Whether you're looking for a holiday gift or a one-stop workout routine, DVDs featuring Kristi Yamaguchi, Ellen Barrett, Tom Holland and Stacey Lei Krauss are fit for business.
When time is tight, especially around the holidays, there's none to waste on separate cardiovascular and strength workouts. You're better off pushing play on an exercise routine that combines bursts of aerobic activity with weight-bearing exercises to maximize your caloric burn while maintaining your muscle.
We combed through the year's fitness releases to come up with a list of four outstanding workouts for all levels and interests. In addition to being great gifts for the exercise aficionados on your list, these DVDs would make a worthy addition to your own fitness library.
Best circuit workout
Kristi Yamaguchi Power Workout
I have to admit that the choice of Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi for this traditional cardio and strength circuit workout left me scratching my head. She's thin and graceful from her figure skating years but surprisingly lacking in strength, hoisting the smallest 3-pound dumbbells.
But that's part of the formula: Pair an experienced fitness trainer, such as co-host Erin O'Brien, with a high-profile, likable newcomer such as Yamaguchi to draw in more viewers — in this case, the army of fans that rooted for the skater during her stint on "Dancing With the Stars."
O'Brien puts Yamaguchi through the paces with a 53-minute total body workout that combines classic cardio moves (such as grapevines, jogging and knee-ups) with weight-assisted strength training. She gives plenty of attention to proper technique and offers some low-impact modifications to moves such as jump squats. It's challenging for beginners without being intimidating, and intermediate exercisers will appreciate it too.
Yamaguchi is a pleasant student who demonstrates good form and endurance throughout the workout, which also includes floor work for abdominals, chest exercises and stretches. This workout covers all the fitness bases in less than an hour.
Price: $16.99. Available at Acacialifestyle.com and other online retailers.
Best light-day workout for women
Ellen Barrett Live: Power Fusion
There are days when it's hard to find the motivation to get out of bed, let alone exercise.
This is the DVD for those days. Like most of veteran fitness instructor Ellen Barrett's DVD workouts, this 45-minute session builds gradually — and, in her words, "peacefully" — allowing the mind to catch up with the body and get in the mood for exertion.
This flowing fusion of yoga, dance and calisthenics starts with deep breathing, gentle movement and stretching before moving into a fat-burning zone with squats, traveling squats, goddess squats.... Did we mention there are a lot of squats in this workout?
They are Barrett's go-to movement, along with leg lifts, standing crunches, wood-chop plies, relevés and a series of lunges from different angles. These weight-free strength moves, coupled with arm movements such as tricep push-backs and V-ups, boost your heart rate while stretching and strengthening the lower body and the core.
With moves like "the goddess" and little emphasis on building strength in the arms, we don't expect this to be a big draw for men. But for women, it's a feel-good workout for low-energy, low-motivation days.
Price: $14.99. Available at Collagevideo.com and Amazon.com.
Best DVD set for fitness junkies
Supreme 90-Day System
At first glance, this 10-DVD set looks a lot like another popular 90-day workout plan, P90X. But there's one major difference: At around $20, this set is about $120 cheaper. Yet it still delivers a raft of solid workouts with an experienced personal trainer, Tom Holland, who cues the moves effectively and gives at least some attention to good form.