Purchasing this Body Blast DVD and the full-body one was my first experience using Mary Helen's workouts, and I really like them. The soothing classical piano music, the lovely white set, and Mary Helen's soft voice make for two workouts that are pleasant -- even while Mary Helen is killing you! These might look easy, but they are tough!
As other reviewers have noted, these are not ballet exercises, but more toning/strengthening exercises. All you need to do this workout and the Total Body one is a mat.
The Body Blast DVD includes four fifteen-minute segments: Swan Arms, 15-Minute Total Body Blast, Butt Blast 1, and Butt Blast 2.
Since I've personally found it really hard to do the two Butt Blast segments back-to-back, my big tip is to start with Butt Blast 2, then go back to the main menu and "Play All" so that you then do then do Swan Arms, the Total Body Blast, and Butt Blast 1. Doing the workout this way allows my glutes and legs to get a nice break between the two Butt Blast segments so that I can complete the whole workout -- and still walk the next day! ;-)
If you are familiar with Tracey Anderson's workouts, the two Butt Blast segments on the Blasts DVD reminded me a lot of Tracey's Metamorphosis Hipcentric workout, where you work your legs from an all-fours position. I got great results using Tracey's Hipcentric before I had to stop it due to back strain, but because Mary Helen uses slower pacing, her workout seems much easier on my back. I do have some wrist pain when doing these two segments, but Mary Helen says that you can go down to your forearms if you need to.
For each exercises, you will do four sets of eight repetitions. Mary Helen counts each and every rep, which some people might not like, but I've found that it helps me get into the rhythm of the moves. She also repeats the same phrases, and I could see how that might get old after a while.
If you like these, you might also like Leah Sarago's Ballet Body workouts (Ballet Body Signature Series Upper Body Workout, Ballet Body Signature Series Core Body Workout, and Ballet Body Signature Series Lower Body Workout), which are equally challenging, but equally fun.
I've also had really great results recently using these. When I first got them, I didn't do them on a regular basis, but just recently, I was sick and didn't feel like doing any cardio. I only did MHB's two DVDs for about three weeks (with no cardio) -- and my legs and arms really tightened up! I feel like I had better results in just three weeks with MHB's workouts than I did with 42 days of Tracey Anderson's Hipcentric. Mary Helen is like the poor woman's Tracy Anderson! (I realize that the two methods are very different since TA has you changing up your workouts every ten days, but the Ballet Beautiful workouts seem to work better for me!)
I also love how graceful I feel after doing these! I haven't taken a ballet class since I was about five, but I feel like a ballerina doing these!
UPDATE ON 6-6-15: If you search YouTube, the Be Fit channel has several segments from this and the Total Body DVD on their channel so you can watch them for free and try them out before buying the DVD. :)
UPDATE ON 7-13-15: Cathe Friedrich (another wonderful instructor who puts out top-notch workout DVDs) just published an article in her weekly newsletter, stating that the best exercises for building the glutes without making the thighs/quads bigger are bridges (which Mary Helen does a lot of on her Total Body DVD) and quadruped hip extensions (which are the exercises that Mary Helen does in the two Butt Blast segments on this Blasts DVD). No wonder these workouts help build a nice, round posterior! The article, in case you want to search for it (unfortunately, Amazon doesn't allow us to provide links to outside sites in our reviews) is called "Can You Build Glutes Without Increasing the Size of Your Thighs?" and it was published on Cathe's website on July 12, 2015.
on May 12, 2013
I got this dvd along with the "Total Body Workout" one. Both (at the time) came to a total of something like $20. Best $20 I ever spent!
Mary Helen Bowers is someone you could picture being the perfect friend to work out with. She has an incredible body and relentless focus/dedication, but also a very sensible, great philosophy about working out, food, body image, etc. She encourages self-acceptance, taking things at your own pace, and maintaining a lifestyle that you can easily sustain over years rather than some 'push yourself to death for 2 months' regime (as though THAT'S going to work long-term!!). As a result, I know some people might find these workouts not "energizing" enough but personally, this is exactly what I was looking for. I don't like working out (in the typical sense), I HATE cardio, I didn't want to be shouted at or forced to pump my booty to stupid club music in ways that made me sure to draw the curtains (TIGHTLY) every time I worked out - I just wanted to integrate a good workout into my daily life and gain strength and grace without looking/feeling totally ridiculous.
