Break Through

Tracie Long
Year Released: 2010

Categories: Balance/Medicine/Mini/Stability Ball, Circuit Training (cardio and weights)

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This is Volume 5 in Tracie Long Fitness’ Focus Series.

I’m reviewing this workout after doing it 4 times.

General workout breakdown: This just over 32-min. workout often incorporates a medicine ball to get your heartrate up while strengthening your core and working the rest of your body, especially your shoulders.

On Tracie’s forum this is classified under “cardio,” despite the fact that it contains some exercises commonly found in strength workouts and Tracie herself mentions that it’ll work the shoulders and core especially. Having never been a FIRMie, I’m not confident enough in the FIRM classification system to define “cardio” in FIRM- / Tracie-speak or argue with their labels. I’ve used this on designated cardio days in a suggested Tracie Long rotation, and it seemed to work well for that purpose, but I had to take a day off after doing 2-3 days of her “weights,” “cardio,” and “interval” workouts in a row because my upper body, particularly my shoulders, would start to get a little cranky. This latest time around I used it after a Pilates workout on a strength-orientated day, using an appropriately heavy medicine ball, and it worked well enough for that purpose, too, although I wouldn’t expect to gain a lot of muscle and strength using this regularly (I’m currently in a rebuilding phase, so I’ll take my strength and endurance anywhere I can get it).

Anyway, here’s what you’ll do in the workout:
Your warm-up (4.5 min.), with med ball in hand, takes you through1-armed wood chops, 2-armed wood chops, center chop (more of a slow swing motion) - adding in French press, lunge forward & back - adding in rotation, stand center & rotate side to side, side lunge w/ rotation holding arms long, squat w/ overhead press, forward lunge w/ overhead “throw”, and forward lunge w/ long-armed chop to knee. Some of the moves will be combined for a mini combo, like the squat w/ overhead press and forward lunges w/ throw or chops, and some will be run through on separate sides.
You’ll then drop the ball for the next song where you’ll do combos involving side lunges w/ reach low & squats and hurdle leg & low jacks; your recovery move is squats, and then you’ll repeat the side lunge combo, replacing the squats with jumps.
You’ll grab the med ball again to push it overhead and then do scissor jumps, then do stride jumps. You’ll squat before weaving the ball under the thighs as you sumo squat walk up and then do ice skaters back. Chest pass and jump, then inner thigh jumps (clicking the heels together while jumping), and figure 8s – weaving the ball under thighs are your in between moves. You’ll then repeat the whole sequence, only this time you’ll march or jog back instead of doing ice skaters.
After dropping the ball, you’ll do a side lunge & lateral jump combo. You’ll then switch to a running move while balancing on one leg; you’ll next add in power, and then adding in a side to side move after you jump & stick your landing.
You’ll grab your med ball again and get into sumo squat. You’ll circle the ball overhead & relevé, then stir the pot; you’ll then drop the ball, step your foot over it & tap, then pick it up & lift it overhead. You’ll do some sumo squats and push right & left before repeating the sequences.
For the next sequence you’ll switch from cardio to more toning. You’ll keep the med ball and move the legs side to side and pass the ball side to side, opening the arms out wide. You’ll balance on one leg while lowering the one arm in a rainbow motion and lunge to the side & reach the ball out front. You’ll also do a shot put motion, with a forward bend & roll up through the low back in between sets.
You’ll continue to keep the med ball for more toning. Moving into a warrior position, you’ll do windmills, then switch to wood chops and then rotations with knee lifts. You’ll then move onto your toes while in a squat and turn the torso.
You’ll drop the ball for the standing stretch (1.25 min.). You’ll do a standing side bend, a combo shoulder / neck stretch, a chest opener, a move to open up between your shoulder blades, a hip flexor stretch, and a hamstring stretch.
You’ll then grab the ball and drop to the floor for med ball abs (5 min.). In a v-sit, you’ll stir the pot and push & pull, then roll down to do a modified Turkish get-up (a sort of sit-up with one arm, holding the med ball, straight up in the air). You’ll do push-ups with one hand on the med ball, with tempo variations, releasing into a cat pose. You’ll then repeat the entire sequence from stir the pot on the other side. The workout ends after you release your back, then come up for a quick chest release.

