(Originally Posted 8/11/2015)
I know what you're probably thinking; What makes my (Erika) opinion matter when it comes to the following list of the Best Workouts?
As a 25 year veteran of the group fitness industry, I have been in many gym settings as an instructor. I pull from my mentors and the content of their home workout videos to construct my own classes in an effort to keep the choreography fresh, the content relevant, and catapult my participants to the next level of fitness. Before the days of YouTube and Workout Apps, I had to buy videos to do this. I have wasted more money and thrown away more home workout videos than many people will own in their entire lifetime. My current collection consists of workouts I have used as reference for my classes but never do, and videos that I love, use, and are a mainstay in my personal rotation, resulting in the list you see below.
So whether you are a runner looking for some cross training options, a home exerciser looking for the next best thing, or someone just starting out looking for some guidance, you can take my street cred and humble opinion for what you will to trust that the following are the 5 Best Workout Series to Own (and Use!)
Because they are Box Sets, they are an investment. And as a result, you might be inclined to shy away from purchasing them. But trust me, they are worth every penny.
5. Cardio Karate
Comprised of 14 DVD's, the breakdown combines Cardio and Weight Training from experts such as Amy Bento Ross, Gay Gasper, Greg Cook, Greg Sims, Keli Roberts and Steve Feinberg.
What I Like: If you are a fan of Kickboxing, this takes a calmer, more Zen approach. You feel as though you are expanding your repetoire with this Kickboxing/Yoga-esque hybrid. I would imagine that if you have any sort of Karate background whatsoever, this would seem silly, but I really feel that I've expanded my cross training with this series and worked on some things that get overlooked in traditional workout videos, like Balance, Power and Cleansing Breaths
What I Could Do Without:The DVD's focusing solely on Weight Training. Some of the moves are simply undoable. They are big fans of the Chinup Bar and as far as home workouts go, one could really injur themselves trying to emulate some of the moves.
My Favorite Disc: Cardio Complexes with Amy Bento Ross. This workout repeats the same 4 to 8 count combination in 3 consecutive waves; with no weight, with 1lb weights, with 2 or 3lb weights. While it sounds redundant and possibly boring as anything, it's actually quite fun and surprisingly intense. While it is easy to do, you realize at some point you are huffing and puffing, and REALLY sweaty.
I got on a Punching Bag obsession for a while and was ravenous for videos that focused on this format. One Google search later, this series was ordered. Consisting of 5 DVDs and 1 instructional DVD, this series lets you get out any and all aggressions in a 45 minute time frame, all led by Merle Silver. All the DVDs consist of Kicking and Punching combinations interspersed with intensity blasts of Mountain Climbers, Russian Kicks, Frog Leaps, etc. Everything is timed as the Addiction Logo in the bottom corner of the screen forms a complete circle to tell you it's time to move on.
What I Like: The Freestyle Structure. There are no combinations to speak of. She just shouts out, "Do this Now" and you either wail on the bag or do some sort of high intensity cardio move. It's perfect for when you want a great workout, but don't want to concentrate or just want to let your mind do nothing for a change. The music pumps too so you can just get totally immersed in working really hard.
What I Could Do Without: The Freestyle Structure. While this is what I like best about the series, it could have been executed better. She will call out a change mid beat, or intersperse jacks in between a Jab, Cross, making it a 5 count combo and throwing you off the downbeat. The music is also mixed badly so when the song changes, you are totally off the beat altogether. If you are not beat oriented, I guess it wouldn't bother you, but my Aerobic teaching background compels me to cringe at these professional video fails. I just self correct and move on.
My Favorite Disc: Disc 4 - It contains the most use of the Punching Bag. Some of the other discs are too blast heavy and draw you away from actually using the Punching Bag.
3. Katami 4x4
First of all, I need to disclose that I adore Paul Katami. He can truly do no wrong in my eyes. ANY video you get from him is a winner. That being said, I am partial to the 4x4 series. This series takes you through 4 phases; I am Change, I am Athlete, I am Warrior, I am Hero, and each workout consists of "Quads"; with a Quad consisting of 1 minute Cardio, 1 minute lower body, 1 minute Upper body, 1 minute core, repeated twice. The phases progress from easier cardio moves and isolation weighted exercises, to more intense Cardio moves and compound weighted exercises, thereby blurring the lines of each 1 minute round consisting of the afformentioned categories. Each DVD is a Total Body workout and the series in its entirety is designed to see measurable progress after the series is over.
What I Like: Aside from the entire concept, I like how the workout is given to you in digestable bite sized minutes. You find yourself working harder because you can do it for a minute. By the end, it is a total body workout and you have pushed yourself. Also, Each DVD has intensity menu options, and although the workout you will do/view is exactly the same, the camera focuses on the individual (there are 4 of them in the videos) who is doing the intensity level you chose in the menu. It's a measurable progress checkpoint within the measurable progress series
What I Could Do Without: He tries too hard to make it a brand or a household catchphrase and it's forced. "Take a 4x4 breath", "Do this in 4x4 fashion". (In the Foam Roller Video) "If something speaks to you, take a 4x4 hold and relax." We get it, it's called 4x4
My Favorite Disc: I Am Athlete, Disc 3. When I do well, it makes me feel like I won't get picked last in Gym class tomorrow.
