Functional Foundations

Tracie Long
Year Released: 2004

Categories: Balance/Medicine/Mini/Stability Ball, Total Body Workouts

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Functional Foundations is a 2-DVD set released by Tracie Long Productions (TLP; the set is also referred to as the “Yorktowns” because the workouts were filmed on the USS Yorktown). The two workouts are Core Cardio, which is cardio-focused and uses a step, medicine ball, and a band, and Core Strength, which is a strength program using dumbbells and a stability ball. I have broken down the two workouts separately below.

Core Cardio

Core Cardio is a fast-paced, unique 50-minute cardio workout that uses a step, a medicine ball, and a band. The choreography is fun and different, and while the moves themselves are fairly simple, I had trouble following along the first time through; it was easier the second time, but it will still take some additional practice on my part to get the moves down. I should note that I was adapting the moves from the full-size step that Tracie and co. use to the small top of my Fanny Lifter—this IS doable, but a full step would certainly be more ideal. I also used a 4# medicine ball and a knotted band.

For the warm-up, Tracie incorporates basic squats and similar exercises using the ball and the step; she finishes with a nice stretch. The first cardio tune includes mambos on and off the step, traveling from one side of the step to the other. Next comes “rock the baby,” a jog while moving the ball side-to-side that morphs into a side-step move with the ball overhead. Following this, you’ll end the band for turning jumps (first 90°, then a full 180°) and walks forward and back; you’ll really feel this in your hips/outer thighs! The band comes off for a side lunge series with the ball: first you’ll do jumps in-between, then you’ll pass the ball under your leg during the lunge. A more complex step cardio sequence called “walk the plank” follows. This was probably the hardest section for me choreography-wise, but the moves were still pretty basic—i.e., step climbs, knee lifts, floor taps, etc. The following two segments were probably the most challenging to me cardio-wise: first, you’ll do “skiers” (side-middle-side jumps), holding the ball to increase intensity, then, with the band around you ankles again, you’ll do squats with abductions followed by “jack jumps” (a jumping jack in the air) in-between, whew! Some balance work follows: using the ball again, you’ll jump side-to-side, balancing on one leg and also adding some rotation moves. Then get ready to up the intensity again: using an agility grid (basically, masking tape on the floor in the shape of a plus-sign), you’ll jump side-to-side, forward-back, and diagonally; as Tracie says, it’s harder than it looks! There are only two more cardio segments left at this point. First, you’ll do side lunges with one foot on the step (and jumping in-between) combined with a transverse lunge series (lunging to 4 and 8 o’clock). I was a little worried about doing the lunges on carpet, especially as Tracie moves so quickly through these. The final cardio segment includes static dips with rotations and stride jumps. I clocked the cardio portion of the workout in at about 37 minutes (including the 5-minute warm-up).

I LOVED the standing core work that comes next: holding the ball out in front of you, you make a “figure 8” with your arms, first on both legs, then balancing on one leg. I wasn’t as crazy about the core work using the step though. Balancing with your hands on the step and your legs in front of you (similar to the setup for triceps dips), you move your bottom back through your arms, which just felt really awkward to me. Thankfully, this is a short segment, then it’s on to the floor for more great core work. Using the band around your ankles and balancing on your tailbone, you do a seated twist holding the ball; you can really feel those abs working here! Next comes a bridge move with a side step out (very challenging—I might have to try this with my feet off the mat) and finally, the band comes off for mountain climbers, a sort of one-legged jump from a plank position. The standing and floor core work combined totaled about 7.5 minutes, and then Tracie finishes with a 5-minute stretch that was nice, if a bit rushed.

I think that the more I do this workout, the more I am going to enjoy it! It is tough, but because each segment lasts only a few minutes, you’re always moving to something new, so there’s not much of a dread factor. Also, the most of the moves are quite fun, and the jumps leave me feeling strong, powerful, and athletic. This is definitely a workout for intermediate/advanced exercisers; a strong core would also be a great asset in this core-focused cardio workout.

Core Strength

Core Strength is a challenging and unique 47-minute strength workout which uses various sets of dumbbells and a stability ball. The choreography is fun and different, and while the moves themselves are fairly simple, I had trouble following along the first time through; it was easier the second time, but it will still take some additional practice on my part to get the moves down since the exercises are so unfamiliar. Throughout the workout, you actually will recognize many of the exercises—e.g., rows, kickbacks, squats, militaries, etc.—but most of these moves incorporate the ball and/or add a balance challenge, making them also unique and different. The DVD is well-chaptered, as it is broken into 4 groups of scenes (1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-18) as well as 18 individual chapters.

