Les Mills Combat

les-mills-1Les Mills Combat is a Beach Body fitness program based on various forms of martial arts: boxing, Muay Thai, Tae Kwon Do, Karate/Kung Fu, Capoeira and Ju Jitsu. The base program comes with 6 workouts, an instructional DVD, an informational booklet and a nutrition guide. If you get the Ultimate Warrior bonus workouts (which I did) you get 4 additional workouts. There is also a bonus workout you get when ordering through a Beach Body Coach or just buying it (so 11 workouts total). In the instructional DVD (called The Basics), the two trainers Dan Cohen and Rachel Newsham go over the various basic moves you will be using in these workouts. And there are a lot. The Basics is structured by the discipline each move originates from. They teach you form and they let you practice. I am not trained in the martial arts; however I have done (and love) lots of kickboxing workouts. Though most of the moves were familiar to me, it was helpful to go over form in such a detailed way. Plus, there were moves that were completely new to me. The Fitness Guide briefly goes over the 6 different disciplines, explaining what their focus is. You also get a description of each workout, instructor intros and rotation calendars. The nutrition guide is a useful little book that covers all the basics and even gives some good meal ideas and recipes. You can get gloves to go with this workout but they are not weighted. Dan explains them as giving you a better grip when punching. I used my own 1 pound weighted gloves for the workouts the first time through but in the future I will use my 2 pound gloves.

There is a lot of personality in this program. I like the energy and dynamic between Dan and Rachel. They are entertaining and play off each other in a very natural way–tho sometimes they are are a little too exuberant and excited. The workouts are very music focused. Rachel and sometimes Dan sing during the workouts and seem to get energized by some of the songs. The workouts are structured in segments and each segment has its own song. For every workout there are two timers in the bottom right hand corner of the screen that counts down total workout time as well as segment time. Next to the timers you are also told what punch or kick you are doing. In every workout there is a low impact modifier; so if you don’t want to jump, you don’t have to. One thing I really like about these workouts is that they are very form focused. Throughout all of the workouts (not just the early ones) Dan and Rachel make sure that you are doing the moves properly.

Now, with all of that out of the way, how did I approach this program? After all, it is one of Beachbody’s fitness programs that comes with month long rotation calendars. I did not follow the rotation calendar and am, in fact, posting this review after only doing each workout one time. The reason for this, is that it is primarily a cardio/kickboxing program and IMHO that cannot be the only thing you do. I need strength. Everyone needs strength. And yes, if you purchase the “Ultimate Warrior” bonus workouts you get some strength–but not a lot. At least, not enough to be adequate for my needs. However, I was impressed with the strength workouts; upper body in particular. As for intensity, lets talk about the base program. The combat workouts are great kickboxing workouts and I really enjoyed them. However, they are not the best kickboxing workouts I have ever done. Susan Chung, Ilaria Montagnani and Cathe all do it better. And for some excellent cardio kickboxing it doesn’t get much better than Chalene Johnson’s TurboFire and Heather Corndorf’s Kickbox Burn. Nevertheless they are still great and fun workouts–and different from the afore mentioned trainers. But not the most intense cardio or kickboxing workouts out there. The HIIT workouts however are an entirely different story. They are very intense and advanced HIIT workouts that surprised and impressed me.

The Ultimate Warrior bonus workouts are well worth the extra money–for the lower body and upper body workouts alone. They are advanced and do the job in a short amount of time, giving you strength and cardio–metabolic weight training. Though I did like the stretch and core workouts, I didn’t love them and probably won’t return to them very often.

Combat 30: Kickstart is 30 minutes long with a 3:30 minute warm up, 24:30 kickboxing and 2 minute cool down/stretch. Kickstart is a fun introductory workout that will get your heart rate up with lots of kicks, punches and even some intervals. I wore 1 pound gloves the first time I did the workout to increase intensity and I got a great little cardio workout. It is broken down into segments; each segment is driven by a song. There is a timer in the bottom right hand corner of the screen that tells you what punch or kick you are doing as well as when a new segment starts. You have the workout timer, which for this workout starts at 30 minutes and counts down, and right next to it, the segment timer which for the warm up starts at 3 minutes then counts down until the warm up portion is over. The segments each have their own little themes. For instance, after the warm up (which is all punches) is a 3 minute kick section, which is really an extension of the warm up since you go through all of the different kicks. The section following that is a series of kick/punch combos. Next you have a 6 minute segment that is primarily punches but also has some fast foot work giving you some interval training. The next 6:30 minute segment is 234 continuous kicks. You read that right. It really isn’t as hard as it sounds. There are jump kicks in there, btw. Great leg shaper and gets the heart rate up, too. The final 4:30 minutes before the stretch is boxing drills.

