The Firm: Basics - Sculpting With Weights

Tracie Long
Year Released: 1997

Categories: Circuit Training (cardio and weights)

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I have had, used, and loved the BBH Firm workouts for several years, but have never picked up the Firm Basics series, which is intended for beginner exercisers. But lately I’ve decided to get off my high horse and diversify my workout collection (which is mostly high intermediate-low advanced) to include more low intermediate and even some beginner workouts, to encourage me to vary my intensity, and not push myself super hard every day in an “all or nothing” approach. Sculpting with Weights was a no brainer purchase because I love Tracie and the Firm, especially in unison! I particularly like Maximum Body Shaping (aka Maximum Body Sculpting) and found Sculpting with Weights to be similar, but certainly different enough to not be redundant. Of course you have the classic mansion background with several (maybe 20?) background instructors, vibrant workout clothes, and great music. Actually I think the outfits look somewhat more modern here and the music is more mainstream (less exotic) than what is usually used for a BBH Firm. I think those adverse to the retro/dated look and feel of classic Firms might appreciate this workout more. Equipment needed is a range of dumbbells and the tall step.

The workout clocks in at 45 minutes and despite the title, is not 100% strengthening, as I had assumed it would be. Instead, it is primarily strengthening (maybe 65-70%) with several low impact floor aerobic intervals. Your usual Firm AWT, a tried and true formula! Actually for a more beginners workout, I thought the gentle aerobic intervals provided welcome breathers between strength sets. Strength work included several lunges (unweighted, or with light weight, always with a dowel for balance), squats (unweighted with dowel for balance), biceps curls, French press, triceps kickbacks, lateral raises, one arm bent rows, and double arm seated rows. Floor work included abdominals, bridge work with pelvic squeezes, and inner thigh lifts (all unweighted). There were NO leg presses and the tall step was only used for seated upper body or to lean on for the bent rows. There were no aerobic tall box climbs either, and there was no usage of a short step at all. The aerobic work was very basic (referring to choreography, quickness of moves, and the low impact) and included grapevines, step touches, some squats, and heel digs. Very basic stuff but Tracie spices it up just enough to keep it engaging.

For those who are seasoned exercisers, this could easily be modified up (upwards to high intermediate but no higher) and can be modified even further down by just not using weights. It seemed intuitive where to make the workout more challenging (as desired): using heavy weights and losing the dowel during squats and lunges, adding some triple steps and plyos to the aerobic work, adding ankle weights or a handheld weight to the floor work. Or, it can be kept low for a gentle but still efficient day. The Firm rated this workout as beginner-intermediate and I agree with that assessment. Tracie’s form pointers (she demonstrates the “do’s” and “don’ts” on many moves, executes moves at a slow-moderate pace, and reminds you where exactly you should be feeling the exercise, also the easy to follow aerobics and all low impact) would make this good for beginners, and seasoned exercisers can easily spice it up for a lighter day. For my purposes, it was both enjoyable and efficient for a lighter day – I felt worked out and I worked up a great sweat, but I didn’t kill myself like I do with more intense workouts. This was a very well thought out, high quality production. Grade A!

Instructor Comments:
Tracie Long is very talented, she gives thorough form pointers, is down to business but encouraging as well.

Emily B.


I'm a beginner who started as very sedentary and obese. I wouldn't recommend this tape immediately for those beginning at this point (I tried it after the first month of exercising and found it challenging and still do to a lesser degree). Still, I feel it's worthwhile and I've seen more rapid changes with this video than any other and it's now a regular part of my exercise schedule. More active beginners can probably use it immediately.
What I don't like about it: (which are all superficial complaints)
The endless commercials for "20 Questions about Fitness". I think that they should be at the end of the tape, after the Video Coach. The sometimes "holier than thou" tone. The credits appear *before* the workout. I usually fast forward to the workout that begins 8 minutes into the tape.
The fixed smiles and super fitness of the cast (look like they are all instructors). Although some people may find the fact the cast are all very fit, it is discouraging to those of us with overweight, less than perfect bodies. The smiles seem kind of plastic and they don't seem very real. (Although Tracy seems more genuine.) I also don't like that the Firm overstresses physical appearance (in Video Coach, they actually say that if you're more fit, you'll have more friends... I would hope my friend's interest in myself was not solely based on appearance.) I prefer the emphasis on health.
Closeups of Tracy's ample bust.
Transitions are very quick. For a beginner who is signoficantly overweight, you have to put the tape in pause as they don't allow you enough time to get up and down off the floor.
The "rodeo" step is dorky.

What I do like:
The use of a dowel is helpful for maintaining your balance so you can do the correct form for squats, dips and lunges. As you get stronger, you can phase it out. (I now longer use it for squats.)
Lots of variety, as they are many changes, it keeps the workout interesting and it goes by relatively quickly.
Tracy gives lots of pointers for correct form. She also gives some modifiers ("cheats") for those just beginning.
She introduces each combination of movements slowly (first feet, then adds arms), so they are easy to learn. The combinations make it more interesting than just stright weight lifting. Some of the more advanced reviewers have commented on her "that's tough" comments - for beginners like myself, those sequences are tough!
The video coach segement at the end is helpful for motivation.
It works! I've seen relatively fast changes in my strength and flexibility (I'm using other videos to improve my cardio endurance) and I'm not up to 10 sessions yet.