Starting the warm-up seated on the ball, you’ll do “chops” (twists), knee ups, and simple stretches for the lats, hip flexor, and calf. Moving to the floor for a push-up series, first you’ll do a push up with rotation (one-arm row), then a “thread the needle” move in which you start in a plank position, pull in one knee, and then rotate it out to the side—these are really challenging! Luckily, some more traditional strength work comes next with row and kickback combos on the ball. Both combos are performed lying face down on the ball: for the first, you’ll do a back extension series without weights, then move into one-arm rows and tricep extensions, and for the second, you’ll do a double-arm row with a shoulder rotation and front one-arm push. The next series involves single-leg squats (there are quite a few of these!). First you’ll do a single leg squat touching one weight to the ground (front, side, back), then squat on the same leg with an alternating overhead press. Moving to a seated position on the ball, you’ll raise your arms in an “X” position, alternately moving them across the body and then going on to a triceps French press. You’ll then balance on the same leg for bicep curls and rear dips before repeating all of the moves with the opposite leg. Going back to the ball, you’ll lie face up this time for chest presses, triceps work, and bridge variations using the weights. This segment closes with a side lunge/tap series, adding “clock” lunges (a sort of shortened forward lunge) with a biceps curl.

The next segment gets your heart rate going even more with jumps and hops. You’ll jump forward, walk back, jump 90-degrees to the side, walk back again, then repeat the series hopping on one foot. A tough segments of dips with one foot on the ball follows: placing the top of one foot on the ball behind you, you’ll do scaption work while rolling the ball out and in. Shoulder rotation work comes next with a move called the “A-Frame”; this is combined with a good morning/triceps extension combo. Then it’s back to the floor for more TOUGH core work with the ball. First, you’ll lie over the ball in a plank position and protract/retract your shoulder blades, but then you’ll roll your feet in for a “pecking bird” pushup that is really challenging. Following this are back extensions with rotation (lots of rotating and twisting movements in this workout!) and then what even Tracie calls an “advanced plank” on the ball: you lift one leg out to the side, then pull the knee in for a “frog” move that I absolutely could NOT do. Excursions come next: in a kneeling position, you hold the ball overhead and lean backwards, using your core to raise you back up. Finally, you lie sideways with the ball inbetween you feet, “walking” the ball forward and back. The final three sections are performed on the floor. You’ll again use the ball for bridge work, this time lying on the floor with your feet on the ball and rolling the ball in; a bicycle crunch with one foot on the ball follows. The last bridge move involves “marching” your feet on the ball; again, this is very tough! But you’re not done with the core work yet: lying back over the ball, you’ll do weighted crunches and then a “crocodile” move where one arm moves across to meet the other while stepping out to the side. Okay, NOW you are done, and Tracie leads you through a nice stretch, first draped over the ball for quad and shoulder stretches and then seated on the ball for moves similar to the warm-up.

As with Core Cardio, I think that the more I do this workout, the more I am going to enjoy it! Because each segment lasts only a few minutes, you’re always moving to something new, so there’s not much of a dread factor (well, maybe a little for all of that core work!). Also, I love the balance work, which keeps the workout fun and interesting (and, on a good day, makes me feel strong and graceful). This is definitely a workout for intermediate/advanced exercisers; a strong core would also be a great asset in this core-focused strength workout.

Instructor Comments:
Tracie provides excellent mirrored cueing; she never makes any mistakes, and her form is perfect. However, I found that she does not fully explain the exercises in these workouts. It is almost like she assumes that you are already familiar with the exercises, which would be fine if she was doing only basic, familiar moves (e.g., a bicep curl), but the exercises here are so different and unique that more explanation is sometimes necessary. The camera angles don’t really help either: for example, there are times when the camera focuses on a close-up of Tracie, and the full move is not shown until after Tracie begins the exercise. Furthermore, the workout is filmed in something similar to a wide-screen format, with bands across the top and bottom that serve to further restrict the viewing area (although this does allow the names of the exercises to appear on-screen, which is a nice bonus).