Combat 45: Power Kata is 43 minutes long with a 3 minute warm up, 36 minute training time and 4 minute stretch. Combat 45 isn’t that much different, intensity-wise, from Combat 30. It is longer and introduces different combos and moves. I really enjoyed it and especially like all of the kicks. This workout is broken down into segments just like Combat 30 is. The 3 minute warm up is punches and boxer shuffles. The next 4 minute segment is an extension of the warm up that does kick drills. 3 minutes of blocks, back fist and kick combos. 4:30 minutes of boxing. 5 minutes of kicking and ginga–this one adds some plyometrics (jumping side kicks). 7 minutes of Muay Thai with descending elbow strikes, downward punches, lots of double knee strikes; he adds intervals with plyometric jumping knee strikes. 5:30 minutes of blocks and front and back kicks. 7 minutes boxing combos. It ends with a 4 minute stretch on the floor.

Combat 60: Extreme Cardio Fighter is 54 minutes long with a 3:30 minute warm up, 47:30 minute training time and 3 minute stretch. It appears that the intensity level of the kickboxing workouts is pretty consistent; what varies is their length. They use different combos and but they are pretty similar. So far I like them all tho. They are fun and they give me a good workout. The time seems to go by very quickly when doing them (fun factor!)–this one especially. They are all structured in basically the same way, too: 3-6 minute segments, each with a different focus. The warm up consists of punches, shuffles and scissor legs; it is extended by the next 4:30 minute segment which is kick drills. You have 5 minutes of punch/kick combos. 5 minutes of boxing intervals with fast foot work like scissor legs. 5 minutes of punch/kick combos. For the next 4 minutes one of the female trainers takes Dan’s place to lead the segment with Rachel. For this segment you just do some cardio boxing. Next the girls move to the back and Dan takes the lead with another male trainer. For this 6:30 minute segment you will do lots of kicks. For the rest of the workout it’s Dan and Rachel again. Then 6 minutes of punch/kick combos. The next 6:30 minutes segment is the last cardio round (tho not the last training segment in the workout) and it consists of cardio boxing with intervals made up of punches with fast footwork like cross jacks. For the final 5 minute training segment you do push up variations and crunch variations. You end with a 3 minute floor stretch.

Combat 60 Live: Ultimate Warriors Workout is 53 minutes long; 1 minute intro, 4 minute warm up, 42:30 minute training time and 5:30 minute cool down/stretch. I have a lot of mixed feelings about this workout. I did really like it. It is similar to Combat 60 Extreme Cardio Fighter, but since different moves and combos are used it is different enough to be unique. It also has some tough new moves in it. It got my heart rate up there and it was fun. However… I didn’t like the “live” aspect of it. It was filmed on a stage in England and due this “live” element there was more down time. I also didn’t care for the stretch at the end. No equipment is needed but I used one pound weighted gloves. The workout starts just like all the other Les Mills Combat kickboxing workouts; with a warm up consisting of punches, which moves into to the next segment which is 5 minutes of kick drills. 3:30 minutes blocks and punch/kick combos. 5 minutes of cardio boxing. 5:30 minutes of capoeira; so leg work consisting of lunges and kicks (this one really burns the legs out). 4 minutes of boxing combos. 5 minutes punch/kick/block combos. 5:30 minutes Muay Thai training: descending elbow, lots of knee strikes, plyo pushes (an upper body movement, like pushing someone violently) and kicks. 5 minutes of boxing combos. 2:30 of push ups, crunches and scissor legs. 5:30 minute cool/down stretch in which the “kata” concept is continued with arm movements.

