Body Reform: Abs and Back

Karen Voight
Year Released: 2000

Categories: Abs/Core , Pilates/Core Strength , Upper Body Strength

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I’m reviewing this workout after doing it several times over the 1 1/2 years or so that I’ve had it.
This workout has also been called Body Reform: Abdominals and Back and Pilates Core Power Abs & Back.

General workout breakdown: This workout combining Pilates-based and traditional abdominals moves focuses on strengthening the abs and lower back. It runs just over 40 minutes and is done entirely seated or lying down.
The routine begins with shoulder rolls, side stretches, twists, neck stretches, and hip stretches; then comes cat and dog tilts while on all fours moving back and forth into child’s pose, ending with more stretches done in child’s pose. Next comes butterfly with both straight and rounded spine, countered with a chest stretch. The exercises proper include Karen’s versions of the Pilates half roll back, roll up, and hundred; after a lying twist come single leg circles, an exercise done in the one-legged (or full) teaser position, bridge with leg lifts, single leg stretch, reverse curl, corkscrew with reverse curl, toe dips building up into single straight leg stretch (i.e. scissors), and then some reclined lower body stretches / spinal twists. Next comes a back series with breaststroke prep, locust, and a slower version of the breaststroke, all done with a short rest in between. A short seated back stretch leads into a teaser series (beginning in the V-sit position and rolling down), a curl series with an oblique cross and a double curl, a curl series with legs in butterfly, more oblique crunches with a leg lift, and another short stretch. Another back series includes swimming and breaststroke. Spine stretch forward, saw, seal (no clapping), and chest stretch end the workout.
The pace is leisurely, with enough time to get into position and execute the moves effectively, but you’re never waiting around for Karen to set up a move. In other words, things flow together smoothly. Karen includes a good number of repetitions, enough to feel the workout but not enough to make you bored.

Level: I’d recommend this to someone who feels they’re at least at the beginner / intermediate crossover point through someone at the intermediate / advanced point. While Karen’s form instruction and pointers are very good, I think this would be too overwhelming to someone new to abs workouts. Karen does offer some progressions for some exercises, but there are few modifications mentioned for those without much flexibility. Some Pilates experience is helpful but not mandatory.
I consider myself almost a solid intermediate; I have about three years of Pilates experience but am still working on improving my flexibility and strength. I tried to do this video fairly regularly when I was at the beginner / intermediate crossover point, but my lack of flexibility and strength became frustrating, even with my modifications. When I did this last week, I enjoyed the workout more since I felt I could do the exercises better and more fully. I felt a slight burn in my abdominals that day and the next.

Class: 1 woman joins Karen and sometimes shows more advanced progressions of the exercises.

Music: nice instrumental music that complements this type of exercise.

Set: bright interior studio space with hardwood floors and neutral walls with different shapes cut out of them and different colored and patterned lights shining on them.

Production: clear picture and sound, helpful camera shots (almost always showing all of both exercisers).

Equipment: mat (or equivalent). Both exercisers are barefoot.

Space Requirements: enough to lie down with arms and legs extended, with a little space to each side.

DVD Notes: I have this on the Total Body Pilates DVD, which also has Total Body Training. There are no chapters within the workout.

Conclusion: This is a nice workout. It doesn’t have much of a fun factor, but this will leave you feeling stretched out and relaxed, yet energized, thanks to Karen’s careful balancing of exercises and stretches as well as flexion and contraction.
If you don’t care much for traditional Pilates, don’t immediately disregard this because of the “Pilates” in the title. In truth, it doesn’t follow the traditional Pilates order, and Karen offers her own variations of the exercises; thus, it doesn’t have the “feel” of most Pilates workouts on video. Conversely, if you’re a Pilates purist, you may not enjoy this workout for those reasons. This would be a good video to shake up your abs routine if you only do traditional crunches, for example, or if you dabble in Pilates but don’t want to give up crunches.

Instructor Comments:
As always, Karen’s instruction is clear and helpful, and her form is impeccable. She is a gently encouraging but professional instructor—definitely not the perky cheerleader.



I love this tape. I picked up the tape after hearing good things about it for people with lower back pain.

The workout combines yoga and pilates moves along with some traditional ab work. You start out with yoga stretches, move into pilates moves like the hundreds, leg circles, the seal, swimmers and more, and then she throws in some traditional crunches that work your obliques.

