Streamlined StrengthPetra Kolber
Year Released: 2006
Categories: Total Body Workouts
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Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of this workout.
Recently, I have been drawn to strength workouts that use bands and/or a medicine ball. This workout uses both and I like Petra Kolber, so I decided to try it. It is a long workout, around 80 minutes, but you can choose sections from the menu to do. I wish that you could program the sections you want ahead of time, but that's a minor quibble. It's easy to use the menu system.
The sections include:
> Warm-up: I generally don't like warm ups, but I do them because I should - sort of like a kid eating their veggies. But, I liked this warm up. It uses the medicine ball and I felt engaged from the beginning.
> Upper Body: This section includes all the upper body muscles without overworking any specfic body part. She uses the step (I used my high step) and both a light band and a heavier band and the medicine ball.
> Lower Body: This section has traditional lower body exercises, like lunges and squats and yet has a functional fitness feel with balance challenges and some work done on the step and floor. I used my heavy band and the ball and the step.
> Total Body: This includes compound exercises with both upper body and lower body working at the same time, much of the time. It ends with a push up/plank series.
> Core: Exercises in this section include moves with a yoga and/or pilates feel and traditional core work. It is short, but effective. It calls for using the medicine ball briefly.
> Stretch: This section is longer than in a lot of rushed workouts, but could have been longer. It felt good though.
This is a well-planned traditional strength workout with a functional feel. I thought the segments flowed and enjoyed the band work. There are some options given in an inset window for doing more traditional work with a dumbbell. It didn't look as fun as the band work to me.
Petra is her normal encouraging self. She gives a lot of form pointers. The modifier is pretty good and gives good options for many of the moves. Throughout the workout, Petra encourages you to work at your own level. I would classify this workout as intermediate. It isn't beginner and it isn't advanced, so what's left? She does give you options throughout the workout for easier modifications and for working harder, so I would classify it as having a wide intermediate range. You can get out of it what you put into it.
I love Petra as an instructor, even when I don't like her workout. She is really good at cueing, describing what she wants you to do, and making you feel like whatever you have done is perfect, just right.
I’m reviewing this workout after doing it once.
General workout breakdown: This 80-min. strength workout is divided into separate sections that you can mix and match.
- Warm-up (9 min.): Using the medicine ball, you engage your core, challenge your balance, and stretch dynamically (i.e. range of motion, rather than static). You’ll do upper body moves like figure 8s with the ball, lower body moves like step touches, dynamic stretches like lunges, and balance moves like knees into leg lifts. There’s also a series of standing twist that’s similar to kickboxing punches. Despite the long length, I didn’t feel the blood pumping in my muscles as much as with other weights workouts’ warm-ups, but I definitely believe that turning on the core is an important thing to do before weights.
- Upper Body (17 min.): Exercises include chest press, triceps overhead extension, back rows, biceps curls, “upper cut” / chest flye, draw the sword / rear delt flye, rotator cuff exercise, and lateral raise. Petra changes the tempo (2-2, 3-1, 1-3, and singles is a usual pattern). I appreciate the balance between chest and back, biceps and triceps, and I like that the shoulders aren’t overworked.
- Lower Body (20 min.): Exercises include lunges - lunge with leg lift - 1-legged squat - leg lift, squats (leading up to tossing the med ball as well as squats with ball between legs), front lunge onto step – front lunge w/ upper body twist – rear lunge – rear lunge w/ upper body twist – rear lunge into knee lift, deadlift – 1-legged deadlift w/ leg lift – 1-legged deadlift w/ leg lift & knee up, squat – squat w/ side leg lift, prone leg lift w/ heels together (aka “frog”), donkey kick on all fours, and 1-legged bridge. There are a lot of balance and stabilization challenges; overall this has a functional feel to it, especially with the multi-planer / compound movements. The flip side is that you can’t go particularly heavy with your weights or resistance here.
- Total Body (17 min.): Exercises include chest press in bridge (w/ leg lift), triceps cross-over press in bridge (w/ leg lift), standing row w/ leg lift & cross behind, lunges w/ biceps curls – biceps curls only – rear leg lifts only – triceps kickbacks – shoulder extension (aka triceps pressbacks), side squats w/ overhead press, front leg lifts, side squats w/ lateral raises, alternate arm & leg on all fours (aka bird dog), and triceps push-up series (start prone, then push-up to knees, go into plank, then lower down).
- Core (10 min.): Exercises include flexing and hinging in v-sit w/ feet on floor, v-sit (also known as boat or modified teaser) – reverse bridge / plank (w/ leg lift), supine figure 8s w/ med ball (w/ legs in table top) – figure 8s w/ legs – figure 8s w/ both upper & lower body in opposite directions, crunch and then lift & reach to each side of legs extended up, reverse curl (w/ med ball between legs), extending 1 leg out at a time (similar to Pilates single leg stretch) – bicycle / criss cross, prone back extensions, and low plank on elbows. Yes, the core section is short, but you’re engaging the core for so many of the other exercises in this disc it doesn’t take much to feel these exercises, especially with Petra’s deliberate pace.
