Saturday, February 08, 2014

Product Review: The Firm Zip Medicine Ball Kit: First Impressions

If you want the shorter review, I posted it on and you can read it here

The Firm Zip Medicine Ball Kit is from Gaiam, a company which I trust nearly implicitly.  I own more than one of Gaiam's DVDs, use a yoga mat from one of their yoga kits, and often recommend their products to others because they are typically a reliable source of quality fitness resources.  Although I have heard of The Firm, I have never before ordered anything from them.  But with the Gaiam name attached, I couldn’t resist giving this new kit a try, especially when I read that it not only included cardio and strength exercises but some that helped improve balance. And given the trouble I sometimes have with my knees, the idea of kneeling on the unzipped ball definitely appealed to me.  I didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t add these DVDs to my collection and start using them.  I chose to replace my boot camp workouts two days a week with these DVDs. 

Day One:  I did the Jumpstart workout with Emily, which is designed to teach the user the eight basic moves used throughout the DVDs.  The suggestion was to not use the medicine ball or the core ball which was easy enough to do.  After all, she herself is not using them.  I did all of the moves to the best of my ability but felt very uncoordinated and clumsy and I practically stumbled my way through some of the moves. Still, I broke a sweat and hoped that maybe it just takes a little practice.   On the plus side, she showed various modifications that could be made when trying to do a burpee and I now know what to do when I am doing a DVD that wants me to do one and I know my balance won’t allow me to follow along.

Day Two:  I did the Sculpt 1 workout with Stephanie.  She explains that you do not need to use the medicine ball or the core ball and indicates that if you need an easier workout, you can follow along with one of the other two people in the room with her.  Or, if you need to amp it up a bit, you can follow along with the other of the two.  Fair enough.  The only problem is, all three are using the balls so it seems disingenuous to say “You don’t need them” if at no point will anyone show you how to do any of the exercises without using them.  So if you can keep up while trying to find your own ways of modifying the moves, that’s great.  If you can’t, you’ll probably be like me, once again feeling clumsy and inadequate.  I ended up using the balls and I didn’t understand why the workout wasn’t better designed so that you would not have to zip and unzip the medicine ball so frequently.  This is especially odd because the booklet that comes with the kit specifically advises you to tuck the zipper in the “garage” but there simply is not enough time to do this before the instructor is telling you to start moving. 

Someone tell me how you are supposed not need to use the ball when the instructions repeatedly tell you to use it for balance?  It simply doesn’t make sense.  Oh and you’ll definitely need it for the cool down stretches.  Especially for someone like me who has a problem with her balance. Nonetheless, I had as much success with this workout as I did with the Jumpstart thinking that maybe I could catch on to the routines with a little practice. 

Day Three:  I did the Jumpstart and Cardio workout with Allie.  I still found the same section on the Jumpstart confusing.  Oh well.  I need more practice, I guess.  But the cardio workout with Allie didn’t leave me feeling like I’d ever catch on.  Once again, the viewer is told you don’t need the ball but the fact is you do.  Too many of the exercises are too confusing without them.  Like, how are you supposed to roll the ball from side to side?  I guess you have to use your imagination.  It was confusing when Allie told us to do a Mambo or Cha-Cha, neither of which had been part of either of the other workouts I’d already tried and when you’re moving quickly from movement to movement, by the time I figured out what the heck I was supposed to be doing, she was moving onto something else.  Naturally I struggled with some of the things that required more balance—like holding out first one leg and then the other.  I basically felt lost and confused through most of the workout. 

I don’t know about you but I don’t like to feel defeated while exercising.

Day Four:  I was a little more ambitious on this day, or aspired to be more ambitious anyway.  I first chose to do the Barefoot Abs with Alison.  There was one move in particular I found to be ridiculous.  Remember, every time they tell you to not use the medicine ball if this is your first time but then you’re supposed to get down on your knees.  First, you lean back, which is a very good core workout but obviously it will be more comfortable if you are kneeling on the ball and not on the floor.  Then you are supposed to do a kneel-stand-kneel movement starting first with the right foot and then the left.  Because you are kneeling on the ball and then standing on the ball, this requires a lot of balance.  Fact is, for something that’s supposed to improve balance, it would nice if it didn’t require so much balance to begin with.  I was not pleased. 

Once again, I did the Jumpstart workout, still hoping I’d catch on to the various movements and become comfortable.  I think I did a little better but I can’t say I felt it went especially well.  I then tried to the AMP Reps.  (AMP Reps = As Many Possible Reps, in case you’re wondering.)  I didn’t even get past the warm-up when Emily had us go from a runner’s lunge, step back to a plank, and then back to the runner’s lunge.  Again, these are moves that require balance, more balance than I have, obviously. 

I have no trouble following along with the boot camp workouts I do.  I can do yoga with Rodney Yee or Shiva Rea.  I’ve used TonyHorton’s P90 and 10 Minute Trainer.  I have more than a few of Leslie Sansone’s DVDs.  But these DVDs from The Firm?   Well, right now I am putting them on the shelf until I finish the boot camp.  Then and only then will I give them another try.  And I mean I’ll really try them.  The kit comes with a booklet that outlines a 60 day plan for when you will do each of the workouts.  This is a good idea.  With 8 different workouts, it’s easy to only do the ones you enjoy.  Please tell me I’m not the only one who avoids doing things she doesn’t enjoy doing?  Although I won't follow the menu plan, I'll even sign up for the 60 days free community access.  I think the only way I can give a full review for the product is to make full use of it.  


  1. It's too bad it wasn't easier to work with. I hope you are able to get some use out of it later.

    1. Betty, I am hoping so too. I don't know if I'll be able to master some of the moves but I can't imagine feeling as uncoordinated as I have been after doing it for a month. I definitely know I won't be trying that kneeling to standing thing any time soon. And I'll probably change the high lunge into a low one, with my back leg on the floor, to keep myself from falling over. It's these accommodations I've had to learn to make that have made it possible for me to not need a walker anymore.

  2. Well, that's kind of a bummer. I might do better since I don't have balance issues and do know what cha-cha and mamba steps are, but still.

    The Firm and Gaiam seem like an awkward marriage. I associate The Firm with high intensity workouts for the young and fit -- I've done a few of the workouts, but with many modifications. Gaiam, on the other hand, always had much kinder, gentler approaches that will get you to fitness but in your own sweet time.

    Joy's Book Blog

    1. Joy, I don't know if knowing the difference will help when the instructor shouts out both at the same time. It's like saying, "Okay, now do the hustle and electric slide." Huh?

      I thought the marriage was weird too but since I've had so much success with Gaiam products, I wasn't turned off. That's not to say that I haven't had to give away a few DVDs that I felt were not a good fit for me, even if they were from Gaiam. But I was feeling pretty confident this would be good for me. Plus, anything that said it helps train balance is something I am going to gravitate towards because that's so necessary for me.

      It'll be interesting to see how I do with it in March. For now, I'm content with the boot camp. And, as you know, I'll be writing about that on Tuesday. :)