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on June 6, 2005
Self: Firm Flat Abs Fast! is a sculpting workout that is just shy of 30 minutes in length. On the DVD there is also a bonus cardio workout--at 5 minutes it's really only suitable as a warm-up. You'll need one 3 to 8 pound dumbbell and a stability ball.

This workout is broken up into four chapters, which can be done independently of one another. The first chapter is just classic crunches--very familiar to just about everyone. The second chapter incorporates the stability ball. The first few moves of this chapter aren't for exercisers with low ceilings, but they should be easy to modify. The third chapter is Pilates-inspired ab work. The fourth chapter includes some very graceful yoga-inspired moves. There is also a short cool-down segment at the end. None of the moves in this workout are mindblowingly new or different--they're all good solid well-tested moves packaged into one workout.

Violet Zaki, the instructor, discusses the workout before the warmup (you can fast-forward through that) and then at the end she has a rather long section discussing proper form and diet and how both contribute to better fitness. The diet advice is pretty common sense stuff, but it never hurts to hear it one more time.

The setting is absolutely gorgeous. The workout filmed on the beach at a resort near Puerto Vallarta. You can hear the waves crashing on the beach in the background, which is very calming. As an instructor, Violet is very motivating. She cues well and keeps the patter (and the whooping) to a bare minimum. There are two backup exercisers, one of which is modifying. They are very "normal" looking--trim and fit without being overly lean. Violet looks strong and healthy.

The only thing I've found to give this DVD demerits on are the five or six commercials at the beginning. You can fast foward through them (or hit the Menu button) but still--I paid for my DVD and I don't feel like paying more for it by giving my time to these ads. It's why I only rated this DVD 4 stars. Without the ads, it's a 5 star DVD with beautiful production values and good chaptering.

As a high-intermediate/low-advanced exerciser, I think this one is worth picking up as an add-on or for light days. I can definitely feel it in my abs after I do this workout, but I have yet to experience any DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) from it. I would recommend this workout to just about any level of exerciser--if you do this workout, eat right, and get in regular cardiovascular exercise, you will definitely see results.
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on November 4, 2005
I go to abs classes frequently and wanted to get this DVD to help mix up my routine and give me something to do if I didn't want to leave the house. I was a little disappointed in this DVD. I love Self Magazine and their workouts and the amazon reviews made it seem very promising. The routines are broken down into four separate workouts. The only one that involved any effort on my part was the Pilates-inspired section. As for the rest, the other sections would have you do too few reps, I felt, to get your muscles warmed up, let alone reshape them. I think this DVD is great for beginners. Its simple enough to follow and it won't scare you away too soon. But if you're like me and you workout on a regular basis and just want a new routine, this probably isn't the abs workout for you.
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Self has created a strong sexy progressive workout to take you through a variety of exercises that will quickly tone your abs. The stability ball is not essential if you adapt those exercises with an exercise ring or just skip leaning on the ball and do the exercises on the floor. A set of weights and a mat are needed to complete the exercises.

Stretching is interspersed throughout the workout and it gives you a much needed rest between the more intense exercises. The exercises are taught well and then the instructor quickly raises the intensity. The addition of weights and raising the arms takes this workout to an intermediate to advanced routine.

Strong graceful moves make each exercise super efficient. The variety keeps your interest and there are creative adaptations for familiar exercises. Advice is given on how to stabilize your neck and the warm-up helps you to ease into the movements.

Routine:

Warming Up
Stability Ball
Pilates Abs
Yoga Abs
Cooldown

I think they could have made this much more adaptable because they have three women working out and there are few modifications for beginners. This is mostly an intermediate to advanced workout with an emphasis on Yoga stretching and Pilates conditioning.

I felt like I was only working out for about 15 minutes, so this seems to go fast and the creativity kept my attention. The wonderful beach setting is relaxing and healing.

If you are at the advanced level, you may think this is 5 stars for the balance challenges.

~The Rebecca Review
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on July 9, 2005
This is by far the best ab workout DVD I have found. I especiall love the "pilates" abs section. The moves really work your abdominal muscles, but are still easy enough for an intermediate person like myself. I found it challenging, but not overwhelming.

I have definitely seen results in my "love handles" and upper abs! I do this DVD 3-4 times a week, and it goes by SO fast!

Awesome abs workout!

P.S. The girls do seem to smile a bit much though....how can you smile so big while your abs are BURNING!!! haha
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on October 24, 2005
I love ab work and I've been a fan of Violet Zaki since Crunch's "Cardio Sculpt" so I had high expectations for this workout. It did not disappoint me.

