The Firm: Upper Body Sculpt

Janet Brooks
Year Released: 2003

Categories: Upper Body Strength

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This is one of the add on workouts to the Goodtimes Firm Body Sculpting System 2 (BSS2) and is a comprehensive strength workout focused on the upper body. Unlike the majority of Firms, this is strength work only and has no cardio intervals. The workout is led by Janet Brooks, an unknown Firm master instructor (at least to me) and this was the only Firm workout that she ever instructed. She did a good job however and her talent is on par with other Firm instructors. Like all BSS2 workouts, this video incorporated the fanny lifter and the sculpting stick. I don’t have the sculpting stick, but modified using my exercise dowel and regular dumbbells, and don’t feel like I missed out on anything.

The warm up in this video was really good. It incorporated the sculpting stick, sans twigs (like I said I used the dowel) and the short (purple 6”) part of the fanny lifter, for side touches, step ups, squats, all while using the stick to do biceps curls, overhead press, lateral stretches, and front raises. Unlike in the strength section, I felt like the usage of the stick was logical and fun here, not just using it because they had to use it.

Then on to the strength work. Like LindseyLu said, there was some really creative moves in this workout, a little different than the standard Firm fare (although plenty of that too). They recommended three sets of weights, I used a variety of poundage from 5# through 20# weights which worked great. They worked the whole upper body evenly: triceps French press (they used the stick which I rolled my eyes at-I think this was just in an effort to use the stick as much as possible; I used heavy dumbbells), a second set of French press which did use heavy dumbbells (they must have seen me rolling my eyes! :-), there were two sets of single arm bent row, and another two sets of double arm rows, there were I believe four sets of pushups, one with hands on step, one with legs on step, and two sets with the step in a staircase position (the only BSS1-2 video that did this with the Fanny Lifter, at least that I have tried), also triceps dips (two sets) while the FL is in the staircase position. A brief plank series and cool down finish up the workout.

Production quality is high and looks very much like all of the other BSS1-2 productions: large fans in background and four background exercisers (one does beginner modifications, I believe it is Alison Davis), and all wearing color coordinated clothes – pink here. Music is generic but holds a good beat. All in all I expected to receive a comprehensive intermediate level upper body workout in a short period of time (with no cardio), and this fit the bill.

-Comparison- I also enjoy and use Firm BSS4 Jiggle Free Arms (which includes several step aerobic sections) and the classic compilation Firm Upper Body (all strength) and would rate them in this order from most to least challenging: Firm Upper Body classics compilation is a high intermediate-low advanced level workout based on length, exercises, and reps of exercises chosen; then Firm BSS2 Upper Body Sculpt which is an intermediate level, solid strength with no cardio breaks to alleviate the arm muscle fatigue; then Firm BSS4 Jiggle Free Arms, also intermediate but with the cardio work is not as likely to give you DOMS. There is only about 20 minutes of upper body strength work in JFA. They are all great workouts and all have a place in my collection. Firm BSS4 JFA is the best for an all in one AWT workout with an upper body emphasis (short at about 35 minutes); classics compilation Firm Upper Body is good for a harder core strength workout, runs about 35 minutes; Firm BSS2 is good for a slightly less intense, more modern and updated strength workout that runs about 30 minutes.

I would recommend this to anybody who likes split routines, is a high beginner to high intermediate level, likes the Firm (particularly BSS2), and wants a short but efficient arm workout. Grade B+!

Instructor Comments:
Janet was a good lead, she spoke clearly and seemed confident as the instructor. There isn’t much to say about her, she wasn’t overly chatty, nor was she like a robot, she just didn’t seem to have that strong of a personality. She didn’t do anything distracting nor did she do anything that put her above any other Firm instructors. I mostly feel neutral about her but she was talented enough. I liked her well enough that I would have tried other workouts in which she was the lead (although she never did lead any other Firm workouts).

Emily B.


This is an add from the Firm 6-pack that came out after BSS2. It is a 33 minute upper body strength workout. Besides the warmup there is no cardio. This w/o utilizes the Fanny Lifter (FL), sculpting stick and a range of dumbbells. The set is bright and white with the purple & brown tile in the background. Janet leads with 4 background exercisers. Alicia provides the beginner modifications-uses no dumbbells (sometimes she uses the twigs) and the purple (6 inch) section of the FL.

I like the warmup in this one for a variety of reasons-1) not as much stretching as many Firm w/u's, 2) she uses the sculpting stick and it is actually perfect for warming up. Sometimes they use the stick, just to use the piece of equipment they are selling. But it was perfect for this, and 3) she does a lot of upper body moves with the stick-perfect lead in to the workout.

