Video Fitness

Cathe Friedrich's "PowerMax" (1996)

I received the PowerMax video yesterday and couldn't wait to get going. This is an AWESOME video. Cathe is at her best. It is similar to Step Jam. PowerMax has all new fantastic music (you will hear "We Will Rock You"). She begins with an 8 minute warm up which is very brisk, including squats, which will get your heart rate up to prepare you for what's to come. Section I is 14 minutes long - all power moves - crossovers, step leaps, pony move on the step, she just keeps on going. Section II is the most challenging and it is 17 minutes long - power lunges, jump hops, a great pendulum move on the step. All moves are power on this video - you get your breaks by doing basic steps. Section III is 13 minutes and power again. I found this a little confusing but I know when I do the tape next time, I will master it. She does straddle step with jump hops (like Step Heat's last section). She goes around the step in a pivotal manner. Her cooldown is done with a 4" step, she does mambos, walk arounds, lots of fun moves. I love this tape. I have all her tapes and she is awesome. Can't wait to see other reviews of Powermax.

MaryAnn Parker


PowerMax has now become my all-time favorite step video, eclipsing even Cathe's "Step Max" and Karen Voight's "Energy Sprint." Cathe has another hit on her hands--PowerMax is her most original and intense video to date. Those who like Cathe's dancier side will love it, though the less coordinated may be better off with Cathe's Step Max.

If you just can't get enough of power stepping, PowerMax is for you. If you can't handle high impact videos, you might as well stop reading now. As its name implies, this video is power-packed, with few low impact recovery moves in a long, 45 minute aerobic section. I think that as a whole this video is even tougher than Cathe's "Step Max." On my second time through I was able to go all out since I'd learned the moves, and I was as tired after the first 2 aerobic sections as I usually am after all three of the Step Max sections.

PowerMax is extremely challenging from start to finish. It's packed with the most original choreography I've ever seen. You will see some of her old favorite steps, but she combines them all in fresh, unique ways. There are so many different steps in her combos that it will take most people a few run-throughs (or rewinds) to master them, but once you've mastered them you won't have to slow down for excessive instruction.

Cathe is really developing a distinctive style. Though her combos and style are different than Kari Anderson's, Cathe is throwing more little "extras" that give combinations more pizazz, like Kari does. Cathe throws in a scissor step transition on the floor or a hip flexor tuck on a repeater, for example. Interesting steps include the "360" (as in 360 degrees), which is sort of like Cathe's "ricochet," but instead of reversing your ricochet you hop turn again in the *same* direction to end up back where you started; pony steps and hop kicks on the step; "power L's", with huge reaching arm movements that increase the intensity; a great drop squat combo and a pendulum move that I really like. In every instance Cathe makes very complex combos look effortless, and by my second time through I'd mastered the choreography. This is a credit to Cathe's teaching skills. Though I tend to catch onto routines quickly, there are so many different steps I couldn't believe how quickly I caught on.

The music on this tape is less melodic and more percussive than her other tapes' soundtracks. I enjoy the driving beat and find it very motivating. The warm up and cool down are quite different from (and even better than) those on her other tapes, though the end stretch is similar. The warm up is very thorough, using squats, abductions and other challenging no-impact moves to get your heart pumping and your leg muscles warm. It reminded me at bit of the warm up style in the FIRM's StrongBody and StrongHeart. She does a "mambo" cooldown with a 4" step that manages to be fun and not too corny, though there's a little backwards hop turn that's tricky to catch on to right away. Cathe's stretches are good, but I wish she held each one longer--I really need extra long stretches after such an intense workout.

PowerMax is a must for every Cathe Friedrich fan, with the possible exception of those who detest any and all dancy moves.

Wendy Niemi Kremer

Okay, I guess I get to be the dissenter here, after reading all the rave reviews. Yes, I like the tape, but not as much as everyone else seems to. It's tough and challenging. But Step Jam still rules as my favorite Cathe Friedrich video. What didn't I like? Well, I detest any dancy or funk moves in my workout. I *hate* that pony on the step move, and the "party arms" are just too dorky. I don't like those skips - the half tempo in the middle of all that power really throws me off, although I've gotten used to them now that I know they're coming. I hate that funky "look to the side" L-step - I tried it, and was disoriented and darn near lost my balance. So I don't look to the side - is that really necessary? I really hate the cooldown - mambos, twirls, gag. What did I like? I liked the 360's, the pendulum across the bench, and the choreography in general was wonderful (except where mentioned above) - it was diverse, powerful, and challenging. This tape is very intense - second only to Step Max in wiping me out. The funky stuff really spoiled it for me though. I really hope this isn't going to be a trend in Cathe's tapes from now on - the reason I like her tapes so much is they aren't funky or dancy.

