High Step Circuit

Cathe Friedrich
Year Released: 2004

Categories: Circuit Training (cardio and weights)

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This is a solid beginners/low intermediate video. It is EASY. I'm a solid advanced and can't really be fair because it was too easy for me, but for the beginner, it's a dream. She does intervals of cardio and strength training. She does a really nice variety too using a lot of compound moves, weights, bands and core work. I would highly recommend it to someone who wants a great, but not killer workout. I would warn the advanced exerciser, that they'd probably be better off not getting this one if they're considering it.

Instructor Comments:
She's very relaxed in this one. Her usual self, but more subdued. Still friendly and perky, however.

Denise Berger


Although I can exercise at an advanced level and have in fact done some of Cathe's other DVDs, they always leave me feeling completely worn out, and thus I tend to have a high "dread factor" for her workouts. Happily, High Step Circuit, which is labeled on the DVD case as "Beginner/Intermediate" (although only "Intermediate" on the DVD title credits) was a perfect fit for my preference to work out at a more immediate level.

As the title would suggest, this is a circuit workout broken down into six cycles (about 6-7 minutes apiece), each one consisting of a 1 minute cardio segment using the high step (the Firm's Fanny Lifter, which is what I used, also works well here) followed by a lower body toning exercise (also using the step, sometimes set at a lower level), a compound toning exercise using light (3 lb.) weights, an upper body toning exercise using tubing (which I don't have, so I just stuck with the dumbbells), and finally, core work. All of the moves are quite basic, and each cardio choreography sequence is repeated four times within the 1 minute interval.

Here is a complete breakdown of the workout:

4 minute warm-up consisting of basic side-to-side steps and various large arm movements; no static stretches

Cycle 1
cardio: basic climb with step hop, alternate leg extension, repeater
leg press--squat/overhead press with weights--overhead press with tubing--plank work with legs moving in and out

Cycle 2
cardio: knee lift, repeater knee, run on step, tap down
side/back lunges--plie squat with weights--plie squat with upright rows using tubing--side-to-side rotations (seated on step)

Cycle 3
cardio: step knee to corner, tap/rock press, push off hop
running man (knee raise/rear lunge)--static lunge plus front/side raise with weights--front/side raise with tubing--plank with knees in and out

Cycle 4
cardio: knee side, over step, knee back, repeater knees
lunge kicks--back lunge with dumbbell hammer curls--bicep curls with tubing--crunches on floor

Cycle 5
cardio: step kick--repeater front/rear kick--side kick over step
leg press--deadlift/dead row with weights combo--rear delt flyes with tubing--obliques on step

Cycle 6
cardio: one-legged squats, hop over step, swims (hop side-to-side)
leg sculpting drills (crouch and raise knee)--tricep dips off step--triceps with tubing--push-ups (various options)

4-minute cool-down stretch; mostly full-body stretches on floor

The total workout time is 48.5 minutes; there is also an 8.5 minute stability ball segment which contains various types of crunches (eg, lying on the ball, resting your feet on the ball, holding the ball in your hands/under your knees, and lying face-down on the ball for back work). I loved the variety that the cycles offered, and I found that changing quickly from one thing to the next made the time fly by to me. I don't like complex choreography, so the simple moves on the step were perfect for me, yet I also found them to be fun, especially the kickboxing-type moves. Also, I had no problems keeping the intensity up to my level. In fact, I think this workout would be very easy to modify up or down simply by changing the step height and the resistance (weights/tubing). Although I did go with a higher step height than Cathe in spots, I stuck with the light weights and considered the entire routine to be more of a cardio workout--which worked well considering that my heart rate was in my target zone for almost 40 minutes! However, I obviously got a good toning workout too since I can feel it in both my arms and legs the next day; if you wanted to use this DVD more for strength, you could simply just use heavier weights.

Although I do think this workout is easily modified for most levels, I would NOT recommend it to absolute beginners, especially since Cathe does not go into form details; also, I think some of the step work, even modified, would be too intense for those new to exercise. However, advanced beginners with some exercise experience under their belts should do fine as long as they modify when needed, and intermediates like myself should easily be able to make this workout work for them as I did. Finally, the DVD offers many options, including a breakdown of the workout by cycles as well as a more complete "Mix and Match" menu. Overall, I would highly recommend this fun, varied, full-body workout, especially to advanced beginner through high intermediate exercisers.

