My last post generated some interest in my home workouts, so I thought I do a post about home workout programs that work. Something most people don’t know about me is that I was overweight as a child into my early adult years. I struggled, I starved, and I struggled some more.
On January 1, 2000, I did a home workout video that changed my life. Online shopping was still new and deep discounts were easy to find, so I ordered two workout videos by a company called The FIRM. I didn’t know anything about them other than that they combined aerobics and weights and were supposedly the most effective workout videos available. After a few weeks of alternating Body Sculpting Basics and Low Impact Aerobics (originally released as Volumes 1 & 2), I was hooked and eventually ended up owning nearly every video The FIRM ever produced*. Talk about home workout programs that work! Old school FIRM definitely delivered.
Around 2001, The FIRM was bought by Goodtimes and marketed via infomercials. That summer, I submitted my dramatic 40 lb. weight loss success story and was flown to Columbia, SC to star in their infomercial! We filmed at the gym where the workout video concepts were born and I met a few of my favorite instructors (Allie Strickland, Nancy Tucker, Jennifer Carman, Lisa Kay), but unfortunately, The FIRM as I knew it was over. The original FIRM left me with a lifelong fitness habit which has served me well and I’m forever grateful.
As I wrote in my last post, I exercise at home because it’s cost efficient and saves time. Fitness has been a daily part of my life for over 15 years. I workout on average at least five days a week, and despite being a certified personal trainer since 2004, I’ve never belonged to a gym. With so many home workout programs that work, I don’t need to take on the hassle and expense of joining a gym.
Here are my 5 favorite home workout programs that work…
1) The FIRM
I own or have owned most of these workouts and while they’re dated, I still consider them my favorite workouts of all time. Back in the day, all FIRM Direct orders shipped with a “90 Day Rotation” calendar, which I’ve completed many times. It was my go-to program anytime I wanted to get in top shape and I only abandoned it because VHS gave way to DVDs and only a handful of the workouts were ever released on DVD before I moved to Denmark and the cost of import duties made them insanely expensive. However after 15 years, I still do my FIRM workouts. They’re unlike any other workouts I’ve done, except perhaps my number 5 pick.
I’ve always wanted to like Chalene. I’ve completed CLX, TurboJam, and TurboFire, and I’ve not been impressed. Regardless of what the word on the street says about heavy lifting for women, heavy weights do bulk me up. After 3 months of CLX, I looked like brick shithouse! TurboJam and TurboFire were enough fun to get me out of bed at the crack of dawn, but they didn’t deliver much in the way of results.
Then PiYo came along. I started PiYo this past July and finished it in late September. This was a leap of faith. I was a FIRM Believer… for nearly 15 years, I worshiped at the altar of cardio and weights and now I was entrusting my hard-earned physique to pilates and yoga? It was insanity! But I looked forward to the workouts. I felt great during and after the workouts, and they gave me the lean, defined look that I wanted to achieve at this point in my life. Who knew that backing off the burpees and weights could yield such beautiful results? PiYo for the win! Seriously.
3) Slim Series
It’s time consuming and tedious, but Slim Series remains one of the most effective workout programs I’ve ever used. This is a very early Beachbody program, and it includes the countdown clock, so I know exactly how much time I have left before I can get on with the rest of my life ;-) I love the countdown clock and wish all workouts had one! You need to set aside at least an hour a day for this program, but the reward is worth it and the time goes by more quicly if you listen to your own soundtrack ;-)
4) Body Revolution
I’ve never watched Biggest Loser and I don’t really know Jillian Michaels from Jane Fonda, but Body Revolution rocks! Awesome results in under 40 minutes a day, seriously! And she’s funny. I’ve done this whole program twice through now and gotten great results both times. If you’re willing to be honest with yourself about your effort, this program can yield great results, but at under 40 minutes, you’ve got to bring your A-game. No excuses.
