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on July 18, 2005
I've used this DVD about five times now and am finally appreciating the benefits. It wasn't love at first sight - I was very frustrated the first couple times and even quit midway. In the cardio sequences, Karen often starts a new move before giving the signal, leaving you stranded behind your step. It's very off-putting. Nevertheless, I forced myself to hang with it and am glad I did. As other reviewers mentioned, the complete workout (55 min) is a nice challenge for an intermediate exerciser. I'm starting to be able to anticipate her moves so the poor cueing is becoming less of an issue.

The weight-training component is unique, which keeps me interested (not your standard bicep curls...) and targets areas that my other DVDs do not (see my other reviews). However, I really have to pay attention to form (not that that's a bad thing) - some of the moves are unusual and a bit tricky; others are very subtle movements, requiring concentration to feel a burn. Also, there aren't many reps so you have to make the most of each.

I find that the pacing on the step movements is unusually fast (normally, I want to move at the same speed or faster than the instructor). One one hand, I like that this routine makes me hustle but it's harder to keep good form and a bit taxing on the body. So I do not recommend it for someone who wants to minimize the impact on joints.

The music, set, and background are neutral to good - nothing amazing but not drawbacks. I like that the set is simple and well-lit and that there are only two people behind Karen. I haven't noticed any poor form on their part, which helps me to concentrate on mine. The overall mood is serious/professional but they'll flash a smile here and there.

I'd say this is a high-intermediate/low-advanced workout because the cardio movements are so rapid. By the final cardio sequence ("the tick/tock") I am approaching my breaking point. Karen works up a sweat in this workout, which I find comforting. Both the warm-up and cool-down (before abs) should be a couple minutes longer. The ability to split the DVD into two workouts - 34 minute cardio and 32 minute weight-training is a nice feature. While it has its issues, this DVD is a good value at around $10.
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on February 4, 2005
As I am the first to review this, let me say that this is an awesome fun workout. Definitely intermediate to advanced. There's much variety with this DVD. There's a choice of just doing the 32 min cardio, which is just using the step. Then there's a choice of the 32 minute weights. Lastly there's a choice of the full 56 minute workout, which can also be broken down with the a la carte menu...

Warm-up: 5 1/2min

Cardio: 32 min (w/warm-up)

Weights: 32 min (w/warm-up)

Abs: 6 min

Butt/Legs: 3 3/4 min

Cool down: 3 3/4 min

I'm new to KV and this is my second DVD of hers. My first is her Great weighted workout which is also really intense. The background to this Ultimate Step Circuit is a barn like set up but who cares, the workout is fun and the music is upbeat. She cues you in to all the moves. There's one guy and a girl, who may have been in her earlier workouts. You need a step and one set of heavy (5-10lbs) and one set of lighter (3-5lbs) weights. When u do the total workout, you do first cardio/weights's nice the way she breaks it down. KV is sooooooo defined and toned. Just to give u an idea of my level of workouts, I alternate with this DVD, and KV great weighted workout, Tamilee Webbs Weight Loss, Bootcamp and Crunch Pilates...all fun workouts. I hope all the dedicated exercisers buy this DVD or preview it on Collage. Always preview so you know what you're getting. I definitely give this 5 stars.
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on June 22, 2008
I got this after I finished taking an aerobics class to keep with it, and I thought it was okay after several tries, but it's definitely more advanced than I was ready for. I've used it a few times, but often get frustrated and just turn on some music for my cardio circuit instead. I read all the great reviews, but nothing (at the time) was mentioned about it being for a more advanced stepper. My issues with it (as a beginning-intermediate stepper) were that she switched to new choreography too quickly and often without a good explanation of what she was doing (mostly during cardio circuit, she's better at describing during the strength circuit). I also felt like I had to keep my eye on the TV the whole time because there weren't enough audio cues, which is really difficult when you're constantly switching directions. By the time I figured out one step, she'd moved on to something else, so I wasn't getting a complete workout. I'm sure it's fine for advanced steppers or maybe just more coordinated people, but I'm going to try a different video for now.
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on April 2, 2006
This is a great workout for someone that gets bored easily while working out. The constant cardio then weight segments keep my mind off the clock. I have only done it 5 times and everyone is noticing! This works fast! If you want to buy just one DVD, get this one!
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on April 22, 2006
Because I exercise at home rather than a gym, I need motivation, fun and yet a tough enough instructor to make me sweat. Karen is such an instructor. She is such a clear cuer and talks ahead of the next move so you know what's comming up.

