The Biggest Loser: Last Chance Workout

Jillian Michaels
Year Released: 2009

Categories: Circuit Training (cardio and weights) , Floor Aerobics/Hi-Lo/Dance

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This is a very quick moving circuit training workout led by Jillian Michaels, trainer on The Biggest Loser. There are several (maybe 10) background instructors that are all contestants on Season 7. Two background instructors (Danny and Liz, if I remember correctly) provide beginner and low impact modifications (particularly on cardio moves) while the rest of the group performs the standard level of the workout. Jillian says this is a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout, but I am not familiar enough with HIIT workouts to determine if this is a true statement or not.

This workout follows the same general chaptering that all of The Biggest Loser workouts do: a 5 minute warm up, 25 minute beginner or basic chapter, then two additional 10 minute chapters (which are intended to be added on for “Level 2” and “Level 3” for a user to gradually increase the duration and intensity of the workout), and a 5 minute cool down. The chaptering in the Last Chance Workout are longer, so the Level 1 workout actually provides a 40 minute workout, not just a 30-35 minute workout. Example: Level 1 includes the 7 minute warm up, 28 minute basic chapter, 5 minute cool down for a 40 minute workout; Level 2 includes an additional 10 minute chapter for a 50 minute workout; Level 3 would include all chapters for a 60 minute workout. This DVD also allows the warm up + Levels 2 and 3 + the cooldown (a 30 minute workout) to be done at the same time. In fact for exercisers at Level 1 they recommend alternating the Level 1 workout (with warm up/cool down) with Level 2+3 on alternate days.

Be aware that Jillian has her usual aggressive, tough, yelling personality and be forewarned that she is even MORE worked up in this video (she particularly berates one of the girls in front-Amanda I think?) which absolutely might and will bother some people. The production quality is high and the chaptering is good as noted. The workout takes place in the BL gym with the scale in the background. Menu options let you pick the warm up+Level 1+cool down and/or all of the chapters together. There is also a premix to just do Levels 2 and 3 for an upper/lower body toning segment, to be used as a cross trainer for Level 1, with warm up and cool down. The music, regrettably, was the same tune played over and over. The music itself was a generic gym style tune and repeated easily, but they could have been more creative!

Breakdown of the workout is as follows:

1. Warm up (7 minutes): The warm up was very athletic with no choreography. Knee ups, shoulder rolls both to the front and to the back, kettlebell-like swings with no poundage of course, backwards lunges with no poundage, torso twists. There was definitely a boredom factor in the warm up but it did get the heart rate up!

2. Level 1 chapter (28 minutes): There were five circuits that alternated strength moves with cardio moves, at timed intervals (as opposed to number of reps), with no break in between. Jillian used three different variations of both the strength and cardio moves within each circuit and focused on one muscle group in each circuit. So each circuit has quick moving strength/cardio/strength/cardio/strength/cardio segments before moving on to the next circuit. The first circuit was for the back (three variations of double arm bent row) with three variations of jumping jacks. The second was chest (three variations of pushups) with three variations of running in place. The third set was for biceps (three variations of biceps curls) with boxing moves in between. The fourth set was legs (backwards lunges, squats, and deadlifts) with kicking variations in between. The fifth set was shoulders (three sets of lateral arm movements) with the cardio segments focused on core work, like plank and mountain climbers. Jillian promised this last circuit would be the hardest, and indeed it was very intense. The workout is definitely effective, I felt it in my muscles and my heart rate was raised the whole time. But I am used to more choreographed (yes, even for strength!) workouts from the Firm, Fitprime, Tracie Long, etc. so this seemed repetitive to me. However she took no rests and the moves changed quickly so the boredom was kept at bay. And the time went by really fast. Also, I prefer combination moves, but all of these moves are isolated. However, like the other reviewer said, this does give you more opportunity to go up in poundage, but not too high as Jillian likes to work fast. The reps were somewhat uneven as the background exercisers went at their own pace, which was sort of annoying/distracting. I used 10# weights on many but sometimes used as low as 4# for the shoulder work. [As an aside, the cardio intervals were easily adapted to the rebounder because they were simple and did not require any lateral floor space.]

3. Level 2 chapter (10 minutes): Upper Body. This was completely toning (no cardio) for the upper body. Moves were all traditional and included biceps curls variations balancing on one leg (alternate legs), one arm back row, plank rows and plank flies (hard!), triceps dips on the floor, pushups. The plank rows and plank flies made this a high intermediate workout (especially followed by Level 1 with preexhausted the arm muscles) but overall just standard work that could be easily modified up or down with the poundage chosen. I chose 5-10# which provided an adequate challenge. Again Jillian moved very quickly on the moves which keeps one from using very heavy poundage unless you go at your own pace.

