Mat Workout

Tracy Anderson
Year Released: 2008

Categories: Ballet/Barre



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NOTE: I received a free review copy of this DVD from the distributor.

First, a little about me: I'm an avid exerciser in my mid-40s who generally works out daily and has done so for years now (since my late 20s). I exercise mainly at home with videos and enjoy a wide variety of activities, including kickboxing, kettlebells, circuits, yoga, Pilates, and stretching.

However, I'm not one to hop on bandwagons, and although I was well-aware of Tracy's workouts, I didn't really have much interest in them; I've never overly clicked with barre. Despite this, as time has passed, I have come to hear more and more about the Mat Workout, and it has sounded like something I might enjoy. In particular, I was interested in Tracy's upper body work, in which she combines both unweighted moves and use of light weights (I've found that this type of work combined with alternate days of heavy weight work really keeps my own arms in shape) as well as her targeted lower body exercises, which seemed like they could be especially helpful to me, as this is where I carry most of my weight.

The Main Menu of this DVD offers the following chapters: Mat Introduction - Mat Routine (which is NOT chaptered) - Gwyneth Interview, Mat - Tracy Main Interview. In her brief (1 minute) introduction to the the workout, Tracy suggests doing the Mat Workout 4-6 times per week; she recommends not doing anything else other than her Mat and Cardio Workouts. During the slightly longer interview (3 minutes), Tracy elaborates on the development of her Method, explaining that it grew out of 8 years of research experimenting with both herself (she stated that she had trouble losing weight/getting the body she wanted after trying dieting, Pilates, spinning, etc.) as well as other women of various body types. Paltrow's short interview is similar, supporting how Tracy's Method helped her to get into shape.

For the workout itself, Tracy is alone, instructing live in an attractive, mostly-wood studio with large glass windows in the background. Unlike with most barre-style workouts, which are usually performed barefoot, Anderson is wearing shoes here. Her cuing is often late or non-existent; you definitely have to keep your eye on her and sort of follow along (which, luckily, is relatively easy to do once you get the hang of what she is doing). Tracy describes the workout as "strategic muscle exhaustion" in which she is working to tire the larger muscles first in order to get at the smaller muscles. The music is great, mostly female vocal, flowing very well with the vibe of the workout. Although the workout is not chaptered (a clear oversight on the part of the producers!), there are definite divisions, so I have reviewed it by section below.

WARM-UP (5.5 minutes)
For this section, Tracy combines flowing movements with some yoga-like stretches. She begins with plies, moving into forward bends and then stretches including triangle, pyramid pose, and lunge. There's also a dancey feel with moves like hip sways/hip pops as well as full body side stretches and reaches. As noted above, you'll definitely need to be watching the TV since Tracy does NOT cue all of the moves.

STANDING LEGS (17 minutes)
For this segment, Tracy uses a chair for balance. The moves are performed at a steady, even pace, not frenetic like in some other barre-type videos. The exercises in the first series include the following: knee to shoulder, attitude lift to the side, attitude lift to the rear, knee forward and straight back, and straight leg pulse up; everything is then repeated on the second side. For the second series, Tracy starts with a leg lift to the side (point up/flex down) and then moves into attitude rotations, knee lifts side, and leg pushes rear; this series is also repeated on the second side. Tracy concludes the standing legs with some brief plies/hip stretches. One thing I noticed about this section: my standing leg became fatigued MUCH more quickly than my working leg! Unfortunately, even after performing this workout multiple times, I continue to have this issue--it makes me wonder how effective these moves are for me.

STANDING ABS (3 minutes)
This dancey segment consists of rib isolation-type movements. Although Tracy offers almost no cuing here, she does seem to be following a pattern (e.g., single-single-double, forward and back, diagonal) that I think I will be able to pick up with a little practice. She also performs some circles, moves her legs from together to wide-legged, and ends with some hip sways. Overall, it's a chance to let loose for just a few minutes and have some fun dancing to good music!

