The Firm: Skills, Drills & Thrills

Tina Smalley
Year Released: 2007

Categories: Bosu and Balance Disks/Boards, Floor Aerobics/Hi-Lo/Dance

Video Fitness reviews may not be copied, quoted, or posted elsewhere without the permission of the reviewer

Show oldest reviews first

This set comes with a green balance disc and a dvd. The dvd is a (light) AWT workout that has a lot of core & balance work in there as well. The set is the wood floors/ white walls/ fake city view windows set. There are two background exercisers-Emily shows the beginner modifications. The dvd has a 25 minute express version of the workout on it as well. All you will need for this w/o is the disc that comes with the dvd.

I like this workout but I dont love this workout. There is one challenging cardio segment and some of the balance moves are actually quite challenging. Balance is my weakpoint so take that w/ a grain of sea-salt. The rest of the cardio and the strength moves are not that difficult. All the cardio is straightforward and easy to pick on.

Tina has you doing squats on the disc, lunges onto the disc, reaching front-back-and side off the disc, side lunges onto the disc. For some of the segments you use the disc as a step and do an L-step, etc. onto the disc.

You can make the workout easier by inflating the disc less, more challenging by inflating the disc more. I would rate this workout as a high intermediate because of the balance challenge and the fact that its different and has a learning curve. It does have its place in my collection and Im glad I bought it. I like Tina (though she tends to "whoo" alot, doesnt she)-she cues well and has a nice demeanor. Is it a must have-probably not. Is it worth it to have for variety and fun factor-yes!



The Skills Drills Thrills workout is sold as part of the Firm Balance Trainer. This kit comes with a green balance disc (uninflated), a small pump, and plus the DVD. Unfortunately, the included instructions provide little detail on how much to inflate the disc other than stating "do not over-inflate"; I would suggest that you want the disc to still be a bit squishy rather than completely firm. In addition, you may find the pump a bit difficult to use--a bicycle pump fitted with a needle attachment will do the job just as well.

The 46-minute workout (there's also a 25-minute express premix) is filmed in the same bright studio as the other "Pink" Firms (eg, Pump, Jump, 'n Jab), featuring windows in background. It is led by Firm Master Instructor Tina Smalley with two background exercisers, Emily and Dezzy. (Although Tina designates Emily as the modifier at the beginning, she confuses things later by sometimes suggesting that Dezzy will be taking it easy. Also, she states that the moves can be done without the disc, but this variation is generally not shown.) This was my first experience with with Tina, and I was shocked by the poor quality of her cueing, particularly for a Firm instructor. First of all, she did not mirror cue; secondly, she was often off the beat of the music, particularly during the warm-up; and third, the way she refers to things was simply confusing, such as saying "one more" even when there were multiple repetitions to go and insisting that she was still "warming you up" even when the warm-up had obviously moved into the first cardio segment.

Despite Tina's poor cueing, I actually liked the workout itself. The 5-minute warm-up begins with basic balance work on the disc, from simply standing on it to doing slow knee-ups and then repeater knees to tempo. This flows into an approximately 5-minute choreographed cardio segment (which Tina continues to call the "warm-up") that consists of additional knees and repeaters, L-steps, and plyos jumping on and off the disc--you definitely have to be careful with these! I found this segment to be fun, but as mentioned above, Tina was very off-time with the music, which made it a bit difficult to follow along. Next comes a 6-minute toning segment which alternates legwork with core work (push-ups/planks). The leg segments include squats with knee-ups, front lunges, side lunges, and front/side/back dips, and the core exercises are push-ups with one hand on disc, push-ups with one knee on disc, side plank with one elbow on disc, and elbow plank (both elbows on disc). Another 5-minute cardio segment follows, this one with jacks, scissors, v-steps, more plyos onto the disc, squat thrusts, and L-steps with shuffles over the disc.