4. Level 3 chapter (about 10 minutes): Lower body. Upon viewing, this is a selection of traditional leg work: lunges, squats, curtsey lunges, some kicks, etc. All standing work. In general I don’t think that the BL leg work is the best (they lean heavily on quick alternating lunges which just isn’t my cup of tea, and my knees don’t like it either) so I’d rather spend 10 minutes on another add on leg workout.

5. Cool down (about 5 minutes): Some quick yoga and athletic stretches to cool down and stretch the muscles. Quick and efficient, although I generally do my own stretches.

This was a good workout and certainly got my heart rate up there! The workout is down to business and gets the work done, but there is really no fun factor. All the same, I seem to consistently pick it up at least once a month. The circuit workout is great for heart pumping cardio and some endurance-paced toning. The moves were well balanced and went very quickly, and I did feel like I accomplished something when I got done. Done as is, I would say this is a solid-high intermediate workout which can be easily modified up or down depending on your chosen level of aerobic intensity (high/low) and how much energy you put into the exercises, as well as poundage chosen. I have been enjoying doing the cardio intervals on a rebounder (this works great) but that does lower the intensity somewhat and makes it more of an intermediate workout. I tend to prefer doing just the main workout (plus warm up/cool down) for about a total body 40 minute workout and skipping the arm and leg chapters. I think they should have added an ab/core focused chapter (in lieu of the arm or leg workout would have been fine by me) since there’s only a tiny sliver of ab workout to be found in the main chapter.

Overall grade A-.

Instructor Comments:
I enjoy Jillian as an instructor – but you either like her or you don’t. If you already know you don’t like her tough personality, you certainly won’t like it here. She may even “yell” more in this workout than in her non-BL workouts. She does give good form pointers, but she does like to pick on some of the exercisers and say (jokingly – I think) that they are slacking off. If you are easily put off by an over the top instructor, I would not recommend her. But those of us that love her will love her in this workout too.

Emily B.


I purchased this one because I enjoy Jillian's workouts (despite the fact that they're Jillian's workouts!). Well, maybe "enjoy" is too strong a word. I like them because they are fast moving-- but not so fast that I can't transition smoothly to the next exercise. Even with her strength workouts, I get a good, sweaty cardio effect.
I figured this one would be a good alternative when I don't feel up to doing 30 Day Shred or No More Trouble Zones. I would say that for this purpose, it fits the bill. It is not as intense as those two workouts (I usually do two segments of Shred-- occasionally all three.) On the other hand, unlike NMTZ which kind of winds down at the end so that your heart rate lowers, this one ends with a bang-- squat jumps holding weights is fairly intense.
Anyway, I would rate the intensity as comparable to the first section of Shred.
The workout is composed of 1) warm up, 2)a 27 minute circuit workout 3)an upper body workout of about 10 minutes, 4) a 10 minute lower body workout, and 5) a cool down.
The warm up is a little boring-- arm rolls, lunges, knee raises-- mostly stationary stuff and dynamic stretching.
Six circuits comprise the main workout. Cardio and strength moves are alternated. Each is about 30 seconnds in duration-- maybe longer. The strength moves are not combination moves such as those found in Shred or NMTZ, making the strength portions a little easier. On the other hand, you can use heavier weights, which I do.
The circuits are as follows 1) back, 2) chest, 3) lower body 4) biceps 5) triceps, and 6) shoulders. In each circuit, she performs three different strength exercises and three different cardio exercises. The chest circuit is composed of push up variations so compound moves are used there. Compound moves such as squats and lunges are also featured in the lower body workout-- no floor work. The cardio exercises include jumping jack variations, punching (this is in the bicep section and my heart rate does drop somewhat here), kicks, variations on jogging in place, rope skipping (no rope though), and for the last (and most difficult cardio-wise) circuit you do plank jacks, mountain climbers, and a variation of these two moves (I usually do burpees because I get tired of being on the floor that long.)
Jillian also includes two strength add-ons. The upper body workout has a combination of standing and on-the-floor moves. She starts with some overhead presses and moves to the floor for some back and chest work-- plank rows and push ups. Next, it is back up for some bicep and tricep work with a side lunge. Then she is back to the floor with plank with a side raise and tricep dips on the floor. As Jillian does not include dedicated ab work, I usually do bicycle crunches, scissor crunches, and supermans during the floor work (as well as the push ups). I figure my back and shoulders have been worked enough. This works for me just fine.
The lower body exercises include squats, squats with a kick, pendulum lunges, a dead lift/curtsy combination, and a few more squat variations.
By the end, the workout has sneaked up on you-- I'm usually breathing hard and sweating up a storm.

Instructor Comments:
Jillian is more obnoxious than in her non BL workouts. Not over the top-- but definitely louder. I find her annoying no matter what persona she is adopting.
The background exercisers are BL contestants. For the most part, I find the women have better form The one guy in orange-- well he really does seem to be phoning it in (as Jillian is wont to say).