That being said, the first few weeks of her workouts will likely have you feeling like a floundering whale while she glides through the exercises - the first time I did the bridge series (working abs, butt, thighs, calves, all in one), I was in pain for three days afterwards - but it's sooooo satisfying and exciting to notice yourself improving and thinking, "Hey, I used to be unable to complete this set with her and now I can keep up!" I've never had muscles like these (even when I was really into yoga/hot yoga, jogging, etc.) so it's cool to feel strong and energetic as well as slim!
Now that I'm familiar with the workouts on these dvds, I usually don't even need the mat or the dvd: I just pop on my ipod, flop down on the carpet, and do 15-30 minutes of these exercises with Mary Helen's voice in the background of my mind ("Engage!"). Couldn't be easier! This means that it's the first time in my life I have sustained a consistent workout pattern for over 6 months, and the results are obvious and incredibly motivating. I've lost almost 20 pounds in 8 months (and at 5'8 and 140, it's not like I had much to lose, or so I thought) and I get lots of comments on how lean and toned I look now.
Some disclaimers so no one's disappointed: no, this is not a ballet class. It's ballet-based exercises. I think that's fairly obvious if you research the dvd even a little bit, but some people seemed to be expecting something else. Furthermore, don't be surprised if your weight actually goes UP when you first start this workout (for the first month or so): as we're all well aware now, muscle weighs a lot more than flab so until your new muscles start burning off fat (and they will), you'll weigh a bit more as you gain strength. To that effect, you'd be better off ignoring the scale altogether for a while; instead, go by how you feel and how your clothes fit so you stay motivated and see positive results. And lastly, some people have noted that you would need to add cardio to these workouts to get a complete fitness regimen: to an extent, I disagree. If you are looking to burn lots of fat/lose a ton of weight, yes, you probably will need some extra source of calorie-burning, like extra cardio. But contrary to what many fitness buffs would have you believe, the average human body doesn't need to be pushed to the limits of breathlessness to be healthy. There are definite cardio elements in these workouts in the true 'cardiovascular' sense - i.e. working the whole body and getting the heart rate up - so I feel like that's enough for me.
Thanks for everything, Mary Helen!
*Update: April 29, 2014 - It's been almost a year since I wrote the above review and I'm still enjoying the DVDs in this series and continuing to see great results. I think they are a very good exercise not only physically but mentally - you learn to be patient and stick with yourself for the long haul. This is no crash diet or speed-slimming approach. It's a way to build and strengthen your muscles in ways that last years, rather than weeks. Ditto for flexibility - when I first tried to stretch along with Mary Helen (note: PAUSE the DVD, she stretches way too fast if you're not a ballerina), I was hopelessly stiff; now I'm about 70% to where she is in her stretches. Hope the next year brings me even closer to my goals!
on December 12, 2012
I absolutely cannot say enough good things about the Ballet Beautiful Body Blast. It truly transformed my body in a way I truly didn't think would be possible. Like, obliterated cellulite! Mary Helen Bowers is a genius. I am not a dancer but found the format really easy to follow and the exercises make me feel graceful and totally lean. It is the BEST!
on May 23, 2015
Let me start by saying I only did the Butt Series, focusing mostly on Series I as the back of my legs and butt are my biggest trouble area. I'm toned from the bellybutton up, but from my hip bone to my knees I'm a flabby, cellulite-ridden mess.
In a nutshell...my problems: droopy/wide/square butt, horrible saddlebags, cellulite and dimples from the top of my butt to the back of my knees. The results: dimples gone, cellulite pretty much obliterated, round and lifted butt. After doing Butt Series I 5x a week for 3 weeks. Insane!! I checked the back of my legs in several mirrors and in all different kinds of lighting because I couldn't believe the cellulite (I'd had since I was 15) was gone.
While I did also do 30-45 minutes of cardio 3-4x/week and was eating sensibly, I have never seen results like this no matter how many butt workout programs and diets I've done. I was a die-hard fan of Brazil Butt Lift, Slim n 6 and Julian Michaels. While I still love them for other reasons, nothing has sucked out the cellulite and lifted my butt like this. The repetition and intention of movement with MHB's butt series shaped my booty quicker than anything I've ever experienced!!
