Last night I found myself doing ballet poses in the living room with my girlfriend while a rather ripped lady told me I looked beautiful. It was good for my self-esteem, if not for my machismo, but really I was doing it for my girlfriend who is looking to get more toned but doesn't want any more of my routines because apparently I'm 'intense'.
I decided to join in with her for a bit of moral support and a bit of fun (though I was told off for telling her how to get more out of the workout... ), but also because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and whether a DVD could really help you to burn fat and get into shape. The ones we tried were 'Dance Your Body Thin' and 'Fit in 5 to 20 Minutes', but really they're both your general fitness DVD fare with no real surprises.
So the question is, how did they hold up? Were they genuinely effective workouts that anyone could benefit from? Or were they just a poor excuse for actually going to the gym and doing a proper workout? Let's assess...
The principle behind both these DVDs was simple – to tone the bums and legs, and to burn calories in a way that would be fun and easily accessible for beginners. As such, they both involved standing in front of the television and doing a series of dance moves that focussed on rolling the stomach, holding the arms out for long periods of time and bouncing around in a low stance.
And actually I was pleasantly surprised, as both the DVDs involved a lot of moves that I could really feel working. The use of low stances in the dance DVD in particular managed to get a particularly good hamstring burn going, while holding out the arms got my shoulders really aching. Better yet, the 20 minute session on the second DVD managed to really get me out of breath, and it even included interval training which is a brilliant way to burn more calories and to produce some growth hormones and generally incite an anabolic state for your body. After the end of four 'sessions' from the DVD I felt I had gotten a pretty good workout, and the fact that you had to follow the (rather attractive) ladies on the screen meant that you couldn't wuss out and there'd be no standing around thinking about what to do next.
This was my first session though, and like any workout the first one always has the most impact on your body because it's testing you in new ways that you aren't used to yet. Over time the body adapts and the muscles get less tested by the same movements which is a problem if you're doing the same workouts on a daily basis (they'd probably get old pretty quickly for you too). The solution then is to try mixing things up by adding in extra moves yourself, by having a weighted belt on, or by just buying a couple of exercise DVDs and trying different ones (or getting them for free on YouTube... ). Of course you also need to choose the best workouts, but if you learn to make them target the muscles, and make them more intense as cardio then you can benefit from almost any kind of program.
Another 'concern' is that the effectiveness of the DVDs is really going to depend on how much effort you put in. For me it seemed like quite a good stomach/legs workout, but that was because I was really squatting down in the movement and really crunching your abs. Being able to feel when you're really training and when you're just going through the motions is something that comes with time, so make sure that you listen to your body and do whatever you can to make the workout feel like it's doing something. Likewise while a five minute workout is better than nothing, don't fool yourself into thinking that five minutes of jogging on the spot is going to transform your body. You will get out what you put in, so make sure that you're using these as regularly and intensely as your toned friend is using the bikes at the gym.