The Ultimate Workout

Michelle Dozois
Year Released: 2009

Categories: Athletic Stretch , Floor Aerobics/Hi-Lo/Dance , Gliding Disks, Total Body Workouts

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This review is for the 30 minute Ultimate Cardio Blast portion of the workout. Kath posted a wonderfully detailed review so this is just my general impression. To me, this reminds me of good, old-fashioned hi-low. It's fast paced (some might feel it's too fast) and follows a pattern of high intensity and then recovery. The moves are athletic, not dancy. I'd consider this a hi-intermediate level if you follow without modifying. The toughest section was when we did fast feet alternated with push ups -- if you don't like going from standing to floor, beware! Not much transition time after the cardio: at the end, I had to pause the video & cool down a little more before the stretching. Overall, I enjoyed it & time went by pretty fast.



Iím reviewing this workout after doing it once.

General workout breakdown: This video contains one 30-min. cardio workout, one 30-min. total body weights workout, and one 14-min. stretch routine. Michelle mentions in her introduction that this is based on a popular class she teaches at her gym thatís in such demand because it gets in cardio, strength training, and flexibility all done in one fell swoop.

- 30 Minute Ultimate Cardio Blast Workout
The cardio workout begins with a fairly lengthy warm-up, which has some dynamic and then a few short static stretches.
The meat of the workout begins with a sort of combo, where Michelle has you cycle through several moves, with more intense variations shown before moving onto the next move or set of moves. The second and third times through you have the choice of sticking with the easier variations or going with the more intense ones. After that come three combos, for lack of a better term, of three sets of moves that are done on each side. Michelle says these have intensity bursts, and they're more like rolling intervals (if I understand the term correctly), where you increase the intensity, back off a little, build it a little more, back off a little, and then do the most intense part, before marching it out and starting the next round. Michelleís choreography is more about repeating a step a few times before moving onto the next one, maybe doing two moves back to back Ė but never building up fancy footwork. She does each side evenly. There's no TIFTing; once you've completed your run throughs, the combos are thrown away, never to reappear again.
The cool-down is very quick: some shifting side to side, a few quick lower body stretches, and bam! you're done.
The moves are vintage Michelle: mostly athletic (jumping jacks, squats, lunges, lateral hops, fast feet), with some boxing moves like punches and shuffles thrown in; the danciest part is a cross (aka mambo) into a chasse. There are a number of high impact moves, but the modifier will take out or minimize some of that. Note that Michelle drops to the floor for a series of push-ups in one of the combos.

- 30 Minute Ultimate Super Sculpting Workout
The weights segment begins with a quick weighted warm-up of swing, diagonal chest press up w/ squat in the middle, and circle the weight up & over. The workout ends with a few quick releases for the low back and glutes.
Michelle groups a few exercises together in sets, alternating between more focused movements and multi-muscle / multi-limb (what's commonly known here as "compound") moves, changing tempo once or twice or adding a pulse, etc. Not surprisingly, given Michelleís background, the corework is Pilates-inspired. The pace is controlled, never rushing but not particularly slow. I felt this was fairly well balanced between lower body, upper body, and core. With the long push-up series at the end there's more for the chest than back (which I'm not too crazy about), but the triceps get hit harder than the biceps (which I'm perfectly fine with, although my fried tris were not!).
The exercises are grouped as follows:
*(Romanian or straight leg) deadlift, standing back wide row, 1-legged *deadlift, 1-legged wide row, row w/ elbows narrow
*chest flye, bridge w/ heels raised (regular, then w/ 1 leg raised)
*plank w/ knee pull (1 & then both), plank w/ diagonal knee pull (1 & then both)
*sit down & stand up, hammer curl, squat, biceps curl (variations include Catheís crazy 8s and then pulses in the center)
*weighted triceps dip, triceps kickback, straight arm press back, behind the back mini upright row
*plie squat, upright row
*side lunge, sway to side - alternates with (i.e. you do both series on one side, then switch to the other side for both series) - step up, step up w/ side leg lift, overhead press
*reverse (sliding) lunge, leg push back
*push-up w/ 1 arm lift, push-up w/ 1 arm & opposite leg lift, push-up with palm rotation, 1-arm triceps push-up, push-up (normal)
*back extension, swan dive
*half roll-back w/ oblique / arm sweep (adding legs in & out), crunch w/ legs sliding in & out, oblique crunch w/ leg in & out, oblique crunch w/ leg lift & lower, scissor pulse, scissors, scissors w/ rotation

- 15 Minute Ultimate Flexibility Session
This stretch segment feels thorough, covering pretty much every major area of the body. In no particular order Michelle touches especially on the hamstrings and glutes / outer hips / IT band but also the calves, quads / hip flexors, inner thighs, low back, obliques / side of the torso, chest / front of the shoulders, upper back / back of the shoulders, triceps, and neck. (OK, if you want to nitpick, there's not a lot for the biceps, abs, wrists, and ankles, but as far as major muscles youíre pretty much covered.) Thereís nothing too fancy or innovative here, just solid, proven moves. Most stretches are held for 1-2 counts of 8, so they're not particularly long, but I didn't feel as though Michelle was racing through things.