Debbie Kenny

EXCELLENT! The most choreographed video from Cathe to date, although I was able to get most of the moves the first time I did the video, thanks to her excellent queing. The time flies; you've exhausted after doing the video, but the video is so interesting that you barely notice the time. I believe this is Cathe's most challenging video. I done all her previous tapes, and have taken many high-intensity classes, and this tape tires me out! I definetly recommend it for the advanced stepper who wants an excellent workout.

Grade: A++++!

Kathy Lapinski

Once again, Cathe has outdone herself with another enormously fun yet killer step video. I have had PowerMax since it's release, but haven't had a chance to submit a review.

At first I was a little disappointed with some of the moves because Cathe brings some dance into it, such as a pony on the step as well as funkier arm patterns. I can get past this with some more athletic modifications and still get a great workout, although I hope the danciness isn't a trend which will continue into future video releases. This is strictly a personal preference. My body type (short and muscular) doesn't lend itself well to dance-type movemements.

I didn't realize how exhausting this tape was until I did Step Max last week. I convinced myself that Step Max was harder, even though PowerMax literally wipes me out. Lo and behold, I could have done section 3 of Step Max twice after finally doing the video again last week for the first time in months. After thinking about why, I realized that in PowerMax, Cathe spends little time building up the moves so there's less repetition and "teaching", yet her cuing and instruction is still so precise and clear that the combinations are easy to learn without all the extra instruction (which can cause the heart rate to drop a bit as you're learning new steps). This really is a fun tape! Even the warmup is challenging.

Cathe has the uncanny ability to make a killer workout fun and interesting, and this is what I love about her videos. It never feels like torturous exercise. Even though your muscles will be begging for mercy you won't want to stop because you're having such a good time. Sounds corny, and only fellow Cathe fans will be able to relate to this analogy. She is by far the best step instructor on video - probably in the world as far as I'm concerned!

Roberta Kagno
AFAA Certified Aerobics Instructor (who bought the PowerMax/Step Jam soundtrack to use in her own classes - thanks Cathe for making it available to your loyal fans!)

I have another review of this tape that I submitted after I had just received the the tape. I have had it about 2 months now and it just keeps getting better! I liked Step Jam better at first, but now I can say that Power Max is my favorite. It is definitely the toughest tape I have. It is extremely tiring, but I love it. It really makes you sweat and realize that you have just done a killer workout! Now, I want to get Cathe's other videos. She has the greatest instruction that I have come across. The moves are complicated, but she makes them seem easy. They are very easy to learn. The third section was kind of tricky and it took me a few times to get it right, but now I've got it down. When I first received the video, I watched it one time through before I joined in on the fun--when I was watching I thought to myself--oh Lord this looks hard. I was right. I recommend this to anyone who wants an intense, killer workout by a great instructor with great music!!!!

Melanie Higgins

This is definitely my favorite step workout. It is also the only workout I've everowned that makes me jump on my step and start working through the combos every time I happen to walk pastmy step! In other words, it's a heck of a lot of fun. Cathe uses numerous innovative moves in thisone, like the Pendulum and a 360 plyo hamstring curl that damn nearkills me every time. This video definitely requires huge amounts ofenergy to get through, but the moves are so fun that you don'trealize how hard you're working. I have to mentally restrain myself from doingthis workout everyday - but usually I'll just substitute anotherCathe Friedrich workout to appease myself!This video is definitely for advanced exercisers, but I found thatI could do all the moves after the second time through. I've probably done this video 15times now, and it gets more fun and exhilerating each time.

Carolyn Sproule

PowerMax was much more fun that StepHeat, although I enjoyed the ab firming section included in StepHeat and wish that PowerMax had one included.

That aside, the moves were original like two-kneee repeater, step back, scissor, two-knee repeater, step back and switch, same on the other side. I have never had more fun with a video than this one. I can't wait to get the other ones that she has made and also the new ones coming out. Some other cool moves: 360 turn (this hurt my knees a little and I was getting a lot of air between my foot and the step, so intermediates and those with bad knees will need to modify), 6-count pendulum across the bench and off was great!

The cueing was good - not much on form (and I don't like how she supports her weight on the leg she's stretching when doing hamstring stretches, but she does that in every video, so I've just gotten used to it and do it my way instead by putting the weight on the supporting leg - the one not being strectched). The music was upbeat and I think it had words - which I like so I can sing/hum along and not realize fully how hard I'm working (just like at the gym).