I started and stopped this workout several times over the past couple of years. It was so hard that I quit after a workout or two. This time I committed and now I can wear shorts without back-of-the-leg cellulite. I'm excited to see what will happen after another 3 weeks.
on January 19, 2013
I started with Mary Helen Bowers' Total Body Workout DVD and then finally bought this one. I honestly thought it might be a waste of money because I saw a preview clip online and thought it was just be a repeat of Total Body and then the rest would be simple versions of Tracy Anderson moves, but I was wrong. This DVD will kick your butt (and arms, and back, and everything else) Body Blast makes it burn, but it's an amazing burn.
I wrote a review for the Total Body workout and talked about how Ballet Beautiful compares to Tracy Anderson--but I do want to say that I get excited to do Ballet Beautiful more than I've ever been excited to work out. It doesn't make me dread it and I think it's her relaxed, graceful attitude that I find very motivating and welcoming. Tracy's workouts require me to think more about the move and in general it's just more complicated. Yes, that makes a good workout, BUT Mary Helen Bowers has come up with some very simple but powerful moves that tone, elongate, and kick your muscles into shape. It's almost relaxing just in the fact that it's uncomplicated, except you will find yourself trying to imagine you are in another world so you don't have to feel the intense pain and trembling going on from all the reps. I think the classical music also helps me focus on the workout and inspires me, as I said in the other review, it does make you feel like a ballerina. Mary Helen's voice is also very soothing. :)
Also, I'm convinced the Swan Arms combined with the arm segment in Total Body are all a person needs to get trim, toned arms. You don't need pushups, you don't need weights. What this does is gives you that sculpted but feminine ballerina body.
I want Mary Helen Bowers to make more workout DVDs! Love them!
on July 30, 2013
If you want a dancer's body that is strong and yet bulk-free, this is it. This DVD is the shangri-la! Mary Helen Bowers will help you get there. Even before practicing this DVD's workout, I have been a pretty athletic person. Running for an hour straight on a treadmill? No problem. I have also been doing that crazy (I mean it in the best way) Jillian's cardio workout series. But I was getting worried that my legs were getting too bulky. I realized that I needed something totally different in order to get those long, lean, dancer's body that I wanted. So I bought this DVD.
But oh boy, my first time through this workout - I was cursing like crazy and had to stop every five seconds because my muscles were BURNING. Seriously, you probably don't know what "burning" really means if you haven't done this workout series.
I have been doing this workout almost every day for two weeks now, and I still cannot do the fourth 15min workout without pausing very often.
This DVD is amazing, believe me.
Since the workouts are broken into four 15-min parts, doing this workout is completely stress-free to me. I know that this 15min will pass super quickly. That convenience and effective use of time make me want to continue doing this workout.
Here's a tip in having a long, lean, dancer's body like Mary Helen: in her home page, Mary Helen advises us to not run or ride a bicycle or do any exercise of that sort. She says that Ballet Beautiful will be sufficient.
The complementary Ballet Beautiful Total Body Workout is also very good in its own standing, especially for sculpting the inner and outer thighs. I'm just a little disappointed that there are some exercises in which the two DVDs overlap. Other than that, I highly, highly recommend that you purchase this DVD as well as the complementary Total Body Workout DVD.
I'd heard about Mary Helen Bowers helping Natalie Portman get in shape for Black Swan, and I saw an interview she did on tv and I thought she seemed intelligent and personable, which are all important things for a fitness instructor. She also seemed calm! I am so over the super hyper people in fitness videos that act like they are coked up or something. I am more of a meditative, yoga enthusiast so I prefer a calming workout. Unfortunately, a slow and calming workout isn't going to burn fat super fast... So there's Ballet Beautiful, which looks calm out the outside but is KILLER on the inside.
Have you ever watched a swan? On the water it seems to glide along effortlessly, calmly, elegantly. Have you ever seen a swan's feet paddling under water? They are kicking furiously with all their might, but you can't see them because they are under the water, under the body of the swan. All we see is the beauty, but if we tried to do it ourselves we would realize that its extremely difficult.
I like to watch a workout dvd before I try to do it, so I know what to expect. I'm terribly clumsy so I need to know how much of my furniture I need to move. When I first watched this DVD, especially the swan arms series, I thought I'd just wasted my money. It looked too easy! Mary Helen Bowers is so graceful that she makes each movement look effortless. When I actually did the exercises the next day I realized that I was sooo wrong! During each series you do a ton of reps of each movement to build stamina and to sculpt faster. After the first time I used it I was SO sore afterwards. I couldn't even complete some of the sets, and I am someone who works out 7 days a week. I definitely have some issues with stamina though so I am looking forward to being able to do more after I've mastered the exercises on this dvd. I love a challenge and a lot of the pilates and yoga dvds I've used are too easy.
