The Firm: Volume 3: Aerobic Interval Training

Sandahl Bergman
Year Released: 1989

Categories: Circuit Training (cardio and weights)

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This is FIRM Classic Volume 3, Aerobic Interval Training, led by Sandahl Bergman, dressed in an orange leotard. Volume 3 is over 60 minutes long, but I never did warm up to her aerobic choreography so I basically skip the first 20 minutes (except for the warm up and leg press segment) and move on to the predominantly strength routine that takes up the final 55 minutes or so. I use this regularly because like all classic Firms the music choices are excellent and are seamlessly synched to the exercises.

In my opinion this particular FIRM classic is really intense on the legs, between the leg presses, various squat variations, floor work, lunges and dips, and abductor/adductor work with ankle weights. Wow! I intensity the leg presses (which are one unweighted set of 16 on each leg and one weighted set of 16 on each leg) by making them all weighted and exhausting one leg at a time (instead of alternating, as Sandahl does). I like that she gives you time to put on/take off the ankle weights (I use 2.5# weights) for various work, she stretches in between different moves, and even without doing the aerobic segments, I really get a high heart rate with all of the low to moderate poundage squat segments, which often incorporate upper body work.

As for upper body, she covers the basics: one arm rows with one foot on tall box, triceps kickbacks with one arm at a time (I use a band for this to really feel the contractions), posterior deltoid lifts with light weights, brief set of pushups. There is floor work disbursed throughout the workout, laying side work for the outer thigh and glutes, bridge work for the glutes, and a killer table work segment with a heavy weight held behind the knee. The ab work is really long and thorough, a long lower body plus isometric holds for the lower abs, and a long section with leg lifts, pulleys, and more isometric holds. Very powerful ab workout, especially if you use ankle weights, as I do. She does use somewhat more creative moves here than in some of the other Firm classics, in my opinion, lending a welcome variety to the Firm collection (and decreases any boredom factor).

Highly recommended, especially for Firm fans. This does have the mansion set and dated look which does not bother me but I know bothers many. Level is intermediate to advanced depending on poundage used. The usual high production quality, music synchronization, instructor cuing, and traditional strength moves that can be expected with the Firm. Grade A.

Instructor Comments:
Sandahl is a very good lead and it was a shame that we never saw her again with the Firm. She is a good cuer and was down to business.

Emily B.


This is the 3rd w/o that the Firm released. Its a good one. It clocks in over 60 minutes-but there is some stretching interspersed in it that I FF through to get the entire w/o done in my 60 min time frame. This is the first Firm to use the tall box. In a nutshell: tough w/o, good cueing, simple choreo, aerobics and wieght training, good music.

There are three aerobic sections-some use weights and some do not. The choreo is very basic but she is constantly doing something new so it doesnt get boring or repetitive. Some of the cardio moves include: fast lunges, high knees, fast jumps, slow jumps, etc. Nothing too fancy but it does the job and gets your heart rate up.

Some of the strength moves include: leg press, overhead tricep extensions, lots of lunges, pec flys, lying floor work, donkey kicks, bicep curls, and pushups. A tough ab section is included. There is standing and floor work.

There is one tall box segment part uses weights and part does not. She uses lighter weights in the strength segments than I would. She does give a poundage range but I found myself always at the high end of her range so I would say: feel it out and do what feels right for you.

The magic of the older Firm w/o's is that you get a cardio effect from the strength work so you burn a lot of calories while building muscle. This is a great w/o!

Instructor Comments:
Sandahl doesnt bother me at all. In fact, this is one of my favorite Firms. She is a great cuer and I enjoy her as a lead.



