PowerFit Harmony: Core Body BalanceStephanie Huckabee
Year Released: 2010
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Note: This is disc #3 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.
I like the balance challenge as well as the inclusion of planks and the low back work, limited as it is, but like Cardiomama I’m not too fond of bunches of crunches, something I feel Stephanie relies on too much in her core workouts in both the original and Harmony PowerFit series. 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, 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 crunch” 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 “Body Balance” is a 20 min workout that consists of mostly bodyweight core-focused exercises, and a few standing exercises that use a resistance band. I think it’s a fairly good workout (variety of exercises, like that it included plank variations), even though I don’t generally care for crunches (no endless reps & pulses in this workout) or supplemental ab/core workouts (prefer to incorporate exercises into primary workout). I have used this as a stand alone workout, w/ most of the PFs, I like to use them as add-ons (w/ other workouts). Stephanie provided clear cues & form pointers.
Overhead arms w/ inhalation, reverse motion> alternating side lunge> add single arm sweep overhead> both arms sweep overhead> alternating side squat> add spinal roll> torso circle: lower torso to one side w/ a side bend (single arm reach overhead), then rotate upper body to other side, then to upright position> repeat on other side> alternating step tap (side)> add arm reach to front & pull back to waist> alternating step tap to front, w/ arm sweep overhead, reverse motion> alternating step knee.
Squat w/ overhead arms> Dynamic shoulder stretch from lowered position of squat (1st time alternate lifting one arm overhead w/ torso rotation, 2nd time both arms reach overhead & to one side)> spinal rolls> marches> repeat sequence (work through other side).
Standing balance: band held in both hands, hip level> lift one leg to rear & static hold> lift band to chest level> lift band overhead> repeat on other side.
Shoulder rolls (forward)> overhead arms w/ band> samba w/ band twist (waist level, rotates from side to side)> twist band at chest level> stretch: overhead arms w/ band & arched back> repeat on other side.
Crunches: lie supine w/ bent knees, hands behind head for center crunch> oblique crunch, both sides> alternate between two exercises.
Reverse crunch: lie supine w/ bent knees lifted in air, arms by side of body> alternate lowering one foot to floor & reversing motion> lower both feet & reverse motion.
Leg circles: lie supine, legs extended in air w/ arms out to side, feet flexed> alternate circling legs in both directions> stretch: hug knees to chest.
Center crunches> 3 count pulse> 7 count pulse> single reps> stretch: extend arms & legs straight on floor.
Cobra> lower straight arms to floor, then lift chest & arms of floor> pulses w/ hands under chin> 7 count pulse> child’s pose.
(Frontal) Plank: on elbows/forearms & knees> on toes.
Push-up planks: w/ straight arms & on knees> child’s pose> on toes> child’s pose.
Spinal rolls (cat/cow) in table position (on all fours)> butterfly stretch> seated hamstring stretch (one leg bent, one straight)> seated twist (foot of bent leg crosses over other leg)> hip opener (foot of bent leg on thigh)> repeat on other side> butterfly stretch w/ hinge at hips/forward bend> table position> downward dog> roll up to standing position> shoulder rolls (rear)> 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 high beginner core w/o. You will only need a band for this w/o.
Stephanie starts with a standing balance move-glute lift while extending the band in front of you. After that you move to the floor for a series of crunch vartions, she includes crunches, oblique crunches, and leg drops. Then she moves into some lower back work (my fav!) and a plank series.