Slow and Heavy: Legs and Shoulders

Cathe Friedrich
Year Released: 2001

Categories: Circuit Training (cardio and weights)

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I'll start out by saying that I don't really enjoy working my lower body. But I loved this workout! The slow pace felt really good and allowed me to really concentrate on those large leg muscles. Cathe uses the slow and heavy format of 3 sets of 8 reps, 6 counts up and 2 counts down, with one minute rests (and stretches) in between, but she inserts three different pre-exhaust sets to compensate for the fact that the appropriate weight for most people to do lower body work is too heavy to lift over your shoulders at home.

The first exercise is front lunges. This is a pre-exhaust set and Cathe uses 2 10 lb dumbbells. You lunge forward, pulse up and down once, and go back to switch legs. There are 16 reps on each side. Then she moves into slow and heavy squats with a 50 lb barbell. I started with 30 and increased for each set to 40 because I didn't feel much in my legs. However, it was hard for me to get the weight over my head to the back of my shoulders! Next is a set of reverse lunges, also a pre-exhaust set, done in the same rhythm as the front lunges. Again, Cathe used 10 lb dumbbells. The static lunges are done with a heavy barbell. The third pre-exhaust set is side lunges with a dumbbell held in front of your navel. Cathe used a 15 lb dumbbell and I followed Jai who used 2 8 lbers. In this exercise, you step out to the side, pulse 3 times, then come up to switch sides. Then Cathe picks up the mongo 40 lb dumbbell to do plie squats. I loaded up my adjustable dumbbell with about 30 lbs and it felt really good. I liked that position better than holding a barbell on the front of my shoulders, elbows forward, like Cathe does for plies in some of her other videos. I also felt like it encouraged me to squat lower because my center of gravity was lower. Finally, we do 2 sets of 25 calf pumps with dumbbells in each hand. I really enjoyed the controlled movements and that the leg workout was only 30 minutes. Although I do like PS Legs, I rarely do it because it is SO darn long.

The shoulder workout was nice too. I am a shoulder wimp, so I like the PS Shoulder work without a barbell. This one is also done with dumbbells only. We start with front raises, using the 10 degree forward tilt to reduce momentum and focus on the shoulders only. Cathe uses 8 lbs. I normally can't for front raises, but with the more controlled slow movements I found I could make it. For side laterals (still using that 10 degree tilt), Cathe starts with 5 lbs but goes back to 8s on the second and third sets. Then we do posterior delts with your upper body in a flat table position and shoulders retracted. This is the same exercise Cathe does in Power Hour, but much slower of course. When I previewed the workout I was blown away during the close-ups of Cathe's rear delts. Her muscles are amazing! Here Cathe starts with 5s and moves up to 8s again. I couldn't use 8s because the heavier weight made me feel the effort in my triceps. Next, we do seated overhead press, but with the elbows out in front at a 45% angle rather than just out to the side. Cathe uses 15s, then 12s. For some reason there are only two sets of this exercise, but that was plenty! Finally, Cathe adds 2 sets on each side of slow and heavy side lying external rotators. This was so tough. I started with 5 lbs and dropped to 3s on the second set. I really felt the burn in my rotator cuff. I appreciated this exercise because I have a shoulder that occasionally comes out of its socket.

Cathe ends this workout with a short floor stretch.

Some VFers have mentioned on the forum that Slow & Heavy legs was not challenging enough. I don't have incredibly strong legs and I don't work them as often as I do upper body, so it was plenty tough for me. My legs were fatigued throughout the day and slightly stiff the next day. This workout and Chest and Back tie for my favorites, but I won't leave out the Triceps and Biceps. Overall this format feels better for me with the larger muscle groups because momentum is eliminated and I have to really focus on contracting the muscles. I would like to continue this series for at least four weeks, but it is really draining. I'm not sure if it's just an excuse, but I find myself wanting to snack more after a S&H workout too.

Caroline Kim


Before I start Iíd like to give you a little background. My preferred method of lifting is abbreviated training (compound lifts, heavy weights, and very little isolation work) and I was looking for a change when I picked up the Slow and Heavy tapes. This is a very different style of lifting than Iím used to.

