The Firm Express: Accelerate

Rebekah Sturkie
Year Released: 2010

Categories: Circuit Training (cardio and weights) , Floor Aerobics/Hi-Lo/Dance , Total Body Workouts

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I am a big fan of the Firm (from the BBH-era all the way through the Firm Express series) and while I waited for a bargain, could not wait to get this series. I am a BIG fan of the short (30 minute-ish or less) intense, HIIT-style workouts, and these do NOT disappoint! The exercises are sort of all over the place (I would not recommend these for any serious strength training) but are fabulous for short cardio routines, even the strength workouts. Each workout in the system effectively gets your heart rate up and makes you feel like you really got something effective done in just 20 minutes. I tend to add 3-4 minutes to the end to stretch. Like all Firms, there is a high production value, and I like how the instructors are somewhat coordinated (their outfits), and the backlighting changes color for the bursts (which also have an on-screen timer). I don’t like that the FE workouts are each on individual DVDs (so there’s 13 DVDs in the system – excessive!) and wish they would have put each cycle on one DVD so you could mix and match. There is a Gaiam ad at the beginning but isn’t excessive. I think my only other complaint would be that the warm ups (thankfully not the cardio or strength as much) can be unnecessarily complex, but I am choreo-challenged and still follow along fine.

I would rate all of the FE workouts in the intermediate range, maybe high intermediate depending on poundage used (but you can’t go too heavy due to the combination moves), and I often sub the bursts with a harder exercise to get my heart rate up more. They are definitely great to add on to another workout or to use on a day that you’re short on time. I have not done the system as designed and just use the workouts as a standalone or add-on. I really get a lot of use out of these and have paired them with lots of other workouts. They are so fun and short! I would definitely recommend these for anyone who enjoys short, high intensity workouts.

The Accelerate cycle (the second cycle in the system) is led by Rebekah with two background exercisers. One of them is supposed to be a modifier but they don’t generally modify, in my opinion.

All of the FE workouts have a brief (about 2 minute warm up) followed by brief cardio and/or strength intervals and four sets of bursts. Each set of bursts is 8-seconds of a high intensity exercise followed by a 12-second recovery. Each workout ends with a very short (inadequate) 1-2 minute cool down and stretch.

Accelerate Cardio + Sculpt: The c/s workout has combination strength moves (various lunge/squat variations with upper body work) including those kneeling to standing up/down style lunges and renegade rows. Fun choice of exercises. The bursts include jump jacks, jump lunges, plyo lunges, and side to side jump squats.

Accelerate Sculpt: The strength workout I thought was very lower-body intense and has some great upper body work as well. The bursts include skaters, lunge feet to hand while in plank, weighted plyo lunges, weighted side to side lunge hops.

Accelerate Cardio: This cardio workout is one of my personal favorites in the FE system! I liked that it isn’t overly choreographed and it is more drill-based. The cardio includes jumping jacks, heismans, plyo lunges, scissors, some kick/punch drills. The bursts include super fast heismans, plank weave-throughs, super fast jumping jacks, and 180-degree jumps. There is some ab worko at the end during the “cool down” with lunge variations and an upper body crunch twist type move.

Instructor Comments:
I like Rebekah as an instructor and in the FE series, and I think she uses marginally less choreographed routines than Emily and Alison (she seems slightly more drill based like Kelsie). Upon FE coming out, people said over and over how screechy/WOOOH-y Rebekah is in these, which I was dreading, but I didn’t think it was so bad. Maybe I am working so hard that I don’t really notice? Her instruction style is very similar to her Get Chisl’d workout and she says “listen up” a lot.

Emily B.


I have pretty much completed a rotation and I wanted to post my comments.
I have not done the abs or 10 minute cardio DVD.

First, I bought this set after reading the reviews here. I get good results with the Firm and liked the idea of 20 minute workouts.

I bought them for maintenance. I'm not trying to lose weight. Judging by the fit of my clothes, the system delivered. I don't feel like I gained muscle strength but I didn't lose any.

I am super time crunched - work - law school - family - so even getting in 20 minutes is challenging.

I'm not going to break the workouts down since I know this has already been done.

These workouts were all I did with a little yoga mixed in. If someone had more time, on the alternate days you could easily add in a longer cardio or yoga or pilates workouts. That was my original plan but I just never got the time. I had planned to use longer Firms or Cathes on the weekends but time got away from me. It still was nice knowing that I had a total body 20 minute workout that I could do.

Pros - I love that they all have cardio. If getting more cardio into your day is important, these are great.

The packaging is nice and not cheap.

The nutritional plan included is healthy and doable.

They really do hit the total body.

They are great for exercise ADD.