STANDING ARMS (unweighted, 8 minutes)
For this section, Tracy is holding her arms at shoulder height and performing a variety of rotational arm moves that flow from the shoulders. These exercises are similar to what can be found in Classical Stretch (see Classical Stretch Arms & Abs/Legs & Butt and Essentrics Workout: Arms, Abs & Waist Toner/Legs, Butt & Thigh Thinner), and they are GREAT for shaping your arms/shoulders, improving your posture, and working out any pains or kinks in the upper body. Sometimes Tracy cues the upcoming move, offering tips such as "imagine you are hitting someone off to the side," but other times, you just have to follow along.

STANDING ARMS (weighted, 8 minutes)
Tracy recommends not using weights heavier that 3 lbs. for this section; for my first time using the workout, I went with 2 lbs., and that worked well; since then, I have varied between 2# and 3# depending on my level of fatigue. Here the moves are different than in the previous segment, with many variations on presses, both overhead and to the sides. There are also some unique exercises, such as a lift from the waist to the armpits and a bowling-type move.

LEGWORK ON MAT (6.5 minutes)
Tracy starts this segment in a side-lying position for a knee-to-shoulder move. She then raises up to more of a seated pretzel-like position for knee forward and back, rear leg lifts, and leg scissors, and finally, she turns even further towards the floor (arms in push-up position) for single leg extensions. Lying face down, Tracy performs double bent leg lifts (frogs) to transition before repeating the entire floorwork series on the second side. I especially liked that this segment targeted the glutes so well WITHOUT including any all-fours work, which I hate.

FLOOR ABS (5.5 minutes)
This was my least-favorite section, mainly because of the position which Tracy uses. She sets up for crunches lying flat on the back with the legs wide, and from here, she performs a variety of small crunches up (e.g., crunch with leg lift, crunch with arm overhead, crunch with one foot crossed, etc.). It was the straight leg position that I did not like, as it made my back feel too arched (I suppose I can modify with bent knees). For the final move, Tracy places her hands under her glutes for double straight leg raises. I have been modifying this section by keeping my legs slightly bent.

COOL-DOWN (4 minutes)
The cool-down was similar to the warm-up, containing many of the same stretches. Tracy does add in a few more rotational movements as well as more work for the abs here. The entire time for this workout is approximately 57.5 minutes.

Overall, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this workout! I really loved the legs work (both standing and floor) and the arms work, and I found the brief standing abs section to be kind of fun. The only segment that I really did not like was the floor abs. The day after doing the Mat Workout for the first time, I felt a pleasant amount of soreness in my upper and inner thighs, an area that generally NEVER feels sore on me.

I am certainly not a total proponent of Tracy's "Method"--i.e., I don't agree that women should NEVER work out with more than 3 lbs. (although I do think that using light weights SOMETIMES makes sense, as with this workout), and I would not use Tracy's DVDs as my ONLY form of exercise, as I enjoy other things (yoga, Pilates, even heavier weights!) too much to give up.

I got this DVD back in January, and I held off on submitting my review to VF for awhile, as I wanted to see if I might get any kinds of results with it. For awhile, I did the workout as often as 2x/week, adding in additional segments on other days. Unfortunately, I didn't see the fantastic results that others seem to get with TA, and in fact I even gained a bit of weight during this time (this also may have been medication-related). More recently, I started doing Callanetics Evolution, and I seem to be noticing results more quickly from this DVD instead.

I still think that the Mat Workout is a fun routine, and I will still add it to my rotation at times--especially the arms work, which I think can help my arms get into better shape for summer. In the end, this is a fun, different workout that I would definitely recommend.

Instructor Comments:
Other than her lack of cuing, I had no problems with Tracy. I've heard her described as being almost unpleasant, but at least during this workout, she smiles and is encouraging, saying things like "good" and "you can do it!" And for some reason, even her lack of cuing isn't so bad, perhaps because she is mostly using 8-counts.

Beth C (aka toaster)

03/12/2013

Tracy leads this 56 min workout in a nice wood studio. You will need a chair and a pair of 3 pound dumbbells for this workout. The dvd is not chaptered but is divided into distinct sections: standing legs, standing upper body, standing core, floor legs, and floor core.

The standing legs section uses a chair and you go through a series of barre type lower body exercises; leg lifts & raises and pliets. The upper body work includes arm circles, reaches, and lifts using 3 pound weights. The short standing core section includes lots of hip shift variations. Floor legs is a nice compilation of leg raise/ lift variations and the floor core includes crunch varieties with your legs fully extended and leg drops.