Even the warm-up and cooldown were enjoyable. Cathe includes some (like 2) steps that could be considered dance-y, but she repeats them so that you get a chance to catch up and do it with her.

Pure _aerobic_ fun!

Grade: A

Lisa Herzog

This is definitely a great tape! I liked Step Jam quite a bit, but think Power Max may be even better simply because it's more intense. It's great to different moves, like the 1-2-3 turn step and the scissors. I've done this video three times and the third time was the first time I actually got all the way through it. I suspect this is one of those videos that you like more and more as you contintue to do it. Having said that, though, I will say that I hav some concerns about safety . Specifically, Cathe was yelling, "Faster, faster!" so many times I began wondering exactly how fast we were going, and I clocked one section at 134 BPM. Considering the very highest recommendations for step speed only go up to 128, even for advanced steppers, I'm concerned it may be a little too fast. Keep in mind I probably wouldn't have even thought of this except that I am an instructor myself. But as much as I love the workout, between all the power moves and the fast speed, I'm concerned that doing this tape very often could have long-terms effects on one's knees and feet. Don't get me wrong, this is a superb tape and I will continue to do it many, many times. But I will be sure to space it with other things so I'm never doing it 2-3 times a week.

Jen Blaske

This is a video that I aquired through the Video Exchange. When I received it I watched it once and immediately thought "this is going to be tough" I thought it might be too complicated for me even though I have done several of Cathe's Video. Boy was I right; It was tough (intense) but the combos are easy to master. It starts out with about an 8 min warm up and then 3 step sections. After the warmup its nonstop propulsion moves. Kathy doesn't spend alot of time on teaching the combos but they really aren't that difficult to master, they are just powerful. The combos really flow well with the music in this video. Some of the moves she uses are 360 turns, repeater skip step off the board and my favorite, six count pendelum across the step! I thought I would be pooped after this workout but I was having so much fun I actually could have continued another 15 min. I didn't want this tape to end! Definitely one of my very favorites.


Power Max is the greatest step tape that I have ever encountered. It has a terrific instructor, it is intense and challenging, the music is good, the setting and background exercisers are good ... Obviously I really love this tape. When I first got it, I was very frustrated trying to learn the 360s. Then, the third time I tried it, I decided not to think about them and just do exactly as she cued. Since then I have had no problem, but every now and then I can't believe that I am actually doing this move and not tripping over the step. Somehow Cathe can take the difficult moves and make them seem simple. Other moves I enjoy: the "snake around" straddle in section 2, the horse straddle in section 3, the lunges in section 2, the half-squat off the side of the step followed by two steps on the step in section 3 (my description is not giving this move justice!), the two knees-scizzor two knees - shift in section 2 (or 1?), the lunges in the warm up .... I just find it to be a fun and challenging tape. The only thing I am not crazy about is the cool down - I am not a funky person at all - but I am learning to at least finish it. Also, I can't do the hip flexor repeater in the warm up - I just don't feel it is good for my knees. Overall this tape gets an A+++.

Instructor comments:

8 Jan 98

As of this writing, Power Max is my favorite step workout. Actually, it's my favorite video cardio workout. The tape has been well described in previous reviews, so I'll just add a few comments.

I'm very slow to pick-up complex choreography, but the combination of Cathe's excellent cueing and the way the steps flow together, made this tape really fun to learn. I especially love the pendulum repeater, the skip step, the hop kicks on the step and the drop squat, but Cathe makes other more familiar moves more fun by varying them slightly. For example the L-step with "bow and arrow" arms that she's used in other tapes like Mega Step Blast has been intensified into a Power L where you push both arms out to the side. A lunge series is made more fun by putting a turn in the middle. The one move I dislike here is the "party arms" that accompany the "ponies on the corner." The only move I had trouble learning was the transition move out of the 360s in section 3. I don't know why I had trouble here it's not particularly intense, especially compared to those 360s but it took me 3 or 4 times before I could do it. Now, of course, it seems ridiculously easy.

The music on this tape also adds to the fun of this workout. This is the best soundtrack that I've heard on any of Cathe's tapes, and on most exercise videos, for that matter. The music seems to be mixed a little hotter in relation to the voice than many of her other tapes. This is good! My favorite "song" is the one with the strong bass line that begins the first aerobic section and comes back in the warm-up.

