Training Zone Ironworks

Sam Combs
Year Released: 2001

Categories: Circuit Training (cardio and weights)

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This is a Training Zone video. Dawn P. gave a very good breakdown of this video so I will just give you my comments on it. She had me do this since she usually lifts heavy weights. She is currently doing the H.I.T. program. I, on the other hand, go through different rotations. Sometimes I do lift on my own so that I can lift heavier weights. But sometimes I do use muscle sculpting videos like Catheís S & H series while other times, I use muscle endurance videos like Power Hour, PowerBar, etc. This video fits into the last category. It is a high rep workout. But itís not as high rep as Margaret Richardís Upper Body/Lower Body Sculpture videos or Karenís Great Weighted Workout. Like videos of this type (BodyPump format), you canít lift very heavy but you have to lift enough weight so that you feel the ďburnĒ during the last reps of a set. At least, thatís the feeling I like to achieve. I use the same amount of weights that I use in PowerBar. That means I use lighter weights than when I do Power Hour. Unlike PowerBar, you donít have enough time to adjust your barbell. Sam has a light and a heavy barbell. I use my 12 lb bodybar mostly for the warm-up, 18 lb bodybar, and a 25 lb barbell. You will also need an Xertube (the most popular kind of tubing) and dumbbells. I always have various sizes of dumbbells ready for different body parts. I learned from the Firm. Like PowerBar, exercises are grouped by body part. There is also more than one leg segment.

Even though this video has stepping interspersed, I think it was designed to be a 100% weights video. Like Dawn, I used an 8 inch step and my heart rate didnít go up during the mini cardio sections. So it felt like it was suppose to be active rest periods. It was a chance to roll my shoulders while stepping, relax the upper body, and flush out the lower body. When I previewed the video, I knew that the step sections would not get my heart rate up. So I had my jump-rope handy. It did feel good to rest a little after some tough sets but I donít need that much rest. So during each mini step routine, I did a few step moves and then I jump-roped really fast. I know this was not what Sam had in mind. But I always modify my videos to suit me. In this case, I turned the video from a 100% weights routine to a Firm category of 75% weights/25% aerobic. It felt good to get my heart rate up just like the Firm gets your heart rate up during the cardio sections and then youíre able to sustain it during the weightlifting portions. Also the step patterns during the warm-up and the mini cardio sections are not very interesting. Theyíre just basic steps, knee or hamstring curl on opposite corners of the step, etc. Thatís another reason why I jump-roped.

What I liked best about this video is that Sam put some unique tubing exercises as well as the traditional weightlifting ones. I have seen most of them in other videos but not altogether in one video. Iíll list the exercises that Sam uses the tubing. The background exercisers do show other exercises using the tubing. But I followed Sam during this video which Iíve only done once so far. For the chest, we do alternating jabs, chest presses, and push-ups with the tubing. On preview, I liked the jabs. I remembered that Keli Roberts did that in CIA 9902 except she used an ultra toner. An ultra toner is tubing that looks like the figure 8. Therefore, I felt the jabs more in CIA 9902. But I didnít feel them in this video even though I held the tubing tight. Next time, Iíll probably go further down the tubing to feel it more or use my ultra toner. I did feel the standing chest presses with the tubing. I really felt the push-ups when we used the Xertube. Those are tough especially since we already did 2 or 3 sets of regular toe push-ups when we first started chest exercises!! The push-ups with the tubing are done after the barbell bench press. You use your step and you have the tubing around your back so that each hand is holding the Xertube. You will feel it if you have the tubing tight enough for you. For me, that means that I donít hold the tubing by the handles. I go further down the tubing.

The hamstring curl with front raise combo and standing leg raises to the back with front raise combo also use the tubing. This exercise is in Jazzercise Circuit Training. I always loved this exercise in that video so Iím glad itís included here. If you have your tubing set correctly, hamstring curls are tougher with the tubing than with ankle weights.

The bicep curls with the tubing are killer!! Donna Read did this exercise using a bodybar with tubing in her CIA 2K06 video. But she stopped so that we could put the handles through the bodybar. In this video, you hold the handles as well as the barbell. I had to go down to my 12 lb bodybar when I had the tubing. I started with my 18 lb bodybar and my biceps were already fatigued because Sam had us do so many bicep curls. Like Dawn mentioned they were done in different tempos and there was a sequence that was similar to Catheís Crazy 8ís. The lateral raises with dumbbells plus tubing were also killer.

