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This is one of two new releases by Weight Watchers featuring self-proclaimed "expert" fitness instructor Jennifer Cohen. As Cohen explains in her introduction, the Ultimate Belly Series DVD offers the advantage of offering three different workout options: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Cohen herself displays the intermediate version of the moves, while her two background exercisers model the beginner and advanced.
Cohen teaches live in a large, bright studio (apparently a multi-purpose space, as there is a kitchen in one corner). A mat is required for the floorwork featured on this video, and hand weights are optional for those following the intermediate or advanced options. This DVD offers a total of three workouts. Here is how they are listed on the Main Menu: 10-Minute AB Toner -- 20-Minute AB Express -- 30 Minute Standing AB Toner -- Play All. I have provided more detailed information on each routine below.
10-MINUTE AB TONER
This segment takes place entirely on the floor. Cohen starts seated with some side stretches and seated forward bends to warm up. Each exercise is performed for about one minute (I've listed the intermediate version which Cohen demonstrates): 1) c-curve with alternating sweep, 2) c-curve with rotation, 3) demi-crunch with legs in the air, and 4) side plank (both sides). The brief (1.5 minute) cool-down includes a lying twist and additional seated side stretches.
20-MINUTE AB EXPRESS
This workout also consists entirely of floorwork. Cohen again begins seated, rounding the back to warm up out, and then continuing the warm-ups lying by circling the knees. Some of the moves repeat in this segment, with the entire sequence as follows: 1) demi-crunch with legs in the air, 2) variation of Pilates 100 (2x), 3) variation of Pilates single leg stretch, 4) demi-crunch with leg crossed (both sides), 5) c-curve with partial roll-back, 6) c-curve with rotation, 7) c-curve with v-rotation, 8) c-curve with knee raise, and 9) alternating knees in (2x). Again, there is a very brief (1 minute) stretch which includes a lying twist and a seated forward fold.
30-MINUTE STANDING AB TONER
As the title suggests, this routine starts standing. Cohen moves through a quick warm-up consisting of breathing and side stretches. Two standing exercises follow (option of using a 3- or 5-pound weight if following the intermediate or advanced versions): 1) a side bend reaching the weight towards the floor in a manner very similar to the kettlebell windmill exercise, and 2) a side bend holding the weight overhead with the bicep by the ear. Oddly, although this was the "standing" workout, Cohen then moves to the mat for the entire balance of the routine! The remainder of the exercises include the following: 1) c-curve with row, 2) c-curve with hold (2x), 3) c-curve with knee dips (2x), 4) demi-crunch with twist, 5) knee ins, 6) double leg circles, 7) demi-crunch with legs in the air, and 8) elbow plank/full plank. This workout concludes with a bit longer stretch (2.5 minutes) that includes a seated cat/cow, seated forward fold, seated side bend, and seated twist.
There were several things that I found disappointing about this DVD. First, I'm not sure that the video is appropriate for "all fitness levels" as marketed, particularly for beginners. Although the background model who performs the beginner modifications does a fine job, she is a very fit-looking young woman—probably NOT the typical Weight Watchers consumer who is just starting out with a fitness program. Furthermore, c-curve abs work is used throughout these workouts, even at the beginners level. Holding the body in a c-curve position is extremely challenging for someone who has not already built up requisite core strength, and thus I do not believe this type of work is appropriate for beginners. Finally, I was disappointed with various other snafus on this DVD, from Cohen's poor cuing (e.g., when she says to hold the legs in a "chair" position, she fails to keep hers at a 90-degree angle) to her tendency to call the advanced modifier a "show-off" to the dearth of standing exercises in the "standing" routine.
This DVD might appeal to more experienced exercisers who enjoy core work on the floor and who don't mind modifying moves to suit their own needs. Personally, however, this video would not be something I would recommend.
© 2013 Beth Cholette
Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students.