Cathe is at her best here. She's more mature and professional than on other tapes like Step Max and Mega Step Blast, yet she's still having fun. Her cueing is impeccable. She does whoop here I'm not wild for this but she also says things I really enjoy: "Are you ready?" she calls out a couple of times before you repeat a long combination. Usually I'm tiring as she says this, but hearing this line revs me up again.

The one element that seems cheesy in this otherwise excellent production is the set. It's white with sooty looking walls and a window that seems to be borrowed from a prison (IMO). But the set is quickly forgotten once you start doing this tough, intense, immensely fun, aerobic step workout. Aerobic bliss.

Karen P

I adore this tape! There is 45 minutes of step, broken up into 3 routines. I can't believe how much fun I have with each of the 3. In fact, they seem to end too soon. After each routine is fully taught, she has you do it twice all the way through. Then she says "Don't worry, we won't do it again," but I really wouldn't mind at all if we did.

There are so many neat steps in this tape. It catches your interest from the very beginning and the fun never lets up. The music is very good, also.

There are a lot of power moves as well as some high-impact, and I really like that. All of the moves are easy to catch on to, but if one is too hard for you, you can do the "basic" move that she always shows first.

I recommend this to any advanced stepper, and also intermediate steppers who are working their way up. You might not be able to do it all from the beginning, but this is one that you can grow with -- and have a blast, too! Grade A+!

Instructor comments: I'm liking Cathe more and more! For the longest time, I thought I was weird because I didn't care for her tapes. I think I just saw too many of the very early ones and was turned off by them. After trying MIS and MIC and falling in love, I decided to go back and try some more. Now I am pleased to say I AM A CATHE CONVERT! I love the way she can keep the intensity high but keep the routines interesting and fun at the same time.

Annie S.

BUY THIS VIDEO. I can't believe how much fun it is. The moves are fantastic and the music is so good, I cranked the volume up so loud I think I disturbed my neighbor. The music in some of Cathe's videos has really stunk (such as in Step Heat), but this music is good enough to buy the soundtrack (and you can, through MusicFlex!).

My biggest problem with Cathe's complex choreography is that I usually stumble all over myself the first few times, but even though this one was touted as being the most complex of all, I did it the first time without more than a stumble or two. The movements, though complicated, really seem to flow.

I bought this bit of saving grace at a time when I was getting very bored with cardio,especially step, and enjoyed doing this one so much I'm going to have to pry myself away from it. If you need a jumpstart, buy this. If it's too advanced for you at first, just listen to the music for awhile and grow into it. :) It's that good.

Instructor comments: She's beautiful, bubbly, friendly and perfect as always.

Sara Whitney

I've had this video a while, and I never bothered to do a review before 'cause I figured, everyone knows it's fantastic, it's in the Hall of Fame!

I just did PowerMax last night, and I had such a blast I thought I MUST do a review to tell the world how great this is!

I agree with so much of what the other reviewers have said. Wonderful choreography, wonderful intensity, wonderful instructor. Also, I must emphasize how great the music is. It's more "rockin'" and not as "pop" as most of Cathe's videos. Some of the songs in it are Queen's "We Will Rock You", Salt & Pepa's "Push It", "Wild Thing", and that great song that's played at a lot of sporting events (sorry I can't be more specific - if you go to hockey games you'll recognize it!).

I haven't heard this music used in any other videos I have, and that's a big part of why I still love doing PowerMax. In contrast, for example, a new CIA can have the most fantastic choreography in the world, but if it's to some of that same old CIA music that I've already heard on several other tapes, I just don't get excited.

I also wanted to mention that PowerMax has stood the test of time. Even though I have many of Cathe's newer tapes (StepWorks, IntervalMax, BodyMax), PowerMax is still my favorite.

Instructor comments: What can I say about Cathe that hasn't already been said? She is so friendly, you feel as if she's talking directly to you. Her cuing is excellent, and she adds lots of little comments that keep things lively. She's one of the best!

Mary Truscott

Cathe was my "holy Grail" instructor and PowerMax my Holy Grail tape when I was still a relatively new VFer. At that time my daughter was weaning just before her first birthday and I was struggling just to do intermediate workouts three times a week. Well, behold what a difference three years of consistent effort has made. I have PowerMax in my regular routine--and I CAN ACTUALLY DO THE WHOLE WORKOUT--with a few modifications to lower the impact, of course. (For example, I'm so tired of stepping by the time the coll-down comes on that I just move my step out of the way and do the routine without it. I also leave out the "party arms" while doing the pony on the corner--Cathe looks great doin it--but I, the commoner, just look like I'm trying to shoo away flies!)