2. Ripped with HIIT
The latest workout series from Cathe Friedrich consists of 7 DVDs, broken down into two HIIT Circuit workouts, one for lower and one for Upper Body, Low Impact HIIT, Plyo HIIT, and three strength videos - Lift it HIIT it. The strength videos are broken down into Chest/Triceps/Shoulders, Back/biceps/Shoulders, and Legs. The series also comes with a User's guide and suggested rotations.
What I Like: The Upper Body Lift it HIIT it DVDs. At this point point Cathe has several HIIT and Tabata workout DVDs and quite frankly, they all have blended together in my head. But the upper Body Strength videos are really innovative in this series. Once you've done three heavy sets of a muscle group, she ends that muscle with a "Finisher" move, usually utilizing Resistance Bands. The Finisher moves really pack a punch; easy to do at the time, but making you feel it the next day!
What I Could Do Without: The HIIT Circuit DVDs. This is just a personal preference of mine at this stage of my training, but I have no place for these types of workouts in my rotation. I end these workouts feeling like I neither did enough cardio nor weights. And if you are doing this workout on and "Off" weight day, you're still doing weights, so how is that an "Off" day? It makes me feel like I didn't work hard enough yet overtrained at the same time. (PS - I realize this statement negates my loving Katami 4x4, but 4x4 really is in its own category, so I declare it N/A for Paul!)
My Favorite Disc: Lift It, HIIT It Back, Biceps Shoulders
1. STS - Shock Training System
There are no words to express how this series has transformed my life, but I will try to accurately convey why this series NEEDS to be a part of everyone's home workout collection. Consisting of a whopping 41 DVDs, the series is broken down into 3 Mesocycles; Muscle Endurance, Hypertrophy, and Strength. Within this 3.5 month journey, this series incorporates periodization, muscle confusion, one rep max, and progressive overload training principles. The series is like a puzzle wrapped inside a riddle surrounded by a game. Not only do you get the true form training techniques of each aptly named Mesocycle, there are various techniques within the Mesocycles, such as Drop Sets, Back Off Sets, and Double Wave Loading. After you have finished the 3.5 month rotation, having gone through each mesocycle for four weeks, and resting one week in between, you should be 5% stronger, thus giving you the opportunity to revisit the entire series using weights that are 5% heavier than you previously used. Another way to revisit is the Undulating Rotation; Meso 1/Week 1, Meso 2/Week 1, Meso 3/Week 1, Meso 1/Week 2, Meso 2/Week 2, Meso 3/Week 2, etc. Or my personal favorite, the undulating rotation with the other Cathe Strength DVDs on Week 4.
What I Like: Everything - You are using weights appropriate to you as you have completed your one rep max tests prior to beginning. You have a definitive path to take for 3 months so as not to flounder with "What workout should I do today?" syndrome. The rest times appropriate to the training technique you are doing are measured out for you. You can record your results and truly see as you revisit the series that you are, in fact, stronger. The fact that it is a pure strength series and there are no Circuit workouts (see above) or Cardio-esque fillers. You know what you're there to do and can execute it well.
What I Could Do Without: The mess and the extra $$ associated with that mess. STS is equipment intense. As a result of adding STS to my training schedule, I have purchased slanted risers for my step, extra risers for my step to use it as a weight bench, the Cathe/Altus STS Tower, (Which I don't think is available any longer), Microload gloves to go up in smaller increments than a DB will allow, Safety barbell catches, heavier Dumbbells (my DBs range from 3 to 40 lbs and all the increments in between), Dumbbell handles for plates (to go higher than 40lb because I was sick of buying so many dumbbells), a weight rack for all my Dumbbells, more Plates, a tree for my plates, and a W Barbell in addition to the straight one I already had. By the end of the hour, your workout room looks like a tornado ripped through it...and now, exhausted, you have to clean it all up!
My Favorite Mesocycle: Meso 2 - Hypertrophy. Using weights that are 70 -80% of your one rep max, you use one muscle group until completion before moving onto another. The upper body is broken down in your traditional Back/Bi's, Chest/Tri's/Shoulders concept. You also use techniques such as Double Wave loading and Drop Sets. The rests are long enough that you are not racing around to gather your weights before they start without you (Like in Meso 1) and you are WORKING. Still, after 3 years of consistent STS training, this Mesocycle does not bore me one bit and I am ALWAYS still sore afterward. See Also: My Success Story Posted on Cathe's Website
About The Authors
A 25 Year Veteran of the Group Fitness Industry, Erika currently teaches Kickboxing, Step, and H.I.I.T. classes at Guilford Parks & Rec.
An Avid Runner, Lisa began her running career about 10 Years Ago.