Ballet Beautiful Classic 60 Minute WorkoutMary Helen Bowers
Year Released: 2011
Categories: Abs/Core , Ballet/Barre, Lower Body Strength
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NOTE: "Classic 60 Minute Workout" appears to be the original title of this DVD, which I believe was later repackaged as "Total Body Workout."
This DVD was my first experience with the Ballet Beautiful series. I have tried many different barre-type workouts, but this is neither barre nor true ballet, as virtually the entire routine is performed on the floor. Young instructor Mary Helen Bowers explains in her introduction that there are two key principles to Ballet Beautiful: 1) keeping the stomach pulled in tight, and 2) keeping the shoulders down/neck back.
The Main Menu of this DVD offers options for Workouts, Custom, Trailer, and Credits. "Workouts" brings up a chapter menu featuring the six individual routines described below. (Note: although there is no "Play All" option, if you select the first workout, the others will play in succession.) "Custom" allows you to program the workout chapters in any order that you choose.
For all of the routines, Bowers is alone in a very plain white studio teaching live with classical piano music playing in the background. Her only prop is a mat. She mainly refers to "this side" and "the other side," but there is at least one time that she says "left" and does NOT mirror cue. Prior to the start of each segment, a description appears on screen, which interrupts the flow of the workout somewhat. Bowers performs ALL the exercises in four sets of eight.
BRIDGE SERIES (15:17)
Bowers starts this segment with a very brief pigeon stretch. The bridges are pelvic lifts lying on the back, starting with knees together; Bowers includes a pulsing set, a knees in-out set, and an in-out up-down set (after the first set, there is the option to lift up into relevé to make the work more difficult). Next is a one leg series. The final sequence is with legs wide, repeating the pulsing, knees in-out, and in-out up-down. Bowers performs stretches between each set, but these are VERY quick (mere seconds).
This was my least-favorite segment. Bowers performs a series of crunches from a c-curve position, but her specific positioning felt like it placed a lot of stress on my back. She does a set with the legs straight, a set with the legs slightly bent, and a final set for the obliques (again, four sets of eight reps).
INNER THIGHS (6:49)
This is a side-lying series for the inner thighs. The moves include lifts, pulses, and circles front/back.
OUTER THIGHS (10:11)
This side-lying series for the outer thighs is performed with the top leg stretched out perpendicular to the body. Again, moves include lifts, pulses, and circles. Bowers then takes a quick rest and returns for a final set of tendu, or kicks from the knee.
Bowers begins here with two sets of triceps dips on the floor, first with the feet flat, then on the toes. Coming to a seated position, she moves into ballet push-backs. This move looks simple, but the high number of reps really works the arms--Bowers performs push-backs, pulses, and circles, first with both arms, then working each arm in turn.
Bowers states that this segment provides a "cardio element," but it is very quick. She starts standing with the feet in second position, arms in first position. She performs small plies, then moves through plié to relevé, plie to tendu, and plié to degagé. Bowers returns to the mat for a very short sequence (about 30 seconds) of final stretches, repeating the stretches from the bridge series.
There is definitely a lot to like about this workout. It targets the lower body extremely well, particularly the hard-to-reach inner and out thighs, hamstrings, and glutes. It also has some unique arms work, all without requiring any equipment. The custom menu is a great feature as well, as it allows you to perform the entire routine (about 53 minutes) or to choose your workout length.
But this DVD has some negatives as well. First, the way the segments are divided feels choppy, especially with the "Ballet Beautiful" screens popping up between every segment. Second, there is no warm-up or cool-down, which also contributes to the lack of cohesiveness. Furthermore, while it is nice that Bowers stretches throughout, her stretching is too rushed to be sufficient. Similarly, I found that Bowers moved too quickly through some of the reps, particularly in the two thigh segments. Bowers also uses a lot of of ballet terms, which might be off-putting to some, although it is generally easy enough to discern what she means (i.e., plié = on the toes).
Despite these issues, I definitely like this DVD overall, and I know that I will get a lot of use out of it.
As an instructor, I found Mary Helen to be just okay. The first impression of her on the DVD cover is completely off-putting, as she is unsmiling and (to me) looks very severe. In the workout itself, she does come across a friendlier. However, she still seems unnecessarily standoffish--for example, her use of ballet terms when more everyday language would suffice, her tendency to be a bit show-offy of her own flexibility (she reminded me a little of Jennifer Kries in this way), etc. I'm sure she's nice enough, but she just didn't click particularly well with me.