I rate this ah intermediate workout-though the upper body section was quite tough! Tracey is a pleasant instructor that provides good form pointers. I also enjoyed the music. Tracy utilizes very light weights and believes that they deliver optimal results including lean muscles, tight skin, and will re-engineer your musculature structure. She is not a proponent of anything over three pounds. I received this dvd to review.

lindseylu8

12/16/2012

I enjoy Tracy’s mat workout, I am not an avid follower of her method, but like to include this for some variety / interest. Below you will find lots of in depth info from other reviewers, but I thought I’d add mine to the mix.

Warm-up

I really enjoy this warm-up, it may actually be my favourite warm-up compared to other fitness DVDs. It is a series of plies and flowing yoga style stretches. Some may find the stretches too intense so early in the workout though.

Standing legs

This section uses a chair for balance, like you would use a ballet barre. The exercises are a series of leg lifts and pulses in various directions. She talks about waking up “accessory muscles” and targeting your muscles from different angles, and these exercises do definitely do that. There is one exercise which can be a bit uncomfortable on the hip (this was talked about in the forum recently) especially for those of us with past hip injuries. This can be addressed by changing the angle of the working leg (more turned out) which seems to help, if you do this, then the standing leg should also be turned out I believe (so you’re symmetrical).

My only criticism with this section is that there are no guidelines about standing foot/leg placement, e.g. whether they should be parallel or turned out. Coming from a background in dance, I had dance teachers who were very specific about which exercises were done in turn-out and which were done in parallel.

Standing abs

These exercises (rib isolations) have a dancey feel to them, and seem to be about waking up the muscles of the abdomen, rib cage and waist. They feel nice to do but she does them quite fast. I think because Tracy is small she can move fast with ease, but a taller person might not find this so easy!

Arm work (unweighted)

I really like these exercises, they are like ballet arm exercises but done much faster. As Fuzzy says below, the key is to anchor the arms in the upper back. Something that was instilled into me in dance training was that arm movements (e.g. in ballet) originate in the back muscles, not muscles in the arms and shoulders, this creates a longer arm line and stops you lifting your shoulders when your arms are raised.

I did a TA “bootcamp” for about 10 days or so last year, and I saw biggest changes in my arms, which got much leaner and more “ballerina” like. I actually don’t mind having some bulk/shape in my arms, but I found it interesting to see how quickly these exercises did what Tracy said they would do.

Arm work (light weights)

These are similar, flowing exercises than the previous section. I definitely don’t agree with the whole “don’t lift more than 3 pounds” thing, but, I can see that with these exercises that is wise, they are done fairly quickly with a lot of reps so heavier weights would probably sacrifice form.

Floor Lower Body/legs

Unfortunately I have to skip this section completely. I have an old hip injury and virtually all of these exercises aggravate that. If you don’t have any hip issues, you may like these exercises, I seem to remember there are some pretzel variations and an interesting move combing a push up with rear leg pulse/lift. As seems to be the theme in TA’s method, she approaches the hip, glute & thigh region from a variety of angles. Having covered these areas in the standing leg section however, I don’t feel I’m missing out by not doing this section.

Floor Abs

Tracy’s theme here seems to be to do crunches with the legs extended rather than bent, also the upper body is supposed to reach up (instead of curling forwards, it is more like reaching upwards). This does seem to target different muscles than standard crunches. She incorporates some arm reaches and leg lifts which target different parts of the abdominal area.

I’m not overly enthusiastic about this section but it is ok. I feel more of benefit from other ab work such as that found in Pilates, Core Fusion and Callanetics.

Cooldown

The cooldown section is very similar to the warm up, perhaps a bit more dynamic.

Overall summary

I enjoy this workout, it flows nicely and I enjoy the music. I would class it as invigorating, light strength training for the whole body. But don’t let my use of the word “light” put you off. As I mentioned earlier, I did a TA “bootcamp” last year doing this Mat DVD every day for about 10 days, along with some sporadic cardio (not as much as TA recommends I should add!). I got the same kind of results I get with Callanetics and other barre style workouts which tend to create the “dancer’s physique” look (everything pulled in, lifted and toned, waist trimmed, good posture etc.) The results didn’t excite me enough to want to do TA’s method exclusively however, as I still want to enjoy my other workouts.