Serious, gives lots of form tips. Although she's quite stern, (I prefer an instructor who looks like she/he is enjoying themself) she seems caring.

Anne MacL


The first time I did Sculpting With Weights I was severely disappointed. I hardly broke a sweat. Whenever Tracie would say, "ooh, this is tough," I'd think, "yeah right!" I wished there had been something on the box that said THIS IS A VERY BEGINNER TAPE. Then not too long after I was diagnosed with mononucleosis. This is a fitness enthusiast's nightmare! I couldn't work out for over a month! When I regained some strength it was nothing like it used to be and I found all three Firm Basics tapes aided me in my recovery and they were much harder this time around. After about a year after diagnosis I had my strength back again, finally! Plus my mother is using the Basics series, so I guess it wasn't a waste of money after all.

Instructor Comments:
Tracie is great as always. Stacey has a lovely soothing voice and is pleasing to look at. As you may know, I've said Jennifer sounds like she's from Mars. Well, she REALLY sounds like it on this tape. When I first heard her say the words, "welcome to the Firm" I almost cracked up. Oh well, she's a good instructor anyway. I'm sure in real life she's more human.

Lena Yester


I bought this tape when I was not able to get in as many workouts because of my work/travel schedule. There were weekends when I was home and knew I needed to work out but just couldn't face a really hard workout. This fits the bill perfectly, but I think it is also very flexible, as you could modify it to make it harder. Today I used it to help get myself out of a slump, which I've been slowly but surely working my way out of. Anyway, I think it is a great beginner's tape or light day tape for intermediate or advanced exercisers. It's actually pretty light on upper body work and if you do the lower body work the way Tracy does (with a dowel and sometimes 1 dumbbell for counter-balance) there are really just a lot of lunges and squats with little or no weight. The toning segments are broken up by short,low-impact aerobic segments that are fairly easy but fun. I even like the Rodeo move, although I wouldn't want anybody to watch me do it. All in all, I still feel that I have done something good for my body when I'm finished, but don't feel beaten up. I think it is also a great introduction to the Firm for people who might not be ready for the harder tapes. I'm really glad I have this tape in my collection.

Instructor Comments:
I think Tracy is especially good in this tape. Her cueing is great and she is motivating without being annoying or intimidating.

Dana Shepperd


After giving Fat Burning to a friend, I had sworn off FirmBasics because they were too easy, but since I adore Tracie, I just couldn't help but buy this one. There are several series of standing leg work that she does without weights, but if I use my "super-heavy" dumbbells on those, and heavy on everything else, I can still get in a workout that feels like a workout! I do add some high-intensity to the aeorbics segments and some extra ab work in place of the pelvic floor contractions. Even though I have to modify this workout to match my fitness level (intermediate/advanced), I still think this is an awesome workout that can be done by anyone at any level. This is yet another quality video put out by the Firm that is definitely worth adding to my workout collection.

Instructor Comments:
The only reason I bought this video is because Tracie is the lead--she is my absolute favorite! Her cueing (sp?) and form are excellent, and she is in incredible shape, which is a real motivator. I keep telling people that someday I'm going to look like her, but, ya know, I'm not all that!



This is another basic FIRM tape. It is great for beginners or for anyone who wants to review their form for use in more advanced tapes. Tracie Long gives excellent pointers on proper form.

The music is not as good as the FIRM Basics Fat Burning. It is rather monotonous. But that wonderful mansion set is back, and Tracie is back, so it is a winner!

I enjoyed doing this workout and will do it on light days when I want to feel I have done something, but don't want to feel wiped out.

Grade for the tape: A-

Instructor Comments:
I love Tracie. She is a wonderful instructor and her body is awesome! It is very motivating to watch her, and she gives excellent form advice in this video.

Amy Steppe


I am one of the old Firm Believers who was very excited about the new firm basics just because I couldn't wait to get a new firm tape! I thought the other two, fat burning and abs, buns and thighs, were too easy, but this tape surprised me. It's not as hard as the Firm Crosstrainers, but it actually took some effort. It starts out with a basic warmup and stretch. The stretch is modified, similiar to Firm Cardio, by sitting on the tall box instead of standing, so there are none of those awkward standing balancing lower back stretches. Then the rest is a series of strength work, or aerobics with light weights, alternating between short aerobic sections, some of them really fun!! There is one one already infamous step called the Rodeo that some don't like, but I found it kind of fun in a dancy sort of way! If you are intermediate to advanced , you can modify this tape to get a decent light workout, by changing the pushups from modified to push ps on the knees, and using heavy weights. If you are a beginner, this is an excelent introduction to the firm. I wish it had been there when I started. Tracie gives good form pointers, and it's not intimidating. At the end there is a "Video Coach" that all the new firm basics have. It is a good addition for motivation, but it emphasizes things like: "Imagine your circle of friends increasing" after you have been working out. Also, the production is as good, if not better, than the previous firms. There is alot of classical music, but not all traditional classic music--it's fun music!! I like it much better than the "jazzy" music of the classic firms.(And those cheesy parts at the beginning where the instructor poses and all the class enters the room are all gone) Equipment needed: beginning set of weights (two or three sizes), a dowel (or a broom will do), and a tall box (or stool or chair with no back or sides). I love this video!!