On preview, I didnít like the sequencing of certain exercises. I thought that the shoulder section should have come after the chest exercises instead of triceps. It is the larger muscle out of the two. When I did the video and after the push-ups with the tubing, my triceps were screaming. So it felt appropriate to kill them more with tricep exercises. Another thing that I thought was off on preview was that Sam had us do side lateral raises before military presses in the shoulder section. Since military presses is a compound exercise and the muscle builder, I thought it should have been before the side lateral raises which is more of an isolation exercise. But when I did the video, it was so tough to do side lateral raises with the dumbbells and tubing that I was glad I didnít have to do front raises right after them.

Iím still trying to find a BodyPump style video thatís tough like PowerBar and Power Hour but with great music. BodyPump isnít very tough but the music jams. I love singing while I work out to it. In this video, I can barely hear the music. This bothered me during my preview. However when I was working out, it didnít bother me since I was too busy doing the exercises. Also sometimes when lifting with weights, itís best to go at your own speed instead of rushing while youíre trying to keep up with the music.

All the Training Zone videos use the same set. Dawn P. mentioned that there are T.V. screens that show other Training Zone videos. In some ways, this is a distraction because Iím trying to see what theyíre like. After awhile you notice they show the same clips so it didnít distract me too much.

I wish this video had abs. The workout timed close to 55 minutes. So it would have been easy to stick in 5 minutes of abs. I do have a few 5 day ab videos so I can easily add abs on my own. But it would have been nice if it was included in this video.

Iím wondering if Sam didnít include abs because certain parts of the video were edited out. So maybe it was suppose to be a longer video. Sam demonstrates proper form for close grip bench presses for the triceps and deadlifts but we donít use them. I guess we do use the deadlifts a little when we alternate between deadlifts and barbell bent rows for the back. My favorite leg exercise is deadlifts so I wished there was a separate deadlift section.

I would give this video a B. Itís not as tough as PowerBar but it gives a good workout. Iím also giving it a high grade because I like the mix of traditional barbell/dumbbell exercises with the tubing exercises. It has lots of variety. Because I used my jumprope during the cardio segments, I also made it into a tougher workout. I guess it would be a B- if I didnít do that.

Instructor Comments:
Sam is the same as he is in Training Zone Fusion. He has a lot of energy. I can see how heís a really good live instructor. But I work out at 5:30 a.m. so some of his grunts are a little too lively in the morning. This is just a minor annoyance and doesnít ruin my opinion of this video. The video that I would like to see Sam in is his Hi/Lo one from Training Zone. Just from watching him in TZ Fusion, I can tell that he moves really well and has a lot of rhythm.

Helen Stephens


This is a one-hour total body circuit toning video produced by Training Zone, a Dallas-based fitness organization that hosts exercise workshops and produces videos geared for fitness instructors as well as consumers. You can see their latest videos at

IronWorks is a BodyPump-like workout except with quiet music and a giant-set routine. Sam Combs is a friendly instructor who coaches non-stop throughout the workout. It has a ton of different strength-training exercises done with a lightweight barbell, dumbbells and tubing. There's a lot of variety going between body parts in giant sets but this also makes it impossible to break this tape up into upper & lower body workouts. I would characterize this as a beginner-intermediate tape in difficulty and intensity.

Interestingly, there are six brief stepping sections (1/2min to 2min) insterspersed between weightlifting exercises throughout the last half of the tape. The step routines are very basic and not long enough to sustain your heartrate, so I'm not sure why they're included - except to "blow it out" and increase blood flow, according to instructor Sam Combs. I didn't mind them, it was refreshing, but these intervals did NOT make this an aerobic workout for me - and I used an 8" step in this routine where I usually use a 6" step for intense Cathe & Mindy Mylrea-type tapes.

Sam Combs teaches this tape with two female background exercisers, Terry & Carissa, who demonstrate alternative moves and different equipment - tubing or dumbbells in place of a barbell, for example. But to truly follow this routine, you will need a barbell or dumbbells and you should have exercise tubing with handles - for example, he does hamstring curls with a lateral raise that could not be duplicated well without the tubing.

The workout is done on a wooden floor in a room with three TV sets stacked on an industrial shelf behind the exercisers and the shadow of an large slowly-moving fan appears on the back wall. It's not dark and gloomy, nor is the background overly distracting. The filming uses three different camera angles to give you close-ups and overhead views. The music is rock instrumental with occasional vocals, a good beat of about 132-138BPM but it is not very loud and at times cannot be heard above Sam's instruction and counting. Side note: The three TVs in the back shows speeded up clips and outtakes from various exercise videos INCLUDING Todd Gheisar and his team! Todd apparently filmed two videos for Training Zone last Fall and the shipping company lost the digital masters, so alas we will never see those productions, but it's a surprise seeing his routines fast-forwarding over and over on the TV screens behind Sam and his crew!