At the end of the workout I always feels as though I've gotten a great ab and lower back workout but don't feel as though I've been tortured.

I haven't been doing the tape long enough to know whether it will help me as far as not throwing out my back, but I certainly don't think it hurts.

Instructor Comments:
Karen Voight is very likable in this video. She gives excellent instruction but seems warmer than she is in some of the other workouts I've seen.



I owned this video for about 2 years before getting up the nerve to actually do it. Now I do it at least twice a week.

I was initially intimidated by the thought of spending nearly an hour working just my abs and back. I should not have been. Karen works you hard, but not in a way that is painful or overwhelming. There are lots of great stretches throughout the workout to help you recover, and it begins with a wonderful stretch that feels great after a long day at my desk. The (instrumental) music is really nice, too. This is the only core strength video I have that I truly enjoy. I keep reaching for it again and again.

I particularly like that she demonstrates the basic move and has the background exerciser doing the advanced modifications. I also appreciate that virtually none of the moves put strain on my shoulders--I am recovering from a shoulder injury and I'm finding it difficult to find challenging core work that doesn't require shoulder strength (i.e. Cathe's stability ball work). So I consider it an excellent rehab workout.

This is the best pilates-style video I have ever done. I actually prefer it to "true" pilates. I think it's far less likely to strain one's back.

Instructor Comments:
I'm a die-hard Gin Miller fan, but I have "discovered" Karen in the past year, and she has really grown on me. She gives excellent form pointers and her workouts are very very well thought out.



I believe this was also called Pilates Abs and Back

Type: Core strength
Format: entirely on the mat
Background exercisers: one female
Music: soothing instrumental
Set: bland and not distracting

This has been reviewed before under the title Pilates Abs and Back, so I will just add my two cents that this is a wonderful workout. The pace is slower, there is stretching in between most moves, so you can get a whole lot more done than if you had less rest. The beginning ab segment is mostly Pilates moves, some with new twists. Back work follows, then another ab segment that is more traditional crunches and oblique work, with and without legs raised. Then she does a Teaser and while holding it, you slowly decline your upper body to the mat. YOUCH! More back work and then a nice stretch. This is a keeper! Grade A.

Instructor Comments:
Karen is chattier in this workout than in most - offering clear instruction and form pointers. SHe is friendly and encouraging.

Peggy T


This workout left me feeling great! It is a 44-minute, all-floor routine that is a blend of Pilates, yoga, and traditional abs and back work. You'll find some classic Pilates moves such as the hundred and single leg circles, but many of the exercises are done with a twist--eg, modified corkscrew and modified teasers. Similarly, instructor Karen Voight incoporates movement into traditionally static yoga poses such as bridge and boat pose, and finally, she includes crunches and back work. The result is a smooth, flowing routine that will leave your entire body feeling thoroughly stretched and relaxed.

Although this workout is somewhat similar to the abs portion of Karen's Streamline Fitness video, it is more relaxing and less intense. However, during the last 8 minutes of the tape, Karen offers suggestions on how to incorporate her resist-a-ring (or other fitness ring) into the routine, which would definitely make it a more challenging workout. I know that this is a workout which I will turn to frequently, and I highly recommend it to others of all fitness levels.

Instructor Comments:
Karen is a great instructor who is warm and friendly while still providing excellent cuing and precise instructions on allignement. She works with an assistant who displays more advanced versions of the exercises for those wanting a greater challenge.

Beth C (aka toaster)


I think Karen did a wonderful job with this workout. It's a great Pilates-inspired workout for the abs and back, and also works the legs to some degree. I suffer from mild back pain and it's a real treat for my lower back. I think it helps to have some basic knowledge of Pilates form for this video, but it's not absolutely necessary. There are brief stretches incorporated into the workout, which I love, and at just under 45 minutes, I find it's something I can incorporate into my routine. As an intermediate exerciser, I found it both challenging and do-able. For those who want a bit more of a challenge, there is one person demonstrating more advanced modifications. I recommend this video.

Instructor Comments:
In my eyes, Karen really shines in this workout. She seems to be in her element, and provides her trademark excellent cueing.