Vol. 3 was the second FIRM workout I ever purchased, and I still remember being wiped out at the end of this one, wondering if the assault would ever stop. This workout is HARD. Forget what the Cathe-ites say; for the beginning and intermediate exerciser, this one is a killer. The aerobic intervals have me gasping for breath, and the introduction of the tall box added a new assault on my rear. I modified the high impact moves to low impact, and still found my heartrate up there. I'll offer my defense of the FIRM's "sexy" style by saying that's how most workouts were in the 1980s, to differentiate them from more "manly" workouts and to stress that weight training would not make you look like a man. Weight training for women was just getting off the ground in the late 80s, thanks to the FIRMs efforts, and shoudl not be held against them.

Instructor Comments:
Sandahl is a good instuctor and I didn't have any problems following her.



I had this years ago and recently re-acquired it. It still kicks my butt! I had my HR monitor on and I varied between 70-85% of max hr throughout.
Skip the warmup and do your own.
The workout goes by quickly because it is so varied. There are three aerobic intervals, some use weights, some do not. The first two are typical hi-lo: running in place, small kicks, grapevines, etc. After an aerobic interval you go down to the floor and do a little floorwork, then sit on the box and do weight work. The last aerobic interval has you with ankle weights on, and you do squats and leg abductions while doing upper body work. There are also squats and lunges without upper body work, just holding the weights. The workout is a little ligh on the chest and back work, but I just grab my barbell and do my own. If you do your own 5 minute warmup and stop when she starts with the strech before the ab work, it clocks in at 45 minutes. This is a tape I won't do often, but has value (even if its just nostalgia) in my collection.

Instructor Comments:
I know she bugs a lot of people, but I like her. I swear there are a couple of spots where she is trying not to bust out laughing. Its like she knows how stupid the Stepford Wife get-up is. :)

Peggy T


I'm currently doing a month of Firms, so it's really nice to get some of the Classic Firms back into my rotation. I had forgotten how challenging and effective they are in just one hour! I think that when it comes to the early Firms, you either really enjoy the style or you don't. I'm one who does. They definitely offer a lot of variety in one workout. The title "Aerobic Interval Training" is a bit misleading. This is not true "interval training" like Interval Max or Intense Moves where you bring your heart rate to the anaerobic range and recover. This is a circuit workout alternating aerobic segments with weight work. I really enjoy the variety of this workout; I like how quickly this video changes from exercise to exercise. The aerobic segments aren't that interesting by themselves (and most of the aerobics are quite high impact), but they are short so they are over before you know it. Sandahl does not do many sets for the upper body, but it is a good lower body workout. You can alternate this tape with one that has a lot of upper body work for a balanced workout. Many of the reps go too quickly to use heavier weights (as do the majority of the early Firms). The ab section is TOUGH, especially if you use ankle weights as shown in the video. Sandahl does a lot of stretching throughout the video, and a nice stretch at the end (right before the ab and pec fly segments). Among the few things that I dislike about this video: the silly warmup shimmies, and the dance or whatever it is right at the end. I really don't see the benefit of including these other than the fact that they showcase Sandahl. But it is a beautifully-produced workout that has aged well.

Instructor Comments:
I really enjoy Sandahl's teaching style. However, I think that her style is the type that you either love or hate. She definitely plays it up for the camera (sometimes a little excessively); you can tell that she is a stage dancer/actress. She definitely has the lean body of a dancer. She gives a few form pointers (not too many, but I have a feeling she ad-libbed the Firm script a little). Her form on the exercises is good. I agree with Lena (who reviewed the tape earlier)--she does remind me of Laurie Metcalf (Jackie on the show "Roseanne").

Kristin Aziz


This was the second Firm tape I started doing about 5 years ago (when it was $50). I always thought it was so hard in the beginning. It still is, but after doing the later Firms, MIS, and Firm Parts more recently, I found this one a bit easier using my standard weights. But when I upped my weights, that really made a difference! That's what I like about the Firm so much. Once a tape starts to get easy, all you do is increase poundage and it's like a whole new workout.

