The Firm: Body Sculpting Basics

Body Sculpting Basics is one of the original classic Firms and the very first Firm workout I ever did. It is led by Susan Harris. Though I did this workout many times when I first got it (on VHS), I remember very little about it except that it was hard and I couldn’t lift heavy dumbbells back then. Well–there is a reason! This is a fast-paced high rep workout. I challenge anyone to lift heavy dumbbells when doing this workout! I still can’t lift heavy dumbbells when doing this workout! Returning to it after so many years I did start to remember it and the question that popped into my head repeatedly was–how the heck did this workout get me hooked on The Firm? No love or nostalgia returned while doing this workout, tho I did recall a lot about it as I did it. The workout is challenging and effective, but Susan’s form is sometimes horrid, she talks like she is trying to sound sexy and who wears that much make up when working out? Not just her, but the class! They are made up like they are performing in a carnival! It has a super cheesy intro, too. It’s set in some kind of ballroom with Greek statues all around the room. Everyone is wearing leotards and tights. Susan is even wearing leg warmers. Music–super cheesy. I kept getting memories of the HBO movies my mom watched over and over again when I was a kid–Goldie Hawn/Chevy Chase comedies. They were probably good movies, but they had some goofy music.

Nevertheless, it is a challenging workout. The mat workout at the end was seriously burning my legs out and they felt weak for hours afterward. And the strength work is high rep so very metabolic. But there was a lot of silly choreographed movements in the warm up and stretch. I have mixed feelings about it. Returning to the other Firms I used to do, I can definitely see what hooked me–I still enjoy them! This was not enjoyable. And yet, back then I did it–a lot! Maybe it was the change. Prior to this workout, the only VHS workouts I ever did was two step workouts I loved (Step Reebok and another one that came with the step I bought–lost forever, I can’t remember any names/brands to help me find the actual workout) and Buns of Steel workouts–I had a lot of Buns of Steel workouts. So maybe it was the cardio + strength circuits that attracted me. I know once I purchased The Firm’s Body Sculpting System 2 I never did this workout again. So… I probably won’t return to this workout. There is a part of me that reminds myself I did get a good workout and it did burn my legs out big time. But doesn’t Cathe do that every time I do one of her workouts? Don’t the later Firms do that? My glutes were pretty sore after Jiggle Free Buns. Yeah, no point in returning to it. It is also making me question some of the other Classic Firms I bought but never did. I had planned to finally try them during my Firm period, but now I am not so sure.

Body Sculpting Basics is 62 minutes; 2:30 minute intro, 4:30 minute warm up (during warm up you use 1.5 pound hand weights) and 6:30 minute stretch. Equipment: dumbbells, a 2×4 to elevate your heels (I used 3# DBs). Susan had 3 sets of dumbbells. I was only able to read the number on the heaviest set and that one was 10 pounds. So I am assuming the other two were 8 pounds and 5s or 3s–but I don’t know. The dumbbells weights listed below are what I used.

Circuit 1: Equipment: dumbbells (I used 8 pound dumbbells for this entire circuit)

  1. Circle arms/DBs from overhead and out to sides
  2. Double arm overhead presses; alternating single arm overhead presses
  3. Bent arm side raises
  4. Alternating bicep curls
  5. Repeat #3
  6. Alternating overhead presses
  7. Repeat #3
  8. Repeat #4
  9. Plie squats; add upright rows; changes to fast pulsing plie squats (no arms); add fast upright rows; changes to fast alternating upright rows
  10. Bent over back rows
  11. Set DBs down and extend arms straight out to sides, twist torso/arms side to side keeping hips forward

Circuit 2: Cardio with 1.5 pound hand weights; I used 2 pound hand weights. Moves you will see–they are all repeated many times: jog w/ bicep curls; changes to bent arm side raises; changes to overhead presses; changes to pressing arms straight out to sides; jumping jacks w/ bent arm side raises; changes to overhead press; changes to pushing arms straight out to sides; triple step w/ bicep curls; knee pulls to side; kick out skips

