Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Bob Harper's Inside Out Method : Pure Burn, Super Strength Review

I have also reviewed the other dvds in the series - "Body Rev, Cardio Conditioning", "Yoga for the Warrior" and "Bob's Workout".

I recently purchased the complete 4-disc set of Bob Harper's "Inside Out Method" dvds on pre-release from his website and am working my way through them. Bob is best known as the "nice guy" trainer from the TV show "The Biggest Loser", with the implication that he doesn't push his folks as hard as Jillian Michaels (the "nasty one"). I suspect this workout series is attempting to shift that image a tad (at one point when one of the minions is complaining, he jokes "come on, I'm the nice one, you love me"). I don't really care about any of that, but I always do a lot of research on workout dvds before I purchase them and everything I'd read pointed to these being excellent kick butt workouts.

I also know that Bob is a really good runner, and I've always felt that his workouts were a huge benefit to my running.

So the first dvd I worked my way through was "Pure Burn Super Strength". The claim on the back of the box (in all caps mind you) stated that "Bob will push you and your muscles farther than you ever thought possible".

My goodness - that's quite a promise. Let's put it to the test.

The first thing I noticed when I put the disc in was that after the obligatory "don't copy this or we'll take your firstborn" and "if you die working out it's not our fault" messages it went straight to the main menu. Not having to wait through annoying commercials every time I put the thing in was a nice surprise. A silly thing perhaps, but I appreciated it.

The menu is nice and minimalist - it is one-level and you have the option of the 1 hour workout, a beginner's 20 minute workout and two trailers. This is set against the backdrop of Bob looking mean and some suitably "well hard" music - I guess designed to "pump you up" for the work to come.

The other thing that I liked was that both workouts have a "progress bar" and countdown at the bottom of the screen, so you know exactly where you are during the workout. As you cycle into different circuits, it also flashes the new target zone (for example, weighted squats or tricep extensions).

Not so good was the "arty" camera work. This isn't too obtrusive, but there are some points during the workouts where they use stop-start filming, black and white stills and various other arty camera effects. You may enjoy it or you may not. For me it was a little distracting.

The equipment you need for this workout is minimal - a set of dumbbells and a mat (unless you want your carpet covered in sweat).

Whichever workout you select, you get the same introduction montage. Bob on one knee backstage looking grim, Bob tying his shoelace with purpose, Bob smacking his fist into his palm, Bob stalking menacingly onto the set, and Bob giving a short Churchillian speech ("today's the day you change everything").

Once I'd stopped laughing, I was ready for the workout.

The Minions
Minions are important because they are the folks on screen doing the exercises and represent the oiled, shiny bastions of fitness to which you aspire.

In this dvd, there are three victims being worked out, and they all look crazy fit. They get a handslap each in the beginning, but then we're straight into it and we only learn their names when they get yelled at during the workout (and this happens a lot).

So in case you missed it, here they are:

Helen - feisty momma who gives Bob an impressive number of dirty looks (which is maybe why he picks on her so much) and has an equally impressive endurance. It's a shame the microphone didn't pick up some of the names she called him :-)

Francisco - muscular eye candy for the ladies, but seems to slack off a lot. Constantly sneaks a few cheeky breathers when he thinks nobody is watching, though Bob does catch him a few times ("if I turn around and he's not doing it, we're going to start all over"). Even Helen starts railing on him at one point, which was so funny it nearly made me drop my plank position. Still, makes me feel better when I'm still going and he's collapsed at the back sucking wind :-)

Stephanie - a mouth breather from the Monica Seles school of grunting, Jim Carrey could learn a thing or two from her facial contortions. She does the modified version of the workout.

I liked this set of minions - they were very likable. Their mannerisms give them character and let me relate to them a lot (especially when I was struggling along with them).

20 minute Beginner's Workout
This was the first workout I tried when I was pushed for time one night, and Bob emphasizes that it is a starting point for beginners. It runs at 19 minutes including warmup and cooldown, and it's not very hard. Bob does give a lot of tips about good form which is great, and to be fair he gets in a lot of moves like weighted sumo squats, bicep curls, tricep extensions and kickbacks, lunges, deadlifts, rows and front, lateral and posterior lateral raise combos.

