Totally Firm

Denise Austin
Year Released: 1997

Categories: Total Body Workouts

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OK, over here in the 'land down under' the choice of fitness videos is woeful. That said, it is no surprise that Ms Austin's tape was the only cheap and widely available tape I could find using weights. So here I am, almost a year later, after using only her video for my weight training and not only have I got results but they're results I'm pretty proud of. I won't break down the tape (Susan P you've done a great job of that!) but agree that I feel 'worked out' after the tape and I have (safely) managed to increase the weight I lift a couple of times with no problems. This makes it a very flexible tape - from beginner to advanced and so is one you can grow with. As for Denise and the boredom/ irritation factor? Well, videos are all about me competing against myself, and its the changes and advances I've made using this tape, that make it so interesting for me. So, no it hasn't yet got boring for me.

Instructor Comments:
Denise is perky, we all know that, and as someone mentined earlier, this is toned down somewhat by the poor sound on this video. So really, even if you don't much care for Denise, 'Totally Firm' could be a video you will still enjoy.

Paula Georgieff


This is a great video, Denise really surprised me there! Because of her slow counting you can go really heavy. Well, she's not so good at cuing but if you know that you just follow your own pace.

Kathe Sund


I was very surprised by this video. I believe it's Denise's best video ever. It's a slow 45 minute workout with weights, and a good one to go heavy. My chest felt sore the day after.

I like it better than some of my Firms!



Review: Although many VFers are irritated by Denise's demeanor, I think this is a workout that stands on its own merits despite Denise's sandpapery personality. This is a great weight workout for several reasons:

1) it is THOROUGH. Denise hits every body part, including the oft-neglected rotator cuff muscles and spinal erectors. She hits most body parts at least twice with a variety of different exercises (for example, for triceps you'll do triceps dips, triceps kickbacks, and pushups). Most body parts get an isolation exercise and a compound one when possible.

2) it is VERSATILE. This is a slow workout, every rep is performed in a two counts up/two counts down rhythm. Because it is slow, you can really heavy up on your weights and get an advanced workout if you want to. If you are a beginner, you can use lighter weights and the slow pace allows you to learn good form. The background exerciser on the right has EXCELLENT form on all exercises. Denise's form is also good 95% of the time, but if in doubt, watch the female background exerciser, she is like a perfectly programmed robot in her form!

3) it is time-efficient. Denise circumvents wasting time with rest periods by alternating upper and lower body. One muscle rests while another works, so Denise manages to pack a LOT of varied and thorough exercises into a 40 minute workout.

Now, there are a few little quirks you should be aware of. I already warned you that Denise's personality is not for the faint of heart, although I like her fairly well. Secondly, Denise is not a perfectionist about her counting. She's pretty casual about the number of reps she does. If you are married to the idea of sets of eight reps, do not buy this workout. She does 7 reps here, 13 there, occasionally a set of 20, etc. She is FAIRLY even in counting the reps on each side although not EXACTLY even (you'll do 17 calf raises on one leg and 18 on the other, for instance). If you are anal about counting, DO NOT BUY THIS VIDEO.

This workout was filmed on a beach and it is rather pretty. The music is so unremarkable that I don't even remember it. Denise uses a weight bench, I use my piano bench, you could easily use a full-sized step with two sets of risers or just the floor and a dining room chair. It has a few funny moments. . . Like in the warm-up when Denise has you literally reach back with your hands and LIFT your buns to deepen the hamstring stretch. The male background exerciser has such a pained "I can't believe I'm doing this" look on his face!

Lastly, here is a breakdown of the exercises Denise does in order:

-overhead presses
-stationary lunges on one side
-rotator cuff exercise (are they called L-flyes?)
-side delt lifts
-plie squats
-alternating single-leg raises for lower abs
-double leg raises for lower abs
-triceps dips
-seated front quad lifts
-seated inner thigh lifts
-rear delt flyes
-chest presses
-pec flyes
-lat pullovers
-ab section, upper and obliques
-alternating front delt raises
-double-armed front delt raises
-full biceps curls
-upper half of curl
-lower half of curl
-lat rows
-triceps kickbacks
-calf raises
-pushups (these are YOWIE! already tired, plus she does 'em slow!)
-second ab section, upper, lower, obliques
-two-legged bridge work
-one-legged bridge work
-"swims" (that back exercise where you lay on your stomach and lift one arm and the other leg, then alternate. Is there a better name for these)

Instructor Comments:
Denise is very perky with a slightly condescending twist. She tends to talk to her viewers as though she is a kindergarten teacher and they are 6 year olds. She is overwhelmingly positive in attitude and given to shallow cliches. That said, I have to admit that I kinda like Denise. Of course, perhaps I should say, I rarely ever meet ANYONE I don't like. If you are more picky than I am, be warned.

susan p