DVD Review: Kathy Smith – Kickboxing Workout (1999)

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

A great workout for beginners – but beware the Challenge workout, it’s a rip-off.

four out of five stars

I picked up a copy of Kathy Smith’s Kickboxing Workout on DVD a few months ago. Though I used to do Tae Bo religiously, my cardio routine fell by the wayside when we moved into a new house and [insert excuse after excuse here; reason #1 being that our new home has all-concrete floors and it took us a few months to outfit the gym with an appropriate mat]. Anyway, when I vowed to start back up again, I quickly decided against resuming Tae Bo. What with its quick switches between moves, sometimes confusing instructions, and uneven editing, I suspect that Tae Bo was a little too rough on my knees and ankles. Instead, I thought I might check out Kathy Smith’s workout; I have some of her other videos, including a few light weight workouts, and enjoy them…well, as much as one can enjoy an exercise DVD.

Kathy Smith’s Kickboxing Workout is just what I needed – an excellent workout for beginners. If you’re new to cardio and/or kickboxing, the 45-minute Basic workout is challenging but not impossibly so. Smith starts with a slow warm up, leads you into a moderately-paced workout (roughly 20 minutes in length), and then cools things down with a short “buns and thighs kicking drills” segment, followed by a “cool down stretch” and an “abs and back strengthening” workout. The run time is just over 45 minutes. I have a few minor quibbles – for example, switching or adding moves in the middle of a routine, which seems to me a no-no for beginners – but nothing out of the ordinary. Overall, it’s great.

If you’re expecting a more difficult routine from the 55-minute Challenge workout, forget it. Instead of putting together an entirely new routine for more experienced students – which is what I expected – Smith just adds two extra segments to the Basic workout and calls it a “Challenge.” Keith Cooke leads the added ten minutes of footage, which is divided into two segments: “Kickboxing Stances” (a review of the postures, which can hardly be called “challenging”) and “Challenge” (a few new combinations, again not super-difficult or especially intense). As much as I love the Basic workout, I’m super-disappointed in the Challenge; whereas I thought this might be a new routine I could move onto once I’d mastered the Basic workout, it’s really just more of the same. Increased difficulty isn’t just about endurance, but intensity too. 4/5 stars, with a point lost for the “Challenge” half of this DVD.

Also, can the class please stop wearing baggy pants? I need to see what your legs are doing! kthnxbai.

(This review was originally published on Amazon. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)

DVD Review: Billy’s BootCamp: Ab BootCamp, Billy Blanks (2005)

Monday, November 21st, 2005

Ab-solutely Awesome!

five out of five stars

Ab BootCamp is part of Billy Blanks’s newest (circa 2005) Tae Bo series, Billy’s BootCamp. I’ve been a Tae Bo fan for about two years now, and own many of his early DVDs, including the original 4-pack, Tae Bo II: Get Ripped (still my favorite), Ultimate Abs/Butt, and Ultimate Upper/Lower Body. While I love the early stuff, the Tae Bo workouts that he’s produced since switching studios (from Ventura Distribution to Good Times Entertainment) seem more stylish, but considerably less difficult, than his earlier work. I was especially disappointed with Tae Bo Cardio and the Tae Bo Capture the Power series. However, I found myself growing bored with what I had, so I bit the bullet and bought the Tae Bo BootCamp series. I’m happy to say that I don’t regret my decision one bit!

Unlike the other BootCamp workouts, the Ab BootCamp does not require the “Billy Bands” (a pair of elastic bands that loop around your feet and hands, thus adding considerable – almost impossible – resistance to your workout). Thus, you can purchase this one DVD on its own and not have to worry about buying extra equipment.

The workout runs about 35 minutes in length – and boy, oh boy, what a butt-kicking 35 minutes it is! As always, Billy starts out with some stretching and warm-ups. Next up are calisthenics, including a series of squats with pelvic thrusts that I’ve never seen in Tae Bo before. The class also spends a good amount of time in horse stance (squatting, butts thrust towards the floor), arms up, torsos twisting from side to side. This REALLY allows you to concentrate on your abs and work the waist. Billy has introduced this particular exercise in many previous workouts, but never in this much depth or for such a long period. You can really feel your abs and legs working here. Finally, it’s down to the floor for a series of crunches and similar ab exercises. Thankfully, Billy mixes it up a bit and allocates some time for stretching, which definitely takes the edge off the more extreme ab work.

