The Firm: Crosstrainers - The Tortoise

Susan Harris, Tracie Long
Year Released: 1995

Categories: Circuit Training (cardio and weights)

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My all-time favorite is Tortoise. It's so strength-oriented and very up-to-date on current, effective moves. I have the Tortoise and the Hare workouts, and I love them. TheTortoise has the longest aerobic section of any FIRM video (38 minutes), but none of it is high impact. It's all step aerobics (ballroom dance steps on a very short box -- 4"0), barbell and dumbell work, and standing leg work. Lots of tall box leg presses, squats, lunges and dips. Really tough leg and arm work...I'm usually dying at the end of this workout. The push-up section is killer! Abs are pretty intense as well.

Roberta Kagno


Tortoise is the video that finally made me decide that maybe the FIRM wasn't so awful, after all. A friend lent it to me for a couple of months, and I began to see how effective "slow and heavy"-style weight training can be. The tall box leg presses, dips, and lunges are especially effective, and there isn't any of that traditional 80's floorwork that the early videos have. I like the strength work in this video very much, and the instruction of Tracie Long is much better than that of the other 2 FIRM instructors I'd seen previously.

I must say, however, that I really disliked the "ballroom dance aerobics." The ballroom-style music (waltz, charleston, etc.) just didn't seem to fit in at all with the more traditional modern mix used for the strength work. The choreography, although cute, wasn't my style. I like dancy aerobics, but I felt that doing ballroom dance steps on a small aerobic step was too confining and didn't seem logical. The ballroom aerobics are the reason I decided NOT to buy this tape. Tortoise's strength work (along with the recommendation of a few friends) DID convince me to buy the latest FIRM tapes (Strong Heart and Strong Body--no ballroom stuff!), and I like those two very much.



I'm a big fan of The Firm, and I was very sadly disappointed with Tortoise.

The video begins with a very brief stretch, then goes to a brief ab segment, then to the warmup. I just don't get it. The barbell and dumbell segments seem effective enough, I guess, but this video just isn't fun! I kept hoping it would be over soon.

Unlike Strong Body and Strong Heart (which I love) that have just three short aerobic segments, this video is constantly switching back and forth from weight work to step aerobics. I always fast forward through the aerobic segments of these videos due to lack of time, but I did take a look. The ballroom music started to put me to sleep, so I didn't spend much time there.

I was so looking forward to another great Firm workout, but this video just didn't deliver. I know most of the other reviewers love this tape, but it's just not for me.

Joni O


Tracy Long is a great instructor, but her instruction technique just wasn't enough to make me like this workout. I borrowed the Tortoise and Hare from a friend recently, and was quite disappointed.

I'll start off by saying that I enjoyed the strength training portions of the Tortoise. I have a barbell, so I can stack on quite a bit of weight and make this workout *very* challenging. I didn't like the early ab segment (right after the initial stretch). I've always been taught to work muscles from the largest to the smallest. Ab muscles are small, and it feels more natural to do all ab work near the end of a workout.

Also, I strongly disliked the ballroom aerobics on the 4" box. I felt very strange going from tough squats, lunges and military presses to a wimpy little waltz followed by a curtsey. (yes... Tracy Long actually tells you to curtsey!) In my opinion, the weight training in the Tortoise is fairly serious, and the ballroom steps seem almost comical in contrast!

Unless you have some particular desire to do ballroom-style aerobics, I would advise passing on Tortoise (and Hare). I love the FIRM series in general, and own all of their Total Body tapes (with the exception of Tortoise and Hare). Anyone interested in FIRM-style cross-training should try the Strong Heart and Strong Body workouts. They offer fun aerobic segments and challenging strength work.

Christine Letsky


I like this tape a lot, although not as much as Strong Body. Someone had mentioned that it was weird how they do abs first thing, but personally I like that for a change - it wakes your stomach muscles up! It's too easy for me to do an aerobic workout and then leave when it's time for abs.

