Cathe’s Cross Train Express

Cross Train Express is another of Cathe’s “systems.” She has a few. Specifically 4 Day Split and STS, though any of her series can be used as a system. However, Cross Train Express (CTX) is sold only as a system—which is also how 4 Day Split and STS are sold, meaning you cannot purchase the individual workouts separately; if you want one, you have to get them all. So if you purchase CTX you get 6 full workouts, plus two premixes. 5 of those workouts have a cardio segment and a strength segment that works one muscle group; the 6th workout is a lower body workout (no cardio); plus 4 of the 6 workouts feature an abdominal segment. The two premixes are Upper Body Split which combines all of the upper body strength work into one workout and Abs Only which combines the 4 abdominal segments into one long abdominal workout.

CTX was produced in 2000, before Cathe became the premix queen. For instance, 4 Day Split is similar to CTX in many ways, but it has a plethora of premixes so you can use 4 Day Split workouts any way you like and w/out much thought. CTX can be used in a similar fashion, but since it doesn’t have the plethora of premixes, some thought must go into your mixing and matching. Which is where Cathe’s excellent chaptering comes into play. Each workout is chaptered, so if you want to only do one of the cardios one day, go into that workout’s chaptering and do the warm up, the cardio and the stretch. Want an hour long cardio? Do two cardios—and decide which warm up to do before the cardio segments you chose and which stretch you want finish with. One of the premixes is Upper Body Split, which is all of the upper body work. But if you want to isolate specific muscle groups—but not as much as each individual workout isolates (each workout only works one muscle group), say you want to work biceps and triceps. Then you would go into the chaptering for Upper Body Split and just do the tricep and bicep strength work. So basically, you can use this system any way you want.

As she should, Cathe grows and changes. I now own the majority of her workouts that are available on DVD that span about 15 years (maybe longer) and there are certain things that seem unique to certain periods and other things that are pure Cathe and are a constant through all of her workouts. I mention this because CTX workouts are reminiscent of some of Cathe’s other workouts that came out around the same time: Cardio Kicks, Circuit Max and Body Max. The primary thing is that she is a space hog; she apparently thinks you are working out in an empty ballroom with unlimited floor space. There are also some dancy aerobic moves that I don’t see as much of in later workouts. What is the same, is that they are advanced and effective—she works you hard and burns the muscles out. Which makes her workouts excellent and effective workouts no matter what year they are produced.

Since it is the first time I am doing CTX, I wanted to make sure I did everything the first time. So here was my CTX week:

Day 1: Kickbox/Biceps/Abs

Day 2: Leaner Legs/Abs

Day 3: 10-10-10/triceps

Day 4: Step & Intervals/Chest

Day 5: All Step/Shoulders/Abs

Day 6: Power Circuit/Legs/Back/Abs

However, this is not an ideal rotation for me. Though, in theory, I love cardio + strength, I also like to hit each muscle group 2-3 times a week, so I’m not crazy about the way CTX, if used as designed, only hits each upper body muscle group once. In the future, I will probably use the chaptering to do the cardio workouts separately (w/out the strength segments) and use the Upper Body Premix and Leaner Legs as pure strength workouts.

Kickbox/Biceps/Abs: 59 minutes; 9 minute warm up, 23 minute kickboxing, 10 minutes biceps, 12 minutes abs, 5 minute stretch. There is also a 2 minute intro at the beginning, bringing the total minutes for this workout to 61 minutes. You will need a barbell and dumbbells for this workout, a mat for ab work and, finally, I also used weighted gloves for the kickboxing section.

I loved this workout. As I mentioned above, these workouts are reminiscent of some of Cathe’s other workouts that came out around the same time. This one reminds me somewhat of Cardio Kicks. Mostly the warm up. She used a lot of floor space for the warm up—however, in this case, it was easily modifiable without affecting intensity at all. It is obviously shorter than Cardio Kicks and though I love Cardio Kicks, what I prefer about CTX Kickbox is that, after the warm up, it focuses primarily on kickboxing moves, with some high intensity athletic drills. Right up my alley. Cardio Kicks has a mix of kickboxing and aerobic moves. But that’s okay—Cathe gives me such a wide variety of, well—everything! Strength, cardio, kickboxing. At this point, I can’t imagine ever getting bored doing nothing but Cathe workouts!

Back to the review. There are no complex combos in the kickboxing section, but a lot of punching and kicking drills. She also gives you one of her “blast” segments (or HIITs, but she calls them blasts in early workouts): jump roping, ski hops and power lunges.