Instructor Comments:
Given that Cathe considers this to be a beginner/intermediate workout, her style is much more toned down than usual; I actually preferred this and did not miss all of her usual "whooping." As always, she cues well, encouraging the viewer to modify as needed.

Beth C (aka toaster)


Other reviewers have broken the workout down. I am a fairly consistent intermediate exerciser, and have tried lots of Cathe workouts. I love this one! The time really flies..it is just a lot of fun. Each cycle is 1 minute and uses different equipment, and I really like the variety. Since you can modify the intensity (Cathe often gives options) there is no dread factor. You don't need a lot of equipment -- a high step (or fanny lifter), 1 or 2 sets of dumbbells and tubing (or you can use weights instead of tubing). The music is instrumental with a beat, but nothing remarkable. The cardio on the step is only 1 minute, and is mostly low impact but can be modified easily to be high or all low impact. The leg work and then the compound weight work, which follows, are meant to get the heart rate up, since the cardio is so short.
The DVD has a chapter menu, and a mix and match (which plays your choice and then goes back to the mix & match menu). Also, there is an 8 minute stability ball abs section which I previewed (haven't done it yet) but looks fairly straight forward.

Instructor Comments:
Cathe seems very relaxed in this workout and is very friendly to the home exerciser. She gives good points and really seems to enjoy doing this one!



With strength work, I am an intermediate exerciser, who doesnít really want to move up to advanced work. I have basically given up on Catheís strength work because it just wears me out. I have the Push/Pull & Supersets DVD and I like Muscle Max for when I do want a harder workout I can go heavy with. After reading about this workout, I decided it was worth a try because it sounded more at my level. Finally, I HATE circuit workouts and have decided I am just not going to get any more of them. I like to do either strength OR cardio, but not both. With the chaptering on this workout, though, I could just hit the forward button and skip right over the cardio sections. It gives me around a 40-minute strength workout.

Throughout the workout, Cathe gives modifications to make moves easier, or harder. Cedie modifies some of the moves, but a lot of them she doesnít. As this is targeted at beginners, I donít know why they didnít have a consistent modifier. Cathy also gives form pointers, but does not do the teaching necessary for this to be a true beginner-level workout. It truly is an effective ďbeginner to CatheĒ workout though. Cathy gives a lot of encouragement throughout the workout. Some of it came across naturally and some of it seemed forced or scripted.

I donít have the high step Cathe uses in this video, so I used my Rubbermaid step toolbox and my Reebok step set at eight inches. These two options worked well with the moves she did. I also used two sets of dumbbells and two different tubings (I could have used just one easily).

There are several moves (3-4) that require you to support your body weight on your hands. They include push ups (I substituted chest presses), tricep dips (I followed Cedie in doing French Presses), and a couple of mores for your core (which I went ahead and did).

Overall, I liked this workout and Iím going to keep it. It gives me the option to do more advanced moves and to use heavier weights than Cathy and her back-up exercisers. And, like I said above, it doesnít exhaust me, yet I feel worked out.

Instructor Comments:
She is such a professional and does high-quality instruction. There were a few times in this workout, though, I thought her enthusiasm seemed a bit forced or fake.

Laura S.


I purchased all of the High Step DVDs. This is the one I use the most. It is not my favorite, just the one I use the most. Why do I use it the most? The workout is short, covers all muscle groups, gets cardio in and does not require me pulling out lots of equipment. I use my high step, some tubing, and a couple of pairs of dumbbells (You will probably want to use heavier ones than Cathe is using.)
The workout consists of 6 cycles-- cardio, lower body, compound exercise with weights, upper body using the tubing, and finally a core exercise.
Even though you switch routines a lot, it doesn't seem to go by particularly fast. Nothing is especially fun. The cardio routines are very simple-- as one might expect using such a small step. The music is kind of soft-- not that motivating. Cathe is rather chatty, though.
OK, so I don't sound incredibly positive. Still, I would recommend this one to anyone who is looking for a short but comprehensive workout. For something more fun, I would recommend body Fusion.
The stability ball abs are OK. Kind of similar to those on Kick, Punch, and Crunch, but easier.