I like the ballroom dance aerobics for the most part. My favorite is when Susan Harris leads the Charleston. But I wish there weren't quite so many. My only real complaint about the tape is that you're constantly switching from weight work to dances. If they had asked me, I would have left the waltz out. That 3-count just never feels right to me.

This is a good, solid tape, though, and I like *both* instructors quite a bit.

Jennifer M. Blaske



Instructor Comments:
Tracy cues well and exhibits excellent form. I just wish she'd smile a little more! She looks very stern.

I like this video better than its companion, The Hare. This one doesn't have as many ballroom dance segments. The last one, the charleston, is led by Susan Harris from the original FIRM videos, and it's actually fun. (She also leads the warm-up and cool-down stretches.) This tape is extremely effective for toning your muscles - more so on the upper body, but lower body as well. I rate this one an A-. It would get an A+ except for the ballroom dance aerobics.

Annie S.


I LOVE this workout! It's my favorite Firm video -- I like it even better than Strong Body. I love the ballroom step aerobics. I think it's wonderful of The Firm to bring a bit of grace and elegance to the workout. I like music of all different eras, and I found the ballroom stuff to be an excellent change of pace. I'm a bit of a klutz, so I haven't mastered some of the steps yet, but I still feel much more graceful doing this tape than doing traditional step aerobics, which I find boring and pointless.

I also like this tape because it keeps me in my aerobic zone for even more than the 38 minutes it promises. With most of the other Firm tapes I have, I'm constantly dropping below or going above. (I have a heart rate monitor that beeps when you go above or below,plus the time in zone feature, and I'm an intermediate exerciser) I did go above my zone during some of the weight work, but I didn't really go below it till toward the end of the aerobic portion.

I like having some of the abs first. Ab sections are the parts I like least on any tape, and if they come last, I'm too tempted to skip them altogether. I like that there are a lot of tall box leg presses, dips, and lunges. I'm also very glad that they included the pelvic floor exercises. I really have nothing negative to say about this tape, I'm nuts about it, and I plan to purchase it's companion, The Hare, as soon as I can.



I have only positive things to say about this tape.
-The set is the classic Firm mansion, which I like, but there are less background exercisers and I think for that reason it looks a little more modern than the Classics. Minimal leotards.
-There is adequate time to change weights, boxes, etc., but no wasted time.
-Ballroom aerobics are fun! They aren't very challenging, but I get my heartrate up a lot by using a much higher step than they show in the video.
-Susan Harris does stretching and an aerobics segment. Her presence is pleasant. She is very different from Tracie (different body type, breathier voice) and it's a nice break in the flow of the workout.
-I love the begining of the tape. There are a tiny bit of warmup movements, then an ab section, followed by an aerobic warmup and then a stretch. I like this because the stretch and aerobic warmup are separate. It's a neat idea to put abs in at the begining, because your heart rate doesn't need to be up to do them, but they GET your heart rate up a bit.
-There are real stretches between strength moves.
-The only floor work is abs and a short set of pec flys. No floor leg work is always a plus for me!
-It's challenging but not impossibly hard. I think that's the kind of workout that most of us like to reach for on most days.

Instructor Comments:
Tracie Long is, of course, fantastic. She is very serious but still smiles, she cues perfectly and has a great presence. She is encouraging but sticks to cueing rather than babbling about other stuff.



I didn't find the ballroom aerobics annoying at all. It's a nice change of pace from the normal aerobics with the classic FIRM strength moves that I love AND that work so well. What I did find annoying was that the cueing was terrible for the aerobic segments. They assume that you are familiar with the steps (I'm sure I will be a few more times around) but the only one I knew was the charleston, because of the common charelston that appears in many gym aerobics classes.

I got a very good aerobic workout using an 8 inch step for the aerobic segments. I wasn't using my heart rate monitor, but I perceived myself to be working in my range. (I usually use one riser shorter - 6" - for all other aerobics - like Cathe)

I likes that there was no floor work for legs, because it's always a pain to put on the ankle weights and then take them off. It never seems to flow when they do that - or give you enough time, so I always have to search for the 'mote to pause it.

