Sunday 27 November 2016

BarreAmped Strengthen & Stretch DVD Review

Price: $17
Length: 6 stretching routines varying from 6-28 minutes
Targets: Upper body, lower body, core
Suitable for: Everyone
Rating:   ★★★★★

   So, as you can probably tell, I've fallen in love with BarreAmped. I love Suzanne Bowen, she has a wonderful smile, an enviable body, she's clearly passionate and her workouts have a truly wonderful atmosphere. I love BarreAmped because it challenges my body by being so different to what I'm used to, it's low-impact but it truly gets deep into the promised muscle groups, providing a wonderful resistance workout before I move on to a cardio one afterwards, and as my heart has been completely spared throughout (the original BarreAmped DVD, at least), I can really give whatever cardio that follows (though it's usually kickboxing) my all.
   Well, I've just added a new BarreAmped workout to my library, and it's not like the rest.

   BarreAmped Strengthen & Stretch isn't really a workout; only two of the six sequences, which vary between 6 and 28 minutes, really use any kind of resistance, mostly barre and yoga, while the rest are stretches focusing on different areas or purposes. It's a 2-disc format with the two most resistant sequences on the first disc and the four stretching sequences on the second. But it really has very quickly become a staple in my whole workout DVD collection. It provides such wonderful, deep stretches that rival any cool down on any workout DVD ever, and is also really, really nice to do if you feel tight or stressed, as long as you warm up a bit first.
   The music is wonderful, too. It's got a Native American quality to it which is extremely relaxing on its own - some even have rain and gently rumbling thunder at the end. I absolutely love it. Never mind the fact that a great deal of it reminds me of some of my favourite game soundtracks.
   It's also filmed in the usual BarreAmped studio, which I adore, and Suzanne Bowen is on her own in this DVD without any back-up. There are different difficulties, but they are all demonstrated at once as the more advanced versions are simply moving deeper into the stretches and positions, so you simply go as far as you can without over-stretching and stay there.

   For this DVD you'll need a mat for gripping in some of the moves, a belt, yoga strap or resistance band for two stretches, an exercise ball of any size for the bonus ball stretch, and most importantly: something to hold on to. A barre is used in the DVD, but the back of a chair works just fine, and I lined my mat up alongside the sideboard cabinet in my living room, which is about waist-height.

Barre Power Stretch (23 minutes)
   The first workout on this DVD uses mostly small, controlled barre moves which really do wonders to tone and strengthen your legs. The movements are those found on the other BarreAmped DVDs, but while there is a lot of strength involved (which you'll build by doing this sequence), the muscles do get stretched, too. It's a good all-around barre workout, utilising calves, hamstrings, quads and glutes, rather than just focusing on one as in the original BarreAmped workout.
   It's surprisingly tough, but it's worth it, and given how your legs will be burning afterwards, it's a good excuse to use the lower body stretch sequence I talk about below.

Advanced Active Stretch (28 minutes)
   The second workout on the first disc uses a mixture of barre and yoga for the first twenty minutes, and then stretches for the last ten. It's actually a really great section because just as your legs finally begin to give up, pretty much exactly 10 minutes in, the lower-body sequence is finished and you move on to more core and general flexibility. Then when you get tired with that, after another 10 minutes, you move on again, and that final third is stretching. It's a pretty good low-impact resistance workout if you're looking to get a bit of work in but not wear yourself out.
   This is also tough, but it's quite probably my favourite of the six sequences.

Lower Body Stretch (20 minutes)
   And this is my second favourite. This 20-minute sequence, and the first of the second disc, focuses on stretching out the lower body, making it a wonderful supplement to leg day. You get deep into your glutes, your hamstrings, your quads, your calves and your lower back without using the usual stretching movements, which actually helps to improve overall flexibility as well as recover from a workout, or simply loosening up tight muscles. Even your feet get a look-in! And the lack of many familiar positions also makes it more enjoyable and less repetative.
   I've used this one the most, to be honest, because it feels great as well as providing a perfect stretch. I've used it after a number of workouts over the past few weeks in place of the usual cool down and I didn't suffer for that decision. In fact, I seriously benefitted. I mentioned in a past BarreAmped review that the cool down provided on the other DVDs are really relaxing as well as necessary, but this one has actually set me into serious chill-out mode more often than not and I feel like I got the most out of whatever I did beforehand in part because of it.
   You do need a support for this workout as it's not about building balance, it's about getting a stretch, so you're free to cheat on the see-saw and warrior 3.

