Monday, December 22, 2014

The Firm Express: Thin in 30 (Review)

So it has been a loooong hiatus for me, but I have an excuse: I started a new job.  And I have still been exercising.  Recently, I came to acquire a workout set I ignored when it was first released a few years ago: The Firm Express: Thin in 30.  I have to say, it is not perfect program, but it is an underrated gem.

Courtesy of

Thanks to my Secret Santa, I got my hands on this kit.  I believe it was released sometime around 2011 and was going for a hefty $120.  Then it made an appearance at Bed, Bath & Beyond not long after, still going for an eye-opening $90.  It recently dropped from $60 to $40, a number that now allows me to recommend it.  Don't get wrong: I like Thin in 30 and this will be an overall positive review, but for a 30-day program should never cost that much. 

I think my other apprehension to this program comes from my bias against The Firm brand.  Back in the 1980's, in spite of the cheese and bad hair, The Firm was actually quite innovative.  It created straightforward weight training programs in a time when weight training wasn't trendy.  And especially not for women.  When the brand went through an overhaul decades later, nothing about it resembled the original format.  It was too choreographed, too dancey, too frou frou, too smiley and giggly...too not my style. 

But in spite of those apprehensions, I am pleasantly surprised by this kit. It is solid intermediate and the workouts fly so quickly, while still leaving me a sweaty mess.  And when they promise 20 minutes, they mean it.  Lots of 20-minute workouts really run closer to 30 minutes, especially when you include warm up and cool down.  This is great for those short on time. 

What did it for me, though, was those 8-second cardio bursts.  If done properly, they get your heart rate up without being too taxing on your joints.  The genius of doing really short bursts (done with 12-second breaks for a total of 4x) is that you are constantly at 100%.  While your heart rate shoots up and yes, you do get winded, your form and energy never wane like they would during longer cardio intervals.  It might not be appealing to a very athletic exerciser who craves longer intervals, but this is definitely great for beginners and intermediate exercisers.  Beginners can build a solid fitness base and intermediate exercisers will find this fun and a great metabolic booster.

When reading the negative reviews on Amazon, I noticed a consenus that I could agree with: the choreography was awkward, especially for the strength workouts.  And for some, hard to follow. I didn't necessarily find them hard to follow, but combo exerises -- i.e. a squat and overhead press combined -- can be frustrating if you are not use to it. It took me awhile to get into Jillian Michaels because of this, but Jillian is straightforward with her combo moves; The Firm takes it to the next level with making it very dance-like.  And when you are moving quickly and frantically, you have to drop weight in order to keep up and avoid injury.  And less weight = less effective for working the muscles.  It makes for a nice cardio burn in between the 8-second bursts, but I would not recommend it as a sole means for strength training.  Even for weight loss -- which I presume is the main reason for most people to purchase this kit-- I don't think it is well-rounded enough to work on its own. 

Overall, I do like this set.  It is quick on time and fun.  I think this makes for a complementary workout to a more comprehensive weight training program; think of it as a HIIT workout to complement your strength workout or something to tack on after a long jog.  I have been having fun doing them so much, I may continue to do it as part of my first rotation in 2015.  More of that later.

Stay warm!  Cheers!


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