Following the cardio, Tina moves on to an 8-minute core balance segment. This involves exercises with either one or both feet on the disc such as squats, abductions, reaches to the floor, etc. A 6-minute core segment comes next. Here you'll begin with a "walking push-up plank," which basically means moving the hands on and off the disc in a push-up position. Then it's on to your back for some abs crunches--you'll do these both fully seated on the disc and with the disc placed under the small of your back. Tina rounds out the toning work with 1 minute of bridge exercises (feet on disc) for the hamstrings and then another 2 minutes in a prone position (disc placed under the pelvis), working the back with superman and swim moves. Finally, it's time for the stretch. The 5-minute stretch is performed entirely on the floor and uses the disc; stretches include thread the needle, quad stretch, and hamstring stretch.

Instructor Comments:
I did find this workout to be fun and enjoyable. Although it wasn't hugely intense, my heart rate did get up during the cardio segments, and according to my heart rate monitor, I wound up being in my target zone for about 15 minutes--not bad at all, especially for my first time through. I just wish that this workout had been taught by a different instructor, as I did not think that Tina Smalley maintained the Firm's usually high standards. As mentioned above, I thought that Tina's cueing was definitely not up to Firm standards. I didn't think I would notice something like being off the beat, but it was hard to miss here, and it seemed like she made even the simpliest of moves (eg, L-step) more complicated than they needed to be by cueing them badly. Her personality was fine, but her poor cueing really threw me. :(

Beth C (aka toaster)


This DVD comes with yet another FIRM gadget, this time the balance trainer, aka balance disk. In the market for a balance trainer anyway? Just based on the cost alone I suggest you get this whole kit even if you're not sure about the FIRM.

The kit comes with the disk, a device to inflate it, and the 45 minute DVD workout. I had some patience issues with their inflater thingy and finished with a bicycle pump. It's hard to know when to stop inflating; you're not given any guidance. I tried to match what I saw in the DVD.

I'm pretty good anymore with balance work after doing it for so long. I love doing it and I believe it works since I haven't taken one of my patented spectacular falls in many, many years. If you are new to balance training, you're in for it here. The balance disk is wobbly-er than the Bosu or Coreboard, and you will probably feel as if you were thrown in the deep end on your first day at the pool. The first time I did this DVD, I saw how easy it would be to twist an ankle. Some moves involve jumping on the disk, and that is very challenging. By the second time, most my fears were gone and I was much more stable. You will improve quickly too, but I suggest anyone new to balance work do, maybe, every other rep until you feel more comfortable. There is a modifier too.

The DVD has widely been cited for being off the beat in places. I wonder if they corrected this problem in recent productions because some of us didn't have that issue at all. I'm lucky I didn't since I bought my kit used and couldn't have returned it.

The workout entails some basic step-style moves, some straight-up balance techniques, ab work, and a few plyo moves. You should only buy this if you are interested in a balance-specific workout that has some cardio and some toning. Don't buy it if you want a cardio or toning workout; you'll be disappointed unless you want a lighter day workout. That said, according to my heart rate monitor, I burned 220 calories.

The segments in this workout come in short bursts. You won't be terribly confused or lost often, and you won't be expected to remember much. And if you don't like a section, say, pushups or cardio, it will be over soon enough. One thing, these little segments go from standing on the disk to laying on the floor frequently. If you have problems with this, you might want to pause the DVD and march in place until you and your heart rate are okay to go to the floor.

If you just want balance work, you could easily make this a half hour workout. You would miss the abs section, which is short but sweet. I find using the disk helps to get a lot out of a few crunches. Supermans follow the ab work. I personally don't like doing them on the disk. It hurts my stomach, so I just use the floor.

You will, overall, use the balance disk in a thoughtful way in nearly every exercise, save for some jumping jacks. Sometimes when a workout is packaged with a gimmicky gadget, the gadget isn't utilized well, but I believe this one is. Even pushups and planks involve the disk.

I enjoy this DVD and find it great fun. Some do, some don't. I'll just remind you that it isn't a high calorie burn workout, there is a possibility you will find rhythm issues, and the balance work will likely require you to take it easy the first couple of times.

Instructor Comments:
She's fine, and I like her. Friendly but not overly chatty. She has good balance. Sometimes she trips me up a little by announcing "last one" just after finishing the last rep rather than ahead of time. If this workout could guarantee me abs like hers, I'd do it everyday.