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This DVD is one of the latest releases from the Acacia catalog. It is led by Violet Zaki, who holds a black belt in karate and who instructed a prior workout for Acacia, Weight Loss Cardio Sculpt. In this video, Zaki is working out with two background exercisers, Deazie (who has also been a background exerciser for The Firm) and Chanelle, who serves to modify some of the more high-impact moves. The women are shown in a large studio with what appears to be stone floors and scaffolding-like balconies lining either side; the music is generally high energy and upbeat.
The cover of this DVD states that it provides "2 20-Minute Fat-Blasting Workouts" although there are actually several different options for customizing your workout experience. The Main Menu of the DVD includes an Introduction (brief overview of the workout by Zaki), Workout Options (described below), Bonus Features (a 3-minute kickboxing tutorial for those unfamiliar with the punches and kicks used; a bonus segment from the Weight Loss Cardio Sculpt Workout; and finally, Zaki's bio), Also from Acacia (video clips from other workouts), and Credits. If you select Workout Options, you are taken to a submenu screen which provides the various workout choices. First, there is a "Play All" option (51m), allowing you to play both 20-minute workouts back-to-back along with the separate Warm-Up (5m) and Cool-Down (6m) chapters. Next, you can select each of the two workouts, Power Sculpt (20m) and Drills & Combos (20m), individually, with the option of playing them either with or without Zaki's brief introductions (<2m). As mentioned above, the Warm-Up and Cool-Down are chaptered separately, so these can be selected from the submenu screen as well.
Zaki uses the Warm-Up to simply introduce the various punches and kicks used in the workouts one by one. The standard punches include jab, cross, hook, and uppercut, while there are three basic kicks, front, back, and roundhouse. If you have chosen the Play All option, the Power Sculpt workout comes first. In her introduction to this workout, Zaki suggests having two sets of dumbbells for this session, but she recommends keeping the weights light, no more than five pounds. [Note: in a poor editing decision, the workout introductions were included in the Play All sequence, which breaks up the flow of this longer workout; luckily, not only are these brief, but also they are chaptered and can be skipped over.] The general pattern for the Power Sculpt workout is that Zaki begins with a "heavy" weights exercise, usually a dynamic movement that keeps the heart rate up. She follows this by a series of either punches or kicking movements using lighter weights. Finally, there is a "cardio blast" segment—for example, one combination included jumping jacks, jump rope, side-to-side shuffles, and front-to-back shuffles (all modified to low impact by Chanelle). This sequence of heavy weights--light weights--cardio blast is repeated several times throughout the Power Sculpt session. Zaki describes the final five minutes as "pure cardio": here she sets the weights aside and takes the cardio up a notch with moves that have an almost plyometric feel (e.g., knee hops) for an intense finish to the workout.
The Drills & Combos portion is all cardio; no weights or other props are used for this workout. As the title suggests, Zaki instructs simple punch-kick sequences here. She begins with an all-punch combination: jab-cross-hook-upper-double jab-cross-shuffle. Next, she moves on to an all-kick routine, first beginning with a basic front kick-back kick, but then upping both the difficulty and the complexity level by adding in jumping jacks, a side squat, and a roundhouse kick facing the side. From this point on, Zaki blends the punches and kicks to form mixed combinations, but for the most part, she keeps the choreography relatively straightforward. Some of the moves are even a bit fun and different, such as a side-to-side punch (which actually appears in both workouts) and a double block with a squat. The Cool-Down features Asian-inspired music as Zaki leads you through stretches for all of the major muscle groups that were worked, including the quads, hamstrings, and shoulders. She concludes the Cool-Down with a move borrowed from yoga, side angle pose, for a complete full body stretch.
As an intermediate exerciser, I initially was skeptical of whether this DVD would work for me, but after trying it, I think that it would be appropriate for beginning to intermediate exercisers. Beginners would be advised to use the two workouts individually, keeping their weights for the Power Sculpt Portion quite low (or perhaps even forgoing the weights altogether at first if needed). More experienced beginners can use slightly heavier weights, and advanced intermediates like myself can do both workouts together and add weighted gloves to up the intensity a bit further to their level. One final note: this DVD also comes with a 16-page, full-color illustrated booklet of recipes from Cooking Light magazine. Although I haven't tried them yet, they do look tempting, particularly the Sesame Shrimp Salad and the Southwest Salmon Caesar--yum!
© 2009 Beth Cholette
Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students at SUNY Geneseo. She is also a Top 100 Reviewer at Amazon.com and the official yoga media reviewer for iHanuman.com