I’ve only done Ab BootCamp about five times now, but I already notice a difference in my abs. I’m adding this one to my regular rotation, no doubt. Since it’s also slightly shorter than many of the other DVDs I own (by 15 to 20 minutes), it’s good for those mornings when you’re running a little late but still want to squeeze a decent workout in. A must for anyone who wants to work their abs (and who doesn’t!?). Five stars all around!

(This review was originally published on Amazon. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)

DVD Review: Tae Bo Flex, Billy Blanks (2003)

Monday, November 21st, 2005

More Flexing, Please!

four out of five stars

I’ve been doing Tae Bo for about two years, and have mostly mastered the serious cardio workouts (of which Tae Bo II: Get Ripped is the most difficult). I purchased Tae Bo Flex because I wanted a Tae Bo workout that would focus on muscle definition (particularly in my abs) as opposed to cardio endurance. For the most part, Tae Bo Flex delivers.

Tae Bo Flex is different from previous Tae Bo DVDs in that the moves are performed more slowly, allowing the class to concentrate on the desired muscle groups. Additionally, after a certain number of sets, a move – for example, a roundhouse kick – is held, muscles flexed (hence the title of the workout), in order to strengthen specific muscle groups.

In general, each move is performed as follows: two sets of eight normal repetitions, a held position for eight counts, another set of eight normal reps, and then a final round of a flexed pose. Then, on to another move. During the course of Tae Bo Flex, you’ll do a number of moves in this manner, including the roundhouse kick, side kick, front kick, back kick, various punches, and some pseudo-speed bag. Most of the concentration is on your lower body, but the workout does include a few positions in which you’re flexing your arms as well.

For the most part, I enjoy the workout; it’s definitely something different than what I’m used to! However, it isn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. The cardio (i.e., the “normal” sets) is relatively light, and I never really work up a sweat. Also, you only hold the flexed position for eight counts – essentially, this only amounts to about eight seconds! – which isn’t very challenging. And this is coming from someone who has a very poor sense of balance, mind you! In fact, some of the previous Tae Bo workouts, such as Get Ripped Advanced 1 and 2, feature longer flex times than this. Finally, at just 45 minutes, Tae Bo Flex is about 10 minutes shorter than many other “Advanced” Tae Bo DVDs.

Although I’ve owned this DVD for about five months, I usually only use it on my “off” days – those mornings when I’m just too beat to work through some of the more advanced Tae Bo videos. Nonetheless, newbies might find Tae Bo Flex helpful. The leisurely pace makes it easier to learn the basic moves, and the flexing does allow you to focus in on your body. You really gain a sense of which exercises work which muscle groups, because you can literally feel them in action. Overall a decent DVD, but I’m going to knock off one star because there really should have been more flexing!

(This review was originally published on Amazon. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)

DVD Review: Tae Bo: Ultimate Upper/Lower Body, Billy Blanks (2003)

Monday, November 21st, 2005

Awesome Assortment of Upper/Lower Body Exercises

three out of five stars

I’ve been doing Tae Bo for almost two years now; I started with the original 4-pack, gradually made my way through the Basic and Advanced workouts, and am proud to say that I can now do the Tae Bo II: Get Ripped DVDs (generally considered to be the most difficult in the Tae Bo series) without missing a beat. Along the way, I lost 30 pounds and gained a ton of confidence. Tae Bo is a fun and effective workout – if you’re in search of a new program, look no further!

However, if you’ve never done Tae Bo before, I definitely do not recommend the Ultimate Upper/Lower Body for beginners. This DVD features two 55-minute workouts, each of which is made up of clips from previous workouts. As the title implies, one workout focuses on upper body work (i.e., arms), the other, on the lower body (mostly legs, with some ab work thrown in for good measure). Both of the compilations tend to jump from move to move very quickly, with little explanation or chance for recovery. As usual, some of Billy’s instructions can be confusing or erratic, and the format in these “best of” DVDs exaggerates these flaws rather than eliminating them. This is disappointing; you’d think that the editors would have chosen the best representations of each exercise, but they don’t always. These problems also plague the other “Ultimate” DVD, “Ultimate Abs/Butt.”