Power HIIT 1 is 30 minutes long with a 4 minute warm up, 23 minute training time and 3 minute stretch. Dan gives a 1:30 minute intro to this workout before it actually starts (so total time with the intro is 31:30 minutes). I’m not sure what exactly I expected from this workout, but it delivered something unexpected. I really, really like it a lot. It is tough and it is varied. Dan primarily leads this workout with the occasional help of one of the male trainers and he takes you through all forms of HIIT training. For anyone who thought the only way to HIIT it was to do plyometrics, this workout shows the whole range of ways to get your heart pumping hard. You do need equipment for this workout: a variety of dumbbells. The other male trainer even used a barbell and barbell plates. Dan used 20 and 30 pound dumbbells. The women used lighter dumbbells. I used 10, 12 and 15 pound dumbbells but I think in the future I could use 20s for some of the moves I used the 15 pound dumbbells. You may also need a mat for the last HIIT segment and the stretch. The workout starts with a pretty active 4 minute warm up then moves to the first HIIT segment. For this one you need your dumbbells. It’s 8:30 minutes consisting of  2 sets of deadrows, 1 set of clean and deadlifts, 2 sets of clean and press, and 5 sets of power presses. The next segment is 6 minutes and the focus is lower body. Sumo squat jumps done slow then fast (called “sumo cross jump” when done fast) followed by alternating plyometric jump lunges. Repeat the sumo/jump lunge series. Next grab one dumbbell. First you will do slow squats, add a press at the top. For the last 30 seconds speed up the squat presses. For the next 4 minutes you will be doing burpee jump squats. The final 4 minutes of training time focuses on the core. You may need to grab a mat for this (I did). The first move is called “hover” plank, but what it really is, is high plank to low plank. The first time it is done in a knee plank. Next do slow mountain climbers. Do the hover/high plank to low plank again, but this time on your toes. Do slow mountain climbers again.  Get into elbow plank and do “spider push ups”… except you are not doing push ups. You are bringing your knee to your elbow on the same side of your body while in low plank. The workout ends with 3 minutes of stretching.

Shock Plyo HIIT 2 is 28:30 minutes long with a 5:30 minute warm up, 20 minute training time and 3 minute cool down/stretch. You will need one dumbbell for this workout. I used a 10 pound dumbbell. It is only used briefly. Shock Plyo HIIT 2 is just what the title says–a plyometric HIIT workout. It’s fun and pretty varied. I liked it and got a great workout. The warm up is very active with running drop squats, sprint touch downs, alternating forward lunges, plyo jump lunges, burpees and push ups into side planks. For the next 4 minute segment you will alternate high knee runs with butt kick runs, burpees; the runs change to runs with long jump drop squats; change to burpees with drop squats. The next 5:30 minute segment consists of double lunges; this means you pulse twice in lunge then plyo jump to change legs. Then you change to single alternating jump lunges. Then you do mountain climbers. For the rest of the segment you alternate between double lunges, single lunges (all plyo) and mountain climbers. You need your dumbbell for the next 2 minute segment. Hold the dumbbell with both hands; squat, overhead press, squat, jump to the side. Set the dumbbell down and do crossover drop squats. Sumo squat jumps. 3:30 minutes of ski jump squats (lateral), sprint taps + run combo, high knee run and wide drop taps (lateral skiers). For the last 4 minutes of training time you’ll be on the floor doing rotating push ups (push up into side plank; alternate sides), hover leg lifts (get into elbow planks and alternate lifting legs) and cobra push ups (similar to diver bomber push ups). You’ll end with side planks. 3 minute stretch.