I find the 3rd section the toughest. I really feel it in my legs. The abs are tough, too. I use 2.5 ankle weights. The high impact aerobics in section 1 & 2 are a bit dated, but I don't care because it still gets my heart rate up! If you have mastered lunges with good form there is no reason why you can't do the fast pace lunges in this tape. Use a lighter weight if you have to.

I feel this really is a good all around work out. You get good aerobics, excellent lower body (obviously it's good - most of Standing Legs come from this tape!), decent upper body, and great ab work. Oh, and does stretches throughout the tape - a big plus!

I don't see anything wrong with the music either. It's just sort of neutral. Anything too hip will be un-hip in a few years, so I think the Firm chooses nice up-beat background music that is pretty much timeless. I have to say that I don't find the people outdated at all. Usually a tape made in 1988 would have a lot of people with big hair - maybe they did have big hair at home, but at least it was in a pony tail for the taping.

This is a good solid workout. Don't be fooled by the negative Sandahl comments. She just shows you the moves - you have to do them and they're tough!

Instructor Comments:
I agree with some of the reviewers, I like her. She doesn't bother me in the least and it does look like she's having fun, too! I think her cueing is fine and I don't see her as trying to be too sexy. Since she is a dancer I like the way she adds grace to all the moves. I really do like her personality as well!

Diana mason


This is the first Firm video to use interval training as the cross trainer series does. Some of the classic total body videos leave me wanting more, but this one is still a challenge for me. The strength work is a little light, but the aerobics leave me sweating and gasping for air every time.

Instructor Comments:
My sister refers to Sandahl as "weird woman" because of the way she stares into the camera. She does make it sort of obvious that she's reading from a teleprompter. Does she remind anyone else of Laurie Metcalf from "Roseanne"? Even some of the music on the tape sounds like it's from that show. As fitness instructors go she makes a fine actress, but she's easy enough to follow.

Lena Yester


I love this video. It is constantly changing from standing toning work to floor aerobics to floor work. This is the video my children love to workout to since each exercise moves by very quickly. There are 3 intervals and the first starts of with fast lunges with a triple step. Then you do some aerobics. The aerobics are about 3 minutes in length. Most of the floor aerobics is basic and high impact. The tall box is introduced in this video. You do 2 sets of 16 reps on each leg. Then you go down to the floor and do bridgework where you lie on your back and lift your pelvis up and squeeze the butt. Then you go back up and do more fast lunges with upper body work. This workout goes by so fast since it's SO FUN! The music is "blues" and jazzy with even some rockin roll music too. The third interval is lot's of dips with heavy ankle weights and pulse squats with bicep/tricep work. This really gets my heartrate way up there!! You have to make sure you use heavy weights on the upper body since Sandahl only does one set of reps. The there is some great table work for the glutes and also ab work that is very challenging. Also you do some chest flies. It is just a great total body workout that I highly recommend. You also do stretching throughout each interval which is nice. Then at the end, Sandahl does this cartwheel at the end. Pretty impressive. Even my kids like to watch this part.

Instructor Comments:
Sandahl doesn't give much safety cueing or form correcting so you really have to know how to do the certain exercises prior to the workout. Or just watch Sandahl and copy her form in a mirror. I liked the way Sandahl leads this video. She does have a broadway show way of teaching. She has perfect posture and even though her outfit is very lowcut, she wears some sort of very supportive exercise bra because she doesn't fall out of her body suit on the high impact moves.

Mandy Lee


Words cannot describe how much I hated this video. I know that I should do a video multiple times before reviewing, but I couldn't even make it through this one once. I got frustrated and sat on my tall box and sulked about wasting precious workout time. The tape was just weird and I hated the high-impact scissor kicks and most of the other aerobic moves. And there was too much changing back and forth. I know it's an interval tape, but I felt like I was constantly adding or subtracting ankle weights or getting onto or off of the floor.

I'm not sure why I have such a violent negative reaction to this video, as I am a complete Firm junkie and own 20 of their other videos. The only one of them that I don't like much is Tough Aerobic Mix and that is because it contains most of the sections of this video that I dislike.

