Squeeze: StrongerTracy Effinger
Year Released: 2008
Categories: Abs/Core , Ballet/Barre, Lower Body Strength , Pilates/Core Strength , Upper Body Strength
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Before trying Tracy’s workout, my favourite instructor for strength was Cathe. I liked the Squeeze Stronger workout and I liked Tracy enough to want to try more of Tracy’s squeeze workouts. Tracy works out alone, and I like that format, she has enough intensity and karma to be very motivating, and she is easy to see on screen and follow her moves.
I have to say, that these exercises are chosen for advanced exercisers who already have admirable strength, stamina and flexibility, and are not the safest choices. You have to judge how each exercise will affect your body, and modify to make it safe and effective for you. So, in spite of Tracy being new and fun and my most favourite workout this month, I have lots of comments that describe how the exercises felt to me.
Warm-up: this is NOT a kind way to treat cold hamstring muscles. Deadlifts are performed at callisthenic speed.
Biceps: I couldn’t get much pump in the bicep muscles with the “W” because for the entire movement, your arms are held in a semi-front shoulder raise, and my shoulders fatigued before my biceps felt any work.
Shoulders: Front, side and rear delt raises are fairly fast with no rest and as my muscles began to tire in the third set, I had to concentrate to avoid explosive movement or throwing the weights up.
Chest: Tracy performs 4 chest exercises standing with 2 lb. dumbbells. Again, I only felt the work in my shoulders as you are holding your arms up at shoulder height the entire time.
Triceps: some light pulsing type work at the top of the movement, which I felt.
Side Waist Bends: Performed at break neck speed! I was cautious not to startle my back muscles with these standing side stretches and contractions to pull the torso back upright. I tried them without the stick and also with hands on hips to find the right level of resistance for me.
Side kicks: Well, I would call them standing leg lifts, more to the back than to the side. My leg just flies up effortlessly so I actually increased the speed of these and didn’t let me toe touch down between reps to get enough resistance. Alternatively, I could have put on ankle weights.
Push-ups: just one set on the knees plus another two sets using the triceps to push. I will do the first set on my toes, next time, since this is the only time that my chest muscles are worked hard.
Leg Work: there’s 6 minutes of plie variations on your toes with a strong pelvic tilt and upper body leaned slightly backward. You feel a stretch in your front thighs. Then you go down to the floor for knee dancing, pretzel, and clam, which work the hips and pelvis. I think this is my favourite section, and where I’m seeing the most improvement in being strong enough to do the movement and getting the endurance to hold the positions.
Abs: The first ab segment has you hold your upper body halfway down into a roll-down and do some rowing. I’m not strong enough to hold that position with my arms up above my head so I skipped to the next section, which had lower ab crunches and bicycle type moves.
Last exercise: Lying on your back, doing pelvic lifts and hip circles, which I didn’t think were hard but they got more difficult with fast reps, faster pulses, and variations on foot placement.
Stretch: The workout ends with reclining twist and hamstring stretch.
I have to tell you, the first time I finished this workout, I went straight to the cupboard to take ibuprofen and took an Epsom salt bath, I was so worried for myself. Next time, I just needed the bath, and today, the third time completing this workout, I was happy with a shower after. I experienced a learning curve with the exercises. The third time through, I felt better able to get into the exercise positions and not tense up with the speed, and stay relaxed through the reps.
The workout doesn’t make me terribly sore the next day, just sore in weird places, like front delts, side waist, hamstrings (next time I will do my own warm-up prior to starting this workout). I think Tracy has enough charisma to overcome the workout’s shortcomings, and I look forward to doing more of her workouts.
This DVD was my first experience with instructor Tracy Effinger and her Squeeze series of workouts. At almost 78 minutes, Squeeze Strong is a LONG workout, and although you are only using light to moderate weights for much of the routine, it is definitely quite challenging! Tracy works out alone, cuing live, but the artistic filming style flashes to images shot of her in another studio/outfit as well as alternates between color and black-n-white.
The main format that Tracy uses throughout this workout is to perform supersets for each muscle group, complete exhausting that area before moving on. In general, she completes 3 sets of 15 repetitions, although sometimes the number of reps varies depending on the exact exercise. She starts the short (3m) Warm-Up with sets of deadlifts alternating with knee raises. For the deadlifts, Tracy recommends using your "heaviest" weight (8-15 lbs.), but given that she does these pretty quickly (AND that it was just the warm-up!), I stuck with 5-lb. dumbbells, which felt right.
