PowerFit Harmony: Sculpt Strong PullStephanie Huckabee
Year Released: 2010
Categories: Total Body Workouts
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Note: This is disc #4 in the PowerFit Harmony set.
I’m reviewing this workout after doing it three times.
General workout breakdown: Lindsey and especially Cardiomama have already broken down this workout well, so I’ll just add a few notes.
Stephanie generally does 8-12 reps, although some exercises might go up to 16 or might get additional sets (alternating between a lower and an upper body move or doing one arm at a time, then both together), a tempo change, or pulses. She never does anything for very long, so if you want to get the most out of each exercise you’ll have to make sure you’re challenging yourself from the first rep.
There isn’t much downtime between moves, although Stephanie does have a few pauses. I didn’t feel too rushed, but for those unused to working with a resistance band you’ll want to have the remote nearby to hit pause as needed or for those who are working with additional equipment you’ll want to have your other bands and/or weights very close by.
I like that Stephanie gets right to work with the back muscles and doesn’t go overboard with biceps work, as she does on some of her other splits in the PowerFit series. This is also the only PF workout where she directly and deliberately works the hamstrings. One complaint I have about this workout is the way too short stretch, both in terms of the number of stretches included (or here not included) and the length of time held (or here shortness of time held), but for me that’s not really a big deal because I often follow my strength workout with stretching on my own and yoga. And one caveat I have is that the lat pulldown move Stephanie uses goes behind the head; I know that the cable machine version of that move, while still popular among the meathead and casual gymgoer types alike at my former gym, is contraindicated, as it could cause issues for those with shoulder or other upper body concerns. I substitute the much less problematic variation: kneel down and slightly lean back, then pull down to the chest.
The obvious pair to this workout is Sculpt Strong Push. The upper body portions are nicely complimentary between the two workouts, but the lower body ones overlap more, mainly because it’s pretty hard to isolate, say, the hamstrings from the glutes with the basic exercises Stephanie is doing here, like lunges. Still, you should be able to do these on back to back days, although you could always do a cardio or core workout in between.
I have all three PowerFit sets, and I prefer the way the strength workouts are split in the Harmony set (push/pull and upper/lower) compared to the split in the original set (legs & shoulders; chest, triceps & glutes; back, biceps & thighs), because I feel Stephanie balances the muscle groups better in the Harmony splits and doesn’t overdo some of the smaller muscle groups (biceps, shoulders) as much.
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.
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 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 “Strong Pull” is a 20 min. total body resistance workout that consists of mostly standing exercises, with a short floor section (and the band is used for most exercises). It is sequenced with pull-type exercises that work the biceps, shoulders, back, abs & lower body (hamstrings & inner thigh focus, although one does work the entire leg w/ the plies & lunge variations) w/ some combination exercises (ex. bicep & hamstring curl, lateral lunge w/ upright row) & isolated exercise for muscle groups (rows). This is a solid total body workout, I liked that it had a variety of exercises on the floor & standing (most of the PF workouts consist of just standing exercises), and there was sufficient reps completed for each exercise (8+, no endless reps or too little to feel of benefit). Stephanie sequenced the exercises well so that it has a nice flow, and there’s no overworked muscle groups. I have not used this workout on its own, rather use it on combination w/ others.
Overhead arms w/ inhalation, reverse motion.
Marches> wide stance> heel lifts> add biceps curl arms> step touch> add arm sweep to front> alternate last two exercises> squats w/ overhead arms.
Dynamic shoulder stretch from lowered position of squat (alternate lifting one arm overhead w/ torso rotation)> spinal rolls> alternating shoulder drops (from lowered position of squat)> plie/sumo squat> add overhead arms> shift/lunge to side in plie/sumo position, then static hold w/ overhead arm, repeat on other side> squats w/ overhead arms> spinal rolls> marches. overhead arms w/ inhalation, reverse motion.
Lat row: single arm, both ends of band held in one hand> start at bottom & lift, single reps> Dips (rear lunge): band held w/ both hands, 4-count (lower, halfway lift, lower & lift to standing)> single reps> repeat sequence on other side.
Upright Row w/ lateral lunge (same side): band under non-traveling foot, held in both hands, wide stance of legs> perform lateral lunge w/ single arm, upright row (upper body shifts to the side w/ movement)> Biceps curl: from previous position, bring feet a bit (for narrow stance), perform biceps curl (arms angled to same side of band under foot)> repeat on other side.
Plies/sumo squats (bodyweight): start in lowered position w/ hands on hips> add alternating leg sweep (slides in to meet other at top of exercise)> add alternating kick across (straight leg extension, off floor)> alternate last two exercises> overhead arms w/ inhalation, reverse motion.
Standing lat pull-down: start w/ band held overhead w/ both hands> lower w/ both arms> alternate single arm> repeat sequence.
Hamstring & bicep curl: start w/ band under one foot, held w/ both hands> perform single leg hamstring curl> add bicep curl w/ opposite side arm> Pulses> standing oblique crunches (band under same foot, held by same side hand)> add overhead reach w/ other arm.
Shoulder (lateral & front) raises: band under both feet, held by both hands> alternate lateral raise> alternate front raises.
Repeat hamstring & bicep curl sequence on other side.
Dips: alternating rear lunges w/ arm sweep to front (folded band held in both hands)> perform alternating curtsy lunge> repeat sequence.
T-rows: start seated on floor w/ bent knees, band looped around both feet, held w/ both hands> perform row w/ overhand grip (palms face down), elbows flared out.
Leg lifts (inner thigh): lie on side w/ bottom arm bent (supports body), band looped around bottom leg foot (held in both hands), top leg is bent & foot is placed on band (to increase intensity), over the other leg> perform straight leg lift> pulses> repeat on other side.
Reverse crunches> Pull-ins (upper & lower body crunch in to meet, then extend out).
Upper back stretch: Clasp hands w/ straight arms extended in front w/ tucked chin> hamstring stretch (front foot flexed, bent back leg), both sides> overhead arms w/ inhalation.
This is a 20 minute all sculpt workout led by Stephanie with 2 background exercisers. I absolutely love the set they are in (my dream home gym). There is a warmup and cooldown in the 20 minutes but besides that its nonstop sculpting with the band. No wasted time here! I wore my weighted vest and felt that helped bump up the intensity!
After the warmup Stephanie starts with a lat row using the band, then goes into a dip series. From there you will do an upright row with a side lunge -I really liked this move, it had a very functional feel and was a great way to utilize the band in a 4-limb type move. Then bicep curls and into a pliet series: pliets, pliet slides, & pliets with a leg sweep. Then you do a standing oblique bend, side & front shoulder raises, and dips and curtsy dips. Then you move to the floor and do a T-row with the band around your shoes, inner thigh floor work with the band, lower ab crunches, and full body crunches. You finish with a cooldwon stretch.