PowerFit Harmony: Core Pure PowerStephanie Huckabee
Year Released: 2010
Video Fitness reviews may not be copied, quoted, or posted elsewhere without the permission of the reviewer
Note: This is disc #6 in the PowerFit Harmony set.
I’m reviewing this workout after doing it once.
General workout breakdown: Lindseylu and Cardiomama especially have already broken this down, so I’ll just add a few notes.
What makes this core workout different than the other three in the PowerFit Harmony set is the yoga-inspired moves in the first half (although Stephanie is careful about using the label of yoga, nor does she do them in too yoga-like of a manner, if that makes sense); that said, this also makes it similar to the Core Fusion workout in the original PowerFit set. And that’s also what made this one probably my favorite of the three core PFH core workouts, although I remain “meh” about these separate core workouts as a whole. I kind of wish Stephanie had flipped things around and done the – to me – boring bunches of crunches floor routine first, then gone to standing for the lovely stretches. That would have made this a much lovelier workout, particularly for add-ons. Because I generally rely on Pilates for my core work and have a number of yoga routines I prefer to the yoga-inspired one here, I don’t anticipate revisiting this. For those who do like working their abs more regularly and prefer more traditional moves, including some variations on those, this workout will have greater appeal.
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 squat” 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.
Stephanie and crew also have a mat; depending upon your flooring, you may want to grab one, too, for floorwork.
Space Requirements: This 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: The 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. I will note, however, that because Stephanie included three separate core workouts in the Harmony set there are fewer abs exercises in the rest of the workouts, unlike the original set, where she tacks on abs work on the other three strength exercises and even the cardio workout. Also, Core Body Balance and Core Express are the most different from the other two core-only workouts, the original set’s Core Fusion and Core Pure Power, which are more half corework, half yoga-inspired moves for flexibility and recovery.
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 rather than just sticking with the “visualize the body you want and I’ll help you get there” ones.
PowerFit Harmony “Pure Power” is a 20 min. workout that incorporates standing and floor core/ab (bodyweight & weighted) exercises with some stretches (a few basic yoga poses). The band is used for some exercises for intensity in dynamic movements & for support. I liked this core-focused workout, the least out of the the three, in the PF set. It felt odd how it had a series of static stretches sequenced in before the floor exercises (could have just placed in cool-down), and then the crunch variations seemed to have more reps than the other exercises (not a fan of those). It is oddly named, too, as none of the exercises felt power-like to me w/ the lack of explosiveness in exercises and the low intensity/challenge nature of it (I used this after completing two of the other PF workouts, but it did not feel intensive even then). Cuing & form pointers were clear & thorough.
Overhead arms w/ inhalation, reverse motion> Alternating side reach w/ arms> alternating overhead arm reaches> alternating knee lifts> (front) kick & dip (rear lunge)> alternating side sweep to overhead, then both arms sweep front to overhead> overhead arms w/ inhalation> repeat sequence (work through other side).
Standing ab/core exercises w/ band
Band held w/ both hands: alternating toe taps (front) w/ rotation to side (of tapping foot, arms low/hip level)> alternating knee lifts w/ rotation (arms are chest level)> perform on one side> add arm sweep overhead> (torso)circle around: lower body to one side w/ a side bend, arms hold band, then rotate upper body to other side, then to upright position> repeat sequence (work through other side).
In lowered position of plie/sumo squat position w/ arms out to side: shift/lunge to one side for static hold, one leg straight, one bent (Warrior 2 pose)> hold the side lunge w/ straight arm on bent leg (Side angle pose)> bend arm, rest elbow on bent leg> add top arm reach overhead> runner’s lunge w/ hands on thigh> then shift back & straighten leg w/ overhead arms> return to runner’s lunge & add rotation (twist torso in direction of knee)> return to standing position & repeat sequence.
Floor ab/core exercises
Alternate side bend (seated on heels).
Rollbacks: seated on floor w/ bent knees & band looped around both feet (held in both hands)> lower body to C-curve position of spine & reverse motion.
V-sit (same position as previous but w/ bent arms, hands in back of body on floor): alternate lifting upper body & pulling in one knee to meet, and reversing motion> add leg extension, after knee pulls in> repeat sequence.
Crunches: one leg is bent & turned out w/ ankle resting on other leg for center crunch> oblique crunch left side> Pulses w/ upper & lower body crunch> stretch: overhead arms> repeat on other side.
Long Lever crunches: legs extended & hands behind head, just upper body lifts> pulses> repeat sequence> stretch: hug knees to chest.
Table Position (on all fours): spinal rolls> leg extensions (extend straight, pull in bent knee)> add opposite arm reach (Bird Dog)> add rounded spine when leg & arm pull in> repeat on other side.
Side plank: bottom arm straight, top arm held overhead, bottom leg is bent, top leg straight, static hold> lower top arm, close to head & hold.
Triangle legs stretch: one leg is bent w/ heel next to other thigh (straight leg), overhead arm reaches for extended leg> arm circles> repeat on other side.
Side plank on other side.
Table position> transition into downward dog> roll to standing position> overhead arms w/ inhalation, reverse motion.
This workout goes by fast and she keeps things moving right along. There are some standing ab moves, floor crunches, and yoga poses that work your core. I really enjoyed the yoga poses thrown in there because its not something I normally see in ab workouts.
There is a short warmup and cooldown incuded in the 20 minutes and there is some brief stretching interspersed throughout. You will use the band for many of the moves. She incorporates balance and stabilization into many of the exercises too-which I really enjoyed. And balance is my weak point fitness-wise so always more than welcome in my book!
Some of the exercises include: a twisting move using the band, standing knee lifts, crunch variations with and without the band, warrior pose, a runners lunge pose, table top knee pulls, a v-sit, and the likes. My core was definately feeling it by the end of the 20 minutes. I would rate this a lower intermediate ab/core/balance workout.