Power Half Hour: Arm Toner

Tony Horton
Year Released: 2004

Categories: Upper Body Strength

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For reference, I am at what I'd consider the intermediate level in strength training. I only say this because I am not a beginner and while I can do advanced strength training workouts, I generally go lighter than the instructor and don't spend much time on strength training compared to cardio.

My favorite upper body strength training workouts are Cathe's CTX Upper Body and Pyramid Upper Body. For short upper body strength training segments, my favorites are FIRM Super Body Sculpt and Body Sculpt.

After doing this workout today, I thought (as always with this one) 'why don't I do this one more often?' It is quite thorough and complete for a 30-minute upper body workout. The first 10 minutes are chest and back. There are lots of push-ups--I did the first set of 12 at my pace on my toes, the rest on my knees or using my sofa for an incline (72 total push-ups for me!)--6 sets with time for 10-15 reps each time. The other 20 minutes focus on arms and shoulders.

I like this one because it easy to modify and go at my own pace (Tony reminds us of this often) and there are short stretches in between sets. One could easily substitute 3 sets of chest presses and 3 sets of chest flies (flyes?) for the six sets of push-ups. The upper back work is nice because most of it is one side working at a time, which makes it much easier for me to use heavier weights. I modify most of the shoulder exercises because I dislike rotating my shoulders while doing overhead exercises, so I substitute by just doing military presses and overhead presses. I was pleased that the tricep kickbacks were one arm at a time, like the back exercises I mentioned before, because I can go heavier and focus on form better that way.

The five upper body muscle groups are worked in 30 minutes. There is no ab work (you need PHH Ab Burner for that), but there is one lower back exercise, which it is only done for one set.

Instructor Comments:
I like Tony and don't mind his goofiness. He looks quite normal in this one--not the P90X make-up look.

Karen (Rhae)


I am a big fan of Power Half Hour's Arm Toner workout. I keep coming back to it because it's like P90X abbreviated. It's a tough upper body workout where the actual workout itself clocks in at 30min - without warm-up & cool-down.

Others have described the actual breakdown so I just want to add my comments. I like how intense and effective the workout is. It does not require tons of equipment, just dumbbells and a chair for several seated exercises (back flyes, tricep dips).

I like the way Tony super-sets back & chest, that part is about 9min long. He keeps it to 10-12 reps so you can safely use heavy weights. It's all push-ups for chest. Rows (single & double-arm), hyperextensions, back flies for back. For a little more variety on back I'll do lat pull-downs for one of the sets of rows.

Shoulders get completely toasted. He supersets shoulders and biceps, then keeps on supersetting with shoulders and triceps. Ow, ow, ow.

I think triceps end up getting less reps overall, possibly because they get worked in push-ups too. I like to substitute tricep press-downs on my cable machine for some of the kickbacks. Overhead tricep presses would be a good alternative here too. The shoulders/arm segment clocks in at 18min.

There's a 2:15 warm-up and 1:15 cool-down, but what's great is that Tony stretches all of the upper body muscles between segments and some sets. So you're pretty much all stretched out & completely toasted at the end.

The bad news:
1) Tony is a cornball in this one, some consider him overly obnoxious. He's definitely over-the-top compared to P90X. I don't mind him at all. I wish he had better form pointers.

2) The music is boring & soft. It's 'muzak' straight from the elevator. It does allow me to set my own pace and go slower if I want because the music is non-intrusive. Also the DVD has a 'music off' option so you can play your own music. Something with a 128-130BPM would be perfect.

3) Some of the exercises should be modified for those with shoulder issues: swimmer's press (like an Arnold press) should take out the supination twist. upright rows should be done with light dumbbells, elbows high - or eliminate them all together. The combination press/curl/kickback can be hard on the lower back if you use too heavy of a weight and struggle on the kickbacks, so lighten up there.

I think this is a great intense effective upper-body workout. It's slower-paced & fewer reps than Cathe's Max Intensity Strength or Pyramid Upper Body so you can use heavier weights. Guys will like this workout, there's nothing 'girlie' about it.

Dawn P


This workout is part of the Power Half Hour series, which consists of thighs, arms, buns, abs and stretch. I have the dvd version which includes all of these routines plus an outttakes bonus.

The workout features the typical beachbody countdown clocks for the section and the workout as a whole, and bar graph to indicate elapsed chapters. Tony is very personable and entertaining and works out on a bare, drab blue and grey set with a male and female background exerciser.

There is a short warm-up of stretches, then Tony pairs up the body parts and alternates them in 30 or so second intervals with periodic stretch breaks. For example the first section works chest and back, so you do a chest exercise for 30 seconds, then back for 30 seconds, then chest etc. Here is a breakdown of all the exercises in this routine:

Chest and back---push-up, one-arm row, push-up, one-arm row, stretch, push-up, lower back lift, push-up, double-arm row, stretch, “heavy pants” aka double arm row, stretch

Shoulders, biceps, triceps---military press, biceps curl, stretch, swimmer’s press, open-arm curls, swimmer’s press, open-arm curls, stretch, 21’s, stretch, shoulder fly, one-arm triceps kickbacks, shoulder fly, one-arm triceps kickbacks, stretch, upright rows, triceps dips, upright rows, triceps dips, stretch

It ends with a combo move, but there is no cool-down. Tony and the male exerciser use adjustable weights throughout, and the female exerciser uses resistance bands. Tony is personable and fun and I enjoyed his teaching style.

Overall, I found this a useful and fun workout. The constant change of exercises made the time go buy really quickly and would allow people to go heavy with their weights if so inclined. It is a versatile and thorough routine.