Balanced AssetsGin Miller
Year Released: 2009
Categories: Bosu and Balance Disks/Boards, Strength Training (Total Body)
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NOTE: I received a free copy of this DVD to review for the web site Metapsychology.net.
In this DVD, veteran fitness instructor Gin Miller has incorporated a relatively new type of fitness gadget into the workout. Miller and her accomplice (Sharon Seagrave, a former Olympic athlete who shows modifications of the exercises), are wearing MBT shoes, a type of sneaker with a rocker sole which provides a balance challenge. (More information about MBTs can be found at mbt.com. Other manufacturers, including Reebok and Skechers, have produced similar products. I myself wore my Skechers Shape-Up Toners for this workout, although these have “toning pods” rather than the rocker sole).
Not only does Miller emphasize that she is not being paid to promote MBTs, but also she maintains that the shoes are not necessary for the workout. In her brief Introduction, she offers several other balance options, including doing the workout in bare feet, using a BOSU balance trainer or core board, standing on a cushioned mat, or some combination of the above. Other than your choice of balance equipment, you will need a chair/stool, a set of dumbbells (Seagrave uses water bottles), and a small, unweighted playground ball to perform the exercises in this DVD.
The Main Menu appears as follows:
Introduction – Warm Up – Workout 1 – Workout 2 – Workout 3 – Slow Stretch
The separate “workouts” are actually more like individual chapters rather than independent workouts, although they could certainly be used independently with the warm-up and stretch. I’ve provided descriptions for each segment below.
WARM UP, 9.5 minutes
In this segment, Miller is alone, and she focuses mainly on becoming familiar with wearing balance training shoes (of course, this makes the warm-up somewhat obsolete if you are not using the shoes!). The primary exercise is a rock/shift side-to-side move, but Miller also performs a few pliés, side lungs, and one-legged work. She concludes with a brief shoulder/hip flexor stretch.
WORKOUT 1, 30 minutes
Miller begins here with simple squats, holding the ball between the hands to add rotation and gradually incorporating a knee lift as well. (Note: In addition to wearing my Sketchers Toners, I stood on my balance disk to make these challenging.) For the upper body, Miller performs biceps curls and triceps extensions, but she continues to challenge the balance by lifting one leg. The toughest move in this section is actual quite simple—a static lunge with slow arm movements—but Miller performs several repetitions at a very measured pace, really targeting the glutes. In-between sides, she includes some overhead presses and work on the toes.
WORKOUT 2, 13 minutes
This section is more lower-body focused. First, Miller uses the stool to assist with balance while performing rear leg lifts. She starts with a single leg lift but gradually increases the difficultly level by lifting alternate arm/leg and even making things more unstable by resting the ball in the stool and placing one hand on it. Moving away from the stool, Miller performs bent over flys with the weights, adding in a combination fly/one-legged deadlift move.
WORKOUT 3, 9.5 minutes
Miller describes this segment as a chest and core workout. She starts with three sets of push-ups, progressing from on the knees to toes/knees to full toe push-ups. To further work the core, Miller performs a kneeling Figure 8 move (holding the ball between the hands) as well as a similar version of this exercise in a V-sit position.
SLOW STRETCH, 5.5 minutes
This final section features Miller alone for what she states is a “yoga-influenced” stretch; she suggests that the stretches can be performed barefoot or wearing MBT shoes as she demonstrates. She begins with a very modified version of yoga sun salutations, ending the series with a few cat/cow stretches on hands and knees. She then performs a few additional stretches incorporating the ball to stretch to finish. I found the music, which was somewhat electronic-sounding throughout the workout, particularly jarring in this segment.
Overall, this workout provides a nice opportunity to experiment with balance while performing strength training moves. However, I found myself becoming a bit frustrated by Miller’s tendency to devote an inordinate amount of time to setting up each exercise; I felt that too much time was wasted in this workout. As a result, both the pacing and the difficultly level seemed somewhat uneven to me. Still, I would recommend this DVD given that working with the balance training shoes adds a unique aspect rarely seen in other workouts.
This may have been my first DVD with Gin. She's clearly a pro who is very comfortable on-screen, and she came across as likeable and laid-back. However, I got the feeling that she was teaching this program to brand-new exercisers, as the pace of her instruction was so slow at times; I just wish that she had stepped it up a bit.
This DVD presents a total body strength routine (broken up into three sections), with a particular emphasis on balance training.
The workout is led by Gin Miller. She demonstrates the moves wearing an athletic shoe with a special curved sole made by MBT (www.theantishoe.com). The MBT shoes are pricy, but several companies have put out less expensive versions. The shoes are designed for movement, but Gin’s considerable fitness creativity (this is the lady who invented step aerobics!) was sparked when she saw how the instability of the curved sole adds an additional balance challenge when standing still. Please note, however, it is NOT necessary to wear such a shoe to get benefit out of this workout. Gin notes that beginners can start out with regular shoes on a hard surface, then progressively challenge their balance by standing on a mat, doing the routine barefoot, and/or using other balance equipment such as a Bosu. By the way, Gin disclaims any financial compensation from the MBT people.