Upper Body Stretch (13 minutes)
   This workout, like the lower body stretch, provides a wonderful post-workout stretch, but for the upper body (I bet you couldn't have guessed that). It uses another range of positions to open your chest, shoulders, back, triceps, biceps - even your neck and fingers.
   You don't need any stability or anything to hold on to in this sequence as you're either lying or sitting, but for the final stretch a heavy resistance band, yoga strap or just an ordinary belt is required, just something to hold on to and lower behind you to open your chest. It doesn't need to stretch, which is why a 'heavy' resistance band is best, or a weaker one folded in half.
   If you've got the time, adding this one onto the lower body stretch is amazing and gives you a really long cool-down that will target every part of your body, releasing every tension and helping your workout recovery at the highest possible level.

Relaxation Stretch (13 minutes)
   This is a wonderful sequence. As long as you're warm, you can do this sequence any time. It's much more focused on relaxation than on stretching, so it's not really a good cool-down replacement, unlike the previous two, but it does genuinely calm your mind. It's not full of yoga moves like I expected, instead it's tension-releasing and untangles knots, and even your feet get some attention, too. A strange decision was made, though: instead of having Suzanne Bowen speaking in the sequence, it's a voice-over, which may have made it easier for her to relax while performing the sequence, but it doesn't really make a difference to a viewer. Fortunately her voice is neither rough, distracting or loud, so it doesn't really matter.
   This is a sequence I've done at random moments, and it doesn't take much of a warm-up. It's effective - strangely so - and it has been quite valuable through this past month, helping me to release the tension of lots of Christmas sales in my Etsy shop!

Bonus Ball Stretch (6 minutes)
   This is the shortest sequence and uses a stability ball in all the stretches. The ball provides a semi-unstable base, one which you can roll and move with you, but which you can also rely on to stay put when you want it to (hence 'semi-unstable'). The size of the ball doesn't matter because you aren't sitting on it, so it can be a big yoga ball or a small one, and is a good cool-down after a cardio workout or one which didn't get too deep into any specific muscles, like dancing, or if you just want to move around a little bit.

   After having used these sequences to supplement my workouts and to get a little more movement in after sitting at a desk all day, I have to say that this is actually a seriously good purchase. The first disc provides a mix of yoga and barre, and the second provides cool-down and post-workout recovery, and relaxation.
   Unfortunately this is a brand new release in the US and the DVD isn't available yet in the UK, which is why I've actually chosen it on Purple Platform instead, the streaming service that Suzanna Bowen Fitness uses. This means it's also easy for me to do wherever because I can stream it on my PC, my Kindle Fire and my laptop, which also meant that I had access to wonderful stretches when I went away a few weeks ago.
   I urge everyone to consider this DVD. A cool-down is essential post-workout, and a shocking number of female gym-goers - about 68% I believe it was - don't actually do any kind of post-workout wind-down. It's extremely important to stretch out the muscles you've worked, and those you're unaware of, because it releases knots and tensions that will have formed while working out and will hinder recovery if allowed to remain, it helps to re-balance hormones, recover your breath, aid in muscle repair and settle your mind. It also helps to lengthen your muscles once they're warm from the workout, which will aid in flexibility which in turn will allow you to get more from future workouts.
   You're also far, far more likely to suffer pulled muscles and general injury from your workout if you neglect your cool-down, just as you would if you neglected your warm-up.
   While it's true that most DVDs provide their own cool down, and you can easily source them for free online, this DVD goes far deeper than any of that. The music does calm your mind, and not in a gimmicky way, and the instructor reminds you where you should be feeling the stretch which will allow you to avoid making mistakes and doing it wrong. As such, I urge you to consider this DVD if you value your time, your workouts, your body and your mind.

Disclaimer: I was sent this product to test by BarreAmped themselves, but all opinions are my own, and all appropriate research has been done by myself from a range of sources rather than relying entirely on the product's website, especially where health products are concerned. I do not accept a product to review if I do not believe it is safe or worth my own time, regardless of any kind of reimbursement. I trial the products for an appropriate amount of time before writing reviews to check for wear-and-tear on physical items and side effects from edible (be it supplements or food). If I have negative points to voice, I will voice them, and I never, ever accept product reviews or reimbursement on the promise of a positive review. My reviews are and will only ever be honest.

NaBloPoMo November 2016


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