- Stretch (6 min.): The seated stretch touches the hamstrings, torso (including a twist), upper back, outer hip, lower back, hip flexors, triceps, and shoulders. Like the warm-up, I could cite other DVDs with stretches that feel more thorough, even in less time, but it was a nice way to end the workout.
Petra encourages you to use weights or resistance that challenge you, but it’s hard to go truly heavy on this workout because it has a relatively high number of repetitions (usually 12-16 in a row) and has some relatively fast tempos (but never so fast that you’re rushing and sacrificing form). The exercises have a nice flow between them, with graceful transitions between series and little down time.
Level: I’d recommend this to beginner / intermediate through intermediate / advanced exercisers. Although Petra provides a good deal of form instruction, tips, and reminders, you should have some strength and a little bit of balance as well as some experience in weights training under your belt to get the most out of this. You can certainly adjust this to your own level by using the appropriate equipment (e.g. using heavier dumbbells and/or tubing with higher resistance if you’re more advanced) and/or by following the modifier.
Class: 2 women, 1 of whom shows modifications that are less complicated and/or challenging, and 1 man join Petra, who instructs live. Additionally, during exercises with tubing (mostly in the upper body, a few in the lower body) a small inset shows the man performing the same or similar exercises with dumbbells.
Music: upbeat instrumental stuff (from Big Beat Music) – your typical exercise video fare.
Set: indoor set with gray floors and walls with vertical elements (lights and blue stripes).
Production: very clear picture and sound. The music’s soft in relation to Petra’s voice. The camera angles usually show all of everyone. My only complaint: the inset cuts off the lower part of the modifier.
Equipment: Petra and crew use a medicine ball (of relatively light weight), 2 sets of tubing (1 of lighter resistance, 1 of heavier), 1 pair of dumbbells, a full-sized / club step with 2 sets of risers, and a mat. If you don’t have tubing, dumbbell-only modifications are provided. If you don’t have a full-sized step, you can definitely manage, especially if you have a high step, Transfirmer, Rubbermaid step, or Bosu lying around for the lunges and squats on and off of the step. (You can do many of the exercises where the step serves as a weight bench on the floor instead.) And if you don’t have a medicine ball (or any sort of weighted ball), you can substitute in a dumbbell. (Just don’t toss that up and down!) I used 2 pairs of dumbbells, 1 tubing (although next time I might sub in some of my resistance bands of varying resistance), a step (mine’s one of those shorter ones) w/ 1 pair of risers, and a mat.
Space Requirements: For the warm-up, you need to be able to take two steps to each side and move your leg around in front and behind you. (At 5’8”, that translated to a space about 7’ long by about 4-5’ deep.) For the workout itself, you need to be able to sit on your step with your legs in front of you as well as take a step back from your step and then do a reverse lunge. (At 5’8”, that was about 10’. Next time I’ll turn my step horizontally – Petra has hers vertically – which will save me about 2-4’ in depth and make it much easier to fit into my 8’ x 6’ puzzle mat-covered space.) You should also have space next to or around the step to do squats with side leg lifts and other exercises not done on the step plus store your equipment while you’re not using it (adding probably another couple of feet to the width of your step).
DVD Notes: The DVD is chaptered by segment, with no individual chapters within segments. The main menu allows you to play all or choose your segment; there’s also an intro with Petra.
Comments: Don’t have 80 minutes? This is easy to break up. You could add on one or even two segments before or after your cardio, for example, or you could split it up to give you two weights workouts for your week (e.g. do Upper Body & Lower Body, then a couple of days later do Total Body & Core, for workouts of 52 min. and 42 min., respectively, with warm-up and cool-down).
I have to say that this workout is a little more interesting when done with tubing, because the dumbbell exercises are many of the same ol’ same ol’. I personally enjoy the balance challenges and stabilization work in the lower body segment, especially since I need that sort of thing to keep old knee and ankle issues at bay. I wasn’t expecting this more functional bit after the fairly straight-forward upper body; what a pleasant surprise!
The format of Streamlined Strength is almost identical to Minna Lessig’s Tank Top Arms, Bikini Belly, Boy Shorts Bottom, but SS is more conventional in its exercise choices, more efficient, and more challenging. SS requires more equipment, however. I’m glad I upgraded to this one, however; I personally will get more use out of this one because it can be more intense than Minna’s.
Petra is very friendly and easy-going. She’s on the chatty side, but it’s almost all about the workout: primarily form tips and reminders, but there’s some instruction and encouragement, too. More experienced exercisers may not be as appreciate of Petra’s attention to instruction as less experienced, since some of it is on the basic side, but fortunately she rarely stops the action to set up, demonstrate, or teach a move.