SmartBells Basics

Lisa Wheeler
Year Released: 2005

Categories: Total Body Workouts

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Iím reviewing this workout after previewing it once and doing it twice since getting it a couple of weeks ago.

General workout breakdown: This functional fitness workout has three sections: warm up, standing work, and floor work. The entire workout takes between 35-40 minutes. Since this is functional fitness, thereís much more focus on moving through ranges of motion that would be used regularly by an active person (e.g. picking something off of the floor and putting it up on a shelf, or swinging through in golf or tennis) than on building muscle. You will work your limbs, but youíll need to focus on your core muscles in order for the exercises to be effective. There is an element of aerobic weight training here, at least as I understand it, because your heart rate will most likely go up with all of the movement, such as stepping into lunges. The back cover says you could consider this ďcardio,Ē but Iím assuming they mean more aerobic weight training than pure cardio.
The warm up, which lasts about 10 minutes, isnít what most of us vidiots consider a warm up; instead of having cardio moves or some sort of stretch, Lisa starts right away with basic SmartBell moves. Within a minute or two youíre moving the weight around pretty fast. I meant to do a warm up from another workout my second time around but forgot to cue it up beforehand and having just woken up my mind wasnít thinking about that. Also, it might be a good idea to pick up the lighter SB, if you have it, for this section the first few times, especially if youíre relatively new to weights or recovering from an injury.
The standing work, which lasts about 18 minutes, consists of 5-6 segments. Lisa sets up the leg movement first; most of them involve lunges and squats. (However, Lisa does suggest making these moves smaller if thatís going to be an issue for you). She then adds the arm movement. Then she intensifies that movement, for example by making the circle bigger or holding the SB with one hand instead of two. Once or twice she even adds something else to that! If there are two sides involved, she sets up everything identically on the second side.
The floor work, which lasts about 9 minutes, starts with pushups, then moves to chest press and abdominals. It finishes up with a few stretches. Note: there isnít much of a transition between standing and floor work. Lisa tells you to cool down if you need it. I like to have instructors cool me down, although I have been just hitting pause and walking over to the kitchen for a drink and a towel.
Lisa does a fair number of reps on each side, anywhere from 8-12 Iíd say off hand. The number feels appropriate. Although she often stops just about when Iím starting to really feel the move, I also find that Iím just starting to get a little bored of that move at that moment. There is a little pause between each exercise, which Lisa usually fills with a shoulder roll or two. Otherwise the pacing of this workout felt appropriate for me.
We all know itís bad to swing weights around, but this workout isnít about that. Itís about added resistence to your body as you perform a variety of movements. When those movements involve moving the SB through space, you are instructed to control the SBís momentum rather than let it fly around.

By the way, the ďSmartBells StrengthĒ workout has a number of different moves and is longer than this one, so if youíre not crazy about this one donít toss Strength out before at least giving it one spin.

Level: The cover recommends this for all fitness levels. If youíve never used weights before, this isnít the best place to start because Lisa doesnít offer any form instruction, either in basic weights techniques or in using the SmartBells. That said, someone who considers themselves a beginner with respect to weights could use the 3 lb. SB, intermediates the 6 lb., and advanced the 15 lb.
I consider myself an intermediate in weights. Iíve lifted on and off over the years but have returned to heavy (at least, heavier) lifting over the past year or so. I lift 1/2 to 2/3 of what Cathe lifts, depending upon the muscle, move, number of reps, etc. However, Iím new to functional fitness. That said, I found using the 6 lb. SB with this workout was appropriately challenging overall and left me feeling decently worked out but not overly tired or sore afterwards.

Class: Kimberly Spreen and Violet Zaki join Lisa. Violet demonstrates modifications for the standing work and an advanced variation for the floor. Kimberly demonstrates the intermediate modifications when there are some.

Music / Set / Other Production Notes: The music is pleasant but forgettable. It has a decent beat, enough to help you move to the music. The set is the same one used in the most recent CIAs; it consists of a large, brightly lit room with a wooden floor. The walls are light brown, with some plants and chairs placed around and glass objects on the wall and shelves off to the side. This is a Greg Twombly production, so it has very good picture and sound quality overall.

