Body Electric Unplugged: Series 2000, Volume 1Margaret Richard
Year Released: 2008
Categories: Total Body Workouts
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This review is for the first volume of Margaret Richard’s Unplugged 2000 series. Most of the episodes are filmed by a brook at Margaret’s home in New York, However, unlike the other volumes in the series, Margaret is “on the road” for one episode, joining her friend Jane in Tallahassee. That workout is filmed in Jane’s backyard (which, like Margaret’s, seems huge!).
This series seems to have been filmed in either the late summer or early fall. The leaves on the trees are still green, but the platform where Margaret performs the exercises are circled by mums — very colorful and lovely. Margaret instructs alone for only one of the eight workouts; Heidi is in six of the others, and Jane is in one.
There is no music in this series (hence the name “Unplugged”). The workouts weren’t filmed without music, though, and they were shown on PBS with it. I believe the cost of licensing the music was the reason it was removed from the workouts; occasionally you can hear it playing (very) softly in the background, just below the level where you can tell what it is. It’s such a shame that there is no music on this DVD, because I think the workouts would be really great with it. Even so, the workouts are still nice, and the sound of the brook is calming.
I’d rate these workouts as intermediate, but a beginner could do them with low weights. Those who are truly advanced may find these too easy, but I myself am on the high intermediate / low advanced side and they work great for me. I lift as heavy as I can, which is hard because Margaret does a LOT of reps sometimes. Even so, these workouts fall into my “no dread” category. Whenever I don’t want to work out at all, I can usually convince myself to work out with Margaret. She’s such a pleasure!
You’ll need dumbbells, ankle weights (optional), and a playground ball (also optional). Most episodes require dumbbells, but the other equipment only appears in a few workouts. Below is a description of each episode on the Volume 1 DVD.
EPISODE 2001 Margaret w/Jane (25 min)
Obliques - standing reach variations and twists
Triceps - arms behind the back, palms up, then do twists, pulses, and lifts
Biceps - concentration curls
Inner Thighs - wide lunges to the side and pulses with the legs in a wide squat position
Quadriceps - curtsey and wide-legged squats
Food for Thought
Margaret and Jane are in Tallahassee. They converse in this episode, and you learn that they are in their “sixth decade”; that hardly seems possible. Jane, especially, looks so young! They have a great camaraderie, which continues throughout the workout. Margaret’s cueing isn’t the best, and Jane misses a beat a few times. The triceps exercises are unweighed; you wouldn’t think you could feel it, but I definitely did. So did Margaret; she sort of laughs when they are over and says she felt it too. Margaret kneels for the bicep segment, while she talks a little bit about her and Jane’s families. You hear that Margaret’s daughter married Jane’s son two months earlier, and Jane’s husband is the mayor of Tallahassee. Margaret’s son isn’t married, but Margaret (and Jane) is still hopeful.
The inner thigh section starts out seeming more like a stretch, but by the end it does seem like it’s targeting the inner thigh muscles. Margaret puts weights on the small of her back, and Jane does the exercise unweighted. Margaret also uses weight for the squat section, while Jane does not. Margaret shifts to the side for the last set of squats, which could be a little hard on the knees.
EPISODE 2002 Margaret w/Heidi (25 min)
Deltoids - lying front extensions, swings in and out, and lifts straight up/reaches forward
Back - supermans/swans with cat/cow and child’s pose in between sets
Glutes - bridge (traditional, with the knees moving in and out, with pulses, and with circling hips)
Outer Thighs - leg lift variations
Food for Thought
Margaret says that the shoulder exercises target the deltoids, but I think they are good for the rotator cuff as well. She also says that some people may feel that the back exercises are inappropriate (I myself like them — supermans are great for your lower back); Margaret calls them “very yoga-esque and very good-for-you-esque.” I wasn’t sure about the glute exercises, though — the circles while in bridge pose seem a little iffy. Heidi wears leg weights for the outer thigh exercises but Margaret does not. Margaret says that you can create a lot of intensity without them if you pay attention to correct form. She doesn’t do exactly the same thing on both sides, but says that this is what she’s known for (and it’s true). The workout ends with some brief balance exercises and a nice stretch.