cmbt_30Combat 30 Live is the bonus workout you get when you order through a Beachbody coach or buy it yourself. I did not think I was going to like this workout at first. I didn’t like the”live” aspect of Combat 60 Live, plus I felt like there was too much down time in Combat 60 Live. Combat 30 Live seemed like it was starting out exactly the same as Combat 60 Live–the warm up seemed exactly the same. But then it got better than Combat 60 Live! And I liked it a lot! Now, Combat 30 Live is not going to throw anything new or unusual at you. It was done on a stage live in England, just like Combat 60 Live. However, if you have done all of the combat workouts, you will like the collection that Combat 30 Live includes. All moves you have done before, but put together into a fun and intense little workout. The warm up starts the same as all the others with a cardio boxing segment that moves into kick drills. So here is the breakdown: It is 33:30 minutes long. There is a 1 minute intro by Dan, then 3:30 minute warm up of cardio punch drills. Next is 4:30 minutes of kick drills. The next 6:30 minutes is punch/kick combos. Then you have 6 minutes of cardio boxing that combines punches with cross jack feet and scissor legs. 6:30 minutes of Kata; this was my favorite part of the workout. You to the kata arm movements then you do kick combos that evolve into jump kicks. By the end of the segment you have done 117 kicks on each side of your body. The final segment is 5 minute long and it is more cardio boxing with punches and scissor legs. There is no cool down or stretch! I thought that was kind of weird, but I was ok with it. I did a shoulder stretch, then a quad and hamstring stretch. That felt adequate.

Ultimate Warrior Bonus Workouts:ultwarrior

Warrior 1: Upper Body Blow Out is 24:30 minutes long. There’s pretty much no warm up–you just launch straight into the workout. There is a 3:30 minute stretch at the end. You need dumbbells for this workout and, since you’ll be on the floor, a mat for your knees and hands if necessary. I did not know what to expect when I came to this workout since there isn’t a lot of traditional strength work in this program. This is actually a pretty advanced little workout. I have to say I was not expecting it to be as challenging as it was, plus I had done Ripped with HIIT Chest, Shoulders & Triceps the day before (so was very sore) and had scheduled to do Ripped with HIIT Back, Shoulders and Biceps the next day. So not only was I already suffering DOMS, but didn’t want to do anything to affect the next day’s workout. So I was conservative on weights. However, this is a workout that could seriously challenge me with heavy weights and I will be revisiting it soon and using a better weight selection. In fact, I will update this post when that happens. (**see below) In addition, not only is this a fast-paced workout, but Dan throws in some intense little cardio moves, so you are getting metabolic strength training. As I mentioned, you will need dumbbells. I used 8 and 10 pounds, but in the future I will have a bigger variety–8s, 10s, 15s and possibly even 20s. Oh, and I had to pause it to put weight gloves on. Again, I was not expecting it to be as tough as it was! The first segment is 6:30 minutes and is called the warm up, but personally, unless you are using super light weights for this segment only (not something that is done or recommended by the trainers) it is as intense and challenging as the rest of the workout. You start with a modified bear crawl, then do push ups. Grab a set of dumbbells. Lunges with overhead press. Go back to bear crawls and push ups. Grab one dumbbell. Single arm clean and press with squat. Bear crawls and push ups. Single arm clean and press with squat (other arm). The next segment is 4:30 minutes long. Grab the other dumbbell. Squats with alternating shoulder press. Press your dumbbells together and continue to do squats with double arm overhead presses. Renegade rows. Overhead tricep extensions (french press). Repeat, starting with squats with alternating overhead press all the way through overhead tricep extensions. The next segment is 6:30 minutes long and things really get tough. Now, remember, there is always  a modifier, plus, Dan starts with “level one” of an exercise, then keeps showing you more advanced levels. So it doesn’t have to be super-advanced, but of course, I want the challenge of Dan’s highest levels! The first exercise is a half burpee; level two is ski abs; level three is release one hand while doing ski abs. Grab one dumbbell for a resisted upper cut. Go back to the half burpee/ski abs. Then do the resisted upper cut on the other arm. Next you do lock push ups which is doing a push up then tapping your opposite shoulder (alternate shoulder taps). Grab both dumbbells and do two arm resisted upper cuts. The final training segment is 3:30 and you will be working your abs. The first move is triple crunch extension. Next is slow mountain climbers angling knee toward opposite elbow. For level two you lift one hand off the floor, twisting obliques and bringing knee out to side (rather than just to opposite elbow); he calls this “hip escape.” For level three you are doing the “hip escape” but straightening the leg out underneath you toward opposite side. Do slow crunches, then back to triple crunch extensions. End with mountain climbers at whatever level you are able–he adds a level 4 this time, doing the level 3 mountain climbers double time! It ends with a 3:30 minute stretch. **I just did this workout again; in fact, I did it first, then followed it up with Power HIIT #1 and increased my dumbbell weights for both of them. Wow! Great combo–my upper body, shoulders in particular, were burning for hours afterward. I didn’t even want to lift my arms. However, they did improve as the day went on and no DOMS the next day. Still, great workout!

