Video Fitness

FIRM Cardio (formerly titled StrongHeart)

The earlier FIRM volumes have more basic, high impact aerobics (Volumes 1,2,3) segments interspersed with the weight training so they tend to leave me feeling rather fatigued at the end. The Variety series leaves me feeling energized and strong, because the weight training uses heavy dumbbells (or a barbell) throughout. I think these workouts are much more well-thought out than the earlier volumes, and the choreography is wonderful.

Strong Heart has 3 aerobic sections; 1 a floor segment using 3 lb. dumbbells and the other 2 step sections with no weights done on an 8-10" box. I just use the back of my Reebok step. They are really fun... lots of hip action and tripple steps combined with knee lifts, squats, v-steps, and the rocking horse, amongst other moves. The warm-up is a blast; it's my favorite of the two tapes. It's a little dancy and I even stole one of the moves to use in my aerobics warm-up. I use dumbbells for the weight sections even though half the class uses a barbell. I find the dumbbells allow a greater range of motion and give me a better workout. Lots of squats, lunges (*killer* lunges), tall box leg presses, dips (like a reverse lunge), and floor work with ankle weights for the legs. You'll need a 2X4 to do tricep dips sitting on the floor with your legs at a 90 degree angle on the tall box. Killer shoulder and bicep work.

The only thing I wish this tape didn't do is go right from say, tall box leg presses to bicep curls because it doesn't give you a chance to pyramid your weights. First time out I put 15 lbs. on each shoulder for the leg presses, then when she said step off your box and curl the biceps, I was in trouble, since 30 lbs. is too much for me. Next time through the tape, I made sure to use 12 lb. weights for the leg presses! I don't recall Strong Body having any sequences like this, although I've only done it once through so far.

I didn't find the ab work very intense in Strong Heart but it's different and still effective. The floor leg work is killer. They also work the lats with rows (one set each side) and the pecs with flies. Oh, and the triceps with french presses as well as the dips described above. Killer push-ups too. The beginning stretch uses the tall box. It's pretty inventive.

Roberta Kagno

I don't have much to add the thorough and accurate review above, except to say that Strong Heart (along with Strong Body) is the first FIRM video I have truly enjoyed enough to purchase. Its aerobics are actually a lot of fun, yet serve more to keep the heart rate up while extending those hard-working limbs than to increase cardiovascular endurance. The short step aerobic routines are simple but fun, and the accompanying music is motivating. Like Roberta, I found myself needing to "pyramid DOWN" for biceps instead of up, as the instructor suggests, because my lower body is very strong and I use 15 pound dumbells for squats and leg presses.

I don't want to be negative about this tape, though. It's a winner, and I would recommend that FIRM haters who want to give the FIRM another chance try either Strong Heart or Strong Body.

Wendy Niemi Kremer

Variety: StrongHeart

This video is supposed to be more aerobic than SB, I think it is about the same in that sense. I do think it is a good idea to alternate these two videos, (but if you use heavy weights, still keep a day of rest between each video, I wouldn't suggest doing these everyday) as they each emphasize slightly different muscle groups.

The Firm advertises SH as having "peripheral heart action" I suspect this is one of their kind of hokey advertising claims. Supposedly, since SH works arms, then legs, then arms, then legs, the heart works harder because it has to keep switching which end of the body it needs to pump the most blood to. I'm not sure I believe that, but it does help to explain the format of the video. I don't feel as tired after doing SH as I do after doing SB, where you work the lower body for a while, then the upper body for awhile, very similar to supersets.

StrongHeart does have a bit of step aerobics on their 8" box. (I turn my regular club step so the short end is towards the TV). I think it is a bit more intense than SB aerobically, but I still think of the aerobic periods as a welcome rest between strength modes. SB does all the aerobic segments on the floor.

This is one of my favorite Firm videos. I highly recommend it.

Trish Ransom

Heidi Tanner is easy to follow (except for my comments below) and very likeable. She and the class are very realistic because they sometimes seem to be actually straining to do the exercises (just like me). And it's not a 'big boob' show like some other videos and TV programs.

I do this video once a week before work, alternating with Strong Body and Volume 4 on two other days. Eight times now, and I still look forward to it. I don't think it's quite as intense as Strong Body, but it's still a super workout. There are two low intensity aerobic step segments and one aerobic floor segment. I fast forward through the step segments due to lack of time. I get a good enough aerobic workout just doing the dumbell work.

I LOVE this video, however, it's not perfect. In the middle of the video you do a set of hip extensions (hands on the tall box; leg lifts back) on each leg. Pause the video two times. Ankle weights on; ankle weights off. I'm not sure these are of much benefit and kind of a hassle.

