The Firm: Upper Body

Susan Harris, Janet Jones-Gretzky, Sandahl Bergman, LaReine Chabut, Jayne Poteet
Year Released: 1994

Categories: Upper Body Strength

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This workout is a Firm Parts compilation with parts from five of the six original volumes (Volume 5 is excluded because there was no arm work to contribute). I used to do this workout every Saturday and I think it contributed to my shapely arms! My arms have since gotten less shapely (I stopped using this workout a couple of years ago when I got a contusion in my chest from an injury and never got back into it). Now I picked it up again with the intention of doing it every week again. After doing it today for the first time in a long time, I can see why my arms were looking so good – this is hard! Lots of work for all the different areas of the upper body-abs excluded-in no particular order: two sets of chest flies (Volumes 1 and 2), one set of ribcage pullovers (Volume 2), two sets of military press (Volumes 1 and 4), a long set of triceps/shoulders (Volume 2), one set of upright row (Volume 4), one arm triceps French press (Volume 3) and one set of double arm French press (Volume 4), one long set of 20 one arm triceps kickbacks (Volume 6), three sets of one arm lat rows (Volumes 2, 3, and 4) and a set of double arm rows (Volume 6), also three sets of pushups (Volumes 2, 3, and 4). The arms are thoroughly worked! Some might consider it overkill (and I can see how it might be seen that way), it just depends on how you prefer to train.

The workout is all strength with no cardio intervals and clocks in at 35 minutes with warm up and cool down. The warm up is from Volume 3 and the cool down from Volume 2. If you like the Firm classics, you will like the Upper Body Parts workout. There is a host instructor that introduces the moves between clips and overall the compilation is edited very well. Mansion setting with classic Anna Benson music. Overall grade A!

Instructor Comments:
The host instructor was good but it was the original instructors that “did the work”: Susan Harris from Volumes 1 and 4 is spectacular; Janet Jones-Gretzky from Volume 2 is a good instructor although not a very good cuer and does not provide form pointers; Sandahl Bergman from Volume 3 and Jayne Poteet from Volume 6 are both wonderful instructors.

Emily B.


With strength work, I am an intermediate exerciser, who doesn’t really want to move up to advanced work. I have really enjoyed getting into workouts on the ball and Pilates as an alternative to traditional strength training. Traditionally, I have ALWAYS done full-body workouts as I didn’t see the sense in split workouts (upper and lower body). Recently, I have been rethinking this and have been trying a few split workouts and have found they give me more of a focus on certain muscle groups.

I got this video in a trade and, frankly, didn’t expect to like it. But, I had read about it for a long time and, after all, Alta recommended it! I thought I’d try it – and I’m glad I did. I really, really liked this workout. It flows well and hits all the upper body muscle groups. I hated the warm-up, but will substitute my own in the future. I did have to stop the tape several times to give myself the time I needed to switch dumbbells, but that is typical (for me) with Firm workouts. As I was walking upstairs finishing it, I felt thoroughly worked out, but not sore.

Instructor Comments:
The instructors are those from the Firm Classics. So, they are the same as they were in the full workouts. However, I liked the way it jumped from instructor to instructor. In my mind, it accentuated their positives and minimized the negatives.

Laura S.


Although I am by no means a “FIRMie”, this is my all-time favorite upper body strength workout! I think they ought to call it “Lats of Steel” for all the lat work though.

This workout, if done regularly, will give me the best upper body definition of any other upper body tape I’ve tried (including Joyce or Cathe). It covers all the muscles thoroughly in an accptabe amount of time.

I skip the jazz dance warm-up with Sandahl. I’ll do something else instead. I will often substitute more bicep work instead of the many lat rows. There are lots of push-ups (hate ‘em, but try to do ‘em). I don’t always do the dancy stuff with the moves. I try to focus on form.

And who can resist Janet J-G saying, breathily,”Laaatisssimmmuuussss Dorrrsssaaiiiiii”.

(I have this on DVD with “Standing Legs” which I have watched several times, but never done!)

Instructor Comments:
Several sexy, breathy instructors. Who are very strong.