It did leave me wondering if these workouts were going to be too easy.

1 Hour Workout
That thought was very quickly put to bed. This is the main workout on the disc, goes for just about 67 minutes, and when I say "goes for 67 minutes" I mean it goes for every single second of that 67 minutes.

The initial warmup consists of some dynamic stretching, leg swings and pushups. Nothing too strenuous, and then we get into it.

And there's no messing about. First up are weighted squats which transition to pushups, then bicep curl and shoulder press combos, then weighted squats again - this time done at pace with a quad burning hold at the end. Then weighted burpees, then we add in pushups, then we hold half way down. Then we mix it all together and move on to something else.

While none of these moves are particularly hard on their own, here's the thing - Bob transitions from one set to the other smoothly, and with ABSOLUTELY NO BREAK INBETWEEN. If he has something to explain, he'll do it while you're hammering reps or holding a squat position, or pulsing bicep curls. But once you're out of one move, you're straight into another. He has designed the workout to transition from one body part to the next in such a way that allows you to workout one part, give it some respite while you work out another, then go back and hit it again. And again. And again.

And this is an hour long workout.

Yes, it hurts. Yes, it's hard. But it's also motivating when you see the super fit minions struggling as well. Even Helen, who seems to be the strongest of the three, was flagging in parts (and Stephanie looks like she's going to puke at one point). I was sweating like a Southern baptist at the playboy mansion, and I was only 15 minutes into the thing. By the time I got to the planks, pushups (again) and weighted t-stands my muscles were forming coalitions to take industrial action against me and were on the verge of staging a walkout. Little did I know I still had matrix lunges and abdominal circuits still to go.

The only thing I modified was one section that did jump lunges. I don't like jump lunges - they're horrible for your knees and I just don't do them. Everything else was fine, though I did use padded weightlifting gloves for the portions where you're doing pushups or t-stands with your body weight resting on the dumbbells. But maybe I'm just a wuss.

I am in really good shape, I do weights regularly, and I can run a respectably fast marathon and/or ultramarathon and not be sore the day after. But I felt this workout. Two days later my hamstrings, quads and shoulders were still singing. I've done a lot of Jillian Michaels' circuit training workouts, and those are tough too, but not like this. The thing with Jillian's dvds is that you know if you're struggling with something you're only going to have to do it for 30 seconds or so before you move on. Here you could be pounding it out for several minutes, and coming back to it later, maybe with a few variations thrown in.

At several points during the workout, Bob has an interval where he says "I want you to do as many as you can, as fast as you can, in the next x seconds" and then counts down. I love that because I find I'm really pushing myself and testing my endurance, trying to beat the minions (even though I know that as soon as his countdown finishes he'll have me onto something else immediately).

On the negative, there is a big gap between the 20 minute beginner's workout and the full hour bad boy. If you struggle in the beginner's version, you're really going to struggle in the full thing.

For me, I wanted a good hard explosive workout to add to my rotation in preparation for my winter races, and this fits the bill nicely. I hope the others are as good as this.


olga said...

Can you share it for a day?

Mark said...

Sure can

DavidH said...

Hey Mark - Nice review! Look forward to hearing about the rest of the package. It seems like it could be a fun way to get my butt back into ultra shape as my run slowly returns.

Aja said...

I thought Stephanie was so distracting with her facial expressions and loudness, I appreciated that the second half of the DVD seemed to be more on the mat so I could avoid watching her more.

Anonymous said...

Can I say how much I have enjoyed your reviews? So much, I'm getting a couple more of the DVDs in the set (separately, since I already have this little piece of insanity). I will be thinking of your reviews while cussing out Bob.

Mark said...

Excellent. Do let me know what you think of them. I've been contemplating getting them too.

Shelly Jackson said...

I have this set of 4 and I alternate them,he kicks my butt but I love these workouts they are awesome!I came across your blog by accident but wanted to say great job reviewing them the info is spot on! :)