Lunges, leg press, dips, squats are ever present here!! Sometimes I wish they'd "invent" or be creative with these moves since they are in every firm tape I own (I only have the newer ones). But since they work I won't complain too loudly!:)

Grade: B (but that's only compared to the other FIRM tapes I own) It's still very good!

Exercises included: trip kickbacks, abs in the beginning and end, french press, 3 sets of leg presses, squats, lunges, dips, pushups, bicep curl (a few sets with barbell and free weights), military presses (these always kill me), single arm lat rows, chest press.

The FIRM should really include lower back strengtheners after doing abs. I should suggest that to them.

Susan Harris's presence was confusing, what was her purpose? But her cueing is good!

Lisa Herzog


I was pleasantly surprised by this video. As a Firm Believer, I was greatly disappointed with The Hare and thought I would never buy the Tortoise. However, due to a sale and the positive reviews I read on VF, I decided to give it a try. Unlike the Hare, Tortoise is heavy on the weight work and light on the ballroom aerobics. As I said in my reveiw of the Hare, these ballroom step sequences fail to get my heart rate up and they're silly to boot! However, with the Tortoise, there's enough weight work (leg presses, lunges, squats, upright rows, etc.) to raise my heart rate and challenge my muscles. This video also sold me on Tracie Long. She's a great instructor - her cueing is precise and motivating. Susan Harris has always been a favorite of mine and I was glad to see her in this video as well. Although the Tortoise doesn't come close to replacing the Firm's Strong Heart and Strong Body, it's a challenging tape and a vast improvement over The Hare.

Anne B.


This tape is certainly one of a kind. After reading all the reviews, both positive and negative, I found myself agreeing with at least part of each one. Biggest surprise: I actually liked the ballroom aerobics! They're not the least bit aerobic, and Tracie's cueing and rhythm need work, but I view FIRM "aerobics" the same way Wendy does, as simply a way to shake out your limbs and take a breather. I wouldn't want to do a whole tape of this stuff, but in small doses, it's a refreshing change of pace from the usual disco-type moves. I also like how the abs are split into short beginning and end segments, and the brief stretches between sets. What I didn't like: The first half DRAGS, probably due to those long 18-rep sets. Part of FIRM Strength's appeal is that everything is short, snappy and turns over too quickly for you to get bored. Fortunately, Tortoise picks up toward the end with shorter sets. Also, Tracie doesn't show very good form during the leg presses. Her leg is bent more than 90 degrees and she crouches over instead of standing straight. It looks like either the box is too tall or her barbell is too heavy, or both. Overall, I can see why some folks love this tape, some hated it, and others wound up trading it after initially liking it. I give it an A for novelty, but it's hard to say whether I'll still be using it a year from now.

Tracie Long is warmer and friendlier than I expected based on people's comments. She's no-nonsense, but in a very natural way; she neither pants sexily nor intones like a robot. Susan Harris is also much improved from her earlier tapes. Her pre-workout stretch is one of the best I've ever seen.

Sue B


The Firm says the Tortoise is good for older exercisers or beginners, because you use heavy weights and slow movements (as opposed to the Hare, with lighter weights and faster movements). HA! I disagree! If you do go with heavy weights, it's a killer!

You start the tape with a quick warmup, then do abs. It's a little strange, but I like it because I like variety. For most of the rest of the tape (the killer part), you alternate slow moves with heavy weights with ballroom aerobics segments. At the end of the workout you do pushups, those weird "pelvic floor contractions" (which I don't get so I do bridge work instead), some pec flies and some more ab work.

Some reviewers have mentioned that they don't like going back and forth between the strength work and the ballroom aerobics. That's actually one of my favorites things about this workout. The strength moves on this tape are quite standard, and the way in which they are combined is pretty basic too. For example, you do 16 lunges on one leg, then bicep curls, then 16 lunges on the other leg. Alone, I think I would get really bored with the strength work and I just wouldn't enjoy the workout. The ballroom dancing is fun, though, and gives me a break in intensity and style. In fact, I think doing the ballroom aerobics lets me push myself harder on the work with weights.

