PowerFit Harmony: Cardio Speed BurnStephanie Huckabee
Year Released: 2010
Categories: Floor Aerobics/Hi-Lo/Dance
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Note: This is disc #8 in the PowerFit Harmony set.
I’m reviewing this workout after doing it three times.
General workout breakdown: Lindsey and especially Cardiomama have already described and broken this down well, so I’ll just add a few notes of my own.
I agree that the choreography is fairly basic and simple, although if you aren’t used to anything with choreography and/or have two left feet even this could trip you up. I rarely have trouble with choreography (it has to be extremely complicated and/or very poorly cued), and I found this easy to pick up.
This is low impact, and it’s also joint-friendly because Stephanie doesn’t make any quick or jerky moves. Still, if your knees are very sensitive to squats you may want to approach the PF cardio workouts with caution.
This is different from the other two cardio workouts in the PowerFit Harmony set, Move It and Power Up, in that Stephanie mixes up the choreography more often (although you’ll see a lot of the same steps over and over – I hope you like step touch, hamstring curl, repeater, grapevine, etc.) and there’s a slightly more athletic feel overall to this workout, especially with the football runs, even if a samba move sneaks in. Still, the moves overlap a lot with some of the other PowerFit workouts; this workout resembles the cardio workout in the original Powerfit set quite a bit, and the squat series Stephanie does also appears in one of the PFH strength workouts. Because of the more constantly changing variety and quicker pace with less down time (even though this will feel like a walking workout at the start) this one may be a little trickier to pick up, but I like it most of the PFH cardio workouts. I also felt that of the three this one was the most intense, both done as is and done with the most obvious ways to boost the intensity up (e.g. by adding hops, that sort of thing).
I have to say that the cardio workouts are my favorite parts out of the PowerFit sets. I foresee myself using those as add-ons even when I’m not using the rest of the workouts. I definitely have space on my shelves for short, low impact cardio workouts that aren’t too complicated but are a step up from walking workouts.
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 assumes familiarity with basic aerobics terms. But this is great for someone who may not be an absolute beginner but who’s still working out at a beginner level for whatever reason: those who’ve graduated from “this is how you do a grapevine” videos but need something to bridge the gap into intermediate workouts, those who are restarting, and those who have dialed things down for health, pregnancy or post-pregnancy, 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.
OK, maybe it’s just me, but Cat’s slightly perturbed edge to her smile during this video seems to indicate this PowerFit background exerciser gig isn’t living up to her expectations of greatness. (According to her bio she’s been in a few Broadway shows and danced in the movie version of Chicago, plus she’s led at least one Crunch video and one 10 Minute Solution video, and apparently this doesn’t make that same list of highlights.) I found it amusing, especially since Holly appears to crack a genuine smile and to make a sincere effort at finding the fun in Stephanie’s yet another round of step touches. Still, as in the rest of the PF workouts the background crew models good form and executes the steps beautifully, although every once in a while they miss a move change, but almost always I did, too, the first or second time through thanks to Stephanie’s cuing (or lack thereof) at that exact point.
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: You really only need a supportive pair of sneakers (although if you’re a barefoot kind of gal or guy you can go without shoes). As mentioned, Stephanie in one section holds the 4’ PowerFit resistance band, folded in half, during arm movements; if you don’t want to use the band for whatever reason (maybe you and latex don’t get along), a hand towel will do the trick. She also puts the band across the floor as a marker for the “step” portion, but since I was on puzzle mats I just used the line that was already there. As mentioned, to boost the intensity you can actually pull out a step for that portion; if you’re really creative, you could probably do the whole workout with the step. (The third time through I used my smaller step for the “step on the floor” portion, and it translated beautifully; it would have taken more effort to do the whole thing on the step, and quite honestly the reason I’m using this workouts is because I don’t want to engage too many brain cells.)
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.