After the warmup you go into the upper body work, some is actually quite unique and some your normal UB fare. You will do a variety of bicep curls, clean and press, bench press, a lot of push ups, tricep dips, overhead tricep extensions, bench press, etc.There is also a short ab segment that has some crunch & plank type moves in it.

Unique moves: she uses the FL stacked side by side for a set of pushups and tricep dips. So your hands are on an uneven surface and it works the muscles differently. She also does a lat row with a twist at the end and I could tell it was hitting the muscles differently.

There is one or two short segments where she uses the stick instead of dumbbells-I just use dumbbells as the stick is really too light to do much with.

This one is intermediate I suppose, but its hard to rate because she goes slow enough to allow for pretty heavy weights. You can make it easier by using lighter weights and more challenging by using your heaviest weights. I wouldnt say its advanced though, because even really heavying up-its only 33 minutes and you are working your entire upper body-so you really cant fully fatigue everything IMO.

Instructor Comments:
I like Janet as a lead. She cues well and is encouraging but not over the top. She has really high eyebrows so sometimes she looks surprised but I really enjoy her as an instructor and would have liked to see more w/o's from her.



This is a 33 minute total upper body workout, which has been broken down by other reviewers, so I will just make some comments. I consider myself intermediate with regard to weight workouts, and this workout was tough! I used 3s, 5s and 10 lb dumbbells, an 8 lb body bar (I don't have a scultping stick), and high step.

The warmup is really good for an upper body workout. Janet warms up your upper, while doing step-touches, ham curls, etc., to warm up your entire body. The workout flows well -- she tell you which group of muscle you will be working, and what type of weights to use. She usually works one group at a time, except for clean & press, and at the end you do chest press/pullovers. There is good time to change weights and Janet stretches in between sets. The lifting speed varies between half time and 1 and 3 counts, and 2 and 2s. But the speed is not rushed, and advanced can go really heavy on these exercises.
There is a beginner doing the workout without any weights.
There are good variations on push-ups -- with one hand higher than the other, and varied hand positions for tricep pushups. I'm not a big fan of pushups (I prefer chest flies & presses), but the sets are split up so that it doesn't seem that you are doing endless reps.
Janet does a small segment of core work -- comsisting of planks with knee drops, and planks with leg-ups.
The ending stretch is short, but good. I usually add on an ab segment after this workout, as the core work just doesn't seem enough.

All in all, this is an excellent and thorough upper body workout which can be used by beginners through advanced.

Instructor Comments:
Janet is very low key. She seems a little stiff at first, but as the workout progresses, she gets a bit more relaxed. Her voice is pleasant to work out to.



Firm Upper Body Sculpt is one of the BSS2 add-on workouts. It uses a sculpting stick, Fanny Lifter, and a few sets of dumbbells. I used my High Step and 5, 8, 10, and 12 lb. dumbbells throughout. The set is light and pleasant, and matches the exercisers’ pink and black outfits.

This is a relatively thorough upper body workout, as it works all the muscles of the arms, and includes exercises for the back and chest. The following is a list of exercises in this workout.

Warm-up with sculpting stick
Push-ups on Fanny Lifter (FL)
Lat row side one
Rhomboid pinch (basically lat rows sitting on FL, leaning over your legs)
Lat row side two
Clean and press, overhead shoulder press, and clean and press again while tapping FL with feet
Bicep curls with variations
Overhead shoulder press
Push-ups with legs balanced on FL (somewhat uncomfortable, I prefer having my legs on a stability ball for the same effect)
Tricep dip with FL separated (one arm lower than the other) so one arm remains engaged throughout
Push-ups on FL with hands turned in towards each other to work the triceps
Standing chest press, arms bent at 90 degrees, then move arms back to move rotator cuffs
Tricep dip as above, switch arms so other arm is lower
Repeat tricep push-up
Front and side delt lifts with toe touches
Fold arms in front of you like a genie, and squeeze your chest (I just couldn’t do this)
French press using sculpting stick
Rhomboid press using sculpting stick
Lat rows with rotation side one
Bicep concentration curl side one
French press with dumbbells
Lat row with rotation side 2
Bicep concentration curl side one
Posterior delt fly (arms move forward to form a V, a little different than the usual move)
Plank, alternate lowering one knee then the other, then alternating lifting each leg in the air
Pikes from plank position
Chest press with rib cage pullover using sculpting stick
Stretch with sculpting stick

I had this workout, traded it, then got it back in another trade. Initially I thought it was too short to be effective, and that I might not like Janet (for some unknown reason). However, I did the workout earlier today, and can already feel the DOMS setting in. No idea why I thought I wouldn’t like Janet, she was just fine as an instructor.

