Back UpTracie Long
Year Released: 2009
Categories: Balance/Medicine/Mini/Stability Ball, Circuit Training (cardio and weights) , Total Body Workouts
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Tracie introduces Back Up as Volume 4 of Tracie Long Fitnessí Longevity Series.
Iím reviewing this workout after doing it twice.
General workout breakdown: This almost 53.5-min. workout alternates approximately 10-min. cardio and strength segments, after which come an approximately 10-min. floorwork section and a short final stretch.
- Warm Up (almost 10 min.)
Youíll begin with about 4 minutes of the warm-up proper, which involves walking forward with a rear hip extension, then walking back with a knee lift; Tracie then plays with the hip extension Ė knee lift, and youíll finally add a low reach with a rear leg lift & lean back with a kick forward. Between sides youíll do side lunges, then squat and round the low back. The cardio portion has a combo of sorts that includes mambo, squat side to side, slow walk plus jump forward & back (or back & forward), and walk up with knee lift / walk back with tap & scissors. In between youíll do slow butt kickers and high jogs, then triple squat and jump center, and the final minute of this segment has about 30 seconds of increasingly faster butt kickers and then 30 seconds of high jogs. I was a bit disappointed this warm-up and then the subsequent cardio portion didnít have much to warm up the upper body, especially since the first weights exercise dives right into heavy work for the shoulders.
- Upper & Lower Body (just under 9.5 min.)
This is your more conventional / traditional lifting section. Youíll begin with step squats and overhead presses, doing different numbers of step squats before pushing overhead, then squatting with knees together with 1-arm push overhead and low end squats with arms hovering. Youíll then rotate your arms out for ďgoalpost armsĒ into more overhead presses, alternating arms and then both together. Youíll then drop to the floor for a series of push-ups, first a straight series of 8, then a sequence incorporating different tempos. Youíll come up to kneeling for staggered and double-arm rows, which eventually become row into kickback. Youíll switch legs (and grab lighter dumbbells) for rear delt flyes. Coming up to standing youíll do reverse dips / lunges at different tempos, later adding in alternating biceps curls, then double arm hammer curls, and finally focusing on just the biceps and hammer curls. The segment ends with single-leg squats.
- Medicine Ball Cardio (10.5 min.)
Sports drills are the theme for this med ball cardio segment. Youíll do a tennis serve / volleyball spike, backhand, step & soccer kick, basketball jump shot, bowling lunge, ski mogul jumps, ice skater hops, baseball pitching wind-up into a squat, swinging a baseball bat, and football feet. Your rest moves are marching in place, plie squats, or 6-point mambos. This segment is kind of fun, but itís somewhat uneven in its use of the med ball, which is integral to some moves (the serve / spike, the jump shot, bowling) and not so much to others (I find the reach forward awkward with the soccer kick, perhaps because Iím limited in flexibility there, and youíre really just holding the ball because thereís nothing else to do with it in moves like the ice skaters).
- Upper & Lower Body (10 min.)
This is your functional training segment for smaller muscle groups. Youíll begin with a bent over lift by the ear (what the Cosgroves call an ďIĒ rear delt flye variation), then alternate with a rotation to the side. Next comes a balance challenge, where youíll reach over to pick up or put down your weights while standing on one leg (a sort of 1-leg deadlift), then stand up to kick the other leg front. Next come squats with anterior lifts alternating with upright rows. (Tracie mentions this should feel awkward, and it does, as does her insistence on sticking with upright rows after more than one expert has pointed out their potential for injury for sensitive shoulders). Side lunges with triceps kickbacks, then static hold with straight extensions, then pushing off of the one foot follow. Push-ups with rotation (the range of which is shortened once you increase the speed) come next, followed by a childís pose with arms extended and thumbs up. Next comes a kneeling wide-arm row with rotation (NROLís prone Cuban snatch), which becomes a combo with an overhead press-type move. The segment ends with a few quick stretches for the shoulders (front and back) as well as neck. Youíll then repeat from the prone stretch on the other side.
- Abs & Core (10 min.)
This segment begins with kneeling hip flexor and hamstring stretches. Youíll then come down to a prone position for a stretch with your one leg reaching up and over before beginning a series of leg lifts and lowers, then adding the arms reaching up and out as the legs follow. Youíll do a childís pose to release, then come into a down dog, where youíll lift and lower one leg, squeezing the glutes, then bend the leg and reach it back for a nice hip opening. After that youíll extend in a supine position for crunches, same elbow to knee, and opposite elbow to knee. The segment ends with a quick bridge and bent knee spinal twists alternating with double leg extension (the bottom half of the Pilates double leg stretch).
OK, this is a weird thing to bug someone, but Tracie says ďabs and coreĒ throughout the entire Longevity series. Um, Tracie, the abs ARE part of the core. Itís like saying, ďNow weíre going to do calves and legs.Ē
- Final Stretch (just under 3.5 min.)
