PowerFit Harmony: Upper Body BlastStephanie Huckabee
Year Released: 2010
Categories: Upper Body Strength
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Note: This is disc #9 in the PowerFit Harmony set.
I’m reviewing this workout after doing it three times.
General workout breakdown: Cardiomama, Emily B, and Lindseylu have already described this well, so I’ll just add a few thoughts.
Interestingly, this video is done all standing. It’s a nice change for those days when you feel that if you head down to the floor you might not get up again!
One problem I have in general with the PowerFits and with this video, too, is that Stephanie does have an emphasis on appearance, so the so-called “mirror muscles” (meaning the ones you can see in the mirror and say, “Wow, look at those nice looking muscles!”) like the shoulders and biceps get extra attention. Since I exercise more for health and function, I like a more balanced workout or even something with more emphasis on the back body. Still, these aren’t any more out of whack than any other gym-style video out there, and Stephanie does try to work the back a good bit in these videos, something I think the band does pretty well.
Note that Stephanie does upright rows, one of those exercises that more and more physical therapists are saying have greater risks than rewards, even though fitness instructors still love ‘em. Since you have the band in hand, why not swap in a rotator cuff exercise? Hold the band in front of you with your palms up and pull out; you can keep to Stephanie’s rhythm. Another thing I’d advise doing is swapping which foot you use for the standing moves with the band under one foot; Stephanie exclusively sticks the band under the right foot, but for some variety it’s worth sticking it under the left, like for the final “compound” series.
The “cardio intervals” confused me a little because they didn’t have a consistent focus and weren’t really “cardio” for me. In the first one Stephanie starts to burn out your shoulders with band moves as you do simple lower body movements. I was disappointed Stephanie didn’t continue this endurance work in the subsequent ones. The second one seemed to be about releasing your shoulders, with shoulder rolls and arm circles. OK, that did feel pretty good. But then in the third one Stephanie seemed to say, “Um, I guess it’s time for a break, and I’m kind of out of ideas, so let’s just march in place really big.” Yawn. Missed opportunity there, Huckabee. And even with the “cardio” intervals this whole workout didn’t get my heartrate up and leave me very sweaty.
Level: I’d agree with those who say that done as shown these workouts are beginner / intermediate. I’m not sure I’d recommend this to someone who had never exercised before, as Stephanie’s form instruction is a bit skimpy for some exercises and the combination moves require a good bit of coordination and concentration, and this may be tricky for someone who has never worked with a resistance band before. But this is great for someone who’s not an absolute beginner but who’s still working out at a beginning level: those who’ve graduated from “this is how you do a bicep curl” videos but need something to bridge the gap into intermediate workouts, those who are restarting, and those who have dialed things down for health or other reasons. This would also work well for a travel workout, especially if you know you’ll be wiped out and won’t have the time, room, or energy to do much but still want to get something in to maintain your fitness. All that said, with some creativity, as many have said, an intermediate could make these work, not just on light days but perhaps even on moderate days.
I knew going in that these would be on the easy side for me at my usual fitness level, intermediate / advanced. But I’m not at my usual fitness level right now. After starting and stopping due to, well, life over the past year and a half I needed something easy – and short – to ease myself back into working out regularly so I could work back up to my regular level of working out. (I suspect if I had gotten this earlier on I may not have gone through such long spurts of not working out…) These fit the bill.
Class: 2 women join Stephanie, who instructs live as she does the whole routine. No one shows modifications, not that they’re really needed.
Music: standard-issue exercise video stuff; it’s nothing offensive, but it’s certainly not memorable.
Set: open interior space with “wood” laminate floors, gray walls, and a big “window” looking onto a brick-looking wall; fitness equipment is neatly organized off to the sides on shelves, and there’s some IKEA-style furniture tastefully arranged along the back and sides, too. The set is brightly lit, though, so it feels like you’re meeting Stephanie at a boutique studio type of place.
Production: clear picture and sound, professionally done camera angles that were predominantly helpful (there were maybe a few times I wanted to see Stephanie instead of a background exerciser or her legs instead of her face, but I had little trouble following this workout while watching it).
Equipment: As noted, Stephanie only uses one resistance band of a medium level of resistance. It’s worth nothing that Stephanie’s band is short, only 4 feet in length. To increase the intensity, use a band with a stronger resistance and/or add ankle weights or dumbbells where appropriate; to decrease the intensity, use a lighter resistance band or a band of similar intensity but longer length or drop it altogether for some moves.
Space Requirements: The workout is nicely compact. At 5’8” I was able to do the entire workout on 6 2’x2’ puzzle mats, or in an area 6’ wide by 4’ deep.
DVD Notes: This DVD just has this workout. After the usual warning screen plays, a screen with the title and a picture of Stephanie pops up. You’ll have to hit enter or play or whatever on your remote, and then the workout will play. There are no chapters within the workout, which is too bad because it would be nice to skip the warm-up, for example, if you’re using this as an add-on.
