Secrets of a Great Upper Body

Kathy Smith
Year Released: 1993

Categories: Upper Body Strength

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A painless intro to weight training from one of the best beginners' instructors around. Following a light warmup, Kathy takes time to describe your upper body muscles and demonstrates basic exercises for each of them, then does the exercises in 12-rep sets. The workout is a good one, but I wish Kathy would count out loud, because it can be hard to keep your eyes on the TV sometimes, and the roving camera doesn't always catch the movements from a good angle. I personally think a real live trainer is the best way to learn weights, but if that's not available, this will do. Two sets of dumbbells, lighter and heavier, are needed; 5 lbs and 7 lbs would be good for starters. A chair is also used, and a bench or large step is nice but not mandatory.
Grade: B

Sue B


I feel this can be a great tape for all levels, but it is especially great for beginners. Kathy first gives a great explanation of muscle sculpting and how it differs from toning. Next there is a 10 minuet warm up. She then goes on do exercises for your entire upper body- chest, triceps, deltoids, lats, biceps and abs/lower back. Each exercise is show and explained in detail with perfect form. However, there were a few of things I didn't like. First, she kind of skips of the lats and biceps. There in only one set twelve of two the different exercises. Second, It is rather time consuming because she does take to time to explain exerting so well. Finally, I had to pause it a lot in order to have enough time switch between moves. Overall I would rate this video a A-.

Angel Lee


A good warmup is provided, but I would have liked a longer stretch in the cooldown. Overall, the tape is good, with a few exceptions. The speed of transitioning between moves is much, much too fast, even with familiarity with the tape and having all the equipment in place. I have to pause the video frequently to keep up, which is annoying. The speed at which the individual exercises is done allows a person to use momentum (ie cheat), especially for the shoulders and flys. You might as well ignore Kathy's suggestions to use controlled movements and not to use momentum for some of the moves. As another reader mentioned, the tape is lacking in lat work. It would be nice if the exercisers other than Kathy smiled more - they are all so serious!

However, she uses a nice combination of standing, seated and floor work. The level is high end beginner/low end intermediate.

Instructor Comments:
Kathy is encouraging without being to "rah-rah" cheerleader-ish. Her body positioning is excellent. It would be helpful if she counted down the reps for those of us who look away from the screen momentarily.

Baked Cookie


There is absolutely nothing wrong with this video; I just don't like it. I'm addicted to Pure Strength and MIS, and, of course, Cory's tapes, and this one doesn't interest me as much.

It's pretty thorough, and Kathy goes slow so you can use heavier weights. In fact, Kathy calls it a low-rep overload workout; however, her own weights are pretty light it looks like.

Very good form pointers are given, so those new to weight training can benefit from this. Advanced exercisers can use heavier weights to make the workout harder -- but still, there is something about it that bores me. I think it's that Cathe and Cory are more dynamic and motivating, so I always reach for their tapes.

Grade B+.

Annie S.


This is a great upper body tape. It is a great introduction to weights for beginners, but by using heavy weights, it is also a solid workout for seasoned weight trainers. I have probably done this tape more times than any other. The short running time (33 mins) meant that it made an excellent base for my advanced training program.

Instructor Comments:
Kathy is her usual friendly and well informed self here. As always, her form is impeccable and she is truly an inspiration.

Trever Andreas


This was my first weight/resistance video and I still love it after years of using it. It's really effective and, with progressively heavier weights, it's also as challenging as you want it to be. I alternate it with the "Secrets to a Great Lower Body" and an aerobic workout and always feel that I've given my body what it needs. Kathy is absolutely right about doing it no more than twice a week (with the lower twice a week and aerobics in between for fat loss) -- more often doesn't give your muscles time to rest and re-build, thus cancelling the sculpting possibilities.

Alexandra Haag


This is an excellent upper body tape. It runs about 45 minutes, but Kathy does longer warm-ups than most people, so if you are tacking it on as part of a cardio workout, you can skip the warm-up and have the whole thing clock in at about half an hour. Each body part gets 2 or 3 exercises, repeated in sets of two. Nothing fancy, mostly classic moves like curls, kickbacks, push-ups etc. Each move is preceded by a quick voice-over explanation of the muscles involved, and a slow-mo demo which might get tiresome after repeated viewings. Kathy foes slowly enough that advanced exercisers can easily up the weights. I wish she counted out loud though: it's hard to match your pace to hers without looking at the screen.

Kathy gets bonus points for using a variety of exercisers with different body types and fitness levels. The workout is smooth, well-paced and competent. This is hardly the most original routine, and hardly the most memorable or inspiring. But it's competent, and I suppose that has to count for something.



My basic impression is that this is a good workout for a beginner or for someone who is starting back into weights. It's also good for more advanced people who want a quick, very basic upper body workout. This tape covers chest, shoulders, triceps, back, biceps and abs. There are no more than 2 sets for any exercise, and for some exercises, there is only one set. There are 2 exercises for each body part, except for shoulders, which has 3 exercises. It moves pretty quickly from one exercise to the next.

From Kathy's introduction at the beginning, I was expecting a more thorough workout and one that would be appropriate for my level, which is advanced. I would choose Cory Everson's Get Hard Arms & Shoulders or Cathe Friedrich's MIS, PS or CTX strength, rather than this tape.

There are some exercises that I found to be in poor form, potentially injury-provoking and/or difficult to follow. Those included the shoulder front raises, which Kathy did with the palm facing up, the bent-over row, which Kathy did with the elbow going out to the side, and the bent-over trapezius shrugs.

I'd rate this tape a B.



In this tape, Kathy Smith has put together a strong workout for each of the major muscle groups in the entire upper body. After a short (4 minutes) warm up, Kathy goes through the muscle groups one-by-one, staring with chest, moving on to triceps, shoulders, and back, and finishing with biceps for a total of 21 minutes. Next comes a fast-moving 6-minute ab workout consisting of just a few moves for the abs and back, and finally, the tape ends with a 2-minute cool down.

Although the exercises in this video are pretty standard, Kathy adds some unique twists; for example, doing front shoulder raises at a slight side angle was something I'd never seen before. In addition, Kathy's excellent pointers on form ensure that you will really focus on working the muscle--her tip not to let the arms move forward on french presses made me feel the exercise in my triceps like I never have before! Using both voiceovers and live remarks, Kathy provides perfect cuing and gentle encouragement.

Some of the prior criticisms of this workout are warranted; namely, that the instructional portions inbetween the moves interfere with the flow of the workout and that some of the transitions happen too quickly. However, I found these flaws to be minor, particularly given that the educational information was brief and provided not only helpful refreshers but also a welcome break after some tough moves! Also, it was easy enough for me to pause the tape here and there if I missed the first repetition or two.

The studio is sparse, and the music is light and non-distracting. This workout is perfect for beginners (using light weights) wanting to learn correct techniques as well as intermediates (using heavier weights) looking for refreshers on form.

Instructor Comments:
Kathy is a great instructor who is warm and friendly while remaining serious about the workout. She is shown here with four helpers, three women and one man, who serve as models on form. Using both voiceovers and live remarks, Kathy provides perfect cuing and gentle encouragement.

Beth C (aka toaster)


I agree with previous reviews of this workout. It's the perfect intro to upper body weight training for beginners. There is a brief segment before each exercise, explaining & demonstrating how to execute the movements. Perfect for beginners but could get tiresome for intermediates and beyond. If you are more advanced, you can certainly make it tougher by lifting heavy.

Instructor Comments:

Helen K (antbuko)