This workout alternates fast cardio intervals with toning moves. They are tough but worth it. The aerobic intervals are between 7-9 minutes and each one gets a little tougher. The toning segments are shorter but work multi muscle groups. There is a great workout for the abs that will kill. You'll need for the workout some dumbells, and a lot of energy. This is a great workout to do often as you will definately get the results you want. I love this workout.
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on January 31, 2007
The first time I tried this video, I was extremely annoyed - her cuing is absolutely awful on this one. She tells you what she's doing next as she already starts doing it - no warning at all! So the first couple times I did this video, I cursed her the whole time. However, once I got it down, I realized that it is a really good, high-impact workout. I have a lot of step videos, and this one keeps my heart rate higher than any of the rest. It is really fast-paced, as other reviewers have mentioned. You're definitely stepping quicker than in most other step videos, and the routines are strenuous, with a lot of jumps - however, you can usually substitute lower impact moves if you don't prefer to do the jumps. As for the weight section, if you do it in conjunction with the step portions, it is somewhat difficult, because your heart rate gets up pretty high and then you go right into weight lifting - this makes the weight lifting parts seem hard because you're already huffing and puffing, but on their own, I don't feel like I get a good total body weight lifting workout from this video. Some of the body parts are only worked on for a few minutes, and in moves that don't seem like they're doing much for me. I recommend this video more for the step aerobics than for the weight portion.
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on July 10, 2006
I'm 35 years old and started stepping in the early 90's but I haven't stepped in 5 years. This workout took me a few workouts to catch on and if I had to give some advice to make it easier to learn I would say...set the step up so you're facing the TV and mirror her feet and body to get the moves. I was really confused trying to decipher left and right and when I mirrored her, I got it instantly! I got this DVD because of the great reviews and doing this workout brought all the reasons I used to love to step back and made me sweat. I'm not very articulate with giving a review and I rarely do but I have to say, in the past 7 days of doing this workout (everyday because I'm addicted!) I have trimmed down a great deal and I'm more relaxed and happy. Probably just a release of good endorphins from doing something that is thoroughly enjoyable. I love it and just thought it deserved some credit.
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on February 4, 2014
My review is only for the "complete workout". This dvd has different options/premixes you can choose from (like Cathe's dvds).

Workout Options (noted on back of DVD):

-Complete Circuit (56 min)-this is the one I am reviewing
-Cardio Circuit (32 min)
-Strength Circuit (32 min)
-A La Carte Segments ("If you're short on time, the A La Carte menu brings you straight to the segments you want most")-time not noted. This is most likely where you can choose exactly what parts to do from the whole dvd. :)

I love Karen Voight and I own many of her workouts. I like that her step and aerobics are not too complicated or dancey which is why I often choose her workouts to do for the day!

The warm up is nice and not too long. The step is more basic than Cathe's so its easy to follow if you are not new to step. If you are new to step, then you may need to rewind a few times, but the steps are very easy to follow just after the 1st try. I felt like the step circuit combos went by really fast. They weren't too high impact to me, but more of a good solid intermediate. You can always modify by using a higher inch step (I used a 6 inch and still got a good workout).

The weight segments weren't too long, but she works them well considering the short amount of time you are working them. I felt the burn really good with the shoulder segment! :)

The abs segment and short lower body (done on the step) were also very good and challanging. Time flew by really fast with this one! Her cuing was off a few times which is only why I gave it 4 stars, but it wasn't too bad where you couldn't keep up. ;) Remember, if you are a Cathe fan, then you would know that her step is way more complicated and sometimes it would take me 4 times of doing the workout until I really could follow without having to stop and rewind! ;)

Overall solid A and great workout. I felt refreshed and not out of breath with this one but still felt a great burn!
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on June 19, 2006
Oh my gosh, this is probably one of the best workout DVD's EVER and I'm addicted to The Firm. The instructor is upbeat and she is REAL... she's even SWEATING along with the rest of us. There are nO thong leotards to be seen, and each exercise was easy to follow... I love the movements, everything.
I recommend, however, that if you're relatively new to step, WATCH each segment for a minute to figure out the step routine and then rewind and try it yourself.
Also, if a move is tricky, try it on the floor before going up on the step. When you're trying to learn a new move - Like I was with this DVD - it's safer and easier to try the steps on the floor. This was extremely easy to follow and I really enjoyed it! I can't wait to work out to it tonight. :)
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on February 4, 2007
Karen Voight is excellent in this DVD on multiple levels. She cues early enough, but not too early. Her techinque is impeccable - always reminding you of proper form so as to avoid injury. Her cardio is challenging, and she offers varying levels of intensity. Her weight training is awesome, and always gives a good burn. This DVD is one of my favorite b/c I always know I'm going to end up with a good workout in the end. Being an aerobics instructor myself, I would say that Karen Voight is one of my favorites. I have many of her workout DVDs. She rocks.
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