Level: I’d recommend this to intermediate through intermediate / advanced exercisers, although this could be adapted to a lower intermediate and maybe even a beg./int. level with a lighter med ball (or none at all) and some creative modifications (Tracie doesn’t really offer many suggestions of ways to back exercises back down in impact or intensity – or boost that intensity, either).
Normally I’m at the int. / adv. level. When I’m at that level, I find it’s not exactly a super duper challenge on its own, but it leaves me feeling worked out without feeling wiped out, and some days I need that. Currently, however, I’m working my way back up to fully intermediate, and this was a doable, but definitely challenging workout at that lower intermediate level.

Class: Tracie alone, instructing live.

Music: an upbeat instrumental soundtrack.

Production: clear picture and sound. The music is audible enough that it starts to threaten to overwhelm Tracie’s voice. I know a bunch of people have strong, mostly negative, opinions about the sound on the first four Focus workouts, but I actually dislike the fact that I have to crank the two in the middle up to hear Tracie, only to get an earful of music (which isn’t among my favorite soundtracks) to boot. I used to work out in an apartment I shared with someone who was not always on my schedule in a room directly adjoining my neighbors’; I needed to be able to keep the sound low and still hear instructions clearly. Now that I work out in the basement of my home, that’s not such an issue, but I still prefer not to have to have anyone upstairs have to turn the living room TV up to mask the noise from my TV down below. Anyway, I will say that this doesn’t seem to have the muffled microphone issues that some of the other Longevity and Focus (and one of the Figure: 30) workouts have.

Equipment: You’ll need a medicine ball you can easily hold, palm, and pass back and forth; a small soft touch one works best. I used my 3# or 4# soft touch ball, which seemed an appropriate weight on more cardio-focused days. (Unfortunately my 6# ball is too large to be workable for some of the exercises.) A dumbbell would be an acceptable substitute in a pinch.
You may also want sneakers and a mat, depending upon your flooring.

Space Requirements: Tracie does the whole thing on a circular platform that’s probably about 5’ in diameter. At 5’8” I easily fit this within 9 2’ by 2’ puzzle mats, or an area 6’ by 6’.

DVD Notes: The DVD main menu, which pops up after a bit, allows you to choose the full workout or two shorter sections (Have a Ball, aka the more cardio-based segments, about 20 min.; or Whittle Your Middle, aka the toning-based segments, about 10 min.).

Comments: I like Break Through. It’s pretty fun, the moves are fairly interesting, and the pace is just about right: not too frantic, not too slow. I don’t have a lot of med ball workouts, so I can’t compare this to others. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I enjoy it: because there aren’t many med ball workouts on my shelves, this seems different enough from my usual that it stands out from the rest of the herd.

But I have to admit I only seem to pull this out when I’m doing a Tracie Long rotation. I can’t quite figure out how to fit this into my regular rotations, as I’m more of a meat & potatoes “me want straight up cardio one day, straight up strength the next” kind of gal, although I’m trying to get over that hang-up of excluding cardio workouts like this from my cardio days. One of my issues with the Focus series (and with the Longevity series as well) is that it’s still not immediate obvious to me how one is supposed to use them all together and/or with non-Focus workouts. I kept hoping that as the next one came out suddenly all would make sense, but Tracie seems to have completed the series, and I’m still scratching my head. (And yet I’ve bought 5 of the 6 Focus workouts and all 6 of the Longevity workouts and both of the current Figure:30 and both of the current Reboot workouts – you would think I’d learn…) In her opening remarks to the Focus series, Tracie says, “We believe if you rotate through these you’ll get everything you need in.” I think what she means is that you’ll work through the major areas of fitness: cardio, strength, endurance, power, balance, and flexibility, and given the fact that the ACSM guidelines now incorporate not only cardio, strength, and flexibility but also functional training, Tracie was ahead of the curve there. I would beg to differ that you’ll get absolutely everything in with regards to a balanced workout in terms of body parts; as things currently stand with the 6 Focus workouts there’s not as much back work, especially in comparison to all of the work for the front of the upper body, for example, and that’s certainly true in Break Through. You can get some more back work in if you’re conscious of engaging the back muscles as you perform moves, but you’ll have to do a lot of that on your own, as Tracie doesn’t always cue those sorts of things.

Instructor Comments:
Tracie is, as always, a true fitness professional. She focuses on cuing the working, with some encouragement and some nice form tips from time to time and no extraneous chatter. Tracie mirror cues, meaning when she says “right” she means the viewer’s, not her own. I still wish she’d be just a wee bit more descriptive in parts; I feel like even after I’ve done the workout a few times I still need to watch her closely to make sure I’m getting all the movements in an exercise or make sure I catch the transition to the next move or am on the proper side.