Using a barbell is mentioned several times, but never demonstrated by any of the class members.

The last segment of the tape is floor leg work and abs. The instruction becomes confusing at this point. The instructor demonstrates with the left leg and calls is the right and vice versa; same with the ab work. This type of instruction is great if the instructor mirrors you on the screen, but not when she's in exactly the same position you are. Once you get to the 'table' work (various leg lifts), she's on the same leg as you are again.

Much more floor work than Strong Body, and it's a killer. I made it through for the first time today and I AM PROUD! The ab work is unique and fun. As with other Firm videos, great warm-up and a well-deserved and welcome stretch at the end. Keep 'em coming Firm!

Joni O

video: FIRM Strong Heart
instruc: Heidi Tanner
Instructor comments: I love the choreography in Strong Heart, but I think Heidi's cueing could be a little better. Usually it takes a several tries to get a routine right, but even after several weeks I still get tripped up frequently!

Heidi could also emphasize proper form a bit more. She does some exercises that can be very effective or very dangerous -- depending how they are performed.

Video comments: I like Strong Heart (albeit... not as much as Strong Body).

The lunges and leg presses are *killer*. The sets are long with plenty of repetitions. I also liked alternating between floor and step aerobics.

As usual with the FIRM, I could use a little more time to pyramid up/down or put on my ankle weights. I also think that two varying step heights, ankle weights, dumbells and a barbell are an awful lot to juggle around during a home workout. Although, I have found the results from the workout are phenomenal -- and they justify the equipment hassle!

Out of the many tapes I have owned in the past, and currently own now... the FIRM series is the best, and Strong Body/Strong Heart are my favorite.

Christine Letsky

I've been using both tapes (StrongHeart and StrongBody) since May 1996. I like this series much better than the traditional Firm tapes. The music was much better and the exercises are intense. Since I am relatively new to exercising on a regular basis, these tapes definitely have changed the look of my body. I don't worry so much about not enough aerobics in them since I always end each session with 30 minutes on my Nordic Track or 30 minutes of Reebok Step Training w/Gin Miller. By adding strength training with traditional exercise (lunges, abdominal work, plies etc), I have gotten faster results in reshaping my body. These results could not have been achieved with only aerobic workouts. I have all of the Firm series, and they definitely know what they are talking about. I rarely deviate from these tapes, but when I do, I put in Karen Voight's Strong and Smooth Moves which is the closest video to the Firm. I have gone from 224lbs to 190lbs (people tell me I look smaller). I will never give up these tapes!!!



Variety: Strong Heart

Instructor comments:

Heidi is a "new" FIRM instructor and not so much the sex- symbol as the original instructors. Both her cuing and form are very good.

This is a very enjoyable full-body workout. It's a cross-training format with aerobics interspersed with toning. The aerobic sections are fun and the toning work is very effective.

After the warmup, the workout starts with pushups. I like having those at the beginning so they're out of the way! During the workout, after several of the toning routines, Heidi does stretches to relax the muscles you just worked. I like this as well -- it gives you a little breather before you move on to the next routine.

This is an excellent and fun workout for any level of exerciser. You can vary the difficulty by the weight of your dumbbells and/or the height of your step. I would recommend this one to anyone.

Annie S.

It took a few tries before this video started growing on me. Mostly, it is very similar to SB, except it focuses on the legs a little more and the arms a little less. The aerobics sections, particularly the one with weights, are pretty fun. I really only have two main complaints: one, I don't really find those standing leg lifts to be effective, especially since I don't have ankle weights, and I always skip that section. Second, this is not my favorite abs segment. Specifically, when she alternates knees I find that way too fast to do comfortably, and I always modify that and a few other parts. I would imagine that anyone who likes SB would like SH, and vice-versa.

Instructor comments:

I jokingly refer to Heidi as the "granola instructor." With her relatively deep voice and Joni Mitchell-like looks, I could picture her jumping on a mountain bike with a bunch of guy friends after a workout. It's interesting to compare the way she says, "Now that we're warm, let's stretch!" with the way Sandahl Bergman (Vol 3) says, "The muscles are warm and ready to stretch." Heidi is much more casual and non-sexy sounding.

Jennifer M. Blaske

I said that if I liked this video half as much as I liked Strong Body I'd be happy, and I do like it, although not as much as Strong Body. I like the triceps work, the glute and hamstrings work and the KILLER leg work at the end of this video. My only complaints are that there isn't enough time to pyramid the weights, change step sizes, get out the two by four and get in position!!! Also, I found that I had to pyramid down for arm work rather than up and the leg extensions at the beginning using the ankle weights and box seemed somewhat pointless to me. They say that you can use an 8 or 10 inch box for the aerobics, but I have difficulty using my 10" on the first step sequence and may need to buy an 8" box to do the aerobics sections without killing myself. Overall, I liked this video and am going to alternate it with Strong Body as recommended - we'll see what happens!

