Cathe’s Pure Strength

Pure Strength is another of Cathe’s split series workout collections. Three full workouts are contained on one DVD and they are all heavy strength work. And wow—this series is dated! It was released in 1999! Cathe looks beautiful and muscular as always, but her hair looks very dated! Not ugly or anything, just—well, very 90s! Check out the headband she is wearing! But it is solid, gym-style strength work. Just like in all of her older workouts, a three minute introduction is tacked onto the beginning of each workout that has to be fast-forwarded through. Although I do like my workouts to be an hour long, I like the shorter length of two of these workouts. One is 37 minutes and the other is 41 minutes. They are solid workouts, so I didn’t feel like the shorter length was short-changing me any strength work. However it did allow me to add on some intense cardio afterward. When I did Chest, Shoulders and Triceps, I finished off with a premix (#13) from To the Max: 30/20 HIIT only which is 26 minutes. That gave me a 63 minute workout that morning. And when I did Back, Biceps and Abs, I finished off with a premix (#5) from Crossfire: Timesaver Plyo Tabata + Firewalker Tabata which is 24 minutes, rounding out my morning workout at 65 minutes. You gotta love Cathe’s amazing premixes!

BTW—there are no premixes on this collection. However, she does have everything chaptered and has a “mix and match” section—so you can create your own premix.

Chest, Shoulders and Triceps is a 37 minute workout; 5 minute warm up, 30 minutes strength work and 2 minute stretch. I really liked the warm up. It was very low key, but lots of dynamic stretch moves for the muscle groups that are about to be worked. For most of the exercises you will be doing 2 to 3 sets, and each set is usually 10 reps, so you can lift heavy. Equipment needed for this workout is a tall step, barbells and a dumbbells. The weights listed below are what I used.

Chest (10:30 minutes):

Decline push ups off high step

Bench press with barbell (70# BB)

Incline bench press with barbell (25# DBs)

Incline chest press with dumbbells (20# DBs)

Incline chest fly with dumbbells (20# DBs)

Superset chest press/chest fly combo with dumbbells (20# DBs)

Shoulders (10 minutes) (all use dumbbells):

Arnold press (15# DBs)

Seated clean and press (these were not normal clean and presses) (8# DBs)

Standing side lateral raise (10# Dbs)

Seated reverse flys (angling up into a “V”) (7# DBs)

Seated side lateral raise (7# DBs)

Triceps (10 minutes) (you will be lying on your high step for all of the moves except the last):

Close grip chest/tricep press with dumbbells (15# DBs)

French press with dumbbells (12# DBs)

Cross body tricep extension with dumbbell (one 12# DB)

French press with dumbbells (12# DBs)

Tricep dips off of high step with barbell across lap (35# BB)

Back, Biceps and Abs is a 41 minute workout; 3 minute warm up, 24 minutes of strength training, 10 minutes of abs and 4 minute stretch. Just like in Chest, Shoulders and Triceps you have a dynamic warm up that focuses on warming up your upper body. When the strength work starts, you will be doing 2-3 sets of usually 10 reps. A few notes on this workout. The first back exercise is a T bar row. To do this move you have to have a barbell–there is no way to use a dumbbell to do the same move. However, you can do a close grip bent over row with dumbbells as a substitute. Also, this workout has a long abdominal section that overall is unimpressive. Normally, I would skip one of Cathe’s long and unimpressive abdominal sections, but at the end of this one you will be doing a lot of supermans (spinal erector training), which actually makes this section important to your back workout. For this workout you will need barbell, dumbbells, a tall bench to sit on and a mat for abdominal work. The weights listed below are what I used.

Back (12 minutes):

T bar rows with barbell (45# on one end of BB for warm up set; 70# on one end for regular set)

Bent over rows with barbell (70# BB)

One arm rows with dumbbells (one 30# DB)

Shrugs with dumbbells (12# DBs)

Biceps (11:30 minutes):

Bicep curls with barbell (35# BB)

Seated bicep curls with dumbbells (15# DBs)

Negative bicep curls with barbell (35# BB)

Seated concentration curls with dumbbell (one 15# DB)

Legs and Abs is a 64 minute workout; 6 minute warm up, 48 minute lower body strength work, 7 minute ab work and 3 minute stretch. This workout is a bit more equipment heavy than the others and I was surprised I owned most of it. First, you need a Cathe high step with lots of risers. It is used in the 8 inch position, 12 inch position and 16 inch position. Though I have one on order, I have not yet received it. Nevertheless, I don’t think using my Transfirmer at 8 and 14 inches really affected the workout other than to make it more difficult (which is unusual—usually my lack of a club step works the opposite way!). You need a barbell, dumbbells and a 15 pound body bar. I actually own a 15 pound body bar as well as a 9 pound one from my Firm days. However, if you don’t own one, other options are using just the bar from your barbell (if you own one). Mine weighs 15 pounds so it’s just as useful as a body bar, though I know some barbell bars are much lighter. Another option is ankle weights. And if none of those options work, as you see below, you do a bazillion reps anyway, so you might not even need extra resistance! The exercise itself may be plenty! And finally, she also uses a wooden 2×4 for calf work—but using your step at the lowest level works just as well.

