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BALLET BODY: UPPER BODY WORKOUT
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Lose inches while building lean muscles with movements inspired by ballet, dance, Pilates, and yoga. Ballet BodyT by Leah Sarago integrates traditional body-weight resistance exercises with muscle-elongating techniques to achieve a long and lean physique. Suitable for all fitness levels, these workouts draw on isometrics, the stretch-reflex principle, and muscle-contraction training for optimal results. Strengthen, sculpt, and define your upper body with this dynamic, results-oriented workout. Start with mat exercises for the arms and core, then grab a pair of light hand weights for some dance-inspired movements. You'll improve your muscle definition, posture, and strength without getting big or bulky. It's the ultimate workout for a toned, sleek, and graceful upper body. Equipment needed: mat and 2 to 5 lb. hand weights
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This workout begins with about 25 minutes of mat/plank work, followed by 20 minutes of weighted arm work; it concludes with a wonderful five-minute stretch that really gets into all the tight spaces. It's the only one of the three workouts that requires lighter (two- to five-pound) weights. I usually use 10- or 12-pound dumbbells for weighted arm work, but I used 2-pound weights for this, and my arms were shaking the entire time. For the weighted portion, she includes many unique moves that really seem to work all areas of not only your arms, but also your back and chest. There is a definite emphasis on the shoulders and triceps, but I feel like my entire upper body was thoroughly worked. Before doing this workout, my favorite upper body barre workout was the arms portion of Tracey Mallett's The Booty Barre Plus Abs & Arms, but I really like this one better and love the rhythmic, graceful movements that Leah uses.
Of the three DVDs, this one was definitely the hardest for me since I struggle with planks and don't have the upper body strength to really hold myself up. I had to modify a lot of the moves by doing them on my knees or taking breaks. I'm hoping that by doing this DVD twice a week, I can build up more of my upper body strength.
Since I struggle with tendonitis in my right shoulder and have bad posture, I'm always a bit hesitant to try a new workout program for fear that it will aggravate those problem areas. I can tell, though, that Leah's emphasis on posture and form will make my shoulders stronger and my posture better.
If your wrists bother you with plank work, you might find them to be a bit sore or tight afterwards, but Leah changes things up enough to keep the wrists limber and she also did a nice wrist stretch, so my wrists aren't too sore. (If you've ever done Tracy Anderson's Hipcentric workout, this is nowhere near as hard on your wrists; I had to stop doing Hipcentric after 47 days since my wrists and low back were bothering me so much.)
On her website, Leah also has posted various rotations for using the DVDs. (I would include the link here, but usually Amazon won't allow you to include links in reviews; if you look at the product description above, though, you'll see it.) She suggests you follow each rotation for four weeks, before moving on to the next level.
Here is a basic rundown of some of the rotations:
Day 1 Lower Body
Day 2 Cardio for 30-40 mins.
Day 3 Core
Day 4 Cardio for 30-40 mins.
Day 5 Upper Body
Day 6 Cardio for 30-40 mins.
Day 7 Rest day
Day 1 Lower Body
Day 2 Core + Cardio for 30-45 mins.
Day 3 Upper Body + Cardio for 30-45 mins.
Day 4 Rest day
Day 5 Lower Body
Day 6 Core + Cardio for 30-45 mins.
Day 7 Upper Body
Day 1 Lower Body + Cardio for 30 mins.
Day 2 Core + Upper Body
Day 3 Lower Body + Cardio for 30 mins.
Day 4 Rest day
Day 5 Core + Upper Body
Day 6 Lower Body + Cardio for 30 mins.
Day 7 Core + Upper Body
For cardio, Leah suggests that you do things like dance workouts, cycling, or swimming -- activities that won't "bulk" you up.
I'm just starting a six- or eight-week rotation using these, so I'll be sure to update my reviews of each DVD as I continue with this program.
Overall, though, each workout is very unique, and I'll post back on changes I notice.
UPDATE AFTER THREE WEEKS: I did the Intermediate rotation using all three DVDs for three weeks (after which time I had to stop working out for a few weeks due to some stitches), and loved the results I was getting! My abs and arms were noticeably tighter, and I could see more muscle definition. My legs seemed to lag behind a bit, and I felt like my saddlebags were a little more prominent, but perhaps that is because I needed to add in a bit more cardio. These are great workouts, and I look forward to starting back up with them! The next time, I will take measurements to track my results better.
UPDATE ON 5/27/12: I still love this workout, but had thought it was odd that there were no exercises in it for the biceps. I just came across a post on Leah's blog from 4/9/12 where she explains why. According to Leah, "if your goal is sleek and feminine arms (which is my assumption if you are purchasing something called 'Ballet Body'), then repetitive concentric bicep curls is exactly what you should NOT be doing - my workouts are designed to strengthen the biceps through isometrics and stability. If, however, your goal is bicep-specific strength and/or increased muscle girth (size) of the upper arm, then bicep curls should be included in your training regimen (but again, this is 'Ballet Body', not 'Leah's Hour of He-Man Arms')."
She goes on to say that everyday tasks, such as carrying bags of groceries, doing laundry, picking up children, etc., should be all you need to shape the biceps, and that all the planks and triceps dips in this DVD will thoroughly work the arms.
Anyway, her blog post helped me understand why there are no biceps exercises on this DVD, and I thought it might help others, too. :-)
This DVD is VERY challenging. I have no problems with planks (and boy, Leah is a plank devotee!) but I was not used to staying in various plank positions for as long as she has you do in the video. My shoulders were literally burning. It's great that the core is getting a good workout along with the arms but I admit I can't complete the entire mat portion yet without collapsing and swearing at the TV. The weighted section was slightly easier but still not a walk in the park. My 10 and 5 pounds weights went out the window and I had to reduce to a humble 3 pounds.
My main issue was the lack of bicep work. I understand Leah's reasoning that doing curls would go against creating sleeker arms but also feel that the biceps need to balance out the extreme tricep work to some extent. It's possible that I haven't done the DVD long enough to not see results in the biceps due to the isometric moves but I had hoped for something that focused on them a little bit more.
I also was a bit turned off by the voice over. It doesn't bother me, I'm just used to Jessica Smith's bubbly personality while she works out with you and this felt distant. However, I find the time flies by and that the unique moves are worth the time and effort. It's hard to find something that focuses entirely on your upper body (the core is an added bonus!) and this does the trick. Hopefully this will banish the bat wings for good (my arms love to hang onto flab)! :)
The voice over might bother some people and since music is very much a matter of personal taste not everyone is going to love any music that is playing but its not an issue for me because I am too focused on the intense burning in my muscles! Buy this DVD if you are serious and committed and you will NOT be disappointed!!