The workout begins with a warm-up that includes standing ab work with a dumbbell. Standing work is my least favorite approach to abs, but I thoroughly enjoy this routine.

The second series is stability ball with a variety of standing and floor exercises. I especially like the reverse crunches with the ball held between your legs. I can really feel it working my lower abs.

Both the warm-up and the stability ball sections include some lunges. Lunges usually bother my knees, but I haven't had any trouble with these sections, maybe because they are moderately-paced or held, stationary lunges.

The next series is pilates. I'm not a pilates expert but I love that the exercises here are a bit different such as leg circles with both legs. I find this version easier to do effectively and can really feel it in my abs, much more so than the usual single leg circles. I love that the bicycle twist is done slowly and held to a count of four. For an ab lover like myself this is candy... but it's also a more effective way to do this exercise.

The last series of exercises is yoga-based. It includes plank and side plank work, an interesting combo of boat with toe taps, and some cobra and locust inspired back work. There's one delicious side stretch with your legs tucked to one side where you raise one arm and slowly bring it down and thread it through your supporting arm that I just love. It's simple, feel-good elements like this that, for me, make the workout fly by.

I used to skip the cool down but have since realized that it's so short there's no reason to not do it. It's just a few minutes of simple twists and stretches.

The workout is filmed on a beach with two background exercisers. One shows modifications. From warm-up through cool down is about 27 minutes with the chapters running about 6 minutes each (the cool down is shorter). There's also a bonus cardio segment but I've never done it so I can't comment on it. The chaptering allows you to do one or more sections but I've found that once I get started I don't want to stop. It's a good 25 minutes of lower intensity, non-traditional ab work. If you're the type of exerciser who likes the fast-paced crunches you get with a Cathe or Firm workout then this DVD may not be for you. But if you're looking for a fun and effective way to work your abs I can't think of anything better.

Perhaps I have a thing for Aussie accents (I'm a big Keli Roberts fan too) but I just love Violet Zaki. She looks fit and beautiful in a healthy, natural way. And she has a calm energy that is encouraging without being distracting. There's only one point in the workout where her cuing falters, at least that I've noticed, when she simply says "again" and doesn't add "on the other side." Once you know the routine, it's no big deal. I wish she'd put out more workouts.
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on March 27, 2006
This is a great abs workout. The moves are a bit challenging at first, but eventually they become easy to complete. The exercises work all of your abs muscles, including lower abs and obliques. There are moves from yoga and pilates included.

The DVD also includes a mini cardio workout (mostly marching in place, jumping jacks, etc.) you can do in addition to the abs workout. The instructor is great, very encouraging (but not in an annoying Denise Austin way), and the other 2 "workout models" (not sure what they're called...) are of average size, not overly muscular, which is also nice.
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on June 28, 2006
This is an excellent workout for the abs! I do this 3 times a week and I already see a difference. They have several different "styles" of ab related exercise. They have a 10 minute pilates ab workout, a 10 minute yoga workout, they have ones that you can use the "ball", etc. There is also a 10 minute cardio workout at the end. Very good DVD!
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on August 30, 2005
This workout kicks butt. It's quite tough but it will really help you out if you also do cardio five days a week. There are some new moves and old moves but it's interesting, challenging and there is an amazing backdrop (set live on a beach). For tight abs, get this and do it about four days a week.
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on December 8, 2005
My FIRM 5 day Abs (from the early 90s?) video finally broke, so I decided to try something new.

The workouts are okay, but only a couple exercises really work your abs long enough for you to feel it. I think the problem is that they only do a couple reps of each exercise.

I'm still looking for a DVD that has 3-5 days of ab workouts that are challenging... I may just buy the FIRM again.
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on August 17, 2011
My sister had purchased this dvd and then ended up giving it to me. I'm not a huge fan of workout dvds cause they either go too fast for me to catch onto the routine or the combination of moves is too hard to remember. This dvd does each move by it's self (no combination of moves) and is highly effective if you're trying to burn some calories and really work on your core muscles. I weigh 150 lbs. and am 5'5" so Im not the skinniest and have had 2 kiddos in last 2 years. This dvd really helped me get back into my pre-maturnity shape and am working on it agian after my 2nd child. It doesnt just help your abs....it's an entire CORE WORKOUT. Wonderful dvd! I'm going to buy the scult sexy legs one and the butt one here very soon. I just hope my sister doesn't want the Firm Flat Abs DVD back. :D
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