It’s worth noting that the PowerFit Harmony set comes in a cardboard case with all 10 discs, 2 on each “leaf,” with one disc overlapping the other. While this makes things compact and keeps them all together, that means you can’t really entertain visions of splitting up this set for storage ( if, like me, you have separate shelves for cardio and strength DVDs) or for trading / selling off the ones you don’t want. Also, cases that store discs one over the other are one of my pet peeves, as I don’t like storage systems that I feel encourage potential damage to the discs they should be protecting. Those concerned about shelf space should know the whole thing takes up almost as much space as about 2 regular and 1 small plastic DVD cases together.
Comments: For the record, I’ve never done a FIRM workout, so I’m unfamiliar with Stephanie’s previous work and cannot compare what she’s doing now with what she did then. But I’m betting some of the cues that seemed different to me (e.g. using “dips” to refer to lunges and the cue of “full-form squat”) come out of her Firm experiences.
I have to admit that Stephanie’s hook of “just give me 20 minutes” is what reeled me in. OK, that and I found this set at a deeply discounted rate, which was probably the real reason I bit. I’m not quite the busy mom type of Stephanie’ main target audience, but I’ve recently assumed a few more responsibilities and find there are days when those 30-minute workouts are just a little too long (especially when “30 minutes” really means more like 35-45…), particularly after I ended up taking a longer than expected break from working out and needed to start back. Now that I’ve done these three times in a row, first singly and then doubling up the next two times through, I’m ready to move on, but I’m keeping these in case I find myself in a similar situation again.
I have all three PowerFit sets, the original PowerFit, PowerFit Harmony, and PowerFit Plus. If I were to rank them in order of intensity, according to my opinion, it would be Harmony as the easiest, then the original PF set, and the PF Plus as the hardest. But there isn’t a significant difference in intensity level between the three, so others may not find that there’s a real progression or may disagree with my ranking, but more importantly if you have one set you’ll be able to do the other sets.
Just as an FYI, Stephanie appears to be no longer producing PowerFit workouts. Although it will be increasingly difficult to find new copies, you’ll be able to find copies available secondhand.
Stephanie cues well and provides a decent amount of form tips and instruction, although I still maintain the amount better suits someone already a little familiar with basic strength training rather than a newbie to exercise. She mirror cues, meaning when she says “right” she means the viewer’s, not hers.
I’m on record as not liking drill sergeant or perky cheerleader types, and Stephanie definitely isn’t one of those. She’s more of a supportive mom, but not so much so that you’ll find yourself subconsciously reaching for a juice box rather than a protein shake afterwards; it’s more that being a mother and wife is as an important part of Stephanie’s identity as being a fitness instructor and her target audience is the busy mom who needs reminding to take care of herself. That said, I can understand why some people have said they don’t feel like Stephanie gives them enough credit for their true capabilities as exercisers since she prefers the “I know it’s hard and you have a lot going on, but you can do it because there are only a few more reps and you just have to give me 20 minutes” spiel rather than “Embrace your inner athlete!” or something like that.
Stephanie is a talker, but not chatterer, if that makes sense. Much of the time she’s cuing, but the rest of the time she’s motivating. I’d prefer to go without her fairly constant reminders to make the most of my 20 minutes and to focus on how great I’ll look now that I’m taking care of myself (appearance just doesn’t motivate me in the way it does others), but at least I don’t have to listen to cutesy talk about body parts or whatever. I do like that she includes “feel how strong you are” comments in addition to just sticking with the “visualize the body you want and I’ll help you get there” ones.
PowerFit Harmony “Upper Body Blast” is a 20 min. workout that alternates segments of upper body resistance & cardio exercises. The upper body exercises focus on major muscle groups (arms, back & chest), and the cardio exercises are athletic cardio (brief segments to elevate heart rate). This is a solid workout, it moves quickly and is quite nice for a short duration of time workout (many of the 10-20 min. workouts leave something to be desired, don’t feel like they provide a good, balanced workout).
Overhead arms w/ inhalation, reverse motion
Step out to side, single arm overhead reach, repeat on other side> shoulders roll to rear, slow pace> body wave (open arms to side & reverse to front)> heel lifts> add body wave> alternate step tap to front> add slow arm sweep, reverse motion> alternate side lunge> add arm reach to front & pull back w/ bent arms (to waist)> repeat entire sequence (work through other side).
Squat w/ overhead arms> Spinal rolls> Overhead arms w/ inhalation, reverse motion
Work Portion: uses band
Upright row: double arm, band under front foot> slow pace> alternate fast & slower pace reps.
Lat row: single arm, both ends of band held in one hand> start at bottom & lift> static hold at top of exercise, then lower to perform more reps focusing on negative/eccentric contraction.
Chest press w/ alternating toe taps to front (band around upper back/ shoulder level held in both hands)> add alternating knee lifts> add alternating front kicks.
Lat row on other side.