Heidi Tanner is different from the other Firm instructors in that she seems more like an average person (w/a great body!) than a model/actress/master instructor, etc. I thought she had several good tips on form throughout the workout and very few cueing mistakes.

Anne B.

I love this tape. It is a perfect companion to strong body.The aerobics did not get my heart rate up as much as I would have liked it to,but I was sweating during the weight training.My favorite part of this tape was the back of the leg training. I could not finish the whole set,which is good, it gives me something to work at.This tape works alot of your lower body and has some stomach work that I really enjoyed.I highly recommend this tape.

Heidi is a good instructor,except for a few times of not refering to the right leg to work. But after doing this tape a few times you know which one to work.I like the fact that she dose not have that sexy voice,like some other Firm instructors,that really bug me.


I did this video for the first time this morning and the thing that I liked the most about it was that there were 2 women who I recognized from the old Firm tapes who look absolutely FABULOUS!!!! I don't know if they've been doing extra weight training besides The Firm, but their muscles look great. It's a good motivator to stick with your exercise program to look at them from the Susan Harris Body Sculpting Basics tape, where they looked good, and see how amazing they look now.

I didn't do so well on the aerobic parts of this tape because the steps are a little more complicated than the other tapes, but once I get them down, I'm sure it will be a lot of fun!

I love all the Firm tapes (I have 9 now) and they've given me results I've never gotten from any other exercise program (including the gym). My husband is thrilled with the change in my body and I feel great!

Instructor comments: The instructor for this video is good, but she's not my favorite Firm instructor.

Donna Slojkowski

This is a very good workout. I find the "box aerobics" to be a lot of fun, and the toning segments are great. I am not crazy about the floor aerobics, though. I feel super geeky doing them, and the music doesn't help. :-) I prefer Strong Heart to Strong Body (Firm Strength). My whole body feels worked out after the tape. The only weakness is the ab workout, which is less than challenging. Also, for the bridge work I have to have both feet on the floor (rather than one on the step). If I don't have both feet on the floor, it really bothers my knees. I would rate this video upper intermediate-advanced. It is not a killer workout, but you do feel like you have accomplished something when you are done. A-.

Instructor comments: I really like Heidi - she cues well, and unlike some other Firm instructors, she doesn't do anything annoying. I also think Heidi presents a very realistic body image - she is not super-thin or super-buff. She is just well toned and in good shape. I am not crazy about the outfit that they gave her for the video, though - this is silly of me, I know, but I always wish they could have given her something more "athletic" to wear.

13 Dec 97

I got this video at the same time I got Firm Strength. Out of the 2, this is the one I disliked the most. I did it about 10 times and exchanged it. I didn't find the cardio effective at all. The segment were too short and their choreography boring. The abs section was the toning segment I disliked the most (I usually like abs work very much). I don't remember exactly how it was compose but that bridge section didn't do anything for me. I couldn't figure out where I was suppose to feel it. The legs and arms toning section were great thought. The set and the music were OK but those pastel outfits looked terrible. I find the atmosphere of Firm videos very artificial, they lack style and personnality. I don't feel the instructors are workingout with me as other instructors do in other videos. I don't recommend this tape.

Instructor comments:

Josee D

Here's an alternative opinion on this tape: I have had this video for over a year, and I have tried so hard to like it, probably because of all of the positive comments about it on this site. I bought it because I love FIRM Strength so much. It's funny. I think Heidi Tanner is an excellent instructor. I like her personality, and the way she doesn't sound scripted like many of the other FIRM instructors. It's just the *routine* I don't like. There are many times when an exercise will be performed on one side of the body, then there will be some other exercise for a while, and finally you'll get around to finishing up on the other side. I don't know why, but this bugs me. I feel sort of off-balance whenever that happens. Also, the problem of switching from a tall box leg press to military press is annoying because they act like you can use the same size weights. I have pretty proportionately weak shoulders so this doesn't work well for me. In fact, there are several times when I have to pause the tape to set up for the next exercise - something that doesn't happen in FIRM Strength. I try and try to like FIRM step choreography, but I just think it's silly. I don't really enjoy stepping in this one. It's so white bread. I'd much prefer somthing more funky. The floor work at the end for the butt and hamstrings does a number on my supporting knee. It actually hurts a lot. I don't know if I could get through this segment or not because the knee that *isn't* working always gives out sooner than my working leg. Lastly, the audio on my tape is starting to fade in and out. I think someone else on this site mentioned that when they changed the packaging of these tapes from StongBody and StrongHeart to FIRM Strength and FIRM Cardio, they used a lower quality of tape. I never thought so, but now I'm beginning to wonder. Heidi Tanner is so excellent, and I really hope they use her again sometime, but I think the time has come for me to face the music and admit that I really don't like this tape very much.