Gin instructs live and she mirror-cues (albeit with an occasional bobble). Besides whatever arrangement (if any) to provide surface instability for the workout, you will need a pair of light hand weights or filled water bottles (this is optional for novice exercisers), a play ball (Gin specifies an unweighted ball for this workout), and a small flat surface about mid-thigh height (Gin uses a simple kitchen stool; I found my high step topper placed on the seat of a regular folding chair worked fine).
Gin is joined by Sharon, who demonstrates easier modifications. Sharon is an Olympic athlete and appears to have great rapport with Gin. Unfortunately she is not miked so we only hear Gin’s half of their banter. Both wear the MBT shoes. I wouldn't have minded having a third person present who could have demonstrated the moves with a Bosu or balance disk instead of the shoes.
It is a simple set with pale green walls and “shoji screen” style backdrop (probably familiar if you have other DVDs produced by Gin Miller’s company). The accompanying music is pretty decent and well-balanced with Gin’s voice.
The DVD is well-chaptered as follows. There are also chapter points for each individual exercise, making it easy to skip over any particular moves that might not be appropriate for certain individuals. For each exercise Gin demonstrates “hard, harder, hardest” options. You can progress through all three options, or stay at the level that feels right for you. Gin encourages you to choose the option that allows you to maintain your best form (as opposed to pushing to your limit).
Here’s a brief breakdown:
-Introduction (2 minutes): Gin explains the workout and equipment needed.
-Warm-Up (9 minutes): No equipment is used (unless of course you are wearing the special shoes). Gentle moves and stretches to warm up the body.
-Workout 1 (29 minutes): Squats, add in holding the ball, lifting the ball side to side, then unweighting one leg. Biceps curls, unweight leg, then lifting knee. Change to hammer curl grip, lift knee, then bend forward moving leg behind body and adding in triceps kickbacks. Put down weights, brief stretch, then a set of static lunges incorporating the ball. Using one weight, a series of overhead presses, adding in rolling up onto toes, then sweeping weight from side to side and incorporating a knee lift. Deadlifts (still using just one weight), rolling up to toes. Repeat static lunge series on other leg.
-Workout 2 (12 minutes): Time to get your stool or other stable surface. With both hands on stool rear leg lifts, lifting opposite hand and leg, raise up to toe on supporting leg, then bringing rear leg forward to touch inside foot with opposite hand. Repeat series, but with ball on top of stool and hand on top of ball. Pick up weights for deadlifts and bent over flyes, unweight one leg.
-Workout 3 (10 minutes): We move to the floor for push-ups (Gin demonstrates several beginner-friendly variations) and core work incorporating the ball.
-Cool Down and Stretch (5 minutes).
Although the primary emphasis is on balance training, Balanced Assets also provides a full body workout. Obviously you are exercising the upper body with the weights (and there are quite a few reps of each exercise as you work your way through the progressive balance challenges). Besides the squats and lunges, your lower body is also working hard to support you during the balances (Gin herself visibly shakes at several points, and I know I definitely felt this workout in my “assets” the next day LOL!). The core is worked throughout the entire routine, and not just in the floor work, as those muscles constantly kick in to stabilize the body during the many balance challenges.
The pace on this DVD is methodical and deliberate. Besides constant form pointers, Gin carefully explains then demonstrates each move before cuing the home exerciser to join in. This can occasionally be annoying when the moves being shown are a bit too easy. Of course, once you are familiar with the DVD you can move immediately to the harder versions of the exercise, or perhaps increase your surface instability for more challenge. However, if you personally know this kind of instructional approach drives you nuts, you might be better off with another balance-oriented DVD like V-Core.
Bottom line: I’m now in my mid-fifties. Last month I fell in my house, hitting the side of my face hard against a carpet-covered cement floor. I really banged myself up, and was frankly very lucky I was not more seriously injured. It was a sobering lesson re just how devastating a fall can be. So I’m now seeking out workouts that particularly emphasize balance training. I have (and love) V-Core, but it is a very challenging routine and no modifications are given. The strength of Balanced Assets is the multiple options it offers, allowing an exerciser to gradually and safely train their balance reflexes.
Balanced Assets is available at Gin’s own website and various online retailers. A YouTube clip is available. My copy, purchased through Total Fitness DVDs, is a pressed DVD (not DVD-R).
Please see above. Gin Miller is of course a veteran fitness instructor. Her expertise shows, yet at the same time she presents as fun, informal and encouraging. Gin is in her 50’s now, I believe, and looks very strong and fit. Although I enjoy working out with video instructors of all ages, I especially appreciate those close to my own age as a role model for my own fitness goals. Gin's website is www.ginmiller.com.