This workout is a nice compilation from classic Firm videos which provides a targeted upper body workout in just under 40 minutes. It begins with a warm-up led by Janet Jones-Gretzky and then moves on to the arms work. In the traditional Firm style, many of the moves are designed to raise your heartrate while toning, so you will frequently perform simple lower body movements while working your upper body with weights. The instructors offer suggestions for the amount of weight to use and often pyramid to a heavier weight between sets. To make the transitions between the various instructors a bit easier, the workout also contains brief new segments with DePrise Brescia, who provides instructions on setting up for the next move. Some of the exercises are performed for more than one set by different instructors--namely lat rows and push-ups. Overall, this is a solid upper body workout that I continue to use as part of my regular rotation.

Instructor Comments:
You'll see a variety of styles here from soft-spoken to downright frisky. ;-)

Beth C (aka toaster)


This is one of the FIRM Parts series. I must admit that I have had it on my shelf for well over a year and had never tried it out. Well, that all changed yesterday and with the way my triceps feel this morning, I felt I had to review it!

The workout is about 40 min long. You need to be sure to have many different size dumbbells readilly available in case you suddenly discover that the weight you usually use for a particular exercise is the wrong weight to use on this'll find out quickly.

First of all, let me say that I usually do my triceps and shoulders with 5lb dumbbells. Well, I had to lower my weight yesterday because after a minute with 5lb-ers on my triceps, I had to move to 3lb-ers. There are a zillion reps in there and I could so feel the burn!

As for the rest of the tape, I felt that there were enough sets of each upper body muscle group that I got a fairly good workout. Biceps were definitely lacking and Lats may have been a bit overdone, but I suppose that's fixable if you just substitute one set or more of lat work for some bicep work. there is also no ab work

All in all, today I feel pretty good. My triceps have a nice dull ache in them and I feel like superwoman today! I've never really had a workout target the triceps that much! I was disappointed that there was no ab work, but added on an ab tape later on in the day. I feel like I got a great workout and i will definitely be adding this one into more of my regular rotation because I think, given how I feel today, that this tape will give me great shape to my upper body if I use it regularly.

Instructor Comments:
Deprise Brechia (I know I spelled it wrong) is the "personal trainer" for this one and has very little play in the video. The otehr instructors are the ones we know and love from the classics.

Cori (ziggy2306)


I really like this video. It shortcomings (well, only one) is easily modifiable. The body of the workout is about 30 minutes, and it has a warmup and cooldown as well as an upper body warmup with light dumbbells.

Collage lists this video as intermediate-- no way. If you use weights that challenge you, your upper body will be limp as a noodle and you'll be sweating buckets when you're done no matter what level you are-- unusual for an upper body only tape.

This tape hits back, chest, triceps very, very thoroughly. It hits shoulders thoroughly. It is extremely lacking in the biceps department-- maybe one or two sets if that. Since there are so many one-armed rows, what I do is do double-armed bent rows for a couple of those sets, and then in the last 2 sets of one-armed rows (with Janet Jones), I substitute two sets of biceps concentration curls. It works out perfectly.

This tape uses all the best parts of the classics, I think. It uses those great one-armed triceps french presses from Vol. 3 so you can really isolate. It has several sets of rear delt flyes, which are usually lacking. It has many sets of pec flyes as well as endless pushups. Lots of lateral raises. When you need extra upper body work, go for this tape. You can't go wrong-- you can buy this tape for around $6 from and I've seen it pretty cheap elsewhere. It's even worth the $14.95 Collage charges for it, I think.

I feel most of the FIRM tapes don't provide adequate upper body work, and so this tape is a must since I focus on upper body and find it harder to develop than my legs. Highly recommended.

Instructor Comments:
All the instructors are from the Classic series. The "transition chick" is Deprise Brescia, and she doesn't do enough to merit a review. She's your typical, beautiful, polished, very thin, early FIRM instructor. The Hairless Wonder (Tracy James) is also featured in the beginning of this one, discussing upper body muscles.