I love this tape. It's my favorite Firm tape of all time. The sequences are quickly moving and fun, fun, fun. No, it's not the most taxing tape that the Firm has put out, but maybe that's why I like it. :^) Heidi's energy and enthusiasm really shine through on the box aerobics and floor aerobics with light weights intervals. She has light feet and contagious, happy personality. Everyone in the video seems to really get into the rocking horse step. I love that one! Oh yeah, the weights, can't overlook that. Lots of really good lower body work in here -- squats, lunges, dips, and leg presses. But they never seem monotonous. You switch it up with upper body work, which makes things go faster. Also, I like how they get the pushups out of the way early. One teeny criticism -- the ab work hurts my back sometime. Other than that, this is the video that got me into weight training. Nothing will ever take it's place!

Instructor comments: Heidi is my FAVE Firm instructor. I love to workout with her, and it really seems like we're old buds when I pop the video in. She has this broad, totally unself-conscious and unpretentious smile and a warmth that I can even feel on the tape. Her box aerobics and floor aerobics are really fun, and more advanced than any other Firm tape I've seen. I love it when she and the other exercisers really get into the floor section with weights. I think they feed off of Heidi's energy.

Eulonda Skyles

Watch this first. You will need in addition to the several pairs of dumbells and two step up boxes, a 2x4. You will need to pause a few times because your living room will be cluttered unlike the Firm set, which is neat at all times.

I think the Benson sisters have been reading various bodybuilding magazines, you know Joe Weider and Robert Kennedy to design the Variety series. Strongbody uses heavier weights while this one uses the same weight on the upper and lower body without time to change weights. Seems pointless until you realize that the lower body has more reps and the upper body has fewer reps.

The exercise pairings for example are push ups with squats, unrelated, right?

Then a seemingly unrelated sequence is lunges with shoulders. Now you've just pre-exhausted the legs with squats and the triceps with push ups. This is followed with lat work and standing leg raises. The biceps have been worked while doing lats so now it's time for bicep curls. The pattern lower body and upper body to a set. Then with different exercies, upper and lower body does more work.

There are some simple "box" aerobics and a 4-limbed sequence to somewhat elevate the heart rate. For pure aerobics stick with Kari Anderson or Cathe Friedrich.

This is my second favorite Firm, I prefer Strongbody but the sequencing in Strongheart makes this a good pair. I would like the warm up and cool down better in this video.

The set is a nice change of pace from the airy ballroom the Firm is known for. This is the library of the same house, set in classic, old money colors. The pastel workout wear is repeated in the triomphe l'oeil bookcase and Persian carpets. The casts really sweats in this video, some of the exerciers need to use lighter weights. This is a real improvement over the earlier Firms. I was really impressed by the changes in Firm video veteran Narty Waters. (When is she ever going to lead a video)?

Instructor comments: Heidi Tanner has a naturalistic, outdoors quality, a friendly broad smile and a deep earthy voice. She uses impecable form and her cuing is good, considering the Firm doesn't have difficult aerobics. She is usually behind the scenes in Firm videos, so she's been around.

Jean Leslie Wakefield

This video is far superior to older Firm productions. The cueing is much better and the movements are more controlled than previous videos. While this video is titled Cardio, there is a lot of strength training using innovative techniques in addition to traditional movements. This makes it very motivating and fun.

Even the aerobics portions are improved! More interesting choreography than the earlier volumes, but still basic enough to follow along and use weights when warranted.

While this video requires a lot of equipment (tall step, short step, dumbells, ankle weights), and there are frequent equipment changes, it can be done in a limited amount of space which makes it perfect for home exercisers trying to acheive a challenging workout. I highly recommend this video and consider it among my favorites.

Instructor comments: Heidi does a better job cueing that instructors from older Firm videos. She is always encouraging proper form.


It took me awhile to like this video, but I do now (it took me 1 day to *love* the other Tri-Trainer, Strength, with Pam Cauthen). Lots of lunges, presses, etc., plus a bit more cardio than in Strength. One part that I esp. like is the part with hammer curls & triples (to me she's doing The Pony with weights). Fun!