These six workouts were developed The FIRM Founder Anna Benson. Some legal troubles led her to sell her beloved franchise to Goodtimes, but she independently launched several workout programs afterwards. Unfortunately, they weren’t as good as the original FIRM workouts, but Kickbutt comes close. The production quality and sets fall a bit short of her earlier releases, but the flow of the workouts is pure Anna and she even managed to bring back some of the original FIRM instructors like Heidi Tanner and Tamela Hastie. They’re not the most advanced workouts, but I feel great doing them, I love the new age soundtracks, and I easily modify the intensity up by adding ankle weights and skipping some of the props like yoga blocks.
Other Home Workout Programs That Work
I’ve tried a lot of workout programs over the years… P90X, Cathe, Les Mills Pump, and Insanity for example and I can see why people like them and I think they’re quite effective, but they don’t keep me coming back. I’m not an intensity junkie and heavy weights don’t give me the shape I want, so that’s why these very popular programs didn’t make my list of home workout programs that work.
There are also quite a few standalone workouts that I like. Surprisingly, I think Cindy Crawford’s Shape Your Body Workout (on YouTube!) from the early 90s is very effective. I also like Tom Holland’s Total Body Workout and some retro goodies from Step Reebok, Tae Bo, and Gilad. These didn’t make my list of home workout programs that work because I find my best results come from programs with workouts that are designed to work together on a set schedule, not individual workouts.
Workout DVDs aren’t a big thing in Denmark, so it’s expensive and difficult to get new programs and I occasionally look for streaming workouts. Jessica Smith TV has a lot of great free streaming workouts in all sorts of formats, and I find the arms segments from Tracy Anderson’s Mat Workout to be a nice add-on to PiYo.
Between programs, or when I’m having trouble staying motivated to workout, I’ll back off or do a week of favorites. This usually gets me back into the flow. I never break the habit. I’ll allow myself a week or two of slacking, but I don’t go longer than that because I’ve worked too hard and this is a habit I want to have for life.
I don’t obsess over my figure, I work out consistently, I eat a mostly clean vegetarian diet, I drink unsweetened tea, I walk as much as possible, and only indulge in things I really enjoy. Cake is a big part of Danish office culture, but passing it up doesn’t pain me. More often than not, I say nej tak to the cake. However, I never say no thank you to sharing a bottle of red with someone, and I’ve never met a bag of chips I didn’t like. Priorities, consistent choices, and moderation pretty much sum up my approach to fitness.
Do you exercise at home? What are your favorite programs and why? Can you recommend any home workout programs that work? Tell me in the comments :)
*I’m referring to the original, pre-Goodtimes FIRM workouts. After the original owners sold the concept, it was never the same. The distinctive format and production quality were gone, and the workouts were pretty much like so many others on the market. A lot of people only know the new FIRM and I know it’s been quite successful, but it never clicked for me.
Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links, which means that (at no cost to you) I’ll earn a small commission for any order placed through one of the links in this post.
Sage, Thank you blogging about your workout choices. I’m a FIRMie from the 90s Anna Benson website-forum era, but I haven’t worked out in a long time. I have most the the FIRM VHS tapes, and several of the same videos in DVD format. I have the Kickbutt and Slim-in-Six workouts also. This post has inspired me to focus on working out again, and I’m thinking about purchasing PIYO, as you have had good results; and I like that the workouts are 30 to 45 minutes. Thank you, again!
You’re welcome :) I’m in week 3 of the KickButt rotation and when that’s done, I’ll probably go back to PiYo. I love the KickButts (and FIRMs), but with a 2+ hour commute, it’s difficult to fit in more than 50 minutes a day so PiYo is perfect!
Thanks Sage for this. I too have done Firm workouts for years and they are hands-down the most effective but I found that I knew them so well that I was sort of doing them on autopilot. I’ve also done the P90X workouts and while I like them, I don’t stick with them. (Maybe it’s all that smug testosterone that I find tedious after awhile.) Now I am dealing with a pinched nerve in my back so I have to try more yoga and pilates which I have done on and off for years. Thanks for the PiYo recommendation. I think I’ll be giving it a try.
