Bender Ball

Leslee Bender
Year Released: 2006

Categories: Balance/Medicine/Mini/Stability Ball, Pilates/Core Strength

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DawnP has well reviewed the Bender Method informercial set & “Core Training” video, so I will just add some of my thoughts on it and more detail to the exercise breakdowns. The “Core Training” workout is included w/ the Bender Ball set that is sold in stores (packaged w/ the ball, 2 plugs, 2 straws, small pamphlet w/ program info. & two other videos: Strong Healthy Back and Selective Core Training) for about $18 at a local store (cheaper than buying from Savier company & they do share collected information w/ third parties for direct marketing purposes, so buying at store is another option for those not wanting to deal w/ that issue). This DVD comes in a slim DVD case, previously (per DawnP’s review) it was packaged in a jewel CD case. The menu allows one to play workout with or without the introduction, and can play all segments or just select one at a time. Some form pointers are displayed on screen, and Leslee provides detailed instruction w/ modifications.

I strung all of the segments together for a workout, each segment performed on their own, seem’s like not much work at all (likely good for beginners to approach that way), but any of the segments could be used after a primary workout, too.

Level 1 (3:25 min)

Roll backs: start seated on floor w/ bent knees, ball placed next to small of back, hands placed under thighs> roll/lean back onto ball (C-curve spine) & reverse motion, very slow pace to lowered & lifted position> pulses in lowered position> add alternating torso twist (lower shoulder to side w/ head/gaze following shoulders) to lowered position of roll back> pulses in lowered position, then slow roll up to seated position> stretch: overhead arms, then twist to side w/ overhead arms & repeat on other side.

Level 2 (5:50 min.)

Roll backs: start in same position as previous exercise, lift & lower w/ slow pace> roll/lean back onto ball & extend arms in lowered position> pulses in lowered position> overhead stretch> roll/lean back & reverse motion w/ arms held in extended position> pulses in lowered position, then overhead stretch> roll/lean back w/ alternating single arm sweep, opening to side then back, other arm is extended in front w/ head/gaze to side, then reverse motion, modification: hand of static arm placed under thigh> pulses in lowered position w/ arm held to back or side, repeat on other side> overhead stretch.

Toe Taps: Start lying supine (face-up) on floor w/ ball placed under lower back & bottom, arms to side of body> lift one bent knee up, then the other & balance on ball> alternate lowering single leg (toes) to floor & pull back w/ abs> perform at faster pace> Stretch: place arms overhead (on floor), then roll up to seated position> overhead arms, then twist to side w/ overhead arms, lower one arm to floor (back of body) and lean back for an oblique stretch and repeat on other side.

Level 3 (6:42 min.)

Cross body crunch: start in seated position w/ bent knees, ball placed next to lower back, one arm in bent and hand placed on head, other hand placed under thigh or held to side> roll/lean back onto ball, then lift bent knee & upper body (twist) so elbow meets knee, then reverse motion> repeat on other side> stretch: over head arms in seated position.

Cross-body crunch w/ alternating sides> overhead arm stretch.

Cross-body crunch w/ pulses: start in same position as previous but w/ one bent knee lifted & held in air> perform pulses (smaller range of motion than previous)> spine curl: from lowered position w/ (bent arms) hands on head, slower lift into seated position, then reverse motion> pulses in lowered position> 6 counts to roll up into seated position> repeat on other side. Modification: place hands under thighs.

Hip twist: Start lying supine (face-up) on floor w/ bent knees lifted in air, ball is held between knees w/ hands behind head, shoulders held off floor> twist knees/hips to one side, and reverse motion> repeat on other side> stretch: overhead arms> roll up w/ knees to seated position, then overhead arms, twist to side w/ overhead arms & repeat on other side.

Instructor Comments:
Leslee thoroughly explains the form for exercises & attempts to be provide motivating comments. But I don't care for her constantly saying how hard the exercises are (when not many reps are completed) and that these workouts will reduce love handles/belly fat when focus on nutrition is what will remedy that (it's a misleading statement, and w/ such short duration of time workouts in this program & w/ no cardio or total resistance workouts in this set, people will likely not be burning many calories to reduce their overall body fat percentage).



I would have to say that overall these are very short intermediate-level guided pilates workouts with some good variations on traditional exercises using a soft playball behind the back (while doing sit-ups/roll-backs) or wedged beneath the rear while doing lying exercises. The exercise difficulty & progression reminded me of a shorter slightly easier version of some of Karen Voight's core routines, although the BenderBall production would be considered fairly average in comparison to Karen Voight's. The music was soft and non-descript - I do wish the music had been better - see my comments on the music to cue ratio below. And overall I thought the length of the workouts could have been longer - more reps, a few more exercises. Or include at least one more workout in the basic infomercial kit for the price.

So the basic infomercial kit came with 'The Bender Method of Core Training' and "The Bender Method of Buns & Thighs', both workouts on one DVD. The DVD came in a CD jewel case, not a DVD case (no cover/spine inserts). The kit came with a green 8" playball, two blow-up straws and two plugs, a informational brochure and - that's all! Strange, I expected a diet guide or other supporting material. The brochure states that you can get additional member services by going to the website but this URL did not work for me. The kit was shipped from Van Nuys, California via USPS in a white box-sized box.

