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on June 5, 2005
This workout is led by Ellen Barrett, who is best known for her appearances in the Crunch Pilates workouts. She is back with two fellow exercisers in this workout filmed on a beach in Mexico.

This workout is about 30 minutes long and contains 3 segments. I would describe it as more of a toning video with pilates inspired movements. The first segment is more toning, you will see 3 giant sets of exercises, each performed slightly different. The first includes traditional bicep curls, side lateral raises for shoulders, then squats some of which include some of which include some standing ab work. The second set has more biceps, this time hammer curls, side lateral raises for shoulders but with a slightly different twist, and step squats. The third set has angled bicep curls, overhead presses and pulsing squats.

The second segment has more pilates inspired moves, plenty of standing ab work using light weights such as torso circles and ribcage reaches. This segment also includes more toning exercises for arms, but ones that are more commonly seen in pilates work like the zipup, half moons, arm slices, lat pulldowns, figure 8 arms, etc. You will also see some plies, pushups and static lunges in this segment.

The third segment is the shortest of the three and does not use any weights. You start with plyo jumps, basically jumping from one leg to the other, then you will do another set of jumps this time holding briefly and then returning to standing while on the one leg. While you are standing on one leg you will do "figure 8 knees" which are pretty self explanatory. One legged squats follow, and then you repeat the series a few more times. Then you finish off with standing knee cross crunches before cooling down.

There is also a bonus pilates abs routine that Ellen teaches on her own. It is short and sweet, not particularly challenging though.

Overall, not a bad workout. I would recommend it for beginner/intermediate levels mostly or it would be good for days you are not up to anything strenuous. There is a nice variety of exercises, plus some new ones that are interesting. Ellen as always is a very pleasant instructor. The scenery of the video is pleasing to the eye as well.
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on September 30, 2005
This video is exactly what I needed to break my excercise slump. After just three weeks of use, (only 2x a week) my jeans which were too snug are now big. I've seen a very noticible difference in the hip and lower abdomen areas and my love handles have begun to shrink. My arms are more toned and my legs are tightening up. After three just three weeks, I've been able to go from my tight size 10's to some of my old size 8 jeans.

I have a very short attention span when it comes to working out, so the fact the the video is only 30 minutes long helps to keep me motivated before starting and during the workout.

There is a bonus ab workout too, but it is very short and not as challenging as some of the instructors other videos.
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This is a toning workout led by Ellen Barrett, a Pilates instructor who is well-known for her Crunch Pilates videos (Pick Your Spot Pilates, Fat-Burning Pilates, and Burn & Firm Pilates). Here, she combines more traditional weighted moves with Pilates principles to provide a light full-body toning workout with an upper body emphasis.

Ellen works out with two background exercises on a beautiful beach. They begin with a quick (3 minutes) warm-up that includes plies combined with upper body movements; there are a few static stretches to finish. In the first segment of the workout, Ellen does "giant sets," doing a series of mostly upper body weighted exercises and then repeating the entire series three times, each time with a slightly different twist on the movements. Exercises included in this segment are bicep curls, side raises, squats, and a sort of 1-armed scoop move that is supposed to work the abs in a standing position. For most of the exercises, Ellen does one set of eight and then a second set of smaller pulsing moves. This entire segment was about 6 minutes long, and Ellen finishes with some back stretches.

Next Ellen moves into a second toning segment that seems inspired by the Pilates upper body series; this segment is taught in two separate sequences. In the first sequence, you do another 1-armed scoop moves for abs; again, I didn't really feel it in my abdominals, and Ellen doesn't give much instruction here. Other exercises included are rib cage slides, flies, tricep French press, a "splice" move (stepping to the side and raising your arms to the side with your thunbs up), a torso circle, and a half moon stretch, all performed with the weights for a total of about 6 minutes. In the second sequence, Ellen does single arm figure 8s, "butterfly" arms, upright rows, a lat pull, and lunges for another 6 minutes.

In the final segment, Ellen begins with plyometric jumps to the side, first fast, and then slower, holding for balance. She also includes a single-thigh figure 8 and then a single leg squat, and finally, she repeats the series, substituting a knee lift crunch for the thigh work. This segment comes in at about 5 minutes, and then there is a very brief (<2 minutes) series of cool-down stretches for the upper body only, which brings the entire workout in at less than 30 minutes.