Warrior 2: Lower Body Lean Out is 29 minutes long with a 3:30 minute warm up, 23:30 minute training time and 2 minute stretch. Lower Body Lean Out is an intense cardio workout with a lower body focus. There are no punches in this workout, but there is lots of kicking and plyometrics. Your heart will be seriously pumping and your lower body will burn out! I really enjoyed this workout and found it much more intense than I expected. By the title, I expected strength work but this is a cardio workout, HIIT level in some places. You do get some strength work for your lower body, don’t misunderstand, but this is not really a strength workout. Rachel leads this workout. The 3:30 minutes warm up starts you off with high knees, drop squats and front lunges that turn into jump lunges. For the next 7 minutes you will do all kinds of kick drills–high reps. Next is 2:30 minutes of what Rachel calls agility in the form of “attack, attack, retreat, retreat.” You will be kind of jump/bouncing forward and back. Then you do 180 jump squats. Then you combine them and add a tuck jump; so attack, attack, retreat, retreat, three 180 jump squats, tuck jump. keep repeating. Next is 4 minutes of shoot lunges and burpees. For the next 6 minutes the theme is Capoeira and it starts with pulsing lunges that turn into lunge jumps, running man knees, scissor legs and jack combo. The last 3 minutes of the workout (before the 2 minute stretch) are on the ground. The first exercise is a “side hover kick”: this is side plank, but on one knee and kick the top leg. The last exercise is bridge work on your back. You start with a basic bridge then add alternating kicks. Quick stretch. **The next day I had some glute and inner thigh DOMS.

Inner Warrior: Stretch & Strength is 18 minutes long. For this workout I was expecting something more along the lines of yoga, but it’s not like that. The workout is led by Rachel and it’s main focus is doing slow karate hand movements while stretching and strengthening your lower body. It is a bit odd, and I did like it, but I didn’t love it. I do think the slower pace can help you learn some of the complicated martial arts hand movements (not punches/jabs etc.–but the other moves like blocks that they call “kata”) that are done fast during the cardio workouts. The strengthening of the lower body is because you spend a lot of time the first part of the workout in deep sumo. In fact, the first 13 minutes are all done standing. The final 5 minutes you move to the ground and do more traditional stretches such as child’s pose, cat/cow and down dog. You also do hip flexor stretches, quad stretches, twists for your spine and glute stretch. This is definitely not the best stretching workout I have ever done, but it has it’s benefits–the additional leg strengthening and slow arm blocks.

Core Attack is 17 minutes long. You can use a dumbbell for one of the exercises–your choice of weight (Dan uses 20 pounds). I found the exercise challenging enough without any dumbbell. The actual workout is 17 minutes but Dan talks for a full minute before it starts (making total time 18 minutes). The workout starts out seeming too easy, then several minutes in it gets really challenging and stays very challenging all the way to the end.

Double leg lifts
Alternate leg lifts
Scissor switch
Cross Crawl (bicycle)
Bridge (this is more of a stretch/break)
Basic crunch
Scissor switch
Cross crawl
Hover (in knee plank and you will do salute arms)
Lay on back and alternate straight leg drops
V sit + C crunch (very challenging)
Hover and salute–on toes in full plank this time
Lay on back for alternating leg drop
V Sit + C crunch with dumbbell this time (I did not use the dumbbell)
Slow mountain climbers
Side elbow plank
(keep alternating between doing slow mountain climbers and side elbow planks)
Get on all 4s and do leg extension taps
Lay on stomach for leg lift extensions (lifting legs then opening and closing them)
Arm lift combo
Star pose (just combine the leg extensions with the arm lift combo–like you are swimming)
Leg extension taps (other leg)


4 thoughts on “Les Mills Combat

  1. I don’t know who you are. how old, or male or female. But your reviews are great. Sometimes I believe people who do the reviews made some popcorn and sat on the couch and watched the video. If I were doing reviews (and sometimes I am tempted to do so) I would hope to equate to your level of perfection. Thank you so much for being here and doing what you do.


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