In IronWorks, all the exercises use relatively light weights and high reps - the team uses a barbell ranging between 10 and 25lbs, dumbbells (no more than 5lbs) and tubing. I don't think Sam ever does fewer than 16-24 reps for any exercise and he often varies the tempo and counts much like BodyPump or Cathe's PowerHour.

The entire workout is 55min including warm-up and cooldown (45min without).

Here's the breakdown:

4min active warm-up including stepping and some static stretches
5min of light squats and shallow deadlifts, overhead presses, static lunges, more overhead presses, shoulder shrugs
4min of push-ups, rubber tubing standing chest press-jabs, barbell bench presses.
3min tricep kickbacks and close-grip pushups
2min stepping up & down, horseshoe
1min hamstring curls with tubing, add frontal raise, then change hamstring curl to leg raise
15 seconds stepping
1.5min hamstring curl routine on other leg
1min stepping
2min barbell rows
1.5min rhomboid pinches/back flye while kneeling
1/2min stepping
3.5min barbell bicep curls w/diff tempos similar to Cathe's Crazy 8's
2min barbell curls with extra resistance tubing
1min stepping
4min static lunges with barbell
1min stepping
6min dumbbell lateral raises, barbell shrugs, barbell overhead press, dumbbell front hammer delt raises, dumbbell shrugs
5.5min cooldown with stretch, calf stretches, arm circles, balancing on one-leg, shin stretch, back stretch, overhead arms & deep breaths.

(Note: some of my times are estimates, but you get the idea!)

Sam is friendly, energetic and polite and he has good rhythm - and he chats, grunts and sighs non-stop throughout the workout. He never stops! I mean, his patter is coaching by nature and he comes across as a sincere live group exercise instructor would, asking his class for feedback or commenting on the purpose or form for an exercise, but he grunts a lot and makes comments such as "you don't have to make eye contact with me here" during a particularly difficult section and comments such as "I'm getting breathy here" quite often. I wonder if Cathe would say that remaining silent while lifting is a learned skill - after viewing IronWorks I did S&H legs and really noticed how many times in S&H she just stops talking and lifts quietly while smiling (or grimacing with us!). It's possible that instructors who teach live group exercise classes and workshops don't realize how constant patter in a video really grows old the fourth or fifth time you view it.

Sam also demonstrates several exercises and doesn't actually do them in the workout - commenting that we will do them later (not as substitute moves) and he wants to preview good form, then he doesn't return to the exercise. He does this demonstrating the close grip bench press for triceps for example, then goes onto do tricep kickbacks and tricep pushups, but no presses. He also demonstrates deadlifts towards the end of the tape before doing barbell rows, then doesn't perform them (he does very shallow dealifts in the beginning of the workout in the warm-up) - and deadlifts are one of my favorites! I think he meant to alternate rows & deadlifts at that point in the workout.

I noticed uneven counts at least twice, which happens when Sam miscounts or doubles the count on one side. For example, he does 7 slow static lunges on the left leg, then 11 fast and on the right he does 11 slow, then 7 fast. This might be a symptom of the kind of that "wishful thinking" counting done by instructors in live classes to motivate participants to finish out a set - for example Sam says "final 8 reps" on bench presses then does 16 more with some serious miscounting - "final 8 (press), now there's only 7 more (press), 7(press), now we've got 6 left (press) and here's 6 (press) - so you've done 5 reps, and he's counted 3. I thought I was going crazy and stopped early three times! I think some careful scripting or cue cards and a counter might help in this type of routine where there is such a tremendous number of reps and different exercises interspersed.

All in all, this tape has great intentions - a whole-body high-rep low-weight toning routine with lots of tempo & count changes and a big variety of exercises done in giant sets - but for me it falls short with an instructor that talks too much and music that is too soft to hear. As far as endurance routines go, I liked the format of BodyPump & PowerHour better in that you exhaust one body part in 5min before going onto the next because it feels more effective to me, but this is my own personal preference.

The giant set format of IronWorks doesn't lend itself well to breaking the video into upper & lower body workouts, so you'll need to keep this in mind. But if you're a beginnner-intermediate exerciser who likes an expressive instructor and you need an alternative to BodyPump you might want to give IronWorks a try. I think Training Zone is on the right track and Sam Combs has great potential - I hope we'll see more productions from them.

[Final note: if you like this BodyPump-like format, there are many other workouts like IronWorks already out on the market that you might consider: Keli Robert's New Body Bar Workout & Body Bar Challenge tapes, (lots of compound moves), Mindy's Pump Party (great music), Gay Gasper's 2104 Perfect Body Conditioning, Donna Read's 2K06 Body Strength section, The Anderson sisters 2102 PowerBar training and PowerFlex with Michelle Nevidomsky come to mind.]

Dawn P