Lotte Berk Method for Beginners - Muscle Eats Fat

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Are we having fun yet? No, but we ARE toning those muscles!

Jan 17, 2005 (Updated Jan 17, 2005)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Effective exercises for toning muscles,very good instructor, great modifications shown

Cons:Could be hard on the knees, no frills or music, need space to stretch out

The Bottom Line: A good 25 minute toning workout targeting all major muscle groups. Challenging but effective. May be hard on the knees during the "knee dancing" segment. Excellent instructor.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

I admit it. I bought this DVD because I thought the picture on the front was sexy and the idea that "muscle eats fat" appealed to me. I didn't know who Lotte Berk was or what the work out entailed. Of course, now I do.

Lotte Berk was a Russian dancer in the 1940's (and later taught in her London and Manhattan studios). She came up with some innovative and challenging exercises after she severely injured her back and her followers have continued to use her methods in studios across the world. They have recently released several DVDs using her techniques.

Dancers have long, lean muscles and tend to be very flexible. The instructor on this DVD certainly fits that description.

The Set

The set is very simple -- just a wood floor in a studio of some sort. It is fitting because the exercises are completely no nonsense and anything more frilly would seem out of place.

The Instructors

Barbara, a trainer at the Lotte Berk Studio in New York City, is the main instructor on this video. She has two women behind her, Susanne and Stephanie, both of whom also are instructors at the Lotte Berk Studio. Susanne is the modifier and she shows, throughout the workout, the "easier" versions of the exercises performed and is a great help to beginners and those who aren't as strong or flexible as Barbara. The one thing I noticed right off the bat is that Barbara isn't a bouncy, young girl. She is nearly 50 years old (she mentions that during the work out) and she obviously has taken great care of herself. Having an older instructor blow me away with her flexibility and strength only serves to prove that I *can* reach that level even though I am not 20 anymore.

Info on the Workout

The entire workout is only about 25 minutes long but it packs a punch! They say this workout is for beginners but I beg to differ. You sure need a lot of strength to do some of the moves. However, as I said, there is a modifier who always shows you easier variations of every move and beginners would be wise to watch her and do as she does. Trying to do more when you first start could lead to injury or very, very sore muscles the next day (I am limping proof of that!).

This is from the Lotte Berk DVD:
Nothing is more unattractive than a flabby weak body. The only way to reduce flat is to burn calories and nothing burns calories better than strong muscles. In fact, healthy toned muscles will burn calories 24 hours a day - even when you are at rest! The Lotte Berk Method teaches you targeted exercises that will work poorly toned, unused muscles, particularly in your thighs and abdomen. From your first workout you will begin to create strong, toned muscles and burn calories. The results will look and feel fabulous!

And this is from
Each controlled movement has an exact point-of-origin along with an associated stretch ("your workout is not complete without the stretch"). After an extended warm-up, you'll shape your arms and back with precise dumbbell routines (e.g. small pulses). The lower-body segment includes both standing pliĆƒƒƒƒ©s and unique "knee dancing" exercises (fluid, rolling pelvic movements while you're kneeling). One instructor always shows easier modifications. Requires 2 to 5 lb. dumbbells. They use a free standing "ballet barre" but a solid, heavy high-back chair would also work for the pliĆƒƒƒƒ© exercises. ©2002. (31 min.)
Special Features
- Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound
- Interactive Full Motion Menus
- Chapter Selections
- Workout to Music with Narration
- Bonus Trailers
- One Bonus Workout
- Photo Gallery

Before the Workout:

Before you pop in the DVD, be sure to have a pair of light hand weights. I used five pound ones and it was a struggle. You may want to start with three pounds weights and move up according to your strength level. The modifier uses no weights at all and still gets a good workout. Also have on hand a towel or yoga strap and a kitchen or dining room chair or other sturdy piece of furniture that you can use to balance yourself during the leg segment. I didn’t realize when I started the workout that I needed all that and found myself scurrying around looking for objects as the workout progressed. Also, have a mat and enough room to stretch your whole body down on your stomach.

The Workout:

Segment 1: The Warm Up

The warm up starts with bent knee lifts, sort of like very exaggerated marching. There is some upper body work as well and is quick and relatively painless.

Segment 2: Upper Body

Well, say goodbye to relatively painless. This segment focuses on the arms and chest. Using your weights, you do a variety of challenging moves, some of which I never saw before. At all times, the instructor is very clear about form and exactly how your body should be positioned. She was very effective at making sure, even when you can’t see the screen with your head down, that you know exactly how your body should be aligned to get the the most benefit and avoid injury. You go through a merciless routine of alternating arm work for the biceps, triceps, and shoulder area as well as some chest work. It’s tough but over relatively quickly and the stretches after help sooth any soreness. The Lotte Berk method is big on stretching directly after any form of toning exercise to shape the muscles and you will stretch after all exercises. You’re not relaxing, you are told, you are elongating.

During this segment, you are also introduced to one of the toughest moves on the DVD. You lie on your stomach with your hands in a fist, resting your body on your bent arms. You stretch your legs back and, using your arms as support, lift up on your flexed feet. You then challenge yourself further by lifting one leg off the floor and gently bouncing the foot for 10 counts. It’s HARD. Your abs are tucked in, your arms are propping up your weight, and your legs are strained. When you are allowed to rest, you will be thanking the gods for the brief few moments between sets. But stick with it, as your strength increases, you will find this exercise getting easier. Watch Susanne for modifications and do only a few reps if you can’t do the entire set. You are always encouraged to do only as much as you can and not push beyond your limit. Heed that advice.