What I enjoy most about this workout is how it “wakes up” muscles in the body which don’t get used much, it gives my whole body an invigorated feeling which I don’t usually feel with other workouts.

Instructor Comments:
I like Tracy’s minimal style and lack of in depth instruction, once I have done a DVD several times and learned the routine I find comments and lengthy instruction a bit annoying.

Like others, I don’t agree with her opposition to heavy weights and comments that they cause bulk. I think it depends on your body type. I have thin arms and legs no matter how much I weigh or how heavy I lift, so have never worried about “bulking up”. This does not detract from my enjoyment of the workout though.

BalletCat

08/21/2012

I tried TA's Mat Workout, thanks to a kind VFer who loaned it to me. I am glad I had the chance to try it so that I could fairly judge TA and her workout style.

My impressions are: I thought I would be more impressed with the workout. The workout consisted of standing leg lifts in different directions, rib isolations and some hip movements, arms held up and moved in different directions which mainly worked the shoulders, some leg lifts on the floor, and some ab crunches with legs straight on the floor.

The standing leg lifts were not unique and there weren't too many variations; I think Physique 57 is much more varied, fun, and challenging. The same goes for the ab work, which I felt was extremely limited in terms of working the entire rectus abdominis and obliques. The lower portion was worked only momentarily with some leg lifts with hands under the lower back.

The leg lifts on the floor were a bit awkward in positioning, and the camera did not fully show the positioning since it only showed Tracy from the front. There were not too many reps of these.

The arm work was the most memorable because it involved keeping the arms up for several minutes, and caused fatigue in the shoulders. When the arms are held up, the force of gravity creates the resistance on the shoulder muscles. Even if you bend your arms, for example, in a biceps curl, while holding the arms up at 90 degrees, you are primarily working the shoulders. So, there was almost no resistance to any of the other upper body muscles with the slight exception of the lats and rhomboids.


The warm-up stretches were far too deep for cold muscles. She repeated the same stretches after the workout, which I thought was better.

Tracy does not cue much, and some of the moves were hard to see with her black clothes and limited camera angle from the front. I imagine that after doing the workout several times, it would become easier to know what is coming next.

I liked the music, although Tracy did not always move on the beat.

The parts where Tracy explains her method are the parts that made me cringe. There is one part where she says that she tried her method on a bunch of different women and all of their arms became "teeny-tiny and cute." That was one of the few times that Tracy smiled. She also introduced the workout using the teeny-tiny phrase, and stated how she could make the changes to any body, regardless of genetics. When I hear people who hold themselves out as an expert, make statements that are contrary to science and to common sense, it makes me believe that they do not have the education or desire to be educated about the field in which they claim to be an expert, and they lose credibility.

I can say with absolute certainty that there is no way that I would rely on Tracy Anderson's workouts to achieve or maintain a body that has muscle strength and balance. I believe that this workout will achieve some firming and increased muscle endurance in the glutes and shoulders.

In my opinion, there are much better workouts out there that offer exercises that work the muscles of the upper and lower body in a more balanced and effective way.

If I had to give this workout a grade, I would grade it C-.

Instructor Comments:
I feel neutral about Tracy Anderson in terms of the way she presents herself as an exercise instructor in the video. She looks like she is in good physical shape, and has a lean physique. She appears to be someone who studied dance and who wishes to make a living by using her dance background to teach a fitness method.

Abbe

02/25/2011

I thoroughly enjoy Tracy's Mat Workout. This is a unique workout with a calm, soothing vibe. Here is a breakdown:

Warmup (5:30)
This is a dance-based warmup that involves plié variations and different dynamic stretches (e.g., forward bend, side bend, etc.)