Margaret mostly has a good rapport with Heidi, although at one point (during the shoulder exercises) Margaret asks her a question and Heidi is obviously not paying attention; Margaret says that everyone is going to have to do the exercises all over again because of it (but of course that’s a joke). She becomes a little more “goofy” towards the end of the workout and asks Heidi to guess what animal Margaret would like to be if she could be anything; Heidi guesses a caterpillar (likely because there was one on the platform earlier). That was the wrong answer - Margaret would like to be a jaguar.
EPISODE 2003 Margaret w/Heidi (25 min)
Pectorals - pushups and pec flys
Triceps - “pushdowns”
Abs - crunches, oblique twists, and reverse crunches
Quadriceps - reclining leg lifts
Calves - heel lifts and heel/toe lifts
Food for Thought
This workout is all on the floor. It begins with alternating sets of pec and tricep work. Margaret uses Heidi to demonstrate proper form for the pushups and pushdowns (which are (sort of) like a tricep pushup). Margaret also demonstrates a pushup variation for beginners. She admits how hard the pushdowns are, and I agree — I felt them more in my shoulders than my triceps, though, so I must have been doing something wrong. Margaret uses a playground ball for back support when doing crunches and for the quad and calf exercises; she also does oblique twists and reverse crunches with it between the knees. Margaret doesn’t use ankle weights when working the quads, but she encourages you to wear them “if that’s your comfort level.” She doesn’t do exactly the same quad exercises on both sides, just so you know.
Margaret is in rare form in this episode; she tells Heidi that, if one of the leaves from the tree falls in her mouth, she should swallow it instead of interrupting the workout (to which I said, really Margaret???). Sometimes Margaret is funny and sometimes Margaret thinks she’s funny (but isn’t). There are a few other instances where Margaret makes jokes (“you grew it; you lift it!” etc) which are not at Heidi’s expense, but she ends the workout with another zinger or two.
EPISODE 2004 Margaret w/Heidi (25 min)
Biceps - curls (hammer and diagonal)
Obliques - standing side crunches and twists
Glutes - squeezes and pulses
Hamstrings - kneeling leg raises (bend at the knee and pulse lower leg)
Food for Thought
In the warmup, Margaret once again rocks out to the music we can’t hear, but this time she tells you who she’s listening to — it’s the Little Willies. Apparently the name of each artist flashes on the screen on the PBS episodes, but these names, like the music itself, have been removed from the Unpluggeds. Margaret is back to being nice in this workout; she gives Heidi a test about weight selection and Heidi gets an “A.” Margaret cracks herself up at the end with some iffy puns/jokes, which is good because she tells you in the “Food for Thought” segment about a University of Maryland study which shows that people who laugh a lot are significantly less likely to get heart disease.
Margaret tells you to go heavy on the bicep exercises, and she uses a 3 lb weight to work the obliques, which is done standing. She goes to the floor for the rest of the workout. She uses weights under the toes when working the glutes, and Heidi shows an intensity modification by placing a weight on the pelvis. Both Margaret and Heidi are wearing leg weights for the hamstring raises; I wouldn’t recommend this exercise for someone with knee problems. Margaret oddly stretches the non-working hamstring between sets, but she does a forward bend in the final stretch so you can stretch both hamstrings then.
EPISODE 2005 w/Heidi (25.5 min)
Deltoids - arms at a 90 angle, move to the front/return, then clasp hands to front and go in/out
Triceps - “pushdowns” and something that looks like a reverse push up
Abs - side plank (on elbow and knee) while raising/lowering hips then twisting, and side shifts
Inner Thighs - leg lift variations, with a slightly different mix on the second side
Food for Thought
The workout begins with unweighted deltoid exercises. Margaret says that they are “NWN” (no weights necessary); I was skeptical, but I did feel it so I think Margaret is right. The first tricep exercise (pushdowns) is a repeat from episode 2003, but the reverse pushup is new; both are also unweighted. I think the “trick” to feeling pushdowns is to keep the shoulders in front of the elbows. I’m not sure if this is a recipe for injury, but I do feel the triceps working in this position. Margaret continues her unweighted theme for the rest of the workout but tells you that you can add ankle weights when working the inner thighs. I did but I started to regret it about half way though; Margaret says that, if you’re weight leg weights, “Good luck to you!”