As I said above, however, I had an easier time with both of these workouts the second time through, and I’m sure that as I learn the choreography, I will have no further problems with Tracie’s cueing. Joining Tracie on the Yorktown are her fellow TLP instructors; all of them do a good job, but I’m particularly blown away by Cindy, who seems to breeze through Core Cardio in particular without even sweating! :-o

Beth C (aka toaster)


I got my new TLP DVDs on Friday so I just had to do them this weekend.

Although you might know already, here is a little bit about me so you can take my review with a grain of salt: I’m a lifelong athlete (lacrosse, track, soccer, skiing, snowboarding) and I mostly workout to Cathe but love FitPrime. I also do yoga daily and I like to add on fusion workouts like ATRM, Pilates, LB, and TBM. I run and bike with Runervlas and Spinervals, and more recently TLP Volume I and P90X.

First some technical details: Each workout is about 50 minutes long. The warm-up and cool down are each a little over 5 minutes each. Both workouts have lots of balance work in them. Core Strength is a strength training workout with lots of core work It uses light, medium, and heavy weights (I used 5-8-10 lbs) and a stability ball. Core Cardio uses a step, and a medicine ball (I used a 6 lb medicine) ball. Each DVD is very well chaptered, with chapter points for every exercise change.

These workouts raise the intensity up a notch from TLP Volume1. I thought TLP Volume 1 was advanced (and still do) but these increase the intensity while keep the moves fresh and intense. I’m amazed that the moves are all different! Some have similarities to Volume I but wow! The creativity and inspiration Tracy has is endless. I’m an instructor and personal trainer so I really appreciate how these instructors create their choreography.

As in TLP Volume I the moves are very unique and fun. It reminds of the athletic training I did in college and a lot of the moves, I recognize from how I move when I play lacrosse or basketball. If you aren’t athletic these moves may be foreign to you but the training will really help you move in everyday life. The fitness industry has long borrowed moves from other industry (step from rehabilitation, medicine balls and stability balls also from rehab), so why not athletic training? Some might be intimidated but hopefully not, because the moves are choreographed to music very nicely.

Again, you can really see Tracy’s “Firm” influence here – the music is terrific and each move has its own song and is choreographed perfectly to the music. The choreography was almost complex but very controlled – another signature of the Firm. I like that because I think the moves are safe but still challenging both from a complexity and intensity standpoint.

The set is very cool and different from any other workout. At the end of Core Cardio the song is very uprising and being on the carrier really fit the bill. The set BTW is on an aircraft carrier from WWII. These ladies look amazing too - all different body types - all strong and beautiful. (Tracy teachers, and Bonnie, JAC, and Cindy from TLP I are in the background).

Core strength: I’m used to heavy weight training but even with the lighter weights these moves were very challenging. My thighs were killing me and I couldn’t do all the balance moves. The core work on the ball has some similarities to Core Foundations but the moves are different enough to spice it up. This is a total body workout and I was spent!

Core Cardio: Fun Fun Fun – I absolutely loved the step choreography on this one. I may even try this on my Bosu for an extra challenge (but I don’t need the extra challenge right now). I was sweating! Some moves were fast (plyometrics) and others were slower but my heart rate never fell out of my working zone and I went anaerobic sometimes. Some slower moves were deceptively simple but my heartrate was sky high - if you thought TLP Volume I didn't have enough cardio - you will not feel that way about this one. There is some very effective (ouch) standing core work on these as well. This workout also uses the band around your ankles to do some unique work for the outer and inner thighs.

The final stretches on both these workouts are a treat. I usually skip over the stretches because I do so much yoga but I love the stretching on these, that I do them.

The only problem I saw with these workouts is that (and other reviewers mentioned this) editing is awkward when they introduce a new move – it isn’t shown right away and I noticed about four or five times between the two workouts. This is a problem because these moves are so unique you simply don’t know what they are talking about. In other videos, you can get away with this because we all know what a bicep curl is (for example).

As you can tell, I highly recommend these workouts. Well produced, good music, and Tracy’s form pointers are superb – very helpful. I love seeing someone, not matter what line of work they are in, inspired by what they are doing. The crew at TLP – their enthusiasm for these productions really shows. As always, I’m looking forward to the future but enjoyed these workouts today!

Christine Miyachi