Pyramid Lower BodyCathe Friedrich
Year Released: 2002
Categories: Balance/Medicine/Mini/Stability Ball, Lower Body Strength
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This video just about drove me crazy, because of the horrible music. Doing the same exercise over and over again has a built-in boredom factor anyway, but the music made it drag on and on. It was especially bad because I did Step, Jump, and Pump 2 days before, and the great music made those 73 minutes fly by. Lower Body Pyramid is shorter, but feels much longer.
On the plus side, Cathe and the entire crew were cheerful the whole time, were in great shape, and looked gorgeous.
Although I'm a huge Cathe fan, I've been a bit bored with her lower body work. Squat, lunge, squat lunge, it seemed that every tape in every series was the same old recycled exercises, and the inner and outer thighs were almost completely neglected. *FINALLY* she's done something different for the lower body. The old squats, lunges, calve raises and deadlifts are still here, but there's also a great floor work section that uses the stability ball. Although some of these exercises aren't new themselves, Cathe puts a twist on them (e.g. using the ball while doing outer thigh lifts. I love that Cathe is finally realizing that the outer thighs need a little attention too!
What I really like about this tape is its' versatility - Cathe describes it as a tool to gain lean muscle mass, which is very appropriate, particularly for someone who is beginning strength training. As someone with extensive strength training history, I would classify it as a high volume endurance workout (as there is no rest between sets of exercises). However, it is extremely versatile in the fact that you could easily increase the weights lifted and pause the video/DVD and take a rest period (about a minute), thus returning the strength/mass building focus. It is performed pyramid style, 12 reps at lightest weight, 10 reps at next lightest weight, 8 reps at heaviest weight and back down the pyramid. Please note that for maximal gains, you should not be able to complete any more than the prescribed number of reps for that weight with perhaps the exception of the first set, which I liken to an exercise specific warm up.
Warm Up - Nicely done - Cathe warms up the muscles using dynamic range of motion techniques (ie she moves big muscle groups) and performs sets of squats and lunges without weights as a warm up. She does a really terrific forward lunge, backward lunge combination which is fabulous for strengthening the hip area (where the hips are kept square).
LEG PRESS - Cathe uses the high step for this with 5 bricks underneath. As someone with pelvic stability problems, I lowered my step to 4 bricks and concentrated on technique. Cathe's technique is impeccable in this and you can tell she has rehearsed well as she gives salient form reminders, especially in the later sets. She encourages you to drive the weight through the heel on the lead leg to effectively target the hamstrings/glutes. She could also mention not to land back on the ground with a thud and to keep the hips squared the whole way through. When doing a leg press try and tap the ground lightly, maintaining tension in the leg muscles rather than flopping back down which is what I did originally (yes, even we exercise professionals can make form errors!). This really ramps up the intensity of this exercise!
LUNGES - Cathe again demonstrates perfect lunge technique - she didn't say anything about squaring the hips, but I am certain that she has mentioned it in other videos. Her form is perfect, her hips do not drop or slop and it is an absolute pleasure to watch. The great technique serves as a reminder to focus, focus, focus on those hips and gluteals. The lunges were done 1:1 time and the faster tempo occurred without compromise in form.
SQUATS - Cathe probably has the best squat technique I have ever seen in an exercise video. Her pelvis remains in neutral alignment the whole way through (especially where there is a tendency to stick one's butt out and tilt anteriorly at the bottom of the movement). Her choice of placing squats after lunges was a good one as my legs were already quite fatigued. There is a danger of getting into trouble with just a barbell when you are lifting heavy weights - I lifted 60 pounds for the squat section (I am strong in this area) and decided that I was going to work harder in the previous exercises so I could reach fatigue with less weight. She again performs the squats in 1:1 time - which is adequate, but I personally prefer a slower tempo.
DEADLIFTS - Cathe gives good form pointers in this exercise and reminds us to focus on the hamstrings/glutes/lower back. Her shoulder blades are retracted, her pelvis is in neutral and she is a pleasure to watch. SNM shows close ups of the cast performing this exercise - Brenda does a particularly good job of isolating the hamstrings and keeping the shoulder area stable. Cathe uses 3:1 timing in this exercise to my delight, focusing on the eccentric portion of the exercise. You have some versatility here - you could go 2:2 for something different.
CALVES - Standing calf raises - 3 sets only - sensible choice as a smaller muscle group.