After the kickboxing, you do a very short cool down to lower your heart rate a bit, then move into bicep work:

Crazy 8s with barbell

Traditional bicep curls with the barbell

Alternating bicep curls with dumbbells

Alternating rotation curls with the dumbbells

Concentration curls with the dumbbells

If you lift heavy enough, these will burn your biceps out by the end. There are a lot of reps! I also liked the long abdominal section. It was varied enough to keep it interesting, in spite of its length. It starts out with a plank series. In high plank you will bring your knee in to various counts—one, two and four. Next in reverse plank you will raise each leg and hold them elevated. This is followed by some nice rolling up and down before you move into standard crunches. The ab section ends with the pilates boat pose.

Leaner Legs/Abs:  49 minutes; 3 minute warm up, 33 minute strength training, 9 minute abs, 4 minute stretch. Other than the Upper Body Split premix, Leaner Legs is the only “pure strength” workout in CTX. However, it moves at such a quick clip that your heart rate is climbing. Cathe has quite a few excellent lower body workouts, but I’d have to say, this is one of my favorites. You do a lot of reps, lots of sets and the tempo always varies—to the count of 4, to the count of two, three up one down, low ends and then single counts. She keeps it tough and interesting. For the Leg Presses, be prepared—three sets of 16 reps on each side with very little rest between each set. There is no floor work or barre work in this work, which is both a good and a bad thing. I like the standing work much better than floor and barre work, but the truth is, floor and barre work hit different muscle groups, giving a more well rounded lower body workout when they are thrown into the mix. Nevertheless, because they aren’t included this is a more enjoyable workout for me.

Equipment needed: barbell, dumbbells, high step at 10, 14 and 16 inches and a mat for ab work. For the calf raises, you will hold your barbell, one end on the ground, as a support–like a walking stick.

The warm up is your first set of squats, but with no weights. Barbell squats are the first exercise and you will do the exact amount and types of reps/sets as you do in the warm up.

Barbell squats

Deadlifts with barbell

Calf raises

Leg press with dumbbells on 14 inch high step

Single leg squats with dumbbells one foot on 10 inch step

Deadlifts with barbell

Calf raises

Barbell squats

Sit & Stands with barbell using high step at 16 inches

Deadlifts with barbell

Calf raises

Static lunges with barbell

Plie squats with barbell

Deadlifts with barbell

Calf raises

The long 9 minute abdominal section is unimpressive. Just a lot of variations on a basic crunch. Worthy of skipping and adding on some cardio instead in the future–or doing CTX Power Circuit’s Step and Kickbox Power Circuits for even more leg work with cardio (see last workout review). Or add on the floor or barre lower body work from one of Cathe’s other lower body workouts to hit the glutes harder.

10-10-10/Triceps: 45 minutes; 5 minute warm up, 25 minutes cardio, 12 minutes tricep training, 3 minute stretch. Just like all of the others, this workout has a 2 minute intro by Cathe, bringing the total time to 47 minutes—but I fast forward through it. 10-10-10 stands for 10 minutes of 3 different types of cardio, and the first 10 minutes starts in the warm up. The first 10 minute segment is kickboxing, followed by hi/lo and ending with a step routine.

Equipment needed: 6 inch step, barbell and dumbbells.

I really liked this workout. Not as much as the first two, but I still enjoyed it. The kickboxing wasn’t as much fun as the Kickbox/Bicep/Abs kickboxing, but it was still fun. The hi/lo was floor aerobic-type moves that ended with “blasts”—or HIITs. I liked this, too. Didn’t love it, but I liked it. The blast/HIITs really got my heart rate up. There were four of them and each had a short lower intensity recovery move between them: high knees, plyo heel digs, plyo jumps and high kicks. The final “10” was the step routine. There was a time when I hated Cathe’s step routines and avoided them like the plague. I’m starting to come around. I still have problems with her complex choreography, but I am finding, the more I do her workouts and am exposed to her choreography, the better I get. This step routine had some moderately complex steps. She did teach them in layers—which isn’t something she usually does with other step routines I’ve come across. Usually she expects you to pick it up immediately. So initially, I was catching on really well. But then when she combined two moderately complex moves (double ricochet and a mambo move entirely on the step) into a complex combo, I was lost—even though I had been following the moves separately just fine. And I never did catch on properly, despite the fact she went over it several times. I was able to do all of the steps around that combo w/out a problem, so it didn’t detract from my workout terribly, but it is still frustrating. And a little worrisome, since the remaining CTX workouts I still need to do all include step routines. But I am hoping to catch on to Cathe’s step choreography and be able to eventually do all of her workouts without much problem.

Once the step routine is finished, she gives a brief cool down, then you move into the tricep work.

