Step Boss: PHA 3

PHA 3 is part of Cathe‘s new workout series Step Boss. The other two DVDs in this series are Step Sync and Imax 4. Cathe also created a Quick Start Users Guide to accompany this series. I really wasn’t sure how this workout fit into the “Step Boss” idea. I mean, there is no cardio in this workout other than it being a metabolic workout and her last 2 PHA DVD workouts (Strong & Sweaty PHA and LITE: PHA 2) both used a step, too. But according to her users manual, this one is even more metabolic than the other two–so you get a more cardiovascularly intense workout than you get with the other two DVD PHA workouts. I kind of prepped for this workout. I had already been doing the strength workouts from Cathe’s LITE series pretty regularly over the past month (including PHA 2) and during the week before I did this workout, I did her Strong & Sweaty PHA and her very first PHA Live workout–the one that started it all. As soon as Cathe started selling her Live workouts individually, I got my list of favorites out and purchased the downloads. Her first Live PHA workout was at the top of that list.

Before I get into comparisons, I have to mention that my fitness level and strength have changed. So if you click on the links to Strong & Sweaty PHA and Live PHA, you will note I was able to lift heavier than I can now. I am still rebuilding my strength but it dropped pretty far over the past 2 years and I still have a ways to go. When I returned to those workouts I was lifting lighter than what is listed in the reviews for many of the exercises. On to the review of this workout.

PHA 3 is a total body metabolic strength workout. PHA stands for Peripheral Heart Action. What this means in training terms is you alternate between upper and lower body resistance exercises, allowing as little rest as possible between each movement. The lack of rest and recovery keeps your heart rate elevated for cardiovascular and fat burning benefits, while switching between upper and lower body exercises maximizes blood flow to all parts of the body and reduces build up of lactic acid. According the User’s Guide, this workout takes it a step further by performing everything at a faster pace, including more compound exercises, using elevation changes and balance challenges.

This was an excellent total body strength workout. The first time I did this workout, I lifted the same weights as Cathe and, for my current fitness level, that worked me well. There were some exercises (like the plank rows) that I felt like I could have lifted heavier to give my back better work, but you are doing 16 reps at a brisk pace and the 15 pound dumbbell Cathe was using was probably the most I can lift right now–at least that many reps at that tempo. **1/20/20–I did this workout for a second time this morning and I decided to challenge myself. I increased my weights during the second circuit. Anything that Cathe uses 15 pound dumbbells on, I used 18 pound dumbbells. I’m glad I did! It was definitely doable for me and I felt like I got an even better workout. I need to start listening to my body again! I updated the breakdown below, noting the exercises that I lifted heavier on.** That is what really distinguishes this workout from her other PHA workouts that I’ve done. It is higher rep and done at a faster pace. And she does do more compound exercises that do elevate the heart rate. When doing Arnold Presses, not only are you doing them at a fairly brisk pace, but you are also stepping out to the side with each rep. When doing push ups you are doing sliding squat thrusts into plank before you push up. That type of thing. So it is quite different from her other PHA workouts and compliments them nicely. It elevated my heart rate and gave me some good cardio with my strength work. It’s an excellent workout.

This DVD also contains 2 additional bonuses (broken down and reviewed below the main workout): Ab Stacker and Extended Lying Stretch. These bonuses are included in the premixes (premixes are also also listed at the bottom of this review). The first time I did this workout, I did the premix that combines PHA 3 with the two bonuses for an excellent 70 minute workout.

PHA 3 is 55 minutes; 5 minute warm up and 5 minute cool down/stretch. Equipment: step with 4 risers (8 inches), sliding devices and dumbbells. I used the same weights as Cathe, except during the second circuit and what I used is noted below in the breakdown. Cathe also recommends lifting gloves several times throughout the workout and I agree with her. Your palms are on the top of the step several times and that can get painful without something to protect your hands.

Circuit #1:

  1. Alternating Rear Lunges, singles and pulses (stand on step and reverse lunge off step) (Cathe is using 10# DBs for the first circuit then changes to 12# DBs for the second time through the circuit)
  2. Arnold Press, alternate stepping out to side with each press (Cathe is using 12# DBs)
  3. Hop Squat Rear Lunge (3 small hop squats + one reverse lunge, alternate legs for the lunges with hop squats between each lunge–also, you are never raising out the a squat position throughout the entire set) (Cathe is using one 12# DB)
  4. Bicep Curls; changes to raising DBs halfway then opening DBs out to side; back to regular bicep curls; changes to lowering halfway then opening DBs out to side; ends with regular bicep curls (Cathe is using 12# DBs)
  5. Push Dips (remove platform from risers, in stationary lunge with back foot on platform behind you, hinge torso forward and do partial reps–DBs will lower to ankles and only raise to knee height) (Cathe is using 12# DBs)
  6. Pullover & Chest Fly (alternate one slow pull over with a 3 count pulsing chest fly) (Cathe is using 15# DBs)
  7. Rear Slide Lunges (remove platform from risers, stand beside platform with one foot on platform and other foot on sliding device, do a sliding reverse lunge from this position) (Cathe is using one 12# DB)
  8. Squat Thrust & Plank Push Up (stand behind step with sliding devices under feet, place hands on step and slide feet out to plank, do 2 sliding push up jacks then slide feet back in and stand)
  9. Repeat #1-8

