Video Fitness

FIRM Vol #4: Time-Crunch Workout

I really love Volume 4, so this is not going to be a very objective review. I originally bought this video, which is subtitled the Time Crunch Workout, to do on those days when I really have a hard time squeezing in a workout.

Equipment needed 2 or 3 different dumbells, and a step (they only use an 8 or 10" box in this video) . They use ankle weights for standing leg work, but I'm not sure that they do enough of these to be of any benefit, so IMHO ankle weights are optional.

There are two different instructors in this video, Kai Soremenkun and Susan Harris, who also appeared in Vol 1 and Tortoise and Hare. They alternate portions of the class, essentially Susan does the stretches, abs and heavier weight work, and Kai does the more aerobic floor and step sections.

They could have almost labeled this video low impact, the only high impact moves are some jumps which are mixed in with the floor marching segments, you can easily skip the jumps and keep doing the marching moves, there are very few jumps.

There are three step segments, and you do use lighter weights (Kai says 3-5, I sometimes use 8 lbs) for these segments (don't tell the Reebok Police). Two of them are more traditonal step moves with delt, pec and bicep moves, one is more of a "leg press" where you start off standing on the bench and step down off the sides. You also do some arm moves during this segment, with weights.

This tape also has my favorite ab section. According to Collage's breakdown on 5 day abs, it has a shorter segment than the Firm videos, but for some reason I seem to feel this one more. Abwork is pretty traditional on all the Firm tapes, just curls, crunches and oblique curls.

I find the cueing on Kai's step segments to be a little confusing, I sometimes miss when she says to switch legs, and for example there are a couple of times when she says to alternate legs, where I start alternating right away but she means after the next rep. But I don't find this to be a real problem, because it's such a short portion of the tape, and since the choreography is simple, it's easy to catch up.

Kai also does a little dance thing at the end of this video, after the abs and stretch. I don't see the real purpose of putting it here, and after trying it a few times just to see if I could do it right, I quit doing it.

Susan does lunges, dips, squats and arm work with heavy weights. This video really wipes me out, I go as heavy as possible on the weights, and though it is a short video, I never feel like I 'cheated' on the days I do it.

Trish Ransom

I wanted to throw in my comments with those who said it was a tough workout. I question the effectiveness of some of the moves and I think paying attention to form is important. Gorgeous set and good music. High impact!

Kalpana Shankar

#4 is shorter in length but has a great step routine, don't think this has abdominals toning.

Annie Jen

This is great for your upper body. The aerobics are good, too. It's mostly low-impact, but there are some high- impact moves as well.

The entire workout is only 42 minutes, but it packs a lot of wallop into that short time span. The toning segments are aerobic (except for the abs, of course), so you're really getting about 30 minutes of good aerobics. The toning moves are done with lighter dumbbells, at least most of them, because you're moving your arms quickly and stepping at the same time. You WILL be breathing! I used 5-pound weights for most of the stepping, but I had to rest my arms more than a few times. I really should have used 3 pounds.

There are no floor leg exercises. You're asked to put on your ankle weights at one point for dips and adductions (standing), but I don't bother. It's not that long of a segment, and you just have to take them back off again a couple of minutes later. That's the only time in the video you use ankle weights.

Both instructors are very good. Kai is a little more "real world." Susan sometimes acts like she's doing more acting than exercising.

Overall, I give this workout an A. If you want a tough workout in just a little time, this is a good one.

Annie S.

There are several excellent reviews regarding this workout but I did want to add my impressions. I am a relative beginner at working out and still have a bit of weight to lose, but I love this workout. Even though I have most of the Firm tapes, I find myself using this one a lot for several reasons. First, because it is only 45 minutes, I can fit it in even when I am really busy (and who isn't, these days?). I find I get a much more thorough workout than with Firm, Vol 5--you get a little bit of everything with this tape. Second, the aerobics are good and still challenge me but I love the strength training especially the leg work. The lunges are killer especially when you add heavier weights and I really like the leg abductions (I think that is the correct term). I must respectfully disagree with one reviewer about this part of the tape. I think it is worth the time to put on the ankle weights. I can tell a big difference when I do and think it is more effective with the weights.(Thank goodness for the "Pause" button on the remote control.) Anyway, I recommend this tape for those of you who are just starting out with the Firm and/or aerobic weight training. It is motivating to be able to start a fitness program and actually complete an exercise tape--and still get a great, time-efficient workout. This (along with Vol 6, Strong Body, and Not So Tough Aerobics)is one of my favorites!!!!


