PowerFit Harmony: Core ExpressStephanie Huckabee
Year Released: 2010
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Note: This is disc #10 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 longer standing balance series. That said, I personally found this the most boring and my least favorite of all of the PF core workouts. I like standing balance work, but for me 16 reps of standing crunches on each side = Zzzzz… (Disclaimer: 15-20 reps is about my boredom threshold anyway. Yawn.) Yes, Stephanie does 16 reps of exercises elsewhere in the PF workouts, but usually she varies the tempo or alternates the last few reps with another exercise or something so she’s not doing 16 straight reps. And then it was bunches of crunches, a type of exercise I don’t generally do much anymore anyway, as I’m convinced there are far better ways to strengthen my entire core region in a functional and useful way, plus my low back gets cranky with too many crunches. I did this once, and because I generally rely on Pilates for my core work 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 the “visualize the body you want and I’ll help you get there” ones.
PowerFit Harmony “Core Express” is a 20 min. workout that consists of core-focused standing and floor exercises. The warm-up & standing exercises in the work portion use a resistance band, the floor exercises are just bodyweight. I liked the warm-up & standing exercises that used the band, and did not really care for the floor exercises, save the side planks. I don’t tend to like supplemental ab/core focused workout, and this one was fine (variety of exercises, good amount reps for each exercise, it did not consist of mostly crunch variations), I just don’t see myself using the entire workout (just the warm-up & standing section). Stephanie has a pleasant personality, and provides good cuing, form pointers & encouraging comments (similar to demeanor in her other PF workouts).
Alternating arm circles, w/ folded band held in both hands> heel lifts> add low arm sweep, torso twist> torso twists only, w/ each rep band is lifted higher (to overhead)> alternating (slow pace) knee lifts w/ band pull-down, reverse motion to overhead arms> (torso) circle around: folded band held by both hands, side bend, torso lowers to floor, then rotates around to other side, and to upright position> repeat sequence (starting w/ knee lifts, work through other side).
Oblique leans (side bend): start w/ band held under one foot, held by same side hand, other hand on hip> lower to side & lift> add arm reach overhead> repeat on other side.
Balance exercise: band held in both hands, hip level> lift one knee up & static hold> lift band to shoulder level> lift band overhead> extend leg to rear & hold> bring knee to front & pull band down to meet, reverse motion> repeat on other side.
Forward bends w/ arm zip(sweep): band held in both hands overhead> hinge at hips, w/ flat back, arm (zip) sweeps to floor (moves close to body), reverse motion> Side bends: band held overhead w/ both arms, alternate side bend, center, side bend> Side bend w/ twist: add a knee lift, stay on one side> repeat sequence (start w/ zips, work through other side).
Spinal rolls (from lowered position of squat)> hold at top for 3 counts> roll to standing position> single arm circles (overhead, side to waist), both sides> arm sweep to front then overhead, reverse motion> arm sweep to side then overhead, reverse motion.
Floor (bodyweight) exercises
Rollbacks: seated on floor w/ bent knees & hands under thighs> lower body to C-curve position of spine & reverse motion (slow pace).
Crunches: lie supine w/ bent knees, hands behind head for center crunch> add arm sweep to lift of exercise> static hold at top, then lower & lift for other reps.
Shoot-outs: lie supine w/ bent knees lifted in air, hands behind head> alternate extending one leg forward> add upper body hold> add upper body twist (opposite arm to leg)> stretch: arms overhead, feet on floor.
Oblique crunches: same position as previous, lower knees to one side for oblique crunches> pulses (3)> repeat sequence> stretch: arms overhead, knees face center> repeat on other side.
Hip lift: lie supine, legs extended in air w/ arms to side, feet flexed> Leg walks: alternate lowering leg w/ pointed feet> repeat sequence> stretch: arms overhead, legs extended on floor.
Side Plank: bottom arm & leg are bent, top arm (held overhead) & leg are straight, static hold> lower & lift body> repeat on other side.
Alternate side bend (seated on heels), then runner’s lunge> repeat on other side.
Spinal rolls> clasp hands w/ arms extended to front w/ tucked chin> chest stretch: place hands on lower back, lift chest> alternate arm sweep/side bend to side> shoulder stretch (one arm crosses in front of body, held by other hand)> clasp hands in back of body & lift arms> clasp hands & extend arms to front> overhead arms w/ inhalation, reverse motion.
This is a 20 minute core 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 and there is some stretching interspersed throughout. I would rate this a low intermediate core w/o. You will only need a band for this w/o.
She starts with some nice standing ab work using the band. You do a side squeeze move and then make it tougher by adding in a side knee raise, & standing crunches with the band. Then you move to the floor and go into some different crunch variations-shoot outs, oblique crunches, low ab hip lifts, and leg drops. You finish the ab exercises with side planks and move into your cooldown.