The Pilates system of stretching and exercises, focusing on the "core stability" muscles of the back and abdomen, seems to have become quite a fashionable form of exercise lately, and several different Pilates exercise programs have made it to DVD. Pilates Body Control and Weekly Workout has the merit of being the most complete and well-thought-out of the ones I've reviewed.
One of the merits of Pilates Body Control and Weekly Workout is that it is very useful for beginners to Pilates. The Body Control program begins with two sections, totaling about 15 minutes, that introduce the concepts and fundamental moves and postures of Pilates. The Weekly Workout also starts with about 12 minutes of introduction on the basic posture required for the exercises, and the Pilates concepts of alignment, centering, and breathing. For viewers who aren't also enrolled in a Pilates class, or who want reinforcement of the basic moves to be sure they're doing them correctly, this introductory material is extremely useful. However, since each is a separate chapter on the DVD, it's easy to skip over them if you don't need them any more.
Lynne Robinson, the instructor for this Pilates program, does an excellent job of explaining and demonstrating all the various moves, including not just how to do the move, but also why it's important. Her voice is distinct and also very calm and soothing, which is appropriate for a workout that emphasizes relaxation as a key feature of Pilates.
Pilates Body Control and Weekly Workout is actually several workouts rolled into one program, which provides even more substance for viewers. Body Control runs a total of 90 minutes; after the introduction, Robinson leads viewers through a 40-minute "warm-up" program that, she points out, can be performed separately as a short workout if desired. This part of the program focuses heavily on stretching and some mild exercises. After that, the remaining 35 minutes or so involves various exercises of the back, shoulders, abdomen, and legs, finishing with a short relaxation session.
The Weekly Workout program is composed of three 25-minute workouts, intended to provide a maximum benefit in a short period of time. The first workout focuses on the "girdle of strength" (core stability muscles), shoulders, and arms. The second focuses on the buttocks, legs, and feet, while the third workout combines various exercises to do more complex actions that develop coordination, balance, and sensory awareness. There's also a short relaxation session at the end.
Pilates Body Control and Weekly Workout is a very mild, low-key, low-stress exercise program. Athletes, or anyone who does regular exercise and ordinary stretching on a regular basis, will probably find this program to be much too easy. It's quite clear, though, that this is an excellent program for the average non-athlete who wants to improve flexibility and strength, and I would suggest that it's particularly recommended for viewers in their 40s and older, or anyone who is recovering from injury. The stretches are excellent, the exercises are straightforward and not intimidating at all, and the program is easy to schedule since it is made up of several shorter sessions.
The image quality for the Pilates Body Control and Weekly Workout programs is very good, certainly on the high end for exercise videos. The print is very clean and bright, with colors looking natural and rich. Part of why it looks so good is the well-thought-out choice of backgrounds and clothing for Lynne Robinson. She wears bright, solid colors and performs the exercises against a very plain background, usually either plain white or a pastel color. This makes it very easy to see exactly what she's doing.
The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is satisfactory; the instructor's voice is always understandable, and the music remains low-key and in the background. One odd thing about the soundtrack is that some parts were clearly recorded and inserted later: there's a distinct difference in the way Lynne Robinson sounds when she's giving instruction "live" as she performs an exercise, and when she's giving the instruction through a voice-over on the DVD, with the latter sounding slightly louder and flatter. In both cases, it's perfectly understandable, though.
The only special features are production credits and information about a DVD newsletter.
Pilates Body Control and Weekly Workout is an excellent workout program for people who are intimidated by working out in general. It's a clearly explained, straightforward introduction to the Pilates style of exercise, and offers a very gentle and low-stress way for viewers to improve their flexibility and strength. While it's a bit too low-key to be particularly useful for those viewers who already exercise and stretch on a regular basis, it's ideal for older viewers, non-athletes, and people recovering from injury. Considering that there's a lot of content here (the 90-minute Body Control program as well as three 25-minute programs that make up the Weekly Workout), this DVD offers an excellent value, and I'll give it a "highly recommended" for viewers who are interested in getting started with Pilates.