This is a great tape! The only criticism I have is that the exercises with ankle weights don't seem very effective. But the step exercises are really shaping my thighs, and I always have fun while I'm doing this tape. Very important! If it's not fun, I won't do it. I also love that this tape is only 42 minutes, but as others have mentioned I don't feel like I'm cheating when I do it.

Instructor comments:

Kai Soremekun is a very motivating instructor. She actually seems to be having fun, and the class seems to genuinely be having fun, too. She's probably my favorite of the Firm instructors (I own 7 Firm )


I rented this from the video store and have done it twice. For an early Firm video, it's not too bad. (I've recently given away my copies of Vols 2 and 3.) It's not quite as cheesy and jumpy as Vol 2, and the instructors don't bug me like in Vol 3. I think Kai is chronologically the first "normal" Firm instructor - ie, the first one who doesn't act like she's hoping to get a movie contract after doing the video. And Susan Harris is so beautiful I just love to watch her!

This was certainly a tough workout for being short, especially when I use 15 pounds for lunges, etc. I'm not sure if I like the weights-while-doing-step-segments, just because I feel a little too much like I'm swinging the weights and I'm afraid it may not be completely safe. Also, as someone mentioned, Kai's cueing during this section is kind of confusing. These are my only real complaints about this video. Perhaps if I see it at Media Play or something and am feeling spontaneous I'll buy it, just to have on days when I need a change from SH and SB.

Jen Blaske

I am a lifelong PE Refugee who would still be a slug if it weren't for my "party animal" aerobic tapes. But this year I turned 40. It was time to get serious! While I had dabbled with other toning tapes, I really wanted to try the FIRM tapes. Thanks to Christine Letsky and some of the other FIRM Believers here, I started this tape three months ago. One month after I'd been using it, three or four people asked me if I'd lost weight. (I hadn't--but my clothes were a little looser). The only other workout that's ever done anything like that for me is Kathy Smith's Weight Loss Workout (which is 35 minutes of aerobics and 16 minutes of toning with light weights). This summer I'm going to rotate these two tapes and see what happens! But even more than the changes in my body's looks, I'm excited about how this workout has increased what I can DO! My upper body and my back are stronger than they've ever been--even though the heaviest weights I've used so far are 10 pounds on each side. My knees are better able to handle step aerobics and my 2-year-old daughter's horsey rides :) Man, this is living!

The workout itself is about 40-42 minutes in length, which should appeal to the leisure-challenged among us:) Susan and Kai take turns leading different sections, plus you rotate five minutes of heavy weight work with five minutes of very basic aerobics or slow-paced step aerobics. The repetitions for most of the heaviest moves such as squats are broken up and rotated with other exercises. Nothing like a little variety to keep you interested! You're busy ALL the time, so the workout seems shorter than it really is. But don't let the short length fool you. You can make this as easy or as hard as you want by the size weights you choose for the moves. As Trish Ransom said, if you use the heaviest weights possible, you will definitely know you've worked out. Or if you're not up to par, you can always go with lighter weights for a day and still maintain your exercise habit!

The set is beautiful, and so is the cast. I'm usually too busy moaning and groaning to pay attention to them, though. The music is pleasant--some jazz, a little new age or neo-classical, sychronized very nicely with the routines. There are a couple of numbers, though, that sound like 1950's burlesque music. One of them is performed by a horn section with more brass than class. Apologies to tuba enthusiasts everywhere, but I think tubas sound hilarious. All you have to do is say the word "tuba" and I start cracking up. Well, guess which instrument has the flatulating solo on this song? But at least it comes at the end of the toughest sequence of the tape, when I'm ready for a good laugh. For only $17.99 or so at the major discounters, you can have a 40-minute workout that gives you real bang for the buck, and an unforgettable tuba selection at no extra charge. What more do you need?
Grade: A+

Both Susan and Kai are very elegant and classy-looking. Kai is a joy to watch--she even looks good doing squats and hoisting those heavy weights. I happen to love Susan, too--and her wonderful accent. (It's nice to see and hear a fellow Southerner in action!) However, she has multiple personalities that change with the workout segments. She's really sweet and soft-spoken during the stretches and cool-down, a drill sergeant during the pushups--"PUSH!!!"--and serious most of the rest of the time. I must warn you--there are a couple of places where she really seems to get an endorphin rush--or something--from working out. If this were a 1940's movie, I'd expect her to light up a cigarette in the next frame!