Instructor Comments:
I agree with the reviewer that said there's something about Sandahl that bothers her, but that she can't put her finger on it. I've decided that I can deal with her in small doses, like on the Parts tapes, but that is it. No complete videos. Anyway, I think all of the sections I liked on this tape can be found on Upper Body, Lower Body or Not-so-tough Aerobics.

Karen Nagel


This is one of my favorite Firm videos. The choreography is high impact (which I don't mind) and more interesting than the other Firm tapes except the Hare and the Tortoise. Yes, I like the music too. I use this tape so often that it's nice to have rather bland but upbeat music that you don't get sick of.

This is a good introduction to the trademark step up box. I've noticed some reviewers find this tape too easy, but you can always add more weight if you find it so. I prefer the way that Sandahl does one-arm French presses, to the two-arm technique used on the other Firm tapes which I find too stressful on my lower back.

Regarding some comments I've read on this website about the early Firm tapes being "too sexy" and looking dated, I have to admit that that's why I actually prefer the early Firm tapes to the later ones. I think the sort of sexy presentation of the earlier Firm tapes is what sets them apart from other exercise videos. The later Firm tapes offer pretty much the same fare that you can find anywhere.

I'm thinking that the reason that the early Firm instructors tend to have a "sexy" approach is that these tapes where made during the eighty's and early nineties when most women were still afraid that they would "bulk up" and look and walk like a man if they dared to lift more than 5 pounds. I remember the first time that I saw Susan Harris on Volume 1, lifting what looked to be 15 pound dumbells doing military presses. I thought "She's so tiny, and she's lifting that much weight with perfect form!" That really inspired me to lift heavy weights.

Today of course, most people (not me) seem to prefer a more androgenous, serious jock look and manner from their video instructors. But who knows, that look might seem dated in ten years.. (Maybe then reviewers will be commenting on this website that the hot videos of today took dated, because the instructors look too jock-like and androgenous.)

Instructor Comments:
Contrary to the other comments I've seen on this web page, I really like her. She is very graceful in her movements and she really seems to like what she's doing. I find her very inspiring.



I have three firm tapes including one "Firm Parts Tough Aerobic Mix" that is a combination of workouts that includes Sandahl. That's how I got my introduction to the Firm and vol. 3. In my opinion, this is an excellent workout. I didn't find anything to be dangerous although I must admin I have been working out for 10 years so I know about proper technique. I generally use 6-15 lbs for the weight training and find the 10lb weight to be the best especially for section with the shoulder workout. It is a killer! So are the abs; I still can't get through the entire segment. The table work for the hamstrings and buttocks was different and difficult, but effective. I run, use machines, and do traditional and step aerobics, but this workout is the best!

Instructor Comments:
I love this instructor and wish the other Firm instructors had her attitude. I think cueing was good and I didn't have a problem with her "sexy" voice. She is enthusiastic and has good form and technique.

Caroline Garner


Okay, I admit it…I love this workout! I know... this is one of the “classic” Firms that most of you love to hate, but I really do like it. The Firm calls this an interval workout. I don’t necessarily agree with that. There are 3 aerobic segments that include both high impact/no weights and low impact with weights. The third aerobic segment is standing weight work done with ankle weights on and no high impact (obviously). In between the aerobic segments, there is more weight work, which is done at a lower pace, including floorwork and upper body work. The table work in this video is tough…you place a dumbbell behind the knee of the working leg (you’ve still got the ankle weight on) and then alternate sets of slow hamstring lifts (donkey kicks), with fast pulses. It seems endless. My hamstrings are usually sore the next day. The ab section, I think, is one of the Firm’s toughest, and there’s also pec work done in the middle of the ab work. She finishes with a well-deserved stretch.