Close grip bench press with barbell while lying on step

Lying tricep extensions with dumbbells

Single arm French press with dumbbell

Single arm tricep kickbacks with dumbbell

Tricep push ups

Step and Intervals/Chest: 45 minutes; 9 minute warm up, 21 minute step cardio, 10 minutes chest work, 5 minute stretch. Just like all of the others, this workout has a 2 minute intro by Cathe, bringing the total time to 47 minutes—but I fast forward through it. I LOVE the cardio portion of this workout. It is all step—and I was able to follow it with no problem! I will admit that the choreography was more basic than some of her other step cardios (such as the step work in 10-10-10), but it was not basic. Low-moderate complexity, perhaps? The real key to this one, I think, is that she taught the moves. I had a chance to master each one before another one was added to the combo. It was fun and I loved it. Cathe uses a 6 inch step, which I also used. However, in the future I will use an 8 inch step. The intensity wasn’t what I want from a cardio workout, but I do think increasing my step height will solve that problem. The cardio ends with three high intensity intervals. I hesitate to call them HIITs because they weren’t that intense, but they were a lot more intense than the rest of the workout. The intervals are 1. plyo jacks with airborne jumps, 2. power 15s and 3. hop on and off step with ski jumps and power 7s. In between each interval you do a basic step routine. And again, increasing the step height will make most of the intervals more intense as well.

I found the chest work a little less exciting. The barbell bench presses really burn your chest and arms out, so I really didn’t like ending the strength section with push ups. I would have preferred to start with the push ups.

Pre-exhaust set barbell bench press (24 reps)

Barbell bench press (2 sets w/ varied tempos)

Chest fly with dumbbells

Bench press with dumbbells

Chest fly/bench press combo with dumbbells

Push ups—staggered and single (2 sets)

All Step/Shoulders/Abs: 53 minutes; warm up 6 minutes, step cardio 22 minutes, shoulder strength training 10 minutes, ab work 10 minutes and stretch 5 minutes. Just like all of the others, this workout has a 2 minute intro by Cathe, bringing the total time to 55 minutes—but I fast forward through it. I really liked this workout—almost in its entirety, except for the abdominal section, but we will get to that shortly. Though the cardio portion is called “All Step” it’s very similar to Step and Intervals… but different. The first difference is that the choreography is more complex. However, it contains blasts. They are different than the interval blasts in Step and Intervals, but they are high intensity blasts nonetheless. However, they are all step-related, whereas some of the intervals in Step and Intervals were on the floor. The blasts are power horses, ricochets, heel-toe hops, hop/jacks and lots of power 15s, 7s, and 3s. She also links them all into a combo. It was pretty intense and would be even more so if I didn’t get confused with the choreography several times and miss some of the moves.

I’m surprised that I liked All Step considering the complex choreography of the step routines. I’ll admit that I didn’t like it as much as Step and Intervals, but I think that was because several times I had to stop and watch new moves before I tried them. And it took me a few attempts to get the routines. Which just goes to show you, the more you follow a trainer, the more you learn their method. I am not only becoming more familiar with Cathe’s step moves, but I also catch on quicker. It definitely took me longer to catch on to the step routines in All Step than it did in Step and Intervals, but I caught on. And I enjoyed it! I felt it was a more intense cardio than Step and Intervals. I used the 6 inch step like Cathe did and I felt that was adequate. Who knows though? Maybe when I learn the choreography better I might want to raise the step and get an even better workout? I think All Step would work really well combined with Step and Intervals for a longer cardio workout. It could be put together in this manner: Step and Intervals warm up and cardio, All Step warm up, cardio and stretch for a total workout time of 63 minutes of cardio. I’ll probably use it that way in the future.

After a brief cool down, you move into shoulder strength work. You only need dumbbells for the strength work:

Warm up shoulder press (light dumbbells) 1 set

Shoulder press (heavy dumbbells) 2 sets

Bent arm side lateral raise with dumbbells 2 sets

Long lever side lateral raise with dumbbells 2 sets

Rear dealt fly with dumbbells 2 sets

Front raises with dumbbells 2 sets

Bent over shrugs with dumbbells 2 sets

Overhead press with dumbbells 1 set

The abdominal section is 10 minutes of crunch variations and very unimpressive. I will skip it in the future.

Power Circuit/Legs/Back Abs: 60 minutes; 4:30 minute warm up, 7 minutes hi/lo circuits; 10 minutes lower body/step power circuit; 11 minutes lower body/kickbox power circuit; 13 minutes back strength training; 5:30 plank/lower back work; 5 minute abs; 3 minute stretch. There is a lot going on in this workout. A LOT. Overall, I LOVED this workout. In fact, it may be my favorite of the six. However, there are parts of this workout I did not like at all. Thanks to Cathe’s excellent chaptering, I can avoid the parts I don’t like in the future. In fact, as I’ve mentioned in other parts of this review, I will rarely use these workouts as they are laid out. In the future I will use the Upper Body Split premix and piece the rest of my workouts together using the chaptering. But more on that in a bit.

