Firming After 50

Joel Harper
Year Released: 2009

Categories: Seniors/Seated , Total Body Workouts

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This DVD presents three workouts – separate ones for the upper body and lower body (23 and 18 minutes respectively), plus a “bonus” abs segment (15 minutes). All three workouts are led by Joel Harper (not to be confused with Bob Harper of Greatest Loser fame!).

No weights or any other equipment is used in this DVD. A chair is optional in the lower body workout (for balance only). You may want a mat for the abs workout. The participants wear shoes, but barefoot would be okay too (with the possible exception of a few optional impact moves).

Warning: Firming After 50 features an all-white set, which some people find hard on the eyes.

A second warning: During the upper and lower body workouts there are little pop-ups by Dr. Michael Roizen, offering factoids about the benefits of exercise (e.g. “Firming helps bladder control!” “Firming decreases wrinkles!”). Several of these comments are pretty doofy. I can deal with it, but I can also definitely understand it being a deal-breaker for some. More welcome is an occasional pop-up graphic letting us know how much longer to go in the workout. There’s a mild-mannered music soundtrack which can be switched off.

All three segments are led by Joel Harper, who instructs live. He uses very little left/right cueing (which alleviates the mirror-cueing issue). In the upper and lower body workouts Joel demonstrates advanced options (which are often a balance challenge of some sort, or sometimes adding little jumps). Joel’s mom Eileen (age 72) demonstrates beginner options, and another lady, Elise, shows an intermediate version. Joel provides thorough form instruction throughout, sometimes even correcting the other exercisers (“Mom, line your toes up a little bit better.”). He incorporates stretching and muscle release moves throughout each routine.

The workouts break down as follows:

Upper Body (23 minutes): As noted above, this routine is done entirely without weights. We warm up with shoulder rolls, marching/jogging in place, waist twists, and compass (a balance move). Standing side crunches are followed by a long series of arm circles. From there we do triceps kickbacks, speed bags, and an exercise I can never remember the name of (elbows and hands together at 90 degrees, pulse arms up and down). The routine finishes with upright rows, wood chops and overhead presses. During these exercises Joel often increases the challenge by standing on tiptoes or just on one leg.

Lower Body (18 minutes): This all-standing routine begins with bent-knee front leg raises, followed by squats, then straight-knee side leg raises. Kickboxing-style forward kicks are next, then one-legged squats (with the option of keeping the non-working foot completely off the floor). “Ballet” is next (front leg raises with straight knee), followed by isometric inner and outer thigh squeezes. The workout concludes with pulsing squats before Joel goes into the final stretches.

Abs (15 minutes): Joel works out with Tracy, who shows beginner positions (Joel tells us Tracy has had seven children!). The bulk of the workout is crunch variations (done in a deliberate, controlled manner), with some plank work at the end. Joel and Tracy start with a beginner position, and then Joel shows ways to increase intensity.

Bottom Line: Firming After 50 is clearly aimed at beginner senior exercisers, and I think these are good routines for this audience, especially with the quality instruction and emphasis on balance (something I appreciate in any workout DVD). The presence of Joel’s mom is undoubtedly encouraging to seniors, too. That said, this could also be a nice DVD for traveling (since it needs no equipment) or for a lighter or recovery day. I’m not quite “senior” myself (I’m 57) but I do investigate unweighted upper body exercise routines to use when my elbow tendinitis flares up. Joel's workout here is good, but not as tough as Classical Stretch or Tracy Anderson.

I'm pretty sure I have seen portions of this workout on PBS. Besides a few other DVDs, Joel has a relationship with Drs. Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen (authors of the “You” books), and he was involved with the accompanying “You” workout DVDs. Joel also has a series of short (5-minute) workouts done for the Dr. Oz show which are available on YouTube.

Firming After 50 is available at Amazon. There’s a clip of this workout on YouTube.

Instructor Comments:
Joel Harper, while he doesn’t exactly bubble over with charisma, gets the job done. He presents in a quiet, business-like manner, with a lot of form instruction and an emphasis on safety. His website is