Standing lower body (15:00)
This section is done using a chair for balance. The emphasis is on extending the moving leg beyond the toes and engaging the whole body.
• Start in first position and lift the knee toward the shoulder in a turned out position.
• Leg abduction in an attitude position.
• Hip extension in an attitude position.
• Start in arabesque and pull knee forward.
• Hold arabesque and pulse
REPEAT ON OTHER SIDE
• Leg abduction, point up and flex down.
• Lift knee toward shoulder and rotate knee in on the way down / Pulse knee up.
• Arabesque and pull knee down.
REPEAT ON OTHER SIDE
• Second position pliés

Standing abs (4:00)
A series of flowing rib cage isolation movements (side-to-side, diagonal, circle, etc.)

Arm work / unweighted (8:00)
This is an unusual series of varied arm movements that is surprisingly challenging. It is similar to the arm work required in dance and IMO the closest thing on DVD is found on Classical stretch. The key here is to anchor the arms in the upper back so it acts as a support, to extend the arms (Tracy says to “pull the arms apart”) and to use your own body as resistance to perform controlled movements (Tracy instructs that “everything should be done with a lot of power”).

Arm work / light weights (8:00)
Another series of fluid arm movements; it reminds me of the upper body work in Ellen Barrett’s Slim Sculpt except that is more choreographed and varied. It involves several variations and no endless reps.

Floor Lower Body Work (7:00)
• Lie on your side with the bottom leg bent and the top leg extended at 45degrees. Pull top knee toward the shoulder and extend.
• Sit up (pretzel position). Pull knee toward elbow and extend back into an arabesque / Hold arabesque and pulse up.
• Lie on your side with knees bent. Extend and bend the legs in a scissor motion, top leg reaching back and bottom leg extending front.
• Turn onto stomach and lift one leg into an arabesque.
• Bring heels together and knees apart and push heels up toward ceiling (little frogs).

Floor Abs (5:30)
This sequence is a series of crunch variations, performed with the legs extended and opened hip width apart. Crunch variations include:
• Alternate leg lift, turning the leg out on the way up.
• One arm reaches overhead and forward.
• Lift one leg to 90degrees with the knee slightly bent, reaching forward with the opposite arm.
• Cross one foot on top of the other, alternating.
• Pull one knee in toward chest and extend the leg.

Cooldown (4:00)
Standing cooldown (similar to the warmup).

Instructor Comments:
Tracy seems to be performing the workout rather than teaching it. She barely cues the moves, motivates, etc. While this creates more of a learning curve, I find it also adds to the longevity of this workout for me (certain explanations, jokes, etc. can get tedious and old).

Fuzzie

09/01/2010

Hopefully someone else has already provided a review with a breakdown of the moves, because I’m not very good at those kinds of reviews.
Anyway, a bit about me: I am an intermediate/advanced exerciser. For cardio I mostly just run and for strength and flexibility I do barre workouts, fusion workouts, pilates, yoga, and some traditional weights.
Tracy's Mat Workout is for a very particular taste: there's very little cueing. I love that. You learn to predict the moves and they work with the music. I never really felt lost doing this workout – even the first time. I really enjoy the music and the routine in general. I find that is moves along incredibly fast and gives me a chance to indulge my inner / former dancer-self. It definitely has the feel of working out with Tracy rather than having Tracy actually instruct you, so in that way it's quite different from other dvds. Given this aspect of the workout, I’d suggest this dvd to someone who already is familiar with good form and is perhaps familiar with barre or fusion workouts (although that isn’t entirely necessary). I find the arm sections particularly difficult but good. I like both the weightless arm section and the one where you use 3# dumbbells. Doing these back to back is tough! I find it’s worth it because my arms really look fabulous when I’m doing Tracy’s workouts. The ab sections have no dread factor for me, so that is ideal. They’re challenging enough, but you’re in a stretched out position and they’re over pretty quickly (movement is continuous during these sections). There is a lot of fluid movement in this workout on the whole. The warmup and cooldown focus on a sort of dynamic stretching. I do feel quite fabulous when I've finished this workout - it is very refreshing. Really, I think the best factors of this dvd are the flow of exercises (standing legs, standing abs, arms, floorwork, floor abs) and the music - it makes the workout move along and makes it enjoyable. This is a workout I do often and don’t get sick of (and that’s saying a lot for me!).

