Cardio Sculpt

Pam Cosmi
Year Released: 2005

Categories: Circuit Training (cardio and weights) , Floor Aerobics/Hi-Lo/Dance , Total Body Workouts

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This is the first workout I've tried by Swiss instructor Pam Cosmi, who instructs here with two background exercisers. Cardio Sculpt combines unqiue, functional weight training moves, many of which utilize a step and/or tubing, with short cardio bursts. There is also a "Mat Segment" which contains some challenging upper body and core work plus a a bonus 20-minute hi-lo aerobics segment. I have broken down the entire 69-minute workout in greater detail below.

Pam begins the workout with a warm-up and stretch lasting just under 8 minutes. In this segment, she introduces simple aerobic choreography such as step-touch, hamstring curls, knee lifts, step-taps, chasse, knee repeaters, corner squats on the step, mambos, straddle squats over the step, and lunges (she later uses some of these sequences in the hi-lo segment). She finishes with about 2-minutes of moving stretches using the step.

The warm-up flows right into the cardio sculpt portion, which is about 34 minutes long. Here Pam keeps the heart rate high with moves such as lunges and curtseys off the step. She also does a series of walking lunges/jump lunges/jump squats (these might be challenging if you are in a small space). Continue to work the legs but adding in compound moves, you'll do a side squat with a shoulder raise and a single leg squat with a double arm row. Throughout the above moves, Pam pauses for brief cardio breaks, sometimes as basic as toe taps, sometimes more intense. Next Pam uses the step and the band for a tough series working the chest and back. While constantly stepping on and off the step, thereby maintaining aerobic intensity, Pat performs a series of upper body exercises with the band. She finishes the cardio sculpt with a brief aerobic cool-down.

The Mat Segment focuses on both upper body and core and actually begins in a standing position for standing knee lifts with a dumbbell before moving to the floor for a single arm pullover and dumbbell flys with a crunch; the series is repeated once. The next series consists of a double arm pullover with crunch plus a side plank with arm and hip raise, repeating on both sides. The final series included v-sits with a heavy weight and a crunch with extended arms; this series was also repeated. The matwork lasted about 20 minutes, and it felt unique and different compared to other core/upper body work that I've done. Pam finishes the workout with a 6 1/2 minute Cool-Down Stretch: begining in a lying position, she performs a lying twist and a thread the needle stretch for the hips/glutes. Moving to seated, she performs a hamstring stretch, wide-legged forward bend, and butterfly stretch. Pam concludes in a standing position with stretches for the quads, chest, shoulders, and triceps.

The 20-minute Hi-Lo portion is a separate menu option from the main workout. Here Pam basically takes two long combinations, teaching them individual in an add-on style (ie, "take it from the top"), and then finally merging the two combinations together for one longer sequence to finish. The choreography is fairly basic; I'm generally not very good with complicated steps but was generally able to follow along, especially given that Pam cues very well. The first combination includes the chasse series from the warm-up as well as other simple steps such as jazz square and repeater knees. The second combo also has repeater knees and adds a few new moves, including shuffles, jacks, hamstring curls, and v-steps. For those who enjoy hi-low aerobics, this is a nice little add-on that is well-cued by Pam.

Overall, I'm really happy I tried this workout. I tend to enjoy workouts which combine cardio and sculpting, but I still found this to be unique both in the way that Pam incorporated the step and the tubing and in her very new and different moves for the upper body/core. I'm glad to have discovered this workout!

Instructor Comments:
As mentioned above, I thought Pam was an excellent cuer. She does have a few little habits which some may find annoying (I won't mention them so as not to draw attention to them!) but which didn't bother me at all. She works out here in the traditional CIA studio (shelves and black chairs with red pillows in the background); some of the music was recognizable from other CIA videos as well.

Beth C (aka toaster)


I did the Cardio Sculpt workout and I'm in love! Lot's of compound movement, great music, great cueing and a dynamo of an instructor. I didn't even get burnt out on the lunges! She does just enough to whip you, but not to defeat you. I really, really enjoyed this workout; and her upper body band work on the step took me down memory lane, it reminded me a bit of Kari Anderson's band work on the step in 'Bench Works'. I also learned a new move that I love (keep in mind I mean new to ME, I'm not saying she re-invented the wheel or anything) it is an overlead lat pull on the floor, one arm, you are lying on your hip, but your chest is at a 45 degree angle to the ceiling. My first thought was 'uh oh, this is how I injured my back with one of the Tony Horton workouts!', but no problem here. I started with 5lbs because this can be a delicate position for your shoulders, especially if the area is weak or lacks flexibility, but I ended up using 10lbs and really felt it in my this move! Love this workout, really liking this instructor. Tonight, I tackle her step workout!