This tape concentrates on slow reps, but multiple sets, usually 3 sets of 8 for each lift. But each rep is two counts down, six counts up and that makes it a whole lot more difficult than most lifting. I dropped my weights significantly from what I would use for standard lifting. After a very basic hi/lo warmup, itís right into bench presses and I knew from the start that I was going to be in pain. Those slow reps are killer.. Then off to pec flies and I decreased my weight again. Now put your bench at an incline and do both of them again. It looks so easy when it's written down but it was highly painful at the time. Now jump off the bench and do a set of 8 pushups two counts down, 6 counts up. Ouch!

Then off to back work. It starts with dumbbell rows. These were harder than I expected because those 6 counts up seemed endless. Pullovers were next. I didn't feel these in my back very much at all but it was a real shoulder killer and after doing them I know that this particular move will never be part of my regular lifting routine. Anything that makes my shoulders feel this bad has no place in my workout. Straight-legged dead lifts were next, once again 2 counts down, 6 up. I usually think of SLDL as mainly a hamstring exercise but at the slow speed in this tape, I felt it more in my back than I usually do. But that's it for the standard back work, after that itís on to core work.

The first exercise is the one where you lie on your belly with your arms over your head and then lift both your legs and arms off the floor. These weren't all that difficult because we do similar things in yoga. Cathe suggests adding wrist and ankle weights for more of a challenge. Planks are next, three different types Ė one on your elbows, one in the traditional upward pushup position, and one in a reverse position, Each are probably held for about 60 seconds but it seems like forever when your shoulders, triceps and pecs are so toasted from the rest of the workout.

An amusing asideÖwhile I was doing this workout, my husband was eating ice cream (Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey if you care about specifics) and offered me some. Of course I accepted the offer but my muscles were shaking so much that I almost couldn't scoop it out of the container. I was limited to one spoonful because of this mighty IOMS (immediate onset muscle soreness).

Overall? I think the good thing about the tape is that it forces good form with these slow reps. Theyíre much harder than I expected them to be. Itís also nice because it doesnít require really heavy weights to be effective. Cathe takes a lot more time between sets than in her other tapes but it's still not as long as I take between heavy sets at the gym. But it's awkward for her because she's got to kill time while resting so she spends a lot of time telling you to get some "warter." In my opinion, it's overkill for a chest workout and the back workout seemed rather light. And hanging onto the dumbbells (it's all dumbbell work, no barbell work) for the length of time it took to complete the sets was difficult because it felt like there was too much pressure between my thumb and finger. I started gripping the dumbbell with the thumb on the same side of the dumbbell as the rest of the fingers to alleviate some of the pressure. Itís very different than anything I've seen on video but did I like it? Well, as a change of pace it was sort of refreshing. It takes forever though (each tape is about an hour) and it's more bodybuilder style than basic functional fitness style. I doubt Iíll be using it as itís designed but may use it in a modified format with 2 sets instead of three and then drop either the incline or flat bench and flies to decrease the volume. And Iíd probably move the pushups to the beginning of the chest work and do more than one set.


Before I start Iíd like to give you a little background. My preferred method of lifting is abbreviated training (compound lifts, heavy weights, and very little isolation work) and I was looking for a change when I picked up the Slow and Heavy tapes. This is a very different style of lifting than Iím used to.

I liked the Legs & Shoulders workout better than the Chest & Back tape. The volume feels more appropriate because the legs and glutes are larger muscles. Cathe starts with lunges to pre exhaust the legs before she moved into the other exercises. 3 sets of 8 squats - the two counts down, 6 counts. These didnít feel as hard as the ones I do at the gym because I canít lift enough weight over my head to fully challenge my legs, even with this pace. Then weíre off to static lunges and I have to admit that doing the 2/6 count pace on these were very difficult. This may be due in part to the fact that I hate lunges. I wasnít heartbroken to find out that there were only two sets of those on each side. I noticed that Cathe was using the term "set" improperly (at least in my mind) at various times in the video. For instance, we'd be doing the standard alternating front lunges and she said we were going to do 16 sets. Well, we did 16 on each side but I still
consider that to be 16 reps, not sets. I think of sets as having a break in between them.

