Author: J. Hawthorne

autumn_pr_images_hires_1Since diet will make or break the result of your workout regimen, it’s surprising that most fitness video programs don’t talk about it at all, or annoyingly go over it just enough to push affiliated supplement products.

Autumn Calabrese’s 21 Day Fix program has taken on the ambitious task of teaching you everything you need to know to lose 15 pounds in 21 days. The base kit includes 2 DVDs with exercise routines, a food container system that makes it easier to prevent overeating, and an eating plan that includes basic recipes. For those yearning for more mind-blowing before and after photos or dazzling at an important event, a 3 Day Quick Fix has been included which is primarily intended to be done directly after the 21 day program.

Of course the question you’re here to answer is, is it any good? Let’s get to that. Each segment of Autumn Calabrese’s system has been evaluated separately to keep this review tidy as there is a decent bit to cover: videos, eating plan, containers/cup, plus 3 Day Quick Fix.

7 workouts on 2 DVDs

The main attraction is of course Autumn Calabrese’s workout videos. For those unfamiliar with her day job, Calabrese is a celebrity trainer that has helped Rachel Zoe, Brooke Burke, and Tom Bergeron. Also, being a mother of one and fitness competition competitor has given her a unique approach to fitness.

To follow the schedule, you’ll do seven 30-minute workouts per week.

21-day-fixThe first disc contains a full body fix, upper and lower fix, pilates, and abs workout. The second has cardio, dirty 30, yoga and another 10-minute fix for abs.

Each exercise is done for a full minute, which is enough time to get your heart pumping. After there is 20 second cool-down in which Autumn talks about and demonstrates the next routine. The pace is pretty easy to keep up with, which is good for beginners, as you won’t dread another day of joint pain or feeling like you’re always a step behind the instructor.

The workouts include new and unusual workout routines that are spins on classic maneuvers, such as the one-arm row in plank position. So prepare for some new challenges along the way.

21 Day Fix Eating Plan

It’s estimated that 70% of your results will come from changes in diet.

The 21 Day Fix Eating Plan isn’t a fad diet that means eating nothing but fruits and vegetables, or drinking an excess of health shakes. It’s just a balance of healthy foods you’re likely already eating, just less of it.

It’s a disciplined diet. However, it’s not so strict that it takes all the fun out of eating. The containers might even encourage you to be creative and come up with healthy treats while keeping true to the rules.

If putting a little whipped cream on your fruit salad feels like the reward you need after a hard workout, go with it. Bending the rules within reason might mean the difference completely quitting and getting the results you’ve been yearning for.

Very basic meal ideas are included to keep you on track, ex. grilled chicken with steamed veggies and extra virgin coconut oil, or steamed fish with steamed veggies. You won’t be winning any culinary awards with these meals, but the approach works, and less time in the kitchen will make up for the added time in the exercise room.

Portion-control containers plus Shakeology shaker cup

The beauty of the container system is simplicity. You don’t have to count calories or weigh your foods. Instead, each color-coded container is intended for a different type of food, ex. green for veggies, red for proteins. This method may not be totally accurate, but it’s good enough to serve its purpose.

The major concern here is if you really need this level of handholding. You could easily measure your foods by volume in a measuring cup then put it into Tupperware you already own. Sure, getting custom containers saves you the measuring step and is idiot-proof, but for some people’s preferences or needs it just adds extra cost.

If you prepare your own lunches at home and take it to work, the gym, or elsewhere the idea is worthwhile. For homebodies that aren’t as busy, it’s simply a luxury.

3 Day Quick Fix

This is a jump-start for a leaner, sexier, new you. It’s an eating plan designed to maximize fat loss. Autumn Calabrese developed it based on her own experience so she had that extra edge before competitions or photo shoots. Now you can too!

The basic rules are you can eat: streamed veggies, lean white proteins, oatmeal, yams, limes, lemons and spices. You cannot eat/drink Shakeology, fruit, or salt.

CAP-dumbell-setMuch like the previously reviewed Yes4All dumbbells, CAP Barbell’s 40-pound adjustable dumbbell set is an affordable entry-level option for beginners and frugal enthusiasts alike. At just over $40 it’s priced nearly the same as it’s closest competitor.

The design is straightforward and classic as you’d expect at this price; no fancy spaced aged engineering here. Just solid durable cast iron plates, rubber trim collars and ergonomic handles.