The rotation that goes from light, moderate to heavy weights is well thought out.

They are very motivating. Because they are only 20 minutes, there were a few times that I mentally tried to talk myself out of working out but knew that the workouts were only 20 minutes so I popped one in.

They are very versatile. Because they are so short and do work your entire body, there is time to add on other workouts and "get it all in." On those days I had more time, I was able to add on a 20- 30 min yoga workout.

To change things up, you could mix and match them and do two or three in a row.

My heart rate was up the entire workout and I felt completely worked out. I would say that my perceived exertion was always between 6 or 8.

Cons - I do feel that because the exercises are not taught, and the fast pace and combo moves, these are for intermediate advanced exercisers.

These are high impact. The modifier is non-existent. Toward the 3rd week it was getting annoying when they said watch the modifier because they don't show any modifications.

If you can't do lunges or squats, pass on this set.

I modified when I needed to. I've been working out long enough to know how to substitute moves but a beginner may not. modification of high impact to low impact high intensity is not difficult; Turbofire does a fantastic job.

I also think that some of the moves are dangerous. For example, that move where you start in a kneeling position and then you get up on one knee and alternate getting up on the other while doing military presses is IMHO dangerous and not for anyone with bad knees. I had to modify - I just subbed in standing lunges.

There were other moves that I questioned, but right now I can't think of them. I do remember that in some of the workouts, I took out the lower body and just did the upper.

Also, they combine bicep and shoulder exercises in the same superset. The Firm is not the only system that does this. I don't understand this because most people can lift much heavier for bicep than shoulder. I have to lower my weight for shoulder so my bicep suffers.

Overall I'd give them a B. If they truly had modifiers and safer moves, I'd have given them an A.

robin fleischer


The Accelerate cycle w/o's are led by Rebekah. There are three 20 minute dvds; a cardio, sculpt, & cardio + sculpt. The Accelerate workouts feature moderate to high impact and allows for heavier weights. There are 2 backgrounders, one shows beginner modifications. The set is really cute-kind of looks like a basketball court floor w/ nice wood & light colors in the background. You will only need dumbells for the Firm Express series. All Firm Express workouts feature 8 second power bursts w/ a 12 second recovery.

Accelerate Cardio + Sculpt: This workout combines cardio, strength, and 8 second bursts. The bursts include: explosive V-hops, speed squat-shuffles, & plyo pliets w/ arm scoops. Other work consists of low & hi impact cardio and combo strength moves: soccer kicks, low walks, squat -dip- floor touch, V steps & hops, diagonal lunges w/ rows, squats w/ hammer curls, pushups w/ tri kickbacks, standing to kneeling w/ bicep curl & OH press, leaping lunges, static pliet w/ scoops, hinge & row, upright row w/ abduction, pliet w/ French press, volleyball set & bumps, squat w/ low reach and hops, and concludes w/ standing ab work.

Accelerate Sculpt: This is a strength w/o that includes 8 second cardio bursts. The moves in the 8 second bursts are: skaters, a fast plank lunge, weighted power side lunges, and weighted power lunges. The strength work includes 1 legged squats- into lunge w/ row, pliet- curtsy dip combo, static side lunge w/ tricep kickback, deadlifts, bicep curl variations, & concludes w/ static pliets w/ side bends/ side chops.

Accelerate Cardio: This is an all cardio w/o with 8 second power bursts. The bursts include a quick quick run move, power squat /turning power squat, a Mt. Climber type move where you kick your leg out to the other side (kind of a side plank/ Mt Climber combo) fast X jumps, & a high knee w/ punch. Other cardio work includes: hi and lo jacks, X jumps, walk forward w/ a kick, a squat rear kick punch combo, cross country skiing, power lunges, and finishes w/ lunges & core work combos.

While Rebekah is one of my fav instructors- I could have done w/out her continual high pitch "WHOOOW-ing" in these. Also she seemed to only go 6-7 seconds on the power bursts- (theres a timer). The actual Accelerate w/o's are solid, unique, and I like them even more than the Ignite w/o's. I really enjoyed all three w/o's!!!!!! I love how these (& Ignite) cooldown w/ some quick standing ab work.

Part of the 12 second recovery is used for set up- no wasted time- quick recovery and back to work! These workouts move right along and you will work up a nice sweat in the 20 minutes. Time flys even combining 2. I rate Accelerate solid-higher intermediates that (like all Firms) are really easy to modify up or down. These contain fun new moves so they are different from other Firms, but still athletic and combine strength & cardio work as Firms always have. The intro is quick and says "I am Gaiam" and moves right into the menu- so combining w/o's is pretty painless! I received these dvds to review.