Passionately Pursuing the Good Life

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Product Review: The Bar Method v. Tracy Anderson Smackdown!

In my younger days of working out, I never thought I could be the kind of person who exercised at home. There was always an inherent need to get out of the house and into a designated “Sweat Here” structure. But…people change. After being a frequent gym member for the better part of ten years I may have achieved Gym Burnout. I also think living and working in Downtown has a lot to do with it. By the time I walk home, I have absolutely no desire to change my clothes and then get into my car and fight my way through traffic to go work out. If you’re already in your car after work, it’s just easier.

I’m also willing to accept the fact that maybe I’m just plain lazy.

Laziness aside, the possibility that I could achieve a high level of fitness in the comfort of my abode had an obvious appeal. So I made the switch from gym rat to home fitness extraordinaire, and without further ado, I present to you my breakdown and ratings of two fairly popular fitness DVDs.

The Bar Method: “Change Your Body” and “Accelerated Work Out”

Length of time: About an hour

Special Equipment: A bar or chair (I use a Fluidity Bar…thank you Craigslist!), a mat, three to five pound weights, and a stretching strap or towel

Level of Difficulty: Moderate to High

Overall Rating: A+

I’ve been using these DVDs consistently for about six months. If you are at all familiar with The Bar Method, then you probably know that this workout can be DANG HARD. The standing thigh work makes your legs shake like they’ve never shaked before! After a couple of months I started getting strong enough to make it through (most) of the exercises without stopping. Even after using them consistently for six months, they are still challenging and I often experience some muscle soreness the day after. All the moves are highly concentrated and low impact, and in fact you don’t wear athletic shoes at all during the workout. The two DVDs are fairly similar in their level of difficulty, except for the arms which are much more challenging in the “Accelerated” workout. The founder of Bar Method, Burr Leonard, who is OMG-fantastic-amazing-looking for a woman in her 60s, leads both DVDs. I appreciate her calm demeanor (I’ve never been one for the overly enthusiastic or Drill Sergeant hosts). She occasionally throws in a couple cute little notes of encouragement like “This makes you look great in jeans!” during some of the tough parts. The two areas I feel I’ve seen the most change are my legs (mainly from the hip to the knee) and my abs. While during both workouts your heart rate does get elevated frequently, I would recommend you still supplement alternative forms of cardio a couple days a week. Overall, an exceptional work out DVD!

The Tracy Anderson Method: Mat Workout

Length of time: About an hour

Special equipment: Chair, mat, one to three pound weights

Level of Difficulty: Moderate to High

Overall Rating: B+

I’ve been flirting with buying this workout for a while. I’m usually wary of anyone or anything that is heavily celebrity endorsed (Madonna and Gwyneth and Oprah, oh my!). And her DVDs aren’t cheap. But I didn’t want to burn out on The Bar Method DVDs and figured I best bring something new into the rotation.

This is a pretty challenging routine. You start with a series of standing leg work, which seems to work the standing leg almost as much as the working leg! Then you do some funky “standing abs,” which involves moving your ribcage around in various movements while keeping your hips still. It’s…interesting. This is followed by the arm workout, and O…M…G, THE ARMS. The arm segment of this workout is probably worth the entire price of the DVD. The first half of it uses absolutely no weights, but involves following Tracy in a routine that has you sort of flapping and moving your arms about. If you can get through this whole thing without your arms collapsing like sad little noodles, you are superhuman! She does a second arm routine (are you kidding?) with light weights, of which I usually have to put down a couple of times and follow along weight-less. Seriously, I’ve never seen an arm workout like this before, and I’m impressed! The workout is rounded out with a second leg routine on the mat (finally the mat appears in this “Mat Workout!”), some ab work and a cool down. The abdominal section is probably my least favorite part of this entire DVD. I feel like the moves hit mostly the upper portion of your abs, when most of us feel that the belleh area on the lower side is what needs the most attention.

While I like this DVD, I have a couple of major beefs about it. First, she has virtually no audible cuing (kind of important when your head is between your knees and you’re supposed to know that we’ve moved on to side stretching) and almost no guidance on form. The cuing I can get over. After a couple of times you get used to the flow of the movements. But without a reasonable amount of guidance on form you can be at risk for not doing the exercise properly, causing you to either not get results from the workout or, even worse, injuring yourself. Even the angles of the camera work supply rather vague clues as to what she’s doing. So my advice to beginners of this workout is to pay acute attention to her body and the movements, and to stop if anything feels wrong.

So, in a head-to-head competition between The Bar Method and Tracy Anderson, Bar Method definitely wins. That said, I’m still happy to have Tracy in the mix for a little variety and challenge.

No comments:

Post a Comment