Segment 3: Lower Body

This is when you will need that chair or other waist high piece of furniture. I use my television which is higher than waist high but you only need to lightly touch it to keep your balance and I don’t want to drag chairs around the house.

In this segment, you will learn the art of the plie, which is a staple in ballet, but with a Pilates twist. As you stand with your feet together, you rock slightly back on your heels and make a V with your feet, always keeping your heels touching. Tucking in your abs and drawing your hips upwards, you will step up on your toes and bend your knees. Then the work begins. You will be instructed to bend as low as possible (knees over toes) and back up several times. The burn is directly on top of the thighs and on the inner thighs.

This exercise, when done correctly, is amazingly tough but very effective at targeting the areas of the thighs that rarely get used in daily life.

You will also do an outer thigh exercise that will cause you to grit your teeth. However, as always, the stretches between and after help take the pressure off the muscles.

Segment 4: Knee Dancing

This is one of the strangest exercises I have ever done. It is the secret weapon of the Lotte Berk Method according to Barbara and we are encouraged to do knee dancing if we do nothing else at all in the workout. If you have bad knees, this could be painful. I have a knee that I had surgery on a few years ago, so I use a small pillow under my knees to avoid any pain I may have resting my weight on my knobby knees. Without the pillow, the exercises hurt. The pillow seems to absorb the stress and I am doing fine. You should test your own knees though and if you feel a lot of pain, skip this segment.

On your knees on the mat (or pillow in my case), you tuck your abs in and reach up lifting off the heels. Your body only lifts about 6-8” off your heels but it is a tough lift! After every lift, there is a stretch. Once you are comfortable with simply pulling your upper body off of your heels, you get into a wiggling, hip rolling motion when lifting. It feels silly and looks easy. It isn’t easy. Done exactly as instructed, it is a powerhouse of an exercise for your hips, abs, thighs, and butt.

Segment 5: Stretching

This segment is devoted to destressing the muscles you just worked and elongating them. It’s not as simple as a cool down. Some of the postures are downright tough. Based somewhat on Pilates stretches, these challenge but also loosen up tight muscles and help you to avoid soreness the next day. This is the segment where a towel or yoga strap is needed (unless you are amazingly flexible like Barbara). You will need it during the leg stretches that have your leg raised up and toward your head as you lie on your back. I tried to get away without using a strap but I couldn’t get my leg anywhere near my head so I resorted to the strap and it was a good choice. It helped me to push myself just a little more than usual without overdoing. I urge you to use a strap or towel for this exercise unless you are very, very flexible.

At last the workout is over. Barbara tells us that you will feel results in 10 days and see them in 20. I have done the workout seven times and have felt it every time. I also am seeing some definition in my inner thighs – which is one of the hardest spots to pinpoint on a woman. I believe it is from this workout because I only do my other toning workouts sporadically. I just restarted my fitness quest with a vengeance within the last few months and am slowing finding what works and doesn’t work for me.

All That Jazz

There is a "Bonus Workout" on every Lotte Berk DVD, which is a short revved up version of what you just did. I have not done this workout yet but plan to soon. I want to get my form right before I do anything more challenging than the actual workout. From the looks of it, you can get some cardio benefits from this extra "blast" as well as more toning.

I have not used the option to work out without narration yet because I find the instructor to be excellent and her reminders about form and positioning are welcome. I like the idea though that you don’t have to listen to chatter when you workout when you are ready to go at it without the instructions and cuing.

This is a tough workout and why they call it "for beginners" is beyond me. I am, admittedly, a beginner again but I can't imagine many people sailing through this workout without some straining. Because the modifier is so good and every exercise has an "easier" version shown, it is fine for beginners who really want to work. It is also great for intermediate exercisers who want a fast, effective toning workout. But if you're a beginner who doesn't really want to strain and feel the burn, this workout may not be something you will enjoy. I have a friend who is at about the same level as I am who doesn't like this workout. She finds it just "too hard" to do and "no fun". So, if you plan to invest in this DVD (I paid $16.88 but you can get it a bit cheaper if you search around), be ready to invest in yourself and to work hard. It's only about 25 minutes long, just enough to work your muscles but not so much that you exhaust yourself.

The Lotte Berk Method has other targeted workout DVDs: Lotte Berk Method: Hip Hugger Abs, Lotte Berk Method: Basic Essentials, and Lotte Berk Method: High Round Assets. All are classified as "for beginners" and there are no other Lotte Berk DVDs for intermediate or advanced exercisers at this point.

I have ordered the Hip Hugger (abs) and High Round Assets (buns) DVDs and am eager to see if they are as effective as the Muscle Eats Fat DVD.

They also all come in VHS format as well and are sold in England in the European format.

Do I Recommend this Workout?

I do recommend this workout to beginners and intermediates looking for a solid, no nonsense workout to build and elongate muscles. If you have severe flexibility problems or very bad knees, I suggest trying to view the workout before buying it to see if it is too much for you to do. If you want "fun" you won't find it here. But you will find an effective workout for the whole body that is over quickly and gives good results. Go for it!

Recommend this product? Yes

Viewing Format: DVD

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