Then there were 3 sets of plie squats and 2 sets of 25 calf raises to finish the leg workout. There werenít any deadlifts and that surprised me but perhaps itís because theyíre in the back tape.

The shoulder workout was 3 sets of 8 for each of these...front raises, side raises, delt raises, and overhead press. With that count scheme I had to go to very light weights compared to what I usually use really wussy weights on shoulders. And it left me wondering if it's necessary to do so much shoulder work since you hit the shoulders when youíre doing chest, back, biceps and triceps work. Well, I think the overhead press is important, but I donít really know about the rest of them. But I was happy to see that in this workout she added L-flies which are important for shoulder health. And those also used the 2 counts down, 6 counts up scheme, Ouch! When she was explaining this move she said not to have your elbow pressed against your side. Thatís not how I learned this move nor how itís outlined in ďThe 7-Minute Rotator Cuff SolutionĒ so I kept my elbow lightly pressed against my side to prevent it from moving during the reps.

I like the speed on these tapes - it feels more natural to me than the speed of most other lifting tapes. I know that some people feel the longer breaks make it boring but I find I need the time to stretch before the next set.

Anne V


I love the Slow and Heavy series because it has an almost meditative quality about it. Each exercise has a preliminary pre-exhaustive set and is followed by slow sets with a full minute rest in between each. During the rest you do brief stretches so you're stretching throughout the entire workout.

The Legs & Shoulders workout clocks in at about 67 minutes. A little longer than I usually like to workout, but the time really flies for me because I'm concentrating on every rep.

The 3 1/2 minute warm up consists of some side steps, a few squats (with no weights) and some very light stretching.

Next you move on to a pre-exhaustive set of lunges with two 10 pound dumb bells. You follow up with 3 sets of squats using a 50 pound barbell. The count is two down and six up and it catches up fast!

Next is a set of light reverse lunges with two 10 pound dumb bells, then onto three sets of slow static lunges (two counts down and six up) with a 50 pound barbell. Cathe actually lightens up after the second set, explaining that it's a lot more difficult to lift as much when you're in a split stance.

The next exercise is my least favorite because I don't feel it as much as all the others. You do a four count side lunch with a 15 pound dumb bell pushing off on the fourth count, alternating sides. You follow this up with a plie squat using a 40 pound dumb bell. I love this. It's a little easier with a dumb bell rather than a barbell on your back.

The last leg exercise is two sets of 25 calf raises. Cathe uses two 20 pound weights for these.

I've read on the forum that many think S&H Legs is a waste of time, but I think that this is a good alternative to endurance exercises. I would never go 50 pounds on any other leg workout. I think the secret is to really concentrate on every rep and to go as heavy as you can. I enjoy working my legs in this way.

On to shoulder work! Cathe starts you with three sets of front raises with two 8 pound dumb bells. This is tough because she has you tilt from the hip at a 10 degree angle. This adds a lot of gravity to the excercise and eliminates any potential momentum. Your muscles are doing ALL the work here.

Next you do side lateral raises with a longer lever. The count is 6 up and 2 down. Cathe starts with two 5 pounds dumb bells, but heavies up to 8 for the second and third sets. I use two 7 pound weights and it's perfect.

The next exercise is a posterior delt raise. Cathe has you bend over so your back is flat, then you raise your extend arms up and back until they're a little past level with your back. This is tough and really gets the back of your shoulder.

Then you do seated overhead presses. Cathe starts out with two 15 pound dumb bells then drops to 12's. These are tough with such a slow count. You really have to concentrate on not arching your back. I swear there's only two sets of these instead of three, which seems a little odd.

