The Firm: Total Muscle Shaping (BSS3)

Stephanie Huckabee
Year Released: 2004

Categories: Circuit Training (cardio and weights)

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This is one of the Goodtimes Firm’s Body Sculpting System 3 (BSS3) workouts, led by Stephanie Huckabee. This is an AWT workout clocking in at 45 minutes with an emphasis on strength but does have several short cardio intervals. Equipment used is the Firm’s “death box” which is a long step that adjusts to a 6” step, incline step/bench, and 14” step. I used the Transfirmer step from BSS4 which is an almost seamless substitute (takes a second longer to adjust). Like the other BSS3 workouts, the background is a darkish, almost disco-like set with bright fluorescent colors, and the instructor/background exercisers work out on separate platforms. Cristina Riley, Pam Meriwether, Lisa Kay, and Libby Heath were the background exercisers; Libby demonstrated beginner modifications (no poundage, smaller range of motion). Cristina and Pam were almost sickly skinny, but all of the others were cut and very inspiring looking. The music was instrumental techno with a quick moving beat that was an appropriate choice for the quick moving workout.

The warm up included step touches, reaches, and hamstring curls performed on the floor and on the 6” step. The first strength workout utilized the 14” step and heavy weights, and included leg press off the side of the step (engaging more inner thigh), military press and double arm rows, and a squat sequence. The first cardio interval was done on the floor and included V-steps, plyometric jumps, side touches, and the choreography was easy to follow.

The second strength set included moderate poundage leg press which incorporates biceps curls and a side leg raise and one arm rows (double up your poundage or use a very heavy weight). The next cardio interval is a step aerobics set using the 6” step. I find all BSS3 step aerobics to have fairly complex choreography, harder to follow than the earlier Firm workouts (Classics through BSS2) and harder to follow than BSS4. This is probably nice for some who like the complex choreography but is personally a let down for me. Moves include pivots and turnarounds which I just don’t follow well. But, I can usually keep up enough to keep my heart rate up.

The next strength set used the 6” step and had lunges with biceps off the short step, and more arm work including heavy biceps curls and French press. The final cardio set was more step aerobics on the incline step which was likewise fairly hard to follow but was successful at keeping the heart rate up!

The final strength set kept the step on the incline and included heavy lunges onto the incline with back rows, posterior flies with light weights, then moderate poundage lunges onto the incline with biceps curls, and pushups with feet on the incline (hard!). Then you lay on the incline and work ribcage pullovers, pec flies, bench press, reclined French press - and this set was EXHAUSTING. I was forced to pyramid down in weights to complete the set. Then you immediately move on to ab work on the incline (HARD!) followed by planks and more ab work on the floor. Then follows the final stretch.

One of the things I really like about this workout is that they go through each step configuration (14” step, 6” step, then incline) for a strength and cardio tune which decreases the need to constantly configure the step, like sometimes happens in other BSS series workouts. They use a lot of combination moves which really keeps the heart rate up, but which also forces you to use lighter poundage than otherwise on some exercises (like leg press with the biceps curls and the side leg lift). I also felt that they gave equal attention to each muscle group, giving it a very balanced feel.

This workout is a great addition for Firm lovers, it is a classic AWT workout and gets a LOT done in just 45 minutes. You do need the step to get the most out of this workout, and while you might be able to modify, the Fanny Lifter wouldn’t really allow you to get the most out of the workout (like I said, the Transfirmer step works great). I would particularly recommend this workout (or any in the BSS3 series in particular) to those who favor fairly complex choreography step aerobics, because they lean heavily on this for the aerobic portions. Like most Firms, this can be modified up or down depending on poundage moves, but overall I would say it is a high intermediate workout done as is (I used 5, 8, 12, and 15# bells and a 30# barbell). Overall I am pleased with this workout, all the better that I paid a bargain price for it, but I still would have been satisfied had I bought it at retail price when it was issued. The BSS3 series is harder than some of the other BSS workouts but you definitely will get results. Not quite as hard as the classics but it’s almost right up there in intensity. Overall grade A.

Instructor Comments:
I have and enjoy many of Stephanie’s workouts. She gives clear guidance and has great form, and that high quality of instruction is no different in this workout. She is friendly but not overly encouraging or chatty, which is probably a good balance for many.

Emily B.


This is a 50 minute strength and cardio workout-I'd say about 75% strength & 25% cardio but a lot of the strength work got my heart pumping nicely. Stephanie works out on the BSS3 set (raised platforms and white walls) with 4 background exercisers, Libby shows the beginner modifications. You will need an incline box and a variety of dumbbells for this workout.

The workout is mostly strength work with some nice cardio sets mixed in. She does a lot of the typical Firm moves like dips, lunges, leg press and combines the lower body work with some nice upper body work like clean and press, overhead tricep extension, and bicep curls. There is a nice set of lying work-mostly done on the incline including pec fly, bench press, ab work, push ups, and tricep dips. The cardio is done on the floor, on the step, and on the incline step and is your typical Firm fare.

I really enjoy this workout and Stephanie is one of my all time favorite instructors. She cues well and its a fun and challenging workout. I would rate this a solid to high intermediate if you give it your all. Stephanie includes plenty of power options for most all the moves. She also goes slow enough to really heavy up (for Firm standards).