Youíll begin extending your arms and legs out on your back, then stay on your back for reclining hamstring (and calf) stretch and a piriformis / IT band stretch (for both youíll add some isometric contractions, then relax) into a spinal twist. Youíll come up to seated for a twist and a reach forward to stretch out your upper back, then come up to your knees for a chest stretch. Tracie holds the stretches she includes for a decently long time, but she just doesnít include that many here, perhaps because she felt the ones she did earlier were sufficient.
Level: Iíd recommend this to intermediate through int./adv. exercisers. Experienced low int. or even beg./int. who know how to modify to their level should find this a doable challenge, something to work up to. Low adv. exercisers looking for an active recovery workout might find this useful, although you may have to find ways to increase the challenge compared to what Tracie shows (e.g. use heavier dumbbells, although you wonít be able to go truly heavy, maybe no more than 12-15 lbs.).
I consider myself an int./adv. exerciser. I found this appropriately challenging with the appropriate weight: the trick really is to go heavy enough that itís hard to complete the last rep or two with perfect form. Itís one of those workouts that leave me feeling worked out without feeling wiped out, so I can be more active throughout the day rather than feel compelled to flop on my couch for the next few hours to recover. According to my heart rate monitor this just edges Staying Power for the most intense of the Longevities, except for Step Forward, which for various reasons I personally find gets my heart rate up the most.
Class: Tracie alone, instructing live.
Music: Iím struggling to describe the music. Itís instrumental and mostly upbeat, but itís hard to identify with a specific genre, nor does it have a real melody. Itís original stuff, although I thought I heard someone else using one of the tunes (and of course now I canít remember who). If youíre passionate about the music used in your exercise videos, watch as many clips as you can (currently Tracie Long Fitness, Collage Fitness Videos, and Total Fitness DVDs all have clips available).
Set: a bright interior studio with a brick wall, windows over which white shades have been drawn, and plants and exercise equipment neatly arranged around.
Production: clear picture and sound, although the music is sometimes on the soft side in relation to Tracieís voice, sometimes not. You should be aware that some people have been very vocal about the sound issues in the Longevity series like fluctuations in volume with regards to the music and/or Tracieís voice, although to be honest I wouldnít have noticed if people hadnít pointed them out, as I donít have a good sound system or the ability to crank up the volume. That said, this is one where I do agree there are sound issues with Tracieís vocal track. Her microphone picks up a lot of rustling and her breathing, especially earlier on in the workout, which can be distracting.
The camera angles here are primarily helpful and straightforward.
Equipment: Youíll need a medicine ball (preferably one thatís soft touch or at least easy for you to palm, pass hand to hand quickly, etc.; I use 3-4 lbs., which is on the light side, but I think itíd be a bit much to go beyond 5-6 lbs.) and 2-3 pairs of dumbbells (I use 10, 8, and 5 lbs., but the first time through I used 3-4 lbs. for the exercises for the smaller back muscles). Youíll also want sneakers, and depending upon your flooring you may also want a mat.
Space Requirements: Tracie does the entire workout on 8 puzzle mats. If hers are the same size as mine, sheís working out in an area thatís 8í long by 4í deep.
DVD Notes: The main menu pops up quickly, with your options of Play All, Chapters (in addition to the Intro, see my general workout description for the chapter list), Premixes (Big Short Sweat, about 20 min., Muscle Madness, about 20 min., and Mat Moves, about 13 min.), and About Us.
Comments: Part of me likes this workout just fine, part of me wants to like this workout a lot, and part of me isnít sure about liking this workout. As you can tell from my workout description, I could find something in each segment to nitpick. None of the other Longevities seem to be inspiring such specific comments on cons. And yet I could find something in each segment that is a definite positive: the opening cardio segment gets your heart rate up quickly, the traditional lifting section hits a lot of muscles in a relatively short amount of time, the sports-style med ball cardio bit is a lot of fun (itís similar to Cat Chiarelliís sports drills bit on 10 Minute Solution Rapid Results Fat Burner, but if you want challenging sports-inspired drills, turn to Mindy Mylrea, who as far as Iím concerned is the queen of them), the functional fitness bit has some good challenges, like combo where you pick up the weights from the floor, as well as a lot of good work for the smaller upper back muscles, and the corework includes some good work directly for the low back, something missing from the other Longevities. Iím all for workouts that give adequate attention to the back side of the body, as too many workouts, either intentionally or unintentionally, focus on the ďmirror muscles,Ē resulting in imbalances that affect things like posture, performance, and health. That said, this one does have a lot for all of the shoulder muscles and the ultimate mirror muscles, the biceps, especially when you combine these with Tracieís other offerings in this series as well as the TLTs.