The Firm says you get 38 minutes of aerobics, but I find that when I do the arm work, I fall out of my target heart rate zone. Maybe I get aerobic benefits when I do this workout, but I do it primarily for the muscle conditioning.

Because of the more basic choreography, I don't find this workout to be as "fun" as other Firms, and I can't do it too often or I get bored with it. On the other hand, because of the simplicity, it's very effective. Grade: A.

Instructor Comments:
Tracie is a no-nonsense instructor with excellent form, great cueing, and a well-toned physique. Perky and bubbly she's not, but that's just fine because it wouldn't suit this workout.

Mary Truscott


The Tortoise is part of the Firm's Crosstrainers Series. This video alternates with the Firm's Hare video (which uses light weight with fast moves) and the Tortoise uses Heavy Weights with slower moves. This crosstrainer series also introduces exercisers to ballroom aerobics. The total video is about an hour long using heavy weights for biceps, triceps, tall box leg presses, squats, lat rows, military rows, etc, and using ballroom aerobic steps for the aerobics (on the box) such as the charleston, the tango, and the waltz. I will be the first one to admit the I am NOT a lover of ballroom aerobics and this is what initially kept me from purchasing this tape for the longest time. I am also not the smoothest dancer in the world. I ususally like exercise videos that have more athletic than dancy moves. But I must admit that this tape really surprised me. I love it - ballroom aerobics and all. The strength training is great. Tracie Long is an excellent instructor and I now see why she has so many fans. At first I thought it was a little strange to have ballroom aerobics in a tape that uses weights but I found it to be a pleasant change from the ususal hard, base music on most aerobic videos. If Tracie can teach me these ballroom steps, she can teach them to anyone. The Firm says that beginners and advance exercisers can use this tape and I agree. But I would not recommend beginners starting off using weights with this tape. Advanced exercisers can also get a great workout by just going up on the weights which is why I love the Firm. All you have to do is up the weights. I don't think you can ever outgrow their tapes. Don't be like me and let the ballroom aerobics scare you. Give this tape a try and I think you will glad you did.

Tiffanee Saunders


The first few times I tried this tape I was completely lost throughout the various ballroom step routines. After a while, however, I started to feel more graceful and really enjoy these moves. I don't know why so many women complain about the ballroom step aerobics. I think it adds some extra intensity to this already intense workout. The only thing I might have wanted to add would've been posterior deltoid work, although these muscles are indirectly worked while doing lat rows. The Tortoise is now and will probably always be one of the most challenging and effective tapes The Firm will have to offer.

Instructor Comments:
Tracie is an excellent instructor. She comes off as likeable, her cues are very clear and she definately doesn't have what I would consider a "bimbo" image. The only problem is on two different exercises, right arm lat row and the first set of left leg press, she gives you two extra repetitions. I'm glad I caught that or I might be lopsided today. Susan Harris doesn't get any credit for this tape even though she leads the opening and closing stretches and a "charleston" step routine. I thought she was much more human on this tape as opposed to her debut video (Body Sculpting Basics). Her step routine is fun as well.

Lena Yester


I just did Tortoise this morning after not having done it for awhile, and it is really a great workout! I enjoy circuit-style workouts, and this one fits the bill. I also like the ballroom aerobics for a nice change of pace. I do find, however, that the aerobic sections are not very intense. I have to use an 8" step in order to stay in my training zone (I usually use an 8" step for other videos and the 10" step for Firm short box work). The aerobics are slow enough that an 8" step is not too high if that is what you are used to using. The strength work is great! I really feel as if I am able to go heavy for me due to the slow nature of the workout. I liked having the abs first for a change, but I'm really not crazy about splitting up the abwork. For me it's more effective to do it all at once to really fatigue the muscles. All in all, this is one of my favorite Firms, and I have most of them.