Throughout the workout, Ellen and one of the other exerciser used 2-3 lb. weights, while the third woman used 5 lbs. I used 5 lbs. also, and while this sometimes felt too light (I'm an intermediate exerciser who sometimes does heavier weight work), I'm not sure that I could have gone higher with the weights given the type and pace of some of the moves featured (eg, the pulses). Therefore, I think that this workout is likely to provide a light toning effect at best, mainly for the upper body; I felt the moves very little in my other "bikini" areas, including my hips, buttocks, thighs, and abs. The DVD does include a very brief (<5 minutes) Pilates abs workout with Ellen working solo; this was enough to get the abs warm, but that's about it. Also, I was very surprised to see that Ellen wore her sneakers for this segment, as sneakers are not traditionally used for Pilates matwork and definitely are not used by Ellen in her other videos.

If you like high rep/low weight format workouts and have enjoyed Ellen Barrett's other videos--particularly Crunch Burn & Firm Pilates, which shares many moves with this workout--or are a beginner to weight work, you might like this DVD, but others will probably want to look elsewhere. Overall rating: three and half stars for a decent workout but with limited applicability.
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on May 15, 2005
I have three other videos highlighting Ellen Barrett as the instructor (check out Crunch Pilates series). She does it again with this DVD! This DVD has 30 minutes of great toning exercises that get your heart pumping and trust me, you feel the burn. You will definitely feel it the next day, which is a great sign of an effective workout.

The video is long enough to get a good workout, short enough that you don't dread it. The only thing I was disappointed in is the sound quality since it was taped on the shores of Mexico (literally on the beach), the sound just wasn't like her other "in studio" productions (which is understandable). Other than that, this is in my regular rotation of excellent workout DVDs.

If you do not care for leg intensive squats or using dumbbells in your workouts this may not be the DVD for you. However, if you are looking for a great new DVD to work and tone your entire body, this is great.
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on August 31, 2007
I will give you five reasons for each of the five stars in my rating. First, Ellen Barrett is a terrific instructor. I had never even heard of her before getting this DVD. I found her highly encouraging, motivating, down to earth and "real" - without being the tiniest bit annoying in any way. Her cueing in this is the best compared to any other instructor I've seen.

The 2nd reason was the workout itself. Even for an uncoordinated person like me who can't follow choreography to save my life, these moves were easy enough that I have perfected the form and anticipated the flow by the third time of doing this.

After I finished doing this the second time, I found my flexibility had already increased and I felt more energized. Prior to trying this I was worried that the pain I have in my hip from scar tissue adhesions would be aggravated by all the squats and plies - moves I usually like to avoid. Not only were the squats and plies very doable for me (to my surprise) but they clearly contributed to a feeling of being nicely stretched and relaxed, and they significantly alleviated the pressure and discomfort I had been suffering with for the past few weeks. Suddenly I had a range of motion on the right side of my body again.

The third reason is that Ellen and the other two exercisers in the DVD had what I'd call acheivable, believable bodies: fit and in great shape without those impossible and (to me) undesirable rippling shoulder muscles and washboard abs. If the goddess on the cover of the DVD were in this production (she isn't) I think I might have gotten discouraged and thought - who am I kidding, I will never look like that.

The fourth reason is the great quality of the production and the serene beach setting. I had no problem zipping through all of the commercials to jump to the workout, and even enjoy listening to Ellen's introduction again to motivate me before I get started.

The fifth reason is the length and format - not too short, not too long - it moves fluidly with no breaks other than very nice stretching with weights - particulary the standing back stretches which are exactly what I need as I have back issues. I feel great after the workout is over.

Overall this routine gives me the weigthed upper and lower body workout I was looking for with light and easily followed cardio moves. Since the standing routine was fairly light on moves for the abs and there is only a short bonus portion at the end that concentrates on abs, I feel that this is the ideal partner to my intermediate Pilates matwork routine, which by contrast doesn't do much for my upper body.

This is one I look forward to doing and will continue to work with three times a week. I am looking forward to the promises of results in four weeks! I also plan to look for more from Ellen Barrett, particulary in the Self line of DVDs.
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VINE VOICEon July 27, 2007
If you have used the Shape Bikini Body Camp DVDs and come to this afterward, you're going to notice that these are neither as intense nor as varied. However, that doesn't mean that you can't get a really good workout out of this nonetheless.

As other reviewers have noted, this workout is broken into three segments that cycle through three to five movements about three times each. The first segment has more traditional movements such as bicep curls (though done at different angles), shoulder work (for front, side and back shoulders) and squats. The second segment has less traditional movements (I only recognized a couple of Pilates-movements here) that depend on circular movement, including some standing work for the abdominals. I like the idea of standing abwork, but I'm usually disappointed. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I did feel the work through my abs when we were doing sweeping rotations. She also includes a pull down movement here for the back. I liked that move, but it needs to be a little bit slower to feel it more through your back and not your shoulders. That move, along with most of the other moves, was done with an 8-slow, 8-pulse count. She finishes up with some Pilates pushups, starting with 2, then 4 and finally 6 for a total of 12 pushups.