Melissa Cooper

This video has about 25 minutes of aerobics, plus a warm-up, cool down, and abs segment. There isn't any floor leg work, but the standing leg work seems to work all of the leg muscles. I can't figure out why, but this abs segment is great; it seems to work my muscles harder than the other Firm tapes. It doesn't target the lower abs as much, though. This tape has a few low jumps as the only high impact moves. This is really a plus for me because I like step a lot more than high impact! I've heard that some say it's unsafe to use weights in a step workout, but I think if the weights are light enough, there's little chance of injury. I used only 3lbs for the step segments and got a great workout. Susan Harris says to use really heavy weights during most of her segments, like 15-20 lb. I find I get a good workout using 8lbs. All in all, this is a great workout, especially for only 42 minutes.

During some of the step routines, Kai's cuing does get a little confusing, as some of the other reviewers have said. It was really frustrating the first time, but after doing the video a few times I pretty much got the hang of it. Susan Harris is also a competent instructor, even if she's not as energetic as Kai.

Karen H.

This is a video that I do pretty often, primarily because I don't always leap out of bed when I should, so I can still get a good workout in, in about 40 minutes. I use very heavy weights with this tape, so even though it's short, it really wipes me out. Short aerobic segments, both on and off the 10" box alternate with muscle-toning sequences. Kai leads the aerobic segments, and Susan leads the weight work. All the major muscle groups are covered WITHOUT floor work! (Yay!!!) Can you tell I'm not a fan of floorwork. There are lunges, dips, plies, overhead presses, lat rows, french press, pushups, the usual Firm repertoire. The aerobic stepping segments are pretty has basic stepping, one has knee-ups, and the other is similar to the tall box work in other Firm videos. All use light weights, which of course you don't have to use if you're not comfortable stepping with weights. It's done at a slow enough pace that it doesn't really bother me. It has a short, but very intense ab section, and ends with a stretch. Oh yeah, there's some little dancy thing that Kai does at the very end that I don't bother with. I think this tape is probably about as thorough a workout as you can get in 40 minutes, and I really like it.

Instructor comments: I like both Susan and Kai in this workout. They're both very motivating.

Melissa F

This was my first Firm video, and I liked it so much that I bought all the others. I have had it for years, but I still do it once and awhile and get a good workout. I feel it is as good as a 42 minute workout can get. The cardio parts do get my heart rate up, the toning feels very effective, the abs are good ... It is just a good all-around workout, and good for when I feel short on time and/or need to get back into weight training. I do wish they had included some tall box leg presses, and I find the ankle weight stuff less than effective. And, like many other people, I find the "finale" at the end just plain silly. My mother also has this video and she really likes the workout as well. I give this tape an "A."

Instructor comments: The instruction in this video is generally very good. I prefer Susan Harris's segments. She is kind of like a drill captain in this video, but the style works. Kai's segments are fine.

17 Dec 97

I like this vid because it gets a lot in in less than an hour. Also, the only floor work it has are the abs, and I don't really like floor work (especially FIRM floor work because it always the same). This tape wouldn't be bad for beginners, if only more instruction were offered on form. If you already know form, and want to try the FIRM, this is a good place to start. Basically, this is low impact. There are a few jacks and hops, but the can be modified with marches. (If you can do a little impact, go for it. There just aren't that many to be problematic.) The aerobics are fun without being dancy and there are some fab lunge/squat combos. The abs aren't bad either. There's one step segment I dislike. I feel out of control. You step up and down doing military presses at, what feels to me like an incredibly fast tempo. I'm afraid I'll trip, fall, and whack myself on the head. And I'm coordinated! This brings me to my other negative comment on this tape. The shoulder work is almost overwhelming. I feel like I am constantly doing front, lateral and overheads lifts for my delts and virtually nothing for biceps and triceps. (Though I guess if you do that much shoulder work, you don't need to do biceps or triceps, your arms will shrivel into vestigal limbs.) I have naturally broad shoulders that build muscle (and tense up) very easily. So for me, all this shoulder work is too much shoulder work. I make substitutions here and there with curls and always make sure I toss in a few extra curls, kickbacks and french presses before the stretch. And I'm confused- what is that dancey thing Kai does at the end? Maybe the should've put it in the aerobic segment and added a little more time on there. All in all, a fine workout that is part of my regular schedule.