Lastly, you work your rotator cuff for two sets. I really like this exercise. It's very effective. Lying on your side with a 5 pound weight, you bend your arm so it's perpendicular to your legs then you slowly (6 counts) raise your arm up as Cathe's says, "As if your arm is a rotisserie." It starts out really easy and starts burning about the third rep.

This is followed by a brief stretch.

Overall, an excellent workout!

Instructor Comments:
I just love Cathe. She's one of my favorite instructors because she is such a great icon of great fitness. She's a wonderful, polite and precise instructor who encourages me to push my limits in both cardio workouts and weight workouts.

Tami Skelton


I use this series differently than the majority of Vfers. I rarely spend an entire hour doing strength work Ė I prefer to do aerobics followed by 10 to 30 minutes of strength. I let these sit unused for the longest time, because I never seemed to find the time to devote a whole hour to one of them. Then it dawned on me (duh) there was no need to do the entire thing Ė these are perfectly broken up into 10-minute-or-so sections, and I can just tack them on to the cardio. Once I had that stroke of brilliance :) these became absolute favorites. I do one to three sections at a time, and, as everyone else has pointed out, the exercises are very challenging, so I donít feel Iím missing a thing. I go a little heavier than I would if I were doing a whole hour, so it probably all balances out in the end anyway. This series is so complete and perfect that Iíve been able to weed out my collection a lot. Between these, Giladís Quick Fit, and Cory Everson, I feel Iíve got all I need or want (till the next Cathe series comes out, anyway :) ). Grade A+.

Annie S.


This workout is definitely not fun. The 6-2 slow count did not feel good to me, not because it was too difficult, but it just doesn't work well with the music, and it is pretty hard to bend your arm in even increments to 6 slow beats. After a short time, it drove me crazy, and I started to change some of the reps to 4-4, which felt equally or more difficult than the 6-2. I didn't think the type of exercises for biceps and triceps worked well at all with a 6 beat on the positive and a 2 beat on the negative. I also felt that there were way too many reps, and ended up lightening up on the last sets of some of the exercises, for fear that I was putting too much stress in my joints (shoulders and elbows). I am not sure that this type of workout will be more effective than working less slowly, but it is a change of pace (no pun intended) from the usual routines. Spending nearly one hour on only biceps and triceps seems too long to me, and I think the job can be done in half that length of time, so this isn't a workout I do often. The abdominal section at the end was short and traditional, although the oblique exercises that were done lying on your side and lifting both legs was effective. I would rate this workout a B+.

Instructor Comments:
Cathe is one of my favorite instructors. She is in very muscular condition, although her face appears gaunt. She has a likeable personality, although sometimes I found her comments to be a little cutesy in this particular workout. I think that overall, Cathe is one of the best instructors on video and dvd.



I'm rediscovering this series - haven't done it in two years - and enjoying it a lot. Slow and Heavy is very different from Cathe's usual endurance workouts and it takes a fair amount of concentration and patience to Cathe and four backgrounders perform multiple exercises at a slow pace with heavy weights. The usual pattern is 2-3 sets of 8 reps each, with two counts down and six counts up for each rep.

For the legs portion, Cathe chooses to "pre-exhaust" the legs with a light set of 16 reps before moving to heavy sets. You start with alternating front lunges with dumbbells (16 total), followed by three slow sets of barbell squats. You then do a light set of rear alternating lunges, followed by two sets per leg of slow and heavy stationary lunges. Next is a set of alternating side lunges with a dumbbell, then your three slow and heavy sets of plie squats with a heavy dumbbell. Two sets of normal-pace calf raises with heavy dumbbells ends the legs section.

The shoulder workout is all slow and heavy: front raises, lateral raises, posterior raises (like these: bent over and arms go straight back along the sides), seated overhead presses (only two sets of these) and lying rotations for the rotator cuff.

Cathe does brief stretches between sets of most exercises, so the final stretch is very short.

I struggled a bit to find the right weights for some exercises. Shoulders are super-tough if you keep to your regular weights, but I found to my surprise that I didn't need to lighten up for most of the leg work.

Instructor Comments:
Cathe's form pointers are excellent in this series. She is very professional and can lift HEAVY.