The 40-pound set includes two handles, four 2.5-pound plates, four 5-pound plates, 4 collars, and a plastic storage case.

The molded case is a great idea and really handy for people like me who like to change up their location to keep their exercise routine interesting. Inside there are recesses for each iron plate, which do a good job of keeping everything in place. I found I especially appreciated this while it was in the back of my vehicle.

One major difference between these and the Yes4All dumbbells is the shape of the iron plates. The CAP plates have nicely rounded edges while Yes4All’s edges are sharply squared off. This of course comes down to personal preference, though I will say I preferred smooth feel of the CAP plates when adding or removing weights to the handles.

This line in the description on shocked me a bit.

Warning: This product contains one or more phthalate chemicals known to the state of California to cause birth defects and other reproductive harm

While I appreciate the disclosure it makes me ponder the costs of buying cheap Chinese goods.

The smell may be overpowering to some and definitely compounded with the health warning to make me weary of spending much time with the plates until thoroughly aired out in the garage.

Although 40-pounds isn’t much weight and it would be better if this was available in more weight configurations, additional plates are available from CAP. Adding a few more five or ten pounders isn’t a big deal. However, if you want absolute certainty you won’t outgrow your dumbbell set I’d look to the Yes4All sets that range from 40 to 105 lbs.

The rubber washers in between the cap screws and the plates may fall out, since they are not secured in any way. You may opt to either superglue the washers on or remove them entirely. The caps tighten just as well without the washers.

You’ll need to tighten the caps fairly tightly to avoid any possible “clanging” noises.

The Verdict

These dumbbells by CAP Barbells provide a good start. Flaws such as the bad odor and easy-to-lose washers are pretty standard at this price. I wouldn’t be surprised if these dumbbells were manufactured at the same factory as the competition (Yes4All). Still at a little over $40 it’s hard to complain with all solid components and iron plates with a professional look and feel. If you’re a beginner or short on the funds needed for an adjustable dumbbell set from Bowflex or Powerblock, don’t hesitate to give these a go.

Yes4All-dumbbellsAdjustable dumbbells such as the popular Bowflex SelectTech 552 are amazing feats of engineering, super fast to adjust to the amount of weight you need, etc. However for many there is one key disadvantage: the price. While worth it if you workout regularly, not everyone can justify paying this much on fitness equipment, period.

Yes4All has answered the call for those seeking an affordable solution with adjustable dumbbell sets with configurations of 40, 50, 52.5, 60 and 105 lbs. The price starts at just over $40 and the weightiest model goes for under $100 on

Don’t let the price fool you. These will easily beat the generic dumbbells sold at Walmart or Target. And just like much more expensive options they don’t take up much space or require a rack like traditional dumbbells.

These are classic adjustable dumbbells in form and function. The components are all solid, made up of cast iron plates, solid chrome handles, and spin-lock star collars. Screwing on the end pieces may take a bit longer than the fancy weight adjustment mechanism featured in the Bowflex, but it’s a tried and tested method of keeping everything in place. If you aren’t changing the weight of you’re dumbbells that often the minor inconvenience won’t matter much. The collars may slowly come loose as you workout so you might need to tighten these intermittently as you exercise.

Yes4All dumbbell sets have the advantage of growing with your needs. Even if you’re an absolute beginner lifting 10 lbs per arm and dream of becoming a triathlete some day, the right set could get you there.

Some people have noticed an odd odor coming from the paint on the plates. This goes away after a while. The paint may also flake off over time if you’re rough on them, so if you don’t workout in the garage, preferring a carpeted area, the resulting mess may be an issue.

There are rubber O-rings on the end caps that help create a tight seal between the caps and plates. Annoyingly, the O-rings aren’t attached to the cap so you’ll either have to be careful not to lose them or superglue each on.

The Verdict

Yes4All dumbbells have their flaws, however at this price that is to be expected. The only thing you’ll need to get the most out of one of these sets is a bit of patience. The design is classic and far less refined than high-end adjustable dumbbells by Bowflex or Powerblock, however the quality of materials used is pretty impressive. If you’re not sure how serious you’ll be about your workout regimen, or are on a strict budget, Yes4All dumbbells will give you good start.

As great as home gyms are, all the gear can quickly eat square footage. Traditional dumbbell sets take up considerable space against the wall, which is the most valuable real estate of all in a home or apartment.

