Cathe Friedrich's Hardcore Exercise DVD Series

Cathe's Newest Advanced DVD Exercise Series

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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.

Imax 3

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

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.

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High Step Challenge and Muscle Max

The High Step Challenge (which uses a miniature version of a regular step) is a circuit workout that takes you through 5 cycles that include cardio (with or without the step) followed upper and lower body strength moves. The cardio sections are about 1-2 minutes long and are about medium intensity. The strength moves include:

  • leg presses with overhead presses
  • dips
  • side pushups (killer!)
  • barbell squats
  • deadlifts
  • rows
  • pushups
  • bicep curls
  • shoulder rotations
  • hover squats

You move from one exercise to another with no rest and you can use a regular step or a BOSU in place of the High Step (which is what I did) if you don't have one.

The first time I did this workout, I wasn't crazy about it. But, the more I do it, the more I like it. It moves fast and offers just enough intensity that you feel like you worked everything without killing yourself. This is a great video for when you want a little bit of everything, but don't have time to devote to longer workouts. You'll hit every muscle in the body and the workout flies by.

Muscle Max

This total strength workout is my favorite in this whole series. The workout is broken down into different muscle groups where you perform 3-4 exercises per muscle. Some moves include squats, lunges, pushups, lateral raises and bicep curls.

The difference is that, because the focus is on endurance, you change tempo throughout the exercises, which cuts down on the sets. The workout moves very quickly and the premixes offer timesaver versions for both DVDs. My only complaint is that she does too much arm/shoulder work (in my opinion).

Core Max and Stretch Max

The Core Max DVD includes 3 workouts, one with no equipment, one with a ball and one with a medicine ball. The no equipment ab workout includes a number of standard moves like bicycles, planks, oblique, lifts, hip lifts and an endless variety of crunches as well as very advanced levitation holds. The ball workout, my favorite, includes roll outs, roll ins, pikes, reverse crunches, ball exchange and some interesting rotations. The medicine ball workout includes curl ups, v-sits, oblique rotations, wood chops and crunches. Each workout is about 20-30 minutes long and a nice add-on workout. The moves are advanced, particularly the ball workout, and you might choose a shorter pre-mixed workout when you're short on time.

Stretch Max also includes 3 workouts: no equipment, exercise ball and band. All three workouts focus on slow, static stretching for the entire body and, as in Core Max, the ball routine is my favorite and includes some innovative stretches and very relaxing music. The stretching workouts are also about 20 minutes long and an excellent add-on to the end of another workout or on it's own. Both Core Max and Stretch Max are my favorite DVDs in the Hardcore series.

Kick Max

Cathe's Kick Max DVD, a kickboxing workout, offers some variety for her exercisers.

The first section, which includes 4 kick/punch combos, is mostly low impact (with some jumping jacks) while the Blast Challenge offers more intensity for those wanting to raise the heart rate. The kick/punch combos are simple and Cathe breaks them down with the punch combos first (e.g., jab, cross, hook, uppercut) then the kicks (knee, side-kick), putting them together and repeating on the other side. The combos are fun, but not as intense as her other kickboxing workouts. The 4th combo is the most intense and my favorite with jabs, uppercuts, hooks, side kicks and side lunges. The Blast Challenge is just what it sounds like: high impact drills like jumping jacks with air-jacks, side-lunge with side-kicks, jump rope and circle jumps.

The entire cardio portion is about 50 minutes long followed by light conditioning drills designed to strengthen your legs and perfect your kicking techniques. The exercises are very slow versions of kicks with some pulses thrown in for a serious burn. Overall, the workout didn't feel as intense as her other kickboxing videos, but the DVD has premixed workouts to choose from so you can mix things up.

Hardcore Extreme

Like her other series, Cathe always includes one killer DVD that includes a compilation of exercises from all the videos in the series. The Hardcore Extreme DVD includes 3 such workouts, all of them long and full of variety. The Interval Circuit includes 6 intervals from Imax 3 as well as 3 cycles from High Step, giving you more than an hour of strength and cardio. The High/Low Intervals workout is my favorite and includes a mixture of Imax and Low Max Intervals, followed by the Kick Max Blast Challenge. I have yet to make it all the way through but, if I did, it would be a good hour of solid cardio. The last workout is Interval Blast & Legs and includes 6 Imax 3 intervals, the Kick Max Blast Challenge (twice!) and the conditioning drills from Kick Max as well. This workout is, like the others, over an hour long but it feels even longer, maybe because you do the Kick Max Blast Challenge more than once. You also have the option to Mix & Match (as in the other videos) although I wish she offered the Workout Blender available in her Intensity Series which allows you to put together different moves without having to program your DVD player. Either way, this DVD offers some killer workouts for advanced exercisers!

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