Circuit #2:

  1. Squat Crossover Lunge (remove platform from risers, stand on platform holding one DB in both hands, with one foot remaining on the platform, squat to side then with same foot that stepped off the platform into a squat, do a crossback/curtsy lunge by bringing leg over to the other side of the platform behind you) (Cathe is using one 15# DB, I used one 18# DB)
  2. One Arm Rows in Plank (in wide leg plank with one hand on step, do single arm rows (Cathe is using one 15# DB, I used one 18# DB)
  3. Front to Back Lunges (remove platform from risers, stand behind platform and do a pendulum lunge, when doing the front lunge your foot lands on the platform) (Cathe is using 12# DBs)
  4. Front Side Lateral Raises (do straight arm front raise with one arm while doing straight arm side raise with other arm) (Cathe is using 5# DBs)
  5. Sumo Squat Deadlift (2 sumo squats + one wide leg deadlift) (Cathe is using 15# DBs, I used 18# DBs)
  6. Push Up Dip Challenge (6 push ups with hands on step + 10 fast tricep dips, repeat this combo 4x)
  7. Repeat #1-6

Bonus Ab Stacker is 9:30 minutes; 40 second stretch. Equipment: a mat and 4 risers. This was an excellent and fun core workout. I loved using the step risers as props. #4 was super tough for me.

  1. Stacking Crunches (sit on mat with all 4 risers stacked at the end of the mat, your legs are straddling the risers, take the top riser and as you lower your torso, flip the riser around while raising riser overhead, when you are laying on ground, set riser on ground above head, sit back up, repeat until you have stacked all 4 risers behind you, then reverse this until all 4 risers are stacked between legs again)
  2. Side to Side Oblique Stacking (all 4 risers are still stacked at end of mat, but now sit beside them, lean torso back and lift feet off ground, knees are bent, take top riser and bring it to other side of body and set it on the opposite end of the mat, continue this until all 4 risers are stacked on the other side of you then reverse this, bringing all of the risers back to the start)
  3. Modified Boat Pose (move risers beside mat and hold just one riser in both hands, lay on mat with legs straight and arms/riser extended overhead, sit up into bent knee boat pose with riser resting against shins and hold for 2 seconds)
  4. Side Oblique Sit Ups with Boat Pose (place all 3 risers at end of mat again with legs straddling the risers and holding one riser in both hands, lay back with arms/riser extended overhead, sit up while raising one leg and rotate riser to side of raised leg, repeat on other side of body then rise into boat pose holding riser at shins for 2 seconds)
  5. Stacking Prone Position (with all 4 risers are stacked at the end of the mat, come into straight arm plank with risers in front of you, with one hand, take top riser and set it on floor beside the stack, repeat with next riser, do the same with the last 2 risers but with other hand to other side, reverse this, bringing risers back to end of mat in a stack of 4)
  6. Superman (move risers out of the way beside mat, take one riser hold it in both hands, lay on your stomach with arms/riser extended in front of you, raise arms/riser/chest and legs and hold for 3 seconds)

Extended Lying Stretch is 10 minutes. I adore these bonus extended stretches that Cathe has started adding to her workouts. I hope she keeps adding them on! This one was very relaxing and an excellent way to end the workout. This stretch starts laying on the mat in corpse pose for the first minute.

  1. Still lying on back, extend arms overhead and stretch body, extending one arm further than the other, alternate arms
  2. Still on back, raise bent legs and twist them to one side of body while extending arms toward other side
  3. Still on back, one leg bent and foot on floor, the other straight leg raised to ceiling, holding straight leg with both hands behind knee; while holding this stretch, point and flex toes then circle ankle
  4. Figure 4 stretch (aka reclining pigeon)
  5. Repeat #3 & 4 on other leg
  6. Side lying quad stretch
  7. Sit on bottom with legs extended straight in front of you, raise both arms overhead with spine straight, do a seated forward fold
  8. Cat/cow pose
  9. Child’s pose with arms extended in front of you; walk hands to one side and hold; walk hands to other side and hold
  10. Cobra pose
  11. Sit cross leg and do neck stretches
  12. Pull one arm across body, stretching shoulder
  13. Overhead tricep stretch
  14. Extend arms in front of you and do wrist stretches
  15. Sit cross leg with eyes closed and take deep breaths


