Slim & Fit

Joel Harper
Year Released: 2010

Categories: Balance/Medicine/Mini/Stability Ball, Total Body Workouts

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This DVD presents five short strength workouts (from 10 minutes to 19 minutes each). No equipment is needed for any of these workouts, although a small unweighted ball is optional for a couple of the routines. All five workouts are led by Joel Harper (not Bob Harper of Greatest Loser!), who instructs live. Different difficulty levels are demonstrated in each routine.

The five workouts presented are:
* Total Body 1 (15 minutes): All done standing, with a few cardio intervals.
* Total Body 2 (17 minutes): All floor exercises and no cardio.
* Arms (19 minutes): An upper body routine done without weights.
* Buns & Legs (10.5 minutes): All floor work, uses optional unweighted ball.
* Core (11.5): All floor work, uses optional unweighted ball.

The workouts are chosen individually from the main menu -- there is no “Play All” option. A bland soundtrack can be turned off. An occasional graphic pops up from time to time indicating how much time is remaining in the workout. As noted above, no equipment is needed although a small ball (Joel uses the mini FitBall) is an option for a couple of the workouts, and of course you may want a mat for floor work. The participants wear shoes in three of the workouts, but except possibly for the cardio intervals in the first Total Body workout they really aren’t necessary for this DVD.

Joel must have heard complaints about the all-white set in his earlier Firming After 50 DVD. While it looks like he still used the same set, this time color washes and other effects were added to make the screen easier to look at. My favorite is the Arms workout, which features a fish video in the background – sort of like exercising underwater!

Joel presents in a serious, business-like manner, although in this DVD he seems more relaxed and smiles often. His instruction is clear and emphasizes safety, and he also stretches frequently throughout the routines. For each workout Joel is joined by one or two cast members (including his mom!) who help him demonstrate the different difficulty levels.

Each workout breaks down as follows. I found the two Total Body workouts noticeably easier than the other three.

Total Body 1 (15 minutes):
This routine is all done standing. After a few warm-up moves, Joel begins with the first cardio interval (jump ropes). A series of unweighted arm exercises follow (with optional balance challenges), then plié squats (optional jumps). Obliques are targeted with standing core work. A second cardio interval (marching/”skiing”) follows, then straight leg kicks with arms held out to the sides before heading into the final stretches. Joel is joined by two cast members who demonstrate beginner and intermediate versions of this routine, while Joel shows the advanced variations.

Total Body 2 (17 minutes):
This routine is all floor work with no cardio intervals, although some of the exercises are done quickly, producing a mild cardio effect. The cast (same as Total Body 1) demonstrates different variations of forearm plank, fire hydrants, push-ups, crunches (two sets), bridge work and inner thigh lifts, interspersed with stretches.

Arms (19 minutes):
No weights are used in this routine – but it burns! Joel is joined by two new cast members who demonstrate beginner and intermediate versions of the exercises. The first half of the workout (about 11 minutes) is a wide variety of arm moves done non-stop while standing. These include punches and speed bags, some flowing moves that remind me of Ballet Beautiful, and arm twists like Ellen Barrett in Grace & Gusto. Joel often speeds up the tempo to make it even harder. Various balance challenges are optional to up the intensity. After a lengthy stretch, Joel and the other cast members move to the floor for variations of triceps push-ups and dips.

Buns & Legs (10.5 minutes):
The optional ball is used in this all-floor routine (a second exerciser does the routine without a ball). With the ball between the knees Joel begins with a series of pelvic tucks, followed by bridge work. Inner thigh lifts are next (with the non-working leg resting atop the ball). Back in supine position Joel positions the ball under his feet for a static hold in bridge position (challenging!) while the other exerciser does more bridge work. Squeezing the ball between bent knees concludes the routine.

Core (11.5 minutes):
Again using the ball, Joel begins with a short set of crunches before moving the ball behind his back for a series of modified C-curve exercises. He then positions the ball under his tail bone for toe dips. The routine ends with more traditional crunches (including horizontal crunches) done with the ball between bent knees. A second exerciser does the routine without a ball.

Bottom Line: It can be difficult to craft effective strength workouts that use no equipment, but Joel Harper does a good job here. The workouts on Slim & Fit would therefore certainly be good for travel. The individual segments make nice add-ons, or you could easily mix and match a few for a short workout on time-crunched days. I also appreciate how Joel sneaks in quite a bit of balance work. Slim & Fit is appropriate for anyone from an experienced beginner through intermediate. That said, I have to admit there isn’t much of a fun factor here.

Slim & Fit has been featured on PBS. It is available at Amazon, and you can find a clip on YouTube. Besides his earlier Firming After 50 DVD, Joel collaborated with Drs. Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen in the workouts accompanying their “You” books. Joel also did a series of short 5-minute workouts for the Dr. Oz show, which can be found on YouTube as well.

Instructor Comments:
Please see above. Joel’s website is