Oh I forgot to mention that I also had the Cindy Crawford workouts on VHS and thought they were great. I still do some of the moves at my standing desk at work. Who knew Cindy was so ahead of the curve?
This post has just gotten revived and I just saw your comments :)
I did P90X once through and that was it. Come to think of it, I think all of that smug testosterone was a key factor in that.
I hope you like PiYo as much as I did… I really felt great doing that program!
I knew you had done the 90 Day Rotation a couple times with good results. Decided to look online for it, and what do you know, a link to your blog! Rhonda from the YaYas here! I’m kind of thinking of a modified 90 Day Rotation with some substitutes adding a little Cathe, Tae Bo and Slim Series in the mix.
Thanks for letting my know you stopped by :)
I did the 90 Day Rotation this summer, I enjoyed it, but it’s a huge time commitment. Now I’m loving Jillian’s BodyShred… great results in around 35 minutes a day, which is very manageable.
Diana Brock says
I always enjoyed Karen Voight exercise routines at home. My favorite was the one she filmed with Elle MacPherson in Hawaii where their outfits and stage sets changed throughout the video called Personal Best. FIRM instructor Tracy Long was always my favorite and I especially enjoyed The Tortoise and the Hare and the combined Tough Tape. I owned many favorites on VHS and it broke my heart when hubby said we were getting rid of the video player. I have a few FIRM routines on DVD that I break out now and again but mostly I do classes at the gym now. Great to read of another FIRM lover!
This is a perfect post for me! I work from home, so I usually wake up early in the morning and work out and I’ve been searching for a good at home workout series to do! These all seem great, so I’m definitely going to be checking them out. Thank you so much for sharing!
I also work from home, and I love that I can work out first thing in the morning, or when I feel like I need a break from client work. The flexibility is key in keeping me consistent.
Robin Rue says
I always have trouble working out at home. I need to be held accountable in a group setting, but these sound great so I Might try them.
I’m the exact opposite! If I had to actually go somewhere to work out, I’d still be 40 lbs. overweight, and possibly even more. The only reason I have a lifelong fitness habit is because there are so many effective home workout programs.
Thanks for this list. I do Insanity at home from time to time. I have been really interested in The Firm – I appreciate your details on each! And I have to write – I am also an UNsweet tea drinker. Now that I live in the south of the USA, people think it’s nuts haha (it’s a staple for people here).
Ha! My English family can’t understand how I can drink tea without milk or sugar, they think it’s totally gross.
Sarh S says
I haven’t tried or even heard of these. I have used the Beach Body Brazilian Butt Lift workout dvds and they definitely work! After I had my middle child, I started using the dvd when he was about 3 weeks old and I was back to prepregnancy weight w/in just two weeks!! And that’s after having gained about 60 lbs and having a 9lb baby boy. Now my youngest is 4 years old and for whatever reason I am just NOW pulling out the dvd to start it up.
I did Brazil Butt Lift awhile back. Leandro was a riot! Beachbody definitely produces some effective programs, and that countdown timer is genius.
Elizabeth DiBurro says
I’ve been doing p90x3 and I love it so far, but I tend to like a variety. I’ll take a look into these too.
You are a brave woman! I did P90X when it first came out and haven’t touched it since.
Michelle Gwynn Jones says
Some are better than others, but all workout programs work – if they get you off the couch and moving you are already ahead of the game. Granted some are more effective than others.
I never said they didn’t… these are the five I’ve found to be most effective :)
Shannon P says
Jillian Michaels ripped in 30 was my best friend after having a baby! She got me back in shape!
Jillian is awesome! Not only are her workouts efficient, but I find her very entertaining.
Gwendolyn Mulholland says
Thank you for sharing this great list of home workouts and the details about them. I have never heard of most of them and will be checking them out as I work to get in shape. Some of them seem easy enough for a beginner.