Level: Iíd recommend this to intermediate + exercisers, although this can easily work for those looking for a little more or not as much intensity. Those at the experienced beg./int. through low int. stage would probably be fine with the 1-2 sets of 3-5 lb. weights and doing the workouts separately, while those closer to int./adv. (and maybe even low adv.) can do them back to back with 10s, 12s, and even 15s.
It's been a while since I've done the original three Your Body Breakthrus, but I feel this is comparable to those and the videos Michelle has done for Shape Magazine. The cardio here is more intense than Rockin' Body Cardio Jam and closer to that found on the Shape Transforming and Redefining, but the weights feel similar in intensity to Your Best Body Circuit and Slim, Strong & Sexy Sculpt.
I don't know how much my somewhat restless night of sleep, my body still tired from the previous dayís gym class, or my warm and humid workout room factored into things, but I found this decently challenging. I had to push to get through it. There's some room for me to grow with this workout as I get more used to it. I'm not working with weights videos as much these days (when I do, I often reach for Kelly Coffey-Meyer, Cathe Friedrich, and Amy Bento) and doing slightly different styles of lifting (Iíve been focusing on New Rules of Lifting style of weights as well as kettlebells), so that played into the challenge a bit. Afterwards I felt worked out but not wiped out.

Class: Michelle introduces her two back-up exercisers as members of her club. (Personally I like seeing the instructor's class members, friends, or folks who actually use the workouts.) They do a nice job and aren't distracting. One shows modifications, although she often almost does the full move.

Music: instrumentals with a beat for cardio and weights; muzak that alternates between jazz, Spanish, and Celtic for the stretch. This workout deserves some more rockiní tunes, even if it means a few more bucks on the price tag.

Set: brightly lit and rather bare interior space with some potted plants; itís nothing exciting, but at least itís much lighter than the previous Your Body Breakthru set.

Production: clear picture, sound, and camera angles.

Equipment: For cardio = sneakers
For weights = 2 sets of dumbbells (Michelle recommends 1 set of 3-5 lbs. for less experienced and 2 sets of up to 15 lbs. for more; I used 5s, 8s, and 10s and appreciated having the in between option), high step w/ 4 sets of risers (if you donít have one, you can use your Fanny Lifter or step stool of similar height, or you can have a chair plus just the floor, a regular step, or - if you're brave - a Bosu, which creates quite the balance challenge for the step-up / overhead press combo), 2 gliding discs (substitute: paper plates), and a mat, if you need it
For stretch = mat plus an optional towel (substitute: yoga strap, tie, belt, etc.) - Michelle and class do this portion barefoot.

Space Requirements: The cardio needs the most space; you should be able to take two steps to each side and walk a few steps forward and back. (At 5'8" I fit it into a space about 6-8í long and maybe 4-6í deep.) The strength is a little more compact: you need to be able to do big plie squats side to side and lunge behind you while still having enough room for your equipment. And you should just be able to lie down with limbs extended for the stretch.

DVD Notes: The main menu offers you The Ultimate Workout (play all), which plays cardio, weights, and then the stretch, or each one of the workouts separately. (If you want to do weights first, youíll have to go back to the main menu after each segment.)
There are no chapters within the workouts, which is too bad because it would be nice to be able to skip, repeat, or even mix and match.
There's no long intro, as Michelle's intro is a distinct selection from the main menu.

Comments: Approach with caution if you have sensitive wrists or shoulder issues (although if you can handle / modify / substitute planks, push-ups, triceps dips, and upright rows youíre fine), don't like squats and lunges in your cardio (or strength) workouts, and/or don't like transitions from standing to floor and back again (although you can often limit or even eliminate these, at least in the cardio portion).

I did this workout weights-first, which is my preferred style of combining cardio and weights. In the future Iíll do another quick warm-up first, as the one for the weights workout is very short. The cardio workout warms up more slowly and definitely is designed to warm up the muscles (and perhaps to pre-fatigue some of the stronger ones, like in the legs) to be used in the weights segment. Despite my preference for weights first, I would consider doing this cardio-first because it very much seems to be intended to be done that way.
I appreciate having the cardio and weights as separate, as I prefer to do each by itself rather than mix the two. It would have been nice to see a cardio and weights circuit premix on this, however, for those who like that style of training, although Stephanie Vitorinoís similarly named The Ultimate Body Shaper, which was released at the same time and also uses a high step, may be a better choice for you circuit lovers.

I like this. Itís well done and what you'd expect from Michelle these days. No, I don't think it's The Ultimate Workout thatís the be all and end all of fitness and thus I can clean out all other workouts from my shelves. But it'll make a nice addition to my collection and will especially fit in well with the other Your Body Breakthrus and perhaps also Kelly Coffey-Meyerís offerings.

Instructor Comments:
Michelle cues live, mirror cues, and cues clearly. She leaves out mentioning a few things, like the side leg lift on the step up / overhead press combo or the jog in the forward with a knee / back into a lunge combo in the cardio segment, but otherwise itís easy to follow her. She focuses on instruction and motivation, with no idle chit chat. This is the not quite as perky or peppy Michelle that we've seen lately who says, "I know what you're going through: I'm a busy mom, too" and "Come on, you *can* do this."