I felt it was a very thorough workout for only 37 minutes (including warm-up and stretch). A great add-on workout. You can generally use heavier weights to make the workout a little more difficult. One background exerciser always shows a beginner variation for each exercise. The workout moves along pretty quickly, so it’s good to have all your weights within reach at all times. It moves along quickly because you don’t do many reps of each exercise, and since the reps are pretty slow, you’re able to go heavier.

The good thing about this workout, compared to other Firms, is that while some exercises are repeated, the entire body is worked (unlike the old Firm Parts Upper Body). Also, it’s a pure upper body workout, so you’re not switching back and forth between upper and lower like in the older Firms (which I love, but sometimes make me dizzy going back and forth from upper to lower and using ALL that equipment).

All in all, these new Firms are really growing on me! Never thought I’d say that. They’re really good if you want to mix and match, or do pieces of workouts. I just wish the DVDs were chaptered.

Instructor Comments:
Janet, like most of the Firm instructors, has a southern accent. She gives many form pointers throughout, sometimes showing what not to do. There were a few times she had a wide-eyed look, as though she were reading from a cue card, but she was generally pleasant and encouraging. During the rhomboid pinches she said to “kiss the muscles” or something like that, which caught my ear. But otherwise, her cues were good and I liked her quite a bit.



This is one of the newer firms. It has the same bright, clean set as other titles in this set, and the same group of genial instructors, this time led by Janet Brooks. It uses the fanny lifter and sculpting stick from the body sculpting series, although I got by just fine with a rubbermaid step and hand weights.

The warm-up features basic step-touches augmented with some light work with the sculpting stick, minus its ends. This included stretch work. I used no weights at all, which was fine for a warm-up. It was the only part of the tape where I really felt like I ought to have the stick.

The workout then proceeds to three seamlessly flowing sections that each work various body parts. You do short sets of each exercise, sometimes with pulsing reps. Most of the time you mix up the body parts within the group you are working on, for example, the third section features a back set, a biceps curl then a triceps press on one arm, then you repeat on the other arm. In a few instances you stay with one body part at a time, as in a longg compound shoulder set. It moves at a brisk, but not confusing pace and Janet always tells you if you should be using your light, medium or heavy weight.

The exercises definitely favor push-ups and shoulder work, but other body parts get adequate attention. There is a short plank section they try to pass off as core work, then an equally short final stretch.

I am familiar with other firm workouts, so I felt right at home here. I think that I have found for me a higher-rep approach is more challenging, so I would rate this as a more intermediate tape. Beginners could keep up without a problem (and in fact the short sets might be good for them) and as they progress, they can increase the weights and get a greater challenge. I think advanced exercisers might have better options though.

I think that for people new to exercise, the firm is an excellent over-all comprehensive and friendly system and I have recommended their program to many people. This tape is a worthy addition to that collection, and will be a great choice too for people who know and love the firm already.



Oh my. This video surprised me since I wasn't in LOVE with Calorie Killer. It is a short, but tough workout for the upper body. You can make it work for you as in all weight training videos. Add more weight, it's tougher, lower the weights, it is a little easier. You actually don't use the sculpting stick that much. Focus is placed on dumbells instead. The warmup does use the stick and I felt it was a little too fast in the upper body movements, but that is probably my only complaint. You warm up your upper body using the stick, mimicing bicep curls, overhead presses, etc. Once you get into the work out, Janet is straight forward. You do some combo exercises to bring the heart rate up (tapping the blue portion of the fanny lifter, while doing upper body with weights for instance). The exercises aren't long, but with 8 - 10 lbs., I felt them. She does use rhythm changes and as usual with the Firm, you are never bored. There are some interesting pushup and tricep variations using the two-part fanny lifter. One hand is on the short box and the other one is on the tall box as you do pushups and tricep dips, switching the next time around. I really liked those moves. The time flys by and voila you have worked your upper body. Janet ends with a few planks, tapping your knees to the floor and in the second set alternating leg lifts. Variety is the key here. I give this an A for short, but very sweet (only 30 minutes).

Instructor Comments:
Janet Brooks is a pleasant instructor, although I still have to get used to new Firm instructors after enjoying the old (not in years) stand-bys. I feel like she is being told to "smile" once in a while from behind the camera. She is definitely no-nonsense, but very likeable.

Janet O'Neil