The Firm Firm Basics 12 Minute Time Crunch Weights

Nancy Tucker, Libby Heath, Janet Brooks, Summer Sparkman
Year Released: 1999

Categories: Total Body Workouts

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This DVD presents four short (just 12 minutes each!) strength workouts. There are two upper body and two lower body workouts, and each routine includes its own warm-up and final stretch. The workouts are separately chaptered, and there is also a “play all.” The instructors are Nancy Tucker, Janet Brooks, Summer Sparkman and Libby Heath (billed here as Libby Cowart).

Not released until 2013, this DVD features previously unseen footage from 1999, the same year the original Firm Basics set was released. These workouts are definitely beginner/intermediate level as well. They were filmed on The Firm’s mansion set.

Equipment used in these workouts includes a dowel, dumbbells, a barbell (participants use the unloaded Firm barbell, which I believe is 10 lbs., and of course a body bar or dumbbells will work), leg weights (just for one exercise), a 2x4 to elevate the heels during squats, plus an aerobic step and a high step/stool. Experienced exercisers should have no problems modifying if they do not own some of the above. One exerciser demonstrates the exercises using substitute household items such as water bottles and a broom handle. The equipment changes are quick, so whatever you are using be sure to have everything handy.

The workouts break down as follows:

Lower Body (Libby):
After a four-limb cardio workout with light dumbbells, lower body work begins with unweighted squats and standing inner and outer thigh lifts while holding the dowel. Keeping the dowel, dips (backward lunges) are followed by another set of squats interspersed with forward lunges onto the aerobic-level step. The workout wraps up with quad, calf and hamstring stretches.

Upper Body (Janet):
A cardio warm-up using the dowel is followed by upper and lower body crunches incorporating the dowel, then push-ups. Picking up the barbell, Janet leads upright rows and overhead presses before switching to dumbbells for front and side flyes. Next are “pec squeezes” (an isometric move I’ve never seen before with The Firm), followed by good mornings using the dowel. We next sit on the tall box for bent arm row using the barbell, then return to standing for curls with the barbell. Janet leans over the high step (resting the torso on the box) for rhomboid pinches and unweighted posterior delt flyes. Picking up dumbbells, we sit on the high step for a second set of curls, then lean over the box again for triceps kickbacks before concluding the workout with lat rows. I found leaning over the box uncomfortable and next time I do this workout I’ll choose another position, or perhaps substitute my stability ball for the box.

Lower Body (Nancy):
This time the cardio warm-up is done without weights. We begin with squats and plié squats (incorporating heel lifts) with the dowel. Next it is to the floor for hamstring work (with the torso resting on the box). It is back to standing with shallow lunges holding the dowel in front, then standing rear glute squeezes (leg lifts) and curtsy dips. Seated on tall box we train the quads with front leg lifts (ankle weights are optional here), then we move to the floor with feet on the tall box for bridge work before the final stretch. Nancy often cues to “squeeze internally” (Kegals) during this workout as was done in the earlier Firm Basics set but isn’t in the other workouts on this DVD.

Upper Body (Summer):
The workout begins with another cardio warm-up incorporating the dowel, even sneaking in a little lower body work with side leg lifts. Seated oblique twists with dowel follow, and we remain seated for bent rows and biceps curls (with variations) using dumbbells. Next it is down to the floor for push-ups, then we stand back up for upright rows, overhead presses and biceps curls with barbell. Rhomboid pinches and triceps kickbacks performed seated follow, then we finish with “butterflies” (the same exercise Janet termed posterior delt flyes, again done without weights). The final stretch is done seated.

Bottom Line: Firm Basics 12-Minute Time Crunch Weights makes for a nice introduction to The Firm, especially for new exercisers. The chapters also allow flexible workout lengths since it is easy to string together two or more workouts. All four instructors are Firm veterans who cue well for the most part, but given that this is a “basics” video I would have liked to have seen more guidance re poundage (e.g. whether lighter or heavier weights are appropriate for a particular exercise). That said, the moves themselves are all truly "basic," and even going heavier with weights will only increase the intensity up to a certain point. I know in my own workout library I always like having easier weight workouts to mix in with other fitness activities or for when restarting exercise after a layoff. However, anyone using only this DVD for strength work will probably outgrow it pretty quickly.

There is a companion DVD – Firm Basics 12 Minute Time Crunch Cardio, which features four 12-minute cardio segments (this one is great for warm-ups!). As of the date of this review, both 12 Minute DVDs are available from Anna Benson’s website,, as well as Amazon and Total Fitness.

Instructor Comments:
All four are experienced Firm instructors so cueing and instruction were quite good (although there could have been better guidance for when to use heavier versus lighter weights). I especially enjoyed seeing Libby, who has appeared as a cast member in many Firm videos over the years and often demonstrates modifications but has only led one other Firm workout.