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Top new workout DVDs

LA Times | Top new workout DVDs, March 23, 2013

Ready to kick-start your fitness routine but don't want to face the crowds at the gym? We've got you covered.

The Los Angeles Times reviewed a recent crop of fitness DVDs and selected our picks of the best gym-free workouts for exercisers of different levels and interests. Whether you're trying to build muscle, protect your knees or just start moving your body, we've got a workout for you.

You're an intermediate exerciser looking for a new challenge:

If you haven't tried kettlebells, you're missing out on a super-efficient workout that builds strength and blasts fat all at once. Used in Eastern European countries when strength training was in its infancy, these bowling ball-shaped weights with handles have become a favorite of top trainers today as a way to bust through exercise plateaus.

However, learning to use them properly is critical, as the swinging and jerking moves done with them can hurt your wrists, back and arms.

One DVD that provides instruction on form is "Ultimate Kettlebell Workouts for Beginners," a three-routine disc led by fitness instructor Paul Katami, who has trained Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels on proper kettlebell technique.

Katami starts the DVD with a 28-minute tutorial workout on the basic grips and moves, such as the clean-and-rack, swing squat and windmill, providing pointers and identifying common mistakes that could cause injury.

You know you've got a challenge coming when even the tutorial gets your heart rate up. Once you feel comfortable with the moves, you can move on to two other routines: a drills and combinations workout and another program targeting the core.

"Ultimate Kettlebell Workouts for Beginners" ($16.99, kettlebell not included; http://acacialifestyle.com)

You need a good workout to ease back into fitness:

When you're starting back into an exercise routine after months — or even years — off, it's best to hold the heroics and start back slowly to avoid injury.

The "Weight Watchers Punch!" workout, led by former Firm fitness instructor Stephanie Huckabee, is a great at-home way for beginners to get the low-impact, easy-on-the-joints exercise they need without sacrificing calorie burn.

Sold in a kit with weighted adjustable gloves, it features three easy-to-follow workouts combining traditional kickboxing moves, such as jabs, hooks and kicks, with basic aerobics staples, such as hamstring curls, squats and knee repeaters.

The enclosed DVD builds in intensity and duration, starting with a 30-minute beginner workout and progressing to an advanced 45-minute routine, allowing exercisers to build the challenge as their fitness level improves. (There are modifications for those who need to take it slow.)

All of the routines will get you heart rate up and provide some level of toning from the gloves' extra 2 pounds of resistance. Huckabee's enthusiasm and effective cueing should keep most people on track until the end of the workout.

"Weight Watchers Punch!" With weighted gloves. ($39.98, http://www.walmart.com)

Alternatively, you could start a walking routine to ease back into fitness. While outdoor walking may provide the most mood-boosting benefits, the "Leslie Sansone: Ultimate Five-Day Walk Plan" provides an indoor alternative for those days when you can't or don't want to take it around the block. The DVD contains five walks that range from one to five miles, along with a three-to-five minute targeted toning segment at the end. For those not familiar with Sansone's walks, they include arm reaches, kicks, punches, sidesteps and grapevines to keep it interesting and get your heart rate up.

"Leslie Sansone: Ultimate Five-Day Walk Plan" ($14.98, http://www.amazon.com)

You are bored with dumbbells:

If biceps curls just aren't cutting it for you anymore, why not give body-weight resistance training a try?

The Zenga Flow workout uses a mini-stability ball (or playground ball) to provide a tough yet relaxing alternative to the traditional weight routine. Instructor Kim Kraushar leads you through a blend of slow-flowing strength and Pilates exercises that use the ball to challenge your balance and work several muscle groups at once.

The exercises build in intensity during the 50-minute workout, starting with gentle stretches and building to surprisingly challenging slow motion lunges and leg lifts balanced on the ball. By throwing yourself off balance, you're not only working your legs but your core and back as well.

"Zenga Flow With Mini Stability Ball" ($15.95, ball not included, http://www.merrithew.com)

Your knees are telling you it's time to cross train:

If your knees have taken a pounding from jogging, or you're just looking for a workout to do on days when you're not on your bike, "DDP Yoga" might be a good fit for you. This strength/yoga hybrid, developed by 55-year-old former wrestler Diamond Dave Page, gets your heart rate up and tones your muscles by combining yoga moves with dumbbell-free dynamic resistance rows and punches. Page, who suffered a serious back injury before discovering yoga, breaks down the moves thoroughly and dishes out modifications for those who need them.

Hard-core yoga fans and some women might be put off by his macho "It ain't your mama's yoga," as well as pose names such as "touchdown" and "road warrior." And the Hulk flex he inserts at the end of some moves is kind of a comical touch. But the practices on his DVDs should help boost your overall fitness and flexibility without taking a toll on your joints.

DDP Yoga Pack 1. Includes six workouts, pose poster and program guide. ($69.95,http://www.ddpyoga.com)

Alternatively, if yoga for dudes isn't your thing, try Colleen Saidman's "Yoga for Weight Loss" (MSRP $14.98, http://www.amazon.com): The title of this disc is a bit misleading, as it offers several slow Zen-like flows to stretch and strengthen beginner and intermediate exercisers, rather than hard-core calorie-burning power yoga. However, they are a great way to stretch those tight hamstrings and hips after a run, either separately or altogether in one long practice.

Read the article at latimes.com