The Best Strength-Training DVDs

Featured Article, Fitness
on January 23, 2012

Exhale Core Fusion Powersculpt With Elisabeth Halfpapp and Fred DeVito ($11.49, Acacia)

This challenging set of five 10-minute workouts doesn’t play around: Even in the “Power Fusion” warm-up, you’re asked to contort your body into positions only the most flexible yogis have mastered. That sets the tone for the entire complement of workout segments—each fuses (thus the title) yoga moves that build strength, balance and flexibility with the principles of strength training. The fitness elite and experienced yogis will love the creative use of weights during yoga moves; those at a more intermediate fitness level will benefit from the clearly demonstrated modifications. Beginners should not—we repeat, should not—attempt; you’ll just be setting yourself up for frustration and perhaps injury.

RELATED: The Best Cardio Fitness DVDs

Jane Fonda Prime Time: Trim Tone & Flex (Lionsgate, $8.99)

Yes, Jane is back, bringing her “feel-the-burn” moves, this time to women-of-a-certain age. The now 74-year-old has traded in her leotard and leg warmers for a sleek, boot-cut ensemble, but still sports a Richard Simmons-esque headband. Despite the beyond-cheesy music, this DVD, featuring separate upper- and lower-body workouts combining isometric exercises with moves employing hand weights, is perfect for beginners of any age. Jane exhibits great form throughout, and her cues are clear and easy to follow. The moves are nothing fancy and aimed more at helping you move through daily life with ease than getting the body of your dreams, but if done regularly with focus and good form, it should improve strength, tone and flexibility all over.

Bob Harper Totally Ripped Core ($7.99, Watch It Now Entertainment)

The two workouts on this DVD promise to “eliminate fat”—a big claim from The Biggest Loser trainer. Clearly attempting to appeal to P90X and Insanity followers, these workouts alone may not get rid of your spare tire, but they’ll certainly make you sweat. Best suited for advanced exercisers; even though no-weight modifications are included, those at the beginner and intermediate level will find moves like plyometric squats—a series of squats with jumps in between—too difficult. Bob takes his hardcore (pun intended) approach to coaching his on-camera students, calling out one unfortunate guy during the “Killer Plank Twists.” Not, as you may have surmised by now, for the faint of heart.

Personal Training with Jackie Warner: 30 Day Fast Start ($9.49, Anchor Bay)

Whether Jackie Warner developed pyramid training—where you progressively add one repetition to each set of an exercise, starting at one and working up to a number of your choosing—is arguable, despite her reference to “my power pyramid” system in the intro to this DVD. But there’s no denying this workout could “get you ripped from head to toe,” as she promises. If, that is, you can make it through these super-intense programs. While she puts a creative spin on traditional moves like the pushup and hammer curl by combining them, it’s questionable whether anyone needs—or can manage—to do what ends up being 55 repetitions of each move. When even Jackie, whose washboard abs will rival any male model’s, is breathing hard, you know this is tough. If you’re anything below an advanced level, watch just to get some ideas for some interesting, challenging moves—and go for a more reasonable “pyramid” that tops out at 5, which adds up to 15 reps.

Tracey Mallett Presents The Booty Barre Plus Abs & Arms ($15.99, ATP Fitness Productions)

You know you’re in for a serious workout when even the warm-up makes your muscles beg for mercy. Tracey Mallett’s Booty Barre series is a combination of ballet, Pilates and strength training — an excellent complement to a regular cardio workout, dance or otherwise. You’ll do bicep curls with dumbbells while standing on your toes, and traditional standing barre work to strengthen your core, all of which will also offer some cardio benefits. Tracey offers modifications if you need to work up to her challenging exercises, but this is still a fairly advanced workout. Rookies may want to check out Tracey Mallett’s The Booty Barre Beginners and Beyond.