Equipment: SmartBell (your choice of weight, although Lisa, Kimberly, and Violet use the 6 lb. one). Yes, you do need a SmartBell for this exercise. Due to the nature of most of the exercises, they wouldnít work as wellóor even at allówith regular dumbbells or weight plates. For example, one move, ďOrbits,Ē has you circle the SB around your head. I know I wouldnít want to try that with a weight that wasnít curved. All exercisers wear sneakers for the entire workout. Youíll need a mat (or equivalent) for the floor portion.

Comments: This is the workout that comes with the SmartBell. As with any gadget, thereís talk about how great it feels, how you couldnít use anything else to do a particular exercise, etc. (I already bought the silly thing, so donít try to sell it to me again!).

DVD Notes: Thereís a promo/intro that Iíve been able to skip by hitting ďmenuĒ on my DVD playerís remote. There is an introduction to the series that just talks about what makes the SB special. (FYI, this is the same introduction on all three workout videos currently available.) You are able to select just the warm up, standing work, or floor work. The warm up is all one chapter; the standing portion is chaptered by move (both sides in the same chapter, if applicable); the floor work is divided into half. In addition, the original SmartBell Core Exercises with Paul Widerman, the inventor of these gadgets, appears under ďThe InventorĒ in the main menu. Itís definitely a homemade video showing Paul with a class of very normal looking people on some sculpture thingy demonstrating the core exercises, which can be found on the chart thatís included with the SB when you buy it. (I wish, just for curiosityís sake, they would show the partner section promised, but they donít.)

Conclusion: When I previewed this, I thought to myself, ďI should have gotten the 15 lb. one; those moves look easy.Ē Well, put a 6 lb. weight in my hands and ask me to control its momentum, and let me tell you it isnít as easy as it looks. This is definitely not a workout for butterfingers!
Iím not a gadget person; I donít even have a step or stability ball. So why did I cave on this? For a number of reasons: Iím a big fan of Lisa, Kimberly, and Rob Glick (who appears in the Strength one only). I get bored with traditional gym-style weights and need some variety. Someone wrote something on the Forum about these and shoulders, which is perhaps my weakest area. (Yes, these will work your shoulders!) And the 6 lb. SB is even my favorite color: red (even if mine isnít shiny like on the video, but at least it doesnít smell)!
Do I like this workout? Iíd have to say I do. I enjoy working out with the instructors. More importantly, I feel like Iíve done something, yet at the end I do feel more energized than drained, so I can pull out another workout or do something else. And Iím not so sore the next day or even the day after that Iím groaning while walking up stairs or even just sitting there (as some of Cathe workouts can hit me). Playing with this toy is fun, although donít expect it to be the most fun youíve ever had in your life. I wonít switch to the SB workouts as my primary strength training, but itíll provide some nice variety.
Time will tell whether I use these often enough to justify even paying the package price, although I have snuck the SB into other workouts for a move or two. As for this workout, Iím currently using it once a week, alternating it with a Cathe. Once I become more familiar with the SB, I will move on to the Strength video. At that point this will be a workout Iíll pull out when Iím in a time crunch, need (or just want) a lighter workout, etc.

Instructor Comments:
Lisa is a professional dancer as well as choreographer; sheís worked with Jennifer Kries and more recently Denise Austin. I have to admit right off the bat that I like her a lot, but not everyone shares my opinion. Sheís definitely very upbeat and positive in this workout, even more so than in any other workout I have with her except maybe Shape Your Butt, Hips & Thighs, although sheís not over the top by any means. She doesnít include form instruction, which is a bit odd for a basics DVD. She does offer good and adequate form pointers, though, and she often previews the moves, having you stay with Violet and Kimberly as she shows the next progression. Regarding her cueing, I think I know what bothers so many people about it. She tends to introduce the exercise and then leave you to perform it, either visually following what she does or doing it at your own pace and rhythm. In other words, if you need someone to say, ďCircle the weight around and draw your foot in, circle your weight around and draw your foot inĒ for every rep, sheís not the instructor for you. If you need each rep counted out, sheís not the instructor for you. Instead, she does tend to say things like, ďYes,Ē or ďBreathe,Ē which bothered me a teensy bit the first time but not the second, although I have to admit I had my a/c up a little higher the second time. And she does have a different manner of expressing herself; itís not quite the typical three word sentences containing no word with more than two syllables that a number of instructors resort to. But, as I said, I like both her personality and her choreography. I donít have any problem following her, although a couple of the moves are a little tricky at first.