Instructor Comments:
I admit it, I really like Sandahl, too! Not because I think she's a wonderful instructor...her cuing's fine, she doesn't give much in the way of form pointers, but she seems like she's really having fun!

Melissa F


This was my first FIRM tape - and my very least favorite. I *hate* the silly warm-up - "big squats" with hand-claps and "hip wiggles" coupled with the even sillier music. I don't like that the 30 minutes of aerobics are divided up. And I really dislike all the high-impact aerobics.

It does have some of the good FIRM aspects (IMO) - easy chereography, yet you really get a thorough workout, weight work, strength building, etc. I knew that the FIRM was on to something, though, so I did this tape off and on for months til I finally purchased other FIRM tapes. Now I never do this one!

Recently at Blockbuster I saw an old exercise video called GymJazz by Sandahl. She had the totally 80's spiky hair and makeup, and was wearing some funky black leather type outfit. I think she looked more at home on the cover of GymJazz than the FIRM! :-) In terms of form and cueing - she's fine. Not bad, not impressive.



I don't know what volume it was, but the instructor was Sandahl Bergman. SO and I picked this specific volume because we like SB's style in Firm Parts for abs and stretch.

SO really likes this video, but I have mixed feelings. This is not an endorsement or denial of the effect of interval training. It is a review of the video.

My biggest problem with the video is that it has many potentially dangerous moves in it. I mean, they are fine if you do them correctly. The problem is the less informed user.

They have a big list of warnings at the beginning of the video. I read them, but around number 7 I got bored and fast forwarded thru the last warnings/advirsories. SO did not bother to look at the warnings.

There were several times during the workout that I corrected SO's form. The problems were fairly typical; what any instructor corrects during a class, but SO made them over and over again. Incorrect form, especially if you have large weights in your hands (the smallest we used is 5 pounds). I just see a huge potential for injury. So, my advice is that any user, be super aware of her/his form. Check it many times during hte workout. I never assume that my form is correct. I always check it and compare it with the instructor. When I am teaching a class, I am scrupulous about my form. The form in the video is excellent. Just remember that your form should be just like the videos. Check for things like forward flexion and never, never swing those weights. All moves should be controlled.

The aerobic workout was easy and boring and very high impact. It has been a while since I did a high impact workout. I had to wear either two bras or one of the super structurally sound exercise bras. I usually do not wear a superduper sports bra for low impact or step aerobics. The amount of impact was higher than I feel during running. I am a 34C. SO did not seem to mind the impact, but I strongly caution anyone who is considering doing this tape alot on a slab foundation.

Boring: it was very repetive. The coreography was very simplistic. It's one thing to do simple moves with weights in hand, but they used boring, repetive moves for the aerobic parts w/o weights, too.

The aerobic intensity was low. It is tough for me to judge. I felt like we had just started going when they would stop for the resistance training. I know, I know, that is the essence of interval training, but I did not feel like I got a decent aerobic workout. Maybe you aren't supposed to. SO felt like he got a decent aerobic workout.

So, what was good? Well, if you are doing it at home, you don't need a lot of room. It was a pretty good upper body workout for me. SO did not disagree, but he didn't feel it was a tough upper body workout.

If you want to do some resitance training and some aerobic training, this tape will do both. You do not get a full body workout (resistance training), and it is not sustained aerobic activity, but it does include both. It's interval training.

Like I said, I had mixed feelings about this video, but SO liked it. Just be careful when you are using heavy weights.

Jennifer Robles


(response to Neefer's review)

I use all of the FIRM workouts, and wanted to add my thoughts to Neefer's review of Volume 3 with Sandahl Bergman (Interval Training).

While it isn't one of my favorite workouts, I always find myself trashed at the end despite the 3 separate aerobic intervals. I do use the heaviest weights I can with good form (about 7-15 lbs. depending on the exercises), and Neefer is right, you really do have to pay extremely close attention to form in this video. Since I've been using exercise videos for years I have perform the moves as close to perfect as possible. If I find myself swinging the weights or arching my back while lifting I'll pyramid to a lighter weight.