Nonetheless, I love this DVD! I’m less than thrilled with some of Billy’s newer workouts – ever since he switched from Ventura Distribution to Good Times Entertainment, it seems like his DVDs have gotten more stylish but less challenging (e.g., the Capture the Power series). Thus, I find myself hoarding as many of the old workouts as possible. Luckily, Ultimate Upper Body/Lower Body makes a fantastic addition to my library!

The Lower Body workout, in particular, offers a steady yet challenging cardio workout, with lots of roundhouse kicks, sidekicks, knee raises, and squats. You’ll definitely feel this one the next day! I’m not as impressed with the Upper Body workout, though; many of the punches are performed while you’re balancing on one leg and thrusting the other foot to and fro. Consequently, I find myself worrying more about keeping my balance than executing strong and controlled punches during these exercises. Even so, the Upper Body workout really does work your arms!

An added perk of having split Upper/Lower Body (and Ab/Butt) workouts is that, if one part of your body is feeling especially fatigued, you can still put in a good workout without falling over from exhaustion. As my arms become more muscular, and I put more effort into my punches, I find that my arms wear out more quickly than my legs. On days when I can barely manage a decent punch, I just pop in the Ultimate Lower Body workout, since there’s very little arm work involved. I know Billy and the crew were probably just in search of a way to better maximize their profits when they pieced these compilations together, but the Best Of/Ultimate series definitely makes for an effective workout program, particularly in the long term.

In regards to the workouts themselves, I think the Lower Body deserves 5 stars, the Upper Body, 3. Production quality and editing is less than stellar, though, so I’ll have to knock 1 star off of the final average, bringing the rating to 3 stars total. The Lower Body workout alone is worth the price, though, especially if you’re starting to become bored with the Tae Bo DVDs you already own and find the newer ones a tad too easy.

(This review was originally published on Amazon. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)

VHS Review: Billy Blanks’ Tae Bo: Instructional, Basic, Advanced, and 8-Minute Workouts, Billy Blanks (1999)

Tuesday, May 10th, 2005

Must-have introductory package for Tae Bo beginners!

four out of five stars

I’ve been doing Tae Bo for about 15 months, and have dropped 30 pounds (and counting!). I started at a very unhealthy 140 pounds (just for reference, I’m 5’4″), and I’m now down to a lean, mean, fighting-machine 110. I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been, and I owe it all to Tae Bo!

Before starting Tae Bo, I had tried several other workouts, to no avail. At one point I was working out with Jane Fonda an hour a day, every day, and was actually gaining weight! I bought the Tae Bo original 4-pack on a whim, but it sat on my shelf for years before I finally gave it a go – I had watched my sister do it, and it just looked too hard. Eventually I had trouble squeezing into my fat jeans and, frustrated, I made the commitment to lose some weight and stick with Tae Bo for at least a year.

I began by watching the Instructional video for a week and practicing the moves. Admittedly, this was rather tedious – the pace is very slow and you end up standing around most of the time. However, correct form is essential, both to prevent injury and properly work the targeted muscle groups. Before beginning even a Basic workout, you should definitely run through the Instructional video a few times. You won’t regret it!

Once I had the moves down, I went on to the 30-minute Basic workout, and stuck with it for six months. I was so horrendously out of shape that I had to stop for breathers, even though Billy gives you plenty of rest in between exercises. It took quite some time before I was comfortable with the moves, but I did get there. If you’re new to Tae Bo (or to exercising in general), you’ll probably find even the Basic workout to be challenging. Don’t give up, though – it might take some time, but you WILL see improvement. I was very frustrated at first, as I didn’t start shedding the pounds right away, and my lack of balance was a significant obstacle. Around the fourth month, though, I noticed some definite improvement, and was confident enough after month six to move on to the Advanced workout.

Initially, I found the Advanced workout to be difficult, but after a few months I had mastered it as well. By this time I had lost about 20 pounds and gained a ton of confidence. I finally retired the original Tae Bo workouts six months ago and moved on to the Get Ripped and Ultimate Abs/Butt series. After seeing how demanding the newer workouts are, I’m extremely glad I started with the original 4-pack – had I overestimated my abilities, I seriously doubt that I would still be doing Tae Bo. I probably would have given up within the first week instead!