Instructor comments: They are both decent instructors. Susan offers more instruction than in vol. 1, so this is a better option for novice FIRM users. Kai seems like a fun person, though her cuing is off at times. (Its not really a problem since the steps are amazingly basic. if you do the workout twice, you won't even notice.)


This is one of those videos I've had for years, and I still do it regularly. I agree with other reviewers that it really packs a wallop in 42 minutes!

I've changed how I use this video. I used to do it as a "light, fast" Firm workout, using light weights and getting an aerobic benefit (20 minutes in my target heart rate zone). Now I'm trying the method of using heavy weights and fewer reps though, so what I do is this. I use it purely as a strength workout, and therefore use the heaviest weights possible. During the sections on the step, I do the arm movements at half the tempo Kai does them. By doing this, I end up working anaerobically much of the time, but that's OK 'cause I do other tapes for pure aerobics.

Anyway, my point is that this is a pretty flexible tape. It can be used on a "light" day or be pretty killer. It gives you a good overview of most of the muscle groups for those days when you're crunched for time. Grade: A.

Instructor comments: Both of these instructors are fine. I don't think there's really anything outstanding about them, but they get the job done.

Mary Truscott

As an intermediate, I find this workout to be perfect for my fitness level. It is challenging enough to use on its own, and is also good when combined with floor work. (I like to use the floor work from Vol. 1 - killer!) It is a great aerobic AND strength workout, which is something you can't say about all FIRM workouts. The squat/lunge combo is excellent - I can really feel it. And I just love the ab section.

It would be a great addition to anyone's video collection and also a good place for someone to start out with FIRM videos.

Instructor comments: Susan is excellent, as always, and Kai is a welcome new face.

Rebecca S.

This is a very intense quick butt kicking workout! You WILL see results if you keep consistant. Kai does the warm up which sounded so rehearsed. I didn't understand some of the slang Firm terms she uses. Then this sexy sax starts playing and Susan does the stretches. Then comes the super intense short workout! Kai does the box aerobics using weights for the upper body. The stepping is just up and down. Very basic but if you use a 8-10 inch box and 5 lb dumbells, it's TOUGH! Then Susan does the heavy weights sections which are dips, lunges, squats and also heavy upper body. She does alot of pushups on her toes which is so impressive. Then Susan does some great abs and a nice towel stretch. Then Kai comes and does this Flashdance type of weird dance that I usually just watch since my face is beet red and I am so relaxed after my stretch. This really is a time crunch workout. I highly recommend it!

Instructor comments: Susan Harris outshines everyone in this video. She is classy, and has perfect form and cueing. She is no nonsense and really uses heavy weights. I love working out with her!

Kai does a good job on the aerobics and has a real upbeat personality. I love the way she wears her hair. She needs to use different lipstick though. Orange doesn't suit her.

Mandy Lee

I hate to exercise! I don't believe you have to spend 45-60 minutes working out and this tape proves it. This was my first exercise video and I've used the same tape for at least five years, using it twice weekly minimum. If you only buy one exercise tape, this is it. A great total body workout. The first time I tried it, I got winded just doing the warm up (!), but if you stick with it, you will be rewarded in four weeks. If you're out of shape, start without weights; if you get tired before the end, catch your breath, let the tape continue, and jump in again when you can. That way you won't get discouraged and over time your progress will be obvious.

If I can't even manage this short workout, I will break it into two parts to do on consecutive days: the first part is the aerobic-step-weights and the second part is the abs.

Even though my fitness video collection has grown, this is still my favorite and I recommend it to "first timers." Just by increasing the weights, you can use this tape forever. It's amazing that it hasn't worn out after hundreds of hours of play and rewinding. The Firm quality throughout.

Instructor comments: Both very precise in giving instructions


This is the best videos when you're short on time, but still want a killer workout. You can make it as hard or easy as you want and there's room to do lots of modifications. As an advanced exerciser, it keeps my heart rate in the target zone (with very few modifications) for 20 minutes as well as leads me though very effective weight and ab training.

Warm Up/Stretch - 6 Minutes
cardio/strength intervals - 23 minutes
abs - 7 minutes

You start with a 3 minute warm up with Kai. You do marching, tri-stars (one foot moves forward then to the side, then end with a jump - I love this move), and a box step while you fan the arms up (I jump at the end of this move as well). Susan then leads you through 3 minutes of stretches.