This workout just goes to show that you cannot trust someone else's review. This is, by far, the best workout of the BSS3 series, and one of the best FIRM workouts I've ever done. The dark set issues and weird camera angles of the other BSS3 workouts were resolved. The music is great. And this workout is T-O-U-G-H.

I'm an intermediate exerciser, probably a "low intermediate," because I'm getting back on the fitness train after nearly 9 months off. While advanced exercisers and Cathe-ites seem to pooh-pooh nearly every FIRM workout because it isn't like Cathe, beginners and intermediates will find this workout tough and rewarding.

I used the TransFIRMer instead of the FIRM Box, and enjoyed the lunges on the incline. They hit a different part of my legs than traditional lunges. Paired with upper body work, they made for a killer workout. By the time I got to pushups, also done on the incline, my arms were twitching. I finished the pec flies and other chest work done on the inclue with 5 lbs. and barely finished. My arms were twitchy goo! And I started out trying to use my "heavy" weight of 8 pounds.

Ab work on the incline is the toughest I've ever done. I can do lower body crunches all day on the floor, but on the incline can crank out about 10, if I'm lucky. Variations that had you raising and then opening the legs had my abs on fire.

I also like that this workout, along with all the post-BBH FIRMs, work more than just deltoids and biceps. Triceps dips of the box, rear delt raises and all sorts of lying triceps and chest work gave me a complete upper body workout. This was a flaw in some of the classic FIRMs, and I'm glad they've moved forward.

A+. This is one of the best FIRM workouts ever, as tough as the Classics as far as I'm concerned.

Instructor Comments:
Stephanie is an incredible instructor who gives perfect cues, has great form, and gives good form pointers. She's like a blonde Tracie Long. :D



This is a good workout. For some reason, Stephanie doesn't get on my nerves. Maybe it's all those muscles that inspire me to keep exercising. The workout has a lot of weight training and less aerobics. The incline box (Reebok step without one end seems to work fine) is a nice change. The choreography isn't boring.

Instructor Comments:
Well, I guess beauty has some value (my husband stopped in his tracks). Actually, she's a good instructor and seems genuine.

Elizabeth P.


I have a lot of Firm workouts, and of the newer ones (Goodtimes) this one is one of the tougher ones. The incline Firm box is used (the infamous "death box",) but I used my high step (you can use the fanny lifter) and the workout works well. Stephanie alternates strength with cardio segments. The exercises hit all the areas except inner thighs. There are some compound movements - leg presses with biceps and hover squats with medial delt raises (those were tough!) Stephanie does back rows, lunges, dips, bicep curls (and hammer curls), clean and press, pushups, squats, tricep dips, rear delts, pec flies, pullovers, chest & tricep presses and finishes with abs.
The ending stretches are good, but they are not held long enough. The music was ok, and included some vocals. The workout is about 45 minutes, and goes by really quickly, and I felt totally worked out, but not exhausted.

Instructor Comments:
She seems relaxed and gives good cues. She often reminds you of the modifications for beginners.



Total Muscle Shaping is part of The Firm's Basic Sculpting Series 3 (BSS3) set. I think it is marginally the most diffcult of the three that come with the set (DVDs and 3-in-1 box). Really though, I don't notice much of a difference between this and Total Body Sculpting as far as intensity goes.
The workout alternates strength exercises with cardio work. The cardio is short: each segment is about 3-5 minutes long. The first segment is done on the floor, the second on the box, and the third on the box at an incline. The cueing seems OK-- the moves are not that complicated, so it is not that much of an issue.
The strength work will probably keep your heart rate as elevated as the cardio. It opens with a series of squats, rows, shoulder presses, and leg presses. The leg presses are done with your leg coming to your side rather than behind the box. The second group of strength exercises includes work for the biceps, triceps,and more leg presses. I think there may be some squats performed with legs close together. The leg presses are tough-- you perform bicep curls and abduct your leg as you are climbing the box. This is hard!
The final group of strength exercises is the longest. There are lunges, clean and presses, push ups, crunches, planks, french presses (lying down), and chest exercises such as flys, bench presses, and pullovers. I used lighter weights than I usually do for these exercises. Many of the exercises are done on the incline box.
I really like this workout.
It is short-- about 45 minutes, but I always feel I get an excellent workout and no body part is shortchanged.
The music is different than your typical video. I really liked it. At a few points it veers off in the direction of music that might be more appropriate for a parody of 70's porn, but even that stuff was ok.
The set is uncluttered.
The box seems sturdy enough. I don't know imagine it will last as long as my club sized step, but that thing is indestructable. I don't see the Firm Box falling apart any time in the future. That being said, I don't feel it is necessary. The incline cardio and strength does not feel any more effective than that done without anmincline. I don't really feel it targeting any muscle in a new way.
I do like having a bench that is 14 inches for leg presses. I also think the bench is great for tricep dips.
I purchased the entire set for 60 dollars and feel like it was money well spent.

Instructor Comments:



I'm disappointed by all these BSS3 videos. It's almost like, if you have 2 firm tapes, you have them all since they just keep recycling the same moves over and over again with different set, instructors and outfits.
My money could have been better spent branching out and buying other workouts NOT by the Firm.

Instructor Comments:
She just doesn't do it for me.