Circuit 3: 2×4 (I used 3 pound dumbbells) and dumbbells

  1. Stand w/ heels on 2×4 (or light DBs), squat and twist torso side to side
  2. Pick up DBs (heels still on 2×4) and do squats w/ bicep curls; pulse squats (no bicep curls) (8# DBs)
  3. Heels still on 2×4 do squats w/ straight arm side raises; changes to bent arm side raises; alternate straight arm and bent arm side raises (8# DBs)
  4. Heels still on 2×4 but now at ends (you’ll have to adjust your light DBs) and do plie squats w/ straight arm front raises; changes to upright rows (8# DBs)
  5. Heels still on 2×4 but toes facing forward again, squats while pulling arms from in front of you back to shoulders but keeping arms wide (Susan and class uses 1.5 pound weights for this exercise); changes to raising one arm overhead, alternating arms (I used 2# DBs but could have used heavier)

Circuit 4: dumbbells (for #1 Susan used the 1.5 hand weights and the rest of the circuit she used heavier dumbbells; I used 2 pound hand weights for #1 and 8 pound dumbbells for everything else)

  1. Forward lunges while pushing one arm to the front and one to the side and press the weights overhead at top of lunge
  2. Front lunges with heavier dumbbells held at sides; add alternating bicep curls
  3. Fast plie squats w/ partial bicep curls; changes to partial bent arm side raises (still doing fast plie squats); changes to upright row
  4. Alternating front lunges; add bent arm side raises; changes to bicep curls
  5. Balance on one leg and lift and lower other leg out to side (fast); add little partial upright rows to side
  6. Squats w/ bicep curls
  7. French press (overhead tricep extension); add pulses

Circuit 5: Starts w/ cardio w/ light dumbbells. Susan used her lighter dumbbells (not the 1.5 pound hand weights) and I used 5 pound dumbbells.

  1. While jogging in place you will do low upright rows, hammer and bicep curls and bent arm side raises
  2. Tricep kickbacks
  3. Repeat #1
  4. Repeat #2
  5. Rear delt flys

Circuit 6: Everyone removes their shoes and puts on ankle weights and lighter ankle weights wrapped around ball of foot

  1. Push ups
  2. On forearms and knees, kick one leg out behind you; changes to hydrants to the side; keep alternating these two moves
  3. Hydrant lifts to the back; changes to pushing foot up to ceiling; keep alternating these two moves
  4. Push ups
  5. Repeat 2 & 3 on other leg

Circuit 7: 2×4 and dumbbells (weights still on feet/ankles). For the mat lower body work, Susan used a dumbbell on her thigh–one of her heavier ones (so 8 or 10 pounds) and I used a 5 pound dumbbell for everything except 1 & 2 below. For #3 she removed one of her ankle weights and used it for the upper body move that was done in conjunction with the lower body move, I used my 2 pound hand weight for that. For the hip bridges I used a step @ 8 inches.

  1. Lay back w/ shoulders on 2×4 and legs raised straight to ceiling–do chest flys; add pulses w/ arms wide (10# DBs)
  2. Lower feet to floor and place 2×4 under heels, pulse hips up in bridge; place DBs on hips and continue pulsing hips up; changes to shifting hips right and left; changes to opening and closing knees (10# DBs)
  3. Lay on side and raise and lower straight top leg while also pushing top arm overhead and to the side (top arm is holding a light weight); angle chest forward toward floor so top glute faces ceiling while continuing to raise and lower leg but this time heel toward the ceiling; return to the side, then shift so that top glute is on the floor while continuing to raise and lower leg, quads toward ceiling now; keep alternating between these 3 variations of leg lift
  4. Still on side, both legs bent, place a DB on top leg and raise and lower bent leg; changes to pulsing knee in to chest; keep alternating between these two moves
  5. Still on side, bottom leg still bent, extend top leg in front of you and raise and lower straight leg; changes to pulsing knee in to chest; keep alternating between these two moves
  6. Still on side, bottom leg still bent, bring top knee down to floor in front of bottom leg then push leg out straight
  7. Still on side, bottom leg still bent, lower chest to floor and raise and lower straight leg behind you, heel toward ceiling (throughout all of this you are still holding DB on thigh)
  8. Repeat #3-7 on other leg
  9. Lay on side, top leg bent behind bottom leg, foot on floor, bottom leg is straight, place DB on bottom inner thigh, raise and lower bottom leg; changes to pulling bottom knee in toward body; changes to sweep straight leg out in front of you and back; keep alternating between these 3 moves
  10. Repeat #9 on other leg