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 cardio choreography 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 “Speed Burn” is a 20 min. low impact, athletic cardio workout led by Stephanie Huckabee. A resistance band is used as a marker for step exercises, and held in hands (folded in half) to increase intensity for the arm movements (this short band section is similar to the one in the PF “Move It” cardio workout). I thought that this had the most varied exercises & intensity out of the three PF cardio workouts, it is fast-paced (but still easy to follow). I don’t use this as a single workout, rather use it as an add-on (either before or after a primary workout). I like that minimal equipment is used & that the choreography is simple but has the coordinated arm movements (so total body engagement). Stephanie cues well & provides encouraging comments during the entire workout (and her constant chatter I don't find annoying, as she does not try to hype up her workouts or make lame jokes).
Overhead arms w/ inhalation, reverse motion> marches> Out, out, in, in> alternating step touch> alternating side step> step touch w/ open arms to side> side step (step side, step w/ other foot) w/ arm sweep front, cross, & circle out to sides> alternating step tap (move front & reverse motion) w/ arm sweep to front> fast heel pumps (elevate heels)> marches> repeat sequence (work through other side).
Marches> wide stance> squats w/ overhead arms> hold lowered squat position & alternate heel lifts> alternate flexed foot w/ side shift> spinal rolls> marches.
Marches w/ jump rope arms (circles w/ bent arms)> power march (pump arms)> wide stance> squat w/ arm reach to front (in lowered position)> Squat & move to side w/ lift, alternate sides> repeat sequence (work through other side).
Alternating step touch (w/ hands on hips)> Double step touch> add open arms to side to step touch> add starburst arms (reach overhead then open to sides of body) to double step touch> alternating hamstring curls> add row> add overhead arms w/ pull down> add alternating back cross/touch (opposite hand touches heel in back of body, non-moving arm held overhead)> repeat sequence again w/ arm movements> marches> grapevine> add knee lift> alternating knee lifts w/ overhead arm reach & pull-down> alternating side squat w/ arm sweep forward (lowered position)> faster pace w/ arms press down> repeat sequence (starting w/ step touch)> marches.
Use folded band held in both hands
Side step w/ arm sweep forward> add triple step to center> alternating V-step> add arm sweep to front> repeat sequence> add grapevine w/ arm sweep to front> add hamstring curl> add hamstring repeater> alternating hamstring curl> squat w/ arm sweep forward> Football runs (fast feet in lowered position of squat) w/ arms held low> alternating side squat w/ arm sweep forward> repeat sequence (start w/ side step), multiple times> marches> overhead arms w/ inhalation, reverse motion.
Step on floor w/ band as marker
Marches> Samba> add step hamstring curl> alternate step hamstring curl> alternate pivot hamstring curl> alternate pivot step knee> pivot knee repeater> alternate (pivot step)knee tap over> repeat sequence (work through other side)> repeat entire sequence multiple times> marches.
Overhead arms w/ inhalation, reverse motion> static hold side shift/lunge in plie/sumo position, both sides> calf/heel stretch (straight back leg, bent front leg), then hamstring stretch w/ front foot flexed (bent back leg), both sides> overhead arms w/ inhalation, reverse motion.
This is a entirely low impact 20 minute 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 but besides that it is nonstop cardio! I would say a bit more challenging than yesterdays cardio. I would rate this a low intermediate cardio w/o. You will only need a band for this w/o.
Stephanie starts with an active warmup and moves right into marches, mock jump roping (low impact), squats, grapevines, knee ups, side steps, and double side steps. After that floor routine, Stephanie does a cardio with the band (I could feel the tension in my UB by holding onto the band!). During this routine she does side step with a triple step, a football run, grapevine, and hamstring curls. She finishes this w/o w/ a mock step routine (I used a step) and she does some basic step moves: knee ups, ham curls, repeaters, and sambas. Then finishes with a cooldown. I would rate this a low intermediate/ high beginner cardio w/o done as is.