The Best Workout DVDs

Great new ways to get in shape without leaving your home.

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Jillian Michaels Yoga Meltdown

If you’re looking for a de-stressing yoga session, keep on clicking: Jillian Michaels, star trainer on The Biggest Loser, has something else in store for you. With nary a Namaste, she puts you through two fast-paced, 30-minute yoga workouts designed to build muscle and burn calories. "No slow sequences here," Michaels announces at the beginning of the DVD. "Get ready to get ripped!" Her athletic approach to yoga makes frequent use of switching in and out of positions such as a side plank. Or, as Michaels exhorts, "Rep it out!" Throughout, the trainer delivers clear instructions, and offers modifications for those not in tip-top shape. Be warned: The Level 2 workout is considerably more advanced than the Level 1. Buy it at Amazon here.

Denise Austin 3-Week Boot Camp

You’ll need: Weights Level: Intermediate Denise Austin leads two 20-minute interval workouts, one that emphasizes cardio and weight-lifting, another that does athletic movements (think: kickball, kayaking, skiing) at a cardio pace and uses a dumbbell to provide full-body, kettlebell-like exercises. More cheerleader than drill sergeant, Austin is always upbeat and encouraging (she promises you’ll look "awesome" and become "happy"). The DVD suggests you start with the 20-minute routines alone but if you’re already in decent shape you’ll probably need the challenge that comes from combining the two workouts into one 40-minute session. Buy it from Denise Austin here.

Exhale: Core Fusion Abs and Arms

You’ll need: A resistance band (included); light weights Level: Beginner to intermediate If you want an effective toning routine but hate working up a sweat, then Core Fusion is for you. Developed by Elisabeth Halfpapp and Fred DeVito, a wife and husband team who operate the Exhale Spa in Manhattan and other high-rent districts, Core Fusion is "perhaps most aptly described as the fitness lovechild of Pilates, yoga and dance disciplines," our More.com reviewer wrote. "You target and strengthen muscles with repeat movements from graceful squats to planks, then stretch them with the goal of forming lean, elongated muscles." Here, the couple offers five 10-minute segments to work your abs and arms. Bonus: If you take a close look at DeVito, you can imagine what your husband would look like if he’d been exercising consistently for the last 20 years. Buy it at Acacia here.

Heavyweight Yoga: Yoga for The Body You Have Today with Abby Lentz

You’ll need: Blanket, strap, block (but you can substitute household items) Level: Beginner plus In this very bare bones DVD, Abby Lentz offers up yoga suited for people whose weight might be a hindrance to taking part in more typical sessions. A motherly sort who looks like she might have a pot of chicken soup simmering somewhere nearby, Lentz explains the postures and their modifications clearly and simply. The routines (a 24-minute warm-up, plus two 20-minute posture series) move slowly, and end up with a 13-minute savasana (relaxation period). Not a small person, Lentz appears completely comfortable with her body and wears a unitard during parts of the DVD. Buy it at Amazon here.

Jari Love’s Get Extremely Ripped Body Rock

You’ll need: Weights Level: Intermediate to advanced You may never have heard of Jari Love, but this Canadian trainer is a rock star in certain quarters-especially those filled with very buff, Red Bull quaffing, push-it-to-the-limit exercisers. Love’s routines typically include non-stop reps of high-intensity cardio and weight-lifting moves. Here, she mixes things up a bit by switching in dance-based cardio (jazz, disco, Latin and hip hop) taught by a professional dance teacher. The goal is to help you break out of a plateau. Come prepared to sweat. Buy it at College Video here.

10-Minute Solution: Kettlebells

You’ll need: A kettlebell or a dumbbell Level: Intermediate Led by Michele Olson, PhD, an exercise physiologist at Auburn State University Montgomery (Alabama), this non-nonsense, five-workout DVD relies heavily on the full-body moves used with kettlebells, the iron weights that have handles attached, to sculpt muscles and bring the exercise up to a cardio level. Weirdly, the movements are all done with dumbbells rather than kettlebells. Buy it here.