EPISODE 2006 Margaret w/Heidi (25.5 min)
Pectorals - standing pec flys w/2 hand variations, combined w/ a half scarecrow & lateral raises
Back - upright rows, row variations, back squeezes/reaches, and flys
Quads - wide squats, some with one heel lifted
Outer Thighs - leg lifts and circles
Food for Thought
Margaret uses 3 lbs for the standing chest work, and she tells you that the exercise is not for the shoulders; however, that’s mainly where I felt it. Some more form pointers here would have been helpful. She also uses 3 lbs for the back exercises, but halfway through she tells Heidi to increase her weight (to which I said “yikes”!). Heidi does; she’s such a good sport! Three lbs seems to be Margaret’s weight choice for the day because she also uses 3 lbs on each shoulder during the squat segment. In the outer thigh segment, once again Margaret has Heidi use more weight; Heidi is wearing leg weights but Margaret is not. Heidi is quite strong!
Margaret is back to her goofy self in this workout. She and Heidi trade puns about the back, which crack Margaret up. There are a few more jokes during the workout, but on the whole Margaret’s talk becomes more exercise-focused as it progresses. However, the workout ends as it begins — with Margaret pronouncing Heidi’s and her names backwards and then both laughing because of it.
EPISODE 2007 Margaret alone (25 min)
Calves - raises, some combined with shallow squats
Hamstrings - pulses
Obliques - side reaches/pulls, twists, crunches, and shifts
Triceps - overhead french press, with two arm and one arm variations
Biceps - hammer and diagonal curls, some only half way up or down
Food for Thought
This workout is all standing. Margaret uses a small playground ball for positioning in the calf and hamstring exercises. This makes it hard to wear leg weights, which is not a problem for Margaret (because she doesn’t). I kept losing my ball, and at one point Margaret does too. I guess I was in good company! Margaret uses one 8 lb weight for the tricep exercises and comments how much she feels it, and she encourages you to use weights that are challenging. She uses the same weight in each hand for the biceps, but it’s hard (for me) to keep up with her here because some of the reps are fairly fast. I suggest going lighter than you normally would because of the speed. Ouch!
EPISODE 2008 Margaret w/Heidi (25 min)
Pectorals - flys and bench press (in a “V” and standard)
Deltoids - lying raises, swings in and out, and rotations
Back - reaches/squeezes (three variations) and upright rows (two variations)
Glutes - squeezes/pulses
Abs - crunches and oblique twists
Food for Thought
This workout is mostly on the floor. Margaret has Heidi use an incline bench and demonstrate correct form for the pec exercises; Margaret joins her and does this segment on the mat. For the shoulders, Margaret tells you that she is starting with 5 lbs and may drop to 3s. She does reduce her weight towards the end of the first side, but she tells Heidi to keep going. Heidi laughs and does, but after another rep or two, she drops as well. Since Heidi is still on the incline bench, Margaret tells her to do the same shoulder exercises again on the first side (instead of turning around), but with really light weight. Margaret then gives Heidi “homework” to work the other side (so she won’t be lopsided). Poor Heidi! Once again, she is a really good sport!
Margaret stands for the back exercises, and she says she’s using 3 lbs because she only has one 5 lb weight. Heidi offers her the other one, but Margaret doesn’t want it. I don’t blame her; Margaret’s back exercises can present quite the endurance challenge. Margaret returns to the floor for the abs and glute exercises. She uses a weight on the hips to add intensity during the glute exercises. Margaret and Heidi have a nice energy in this workout, making it a rather nice one.
Margaret is Margaret. She’s sometimes goofy, other times to the point, and occasionally in rare form. Normally, I love Margaret, and I guess I still do here. However, her comments directed towards Heidi in episode 2003 made me say “really, Margaret?? That wasn’t very nice!” Even so, I tend to think that she’s just having a good time and doesn’t understand why some jokes aren’t that funny. Her form pointers are good and the workouts are standard Margaret, but if you don’t like lots of chatter (and in some cases jibes), I’d suggest starting with one of the other volumes.