After this, you move to more floor aerobics, then to weights (biceps, military presses, and deltoid lifts) while you step up and down on the short box. Kai suggests using 3 to 5 pounds, I use 8 and slow some of the reps down. I also use a tall box (rather than a short box) sometimes, and do one step up to every two of hers. This keeps your heart rate WAY up there!

Susan is next with lunges, squats, and heavy military presses. Back to Kai for more floor aerobics and stepping with weights. Susan wraps it up with shoulder work, standing inner thigh while doing rows and biceps (heavy weights, I use two 12 pounds), dips, and a standing hamstring exercise which I substitute with good mornings.

Down to the floor for 16 pushups which Susan does on her toes then on to approximately 7 minutes of excellent ab work. The stretching at the end lasts about 6 minutes. The Dork Dance is next, but I always turn it off before it even begins.

Overall, a FABULOUS video that will never go out of style. Effective and fun and best of all, gets it done in 42 minutes!

Instructor comments: Susan is a goddess and a drill sergent. She's AMAZING. She uses two 15 pound weights to to a long set of tricep exercises.

Kai is perky and infectious. She keeps your heart rate up and keeps you smiling.

Tami Skelton

This is an oldie, but still isn't a bad workout. I pulled it out today, because I really wasn't sure what I wanted to do.

It's already been broken down several times. I am not a big Firm fan, but like this video and Strength a.k.a. Strong Body. There is heavy and light weight work, and low impact aerobics with a few plyo-jacks thrown in. I had plans to add on some abs at the end, but these abs are tough! A nice medium-intensity workout.

The dork dance sure is fun to watch!

Instructor comments:

Andrea Lynn


This is an excellent video that makes me sweat sweat and sweat some more! It goes by fast and you feel it all over, especially if you use heavy weights. Alot of people have mentioned how they feel the abs section is so great but don't know why. It's because you NEVER STOP contracting the abs, even when switching between exercises. Your shoulders or hips are off the floor and contracted the entire time! Whew! But it greatly increases the intensity and justifies the short length of the set. This is a great video I will use over and over again.

Instructor comments: Both instructers are great in this video, even though I like Susan better with another 5-8 pounds on her as in the later videos. Both are enthusiastic and Kai is like a tiny endorphin machine! They never seem to tire however I realized editing had a bit to do with that (one minute you see a step the next you don't, etc.)so I guess they are human. Kai does some really lame dance moves in her intro and an all out hysterical dance routine at the end that seem to serve no purpose except to add a bit of humor, which is fine with me. Overall A+



This is an older Firm workout that has recently been released on dvd. The dvd is a straight transfer with no chapters or bonuses, but it was nice to have this old favorite finally available in a newer format with clear sound and picture.

The workout has already been extensively broken down, so I will just comment on my impressions of it. Firstly it was nice to have a Firm workout that was not so fussy with equipment. All you needed for this one was weights and a step. It is the only Firm workout I own that does not use a tall step. Also, the sections are a bit longer and more coherent than some Firm workouts, which I felt made the time go by faster. So that was nice.

One thing I did not like, however, was the way they used weights in this workout. Firstly the upper body work was mostly aerobic with light weights, and in some sections the moves were a little on the fast side. They also heavily favored the shoulders, which is not my preference. When I do Firm tapes, I always do biceps work when they do shoulders and shoulder work when they do biceps. I find I get a more balanced workout that way. Also I disagreed with some of their weight selections. I prefer the approach of the newer workouts, where they say now use your lightest or now use your heaviest, as opposed to this one specifying use 5 pounds or use ten pounds. For the above reasons I would not recommend this workout to a new exerciser who might injure themselves, but it you are familiar with exercising and know how to modify you should be fine.

Small quibbles aside, I found this overall a very satisfying routine. Not killer, but a nice general old-school Firm that I am happy to finally have on dvd.

Instructor comments: Susan is lovely and professional. Kai is a bit odd and does these weird hand flutter things :-)



For a short 42 minutes, this workout backs a total body punch. There is just enough of everything to make sure the total body gets worked out, and this is the one that introduced the shorter box. Those climbs on the short box get my heart rate up. I skip the ankle weights for the standing leg work, and don't miss them when you add in all the lunges and squats. Definitely a keeper.

Instructor comments: Susan is back for Volume 4, and newcomer Kai adds a nice touch.



Video Fitness copyright © 1996 - 2024 Wendy Niemi Kremer    All rights reserved