Circuit 8:

  1. Lay on back, knees bent and feet on ground, hands behind head, do basic crunches
  2. Place foot over opposite knee and crunch elbow toward opposite knee
  3. Bicycle legs
  4. Repeat 1
  5. Repeat 2 on other side of body
  6. Repeat 3
  7. Reverse crunches w/ legs raised straight to ceiling
  8. Still on back, legs bent and raised, ankles crossed and knees open, hands behind head, alternate crunching elbow toward opposite knee
  9. Reverse crunches w/ knees bent; add upper body crunch, bringing elbows to knees
  10. Full bicycle maneuver (upper body and legs)

9 thoughts on “The Firm: Body Sculpting Basics

  1. I am still doing Firm workout at 71. I absolutely love these workouts . I have done them for 35 years.
    Yes they are dated but they give you a tremendous workout.


  2. Hey there, I’m just commenting having started doing this workout again and finding myself with Susan Harris’ breathy voice and cheesy music in my head day and night! Ha!! I’m pretty much the opposite of you, as the ONLY workouts I have ever used regularly are this one and volume 4 of the FIRM set (Susan again & Kai with the step stool). But we’re alike in that I don’t go to the gym for the same reasons! I’m really glad I found your blog as it might help me branch out. I go back to the FIRM whenever i want to quickly get in shape, but they’re getting a little hard on my knees compared to when I was younger. Just wanted to say thank you for sharing all this work with the world!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome! Glad this blog is helpful! I used to love high impact and plyometrics but the past few years I have started gravitating more and more toward low impact workouts. I just got a rebounder which is supposed to be very low impact and I absolutely love it.


  3. I remember people posting on the old Firm YaYas board “there are those who say they’ve never been so fit as when they’ve done Volumes 1-2-3 every other day for a month as a rotation.” And that is probably true. They were butt-kickers in their day. Yeah it was cheesy and overly sexy but I guess they were trying to lure women in to the workout world. And when she says “heavy poundage,” you don’t really know what she means. It could be 10 lbs, considering it was the pink 2-3-5 lb dumbbell sets that were being marketed to women back in those days. I’ve often said I need to day a Way-back Wednesday thing where I do an old workout just for its nostaglic value. I think you’d get a lot more than just nostalgia by doing this one. It’s a decent workout.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely think there is some benefit to the Classic Firms. Susan’s workout was definitely effective and I do remember that I did get results back when I used to do it all the time (15 years ago!)–which is probably what hooked me more than anything–the results. But I also got results from the Firm’s Body Sculpting Systems, the Firm Box series and the TransFirmer Series–I did those for a lot longer, too. And those were fun! I’m still on the fence about whether to try the old Firms I dug out of my closet. I will probably try one or two more. If I find some enjoyment (PLUS a good workout) from those, then I may try them all.


  4. The line I remember from this one is during a cardio segment when Susan says “Isn’t this better than dieting?” 😂 When the original four or five Firms became available on DVD, I considered buying them but I realized it would be for nostalgia only. Workouts continue to be more and more efficient. But I do give the original Firms credit for what they were in their day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! She did day that! If only it were still that easy. I remember when my workouts alone helped me maintain my weight. At 47–working out isn’t enough anymore!

      And I agree–back when they came out they were doing metabolic circuit training before that term became common. They introduced one of the best ways of working out before anyone else. And somehow it got me hooked!


    2. Amy, you can find her on Facebook under the name: Susan Harris Davis, she does these 5-minute workout/dances sessions – she said that… “Isn’t this better than dieting” I laughed so hard!


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