On days when going to a gym or dealing with soaring outdoor temperatures just seems like too much to handle, a home workout with a handy DVD is just the thing. We fired up four of the newest, hottest releases to let you know which are worth your time and money. Prices given are from amazon.com.
Pure Barre: 16th Street Volume 1 Ballet, Dance & Pilates Fusion
What it is: Pure Barre is an intense 45-minute workout that fuses ballet, Pilates and weight training to create and elongate muscles without adding bulk. Intense stretching follows each strengthening session.
Who leads the workout: Carrie Rezabek is the dancer/choreographer who founded and heads Pure Barre.
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Workout time: Approximately 45 minutes
Equipment: Yoga mat, double-ringed resistance band, balancing surface (a tabletop or the back of a chair will work fine)
What we liked: The workout is high on intensity while low on impact, working muscles without being too tough on knees and other sensitive joints. We loved that the DVD is broken up into sections based on body parts -- it allows us to tailor workouts based on time and target area. Rezabek is a great leader, as she provides a calm voice sans the cheesy "you can do it" shouts often seen in fitness DVDs. We also love a workout designed to build and tone muscles without creating the body builder look that comes from heavy lifting.
What might have been better: Pure Barre's workouts are built around tiny movements and muscle pulsing, and some of the subtleties are tough to detect on screen. To prevent confusion, we suggest watching the entire workout before attempting to do the moves.
Jillian Michaels Ripped in 30
What it is: Ripped in 30 is a four-week workout and meal plan meant to get users in the best shape of their lives. The short sessions incorporate Jillian's "3-2-1" philosophy -- three minutes of strength, two minutes of cardio and one minute of abs.
Who leads the workout: Jillian Michaels is best known as the no mercy, tough-as-nails trainer from NBC's The Biggest Loser.
Workout time: Approximately 35 minutes per workout
Equipment: One set of light weights and one set of heavy weights
What we liked: Ripped in 30 is a true fitness and nutrition routine, complete with a 30-day online meal plan that outlines what to eat each day for breakfast, lunch, a snack and dinner. It even includes recipes. Michaels prevents boredom by outlining four workouts -- one for each week -- slowly increasing intensity over time. We loved that there are modifications for many of the exercises that can make them harder or easier depending on fitness and mood.
What might have been better: Michaels is a motivator, which means she's constantly working to gear up her trainees. Her chatty technique often works, but sometimes the tough-love attitude can fall flat.
Celebrity Sweat Bynum
What it is: Celebrity Sweat is not an at-home workout plan. Instead, it's a look into the training session of a celebrity whose body is often envied.
Who leads the workout: Two-time NBA champion Andrew Bynum is a 7-foot-tall center for the Los Angeles Lakers. His trainer, Dr. Sean Zarzana, leads him in the DVD.
Workout time: 50 minutes
Equipment: As it's not a do-it-at-home workout, inspired exercisers will need a full-gym's worth of equipment, including: a medicine ball, running parachute, weights, a bench, a pull-up bar and a spotter.
What we liked: For athletes already in good shape, Bynum's workout provides great ideas for the next gym session, as well as motivation to get in even better shape. This high-intensity workout is meant to build endurance rather than bulk, as basketball players need to be strong and quick, not just big. Bynum, who has a history of knee problems, gives great commentary as he exercises, noting the importance of stretching ligaments and tendons to prevent injury.
W hat might have been better: While the workout gives great insight and inspiration, it's also an unrealistic plan for most of us. The session requires a lot of editing for those of us who are not NBA athletes.
Bob Harper: Ultimate Cardio Body
What it is: Ultimate Cardio Body is exactly as it sounds like -- an intense cardiovascular exercise session that focuses on toning legs and building endurance.
Who leads the workout: Bob Harper is the more even-keeled, though still tough, trainer on The Biggest Loser.
Workout time: One hour, plus a 10-minute bonus session
Equipment: Set of light weights
What we liked: This workout is guaranteed to make you sweat. After a short warm-up, Harper is sure to have trainees near tears with the sheer volume of squats and lunges he demands. Harper is a great leader -- he goes into extreme detail outlining body positions, ensuring that at-home followers are doing each pose accurately. And while the workout focuses on the legs, Harper incorporates the entire body, making your arms and core burn, too. The 10-minute glute-focused bonus session is the perfect way to sneak a workout into a busy day -- but don't think you'll be able to skip the post-workout shower. It'll still leave you sweating.
What might have been better: The number of squats and lunges trainees do is staggering. Folks will have to be super motivated to pop the DVD in a second time.