Instructor Comments:
I thought Pam was an awesome instructor. In a day when few instuctors give any attention to proper cueing, Pam was on the money which made picking up her tough choreography a lot easier and much safer.



Iím reviewing this workout after previewing it once and doing it once.
I canít find another review of this among the VF Reviews section, although I know it has been discussed on the Forum.

General workout breakdown:
*Warm-Up & Stretch (10 min.) begins with basic moves on the floor (march, step touch, hamstring curl, knee lift, tap down on the step, chasse with ball change / rock back, and repeaters). You then move to the step with corner squats, mambos, straddle squat, shallow lunges on the floor, and slow lunges on the floor with biceps curls. Both segments are repeated, then added together. Pam includes arms but doesnít always cue them; fortunately theyíre easy to pick up by watching. The segment ends with a couple minutes of dynamic stretching for the lower body.
*Cardio Sculpt (29.5 min.) starts right in on the step. Pam performs 12 or 16 reps of each exercise in the each set. There is quite a bit for the quadriceps, glutes, upper back, and shoulders here.
--With tubing: lunges off of the step into slow lunges with a tap on the step, followed by curtsy lunges into curtsy lunges with a tap on the step.
--With heavy weights: squats and walking lunges. Dropping the weights: squat jumps (modifier: keep weights and step into the squats). A little cardio portion of unweighted side lunges with several arm variations. Repeat.
--With no weights or tubing: squat jumps in place (modifier: weighted lunges, first with triceps extensions and then with biceps curls) and then jumping jacks (modifier: side lunges) with several arm variations. Repeat, with legs narrow in squats.
--With light weights: squats side to side with lateral raises. With heavy weights: single-legged squats with back row (modifier: back leg down). Repeat twice.
--With tubing: basic step with pull down in front; knees corner to corner with chest presses one arm at a time (modifier for both: donít double up tubing but just wrap extra around hands). Repeat with other leg leading.
--With tubing, on floor: rhomboid squeeze while step touching, then hamstring curls with flies. Repeat.
--With no tubing, weights, or step: cool-down: step touches, knees up, and tap up.
*Upper Body & Core (20 min.) requires no step or tubing. The focus here is primarily on the triceps, lats, shoulders, and obliques.
--With heavy dumbbell: while standing, hold weight with both hands overhead to the side; bring weight and opposite knee into center. Repeat on other side. With light dumbbell: pullover while lying on side. Repeat on other side. With light weights: chest flies while lying on back into chest flies on back with small crunch. Repeat these last three exercises.
--With light weights: double arm pullover into small crunch held while you move your weights down to your side. With light dumbbell: side elbow plank (with lower body on floor) with front raise into side plank with hip raise and front raise. Repeat on other side. Repeat these last two exercises.
--With heavy dumbbell: V-sits (i.e. half rollbacks) with oblique twist. With towel between knees (optional) and no weights: crunches with arms long overhead. Repeat these last two exercises.
*Stretch (6 min.) begins on your back with knees into chest, then with head lifting and lowering; supine twist with knees bent; thread the needle (one ankle over opposite knee, pull into chest); seated forward bend with back straight and arms behind; straddle with forward bend with back straight and then over each leg; butterfly with spine rounded; rounded back on all fours; rolling up to standing; standing quadriceps stretch (with knee bent); chest stretch (arms clasped behind back); shoulder stretch (arm across chest) with side bend; and triceps stretch with side bend.
*Hi/Lo Aerobics (20.5 min.) is in a separate chapter and has no warm-up of its own and a very short cool-down. There are four short combos that are taught using the following steps: march, alternate lunges, tap with three hops, tap rock (alternating the hops), jazz square, repeater knees, repeater crossover, chasse with ball change / rock back, step touch, step touch turn, walk back with shuffle step (also called ďscissors,Ē ďscissor jacks,Ē or ďcross countryĒ), jumping jacks, hamstring curls, V steps, lunges back, twist half back, tap front & back, and step trench (i.e. deeper lunge back). Pam doesnít teach the combo exactly as it will be in the final run through, as sheíll substitute in a few steps for the basic ones and add a twist to one or two steps (e.g. lunges back into twist half back). Thereís no slowing down to teach the next layer. Pam tends to repeat each step two to four times before moving onto the next (e.g. four repeaters, two v-steps, etc.), even in the final version of the combo. She builds up the first combo, then the second, and then TIFTS (takes it from the top) several times; she then splits and rejoins (i.e. combo 1 on right, combo 2 on left, combo 1 on left, and combo 2 on right). The third and fourth combos are taught separately. The whole routine is then TIFTed several times, and then combo 3 and 4 are sliced and rejoined just like combos 1 and 2.

