Tuesday 12 May 2015

Jillian Michaels' Shred It With Weights DVD Review

Price: £8/ $15
Length: 2x 25 minute sections
Workouts: Full body
Suitable for: Beginners - Intermediate
Rating:   ★★★★★
Based on 5 weeks of use.

   Jillian Michaels' Shred It With Weights is a fantastically demanding fitness DVD, and is a great place to start if you're new to kettlebells, as it's a brilliant introduction to the kit without being too easy.
   I was already very familiar with kettlebells when I started using this DVD, but I wanted Jillian's non-stop and powerful technique, which is why I bought it. In truth, I thought it would be well within my abilities to do, and while I found level 1 a little too easy, level 2 put me in my place.
   It was a lot of fun to do, and with each workout being just 25 minutes long, it's easy to fit into your day - but it's certainly not ineffective.

   Kettlebells are incredible pieces of kit, as their function is relatively unique. Their shape means that their weight distribution is unbalanced so it's harder to control the weight - the weight itself is round and sits beneath the handle rather than balanced at either side of it - but because they're so heavy you incorporate your whole body to lift it, using more momentum than strength. This means that kettlebells offer the perfect balance of cardio and strength in their explosive movements, even when they don't seem challenging like a kettlebell swing. It feels so easy, but it's such an effective total-body move.
   The cardio burn of explosive moves and full-body movements is what really helps to melt fat, but the use of the weight itself is what helps to build lean muscle, and lean muscle (muscle that is healthy, toned and functional) burns more calories because it takes more energy to use it, even at rest. Cardio helps to melt fat away, lean muscle helps to keep it away, as well as create a gorgeously smooth silhouette - who doesn't want that?!
   Kettlebells are becoming more popular and gradually working their way into people's homes, but they're not something a beginner usually has on hand unless they're at a gym. Jillian realises this and so has one of her two back-up instructors (both of whom you'll recognise from her Yoga Meltdown DVD) completing each move with a dumbbell rather than a kettlebell, holding it by the end rather than the middle so that the weight is distributed more similarly to the kettlebell. This means that even if you only have dumbbells, you can still use this DVD and get a lot out of it. However, it's important to remember that kettlebells are not dumbbells. As well as being unevenly weighted, kettlebells are also typically much heavier, starting at 2kg (4lbs) at the lightest, and that means you get more out of them than a dumbbell again, so you will get different results depending both on the weight style you use, as well as the weight itself.

   The DVD consists of two 25-minute workouts (including warm-up and cool-down) broken into two different levels of difficulty, the first being the easiest of the two, of course. But it's not like her 30 Day Shred or other week by week workouts, you simply move on to the second level when you feel you're ready.
   Each workout consists of three circuits of three moves, and each circuit is repeated twice, with a single new move between each circuit to break them apart as a bonus. As always, she talks you through each move while you do it, telling you what not to do and what to look out for, and where you'll really feel the move coming from. At the end of the day, she provides you with all the info you need which makes it pretty difficult to do the workout wrong. If you listen to her, pay attention and use a weight you can control (rather than a weight so light you can juggle with it or a weight so heavy you can lift but barely manage 3 reps) you will get amazing results.

Level 1
   Level 1 is the easiest of the two, and as someone who knows her way around a kettlebell, I'd say it was the perfect introduction to kettlebell usage while still being a challenging workout. She shows you how to hold the weight, she explains how it works and why it's effective, and the moves provided are pretty standard kettlebell moves - but they're nothing you've seen in any of her other DVDs. While it's true that she rarely repeats moves across her massive range of DVDs, these moves are fairly unique to the kit, so unless a kettlebell is used in another workout, you've probably not seen them. But the moves are not complicated; they're very doable, and some of them are some of the first moves I learned in 2013 when I was just starting to use kettlebells.
   Even after two weeks of solid use and really familiarising yourself with this level, you will still get a good sweat, so there's no need to go racing ahead to level 2. Definitely get used to this one before moving on.

Level 2
   Level 2 is far harder. The jump in difficulty between the two levels is fairly visible, which is why I say to really come to grips with level 1 first. I struggled a lot with level 2 and it took me three weeks of solid use to get comfortable with it. I could do each move fairly well, but there were a handful I had real difficulty with - rock and roll squats, the very first move of the first circuit, is one such challenge I have yet to overcome. However, as in level 1, the moves are not complicated, they're just challenging, and it's more a case of stamina and strength than understanding what's going on - stamina will improve with use, and if strength is an issue, dropping down a weight is no problem. I completed level 1 with 6kg, but had to drop to 4kg for the majority of level 2. It's more important that you're able to complete the set than you use a stupidly heavy weight. If a set consists of 10 reps but you can only do 6, you're not getting as much out of it as you would if you dropped down a weight and managed the 10 reps with difficulty.
   Most of the moves are different to level 1, but there are three moves that are similar to one in level 1. Kettlebell swings, as I mentioned above, is a really effective but simple full-body move. Level 1 has basic kettlebell swings, and it has a kettlebell swing with a pass (an alternating one-hand swing). Level 2 has swing-throughs, which are kettlebell swings that go really far back between your legs, it has plyo swings where you and jump forwards and backwards with every swing, and it has rotating heroes, which are similar to the swing-throughs but instead of going deep behind you and chest level in front, you go shallow behind you and then right over your head in front. I realise I've made it sound complicated, but I promise you it's not. The upset to these kettlebell swing variations is that you get a lot of the best kettlebell move there is, and the variations are different enough to keep things interesting, but simple enough that, once you master the basic swing, you can do these with little trouble.

   It's an incredible DVD. You get such a sense of victory for completing it, collapsing into a puddle of sweat in the end with your new best friend piece of kit, whether it's level 1 you've conquered or level 2. The cardio burn is surprisingly good, but your muscles will be on fire. It's one of my favourite Jillian Michaels DVDs and one that, even after a solid 5 weeks of use, I can say I will happily use again later in the year - quite possibly around Christmas when there were certainly be a little more fat that needs melting away.
   I cannot recommend this DVD enough. Buy it, and either grab your heaviest dumbbell (you'll only need one) or buy a kettlebell. Better still, buy a beginner's set of 2kg-8kg - I promise you you won't outgrow them quickly. I've had a 2kg-8kg set for the last 2 years and while my 2kg hasn't seen the light of day for 15 months, neither has my 8kg, and I doubt it will for 12 more.


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