The Firm: Advanced Cardio Blast

advanced cardio blastThe Firm was the series that originally got me addicted to home DVD workouts. They challenged me but didn’t kill me. I haven’t done them in many years however because my fitness level has increased and they stopped challenging me. However, recently I’ve become a little nostalgic and have been wanting to revisit not only my old favorite Firms but the ones I used to find most challenging to see what I thought of them now. Advanced Cardio Blast, in my memory, was the absolute hardest Firm cardio workout I had ever done at the time. In fact, back in the day, this workout instilled me with a sense of dread and I am pretty sure I only did it two or three times. So I was very excited to pull this one out and give it another go.

The verdict? I have come a long, LONG way! It is advanced in the Firm series, but in the rest of the workout DVD world? Compared to Cathe, Jillian Michaels, Shaun T, Michelle Dozois, and the list goes on–no, this is not advanced. It was a good workout however. I actually enjoyed it and got a solid and, at times, intense cardio workout. It is set up in typical Firm circuit style (which I loved and actually still do love). You get 5 circuits. The first two circuits are the ones that actually got my heart pumping. In fact, I would say the second circuit was the most intense of the 5. After that one they were all pretty steady state. The hardest part about the workout was at times the choreography got a little confusing. However, you repeat each exercise combo enough that I eventually caught on. It wasn’t really complex choreography–just different from what I am accustomed to. However, I do remember, when I was a die hard Firmie, their step choreography was second nature to me, just like Cathe’s is now. And when I started on my Cathe journey, I found her choreography too complicated. So it’s all relative.

Advanced Cardio Blast is led by Lisa Kay. She is a regular Firm instructor in many of the DVDs I own and I always enjoyed her workouts. The only Firmboxequipment needed is the Firm “Box.” The Firm had a series of step/boxes. The Fanny Lifter (their version of the square high step), the Transfimer (a two part step that inclines), and the Firm Box. The Firm Box is one piece. It has a 6 inch step with “legs” underneath. The legs fold under and out of the way for stepping, they open and lock, creating a 14 inch box, or you can just pull one side out and leave the other folded under for an incline box. Tho it sounds great in theory, in practice it was a pain in the a$$. I always had a horrible time opening those stupid legs and would have to pause the DVD to struggle with it. I also heard of it collapsing on people! But that never happened to me. However, I still have my Firm Box, tucked away in a closet and I pulled it out for this workout. It is still an interesting little workout tool–much shorter in length than the full length club step I use now. But I wanted to revisit this workout using the same equipment Lisa is using and that I used to use when I did it many years ago.

Revisiting this workout, there are a few things that stand out to me now that didn’t bother me back when I did The Firm every day. First, the music is very generic. Good exercise music, but nothing motivating. And the Firm instructors sound as if their cuing and encouragement is very rehearsed and rote. I suppose doing so many Cathe and Beachbody workouts I am now accustomed to trainers who don’t use a script. I know back when I did The Firm every day, I never noticed how scripted their speaking was, but now when I return to Firm workouts it really stands out.

Advanced Cardio Blast is 32:30 minutes long. It starts w/ a 2 minute intro, 5 minute warm up and 4 minute cool down; so total workout time is 30:30 minutes. It is made up of 5 step cardio circuits. You start with the box at 14 inches and standing in front of it for the warm up. In the break down below, I will list each exercise in the order it is presented. However, these are built into combos. So when Lisa first introduces the move you do the most reps; then, as she adds moves, the reps decrease so it becomes a more compact combo of all the moves. Also, there is a low impact/beginner modifier if these moves are too hard for you (as they used to be for me) but they hardly ever show her, so for the most part her presence is pretty useless.

  1. Circuit 1: (box is at 14 inches) step ups, then burpees (but hands are on a 14 inch step so not terribly challenging), knee lifts on step, do a burpee w/ a pulsing push up (hands on step) followed immediately by a step up with a side leg lift.
  2. Circuit 2: (box is at 6 inches): plyo squat jumps w/ two hops, step hops side to side, tap/skip feet on floor, (do the exercise series just listed in a pattern that circles the box); add toe taps on step and jacks, add calf pumps and lunge jump to side (a lower impact lunge not a plyo jump lunge)
  3. Circuit 3: (box stays at 6 inches): side step/hop across step, side lunge off step, step knee straddle, knee repeater, corner to corner, hop turn, squat (one foot on step) w/ two hops on step
  4. Circuit 4 (incline box): a run/jog step w/ one foot on incline, jacks, a kind of skip w/ one foot on incline, heel jacks, heel-toe-heel on incline (you’re just tapping the incline w/ heel & toe while hopping), hop across incline, while at side of incline press one foot 3 times on incline then hop over to other side
  5. Circuit 5: (box still inclined): box step and tap hand to other heel (alternate sides), straddle step on incline, turn step on the incline, turn step on floor, hamstring curls on incline (but to the side), ham-knee-ham on incline, 2 plyo squat jumps, toe tap/hops on step

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