[By Cindy Gillard]
#1: 30 Day Shred with Jillian Michaels
Lose Up to 20 Pounds in 30 Days! That’s the ambitious claim on the cover of Jillian’s 30 Day Shred workout. Realistically, that’s probably not going to happen for most people — unless they aggressively diet too — and even then, 2 pounds a week would be a more achievable weight loss to aim for. That said, Jillian has designed three tough workouts, using her 3-2-1 Interval System, that should build muscle and burn calories if done regularly. Each 27.5 minute workout is composed of three 6-minute circuits: three minutes of total body strength training exercises, 2 minutes of high-impact cardio drills, one minute of ab exercises. The workouts increase in intensity, so the idea is to start with Level 1 and when that gets too easy, move on to Level 2, and eventually to Level 3. Once you’re a gung ho advanced exerciser, you can do all three back to back for a true challenge.
The format is identical for all three Levels of 30 Day Shred workouts. Each workout opens with a very short (really too short) warm-up, and ends with the identical sequence of stretches. Each 3-minute strength circuit presents four sets of two different exercises; the first usually focuses on upper body, the second is often an upper/lower body combination exercise. Both exercises are repeated before moving onto cardio. In all three workouts, the lower body is worked with squats and lunges, often paired with an upper body move. In Level 1, chest and shoulders get 4 sets each, back and biceps get two each. In Level 2, back and shoulders get 4 sets each, chest and biceps get two each. The exercises get harder with each level, and by Level 3 many upper body exercises use body weight rather than dumbbells — boot camp style. Triceps are not worked with isolation exercises in any workout, though they assist the chest muscles during the many sets of push-ups, squat thrusts, mountain climbers and plank jacks.
In the 2-minute cardio blasts, two different moves are alternated for 30 seconds each. These drills are high impact — jogging with high knees, jumping jacks, jump rope — with some modifications shown. Abs are worked on the floor with a variety of exercises, from classic ab crunches to variations on planks.
#2: 30 Minutes to Fitness with Kelly Coffey-Meyer (2008)
On this versatile DVD, packed with bonus premixes, Kelly Coffey-Meyer has designed two complementary weight training workouts that can be alternated daily or done back to back on the same day when you’ve got an hour to spare. Workout 1 targets the back, legs and chest while Workout 2 focuses on biceps, triceps and shoulders in a unique and time-efficient format. The strong beat of the music drives each 30-minute workout, as Kelly moves quickly from one exercise to the next, circuit training style. You’ll recognize most of the exercises, although Kelly adds her own flavor to old standards, tweaking them just a bit to keep things interesting.
In each workout, each muscle group gets 6 sets — 2 sets of three different exercises. The exercises are arranged in three-set circuits, moving from muscle group to the next within in each circuit. Each three-set circuit is performed twice, immediately followed by two minutes of active rest — standing ab exercises in the main workouts. Sets are either 8 or 16 reps, so you can go heavier for strength, or lighter for muscle endurance, but keep your dumbbells close by because there’s not much time to change weights within a circuit unless you’re really fast.
The best part of 30 Minutes to Fitness is Kelly’s creativity with premixes. First she offers the option of doing each workout with different active rests. Instead of doing 2 minutes of standing abs between circuits, you have the choice of doing either 2 minutes of low-impact cardio, or 2 minutes of floor abs. This gives you six different workouts to choose from. But there’s more. If you want a total body workout, one premix plays each strength circuit once, separated by all 6 standing ab active rests. Two other premixes offer total body strength workouts without any active rests; one includes all 12 circuits, the other only 8. You also have the option of doing a longer warm-up, (7.5 minutes, using the low-impact cardio rests from the Workout 2 premix), and a tough 12-minute floor ab routine (using all the active rests from the premixes).
#3: Results Fitness 10 Days to a Better Body
Cindy Whitmarsh’s goal for you with this Results Fitness interval training workout is to improve your cardio endurance and efficiently burn calories by quickly alternating 1-minute cardio intervals with 1-minute strength training sets. Upper and lower body are worked separately in two 35-minute workouts, which can be used on alternating days, or performed back to back on the same day for an intense challenge. Cindy works you hard, moving through the intervals quickly yet smoothly. Her friendly, upbeat one-on-one teaching style makes each workout enjoyable and effective.
Each workout alternates 13 strength building exercises with 13 cardio intervals. Since each strength exercise is done for a minute, the number of reps per set varies from 16 to 24. Cindy includes a few balance challenges and core exercises in each workout. Each cardio interval features one move that is repeated for the entire minute. Cindy starts with a low-impact version, then escalates to a higher-impact version that usually involves jumps and hops. You can follow either one, or alternate between the two moves if you’re getting tired.
The lower body workout is based on compound exercises that use multiple muscle groups simultaneously — you’ll be doing three types of squats, three variations on deadlifts and two types of lunges. For these strength sets you’ll be holding your heavier weights. Since you’re using the same large lower body muscles for both the cardio and the strength intervals, the lower body workout is more intense. Although your heart rate may drop when you switch from cardio to weights, and raise again when you return to cardio, this difference probably won’t be as dramatic during the lower body workout as during the upper body workout, where you’ll stop moving your feet and focus on working smaller muscle groups.
In the upper body workout, each muscle is targeted individually, although a couple of sets work shoulders and biceps together. The back gets three exercises, shoulders get four, biceps and triceps two each, and chest one — a set of push ups.