Low Impact Circuit

Cathe Friedrich
Year Released: 2006

Categories: Circuit Training (cardio and weights)

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Low Impact Circuit is one of the workouts in Cathe’s “Sash Series.” The main workout is about 71 minutes, and it consists of three cycles each composed of a steady state step combo, a step “blast,” and weight work for the lower and upper body; there’s also a nice abs section at the end.

This is a great workout in its own right, but I rarely do it as produced. Instead, I usually do the Cardio Blast Timesaver premix — it’s one of my all-time favorite Cathe workouts. The choreography is interesting without being overly complex, Cathe’s cueing is generally on target (especially if you are used to Cathe’s cueing style), and, at 48.5 minutes, it’s long enough to provide a good workout. The best part for me, though, is the music: Michael Jackson, Earth Wind and Fire, Cindy Lauper. It’s a real trip down memory lane, and I can’t help but smile all the way through the workout. I almost feel like I’m dancing!

This (step premix) workout has stood the test of time — it’s not one of Cathe’s more hardcore productions, but that’s the beauty of it for me. There are no burpees or plyos here! My only small quibble is that Cathe didn’t put an actual cool down at the end; instead there’s a card directing you to walk around on your own for 3 minutes or so. That’s pretty minor, though. Grade: A.

Instructor Comments:
Cathe is in her element, and her cueing is on the mark for long-time Cathe steppers. However, if you’re new to Cathe or don’t do her step workouts often, you may find some of the choreography tricky at first.



I guess I'm the dissenting view on this workout in some ways. This is a workout that I had, got rid of, reaacquired, and then remembered why I had gotten rid of it to begin with. I don't have many Cathe workouts, but I keep an eye out for workouts labeled "too easy" by diehard Cathe exercisers. And, this one seemed to fit that bill.

I do think that it is well done and very professional. The music is good, great compared to most other workouts. Cathe's instruction is excellent - you totally understand the strength moves and what you are supposed to be doing. I really enjoyed the first step sequence, liked the second sequence, and was ready to rip the DVD out of the player and hurl it at the wall on the third sequence. Cathe's step instruction is what I find lacking in this workout. She cues just fine, if you define "cueing" as telling you the name of the move. But, she does not explain the move or build up to the more complex steps. She just seems to assume that you'll know what to do. And, if you are long-time Cathe exerciers, you probably will. If not, you may have some problems figuring out the moves. And, I don't feel like I should have to practice a simple step sequence to get the steps down.

Instructor Comments:
She's professional. She's encouraging. She really is good until she doesn't explain the step sequences that are more complex to this workout.

Laura S.


One of my favorite circuit workouts and my favorite Cathes. Cathe leads four backgrounders through a well-balanced, low impact step and weights circuit. The music is very upbeat and Cathe's energy is good in this workout.

You'll need a step, dumbbells, (optional) barbell and a resistance band, as well as a mat for abs and stretching.

After a step-based warmup, you'll do three step combinations. Each is followed by a lower body "blast" and then a strength segment. The step combinations are all low impact with no torque-y moves, and you'll move around the step: front to back, off the sides, and walking all the way around. Cathe teaches each combination slowly, and the moves are simple enough that even a choreo klutz like me can pick them up fairly easily (if you're familiar with older Cathe step, all the moves will be familiar, like over-face in-over, around the worlds, dynamic outer thighs). After you repeat the full step combination entirely several times, there is a 'blast' section to elevate the heart rate and challenge the lower body. The blasts have simple choreography, like front kicks or dynamic outer thighs around the world. After each blast comes your strength work. Most moves are isolation moves for upper body, such as lateral raises and biceps curls, but there are some compound moves as well like pushups, side lunges with overhead press, and dips/knee lifts with biceps curls. After three step, blast and strength segments, there's an 8-minute ab routine and a concluding stretch.

Cathe's site classifies this workout as 'intermediate' but it is good for all levels. Beginners can use a lower step height and lighter weights, while intermediates and advanced can increase both.

As always, the DVD includes premixes for shorter or more targeted workouts. the "Cardio Blast Timesaver" is a favorite of mine and includes a fourth step/blast section that can be tacked on to any of the other premixes or to the original workout. There is also a upper-body only circuit, lower-body only circuit, upper body strength and total body strength. Because the full workout is long - 75 minutes total - the shorter premixes (ranging from 30 minutes to just under an hour) work well for time-crunched days.

Instructor Comments:
Cathe is very professional, cues well and demonstrates excellent form. She has a lot of positive, smile-y energy in this one.