This was a very challenging workout. Every single muscle in my lower body was weak and trembling afterward. My glutes are still screaming. It is one of the best lower body workouts I have ever done. The abdominal work on the other hand is basic and unimpressive. I will probably skip it in the future to keep my workout just under an hour.

After the warm up, the lower body workout starts with warm up front and reverse lunges. Cathe goes very light for these—5 pound dumbbells. I considered using heavier weights since 5 pounds seems kind of silly, but then I also considered the length of this lower body workout and the fact that I knew I would be using much heavier weights throughout the rest of it. So I did the 5 pound warm up set. I went heavy on the standing leg work and got through it all even though it was tough. There are a lot more reps in the lower body work than in the upper body work—plus she varies the tempo in the middle of long sets with a 3 count hold. It’s brutal. The Sit and Stand is basically a hover squat and it is brutal, too. You sit on the tall step and immediately raise to a hover squat, which you hold for approx 6 counts then stand and immediately do it again—with a barbell on your shoulders. Cathe’s thighs were shaking violently throughout this move. So it wasn’t easy even for the master.

The floor work was even more brutal. I used the 15 pound body bar and got through the first set of each exercise, but by the second set it burned so badly I had to keep pausing! I might go to the 9 pound bar next time. The weights listed below are what I used.

Standing Legs (30 Minutes)

Front lunges with dumbbells (15# DBs)

Reverse lunges with dumbbells (15# DBs)

Static lunges with barbell (20# DBs)

Alternating plie squats with body bar (15# BB)

Plie squats with barbell (20# DBs)

Step ups onto 12 inch step with dumbbells (15# DBs)

Squats with barbell (50# BB)

Sit and stands with 16 inch step and barbell (50# BB)

Quarter deadlift with barbell (50# BB)

Calf raises on 2×4

Floor Legs (19:30 minutes) (9# BB)

Inner thigh lifts with body bar (3 sets: 32 reps/16 reps/8 reps)

Outer thigh lifts with body bar (2 sets: 32 reps/16 reps)

Double hamstring/glute raises with heels on 8 inch step and body bar on hips

Singe leg hamstring/glute raise on 8 inch step

Note: during this workout, Cathe mentions she does endurance moves such as Sit and Stands because it is difficult to lift as heavy as we can actually go w/out a spotter. This is something I noticed. I lifted pretty heavy but I could have gone heavier. You have to be able to lift the barbell over your head and onto your shoulders, then (more importantly) lift it over your head and down to the floor at the end of the set when you are exhausted from a heavy set. I won’t lie—I strained my neck a little getting my dumbbell over my head at the end of a few of the moves. One way to remedy this is to get a squat rack. No, this is not a cheap investment. Cathe used to carry something she called a Push Pull tower that can be used as a squat rack and a bench press bar. It is no longer available (according to her forums it is being redesigned with no estimate on when the redesign will be complete). However, there are other options, including the one I plan to invest in: Valor BD-8. With a piece of equipment like this, you can squat and bench press heavier without injuring yourself.


12 thoughts on “Cathe’s Pure Strength

    1. I just updated it. It has been a very long time since I’ve done that workout but from my workout card I used dumbbells for some of the barbell exercises. Probably because the last time I did that workout I did not own 3 barbells like I do now, so it was easier just to use dumbbells rather than pause the DVD to add/subtract plates from my barbell.


      1. First off thank you for adding the weights you used! And you also mentioned about not using a barbell with some of the exercises. I don’t own a barbell and do not plan on getting one. I do not have the room. So when you list chest press with barbell at 70lbs should i just use my heaviest dumbbells? And the other exercises that you use a barbell should I just use my judgement as to how to work in dumbbell exercises?


      2. Yes, just make do with what you have. You will have to lift lighter on some of the exercises. That is one of the benefits of a barbell for things like a chest press. Having the barbell racked and right above you makes it easier to lift heavy–with dumbbells you have to get heavy dumbbells off the floor and into position. Two 35 pound dumbbells is impossible for me–but I can press a 70 pound barbell.

        The T-bar rows during the back workout are actually landmine rows. I suggest using one heavy DB held by the bar in both hands and doing a bent over landmine row.


  1. I appreciate your blog so much! I just ordered Cathe’s Pure Strength and Slow and Heavy DVDs. I really need this type of follow along guidance versus a plan written out and no examples to follow as I go. Thank you again! Great reviews and detailed descriptions!


  2. Excellent and through review … thanks. I am considering trying out this series of hers. Good to know about the body bar. Funny I had one (12 lbs I think), and got rid of not that long ago. Cannot keep every piece of equipment around. Takes up space!!


    1. It is a great workout and I am glad you commented on it, because it reminds me that I really need to revisit this workout! I had actually considered getting rid of my body bar until I discovered Cathe. Now it has shown up again in some Amy Bento workouts so I am glad I ended up keeping it!


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