Would it surprise any of you longtime VFers here to know that I love this workout and that in Cathe's words, I'm "having a good old time" mastering it? Cathe was worth the wait and the effort! This tape raters 10s all across the board--10 points for fun, 10 for variety, 10 for choreography, 10 for the excellent teaching style, 10 for the great "football stadium" soundtrack, and definitely, 10 for the "sweat factor." When I'm done with this one, my face is as red as Cathe's leotard, and when I go to give my daughter her good morning hug immdeately afterward, she says, "Mommy, you're really SLIMY!" It amazes me, too, how much Cathe packs into 42 minutes of aerobics. There isn't a move here I don't like. I was familiar with the 360 move from doing an almost identical one from CIA 7002 (Christi Taylor) but I've never seen anything like the pendulum or the drop squats. Talk about serious fun! I love all these moves even though I can't squat as deeply as Cathe does--yet:)

The first time I did the routine I noticed three things: 1. When it was time to cool-down, I could tell I'd been doing 40 minutes of aerobics only by my slimy state:) Time flies and so does Cathe! 2. Cathe starts whooping early and often. This bugged me the first day, but by the second time I did the routine I went with the flow and whooped right along with her. It's actually more fun if I do. Don't ask me why--it just is! 3. Cathe does for step what Donna Richardson, Jennifer Mills, and Christi Taylor do for hi-lo routines--she takes the same old basic steps you've done thousands of times and puts a new twist on them.

Now, with all this gushing, I have only one minor complaint. Like Wendy, I wish the stretching part of this one were a little bit longer. (StepFit, her next tape released after this one, shows she listened to customers and fans, because it includes a wonderful, thorough deep stretching routine) But do you think that'll keep me from wanting to reach for this tape every time it's a "cardio" day? Not on your life. I usually finish this tape about the same time that Margaret Richard's "Body Electric" show is cooling down--so I just stretch some mor ewiht her while PowerMax rewinds. Yet another reason I'm glad I made the big switch to morning exercise:)

Grade: A++++

Melissa Cooper

Before is submit my review, i would like to say i hate all funky, complex aerobic workouts. so i wasn't sure if i would like this workout. But on cathe's website i saw the review from fit magizine which says: "Some of us want to burn fat, cathe wants to burn it to kingdom come" the first time i did this workout i was dripping sweat. the first section is intermediate, and i don't like it that much. in the second section, cathe turns up the intensity. It's plyo move after plyo move. The third section is also advanced but it's a little hard to catch the coreography. Overall, i would say that this is an advanced workout filled with tons of new creative coreography. I prefer Bodymax,MIS,MIC, and Interval Max to this workout but this is still a brutal workout that burns tons of fat. grade for this workout: A (with BM, MIS, MIC, and IM getting A+++)

Instructor comments: cathe's cueing is superb. she makes a complex workout easy to follow.

patricia griffin


Power Max is an awesome workout. I think it's my favorite Cathe cardio workout. I have it once a week in my rotation and i've been doing it on just the step platform because of various "injuries".

Instructor comments: Cathe Rocks!! She is so knowledgeable and has such a friendly approachable demeanor. I especially like her explanations about why she doesn't break things down - she is one of the few instructors who have thought ahead that people will be doing her tapes over and over again. I also like her manner in talking to the viewer ... she is helpful without being condescending or "cheer-leadery". It had been a while since I did a Cathe workout (Pregnancy and postpartum derailed me), and I felt like I was seeing an old friend again.

Leela Keshavan

This is a very good step workout. I have the DVD, and the quality is excellent. It is interesting to approach Power Max, a video that Cathe made in 1996, and look at it now, 7 years later. Since Power Max, Cathe has produced numerous killer workouts, so as tough as Power Max is, it is not as killer as some of her later workouts, such as Interval Max, Body Max or MIC. Still, Power Max is tough and fun.

Some of the music is really good, like "Wild Thing," and the beat of the songs really helps push you along and makes you want to give some extra effort. I like the way Cathe uses the rhythm in the combinations, and does some fun syncopated moves.

The only criticism I have is that there are too many repetitions of the combinations; I am not a fan of TIFTT.

For the advanced stepper, this workout is a winner!

Instructor comments: Cathe is the step queen. She cues amazingly well, has boundless energy, an appealing personality and you can't help but love her. It's interesting to see how Cathe has transformed her body since making Power Max; she looked great then, but had higher bodyfat and less muscular definition than she does now. I like that because it makes me feel like she is more "human" (as opposed to being "superhuman" as she is now.)

Abbe G

July 5th, 2003

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