Sara Whitney


While I'm not debating the effectiveness of this video, I much prefer a straight weightlifting tape to be more organized in its approach. I prefer either the Firm total body volumes, or Cathe Friedrich's strength tapes (strength section of Bodymax, MIS, & the Pure Strength series). I feel that the segments used in this video were meant to be intermixed with lower body work and the Firm aerobics. Since you are working the muscle groups of the upper body with very little rest, you will need lighter weights than you would use with the Classic Firms. Unfortunately, no mention is made of this on the tape. I used this tape in conjunction with Firm Standing Legs or Lie Down and Work Out, but with Cathe's Pure Strength series now available, I'm considering putting this one on the exchange.

Instructor Comments:
DePrise Brescia introduces the individual segments; the snippets are edited from the Classic Firms. While the instructors generally use proper form, they give very little instruction on form and very little on appropriate weight. I feel that this lack of instruction can be unsafe.

Kristin Aziz


I like this video and it is in my regular rotation...right now I also use Cory's tape and MIS and I have to admit I do like those ones better...but Upper Body is a solid's a good length because you can always tack on a cardio activity beforehand or do it on a day you're short for time...

The video recommends using 3 different pound weights though I just use 2...I do plan on buying another, heavier, set soon though...a tall box is also used though if you don't have one you can modify...and a board is used during chest flies...I personally don't use one...

The other reviews mentioned the rarity of bicep exercises...since I do MIS and Cory's tape this doesn't bother me but it would be easy to just substitute a set of lat rows with bicep curls...

Overall I give this tape an A- and definitely recommend it...

Instructor Comments:
This video is a "collage" of upper body work from the Firm's Volumes 1-4 and 6...All of the instructors are fine though Janet Jones-Gretzky's voice bothers me at times...Susan Harris, with her "sexy" cues, amuses me though...I know she does get on other VFers nerves...But overall the instructors are good/decent cuers and pleasant...



This is an okay upper body video, but with Cory and MIS, it's not being used so much in my rotation. I find there is very little bicep work and too much shoulder and lat work, so I would substitute some of that stuff with bicep work. I do like the alternating light and fast with heavy and slow on one workout. I will definitely do this workout on an occasional basis.

maryann parker


Overall, I think that this is an excellent and thorough upper body workout. It works all of the muscles of the chest, arms and back pretty thoroughly. Having said that, I think it does emphasize some muscle groups to the detriment of others. For example, there are four sets of lat rows and only 1 (I think) set of bicep curls. For this reason, I have been substituting my own set of bicep curls during one of the lat row sets. It also contains three sets of pushups (word of warning to those who hate pushups!). Aside from these examples, it's a well-rounded upper body workout. Like all the FIRM tapes, you can make it as hard or as easy as you like by varying the weight size. I should also mention that I usually skip the "aerobic" warmup by Sandahl Bergman (from Vol. 3) because it's just too silly.

I don't own any of Vols. 1-6, so my primary exposure to these instructors is through the Parts series. Overall, they are OK, although I think that Susan Harris moves too quickly in the Vol. 1 parts and I think her sexy cues and breathy voice in this volume are hilarious! I also think that Janet Jones-Gretzky could do a better job cuing.

Amy Brier


I'm glad I got this. I held off for a long time, because I thought I got enough upper-body work with my original FIRM tapes. Wrong! I've seen definite improvement since I've been doing this.

It's harder than the original workouts because there are no breaks between upper body exercises. It's all compacted. You'll probably find you need lighter weights than you usually use for each routine, especially toward the end. That's because your muscles get more fatigued, since you're not breaking to do aerobics or leg presses or something.

I like this and give it an A.

Annie S.


This tape consists of upper body work (arms, chest, back) compiled from the original Firm volumes 1-4, and 6. It is a well organized workout; while it's a solid half hour of weight lifting, you don't work the same muscle group more than once in a row. The exercises alternate muscle groups: biceps, triceps, shoulders, delts, chest, back, etc., and each muscle group is worked 2-3 times throughout the tape. Sometimes the different muscles are mixed together in a set, i.e., a set might consist of alternating delt flies; bicep curls, and military presses. While I was skeptical at first about a workout structured in this way (as opposed to working one muscle group at a time to fatigue), I must admit that after doing weight training using the Firm tapes, my arms have more definition than they ever did from training the other way. This tape is definitely on my highly recommended list.

Debbie Kenny