This is great - I'll never get tired of it!

Instructor comments: She *is* the type of woman who'd go out on her mountain type with the guys! She has a very unassuming presence, but I always get the feeling she's getting ready to laugh at all the fun she's having working out.


The only thing I want to add to the many reviews of this tape is for intermediates not to be afraid of it. (Ditto for Firm Strength)The first few times I did it I had to stop a few times during the workout, but my fitness soon improved and I was able to get all the way through. I still consider myself an intermediate (or at least not as advanced as the VF goddesses!) and this tape and Firm Strength are cornerstones of my workout schedule. Challenging, thorough tapes-an hour well spent!

Instructor comments: Warm, unpretentious

Stephanie Waite

For the better part of the workout I'm okay. Although it's not easy, I don't find myself dying until the second set of box aerobics. At that point I'm gasping and wondering if I'm going to have a heart attack if I continue. Hey! I guess that's why they call if Firm CARDIO! I still can't make it through to the end of the table work segment. I'm such a wuss.

Instructor comments: I like Heidi. You can tell she's an experienced instructor because of how natural she sounds and leads. She doesn't need to get you motivated by forcing a smile on her face and pretending to find the motions "tough" to show sympathy. Her own shape is motivation enough.

Lena Yester

I love this tape, except for the ab section, which I don't think is challenging enough. It's not really a cardio tape, rather more of a strength tape.

Instructor comments: I think Heidi's cute, and a good instructor even though I sometimes get confused as to which leg she's using and which one I'm supposed to use.


An oldie but still a goodie!!

Even though this is an older video AND there are already alot of favorable reviews, I just had to write and give it one more glowing review.

My fitness level over the past 5 years has been like a WILD rollercoaster ride. I've endured through 3 pregnancies and then got back on the fitness trail again each time. Throughout it all, I cannot tell how invaluable Firm Cardio (and Firm Strength too) have both been. No matter what level of fitness you are at, this video is perfect for modifying for your own needs. While pregnant and recovering from pregnancy, I used lighter weights and modified a bit. Months later I now use much heavier weights and add light hand weights during the aerobic sections and I still get a GREAT workout! I recently just did this video and could not believe how tough it is when I use heavy weights. I can't think of many other videos that I've continued to use for years that still challenge me. Normally I outgrow them or am just plain tired of them!

Both Firm Cardio and Firm Strength are videos I highly recommend to anyone at any level. They are definitely "keepers'!!

Lisa :o)

Firm Cardio

Heidi Tanner Together with Firm Strength, they were my first Firm tapes. At first after just previewing the tapes, I did not like them at all, especially Firm Cardio, but I forced myself to actually try doing them and liked it somewhat better. This was enough for me to give it another try and started slowly liking it more and more. Today I use Firm Strength and Firm Cardio regularly and I am glad I did not judge too fast ... I need to say I would not really call it a Cardio tape; seems more like a toning/strength tape to me although I am breaking a good sweat while doing them.

Things I really like about Firm Cardio: - excellent and very tough table work in the end
- the fact that the workout starts with pushups (after the warmup)
- leg lifts back
- little "cha-cha-cha" :) segment - aerobics with weights
- the flow in general
- As I already mentioned Heidi is very optimistic and warm

Things that I do not like:

-poor cueing - often
-all step aerobics - at first I avoided doing this tape because I could not make myself do these step segments! Now I just substitute all step aerobics with my own jogging in place or other high-impact athletic moves and I get a great workout
-abs work - I do Firm Strength's abs segment or my own simple abs work instead.
I find that abs segment has somewhat ackward moves that do not seem too effective to me, plus the cueing is bad, or maybe it is the flow of the moves, or music or .. may it's just me.

They are great total body workouts. I like Firm Strength more "evenly" - I like almost all segments; I feel pretty different about Firm Cardio: there are things I love, there are things I hate. Since I learnt to modify/substitute the things I do not like, I appreciate this tape much more and plan to continue to use it regularly. Both of these tapes are easy to make "light" or "heavy" depending on how you feel.


I did this workout for the first time in years, and I'm amazed at what a punch it packs! This workout seemed innocuous enough when I started, but I was drenced when finished, and my triceps were burning from the triceps dips. Between the tall box climbs, lunge sequences, dip sequences and floor work, I literally had Buns of Steel when I finished, combined with limp noodles where my arms were. For the reviewers who are used to Cathe, why even review a FIRM workout when you know Cathe is more intense? Give some of us intermediates and beginners a chance to feel worked out, too!

Instructor comments: Heidi Tanner is a friendly, upbeat instructor with good cuing and form.



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