Cardio w/ (folded) band held in both hands
Alternating step touch> add arm press down & reverse motion> Back cross (step & foot taps in back of other)> add chest press arms> heel lifts w/ band held at chest level> add overhead press> repeat sequence again.
Hammer curls: double arm, band under both feet> pulses (3)> repeat sequence.
Tricep kickback: double arm, band held under front foot> pulses (3)> repeat sequence.
Bent over (lat) row: double arm, band held under front foot> alternating sides> repeat sequence.
Alternating step touch> add single shoulder rolls> add single arm shoulder circles> repeat arm sequence> power march (arms pump).
Incline Biceps curl: double arm, band under back foot> static hold at top of exercise, then lower to perform more reps focusing on negative/eccentric contraction.
Chest sweep: band around upper back/ shoulder level held in both hands w/ almost straight arms> heel lifts> add arm sweep to front & reverse motion> add single arm punch to front> repeat sequence.
French Press: single arm (working arm starts bent, other is straight/next to side of body)> perform reps on other side> repeat sequence, multiple times.
Overhead Press: double arm (start w/ band around upper back, held in both hands, bent arms)> alternate sides> repeat sequence.
Marches> alternate side lunges> add overhead arm sweep> repeat sequence.
Shoulders: Medial fly w/ bent arms (band under front foot)> Reverse Bicep Curls (start at top & lower)> alternate between two exercises.
Tricep kickback: double arm (band held under front foot)> Reverse Row (start at top & lower)> alternate between two exercises.
Alternating shoulder drops (from lowered position of squat)> spinal rolls> static hold w/ clasped hands & overhead arms> triceps stretch (lower both hands to back from overhead position)> chest stretch (both hands on lower back, shoulders rolled back)> from previous position, clasp hands & straighten arms> overhead arms w/ inhalation, reverse motion.
This workout is one of the 10 that are in the PowerFit Harmony series. The brief warm up, strength and cardio workouts, and cool down clock in at 20:30 minutes. Stephanie works out with two female background exercisers, one of which (Kat) I recognize from the Barry’s Bootcamp series. They all use the medium-resistance purple band. The PowerFit series uses all bands – no free weights or other equipment. The set is open and light and the music is generic instrumental. It is easy to tell Stephanie’s Firm background, with the “body waves” during the warm up and the pacing of the reps (alternating arms, both arms, alternate, both) on the exercises.
Stephanie does a great job at hitting all of the upper body: one arm and double arm rows for the back, French press and triceps kickbacks for the triceps, a series of biceps curls, lateral raises for the shoulders, and standing chest presses. The cardio is all low impact and VERY simple – marching in place, step touches, all while rolling the shoulders or raising the arms.
Done as is, this is definitely a beginner workout. As a high intermediate exerciser, I spiced things up a bit to make it an intermediate workout: I used the heavy-resistance green band for all of the exercises except for the shoulder work, and I used a versa-loop band around my ankles during the cardio sections. Even with those modifications this is an intermediate workout tops. But, it is a good quickie for an add on to other videos and I do really like Stephanie, and the workout was comprehensive, if brief. There are about 12-16 reps for each exercise. To Stephanie’s credit, she does move at an efficient pace from one workout to another.
For the $25 total with shipping I paid for this set on QVC recently, I am fairly confident that I will get my money’s worth, but I am not crazy about the set so far (this is the first I have tried though). There isn’t really a fun factor, but it does go by very quickly and there is definitely no dread factor, something which I think will come in handy for days when I really don’t feel like doing anything. I also think this will be good for vacationing/travel, thanks to the limited equipment needed. As a Firm Believer, I do appreciate the Firm “feel” to the workout and Stephanie’s background as a prior Firm master instructor. I would recommend this to any true beginner because Stephanie gives adequate form pointers and the workout, both strength and cardio, are very easy to follow along and entirely low impact, the bands come with the set and do not require an already established equipment collection, and the 20 minute workouts shouldn’t scare away even a beginner. For more intermediate-advanced exercisers, I would recommend this to Firm fans who are looking for something lighter/shorter for add ons or light days (as I was) and/or who really like Stephanie. For the beginner, quickie arm workout that it is, I would rate this a B+.
I have and enjoy many of Stephanie’s workouts. This is the first PowerFit that I tried and I am adequately satisfied. She leads exactly like she does in her old Firm workouts. She is friendly and encouraging and gives good form pointers.
This is a 20 minute upper body band + cardio workout led by Stephanie with 2 background exercisers. The set is awesome-open and inviting. There is a warmup & cooldown included in the 20 minutes.
Stephanie fits a lot in this 20 minutes. She hits every UB muscle with a few different moves! AND she squeezes in some cardio bursts to get your heartrate up. We all know how I LOVE my splits that include cardio so this was a very nice surprise!!! She is really innovative in how she uses the band and I didnt have trouble with my band at all. She hits the bi's, tri's, shoulders, chest, and back. She does some 4-limb type moves too, nice way to keep working your UB and also get the heart pumping!