Shiva Rea Daily Energy Vinyasa Flow Yoga

Level: Intermediate No one does yoga like Shiva Rea, a California blonde who was given the name of a Hindu deity by her surfer dad. An aficionado of trance dancing, this yoga conference favorite leads sessions that are extremely fluid and that often call for some improvisational undulations. For the right person, these movements are extremely freeing. In this DVD, Rea offers up seven 20-minute segments, one for each chakra (such as fire and water). Half the segments are energizing and half are relaxing; a DVD feature provides pre-set combinations. Buy it from Acacia here

Strong Knees

You’ll need: A strap (or towel) Level: Beginner to intermediate If your knees have started to ache, trying this 30-minute routine could be a good first step to take. Physical therapist Chantal Donnelly clearly explains how various lower body muscle groups affect your knees (who knew your biggest butt muscle has an impact?), then offers simple exercises to make those muscles stronger and more flexible. Best feature: You can pick and choose which moves you like to create a customized workout. Donnelly is a pleasant presence, probably very easy to watch on repeat viewings. If you’re in a rush, there’s a 7-minute workout included. Buy it at Amazon here.

Yoga To the Rescue for Neck & Shoulders

You’ll need: A strap, blankets Level: Beginner to intermediate Sitting at a desk all day takes a terrible toll on your upper body, and this DVD offers itself as a possible remedy. In the first part, yoga instructor Desiree Rumbaugh thoroughly explains a series of poses that involve chest opening, upper back strengthening and shoulder aligning. In the second part, she presents a flowing vinyasa that ties together most of these positions in a fluid way. Give the producers bonus points for using a man to demonstrate the easier modifications of the moves. The savasana (relaxation) segment emphasizes releasing tension from the neck and shoulders. Buy it from Amazon here.

Kathy Smith Total Body Lift

You’ll need: Weights and a chair Level: Beginner to intermediate If your body is beginning to sag in places you never thought twice about before, Kathy Smith has the solution. Smith, who has been a fitness pro for 25 or so years, has pulled together a moderately paced workout that, in five different modules, tones (and lifts!) the upper body, legs, butt and abdomen. The movements are small and concentrated, and some are inspired by dance training (for instance, you use a chair back as a barre). Easy-going in front of a camera (and easy to take after many repeat viewings), this veteran instructor knows exactly what kind of mistake you’re likely to make and corrects it just as you’re starting to do so. Buy it at Amazon here.

Personal Training with Jackie: Power Circuit Training

Level: Intermediate to advanced You’ll need: 1-2 sets of weights In her reality TV show, Work Out, Jackie Warner, a $400-an-hour trainer who’s owner of the Sky Sport and Spa gym in Beverly Hills, is often plagued by personal and personnel melodramas. But in this DVD, she’s relaxed and totally in control. Her workouts (one lasting 40 minutes, four others for 15) are broken into four-minute segments that work one muscle group with three different exercises, then finish with a "power circuit" that repeats the three exercises at a faster pace with fewer reps. Her goal is to work your lower body, upper body and/or abs muscles to total fatigue. Mission? Accomplished! Buy it here

HomeBody

You’ll need: Weights or alternatives, towel, throw pillows, a chair Level: Beginner to intermediate In this calming but rigorous blend of Pilates and dance moves, veteran instructor Jillian Hessel offers a full-body workout that moves from standing, to a chair, to the floor, and then standing again. Although many of the exercises seem original, there is something familiar (in a good way) about the DVD. Perhaps it’s the living room/dining room setting, which Hessel uses to underscore the fact that you could easily do this 50-minute workout in the privacy of your home. And if for some reason you can’t quite bring yourself to buy weights, Hessel proposes alternatives, like 15 oz. cans of beans. Buy it here.

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First Published Thu, 2010-03-04 11:47

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