This is one of my favorite Cathe workouts. I'm an intermediate exerciser, and I find this workout very motivating in terms of music, the step combos (which are straightforward, with enough of a dancy flair to keep them interesting), and the slight functional flavor to the weight work.

The music is the real standout in this video. There are fun, remixed versions of several older pop songs, including a great, funky version of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. These songs alternate with vocal-less techno tracks which are a step up from the normal generic club music in workout videos, and well matched to the choreography. The mix level for the music is a little louder than normal (without using Cathe's DVD setting to have the music play louder), which works great in terms of keeping the music up front and motivating. When I think about this workout, the music is the first thing that comes to mind.

Other people have described the content of this workout well, but to recap: there's a fairly long generic warm-up (about 10 minutes), then three intervals that each cycle through a step combo, a step blast, a functional-style weight exercise that combines upper and lower body work, and finally a short amount of straight-up weight work. The entire workout ends with 5 minutes or so of abs and a stretch.

First interval: a longer step combo, step blast, side lunges, shoulders
Second interval: step combo, step blast, lunges, biceps and triceps
Third interval: the shortest step combo, step blast, squats, chest and back

In terms of the weight work, I find this workout fairly easy for the shoulders and back, tougher for chest (pushups are always tough for me, though!), and pretty killer on the biceps and triceps.

Instructor Comments:
Cathe is encouraging, cues well, and appears to be having a good time with this workout. It has a looser vibe than her more advanced, eat-your-wheaties style workouts.

Sandy J


My first time with this workout, I was a little disappointed. When it was first released I was still enjoying more complex choreography, and I thought this was a little too simple for me. I had been hoping for a Cardio & Weight 2, which I love and this was not that. The step sections are not as interesting and the strength sections are not as organized. I always felt like C&W provided a decent short upper body workout, but LIC does not quite fit that bill. It is also less intense overall than C&W.

However, I kept the workout, and I now really like it. I don't do step as often now and I can enjoy a less complex step workout. Also, although I won’t really use the strength sections of this workout as a stand alone upper body workout, I do appreciate its functional fitness feel. It is a nice workout that gets a little bit of everything in there: cardio, interval blast (although not very intense), leg work that isn’t super hard but keeps the heart going, and some interesting upper body moves with the band. It is a nice workout for me when I am low on energy, but want to get a long workout in that includes cardio and some strength work including abs.

This workout was part of Cathe’s post-injury and very delayed series where she ended up making extra long workouts with bonuses, because she felt so bad for taking so long. The bonus on this workout is a 4th step combo and 4th blast. This is nice, because it gives the option for a step only premix with all 4 combos and makes the workout a little longer. There are good options for picking parts of the workout. Although the upper body work is not enough for me on its own, it can be combined with some other Cathe upper body short premixes for a nice workout.

The music is not bad, except for the Girls Just Want to Have Fun with a Tuba song, which is annoying. I generally like vocals when doing step so liked this soundtrack pretty well. Not the best of any Cathe workout, but better than a lot of the generic music on some workouts.

Lisa C


I’m reviewing this workout after doing it twice (IIRC, I did the whole thing once as is, then did the step-only premix once).

General workout breakdown: As with all of Cathe’s videos, you can get a lot more information about plus view a long clip of this step cardio and weights circuit workout at Cathe.com.
The basic format of this 75 min. routine is this: 8 min. warm-up; three circuits with 5-8 min. of step aerobics, 2 min. of a step blast, 2.5-3.5 min. of lower body strength (which for the 1st 2 circuit cycle has more of a cardio focus with included upper body moves to make this more multi-limbed or “compound”), and 4-6 min. of upper body strength; 8 min. of abs; and 6 min. stretch. There’s also a bonus step combo (6 min. cardio, 3 min. blast).
Cathe doesn’t break down things much here, so there might be a bit of a learning curve for those less experienced with moderately complex step and/or new to Cathe, but the choreography isn’t overwhelmingly complex. The flip side is that once you know the routine you won’t be bored by tons of breakdown. The step blasts consists of drills; for example, the first one has side knee lifts, then side leg lifts, done around the world. As always, Cathe’s choreography is on the athletic side (e.g. step w/ knee, shuffles, lunges) and incorporates many of the classic step moves (e.g. V step, A step, U turn).
Here are the strength exercises:
Circuit Cycle 1: legs/cardio = pulsing side lunge into overhead press, side lunge w/ 1-arm reach into overhead press; upper body = lateral raise with heel taps, overhead press, and external rotation pulls (w/ band)
Circuit Cycle 2: legs/cardio = reverse lunge w/ first hammer and then regular biceps curl + alternating knee lift / front kick; upper body = bicep curls, straddle push ups, lying extensions, and kick backs.
Circuit Cycle 3: lower body = balancing squats; upper body = push ups, lat pull downs, scapular retractions, and standing rows (last 3 w/ band).
As you expect from Cathe, there are tempo variations, and she’ll also throw in twists like only going halfway, adding a rotation, holding for a few seconds, or working in the band. She usually includes a quick stretch after an exercise or at least body part.