Instructor Comments:
Tracie is a no-nonsense instructor. Her instruction and form pointers are adequate, and definitely more thorough than the earlier Firms. Her cueing and form instruction isn't as good as it is in her Tri-Trainer, Maximum Body Sculpting. Susan Harris leads the Charleston segment and some of the stretching. It was nice to see her featured in a video again, but this is Tracie's video.

Kristin Aziz


I love everything about this tape (and it's companion, Hare) but the ballroom dances. I find those to be extremely hokey and they don't do much to raise my heartrate. So what I did is bought Firm Tough Tape and Firm Sculpted Buns, Hips and Thighs. This way, you get all the best of Tortoise and Hare without the Ballroom dancing.

Instructor Comments:
Traci Long is one of my all-time favorite instructors. She really knows her stuff and she also helps choreograph the Firm tapes. I know when I am working out with Traci, I will be getting an outstanding and well thought out workout.

Karen Hunter


The Tortoise and The Hare: The Firm

These videos work in tandem, and I only use them as a team, so I'll review them together. I do think I like the Tortoise better, but its just personal style and not a reflection on the quality of the Hare. These are both very complete workouts, only calves and rear shoulders are shortchanged. The ab work is good. I always feel it. And I don't mind the ballroom aerobics. They're nice for a change of pace and are actually pretty simple. Once you've tried them once or twice, you won't get confused by the terms like tango close, and will out your own spice into the cha chas and hip rolls and the like. I really dig the charleston and quick step. Susan has really picked up the flair and expanded the charleston beyond the usual step that tons of videos do. Susan does a good job of leading the stretches and the charleston, but I really liked Tracie and felt she was doing a fine job. I couldn't understand why the change was made. Its not a big deal, though. Also, I don't use a barbell, and use dumbbells instead. This does make a difference on form. I wish they'd have an exerciser or two demo the moves with the dumbbells as well. I think it is more common for women to have dumbbells than a barbell (and the Firm barbell is so expensive!) and barbell sets are big, expensive and awkward (I know I couldn't fit one in my apartment). ON the plus side, the aerobics are primarily low impact, with power options if you want them, and weight work is thorough and tough if you want it to be, or easy going if you prefer. A great workout. the Firm's best...

Instructor Comments:
Tracie is a thoroughly professional instructor. She is motivating and friendly, without being pushy or cheesy. Her form is impeccable, and she does instruct well enough that a novice to the Firm could use this tape. (I'd still recommend the user have some resistance experience, however). Her physique is amazing.



I just did this one last night for the first time in several months, and I had forgotten what a good workout it is. It is very complete and also fun. I find the ballroom aerobics to be fairly simple, and I think its a hoot to courtsy. At first, I snickered when I did it, but now I ham it up and have a good time with it (fitness should be fun). The whole dance thing seems civilized and genteel. This is my favorite Firm because for the first time you see a participant, in fact the instuctor, sweat! That's right. Tracy Long sweats! You can see it on her bra top, the thin wet line of perspiration. Firm folks really are real people! I'm not sure why Susan teaches one dance and the stretching. I don't dislike her, but Tracy really is a much better instructor, and Susan doesn't really add anything to the workout. In all, this is a fun video and one heck of a work out.

Instructor Comments:
Tracy is a very good instructor. She actually teaches the moves (a rarity for the Firm) and has a good balance between seriousness and fun. I liked her better before I read an interview with her on one of these forums. She just seemed to parrot the Firm party line. I figured anyone who seemed like such a pro in the fitness biz would be more open minded about the value of a whole variety of workout types, but she really didn't give me that impression. That does not detract, however, from the fine job she does with this workout. She is, in short, an excellent instructor.



I really enjoy this video. Tracie Long is great! This is the video where I finally learned how to do leg presses on the tall box correctly. I think the ballroom aerobics are a lot of fun, too. I also like that you stretch the muscles you've worked right after each exercise. I wish more videos would do this.

Instructor Comments:
Tracie is an excellent instructor. She gives excellent form pointers. She's friendly and motivating.