Instructor Comments:
Tracy comes across as a former dancer, and she clearly enjoys the workout herself. She is quiet, sweet, and reserved. She is quietly motivating at just the right moments during the workout for me.

Alison (alikruegs)

12/16/2008

Review with approx. times for the "Mat Workout".

Warm Up 4 min.

This was dancey and stretchy very different than other warm ups of Lotte, Squeeze & Callan.


Barre Work 20 min.

Tracy did some interesting moves starting on left side than repeated moves on right side. It was continuous one move flowed into the next. Her cues are barely there so you must watch the TV so you don't miss anything. Tracey moves her whole body to the music she can't help it must be the dancer inside her. She believes in moving the whole body with every exercise so as not to have any part be dead.


Standing Abs 3 min.

This is where Tracy dances thru ab work. Those who have done "Core Rhythms" will be familiar with some of the moves. In "Core Rhythms" they really get in deep with moving the core so much so you can get a cramp. Well here Tracy does that with dancey moves with the music. Again you must watch the screen and listen to the music and you will get the moves. For me this was a nice break from the Barre Work and I was happy to have it. It loosened me up and was fun and different.


Arms (without weights) 5 min.

This section totally reminded me of: Mariah Carey's arm work. If you recall Mariah was on Oprah where they showed a clip of Mariah's workout poolside with her trainer. Well the arm work they showed Mariah doing with heels on was similar to this one. I did this thinking well why not lets see. I felt this arm work it is very tiring. I'm one of those that complained about how tiring my arms got just holding them out for so long in Elise's "Element Ballet" workout. Well this is alot more intense. But its also more varied. Again its continuous intensity with movement.


Arms (with weights) 10 min.

This section was very different than "Squeeze", "Lotte" and "Slim Sculpt". This was a constant flow of creative arm movements with a dance flow. Again Tracy never stops moving the entire body. No dead areas all areas must be active. Which the danciness made the arm exercises a little more bearable. I found this section to be good since it is so different than any other workout I've done in this genre.


Mat Floorwork 7 min.

Tracy again works the lower body with very interesting leg exercises. Again somewhat different than "AL & C II" floorwork, Lotte, Squeeze, & Callan. Tracy adds creativity to the workouts so some portion might be recognizable but she adds her own flare to make it feel different. In any case she does target the whole lower body.


Abs (floor) 7 min.

This ab workout I found very different and I felt it. It wasn't anything extraordinary but I felt it and there was no dread factor to it. It was all done on the mat. So for those who might not like the dancey standing ab work might prefer this floor ab work.


Cool Down 3 min.

This was also dancey and stretchy much like the warm up.


Setting:

The set was a very nice open room with highly polished wood floors and walls. Tracy stands in front of glass doors and outside the doors is night time. There are candles and a wicker basket with white towels and a chair. In other words it is a relaxing set nothing crazy. She uses a chair instead of a barre during the barre work section.


Equipment:

Tracy uses a chair during the barre work. She also uses a mat for the floorwork.


Music:

Was composed by: Natalie Avakian (www.badassjackson.com).
Additional music provided by Getty Images.

I found the music to be both good and different. When Tracy talked you could hear her just fine. And when she didn't talk you could hear the music just fine. The volume was good both ways. I hate it when you could barely hear the music even when the instructor isn't talking.


Chaptering:

There is an intro. But this DVD is not chaptered as others are. However with your remote you can easily get to different sections. I do wish it had been chaptered where you didn't have to go through all the sections.

There is a brief interview with Gwyneth Paltrow praising Tracy's method for getting her back in shape.


Comments:

This workout is creative and different enough from any others of this genre that it is worth keeping for me. It will work me differently and give me the variety I seek. I liked that this workout had such a different approach with its dancy flare incorporated into all exercises. It really turned out to be a different exercise experience.




Instructor Comments:
Tracy Anderson seems upbeat and gets right into the workout. Very little talking. Her cuing could be extremely improved upon. She must not be used to cuing very often for workouts. She seems friendly enough and didn't possess any annoying habits for me. Even her bad cuing didn't really annoy me as much as Denise Austin's does. I don't know why that is. I do give Tracey credit for being very creative with the exercises it wasn't "same ole stuff" to me.

Sundari

09/27/2008