The workout starts with what I don’t like about it. The warm up is ok. It’s pretty simple–mostly floor aerobic-type work. The first 11-12 minutes of this workout, in fact, are floor-aerobics-type work and suffer from what I disliked so much about parts of Circuit Max. The beginning of this workout, worse than any of the others in the CTX series, uses a lot of floor space. Cathe is all over the place. I really don’t understand how big of a room she thinks people are working out in. And like in Circuit Max, she doesn’t give any alternatives for if you have less floor space. And on top of that, I don’t care for the exercises in the hi/lo circuits–especially the hi circuits. Again, reminiscent of what I did not care for in Circuit Max. But once we are past the first 11-12 minutes of this workout, it is all uphill and I adore the rest of the workout.

The next 21 minutes are lower body power circuits in which you alternate between aerobic combos and lower body strength work. The choreography for the step circuits was moderately complex–on par with Step and Intervals and less complex than All Step. And though the next part is kickboxing circuits, the kickboxing is also done on the step–which I LOVE. Here are the six lower body moves:

Barbell squats

Barbell plie squats

Barbell static lunges

Alternating reverse lunges off the step with dumbbells

Alternating lunges onto step with dumbbells

Static lunges with dumbbells

Between each lower body move, there is a short step routine or a kickboxing routine/combo and each combo ends with a blast (3 circuits of each for a total of 6 power circuits and blasts). I loved it. It was tough and fun and had my heart racing.The power circuits are similar to the power circuits in Body Max–which was one of the the early Cathe workouts I did. I really am going to have to go back and give Body Max another try. I think I might change my mind about that workout now (I didn’t care for it the one time I did it).

Next, you move onto back work.

Barbell bent rows (3 sets 16 reps)

Underhand triple rows (3 sets)

Three sets one arm rows done pyramid style (8 reps with heavy weight, 12 reps with moderate weight, 16 reps with light weight)


You will finish your back strength training with plank work. You will hold low plank and lift each leg and hold. Then you will do the same in high plank. Then you will do swimmers and supermans. Finally, you do a short ab section that is just a variation on crunches. But I liked this one more than the other two ab sections that were just did crunch variations. Maybe because it was shorter.

This was an excellent workout. EXCELLENT. My lower body and back were well worked. Plus I got some fun and intense cardio. In the future however, I plan to combine the lower body/power circuits with the Leaner Legs leg work. I’ll do the Power Circuit warm up, then go straight to the 21 minutes of lower body power circuits, then 33 minutes of Leaner Legs lower body strength work and finish with Leaner Legs stretch. Total workout time: 62 intense minutes. And, of course, I’ll do the back work when I do Upper Body Split. One thing that I feel it is important to note–the plank work section is not featured in either the Ab Only premix or the Upper Body Split premix, but I feel it is integral to the back work. So in the future, I will use the Upper Body split to work all the other body parts (Upper Body Split premix is chaptered by body part, too), then come Power Circuit and use the chaptering so I can do the back strength work and finish with the plank/superman work.

11 thoughts on “Cathe’s Cross Train Express

  1. Good to know. : ) I appreciate your answering so promptly and completely. I don’t like when all of the muscles aren’t covered either or there’s only 7 reps or something for say, the chest. I am finding with the popularity now of tabata (which I generally appreciate), the shoulders and biceps are worked well but the instructors tend to not pay enough attention at all on the rest of the upper body.


  2. I’m glad that you mentioned the SPACE so required by many of her earlier workouts as I am having issues with this as well. I just don’t have the space! lol. I was wondering how you might compare this one to Timesaver in terms of space required and the unnecessary complexity of some movement/steps?


    1. I haven’t done her Timesaver series yet. I do own it but I have procrastinated trying it. I know it’s because it uses Step Blast. Just going from the knowledge that it uses Step Blast (and having tried Step Blast), I would say that Cross Train Express is much less complex choreography-wise. As far as the space requirements, I don’t remember the Step Blast or Step, Pump and Jump being space hogs, but it has been a while since I’ve done them. I also remember the strength work in Step, Pump & Jump being uneven whereas Cross Train Express covers everything pretty evenly and hits the muscles hard. However, keep in mind that Timesaver is more like a collection of premixes–she primarily uses Step Blast and Step, Pump & Jump but she also uses strength work from Supersets and Legs & Glutes, as well as some cardio from Kick, Punch & Crunch. And apparently there is also some bonus/new segments thrown in. So each workout is cobbled together unlike in Cross Train Express where each workout was created individually to stand alone.


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