Sunday 15 February 2015

Jillian Michaels' Kickbox FastFix DVD Review

Price: £9/ $15 (can be found cheaper elsewhere)
Length: 3x 20 minute sections
Workouts: Upper body, lower body, core
Suitable for: Everyone
Rating:   ★★★★★
Based on 4 weeks of use.

   A lot of the time, I feel like people love or praise something or someone because they think they're supposed to. Like Tim Burton (bear with me, I do have a point). A mass amount of people love him and his work, but I have to wonder how many genuinely do and how many do because they feel they have to. I was always one of the latter, but I soon found myself simply not enjoying his stuff. I bought loads of merch and forced myself to watch the Nightmare Before Christmas because it was considered 'cool' among my friends to do so. But I hated it in the end. I only 'liked' it because I had to. I mean, if someone can tell me why they like Tim Burton without using the words 'cult', 'classic' or 'artistic' then fine, because everyone says that.
   Everyone loves Jillian Michaels, too. She's released workout DVD after workout DVD, book after book, she's toured - she's a fitness personality. And people love her. And I have to say that she truly deserves that love. Why? Because her stuff works. She creates 20-minute routines for people with no time, and she makes them as effective as they can be by shoving as much into that time as possible and never focusing on just cardio or just strength. Even yoga, which is an effective workout in itself, she's improved by adding repetitions and moving in and out of the moves before holding them. She incorporates interval training into her workouts, and interval training is one of the most effective ways of losing weight, if also quite tough.
   I'm a very sceptical person when it comes to 'fast fixes', but such a phrase only applies, legitimately, to a workout. Fast-fix foods, diets, supplements, they never work and are more likely to be dangerous than healthy, but fast-fix exercises always will work, and Jillian Michaels is the queen of truly effective fast fixes. So if this DVD review seems fan-girly, know that it actually comes from someone who views such a phrase with suspicion, and will only stick with a workout if it genuinely works. It's a waste of my time, otherwise.

   Kickboxing is a fantastic workout. It's amazing cardio, but it incorporates a lot of body strength and body-weight training by throwing yourself into each punch, and it takes a lot of work in your hips, legs, bum and core to throw out a controlled kick. It's also an amazing exercise for releasing frustration, even if you're shadowboxing (no opponent or punch bag) and can really melt off fat as well as tone you up and improve muscle tone - and lean muscle is key to not only losing fat, but keeping it off.
   Jillian Michaels, in her usual fashion, turns it up a notch in her Kickbox Fast Fix. As well as kickboxing combinations of different types of punches, kicks and knees, she includes cardio intervals - suicides, butt-kicks and so on - as well as strength intervals with hand weights for the upper body, and body weight for the lower body, keeping your heart rate high with active recoveries and allowing you to get your breath back without stopping.
   The DVD is split into three sections and it's expected that you do just one of them a day. The first section focuses on the upper body, the second section on the lower body, and the third section on the abs.
   Upper body puts more effort into your arms, chest and back and uses more punches and weights, but kicks are still involved in the combinations, and your whole body gets a workout.
   The lower body section turns the first section around by giving more focus on the legs and bum, but punches are still included. Instead of using hand weights for the strength intervals, however, your body weight is used instead, such as squats and lunges, which do for your legs and glutes what the hand weights did for your arms, shoulders and chest.
   The abs section focuses more on crunches, sit-ups and other core-strengthening (obliques, hips and lower back as well as your abs) moves. Kicks and punches are still included, but there is less focus on the act of kickboxing in the third section and more focus on improving your core strength, which in turn will strengthen your kicks and punches, as well as improve your balance for the kicks. It's harder than the previous two sections despite less actual kickboxing, and I found it a little less enjoyable than the rest - but I can't deny it effectiveness, and I stuck with it just like I stuck with the others.

   If you've never kickboxed before, there is a tutorial which teaches you the punches and the kicks, but in the actual workouts themselves the combinations are usually no more than four moves and are repeated over and over, so you can pick up and perfect the moves even during the workout. However, viewing and practising with the tutorial first will certainly improve the effectiveness of the workouts as you'll already be familiar with the individual moves. She tells you how to find your stance, how to punch through your foot and hip, not just your fist, and the difference between a side kick and a roundhouse kick (important stuff!). Throughout the workouts, however, she still reminds you to distribute your weight unevenly, with 75% of your weight on your back foot and the remaining 25% on the front, and to power each punch with the corresponding hip. And practise makes perfect, so while it might seem like a lot to keep in mind at first, I promise you that it quickly becomes natural. Some of the moves, such as the crescent kick, are pretty tough, but in the tutorial she also tells you that if you can only spin the knee, just spin the knee. Keep to your level and gradually work up - as long as you keep moving, keep up and keep trying, you'll do just fine and get an effective workout.

Level Variations
   There are a good number of women behind Jillian who are performing the moves, and while there are no variations to make them easier or harder, you can see clear differences in execution of the moves from each of them. Some are more aggressive than others, and some throw more momentum into their moves rather than strength. You simply kick as high as you can without losing your balance, don't try to imitate the others, and while you might think you're kicking low initially, you will improve. The height of your kick has more to do with balance and muscle strength than knowing what to do, so while you may think you can kick high, your muscles may be limiting you. Simply sticking with the workout will improve your leg muscles enough to allow you to kick higher in time. I was kicking at stomach-height when I started, and after four weeks I was kicking to the head. Kickboxing is as good as yoga when it comes to seeing real changes in your skill - on day 1 you may not be able to do something very well at all, but by day 7 you might be able to do it almost perfectly.

   Like I said, I love Jillian Michaels not because I feel I have to, but because she clearly deserves it. Her DVDs work for me. I've used three so far - the 30 Day Shred and Yoga Meltdown - and they've all had better results than any other. Kickbox Fast Fix is my favourite, however, because I find kickboxing simply more enjoyable than the rest as I'm learning a skill at the same time as getting a killer workout.

   I highly, highly recommend this DVD. It's genuinely effective, shedding fat and improving muscle tone as well as strength and stamina, and it's also very enjoyable. I've tried kickboxing workouts before and I enjoyed them all, but this one took the cake for both effectiveness and enjoyment. It was incredible and I'll be returning to it in the future!


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