Tracy then moves into arms work; here she recommends using 3-8 lbs. First up is biceps. The three exercises in this superset (6.5m) are a "W" curl, a close-grip bicep curl, and an alternating twisting bicep curl. I stayed with my 5-lb. dumbbells, which were definitely heavy enough for me! I also used the same weight for the shoulders superset (6m), which included a front raise, a lateral raise (Tracy begins with the hands "behind the seam of your pants"), and a bent over rear delt raise. In the next segment (5.5m), Tracy recommends that you lower your weights to 1s, 2s, 3s or even use no weight--I started with 3-lb. but quickly decreased to 2-lb. This series involves a set of exercises that are only performed once each: for the chest, scissors, chest fly, and pec deck. Then, leaning forward, shoulder extensions with arm circles plus triceps pulses. Waist work follows. Here Tracy uses her "Squeeze Stick," but a regular broomstick would work fine. Again using supersets, she alternates side bends and side twists with knee raises with "side kicks"--these are performed holding onto the back of the chair with both hands and lifting a leg up high, and they really work the back of the waist (trust me--I definitely felt them the next day!). The second waist round adds a standing intercostal crunch. Tracy finishes off the arms work with push-ups: one set traditional (on knees), one set triceps push-ups (on knees), and one set one-armed triceps push-ups (on each side).
Whew--on to legs! Tracy begins with standing leg work using the chair for balance. She performs a series of plies which include athletic v-plie, "sissy" squat plie, and ball squeeze plie variations (Tracy squeezes a playground ball between her hands; you could easily skip the ball or use a small dumbbell instead). Although this segment is only 6 minutes long overall, Tracy adds plenty of little variations to make it challenging. From here you go down to your knees for the brief (2 minutes) knee dancing segment. Those familiar with Callanatics or Lotte Berk will recognize this move, which involves reclining the body back and then coming back forward, leading in a pelvic tilt; Tracy starts slow but speeds it up and uses alternate tempos. Before moving on to the floorwork, Tracy does a short (4.5m) yoga-like stretch series. The next segment is KILLER, and at 12 minutes, it's also the longest sequence in the workout. Starting in a seated position, Tracy performs the pretzel, another traditional move from barre workouts, but I really liked how she explained/setup this exercise. She moves into what seemed like endless variations, so although you begin with the leg behind of you, you eventually will have both legs in front of you and will finish with a series of clams moves; then, of course, you have to repeat the entire sequence on the other side.
Finally, you move on to abs. This was the one segment I wasn't crazy about on the DVD. At 10 minutes, it felt overly long to me. Tracy uses the stick again here, and the moves feel Pilates-inspired, such as the roll-down and the rowing. Following the abs work, you will lie down on your mat for back dancing, or a series of quick pelvic lifts. This nicely finished off the butt, with several variations including hip circles; I only wish that it had been longer than 3 minutes. Tracy concludes the workout with some nice reclined twists as well as a brief seated stretch for the hamstrings. Unfortunately, given the length of this workout, this short final stretch (it is only 4 minutes total) clearly felt insufficient; I definitely would have preferred less abs, more stretching!
And believe me, you will need the stretching--the first day after I did Squeeze Stronger, the entire back side of my body was sore, from my upper back through the sides of my waist to my butt and hamstrings! Oh, and I definitely felt it in my arms as well. Tracy states in her Introduction that beginners can do this workout by taking it slowly, but personally, I would recommend this DVD for experienced exercisers only. I probably won't be using the entire workout myself again anytime soon; instead, I will rely on the Premixes--which include Upper Body & Waist (40 minutes) and Lower Body & Abs (43 minutes)--as well as the Mix & Match Menu. Overall, this DVD was definitely a good purchase for me, and I know that I will get a lot of use from it.
As I mentioned, this was my first workout with Tracy, and I liked her. She is encouraging, often using the term "squeeze harder!", but she is not overly effusive. She does not mirror cue, but given that there really aren't many left-right situations in this workout, this wasn't much of an issue. She does give some decent form pointers, although I still would not recommend this workout for beginners.
Squeeze Stronger is an advanced, challenging 78-minute workout that offers an athletic take on the "barre" genre. The DVD is well chaptered and it offers two convenient premixes (upper body & waist; lower body & abs). Here is a breakdown of the workout:
Warm-up (3 min.)
The warm-up consists of 3 sets of deadlifts (15 reps) and alternate knee lifts (15 reps each knee). I like how the warm-up establishes that Squeeze is an integration of high-rep weight lifting (with the deadlifts) and barre work (with the traditional Lotte Berk knee lift warm-up move). Tracy uses heavier weights here (8lbs?) but 5 lbs fels better to me in a warm-up.
Biceps (6:30 min.)