All of the programs I’ve listed have modifications for beginners, and are easy to adapt as your fitness level increases :)
I love PiYo, and I’m glad to see it on the list!
I was totally skeptical, but PiYo delivered. I wish Chalene would make another similar series… I’d be on it in a hot minute!
Elizabeth O. says
I have given up on home workout programs and I started jogging and walking instead. I would squeeze in the regular situps and pushups and that’s it. I’d love to try these programs though. Thank you for this list!
I’d love to do a couch to 5K program, but I can’t ever seem to get a long enough stretch of nice weather in Denmark. The locals run in all sorts of weather, but clearly my American is still showing, even after nearly six years ; -)
I do walk a lot though. I can’t remember last time I took the car on an errand.
Liz Mays says
I forgot all about the Firm. I have that set! I like working out at home so much better than the gym!
Me, too! If I had to go to the gym, I’d never get it done. I can’t imagine actually traveling somewhere in order to work out.
These are some great workouts. I have done a few of them, but not all of them. I really like PiYo. I need to start that back up again. It was very fun and really worked my muscles. Its amazing what your own weight can do!
Amy Jones says
Nice list, maybe ill try starting the FIRM workouts next week ;)
I like being able to incorporate working out at home. Sometimes going to the gym sucks up so much time. Its usually takes away four hours of my week. That’s a lot if you think about it, especially if you add in the commute.
Krystle Chaney Cook says
I need to share these workouts with my husband. They would be great for days he can’t make it to the gym.
I wish I had the commitment to stick to it. I’m so not gym person.
Neither am I, that’s why I have to work out at home. If I don’t work out at home, it’s not getting done!
Ahhhhh I’ve been so bad about fitness lately! After Easter my fitness game is so on!
I need to look into some of these. I feel overwhelmed by all of the choices.
I have been looking for a good home workout system. I am checking these out now.
Healthier Steps says
I walked for the last month and now started doing home workout program. I’m currently doing the fitness blender cardio workout on Youtube
Ana De Jesus says
Looks like I need to do some fitness research, I have never heard of any of these workouts but I am looking to get fit! Thank you x
I need to find a work out program that works for my crazy schedule. I will check some of these out.
Yona Williams says
I got a DVD by the Firm once, and it was so fast-paced and difficult for me…it scared me…lol. It was really intense. You have me curious about Body Revolution!
Krystal @ Sunny Sweet Days says
I was using Beachbody on Demand, and it was great! I loved your Piyo recommendation.
I’ve been considering trying an on demand streaming workout service because it’s so expensive and difficult to get new workouts shipped to Denmark. Good to hear that you liked Beachbody’s service, that’s one of my top contenders.
Krystal @ Sunny Sweet Days says
I have been watching it on my computer and I just got a Roku so I can stream it on my computer! It’s so cool!
Diana Rodgers-Soriano says
I have tried a lot of workouts, and Kathy Smith’s Fat Burning Workout (1988) is one of my favorites. Easy, low impact, and you can find it on You Tube.
Patricia Janssen says
Love the original Firms too. What do you think of the Core Fushion workouts?
Danielle Seatts says
I stumbled across this article looking for The Firm Sculpting exercise rotation calendar. I too am a Firm Believer. I did this program 15 years ago and lost 50 pounds after having my last child. I still have all my dvds and step. It’s the ONLY exercise program that works for me. I am going to try Piyo as well now. Thanks for the recommendations.
You’re welcome :)
I’ve been following the Tracy Anderson Method for over 2 years and it’s even more effective than the programs I’ve mentioned here. I’ve been fit and lean before, but I’ve always wanted a tiny, lean “dancer’s body.” TAM is the only program that has ever helped me achieve that aesthetic. If that’s your jam, you might want to check it out. I started with Metamorphosis and Continuity and now I do the streaming Master Class.