Step ForwardTracie Long
Year Released: 2009
Categories: Abs/Core , Lower Body Strength , Step Aerobics
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Tracie introduces Step Forward as Volume 3 of Tracie Long Fitnessí Longevity Series.
Iím reviewing this workout after doing it five times.
General workout breakdown: This almost 53-min. workout is primarily a step workout that is part cardio and part endurance training for the lower body; youíll end with short bodyweight strength-training segments for the upper body and abs before enjoying a quick stretch.
- Warmup (4 min.)
Youíll begin with marching, stomp the corners, step knees, and repeater. After quick standing side bends and some upper and lower back releases, youíll do a combo of push into a mambo on the floor, then step kick and mambo to the back corner. Next come hamstring curls, more pushes and knee ups, hip extensions, and then hamstring curls and hip extensions with wide marches on the floor.
- Medium Intensity (4 min.)
Youíll kick front and back, then kick and lunge back while reaching low; alternate step knees; walk the step and a step knee turn (with a hop); lunge forward onto the step & reverse lunge; 7- or 3-knee repeater; jump onto the step & walk down; and step knee straddle and pivot around.
- Med/Hi Intensity (just under 5.5 min.)
Youíll work on top of the step and laterally, with pulsing squats, squat Ė hamstring curls, squat off the end, squat & lateral leg lift. Your rest combo is out & in, walk off the back and tap back, then come back up. Youíll then go end to end, tapping your toe in the middle of the step, adding in circling arms after a few runthroughs; the rest portion is step knee of the top and march on top. The segment ends with power knees corner to corner.
- High Intensity (4 min.)
This segment also works laterally. Youíll go across the step 3 times, then squat or squat jump, scissor (jack), step knee (with an optional jump), or step kick (with an optional jump). Your recovery moves here are a knee rotation (knee up & rotate out to the side, then back end) w/ tap back and/or shuffle step back behind the step or mambo on the step.
- High Intensity (just under 5.5 min.)
After a few basics, knees up, and repeaters, Tracie builds up a combo from L-step, basic or jog down the step, step knee quarter turn, walk the plank, straddle, 2-knee repeater, over the top & walk around on floor. In between run-throughs youíll do some jumping jacks, then hamstring curls, which become ďfunky hamstringsĒ (alternating hamstring curls on step, jumping jacks on floor).
--> At this point Tracie turns her step from the horizontal to vertical position. (I actually shift my body rather than the step. You donít have a ton of time to make this switch, so if youíre not quick with step reorientation have the remote handy for pause Ė or do what I do.)
- Med/Hi Intensity (just under 5.5 min.)
This segment revolves around a straddle, where you can either march on top, jog on top, or do tick tock (pendulum), with 3-knee repeater to change sides. Your recovery move is to walk to the corner, or move diagonally across the step onto the floor in front, then back onto the step and onto the floor in back. Youíll also do squats side to side (singles and doubles), then end with ice skaters (lunge w/ a bit of rotation; again youíll do singles and doubles).
- Medium Intensity (4.5 min.)
This section has a step knee, exit and then come up for tap back. Youíll also do basics, then shuffle up the board one side and shuffle back the other. Youíll jump out & in on the floor. The segment ends with v-step on the floor around the step, then triples (side jump with quick step)
- Medium Intensity (4 min.)
Youíll begin with basic into a mambo, adding in a triple step and later turning the basic into a jog. In between thereís ďleg work,Ē where you had a hop on and off the step. The meat of this segment is a side hop hold, then shuffle across, which Tracie does in various combinations (for example, a hop hold several times in a row or only shuffling across the step).
- Medium Intensity (just over 4 min.)
This segment is more strength than cardio. Youíll rock back and forward while staying low, adding in a deep squat, knee-hip repeater (knee & side leg lift), single leg squat,and knee repeater (with hop if you have anything left!). After each side youíll straddle, then do a speed pattern based off of the straddle.
--> At this point Tracie turns her step diagonally so she has room in front and back, although you could certainly do everything on one side.
- Chest & Triceps (3 min.)
Youíll begin with triceps dips off of the step, doing different tempo and ranges, before moving around for push-ups with hands on step, again varying the tempo.
--> At this point the step vanishes from Tracieís workout space.
- Abs & Core (4.5 min.)
Tracie begins in full plank, lowering & lifting the knees, then rocking back & forward; youíll then lift & lower a leg as you rock back & forth (the Pilates leg pull front), and end by lowering & lifting 1 knee at a time. After a quick childís pose youíll lie on your back for crunch w/ both legs extending out, bicycle, crunch w/ 1 toe touching down and then both down, with leg extension after both sides.
- Final Stretch (4.5 min.)
Youíll stretch out while lying on your back, then bring one knee into the chest to release the back, straighten the leg for a hamstring stretch, bring the straight leg across the body for the piriformis and IT band, and repeat on the other side. Youíll roll up onto the hands and knees for childís pose w/ arms extended and thumbs up for a lat stretch, then kneel while stretching the triceps (adding in a side bend to get into the lats again). Youíll come up to standing to stretch the calves and hip flexors, to which youíll add some chest expansion. A few shoulder rolls sneak in there, too. Youíll end with rounding the back to the center and to each side, releasing the lower and upper back.