You do 3 giant sets of (1) Ws, (2) close grip alt. bicep curl, (3) twisting curls – 15 reps each. I like to use 5 lbs here but the pace is slow enough that you could go heavier. This is a great complement to the original Squeeze workout, which emphasizes the triceps.
Shoulders (6 min.)
Again, you do 3 giant sets of (1) front raise, (2) lateral raise, and (3) rear delt raise.
Shoulders / Pecs / Triceps (5:30 min.)
This standing segment includes: scissor, chest fly crossing the arms in front, and pec deck. Then you lean forward and do: shoulder extension, circle arms out, press arms in and up, small triceps press. Tracy uses lighter weights for this segment.
Standing core work (8:30 min.)
You place the Squeeze stick across the shoulders (a broom works well, too) and do side bends, then torso twists (lifting the knee to the opposite elbow). Then you hold on to a chair and do “side kicks”, which are more of a leg lift to the back corner of the room. Repeat everything with some variations (e.g., instead of the torso twists, you do a standing crunch). Tracy displays great flexibility in this segment and I find I have to use a smaller range of motion to keep good form. I definitely feel this in my obliques and in the spot right above the glutes.
Pecs and Triceps (4:30 min.)
Move to the floor for one set each of pushups, triceps pushups, and one-arm triceps pushups.
Plié Series (6 min.)
• V-plié in first position with heels up: (1) down and hold, up and hold, (2) hold down and press, then hold again.
• Sissy squat plié with feet parallel and hip-width apart: (1) down 2 counts and up 2 counts, (2)hold down, tuck hips and release, (3) hold the tuck and lean back, then press down.
• Ball squeeze plié in wide 2nd position and holding a ball in front of chest: (1) small presses down, squeezing the ball with the hands, (2) small presses with the ball overhead, (3) full range pliés. Then turn feet parallel and repeat the small presses and full range movement.
This is a relatively short plié series but the slow pace, the small presses and long holds make it challenging. In case your thighs are not quivering yet, you then move on to knee dancing…
Knee dancing (2 min.)
Start in a kneeling position, then lower the hips to the feet, tuck the hips under and lift back up. Tracy does a few “slow” reps and then moves on to double time. This is very fast/advanced and prefer to use a smaller range of motion (staying lower and not lifting all the way back up); you could also stay with the slower reps. Tracy does some neat variations: side-to-side, then tap down twice and lift up. To finish, you extend your arms to the side, lean back, and then tuck the hips and release. This is sure to fry your quads!
Blissful yoga-inspired stretch focusing on the quads and hamstrings.
Side series (12 min.)
These 12 minutes are worth the price of the DVD for me… that’s how much I LOVE this segment! It is pretty hard to describe because Tracy flows seamlessly from one position to the next, working the hips/ outer thighs from all angles:
• In a pretzel position: (1) lift leg & lower, (2) keep leg up and lift from there, (3) circle the knee back, (4) press the leg back, (5) extend the leg and bend.
• Keep leg extended to the back corner and bring the elbows to the floor: leg lifts.
• Flex the foot and bring the leg to the side in line with the body: (1) leg lifts, (2) tap knee down in front of the body and extend out to the side.
• Knees bent 90 degrees in front: (1) lift & lower, (2) rotate at the hip to open the knee – like the clam in Winsor, (3) turn knee down and toes up, then lift & lower, (4) hip rotation with knees down and feet up, then add a leg extension.
• Brief hip stretch (thank you!) and then repeat on the other side.
Abs (10 minutes)
A super tough sequence of mostly isometric moves, with tons of variety. My favorite is the abs rolldown:
• Abs rolldown: Sit with legs extended in front of you, holding the stick in front of the chest: (1) curl down half way and do tiny curl in C-shape, (2) lower down a bit more and repeat, (3) lower down a bit more and repeat. Then you repeat everything with some variations: rowing side-to-side, pulsing the arms up, and pulling the stick in and pushing out.
• Abs on elbows
• Abs isolators
Back dancing (3 min.)
• Knees and feet together: (1) lift and lower the hips, (2) hold the hips up, then circle the hips, (3) turn the knees and feet to one side, then lift and lower the hips.
• Feet in first position: Lift hips and lower.
• Feet apart and parallel: Lift hips and lower.
Tracy uses more of a pilates form here, doing a bridge rather than the smaller range of motion tuck we usually see in Lotte Berk.
Final stretch (4 min.)
Long spinal twists (ahhhh….), followed by a challenging seated hamstring stretch (you have to be really flexible for this one but it’s easy to adapt by doing the move lying on your back), and a seated forward bend.
Tracy is a superb instructor. She looks completely natural on camera and she delivers clear, motivating cueing.