The Advanced workout, which runs 55 minutes, is paced more quickly than the Basic workout, though it’s much slower than, say, the Get Ripped Advanced workout or the Ultimate Abs/Butt DVD. In addition to the kicking/punching combos that you learn in the Basic workout, you also do some floor work for your abdominals and gluteals. Billy really introduces a wide variety of exercises during this session, many of which you’ll see again if you try out other videos. This is a great intermediate workout – it really bridges the gap between the Basic workout and the more intense Advanced workouts that he produced later on.

For anyone who’s new to Tae Bo, I’d definitely recommend that you pick up this 4-pack before buying anything else. Each workout builds on the previous one and, when viewed in succession, they offer a great introduction to Tae Bo. If you try to just jump right in with an Advanced workout, you’ll not only get discouraged, but you might even hurt yourself. For those of you who are shopping around for a new fitness program, look no further – Tae Bo is fun and effective. Plus, with so many different DVDs available, you’ll never get bored or plateau. Should you find your mind wandering or your weight loss stalling, just try another workout.

A word of caution – Tae Bo certainly isn’t without its flaws. The production quality isn’t the best (this is especially true with the earlier videos). Billy also tends to switch quickly from one move to the next, and to do uneven repetitions on each side (a problem he has yet to resolve). Nonetheless, this is the best workout series I’ve tried. It’s transformed me from a couch potato to a fitness freak!

(This review was originally published on Amazon. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)

DVD Review: Tae Bo Cardio, Billy Blanks (2003)

Tuesday, May 10th, 2005

Tae Bo buffs, beware – suitable for beginners only!

three out of five stars

I’ve been doing Tae Bo for 15 months now – I started with the original 4-pack, and after about nine months graduated to the Tae Bo II: Get Ripped Advanced and Tae Bo Ultimate Abs/Butt DVDs. I borrowed “Tae Bo Cardio” from my local library, and all I can say is that I’m extremely relieved that I didn’t shell out any money for it!

This is definitely not for experienced Tae Bo buffs. Despite its name (maybe it’s just me, but “Cardio” implies a fast-paced, intensive workout, no?), this DVD is definitely for beginners. The pace is very slow and I never did work up a sweat. In fact, I think some of the Basic workouts might be more difficult than this! Also, I’m not generally a huge fan of Billy’s musical selections, but it usually seems to fit with the workout – it helps me keep count and maintain motivation, even though it’s not something I’d listen to outside of Tae Bo. Yet, the music in “Tae Bo Cardio” was simply grating, annoying, and overwhelming – not at all inspirational. Perhaps that’s because, being accustomed to more difficult workouts, I didn’t really need much inspiration to get through this one.

Nonetheless, Tae Bo novices might like “Tae Bo Cardio.” It’s much easier to keep up with than are most other TB workouts, and runs at a steady pace. Even though I wasn’t too happy with it, I’m giving it three stars because it seems like a suitable DVD for newbies. They lose one star for the deceptive title, though. I can only imagine how peeved I’d be right now had I actually paid for this DVD! I’m currently shopping around for some new TB DVDs, but am hesitant to buy anything else with “Cardio” in the title (e.g., “Tae Bo Cardio Circuit” or “Tae Bo Fat Blasting Cardio”). If Billy calls this “cardio,” I’m better off sticking with Advanced workouts!

(This review was originally published on Amazon. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)

DVD Review: Tae Bo: Ultimate Abs/Butt, Billy Blanks (2003)

Tuesday, May 10th, 2005

Good targeted workout for Tae Bo buffs

four out of five stars

Tae Bo Ultimate Abs/Butt” is a great targeted workout for Tae Bo enthusiasts who have already mastered many of the moves. If you’re new to Tae Bo, this isn’t the workout for you – Billy switches from one exercise to the next fairly quickly, giving you little time to recover in between segments. Nor does he explain the correct form for many of the moves (most of which you should be familiar with if you’ve worked your way through another TB video or two). The two 55-minute workouts on this DVD also test your endurance, so if you’re out of shape, a newbie to TB, or have a hard time with the Basic workouts, you should hold off on “Tae Bo Ultimate Abs/Butt.”

