The Firm Express: Turbocharge

Alison Davis
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 donít like that the FE workouts are each on individual DVDs (so thereís 13 DVDs in the system Ė 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 isnít 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 canít 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 youíre 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 Turbocharge cycle (the third cycle in the system) is led by Alison with two background exercisers. One of them is supposed to be a modifier but they donít generally modify, in my opinion. The cycles are supposed to be progressive but I think they are generally consistent in intensity.

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.
I donít tend to use the Turbocharge cycle as much as the others because Alison seems to be more fussy/choreographed than the other cycles. Which is a disappointment, because I like her choice of exercises Ė she uses kettlebell swings, a lot of plank work, and just generally more creative moves than the other cycles (which I also really enjoy). I find her strength workout to be the least fussy, and my most used of the cycle. But you really have to watch her closely to make sure she hasnít moved on to another move, or morphed the exercise into something else. With that said, they certainly arenít un-doable (I certainly havenít ripped the DVDs out of the player in frustration) and I should probably do them more often, to master the routines. I think it would be rewarding.

Instructor Comments:
I like Alison as an instructor (I like a lot of her Pink Firm workouts) but as I mentioned she uses more choreography in these workouts than I think is necessary. Not that it matters, but of all the FE instructors, I think she wears the cutest outfits. She is definitely inspiring!

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 Turbocharge cycle w/o's are led by Alison. There are three 20 minute dvds; a cardio, sculpt, & cardio + sculpt. The Turbocharge workouts are designed as active re-charging (though I didnt find them easier than the others in the set). They feature moderate impact and allows for moderately 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 dumbbells for the Firm Express series. All Firm Express workouts feature 8 second power bursts w/ a 12 second recovery.

Turbocharge Cardio + Sculpt: This workout combines cardio, strength, and 8 second bursts. The bursts include: tire run, horizontal leaping floor touches, fast lunges, & high knees. Other work includes: step knee hops, skaters, ham curl variations, pliet w/ French press, a cool diagonal lunge w/ row where you put down & pick up your #s, squat abductions, hinge & row w/ a rear kick, 1 legged squats w/ bicep curls, a fun shuffle V hop/ tire run plyo lunge combo, curtsy dip w/ front raise and finishes w/ plank w/ knee pulls & pushups.

Turbocharge Sculpt: This is a strength w/o that includes 8 second cardio bursts. The moves in the bursts are: plyo lunges, plank jacks, floor touch to high knee jump, & kettlebell swing. The rest of the work includes: lunge w/ bicep curl & shoulder raise, hinge & row, plank rows & plank lunges, a static lunge w/ hands on the ground, 1 legged pushups, step squats w/ hi pull, pliet front raise, concentrated curls, static squat w/ a row & glute pinch & finishes w/ elevator planks (from hands to elbows).

Turbocharge Cardio: This is an all cardio w/o with 8 second power bursts. The bursts include: side lunge floor touches, squat & jump kicks, 1 legged hops back & forth, & a quick step touch. Other cardio work includes: knee pulls, power lunges, weighted side lunges while passing the dumbbell under your knee, skaters, shuffle forward- punch- shuffle back - knee pull, & kettlebell swing w/ a fast walk up & back.

I felt this set was a bit more choreographed than the others Ive done but was still pretty easy to catch onto. I liked that Alison used weights in the cardio w/o. The C+S dvd had a lot of combo moves so it was hard to really heavy up. She used the entire 8 seconds in the C+S & C, but not in the S. Fun choreo routines w/out being complicated. Alisons token phrase is "ahhhhhhh" in these ;)

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 Turbocharge solid 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.