Level: Iíd recommend this to at least an intermediate exerciser with previous weights experience through someone at the intermediate/advanced crossover point in terms of strength. A low to mid-advanced exerciser might find these a good way to shake up her strength routine or a good recovery week video, especially since there are some different exercises here that focus on areas not usually covered by some gym-style weights routines. Iím currently at the intermediate level in terms of weights and cardio (although rebuilding my strength and endurance to return to my higher intermediate to intermediate/advanced level), and I found this challenging but doable, with room to grow. I picked up the hi/lo the first time through and might have done even better if my legs hadnít been so tired after the strength parts. (I usually pick up most complex choreography, like Christi Taylor, Marcus Irwin, Rob Glick, etc., within a few tries, so itís not surprising that I found this easy to figure out.)

Class: Two women join Pam. One shows lower impact modifications if applicable during the Cardio Sculpt segment only.

Music: Better than average. It has a real beat and there are some vocals but not really singing. It has more of a club-type feel, but itís not really techno Ė sort of hip hop-like in places. The balance between music and instruction seems good to me; Iím able to hear both without having to crank up the volume.

Set: The 2005 CIA set, with warm, earthy tones on the floor and walls, potted plants off in the corner, and armchairs and a display case of glass along the back wall.

Production: Well, itís a Greg Twombly production, so the picture and sound are crisp and clear. There are a few side angles where Pamís mouth is moving but you donít hear her saying anything. (If you donít look for them you probably wonít notice.)

Equipment: step (Pam and crew use a full-sized club step with one set of risers; you could certainly try this without a step), tubing, 2 pairs of dumbbells (your choice of weights; I used 3 and 5 lb. weights for the routine - the 5s were a little light for the lower body work, but the 3s were just right for shoulders, which are my weak spot), and mat (or equivalent, if needed). Pam suggests placing a small folded towel between your knees for crunches. Pam and crew wear sneakers; make sure you can pivot in yours if you do the hi/lo.

Space Requirements: You need more space to the side than to the front or back. You should not only be able to walk comfortable around your step and lie down with room to move your arms and legs around, but you should also have room to do three walking lunges in a row (or just do alternating lunges in place; you can also modify the walk back and hamstring curls in the hi/lo portion by just staying in place). If you can take a couple of small steps forward and back and several big steps to each side, you should be fine.

DVD Notes: The menu offers these options: Intro to the Workout, Start Workout, Cardio Sculpt Options (Warm-up, Stretch only, Cardio Sculpt, Upper Body & Core, Hi/Lo Aerobics, and Stretch), Bonus Hi/Lo Aerobics, Bio & Content, and Credits. Each exercise is separately chaptered within Cardio Sculpt and Upper Body & Core.

Conclusion: This workout is different than what I usually do, which is usually more traditional weights lifting (at least, what passes for traditional weights lifting on fitness videos). I guess the most similar video Iíve tried is probably Janis Saffellís Brand New Butt + More, which has a similar emphasis on non-traditional moves to work smaller muscles, etc. The relatively fast pace and amount of compound moves mean you wonít be able to go very heavy on the weights, so this is probably more for endurance or maintenance than building strength. Your heartrate will definitely stay up there during the Cardio Sculpt, so this would probably appeal to AWT (aerobic weights training) fans.
Iím not sure about this one for myself. I think itís an interesting and potentially effective workout (my quads and shoulders felt like jelly after doing this one). But itís not quite my style (maybe that means I shouldnít brush it off!) and Iím not totally sold on tubing, even though I know itís portable and great for certain types of exercises. (I only have what came with my Cathe step kit from Target; that tubing was obviously made for someone of Catheís height, not mine.) I do like that the hi/lo segment is separate, so you can do it first or second depending upon your training method (cardio first or weights first); itís also a good length to serve as an add-on for other workouts and simple enough to be done when you donít want to think too much.

Instructor Comments:
Pam has a good video instructor personality; sheís not perky, over the top enthusiastic, or too serious. She mirror cues and cues well. Her focus is on cueing moves and mentioning which body part youíre working, using the technical names for the muscles, like gluteus maximus and gluteus medius, rather than common names, like butt or rear end Ė although she assumes you know where those muscles are, just like she assumes you are familiar with the strength, step, and hi/lo moves. She includes some form pointers (some good ones, actually, particularly about your shoulders and back) and breathing cues but not a lot of form instruction. Pam only tends to count down the last few reps. (Her asking her Cathy how many more reminds me of Cathe and Cedie.) I donít know that I would have noticed this if people hadnít pointed this out, but she sometimes licks or chews the side of her mouth and shifts her lower jaw to the side, which are understandable responses to working hard (Iím sure I make some pretty funny faces while exercising, too), but Pam should consider trying to eliminate these little gestures for future video productions since some people might consider them distracting.