Although Iím starting to appreciate the Longevity series in its own right Iím still disappointed these arenít a second round of TLTs, which were my introduction to functional fitness and are still unlike anything else on my shelves. (I havenít done any Tracie Long workout earlier than the TLTs, nor have I done any workouts from the FIRM or related systems, so I canít compare the Longevity series to those efforts.) Tracie has pulled back from the functional fitness feel of the TLTs, although she hasnít given it up entirely, to include more conventional gym-style training. From the insert included in the DVD and the workout itself I get the impression the Longevity series is targeted at 40-somethings who want to get back into shape so they feel and look better. (Full disclosure: Iím a decade away from falling into that category, and my main fitness goals are more to be happy, healthy, strong, and fit rather than get back into that bikini or not be embarrassed to wear a tank top or fit into my skinny jeans.) To that end the more traditional moves are to shape and firm up while the functional fitness aspects are there to improve health and functionality. The back cover promises to work your larger muscles first for calorie burn and for pre-exhaustion so you can get at the smaller muscles that contribute to better posture, and itís true that thereís a lot here for the smaller muscles all along the back. That said, I was a bit surprised at how long the biceps curls series goes on in a workout named for the backside of the body. Although this is called ďBack Up,Ē it is meant to serve as a total body workout.
In some ways Back Up is to the Longevity series what Strength in Movement was to the TLTs: the workout that focuses on the posterior chain or back side of the body. The two are very different in format, organization, selection of exercises, etc., but when I accidentally did them back to back I felt there was a lot of overlap, so much so that I will make sure to stick something else in between the two in the future.
Tracie is the consummate fitness professional, focused on cuing the workout as she demonstrates how to execute the moves precisely. She might have a few comments about how this exercise is good for a certain body part or the upcoming segment will burn a lot of calories, but thatís about it for anything resembling extraneous chatter. I find her cues arenít the most descriptive, so I need to watch her closely to figure out exactly what sheís doing. For example, her cue to ďlift the hipĒ in the warm-up still confuses me (my mind needs a few minutes to be able to translate Tracie-speak into neural cues for my limbs), and I find her difficult to follow during the prone floorwork section because sheís not crystal clear on the transitions. That said, during other portions her cues are spot on and make a lot of sense. Tracie does mirror cue.
This workout has been extensively broken down, so I wonít repeat. I will post my overall impressions. I feel that this workout has the most serious feel out of all the Longevities that Iíve tried, but thatís not really a bad thing. You just get down to business, with little wasted time. Although this workout is touted as working your back side (posterior chain), I really felt this was a total body strength workout with some excellent, fun cardio thrown in. Biceps, triceps, chest, back, shoulders, and legs were all worked. I do feel that the upper body got worked a bit more, as I really didnít feel anything in my hamstrings, calves, or inner thighs. Like most of Tracieís workouts, I did feel it the most in my shoulders and core. Throughout the workout I used 12 and 15 pound dumbbells with a 5 pound medicine ball. However, when Tracie said go very light for shoulders in the functional fitness section, I went down to 3 pound dumbbells and am glad I did. The key Tracieís workouts is to find the weights that work best for you.
What I Liked
So much to like! I liked that the warm up and first cardio section were blended together, as I usually watch the clock during the warm up. Before I knew it, the first 10 minutes had flown by! I liked the cardio selections with the med ball; the sports specific drills were really fun. I especially liked the bowling and baseball drills. Holding the medicine ball really gave it a sporty feel, like I was actually playing instead of working out. I liked that the functional moves didnít feel so different just for the sake of being different; Tracie always seems to have a reason for the moves she chooses for her workouts. I liked her creative take on crunches during the abs section. Finally, I loved the mellow, instrumental music selection. Her music always puts me in a good mood to work out.
What I Didnít Like
There seemed to be a bit too much shoulder work. Additionally, the floorwork in general was a little disappointing. I thought that the final floor work section was going to be more work for the lower back and legs, but it almost felt like one long extended stretch. Donít get me wrong, I LIKED the extended stretch, but not when Iím expecting bridge work, etc. Speaking of bridge work, that part was so fast, if you blinked you missed it. I love bridge work, so that was disappointing.
What to Look Out For
If you have tweaky shoulders, be prepared to lower your weights. Lots of shoulder work. There are pushups and side planks, so if you have tweaky wrists, be ready to modify. Oh, and if you are one of those people that get distracted by music, be forewarned. There are a couple of instances where Tracieís mic rustles her clothing or is muffled altogether, especially in the bridge work section nearer to the end of the workout. The sound can also go up or down in relation to Tracieís voice, although you really have to be paying attention to hear it. It isnít throughout the workout but in spots, but I thought Iíd mention it.
Tracie is calm, professional, and comes across as very caring. However, I found her cueing to be a bit lacking, and she didn't do as many form pointers as she usually does. She did constantly remind about keeping your abs tight and pulled in, but didn't really provide as much instruction as she usually does.