Level: I’d recommend this to someone who’s at least solidly intermediate when it comes to step and weights, although it’s aimed primarily at those in the more int./adv. range or more adv. exercisers looking for a lighter day. As long as you use an appropriate step height and choose the appropriate amount of resistance this can be modified up or down, although if you’re not comfortable with at least medium-level step choreography you may find this frustrating. I’m in the int./adv. camp and find this an appropriate challenge for me: not easy, but definitely not intense enough to kill me.

Class: Lorraine, Brenda, Cedie, and Jai join Cathe, who instructs live.

Music: combination of upbeat instrumentals with vocal remixes of more popular songs, including a tuba-heavy dance party version of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” The music is definitely a big step up from average and can be quite motivating.

Set: bright interior set with “windows” that appear to open onto a forest.

Production: super crisp picture and sound, camera angles that never distract – the usual high quality Cathe stuff. Both Cathe’s voice and the music are pretty loud, but you can still hear Cathe over the tunes.

Equipment: step (Cathe and crew use a full-sized step with 2 sets of risers; I used my shorter step and 1 set), at least one pair of light dumbbells, a barbell (or a pair or two of heavier dumbbells, if you don’t have or don’t want to use a barbell), a 6’ resistance band (I used one of medium resistance, but choose what’s appropriate for you), and maybe a mat, depending upon your workout room floor.

Space Requirements: You need to be able to walk around your step as well as work behind your step plus have room to do the strength exercises and keep your equipment handy but not underfoot.

DVD Notes: The main menu features these options: Intro to Workout, Play Program, Chapters (which has the warm-up; the step combo, step blasts, lower body, and each upper body move from each circuit cycle; abs; stretch; and bonus cardio), Mix & Match (Warm Up, Circuit Cycles 1-3, Abs, Stretch, Bonus Cardio; you click on what you want to do, and after you do that segment you’re returned to this menu to pick something else, Premixes (Cardio Blast Timesaver, 48.5 min.; Lower Body Circuit, 56 min.; Upper Body Circuit, 65.5 min.; Upper Body Sculpt, 31 min.; Total Body Sculpt, 47 min.; All 4 Blast Add On, 9.5 min.), and Credits.
N.B. The very first batch that went out to those who preordered had a glitch during the triceps lying extension (at 42:44) that caused a little skip or freeze on many players, but corrected discs were sent out; everything issued since that period should be glitch-free.

Comments: The step portion is more similar to Low Max than to Low Impact Step, particularly with regards to the more complex choreography (although LIC doesn’t have quite as many twisty turny moves, full pivots, and actual high impact moves, i.e. moves in which both feet are momentarily off of the ground as LM) and the lower body-intensive drills or blasts.

Instructor Comments:
As always, Cathe is her upbeat professional self. She cues moves decently, although she could be a tad more precise on her step cuing for those of us who haven’t been stepping with her since the beginning. She mirror cues, too.



Low Impact circuit is a great workout. It clocks in over an hour, and with the bonus 9 minute cardio section its sure to work you til you are about to drop :) I liked this workout a lot. I consider myself very advanced and love Cathe's workouts. She starts off with a really fun warm up that got my heart pumping. The workout then consists of three circuits. Each starts out with a step routine, followed by a blast. She then moves in to leg work with light weights and works a different upper body muscle each time. There are three circuits in all. The first weight works your shoulders. The next is biceps (with a new twist) and finally you work your back and chest. Lots of variety and the time flies by. You then do an 8 min ab section with no equipment needed, followed by a stretch. There is an option for a bonus cardio which is 9 minutes long. its a step routine followed by a blast. This is the icing on the cake and will tire you out. Equipment needed for this workout is a step, a band, a mat, a barbell (cathe uses 20 pounds) and hand weights (she uses 5 pounds but i upped some to 8 or 10).
A great workout and challenging with tons of variety.

Instructor Comments:
What can i say? she is the queen of workouts and my absolute favorite instructor. She delivers a great workout each and everytime and never fails to disappoint. great attitude and sense of humor and her cueing is excellent