. Ellen also includes some bridge work to really tone the butt/hamstring area.

The workout concludes with a great seated stretch. It gentle cools you down and relaxes you as well.

Done barefoot and with minimal equipment, Slim Sculpt is a total body workout with an upper body focus. If you liked Fat Burning Fusion, you'll love Slim Sculpt! Anyone can participate as the exercises are easy to follow (but still tough enough for fitness veterans!). Ellen includes a modifier for even easier variations. Time will fly in this little gem--if you enjoy fusion workouts then give Slim Sculpt a try!

Instructor Comments:

Set: same as Fat Burning Fusion, it's visually appealing & not distracting.

Music: Instrumental throughout