START Fitness: Advanced Training

Ken Weichert
Year Released: 2005

Categories: Total Body Workouts

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I’m reviewing this workout after previewing it once and doing it once.

General workout breakdown: This 47-min. workout is meant to increase your cardiovascular stamina with basic athletic moves and increase your strength by using primarily your own body weight as resistance. To warm up, you start right in with side straddle hops (i.e. jumping jacks), high step / knees, and sprint (often called “football,” “basketball,” or “running” feet); after about 2.5 min. he adds diamond push-ups and crunches to the mix. You continue to alternate between these moves, although the push-ups become triceps push-ups. Then Ken adds in moves like mountain climbers, bend-squat-thrust-jump (aka burpees), supine leg lifts and flutter kicks, reverse curls, wide grip push-ups, lunges, good mornings, ski hops, front kicks, and handstand push-ups. A short strength section of 4 min. features the “clapper,” shoulder rolls, and shoulder raises with the tubing. After still more reverse curls and crunches, 6 min. of stretching the abs, hamstrings, and lower back plus some twists closes the workout.
Ken has you repeat one move until he says switch or until you’ve counted down the number of reps. You alternate between the cardio- and strength-oriented moves. As you can surmise, the moves are simple and athletic in nature. Ken does include a few tempo variations and isometric holds to shake things up.

Level: I’d recommend this to at least solidly intermediate through low advanced exercises. Ken intends for you to have progressed through the beginning and intermediate versions, so he offers only a few form tips and (even fewer modifications) for most of the exercises. He does spend some time on a couple of moves that seem new to this series, like the bend-squat-thrust-jump and wide grip push-up. You must have a decent amount of cardiovascular endurance if you hope to survive this workout, and you should be knowledgeable about and comfortable with the strength moves beforehand. If you are a truly advanced exerciser, you would probably be better served by taking Ken’s class live; from what I’ve heard, it’s significantly tougher than even this video!

Class: 4 men and 10 women put themselves to the test. Sgt. Ken usually stands or squats while talking, sometimes walks around, and sometimes joins in. The class represents a nice cross-section of normal-looking yet fit people, including some who are slightly older in age and a few minorities. The class sometimes participates by shouting “Hoo-hah,” counting, and echoing cadence rhymes.

Music: motivating (mostly) instrumental with a beat - more dance clubby than most exercise video soundtracks. You may have to turn it up a bit to hear the beat well enough for the exercises.

Set: bright interior gym space with large windows at the back. The dj’s booth is in one corner, with a large U.S. flag hanging behind on the wall.

Production: good quality picture and sound. The camera mostly focuses on Ken. The camera angles weren’t distracting, although the steps are so simple it’s not a big deal if you couldn’t see all of everyone all the time.

Equipment: mat (or equivalent, especially if you work out on a hard surface), tubing (or a band), and sneakers. (Don’t forget a supportive sports bra, too, if you need one!)

Space Requirements: This workout is compact. You should be able to lie down with your arms and legs extended. All of the cardio moves are done in place, so if you can do a jumping jack and kick forward without hitting anything you have enough room for the standing portions.

DVD Notes: The start menu allows you to choose the workout or credits. There are no chapters within the workout. My computer’s DVD allowed me to skip the 2.5 min. opening intro to Ken and his program even though my regular player couldn’t.

Comments: START is from STrategic ARmy Traning, and Sgt. Ken, a Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom veteran, is the real deal when it comes to army drill sergeants. The term “bootcamp” gets thrown around a lot in workouts these days, but this video contains what I would call a true boot camp, where you push yourself to your physical and mental limits by using simple athletic steps and tried-and-trued strength moves relying on your own body. Oh, even though this is subtitled “Operation Fit to Fight,” this isn’t training you for anything except life in general, nor is it officially associated with the military.
This video should appeal especially to men as well as women who like tough, no-nonsense kind of workouts with minimal fussing over equipment.
This was definitely a “puke in the bucket” type of workout for someone like me: I like to consider myself a high intermediate+ when it comes to cardio and strength, and this made my heartrate go through the roof and fried my shoulders! I was sore for days afterwards.
The usual cautions apply to those with sensitive wrists (or elbows or shoulders) and knees. Also, if you don’t like workouts where you’re constantly moving from standing to the floor and back up again, skip this one. This is probably not the best way to endear yourself to downstairs neighbors, either.

Instructor Comments:
Although Sgt. Ken is a tough drill sergeant, he’s not one of those cruel, heartless ones you see on TV or in the movies. For one thing, he’s comfortable on camera and in class and shows signs of being a kind, caring human being. For another, he focuses on motivating, asking you to dig deep and not give up - and to remember that “this is for fun.” He seems to know just how hard to push you while respecting that line between “more than you thought you could do” and “too much.” He wants you to get fit and to feel good about yourself, but he won’t baby you, let you feel sorry for yourself, allow you to make excuses, tell you how many calories you’re burning, or remind you how great your butt will look later. Rather than asking you to express your individuality, Ken has you follow the group, feeding off of their energy and motivation. Ken does a good job of cueing, even if the moves are simple. He does not mirror cue, however, calling out the right and left of his class behind him; given the simple nature of the moves, this shouldn’t confuse most people. He includes helpful form tips here and there.