LYING STABILITY BALL WORK - Here Cathe moves to the floor and uses a stability ball for more hamstring/abductor and adductor work. I am in awe of Cathe's form here, she performs each exercise with amazing precision, the glutes are lifted and the hips are still. Some of the cast members struggle a little with this and I have sympathy for them as this is rather advanced work. It could also be a problem if you are tall and have long limbs (like myself). I could not perform the number of reps of the single leg hamstring bridge, rather I concentrated on technique and did a double leg bridge instead. Cathe moves a little too fast for me in this set - I would have preferred her to move much slower and with a lot more control. She does slow the pace down in rolling the ball back towards her whilst focusing on the adductors. An excellent exercise - you work the hamstrings dynamically and need a lot of glute/lower ab support to execute it properly. This is followed by some adductor squeezes (probably not necessary as we did plie squats - didn't mention this in the squat section, sorry :) )and some very effective side lying leg lifts against the stability ball. Cathe encourages you to flex your ankles, however the movement is more concentrated into the hips/glutes/outer thigh if the foot remains relaxed.
Cathe concludes with a thorough (and well earned) stretch.
Overall, I would rate this tape an A - due to its' versatility - it could be modified for a beginner, less sets and no ball work and also modified for the advanced (heavier weight, greater rest pauses), slower ball work. My only small criticism is the speed of the ball work - whilst Cathe's form is flawless, it is problably too much for a taller individual (I would recommend to slowww down)
Cathe Friedrich's strength workouts are among the best I have reviewed. Cathe is extremely professional in her approach and her workouts are well planned and rehearsed. Her technique, particularly for squats is exceptional which is a big plus for extremely visual learners.
Other reviewers have broken down this video (which I did this morning) nicely, so I won't bother to go there. I will say that I was a little reluctant to buy this, if only because I could find no supporting evidence to support any particular effectiveness of the "pyramid" method of training. However it got such great reviews here and on my Firmlist (and how could I resist another Cathe all-weight workout?) that I bought this along with the Pyramid Upper Body and Muscle Endurance from the "Intensity" series. Wow! This is a phenomenal workout for the lower body. As another reviewer mentioned, Cathe doesn't seem to be going terribly heavy (& doesn't it make you feel STRONG to go heavier than Cathe?!); I used heavier weights on almost all the exercises, which include tall box step ups, lunges, squats, plies, some NICE calf work ... and then, WHOA it's on to the wrecking ball. How does that mini demon dream up these exercises? Who'da thunk that working your lower body without any weights using a stability ball could be SO TOUGH?! What I love about Cathe's weight workouts (I don't have any of her step/cardio) is that with every new video I buy she bumps me into a whole 'nother level. My Firm workouts improve, my running improves, my abs and core strength improve (oh to have abs like Cathe ... sigh) ... she brings a whole new dimension to my workouts!
Cathe is, without a doubt, one of the finest (if not THE finest) video instructors out there. In terms of form pointers, she's up there with Tracie Long and Karen Voight, yet she has an added unique charm all her own.
This workout is the companion to Catheís Pyramid Upper Body workout, and is available on VHS by itself or on DVD. I have the DVD, which includes the entire Pyramid Upper Body Workout, as well as pre-mixes that include Up the Pyramid Only, Down the Pyramid Only and a total body combo. Each set of each exercise is also chaptered individually, so you can skip ahead or program workouts to your specifications at will.
Structurally, it follows the same pattern as the Upper Body workout: each body part gets two exercises performed for 5 sets each. The routine is followed by a lower body ball work section that was much more manageable than the one in the upper body workout. I enjoyed the ball work in this one a lot and could see myself using it as an add-on to other workouts.
This is a solid, well-done routine, but I did not enjoy it as much as the upper body workout. It felt a little longer, and it included a few exercises that I didnít like (although Cathe does get bonus points for including some wonderful Firm-style tall-box-type work. For me, this is a good weekend workout, for when I have the extra time and feel like going to more effort. But I couldnít see myself doing this more than once a week---it is a little too long, and a little too intense---both physically and mentally---to do much more than that.
After owning this for a few months and thinking I'd never be able to do all those reps with my crackly knees I finally decided to try this workout. I wanted to review it from a modifiers point of view. I don't like to do single count squats and lunges as they aggravate my knees a bit.
Cathe goes up the pyramid and then back down with the following reps 12, 10, 8, 10, 12. As you can see, that's a lot of reps.
The warmup gets you good and warm, but is simple to follow. The first exercise is leg press, which I skipped. I intend to sub a floor or ball quad exercise for these, but didn't this time.
Next is static lunges, then a superset of squats and plie squats. I used a 2 up, 2 down count for all standing lower body work. So I only ended up doing reps of 6, 5, 4, 5, and 6. I used conservative weight and it felt like a nice easier day workout. I could definitely go pretty heavy with this workout.
Deadlifts are next and I skipped those because of a weak sacroilic joint. I don't like the 3 down, 1 up count as I think dtoo many people will jerk up. A 2-2 count would probably be better.
Calf raises are done on the edge of the step platform using the barbell for support. No weight is used, but these really hurt!
Then you move onto floorwork with the ball. The hamstrings, glutes, inner, and outer thighs are worked. The ball work is excellent! You may want to put the ball against a wall or couch for stability with the first exercise.
A nice stretch, that I wish was longer, ends the workout.