The ball is a sort of soft playball that reminds me of a child's inflatable moon ball - the material is softer than a rubber playground ball. It's very easy to inflate with a few puffs. I found mine flattened a bit after one lower body exercise where you do bridges with your full body weight & heels on the ball... but I ended up deflating it after working out and plan to reinflate whenever I do the workouts, so that doesn't worry me too much.

The workouts were filmed by FitFlix - Mindy Mylrea's company. So they don't have the polished production that Savvier had on the infomercial Gliding workouts but they are better quality than Mindy's All About Legs & early FitFlix productions. There are a variety of camera angles that caught all the relevant action - only twice did I notice the camera hurrying to pan to the action so to speak.

Leslee instructs with two background exercisers in a studio setting that looks like a living room corner - beige carpet, neutral walls, a plant silhouette in a window. Leslee & the background exercisers are wearing capris & sleeveless tops and they look fit and relaxed.

Leslee cues pretty much non-stop. Her voice is not harsh and although she gives lots of instruction and she commiserates with you (states 'I'm feeling that one') she doesn't irritate me like Mari Winsor does. She even promises that an upcoming stretch is 'almost as good as eating chocolate'.

The music is soft instrumental and some of it had a good pop melody but the vocals are so much louder than the background music that it's not easy to hear. I thought the music matched the production which came across like a relaxed guided pilates workout, not a fast-paced frenetic strength-training workout. I wish the ratio of music to voice had been louder. Leslee's voice level varied especially when she was positioning with her head to her chest and her mike got closer to her mouth. But it wasn't incredibly distracting.

The Core Training DVD has three short workouts - Level 1 (beginner), which is 3+1/2 minutes long, Level 2 (intermediate) 6 minutes long and Level 3 (advanced) 6 minutes long. The Buns & Thighs workout is 23 minutes long from warm-up to cool-down.

I was disappointed that the abs workouts were SO short (three workouts at increasing intensity clocking in at 3.5, 6 and 6 minutes total. The lower body workout was 23min total. I just felt that for $12.99 + $8 S&H (plus tax in Calif) that the workouts could have been longer to justify the price. With Jari Love's 1-hour workouts retailing for $5.99 and Amy Bento's workouts going to retail for $11 I guess this Vidiot has just become more discriminating I guess!

I thought the concept for the rollback ab exercises were suprisingly effective - they seemed counter-intuitive to me at first. It would seem that rolling back onto a small soft playball would provide more support and reduce the range of motion and actually limit the sit-up effect. But it actually made it much harder! It's kind of like rolling back on a large stability ball - but much less stable & supportive, so I felt like I was using my abs more.

When Leslee does slow roll-back and sit-up pulses I really felt the burn. I thought the beginner ab routine was very basic and short, the intermediate could have used more reps - but I thought the advanced workout was definitely TOUGH. I think doing both the intermediate and advanced workouts together will be my favorite combo - a good challenging 12 minutes. I think my abs will definitely be sore tomorrow.

On the Buns & Thighs workout I felt it was a more a beginner-intermediate level floorwork workout, not enough reps to really feel the burn. I guess I'm a hardcore Cathe addict, I love heavy-duty strength training or lots of lunges & squats for lower body work - I've never been a fan of floorwork. But I enjoyed using the ball for the donkey kicks and bridges - I thought the hamstring work was excellent. So I think there's a place for this one for if I'm too sore or I've got an injury and can't do squats. This workout certainly went quickly.

The Bender Method of Core Training
Instructions 3 min
-inflating the ball
-proper breathing
-raising the intensity
Level 1 Workout 3.5 min
1) rollbacks
2) oblique rollbacks
3) overhead stretch
Level 2 Workout 6 min
1) rollbacks
2) overhead stretch
3) rollbacks
4) overhead stretch
5) oblique rollbacks/arm scoops
6) oblique rollback pulses
7) overhead stretch
8) toe dips with ball under rear
9) alernating toe dips
10) overhead stretch
Level 3 Workout 6 min
1) oblique upper/lower cross sit-ups
2) overhead stretch
3) alternating oblique sit-ups
4) overhead stretch
5) oblique upper/lower sit-up pulses
6) slow sit-ups
7) sit-up pulses
8) obique upper/lower cross sit-ups
9) slow sit-ups
10) overhead stretch
11) lower ab twists
12) lying stretch
13) overhead stretch
14) side stretch
Stretch 1 min

The Bender Method of Buns & Thighs
Intro & Warm-Up 1.5 min
1) squats w/chest press
2) side lunge w/ball press
Glutes & Hamstrings 7.5 min
1) lying inner thigh squeezes
2) bridges w/inner thigh squeezes
3) bridges w/alternating leg lifts
4) lying overhead hamstring stretch
5) hamstring lifts w/feet on ball
6) bridges
7) hamstring lifts
8) hamstring stretch
Side Kicks 5 min
1) side-lying leg lifts
2) leg swings
3) leg lifts
4) repeat 1-3 on opposite side
Kneeling Glutes 2 min
1) donkey kicks w/ball behind knee

Instructor Comments: