Apparently there's a fine line between a workout program aimed at women, and soft-core porn aimed at men... Or at least that's what it seems like in the case of the Envy Girls Workouts for the Spots that Really Count. What you see on the cover is basically what you get: four scantily-clad women in suggestive poses. Oh, and a little bit of a workout... but not a good one.
OK, what's the idea here? The four "Envy Girls," who in very porn-star style are referred to by (fake) first names only, each have a "superpower": great abs, buns, legs, or arms. (As if these things can come in isolation...) The idea is that we women don't just want to feel good, we also want to look great, or to be more specific, we want to be envied for our fabulous-looking bodies.
Let's establish my reviewing credibility here. I'm an athlete, a national-level competitive fencer. I take fitness seriously, and I know the importance of "core" workouts and free-weight training for toning muscles and developing overall fitness. For me, workouts are about muscle strength, injury prevention, increased flexibility, and greater endurance: what I need to win on the fencing strip. And yeah, a fringe benefit is that I look pretty good in a bikini, I admit. From that point of view, I've already got what the Envy Girls are selling - in fact, I definitely have better muscle tone than any of them - so I feel like I can evaluate their offering pretty objectively.
Each disc provides a program for a particular body part... but don't let the four-disc format fool you. All four workouts could have fit onto one disc, so the size of the set is pure puffery. On each disc, we get a general intro to the idea of the "Envy Girls" and a short warmup routine (both are the same on each disc). Then we get a 20-minute main workout plus a 5-minute quick workout. A short segment afterwards provides a little bit of instruction by the trainer, Michael Carson. He is described as a "celebrity fitness guru," which I suppose means whatever he wants it to mean, but to me does not mean a whole lot.
I found the exercise programs here to be seriously deficient in two ways: content and presentation.
As far as presentation goes, one problem is that the camera seems more interested in the figures of the "Envy Girls" than in showing how to do the exercise properly. The close-up shots are too close, cutting off parts of the lead instructor's body. The other camera shots circle around the girls much too quickly, changing angles so rapidly that it's hard to get a good idea of how to do the exercise. The trainer's tips section is a bit better, with a clearer demonstration of the move (probably because it's a man giving the demo; the camera doesn't ogle him). Like the rest of the program, though, it feels rushed, with the trainer speaking rapidly and whipping through the explanations.
For content, I really didn't like the selection of exercises. Part of it is that I dislike the philosophy that's gradually revealed: surface appearance over strength or health, with a peculiar idea of the ideal female body. For instance, in the "abs" workout there's an emphasis on doing "lengthening" ab exercises and avoiding "crunch" type workouts. Why? Because "crunching" can build up "wide" ab muscles in a way that might not be feminine! Puh-leeze. Not only is that a flaky idea, but I object to the idea is that having actual muscle tone is unattractive. This odd avoidance of anything that might actually form a muscle explains why the exercises seem poorly selected.
The exercises aren't hard, exactly, but most of them are exercises that I wouldn't recommend doing without a coach or trainer there to correct your form. Some of them are borderline unsafe: for instance, a lot of the bun and leg workouts involve deep squats that are rough on the knees, especially if done incorrectly... but there's no explanation of how to do the bends correctly and how far down it's correct to take them. Likewise, the arm and ab exercises involve a lot of rapid twisting and slinging of the arms. Speaking as someone who's currently rehabilitating a rotator cuff injury, let me assure you that it is possible to hurt yourself by slinging weights around without proper attention to form and technique, and without (horror of horrors!) building up the muscles slowly.
The program appears in 1.33:1 format, but with the actual image as a windowboxed widescreen format. I really don't see the point of that, since it gives what feels like a very cropped picture. Colors are bright and clean.
It's a bit flat, with the background music tending to be too loud in comparison to the voices of the participants.
There are two choices for the audio. The standard selection has instructions from the "Envy Girl" leading the workout. The other option is to have the "trainer commentary," which gives explanations of what the girls are doing and why the exercise is supposed to help your body.
Speaking as an athlete who works out on a daily basis, I can't recommend the Envy Girls workout. The workouts are poorly conceived, with inadequate explanations and poor camera work; more to the point, they present badly explained, rushed exercises that are much too easy to do incorrectly and actually cause injury. Skip it.