Main Workout + Extended Lying Stretch 60:31 minutes

Main Workout + Ab Stacker 64:11

Main Workout + Ab Stacker+ Extended Lying Stretch 69:59 minutes

Timesaver #1 First Half Only 32:32 minutes

Timesaver #2 Last Half Only 31:54 minutes

Timesaver #3 2 Segments Mixed (1A + 2B) 32:07 minutes

Timesaver #4 3 Segments Only (1A + 2A + 2B) 42:50 minutes

Timesaver #5 3 Segments Only (1A + 1B + 2B) 43:46 minutes

Timesaver #6 Lower Body Only 32:22 minutes

Timesaver #7 Upper Body Only 31:51 minutes

Scrambled #1 53:58 minutes

Scrambled #2 Abs mixed in after Rounds 1B & 2B 63:57 minutes

Scrambled #3 Abs mixed in after every round 62:34 minutes

Extreme #1 6 Rounds (1A + 1B + 2A + 2B + 1B + 2B) 77:01 minutes

Extreme #2 8 Rounds + Extended Lying Stretch (1A + 1B + 2A + 2B + 1A + 1B + 2A+ 2B) 104:59 minutes

6 thoughts on “Step Boss: PHA 3

  1. Hello again! I am very happy to see that you have posted a review – or at least the first part of your review – on Cathe’s new Step Boss program. I patiently await your thoughts on the other two dvds in that series, but I have to admit I am not a fan of Cathe’s step workouts! I did enjoy the Step Boss ab workouts (through On Demand).

    After you were so helpful in answering my questions before (on your review of Crossfire), I ended up ordering Crossfire and To The Max (package deal), along with High Step Challenge, the Lite series and the Strong and Sweaty series! I waited until Cathe’s Black Friday sale to order, so I got a pretty good deal. But that also meant that it took to arrive up here in the great white north! It took so long, that I started joking that the guys at customs must be using the dvds themselves to get in shape for Christmas/the New Year! In the meantime I signed up for Cathe On Demand because I got very impatient – and as a result I have managed to try several of the workouts that you recommended and I am now plotting my next purchase!

    My favourite workouts so far are STS Total Body, and Supersets, and Kick, Punch, Crunch, and … well, most of your recommendations! One thing I have realized as I work hard to get myself back in shape is that I really enjoy lifting heavy – well, as heavy as I carefully can in order to not re-injure myself! Pure Strength, Slow and Heavy and XTrain Upper body workouts in particular I found to be great. Ripped w/HIIT strength workouts are next on my list to try, but I try to give myself 72 hours between weight workouts (as my DOMS seems worst on the second day after vice the first) so that often slows me down to 2 weight workouts a week.

    Are there any other heavy weight workouts I have missed that you would recommend? I also did the S&S PHA workout recently matching Cathe’s weights – the weights for the lower body were fine, but by the third set sometimes the weights for the upper body were a real challenge, but I managed 8 reps on even the toughest ones for me! Overall I was definitely challenged! I have considered the STS program, but I am not sure I could stay with it for 3.5 to 5 plus months, especially as I prefer total body workouts, or combining parts of two ‘split’ programs to make a total body workout (and try to keep the time to roughly an hour). Maybe I could pick and choose different workouts from each of the three mesos? Not sure.

    I look forward to your response – and also to any thoughts you might have on Cathe’s new ‘Perfect 30’ series – any guesses as to what style of weight workout the Perfect Pump will be based on your past experience with her ‘wording’ re: new releases? I know it won’t be in Perfect 30, but in ‘my perfect world’ Cathe would update her older series, making a new series inline with her STS Total Body workout with elements of Pure Strength and Slow and Heavy in the STS Total Body style – if that could even be done!

    Sorry I seem to have written a novel here – many thanks in advance.



    1. Hello Yvonne! It sounds to me like you have purchased Cathe’s best workouts. IMHO that is! STS Total Body is still my favorite of hers. You have the Strong & Sweaty Series–those are also excellent. Ripped with HIIT and her Gym Styles strength workouts will tear you up, too. Gym Styles is from her Hardcore Series. If you haven’t tried them, I also recommend Xtrain Burn Sets and Push Pull from her Body Blast Series. Another overlooked treasure of Cathe’s is her 4 Day Split series. If you get the DVDs there is so much on them! Heavy lifting, cardio, TONS of premixes. I think STS is an excellent program. You do a different workout for every strength training day so there is at least no boredom. I’ve been through STS 3 times and made huge strength gains every time. I keep planning to return to it a 4th time but other workouts keep sidetracking me.

      I really love Cathe’s non-dancy step workouts that do not contain complex choreography so I expect to like (hopefully love) Imax 4 and to hate Step Sync. But we’ll see this weekend! I did the intermediate step bonus the other day and was not impressed with it. I love her first 2 Imax workouts. I wanted to love Imax 3 but the choreography was just to complex for me so I never returned to it. She also has Low Max which I love and Low Impact Step which is a shorter and easier Low Max–but I really like it, too. So it really all depends on the complexity of Imax 4’s choreography. That’s tomorrow morning’s workout.

      As for her new series, I really have no clue what she is going to do. But it’s Cathe, so I expect to love most of it.


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