Cathe Friedrich is known for her advanced videos and her Hardcore Series is no exception. My review covers:
- Imax 3 and Low Max
- Muscle Max total body
- High Step Challenge circuit
- Kick Max, Core Max and Stretch Max
- Strength workouts for Back, Shoulders & Biceps, Chest & Triceps, and Legs
- Hardcore Extreme, with elements of all the workouts combined.
The series provides incredible variety for intermediate/advanced exercisers.
If you're familiar with Cathe's step interval workouts, you'll recognize the format of Imax 3. It includes 10 cycles that include aerobic stepping followed by high intensity intervals. In previous videos, Cathe included a recovery period after each anaerobic interval--not in this one! There's very little rest after the killer segments, which makes this a very intense workout.
The aerobic sections are short and simple and the cueing isn't always great. But, if you're a Cathe fan, you'll catch on very quickly. The anaerobic intervals are harder than ever and include plenty of high impact power moves like plie jacks, squat-jumps, jumps onto the step, plyo-Jacks and long lunges off the step. What makes this workout so tough is that many anaerobic intervals are often longer than the aerobic intervals. If you usually use an 8" step, I recommend you go down to 6" and watch it before you try it. Overall, this is a killer workout and probably Cathe's hardest, so you should be a very advanced exerciser for this one. The DVD also offers pre-mixed workouts for variety. I find I like to do half of this video and combine it with other workouts to cut the intensity a bit and make it more doable.
Low Max, as the name implies, is a low impact step workout that mimics Imax 3 in that it's an interval workout, but without high impact moves. The workout includes 7 cycles that alternate between step routines and higher intensity step/floor moves. Because the workout is low-impact, the intensity intervals are longer and more repetitive in order to get your heart rate up. Some of the intensity blasts include sumo squats, lunge kicks, side squats off the step and other moves she's used in previous videos, but without the jumping. What's great about this workout are the aerobic step segments, which are fun, innovative and well-cued. I'm not as crazy about the intensity blasts which, in some cases, made my heart rate plummet. Since it's low-impact, many intervals involve endless squatting, which I'm not a fan of. Not all intervals are bad and I find that doing my own thing during my least favorite intervals makes the workout more fun. Like the other DVDs, the pre-mixed workouts offer variety to keep things interesting and choosing just the step combos makes for a great, low-impact workout. I found this workout to be medium-high intensity and a bit less consistent than other Cathe workouts.
Gym Style Workouts: Legs
The strength DVDs are among some of Cathe's most challenging and the leg workout is no exception. The workout includes both standing and floor work using a ball. The standing work includes: 3 sets of barbell squats, 2 sets of front lunges, 1 set of rear lunges, 2 sets of plie squats, 2 sets of leg presses with band, 2 sets of deadlifts (the 2nd set has you on the step doing only the lower portion--killer!), very slow count lunges and calf raises. The floor work includes a variety of exercises using a ball, step and the band. Some of the more unique exercises include toe pulls (targets the shins using a ball), one-legged roll outs on the ball (killer!) and inner thigh squeezes. She also does exercises for the inner and outer thigh using the band. The entire workout, including warm up and stretch is about 67 minutes long so you'll be glad there are other pre-mixed workouts available. These include a 33 minute Timesaver with only standing work and a 49-minute version that includes both standing and floor work. Of all of Cathe's leg workouts, this is probably one of my favorites. She has a variety of exercises, some using heavy weights and others that target endurance with pulses and tempo changes.
Gym Style Workouts: Chest & Triceps and Back, Shoulders & Biceps
You begin your chest workout with pushups--8 sets of drop-set pushups. Cathe does all of hers on her toes--the rest of us only wish we could! Now that you're fried, you pick up heavy weights and do 2-3 sets and 10-12 reps of some standard moves like chest press, incline chest press, flies, close-grip barbell presses, tricep extensions and kickbacks, just to name a few.
The other upper body DVD focuses on back, shoulders and biceps and is set up in the same format, either 2-3 sets of 12 or more reps of moves like reverse grip dumbbell rows, one-arm rows, barbell pullovers, back extensions, overhead presses and concentration curls.
These workouts are straightforward and familiar to any gym-goer with a focus on heavy weights. What I like about Cathe's strength workouts are the tempo changes (e.g., slow pulses to increase intensity) and a few band exercises, which you don't see in many strength videos. My only complaint is that the arm work seemed endless and excessive, but maybe that's just me. There are pre-mixed workouts which are shorter and, IMHO, more enjoyable.
Overall, these workouts are challenging and will appeal to advanced exercisers...and not just women. My husband actually enjoys these videos as well.