This is a great abdominal workout; one of the best tapes out there. I am a big fan of Karen Voight---I find her sincere, knowledgeable and inspiring. What I like about this tape is that it presents a good variety of exercises for the abdominals, including the obliques and it really manages to burn out the lower abs. It consists of pilates exercises such as the roll-up, leg circles, the hundred, but it is presented in a more friendly way than the Method. The workout also offers variations of more traditional-style ab exercises, such as the crunch and oblique twisting crunch---for example, she does one exercise where you crunch while doing a reverse crunch with one foot on top of the opposite knee. Some of the exercises had me grimacing, and I usually have pretty good ab endurance. There are several very nice back exercises done lying on your stomach. The music in this video is wonderful. I especially love the guitar music at the beginning of the tape; it makes you want to move gracefully. Karen is a real pro. She isn't the most exciting instructor and her voice is a little bit monotone, but the workout is just so fantastic, it is definitely a must-have for anyone interested in really working the abs. There is one other participant in the video, who is quite advanced and shows the advanced modifications.

I highly recommend this tape---A+.



This is a wonderful Pilates inspired ab and back workout. The workout length is about 45 minutes including the warm up stretches. This is a great mix of Pilates inspired moves combined with traditional ab work and even some moves that are yoga inspired.

I am not a Pilates master, so many of the moves I will be describing most likely have Pilate Names that I am not aware of. I will just try to describe some of the moves included in this tape.

The warm up stretches is approximately 8-10 minutes in length. She does spinal twists, neck stretches, cat and dog poses, hip stretches, and back stretches using both the straight back and round back positions.

The body of the workout is a nice mix of ab stabilization work and back work. She beings with leg stretch using the long leg (not bent) that moves into a controlled ab/back roll down. Then she moves into breath control exercises with legs extended into the air (45 degrees) and activated abs.

Small leg circles are next with alternating legs. With you back on the mat you raise one leg at a time into the air using your leg to draw circles. This move you can really feel in your lower abs, since you are working very hard to keep your lower body stabilized while making the leg circle.

More extended leg ab work is next. With legs extended to 45 degrees you activate your abs while using your arms to circle back. This really activates the abs well.

Then an ab/back move is next. In bridge pose you will shift your weight onto one leg while extending the other leg. This you feel in your legs, abs, and backs since you must be very controlled and work hard for stabilization on all of those areas to keep your hips from sinking to the mat. This move is challenging.

Alternating leg extensions are next with activated abs. Alternating legs, slow then fast you will really feel this in the lower abs.

Next you will do reverse curls. But you will vary the technique just a bit. You will move the legs in a circular motion while moving into a reverse curl at the top of the motion.

Modified leg extensions are next. You move your legs in a scissoring motion with either bent legs or straight legs. During this move you have to work really hard to stabilize in order to keep from wildly swinging the legs.

Now you will move into a series of back bending positions. You will begin with just lifting the chest, then you will move to just lifting the legs. Then combine them both together.

V holds with legs extended ab roll down’s are next. Both the straight leg and bent leg positions are demonstrated.

Next comes more traditional ab work. Standard crunches, crunches with modified leg positions, and varying oblique work is included.

Now back to back work. Activating both the legs and chest off the mat you will alternate opposite arm and leg into a swimming move. Scissoring the legs and arms, slow at first then faster. Then on to more back bending positions that vary the hand position and movements

Nice backstretches in the round back position are next, followed by the “Seal” This is a back roll. With your feet in your hands in the round back position you will rock back and forward on your back. This position is hard to describe but it feels very good after all the back work.

There are many stretches included between a lot of the exercises, especially the ones that use a lot of leg movements.

I really enjoy this tape. I really feel my abs after this tape. At first if you are not very familiar with the Pilates style moves it will be challenging. But what is great is how after each workout you can really see how you have progressed. It may not be easy, but it gets easier to hold the positions and you will find you get better at the roll downs.

Karen is wonderful in this tape. Her teaching style is very suited to this style of workout. She is neither stiff nor hyper, but gives good instructions and form points with out being dry. Karen’s personality really shines during this workout. The production is good and the nice guitar music fits very well with the movements.

I give this tape and A++. If you are wanting to incorporate Pilates style ab and back work then this tape is a must have. Actually this tape is a must have regardless. A wonderful thorough ab and back workout.

Susie F.