This is a great total-body workout with strength training interspersed with ballroom aerobics. Most people who have reviewed this video have mentioned the ballroom aerobics (many don’t like them) but have not really described what they are like. The ballroom aerobics are basically low impact step aerobics with ballroom-inspired steps (cha-cha, tango, charleston, waltz). They are not too bad, really. I had expected worse (like dancing all around the floor), but as I said, they are basically just step movements (on a low step) to different types of ballroom music. I have to admit, although they are not too bad, the music is corny during these segments and the charleston segment is particularly cheesy. But other than that, this is a great workout. For those of you who do not know, this tape is basically the entire Tough Tape with two ab segments (one at the beginning of the tape and one at the end), a few stretch segments, and the aerobics. The fact that this tape incorporates Tough Tape AND abs redeems it completely. I always loved Tough Tape but wished it had an ab segment.

Total workout length is a little over one hour.

Instructor Comments:
I really love Tracie Long. She has the most professional, credible energy about her.



The Tortoise and The Hare

I can see why some people were disappointed with these videos, especially if they expected the same tough workouts Tracie is rightly known for. Personally, I like the different tone of these videos. I don't mind the "hokey ballroom dance steps" at all. I also didn't find them hard to learn. I found things about each video to like and things that I could take or leave. When I want to have a bit of light fun - I'll throw in The Hare. When I want to work harder, then The Tortoise is fine (although I don't think it works all the major muscle groups to failure which is one negative about the video). All-in-all, I find them a nice addition to my Firm library.

Instructor Comments:
I can't say anything bad about Tracie. I have all her videos, and am very happy with her personality, her instruction, her choreography and tempo. She is an inspiration and produces GREAT videos!



Of the Hare and the Tortoise…I much prefer Tortoise. Slow and steady wins the race. This workout clocks in at about 60 minutes and is one heck of a slow and heavy workout.

Since this one has been broken down pretty well elsewhere, I will just tell you what I like and dislike about this one.

Likes: I like that the ab work is done first. That is the thing I am am most likely to skip at the end of a workout. By doing it first, I am more likely to actually do it. I also love Tracie Long. This is the video that really made me love her. She is just such an amazing instructor. I would love to work out with her in person one day (although she lives pretty far away from me). I also like the ballroom dancing segments. I don't look at them as cardio, because they aren't enough to get my heart rate up at all...but I use them as mini-breaks from all of the very heavy weight work that this workout entails.

Dislikes: Equipment changes. She uses a short 4 inch box, a tall box, dumbbells, barbell....the list goes on.... The short box used in the ballroom dancing segments is about the right heght, but with the introduction of the fanny lifter, the 6 inch short box is too high to do the moves nicely...meaning the need for another step. I find that I just do the moves on the floor. I am also sad that I cannot get this one on DVD. I think in a well-chaptered DVD, it would be even more amazing.

This workout is out of print, but if you can find it and modify the equipment changes to make it less cumbersome, it is a great tape. I pick up every copy I see, because so many of my friends and family have liked it and rather then lend mine out, I give them their own.

Cori (ziggy2306)


I pulled this workout off my shelf and I'd forgotten what a challenge it was. I felt pleasantly worked out at the end. The Ballroom Aerobics might not agree with some, but it did get my heartrate up and was a nice break from step touches and box climbs.

Instructor Comments:
Tracie is the instructor's instructor, and her form is impeccable.



"Tortoise" is one of my favorite cardio/strength workouts.The ballroom segments are a nice change of pace (the Charleston is my favorite!). The weight work is excellent. I also like how the ab work is separated into 2 sections.

I didn't like, however, the opening stretch before the 1st set of abs. What was the purpose of that?

Instructor Comments:
Tracie is the instructor's instructor: nice body, perfect form, adequate form pointers, and a pleasant demeanor.

What gets me mad about this workout is how Susan gets NO credit whatsoever! Despite this, Susan is a nice addition to this workout, although she only leads 3 sections of this workout.

Garrie A.