In contrast, Bowflex SelectTech 552s can neatly be tucked away in the corner or closet. Each dumbbell is 15.75″ by 8″ so even those living in a cozy apartment can consider these.

The 552s employs a dial system that moves in increments of 2.5 lbs. Depending on the exercise and your fitness level, each dumbbell can be anywhere from 5 to 52.5 pounds.

This ability to increase or decrease weight in small increments is one of the biggest advantages the Bowflex has over a traditional set. Sometimes moving up 5 pounds can be overwhelming and this makes harder for you to transition into lifting heavier weights. Bowflex has found the sweet spot with 2.5 lbs increments.

It’s wonderfully engineered and unlike any other adjustable set available. The spindles are made of hard plastic that on rare occasion can break. Fortunately Bowflex has been good about sending out replacements in just 5 days when this happens.

The included DVD is surprisingly good because the exercises show you how to get the most out of SelectTech equipment specifically (and use it safely). You’ll learn how to perform over 30 exercises with over 80 variations.

When lifting, the weights feel tightly constructed. The plates firmly lock onto the handle so there is no rattling or movement of the plates. The feel is very similar to the old school dumbbells we’re all accustomed to.

The 15.75” length is fairly long which tends to make the dumbbells great for most exercises but slightly awkward for a few such as Congdon Curls and Flip Grip Twist Kickback.

The Verdict

Although I was skeptical at first due to the bright red plastic components, the Bowflex SelectTech 552 dumbbells have proven to be a workhorse set that can handle the abuse of daily workouts.

Even if you have loads of space, the 2.5 lbs increments have turned me into a believer and at this point I’d find it hard to go back to my basic set made up of 5s, 10s, 15s, and 25s.

When Wii came out in 2006 gamers were given the impression most games would involve considerable activity.

In time it became clear waggle-ware, requiring subtle wrist and arm movements, vastly outnumbered the more strenuous variety.

Although a slew of fitness games came out for the Wii during its peak and later for the Xbox 360 Kinect, most fell short of expectations. Although software that tracks your movements sounded good on paper, implementation often left something to be desired.

What this new approach did right is it gave working out entertainment value and interactivity. With so many forms of amusing distractions out there that lock you onto the couch, owning games that make you sweat provides a counterbalance.

Naturally those looking for an enhanced workout gravitate towards titles like EA Sport Active, Wii Fit Plus, Your Shape Fitness Evolved, and Zumba Fitness.

In the process dance titles that offer a solid cardio workout like the Just Dance and DDR are often overlooked. Although their primary focus is merely fun, sometimes that’s the best motivator there is.

Just Dance was first released for the Wii in 2009. Due to its astronomical popularity publisher UBI Soft has consistently been pumping out sequels and spinoffs. Each major release boasts 40 plus new tracks so it makes sense that it has continued to fly off the shelves.

Like with any Wii game you can cheat the system and play as lazily as possible while still achieving high scores. So you’ll need to be self-motivated to get a good workout from Just Dance. I imagine this isn’t the case with the Kinect version, since it tracks the position of your entire body, although I haven’t tested it myself.

Starting with Just Dance 2, “just sweat” mode was added. It allows players to measure the energy they expend as well as set fitness objectives to be met during their dance sessions.

While Just Dance doesn’t offer sophisticated fitness components you’d expect from an exergame, the fun factor, choreography, stunning visuals and great music more than make up for it.

There are reports online of people losing substantial weight purely with Just Dance so clearly features like weight tracking, calendar features, etc. aren’t as significant as motivators as we’ve been lead to believe. It’s way more important that the software is fun, intuitive and free of technical frustrations.

The downside is you’ll eventually tire of the tracks requiring you to pick up new versions so it stays fresh. With a game like EA Sports Active for example the music is generic, however you can turn it off and play your own MP3s with another device. Granted this is an apples to oranges comparison but it’s an integral factor to consider when assessing replay value of the Just Dance series.

Another advantage Just Dance offers over fitness games is its fun to play with a group. While exercise carries connotation of work and strain with it, dancing does not. Your friends might even be the ones who will con you into getting off your rump and popping it in.

Overall you’d be crazy not to try it even if you’re not big on bubblegum pop. Think of it as a guilty pleasure or claim it’s “for the kids” if need be.