I was pleasantly surprised with this one, since I was sure I wouldn't like it.
The music is nice too. I don't remember anything about it standing out, but I didn't hate it either.
I love Cathe, and she just has this ability to really motivate me as soon as I hear her voice. She has awesome form too.
My legs are cooked after doing this workout. The first section, which is done standing, uses the usual exercises, such as leg presses (step-ups onto the bench), static lunges squats and plie squats, and deadlifts, all using a pyramid system, which ends up being 5 sets of each exercise )(except the squats which are 10 sets). Reps are 12-10-8-10-12 going from lightest to heaviest and back to lightest weight, so that's 52 reps for each exercise, and 104 reps for squats! By the time I finished the squats, my knees were on the verge of rebellion. The standing section ends with calf raises, not done with any resistance, but there are a lot of reps, so they are well-toasted. The standing section is about 34 minutes long.
The second section is done on the floor and I have to say that this is one of the toughest floor segments I've ever seen or done. Cathe uses a stability ball and the first exercise has you lying on your back with one foot on the ball and the other straight up in the air, with the buttocks lifted off the floor; you have to lift and lower. I found this exercise to be very difficult, so I modified it by using my Firm Fanny Lifter instead of the ball, and it was still very difficult. There's an inner thigh exercise using the ball, where you lie on your back with both feet on the ball in a turned out position, and lift your buttocks off the ground while you draw the ball towards you and then away from you. This one is also very difficult, especially in keeping yourself lifted off the floor. I liked the outer thigh exercise where you do leg lifts at various tempos, while lying on your side over the ball. The stretch at the end is a welcome relief.
In summary, I like this workout, although the pyramids are a bit long and there are a lot of reps. The time moves pretty quickly, though. This workout is suitable for advanced exercisers, although intermediate exercisers could modify it by going lighter on the weights, or by not doing the full pyramids. The stability ball work is super-challenging and even Cathe's legs were shaking during the exercises. I would use this workout to add variety, but not more than once a week. I give it an A-.
Cathe is the ultimate video exercise instructor, with her wonderful instruction, friendly personality, amazing strength, and terrific muscle definition. She's an inspiration. It's hard to believe she had a baby just months earlier.
This is one tough workout and can really be used in a lot of ways. Cathe uses 25-40# on this one, but I think lots of Cathe's avid users will find that if they go heavier, it is quite a challenging workout. No low ends, just the pyramid system of doing 12 reps at a moderate weight, 10 reps at a heavier weight, 8 reps at the heaviest weight you can handle with good form, and then back down the pyramid. The standing leg work moves so fast! It consists of: Leg Presses, Lunges, Squats, Dead Lifts, and Calf work. Then you move onto floor work with the stability ball. This is very tough. Your hamstrings feel it almost immediately. I was a bit surprised the first time I did this one that is seemed 'easy', but once I upped the poundage, then it was right up there with PS SL&A and CTX LL. This tape moves so fast!
Cathe seems to be taking it a bit easy on this one, but just when I thought I'd rest with the floor work, she hit my hamstrings and adductors hard! As always Cathe is endearing, motivational, and full of energy!
This is a preview review!
Pyramid Lower Body
Warm up~4 minutes
First half of workout is standing lower body work using a pyramid system using:
12 light weight reps
10 moderate weight reps
8 heavy weight reps
10 moderate weight reps
12 light weight reps
1. Leg Press-weights used-25-30-35
3. Squats-supersets with regular then plie squats before increasing weights-30-35-40
4. Deadlifts-down 3 up 1 up count rhythm-30-35-40
(this first section is ~25 minutes)
5. Calf raises off top section of mini-step using loaded barbell for stability 28-12-12
Lower body stretch
Now on to floorwork using balance ball. Brenda shows modification using mini-step.
6. Hamstring raises-one heel on balance ball other leg straight in air, arms at side, palms up. 16 reps followed by 4 sets of 7 reps of upper end raises.
7. Pull-ins-Both feet on ball, pull ball in & out with hips off the floor. 12 reps of 1-1 count, 4 reps of 2-2 count, 8 reps of 1-1 count.
8. Inner thigh work-Both feet on ball-froggy style pull-ins again with hips elevated off of the floor.
9. Ball squeezes-Ball between legs while lying on back-8 reps of singles, 6 reps of double holds, 8 singles, 6 double holds.
10. More glute work with head & shoulders on ball, legs bent greater than 90 degrees, weight on heels-hip raises-24 singles-8-(3 count) holds, 8 singles..
11. Outer thigh work-on side with upper body supported on ball, on knee of non-working leg (out from ball a bit, not straight up & down) outer thigh leg lifts-16 reps-7 pulses at top x 3 sets, 3 count holds for 8 reps.
If youíre still alive at this point itís time for a nice relaxing stretch using the ball then more traditional stretches. The entire workout ~50 minutes.
Cathe & her background exercises are amazing!