I don't find the routine boring or repetitive though, and do find it to be a good total body workout. It works both the upper and lower body with both standing toning/aerobics and floorwork. In some sections though, I feel more reps/sets could be added, but since the FIRM had to make effective use of the time I feel it's more than adequate, especially if you are rotating volumes on a regular basis. In fact, the FIRM's intention when producing the videos were for the tapes to be used in a cross-training fashion, so what might have been missed in one workout was covered in the next. If a person is using them sporadically they might very well feel they are not getting a complete total body workout. In that sense, Neefer made a very good point and I agree with her assessment.

When I compare the choreography of FIRM aerobics to say, that of Cathe Friedrich's step tapes (which I do on my off-FIRM days) there is no comparison whatsoever. The FIRM aerobics are (somewhat) boring. Perhaps the reason it doesn't bother me is because I'm getting the killer aerobics on my off days, and when I'm combining aerobics and weight training as the FIRM tapes do, I don't want a lot of complicated choreography to mess me up and tire me out.

Just thought I'd add a different perspective on this tape for those who might be interested in trying it (or any of the FIRM total body volumes).

Roberta Kagno


I checked out this video from the library once, so I can't comment on the long-term effectiveness of the workout, but I definitely did feel as if this was a tough strength video when used with heavy dumbells. This was the very first FIRM video I ever tried, and I concluded from this experience that the workout was interesting, but not my style. Sandahl Bergman grated on my nerves a bit, too, as did the music.



I purchased this video on the recommendation of some of the reviewers. I found the aerobics to be very challenging with all the plyometric jumps. This is the first Firm Video that used the Step Up box and there was only one segment (instead of 2-3 in newer Firm videos). Moving from one exercise to the next was very fast paced so you need all your equipment right on hand, including leg weights and a small towel. I am glad I purchased this video. I have been exercising 14 years and just started using Firm videos the last 2 years beginning with Firm Parts. With all the rave reviews on this site, I am gradually purchasing all the older Firm videos to add to my collection.

maryann parker


The "interval training" style used in Volume 3, makes it a nice change of pace. When I use my heart rate monitor, I have observed that the heart rate intervals match up accurately to the FIRM's claims.

Sandahl is a good instructor. She isn't as fit as the FIRMs own master instructors.

This tape marks the FIRM's first use of the tall box. After I started using Volume 3 (around Christmas of 91), I noticed great tone and definition in my thighs, hips and buttocks.

Volume 3 really focuses on the lower body... and it really works!

Christine Letsky


Good instructor, but sometimes she acts like she's doing a Playboy video. Form and cueing are outstanding. My favorite part of this workout is the high-impact aerobics. There's jogging, jacks, scissors, and jumps. The aerobics are mixed with toning segments using dumbbells.

You get a great total-body workout, and it's fun to do. There are a couple of things I don't like about it, though: #1 - Not enough time to put on your ankle weights, and #2 - After the abs, while you're still lying on the floor, she tells you to grab your weights for pectoral flies. My weights are never handy, because I'm not expecting it. (You'd think I'd get used to it by now!)

The class uses dumbbells for the floor leg work. I use ankle weights instead, and I think that's better. The dumbbell is a little awkward for me.

This is one of my favorite FIRM tapes. I give it an A.

Annie S.


This was the first Firm video I ever tried, and I liked it enough to buy it and try other Firm videos. But this quickly became my least favorite, and I very rarely do it anymore. Like all The Firm tapes I've tried, I think you could get a good workout from this one. But the moves are too jumpy and strike me as being potentially dangerous, especially if you did this tape a lot. Those "quick lunges forward" particularly bother me.

And there is something about this instructor that bugs me, although I just can't put my finger on it. She doesn't do anything wrong, and doesn't have a whiny voice or anything. I just don't like her!

Jennifer M. Blaske