Instructor Comments:



I would label this an intermediate-level workout. Itís a circuit workout consisting of one minute of cardio using basic step choreography followed by strength work. The strength work itself has several parts during each circuit: lower body, lower and upper body together, upper body, and core. Itís really quite good and well-developed, but the fun factor just wasnít there for me. Even with the constant change, I still found myself bored. I do recommend it highly for intermediates or for someone who is experienced but wants an introduction to Cathe.

Instructor Comments:

Annie S.


For background, I consider myself high intermediate, with a lean towards regular intermediate for cardio, and maybe a lean towards low advanced for upper body strength. I don't use a step for cardio (just do step tapes directly on the floor because of knee issues), but I use Cathe, Christi, and Kristen Kagen pretty much exclusively. I use Cathe exclusively for weight work.

For this workout I DID use a step (the short end of my Reebok step), and I used heavier weights than the 3 pounders Cathe and crew were using. I also found it difficult to use my red tubing (perhaps the resistance was just too high for this particular workout), so I used dumbells: 8 and 10 pounds, and I could have gone higher in some spots. In addition, in the future I would just use my step in the regular position rather than using the short end (or a high step if I had one), because I found it awkward to do the cardio portions on such a small surface. I think using a regular size step will make it a little more intense. Because the workout doesn't require much room, I just set up my step next to my Rubbermaid Tool Box, and I was fine.

Ok, so the workout consists of 6 cycles, each one containing a cardio section, a leg work section, a compound weight section, an upper body section, and a core work section. There are two variations on this theme: one cycle does 2 compound moves in a row rather than a compound and then an upper segment; another cycle omits the compound section and does an extra upper body part...

The cardio segments are basic, but they are also short, so I didn't get bored with the basic choreography. Moves include basics, repeaters, karate kicks, alternating knees, etc. VERY easy to modify the intensity up by adding power to each move, and as I said above, using a full length step will also increase the intensity. Because I did the workout by adding power to each move, I'm not sure how the intensity will be if done as shown, but with power my heart rate was comfortably high. Nothing like Boot Camp, but still a good workout.

The leg portions include leg presses and a couple of variations on leg presses; side and back lunges; and those genie things from L&G but faster and on a lower height. I will add dumbells to some of these moves next time, and I used my stool for these (it is 13 inches high) where it seemed apporpriate. Cathe and crew seemed to use anywhere from 8 to 12 inches. My legs didn't feel much during these segments, but my heartrate stayed quite high from having just come off the cardio segments.

The compound moves include: plie squats with upright rows; squats with overhead presses; lunges with side and front raises; lunges with hammer curls; and a compound deadlift/deadrow combination. Cathe and crew used 3 pound weights for these. I used heavier weights. The speed of the reps allows you to go heavy. It isn't as if Cathe is using light weights because she's doing millions of reps (ala Margaret Richard). She's using light weights at a speed very similar to her other weight workouts, I think.

The upper body moves use the tubing. I used weights. Overhead press, upright rows, bicep curls, overhead tricep extensions, rear delt flyes, pushups and tricep dips (not nec. in that order!) The upright rows are done with the plie squats.

The core work seemed pretty easy, but I'm used to doing Cathe's core work. Very easy to modify if you want to. She did planks from the high step--I did them on the floor. Crunches, oblique things on the step--pretty basic, but nice.

I liked the pace of this workout. Cathe is in a good, energetic mood, and doesn't bombard us with beginner/intermediate talk, but she is catering to that audience more in this workout. (Comments like "you can use less weight if you need to," -- nothing annoying, really, but it does seem a little forced coming from Cathe.

Cedie shows some modifications (unless I'm getting confused with the Upper Body add on from Basic Step/Body Fusion, which I did immediately folloing High Step Circuit...)

I think there should have actually been a bit more form pointer talk in this, and although there is a safety guidelines section, it doesn't give specific form pointers on each exercise. Since the target group was beginner/intermidiate, I would have thought there would be a bit more. Saying "watch your form" is not enough in some cases. Saying "keep your head in alignment with your spine and your shoulders retracted" is enough, but I didn't notice much of that in this workout.

Good, solid high beginner/intermediate workout, I thought.