The next segment was unweighted and focused primarily on the lower body, including plyo jumps and one-legged squats. Then we moved to a very brief cool-down that didn't spend much time at all on stretching. I chose to do the bonus ab-segment, and though it was brief, I did feel it, but then again, I'm a big believer in Pilates for abdominal work.

The stretching could have been longer, definitely. I appreciate the desire to keep workout time to 30 minutes- I'm lucky to be able to steal that time during my day- but since they tacked on a five-minute bonus ab section, how about a five-minute bonus stretch segment?

When I first did this workout a few months ago with three pounds, I was very unimpressed- I might as well have not bothered. However, using five pound weights today and concentrating on my form, I definitely felt it and I found that not only was I working my muscles but that I was also working up a sweat. Bonus: I love getting two workouts for the price of one. There were a couple of movements where I could have upped the weights to eight, but since everything was done in a fast-paced giant set, switching weights could have been a problem, particularly for my shoulders. However, I think you could add weights to the last section since it works the usually stronger lower body, and I'm going to give that a shot next time.

For Shape Bikini Body Camp lovers: not only is this less intense and too fast-paced for heavier weights, it also requires a little bit less anticipation because the choreography is simpler. That may be a turn off for choreography junkies, but I've got to say that early in the morning, I was fine being on auto-pilot.
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on September 24, 2005
This was an enjoyable workout by an excellent instructor (Ellen Barrett). I would say that it is definitely a beginner level workout that you can easily adjust the intensity of by lifting heavier weights. I used 3lb. weights the first time through it, and plan on progressing to 5lb. The choreography is easy to learn, and the cueing is right on. I did like the beach setting, but found that the sound quality could have been a bit better...this might be fact that it was filmed on the beach. I plan on using this on those days when I need a nice, short light workout.
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on July 27, 2006
I'm a solid fan of Ellen Barrett- I have two of her Crunch videos and was lucky enough to attend some of her "Ballet Pilates" classes when she taught in L.A. But I have to be candid and say that I was disappointed in this DVD. To me, should be billed as "Soft, graceful & easy arm moves with a tad of cardio".
Nothing wrong with that, just not what I expected in something by the current title. I would have given the workout 3 stars, but the format caused me to make additional deductions. I don't recall, in my large exercise dvd/vhs collection, any tape with a longer set of ads and intro/credit screens. If you're short on time
and think you can just pop the dvd in and go, think again. Then, to add to that inconvenience, when Ellen's actual workout comes on, there is I believe 3-4 minutes of introductory/explanatory
talk. That is way too much...The workout isn't so bad...but as I said concentrates on the upper body and there's a lot of filler
you have to wade through.
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on May 5, 2006
Love this DVD! After watching the entire workout series from my couch just to see what I was getting myself into, I knew that this workout was exactly what I needed to tone up my skinny but slightly jigglie body. I do a number cardio workouts but very few strength exercise and workout series compliments my other workouts perfectly.

Contrary to a number of reviews that I've read about this DVD, it is very much a challenge. Even though I usually workout with 3 to 5 pound weights, I started out with a two pound set just to test the waters. Let me just say, I'm glad I did! My first time out I was sweating up a storm and feeling my muscles work hard very early on. I was feeling the effects of the workout in my legs, arms and bum well into the day after my first workout. I love it!

The bonus Pilates abs workout is brief but shows you the standard abs moves that you will see on just about every Pilates DVD on the market. Do it a few times in a row and you can really feel your abs getting a workout - but remember Pilates is about quality and not so much quantity and if you want a hardcore abs workout buy the Self abs workout DVD along with this one.

Don't let the fact that this DVD has commercials at the beginning turn you off. That's why we have a menu button on our remote controls. Fly past the ads and enjoy your workout!
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on May 10, 2006
I bought this DVD after trying numerous other ones thinking this would just be the last ditch idea. WRONG. This DVD is absolutely great for me! I've put on a few pounds since my sophmore year in high school and haven't ever really been able to get them off despite me saying every summer, 'you're going to do this'. I'm not overweight, I just have a little pudginess I want to get rid of around my stomach, legs, and arms and this is great so far! I already have definition in my arms after about a week on this and my legs are really getting toned. The ab bonus isn't as great but I'm working that on my own time with a medicine ball and old fashioned sit ups and some pilates moves you get from this DVD. This is great and the instructor(s) aren't super skinny looking models making me not feel so self-conscious in my exercise gear. She keeps your motivated throughout the session and despite reviews that it's not 'challenging enough' I say that it's the PERFECT DVD for struggling beginners trying to get back in shape over the summer. I LOVE IT!
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