That said, those who have been doing Tae Bo for some time will enjoy these “new” workouts, even though there isn’t any new footage to speak of. Rather, Billy and his crew have gathered 55 minutes of the best abdominal and gluteal exercises from previous videos and edited them together into two separate workouts. Each consists of a roughly 5 minute warmup, followed by 30+ minutes of kicking and/or punching, 15-20 minutes of floor exercises, and a quick 3-5 minute cool down.

Each workout does a great job of targeting and working the desired areas. I especially like the variety of floor exercises in the Ultimate Abs workout – rather than doing a zillion crunches, Billy mixes it up a bit and introduces a number of new exercises. Unfortunately, the floor portion of the Ultimate Butt workout just repeats the same two exercises over and over – be prepared to do plenty of to-the-side leg lifts and roundhouse kicks, with a couple of other drills sprinkled in here and there!

However, “Tae Bo Ultimate Abs/Butt” isn’t quite perfect. Like many Tae Bo workouts, some of the exercises are repeated more on one side than the other, and some are only done on one side, period! This is really unforgivable – since the tape was edited together, Billy and his production assistants could (SHOULD) have hunted around for the best examples of each exercise. For each uneven set, I could easily think of another video on which the set was performed with equal repetitions on each side. Also, the editing is a little choppy – before one segment is over (i.e., before you’ve reached the last 8-count), the class is already starting on the next exercises. This makes it quite difficult to maintain the correct form and do the entire set. Of course, after doing the workout a few times, you learn to anticipate these difficulties and compensate for them. Yet, it’s still a major gripe – they had the opportunity to fix many of the problems present in their live/complete workouts and still they dropped the ball. C’mon, guys, listen to your loyal followers already!

(This review was originally published on Amazon. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)

DVD Review: Tae Bo II: Get Ripped Advanced Workout, Billy Blanks (2001)

Tuesday, May 10th, 2005

Take your Tae Bo workout to the next level!

five out of five stars

Buyers beware: “Tae Bo II: Get Ripped Advanced” is not for newbies! If you’re just starting out, pick up the original 4-pack, start with the Instructional video, move on to the Basic and Advanced workouts once you have the moves down, and don’t even think about buying “Tae Bo II: Get Ripped Advanced” until you can do the Advanced workout without feeling nauseous or faint! It took me six months to graduate from the Basic to the Advanced workout (yes, I was SERIOUSLY out of shape!), and another three months of doing the Advanced workout before I gave “Tae Bo II: Get Ripped Advanced” a go. Even then, it kicked my butt. I’ve been doing it for about six months now, and I LOVE it!

“Tae Bo II: Get Ripped Advanced” features two great 55-minute workouts – Tae Bo II: Get Ripped Advanced 1 and Tae Bo II: Get Ripped Advanced 2 (these naming schemes are starting to get confusing, no?). Each is extremely fast-paced and neither leaves you much time to catch your breath in between segments. This is a good thing – the more exercises they can cram into the DVD, the further my dollar goes. Plus, there’s always the pause button if you start to get winded to the point of nausea.

I went from 140 to 120 pounds while doing the original Basic and Advanced workouts (just for reference, I’m female and a shorty at 5’4″). By the time I started the Get Ripped series, I definitely wasn’t overweight, but I wanted better muscle tone – and Get Ripped delivered! Since I started this DVD, I’ve lost an additional 10 pounds and have developed good-sized biceps and surprisingly strong legs. Though you won’t get as ripped as Shellie, Debbie, and Michelle (hey, they all weight train, too!), you will see a difference.

As an added bonus, there’s also a 8-minute power workout included. Actually, it really runs 15-minutes – there’s a 7-minute warmup that for some reason isn’t factored into the total running time.

My main gripe with this TB DVD is the same as always – Billy sometimes neglects to repeat an exercise the same number of times on each side. This can of course be remedied by alternating your starting side so that one day your left side does more work, the next day your right side gets more reps, and so on. Otherwise, an awesome workout!

(This review was originally published on Amazon. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)