Fitball Upper Body Challenge

Cheryl Soleway
Year Released: 1999

Categories: Balance/Medicine/Mini/Stability Ball, Upper Body Strength

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I am an int/adv exerciser. I don’t do videos with heavy weights, I prefer doing strength work with my own body weight.

The workout is a little less than 45 minutes long. It starts with a warm-up and ends with a quick cool-down and stretch. Otherwise the section are nicely chaptered and listed as the following:
Ab Challenge #1
Chest and Shoulders
Upper back, chest & shoulders
Side Flexors, Shoulders
Ab Challenge #2
Cool-down + Stretch
This video is tough, but it’s paced very well. I am never frantically trying to get in position, but I also don’t find myself waiting around. The video is excellent for functional fitness, stability, and overall strength. You will use the ball to be able to do increase the range of your movements. I liked this idea, because it increases the work down in the body to stabilize those larger movements. The is a strong emphasis on doing the exercises with correct form – and so there are a ton of form pointers throughout the video. Also, she will often point out exactly where the “match” is, or the other muscle that is activated to effect proper stability on the ball. This part was nice because I could tell whether I was using the correct form or not. While it is not a really advanced upper body workout, I always feel it the next day (I don’t own an really advanced upper body stuff like anything of Cathe’s so it’s hard to compare). You will also definitely feel it in your abs.

The style of this video is very no-nonsense. You are getting trainer points by a physical therapist, and it shows. She emphasizes strength and stability and not how your body will look. There are lots of cool ways that the ball is used. This video, along with Lower Body Challenge, have done wonders for my core strength and balance work.

Instructor Comments:
She is nice and no-nonsense. I like her style a lot because she makes the workout seem like serious PT training and not just another fitness video.

Alison (alikruegs)


I didn’t see any reviews of this workout, but I took a chance and purchased it anyway. I’m glad I did! I think this is a great int/adv stability ball workout. It is well taught by Cheryl Soleway, a certified physical therapist. I find Cheryl very poised and obviously well acquainted with stability ball training.

The setting is in a gym, with equipment situated in the background. At first, I thought it would feel claustrophobic, but it really didn’t bother me during the workout. The music is light jazz with some techno stuff thrown in - it worked well with the flow of the workout. The camera cuts away once in awhile to show two of her students, who are not in the workout with her, doing the same or similar moves. This neither added nor detracted from the workout. The only equipment required besides the stability ball are “heavy med balls” or light dumbbells. I used 5# dumbbells (8# for biceps) and they worked fine.

The workout is divided into 8 sections, including warm-up and cool-down. The DVD is chaptered this way also. Each section is arranged by your position on the ball. This avoids unnecessary repositioning and I can appreciate that. Those who want to break out the exercises specifically for chest, for example, may have difficulty with the way the DVD is set up since chest is worked in two chapters, in the midst of other body work. I’m able to break out the ab work, but it requires two different chapters, plus a portion of a third.

The chapters are as follows:
*Ab Challenge #1
*Chest and Shoulders
*Upper Back, Chest & Shoulders
*Side Flexors, Shoulders
*Ab Challenge #2
*Cool down & Stretch

Each exercise starts with a basic move, then Cheryl shows modifications to make it harder. There were many moves I have never seen before, although my experience with the stability ball is limited to Cathe and a 45 minute Core Secrets. For instance, in Ab Challenge #1, she starts with basic crunches on the ball, then proceeds to increasing the leverage by holding your arms over your head. Next comes a move similar to a swimming backstroke, a “row your boat” type movement, then boxer-style explosive crunches, then explosive crunches with a twist. This segment only lasted 3 minutes, but it was probably responsible for the DOMS I had in my abs the following day. In the Chest and Shoulder segment, Cheryl starts with chest flies while lying on the ball, then has you lower and raise one arm at a time. You have to really stabilize your core to do this. It is then followed by rolling side to side while your arms are straight and holding a weight, she then has you lightly toss the weight from one hand to the other as you roll.