I do want to mention that an exercise beginner could definitely do this dvd. But if this is you, don't expect too much of yourself and push yourself too hard. Don't get discouraged if you can't complete the set. I have had this dvd for a while now and I find it difficult to complete sets, if I am able to complete them at all. I have been practicing yoga and pilates daily for 10 years now. Work within your comfort level and take breaks. You can see MHB taking breaks too and getting visibly tired! She's been doing ballet her whole life and she admits that this is HER go-to workout. So that's saying something about the efficacy and challenge right there. With exercise, you get back what you put in!
The exercises themselves are very similar to pilates, but are ballet-like in movement. Its really enjoyable to watch and to do. After the first time I could definitely feel the work I did in muscles I don't normally use in my other workouts.
One of my favorite things about the dvd was that it wasn't cheesy and MHB doesn't act like a cheerleader the whole time. The sets are clean and all the focus is on the exercise. There isn't a whole lot of ridiculous dancing around or yelling into the camera. There's no cheesy music either thank goodness. Its very calming and relaxing and all the focus is on the exercise. Its just what I was looking for and everything I'd hoped it would be. I love that you can turn off MHB's narration if you want to and just do the exercises while listening to classical music. So nice after a long day and all you want to do is work out and get inside your own head and not have to listen to other voices.
on December 27, 2013
This was the first video of Mary Helen Bowers that I have used and still love! I had been exercising at the gym and running and then doing lots of Jillian Michael's videos. I am in my late 40's and one thing I have noticed with my workouts and with other women my age is that it seems to shift us more to bulk up--I have a real tendency to do this. While my husband loses weight with exercise, I put on weight with muscle, which is really not the look I am going for. The Ballet Beautiful series has been great at lengthening and toning my muscles--my husband has even noticed and commented frequently!
I must admit that this can be at times excruciatingly hard, all while she is just smiling away doing leg lifts. The workouts look like a joke--they remind me of ones Joan Crawford would do in The Women-but they are harder than most. For instance the Swan Arms look like you are just playing around and by the end you are burning! I find that I do better sometimes in this series by stopping the tape and doing extra stretches--especially with the outter leg series as I have had troubles with my hip. I also want to say that these workouts have really helped me with knee and hip injuries I have gotten from running.
I love this workout and have become addicted to it. The music is sort of meditative, as is her demeanor. I have been recommending it to all of my friends, especially those who like Pilates. I also love that I can just do them for free (all you need is a mat and for some weights) on my own time and that each video can be broken down into 15 minutes, 30 minutes or 1 hour workouts depending on how much time you have. They are great for travel, which I do a lot of. I also am reminded of my ballet classes as a teen and it makes me want to improve my posture and form. Thanks Mary!
on November 30, 2014
You will most definitely get a workout from this, and will see results very quickly. My only issue is this: I've noticed on Part Two of the butt series, the left side is worked much more than the right. I have no idea why you wouldn't do the same exercises for the same number of reps on each side, and wonder why this was not caught during editing.
on August 13, 2014
If you're prone to laziness like I am and you don't enjoy 99% of the workout videos out there, give Ballet Beautiful a shot.
The lighting, simplicity, and lack of cheesy hip hop music make it for me. If you need the Backstreet Boys-esque dance moves and loud thumping music to keep you motivated, you probably will find this too repetitive and boring- it's just a matter of taste. But if you're like me and need a calm, yet toning work out that uses essentially no props, you'll enjoy Mary Helen's videos.
Everything looks deceptively simple. "Psh, I can wave my arms around like that for DAYS, no problem." And then, after 30 seconds of waving your arms like a swan (or a drowning swimmer in my case), your biceps feel they're going to explode.
I can make it halfway through the third section but then I need a decent break/stretch. It's pretty killer. Go easy on yourself and don't feel like you have to do all of the reps. Let's be honest, if you're a newbie like me, you physically won't be able to, even if you want to. Just do as many as you can and stretch often.
She does stretch pretty quickly and jump into the next workout, and she says the same phrases over and over again like, "Take a minute, grab a sip of water." It doesn't bother me though, once I start the workout I get into the flow of it all.
Now I wake up in the morning, roll down my mat in front of the TV, and alternate between the body blast and full body dvds. I'm sore everywhere and feel more in tune with my posture throughout the day.