Instructor Comments:
As usual, Tracie Long is great- She is already one of my favorite instructors, from Tortoise and Hare. She does say a couple of really cheesy things, like "make your shoulders kiss!", but other than that, she's very inspiring, very clear. She's in even better shape than she was in Tortoise and Hare, if you can believe that possible!!

sarah engledow


I really liked this tape quite a bit! Without modifications, this is definitely a beginner's level workout. However, with a little creativity, and some heavier weights this can be a nice lighter workout for intermediate/advanced exercisers. It follows the typical FIRM pattern of mixing aerobic and weight lifting segments. I found the aerobics to be a little more varied than the Classic FIRM series. There is a lot of stuff like grapevines, skates, triple-steps, etc. I liked the aerobic portions with the exception of the "Rodeo Step". I pray no one ever sees me doing that step!

The weight lifting segments are good. They include lunges, dips, squats, lat rows, upright rows, curls, french presses, delt flies and triceps kickbacks. There is also some pushups, ab work, and floorwork for the inner thighs. Most of the sets were quite short, and would not work an intermediate/advanced level exerciser to fatigue. The only weight segment I found challenging was the set of hover squats. (I used a 40 lb. barbell for that part.)

Sculpting with Weights uses a tall box or stool for seated upper body work and stretching. Tracy also uses a dowel for balance/support... but I don't think it's really necessary. In fact, if you like using weights for standing leg work, you will not be able to use the dowel. Other than that, all you'll need is 2 or 3 sets of dumbells. (I used 5, 10 and 15 lb) Beginners would want to use less.

I think this is the best "starter" tape that the FIRM has ever put out!

Instructor Comments:
Tracy Long is a great instructor. She also looks even better in this video than she did in Tortoise & Hare! (if you can believe that!) Since this is a beginner's level tape, Tracy elevates her cuing to an even higher level. The form pointers are wonderful. Probably some of the best I've seen on video.

Christine Letsky


I am 40 lbs overweight and have been able to do this video. I find it difficult but I am at a beginner level due to my weight. I believe this video can be modified for beginners to advanced just by increasing the weight. It covers every spot on your body. I highly recommend it to anyone.

Instructor Comments:
I have 40 or more video tapes from aerobics to strength training. For years I used Denise Austin tapes but her cutesy optimism drove me crazy! Finally an instructor who gets down to business and cues right on target. She is easy to follow and very motivating without coming off like a Barbie Doll!

Debbie LaPrade


firm basics: fat burning; hips, buns and thighs, and sculpting with weights

I'm putting these together becuase they seem to be meant to be used as a group. Each one sort of fills in gaps the others leave. Fat burning has more cardio. Sculpting with weights offers the best instruction I've seen for resistance from the Firm. There's a lot of floorwork in Hips Buns etc. (I like it the least for that reason). I used these videos to get back into exercising after I was hit by a car while crossing the street. Sculpting has some impact in the aerobics, but it didn't bother me, and its very easy to modify, most is used as a connecting step. Personally, I thought these videos had too much floorwork when taken as a whole. The fat burning could've done without most of it and the series would've had a better balance. Over all, they are a great intro to the firm and a good series for beginners who want to learn about weight training. I have several firm videos besides these, and after watching/doing these, I kvetch with laughter when they give instructions. "Strike all your props."???!!! These are perhaps the most overscripted videos around. The instruction in these is better than in previous firms, but the instructors don't sound natural, you can almost see little dialogue bubbles coming out of their mouths. Despite this, they provide a good workout and a solid foundation to help you advance.

Instructor Comments:
All three are very good, use good form and have completely different personalities. Tracey is in great shape, uses perfect form and explains things so clearly. An ideal instructor. Jennifer is bubbly, with a fresh smile and an energetic presence. Stacy is very elegant and calm. She is reassuring and has a soothing voice.

lal vanbrock


Basically, this is a very solid introduction to weight training generally and the firm specifically. Tracie is an ideal instructor, she breaks the work out and each movement down very well. I think one of these basics videos could have used less floorwork and more cardio, but the firm isn't usually known for their cardio segments. What I like: using real weights. detailed form instruction. funny music. What I don't like: all the boob shots. the video coach- I said it before: will I really have more friends when I loose weight? Despite Tracie's excellent teaching, or perhaps because of it, this video is hardest I think to adapt as you get stronger, largely because the action slows down a lot to do such detailed form instruction. It will get more challenging with heavier weights. overall, a very fine video. Great form reminder for all levels.

Instructor Comments:
Tracie is very thorough and has great form, as has been said by many. I really liked the way she paused a move where you want it and instructed the form.