Level: Iíd recommend this to intermediate through int./adv. exercisers. Experienced low int. or even beg./int. may want to try this on just the platform or even on the floor, without a step. Youíll probably want to follow the modifications Tracie suggests, although she doesnít always do them all the way through. Exercisers venturing into the low adv. level can add an extra pair of risers to the step to bring it to 8Ē and add in the power sooner.
I consider myself an int./adv. exerciser. I found this appropriately challenging, perhaps because step is still relatively new to me (Iíve been working with it on and off for the past few years, and I still find stepping a seriously heart-pumping workout). I did this with just the platform when I was recovering from minor illness, and it was a solid workout then. I did this when healthy with just one pair of risers, and it was a solid workout then, too. Focusing on proper step form and going low in the squats and lunges really does make that extra bit of difference; one doesnít necessarily need to hop around like a jumping bean to get some intensity. Anyway, because of all of that I find this one is and has the potential to continue being the most challenging of the Longevity series for me, although I realize my experiences may not be typical, especially among the expert experienced steppers out there.
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, especially since there are some different styles going on in there (including what Iíd call Nintendo Wii-inspired at one point), nor does it have a real melody. Itís original stuff, although I thought I heard someone 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 a) the initial release had Tracieís cues out of sync with the moves for a bit (be careful if you come across an unbelievable deal on this DVD without a case or at least the original cover art, as someone may be trying to pass the original defective disc onto you while keeping the replacement) and b) some people have been very vocal about the sound issues in the Longevity series (particularly fluctuations in volume with regards to the music and/or Tracieís voice), although to be honest I wouldnít have thought that much about it if people hadnít pointed that out, as I donít have a good sound system or the ability to crank up the volume.
The camera angles here are primarily helpful and straightforward.
Equipment: a step (Tracie uses a regular club-sized step with 1 set of risers) and sneakers. You may also want a mat for the upper body, abs, and stretch portion.
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 (Total Body Tag A Long, about 15 min., and Step on the Go, about 20 min.), and About Us.
Comments: This one has really grown on me. I had heard Tracieís cuing (or lack thereof) could be confusing, so at least that didnít catch me by surprise. Now that Iíve done it almost half a dozen times in the span of 6 weeks Iíve figured just about everything out, although every once in a while one of Tracieís cues still throws me. Normally Iím a choreo lover, but just when this threatens to get so repetitive that I consider ripping it out and begging someone to trade me Seasun Ziegerís most complex workout the segmentís over. But perhaps thatís why I like the last horizontal step portion the best, because thatís the closest to a choreographed combo of all of them. I do find that I need to concentrate about the same amount as I normally do when doing more choreographed routines so I can follow Tracie, stay on the right foot, and feel the burn, which seems to be enough intellectual engagement for me.
Iíve never really ventured into the ďovertrainingĒ method for the lower body, where you work the lower body more often with lower weights with the goal of slimming it down and building its endurance, so doing Step Forward in combination with the other Longevity and TLT workouts for a month was something new for me. I canít say I noticed any significant changes in my lower body, but then I wasnít really looking for any, and a month is kind of a short time to notice dramatic results. Still, it was a nice change from my usual routine, which tends towards heavier weights and more of a strength focus, and since endurance is something I have to work hard at I would be happy to have gained a little.
Iím kind of meh on the upper body and abs segments at the end. I get that Tracie believes in working the abs regularly, just like the legs, but Iím not so sure about her love of working the upper body, particularly the shoulders, just as regularly. I know this is technically chest & triceps, but dips and push-ups get into those shoulders, especially when theyíre still recovering from the day before. OK, so maybe Iím just not the biggest fan of push-ups and especially dips and looking for excuses to skip out on them. Additionally, while I think the plank series here is terrific, Iíve never been the biggest fan of crunches, and Iím even less of a fan after reading about the work of Dr. McGill and others. While I donít avoid anything resembling a crunch like the plague, unless I feel a creative urge to substitute in some other exercises Iíll just skip a segment like the one this has in favor of something I like better. As a result, Iíve probably only done those segments all the way through once or twice. Still, theyíre easy enough to skip or shorten and donít interfere with my enjoyment of the step portion.
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.) SF does feel more like an athletic step workout a number of instructors could put out, but there is a Tracie twist with the emphasis on working the legs.
In some ways Step Forward is to the Longevity series what Better BurnÖ Better Buns is to the TLT set. Both are considered ďcardioĒ but contain a lot of work to strengthen and tone the lower body. Theyíre obviously very different formats organized in very different ways, but the basic intentions are similar. One major difference: SF doesnít have much for balance work. Its lower body training focus is much more general and about endurance.
Tracie is the consummate fitness professional, focused on cuing the workout as she demonstrates how to execute the moves precisely, and she is a joy to watch move so crisply here. (Itís easy to forget that step aerobics has a proper form, too.) 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. Also, Tracie doesnít cue consistently: sometimes she announces a change in move way in advance, sometimes right before or right on the move change, and every once in a while throws in a tidbit right after youíve changed to that move. Of the Longevity series this is definitely the most difficult to follow the first time through, but if you give it a chance and are observant and work at it you can figure it out. Tracie does mirror cue, and she also provides some good form tips and reminders for stepping.