Although named Upper Body Challenge, about forty percent of the workout is focused on abs. It’s also rather heavy on the chest, back, and shoulder work. I feel it is rather lacking for the biceps and triceps. A good compliment to it would be a Tamilee Webb’s “I Want Those Arms” segment, or perhaps Gilad’s Quick Fit Shoulders and Arms.

Overall, I feel this is a challenging and unique workout and I will reach for it often on the days I want to work my upper body.

Instructor Comments:
Cheryl is competant and comfortable in front of the camera. She gives form pointers throughout and is very encouraging.



This is a really great upper body workout that uses the Resistaball, dumbbells and weighted balls. The workout is about 42 minutes long and is made of various sections of working the chest, abs, back and arms. The workout uses a lot of moves that imitate sports moves and is designed to help develop strength in areas that tend to get overlooked. The program does one set of repetitions and then moves to something else, which provides a lot of variety. The exercises really get to every section of the upper body and abs. Soleway suggests taking it easy on the first run to develop the stabilizers before adding a lot of weight, and she is right, even if you are advanced. This tape is challenging enough that you need to build up core stabilization before trying to go heavy on the weights. While the moves work the whole torso and arms it really worked my ab section so that I felt it the next day. This is a great tape if you are looking for a program to use the Resistaball, and even the medicine balls. Definitely a tape that would interest intermediate to advanced exercisers who want variety in their strength training.

The workout is set up in sections; I'll try and give a basic description of what is in them:

Warm up- range of motion moves while sitting on and leaning back on the ball.

Ab Challenge 1- various types of crunches laying on the ball with the small of your back nestled into the ball and your legs in a wide squat for support. You do the full range of sitting up starting with your arms across your chest, then hands behind your head, then arms outstretched overhead for a long lever crunch. Then you do a series of twists working the obliques. Then you do a series of boxer crunches holding your arms in a fighting position.

Chest & Shoulders- Using two medicine balls (I used those green balls that Voight uses) or dumbbells you do a series of chest flies and presses. For both of these sequences you do three sets of reps starting from a low squat with your low back against the ball and then pushing up to a table top position with your midback to shoulder on the ball, then pushing up so that you are arcing furthest back. This enables the muscles to be hit at every angle for the chest. One set consists of doing the move with both arms then one at a time. The one at a time really challenges your balance. During the filming of this sequence options are shown to increase the resistance or do the same exercise while in a gym.

There is also a sequence in this where you are in a table top position with your upper back on the ball, and you move a weight from one side to the other. Then you move the ball quickly from hand to hand, twisting side to side.

Upper Back, Chest & Shoulders- For these you lay your stomach on the ball and put your feet out wide to steady yourself. You then do a series of rows bringing your elbow out to the side. Then you sit on the ball and lift one leg up off the floor and maintaining this position you do shoulder presses. You raise the other leg and do lateral raises. (The raises are with both arms then one at a time.) You then lay back on the ball with your lower back firmly snuggled into the ball and do these "ax chopping" moves. You move the weight in a diagonal from over one shoulder all the way down to the opposite knee. The next moves you lay your stomach on the ball and hold out your arm (holding a ball) and twist toward it then away. Then you do a series of front raises while laying face down on the ball.

Arms- You place the ball in front of you, much like a pad to stabilize your arms and do bicep curls. Then you do a series of pushups with your legs on the ball

Side Flexors, Shoulders- Laying on the side of the ball you do a series of side crunches, first without then with weights, rotator exercises.

Ab Challenge 2- This time your laying on the floor with the ball resting on your bent legs and hands. You do a series of crunches rolling the ball up your legs then you pull the ball overhead onto the floor and do leg lifts. Then you do a series of moves moving the ball between your hands and legs. Then you do a series of bicycle crunches.

Cooldown & Stretch- both laying on the floor and laying across ball moves.

Instructor Comments:
Cheryl Soleway presents the exercises in a concise and friendly manner. She is both professional and pleasant in demeanor and shows amazing form and strength. I would love to see her do another tape focusing on the lower body.

Lisa Kucharski