When traveling at the end of last year, I was looking for an easy, no equipment workout program that I could do anywhere. I came across Daily Burn 365, a program offering a new group fitness class every day with a variety of styles and instructors. Since it was the year-end holiday season, Daily Burn made their daily classes equipment free, knowing that many people were traveling and wouldn’t have access to weights. It was a quick and handy 30 minute workout that built up a decent sweat.
In addition to Daily Burn 365, I noticed that Daily Burn had a series of other programs. I was hesitant at first, worried the programs would require me to buy a bunch of equipment I didn’t want or, worse yet, constantly try to sell me supplements and diet plans. I experimented with a few workouts and settled on a first program to try: the Daily Burn 20 Minute Total Body Strength. The program requires only dumbbells and a mat — a perfect fit for my Simple Fitness routine. Plus, if the workouts weren’t challenging enough, I could supplement the quick 20 minutes with other workouts of my own. Easy!
Here’s my review of the program.
Overall Program Description
The program is a 4 week program, 5 days a week. Each week contained 3 days of harder workouts and 2 days of easier (but not necessarily easy) workouts. The easier workouts were often yoga, Pilates, or mobility based. As the name suggests, each day of the program is 20 minutes. I liked the predictability of the program. For the harder workouts, you would need a “lighter” set of weights and “heavier” set of weights. For some of the yoga inspired days, the instructor would sometimes suggest a yoga block or yoga strap. I didn’t have yoga equipment on hand and was able to do without them. (If you’re not very flexible, you may want to invest in a block and a strap, although you can improvise with a stack of books and a hand towel.) One class called for a jump rope, but I just pretended to have a rope and did the moves without it. It felt slightly silly, but that’s why I do this stuff when no one is looking!
The program had a different 12 different trainers, each coming from different styles and backgrounds. They all were quite good, with solidly constructed workouts. At times, they seemed a little too perfect. I like my instructors to be as sweaty and winded as me, at least sometimes. Each brought their own unique style and expertise to the sessions. Some of my favorites were Phoenix Carnevale (Total Body Bootcamp), who has a Mixed Martial Arts specialty and brought some creative, boxing inspired moves to her workout. I also liked Gregg Cook (Total Body Flexibility, Total Body Cardio + Mobility, Total Body Warmup, and Total Body Movement). Gregg focuses on functional mobility but mixes in some unexpected and brutal body weight strength and cardio components. His moves were really unique. Prince Brathwaite (Total Body Strength) gave clear instructions, good modifications, and his class was easy to follow.
That said, none of the instructors were bad. Several could do a better job of offering alternatives or modifications to the workouts for people of different fitness levels or with injuries. Some of the workouts gave unrealistic amounts of time to change out weights (more on that below). But I wouldn’t kick any of these instructors off the team.
The program started and ended with a short (approx. 2-3 minutes) warm up and cool down. While the warm up moves were decent, they were too short, especially if I was jumping into exercise first thing in the morning or after being sedentary. I added an additional warm up and cool down, or I would start with a different workout that warmed me up beforehand.
Several workouts called for a set of lighter and heavier weights. This didn’t work well for me. The instructors gave little guidance on the range of weights one might use. I would watch closely to see what the exercise would entail and make a snap judgment on the weights. Because I use a nested set of dumbbells (more details in this post), I often scrambled to change out my weights. If you have several sets of individual dumbbells, you’ll find this easier. It would be nice to get some guidance on the ranges of weights or types of exercises in advance, or at least some idea what the instructor is using. Some general guidelines on weights for both men and women, even if in the workout description, would be really helpful. I also would like to see more modifications or alternations offered for beginners, people with injuries, or those with chronic knee or back problems.
Each workout is designed as a total body workout, meaning that both the upper body and the lower body get worked. Since it’s only 20 minutes, the instructors often use compound or combination movements — ones that work both the upper body and the lower body at the same time. An simple example is a squat combined with a bicep curl. You’re working both your quads and your biceps at the same time.
Compound or combination moves can be very effective and efficient, but I don’t like to do them all of the time. I find that one body part tends to get overworked and the other under worked. In my example of the squat and bicep curl, in order to work your biceps, you most likely will have to use lighter weights than a simple squat would require. If you use your normal squat weight, you probably can’t curl with your biceps (unless you’re Mr. Incredible). In the Daily Burn workouts, I found that my neck and shoulders often got overworked and my legs not enough. Compound moves are great to do, but I prefer to mix them up with more focused or isolation moves.
Otherwise, the variety of instructors and styles kept me interested, and the program was balanced between harder workouts and easier ones. A lot of videos left me dripping in sweat — which is good for just 20 minutes of work.
Technology and Ease of Use
I streamed the program through my iPad Air over a web browser. You can also use the Daily Burn app, which is available on your mobile device, laptop, and several of the TV streaming technologies like Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, and Google Chromecast. The experience is mostly the same. I mostly liked the interface of the program. Once you select a program to follow, it loads automatically on your home page. And it successively lines up the videos in your series, feeding you each video in order — super handy and easy to follow.
There are a few areas of improvement. I found the video loading a bit glitchy. More often than not, the video wouldn’t load correctly, just giving me sound and a black screen or frozen picture. I usually had to rewind the video 1-2 times before it would work correctly (same result on both an iPad and more traditional laptop). I wanted to have a description of the workout in advance and some guidelines on the amount of weights to use (see above), so I could prep the right weights in advance and minimize the number of times I needed to pause the video. There’s really no indication of what type of exercises you’ll be doing or how much weight to use prior to jumping in.
It would be helpful if you could more easily pause and move the video back and forth by 15 seconds. You have to tap on the screen and then manipulate the virtual buttons. I’ve used other websites (e.g., Fitness Blender) where you can use the keyboard space bar to pause the video, and the keyboard arrow buttons to move forward or backwards by 15 or 30 seconds. This makes a surprising difference when you have sweaty hands.
And, the music was cheesy exercise video music. Blech.
Styles and Exercises
I like this program because it introduced me to some new styles of exercise and interesting new moves. It’s a good marketing ploy, because I am curious to explore other programs in the Daily Burn family with styles or trainers I enjoyed. (I’m looking at you, Phoenix, with your rocking Mixed Marital Arts style).
Here are a few new things I learned.
Stretching versus Mobility. Through this program, I became more thoughtful about the difference between stretching, which I always do before and after a workout, and mobility and PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation). I’m by far no expert, but I understand PNF to be an advanced form of stretching, while mobility works your joints through a full range of motion.
In Day 4 of the Daily Burn 20 Minute Total Body Strength, Cheri Fogleman references PNF in her workout, and it peaked my curiosity. Some say that doing PNF is impractical on one’s own because people usually need a partner. I found Cheri’s routine to be perfectly doable and more helpful than my usual stretching.
For mobility, here is a helpful explanation:
Mobility is the ability to move a limb through its full range of motion. This is not to be confused with flexibility which is simply the length of the muscle. Mobility is a controlled voluntary movement through its entire functional range of motion. Mobility training is the process in which you work to improve mobility in all or a single joint. In doing so you reduce the potential of imbalances, thus reducing the risk for injuries, allows for full benefits of exercise by moving limbs through their respective full range of motion, and helps you move better whether that is for daily activities or for sport.
Daily Burn has an impressive amount of mobility worked into its programs. In fact, it has entire program focused on mobility called (you guessed it) Daily Burn Mobility. Gregg Cook is Daily Burn’s mobility guru. And let me tell you, the dude can challenge your muscles as well as your joints in ways that seem like no big deal at the time. One of my most sore days was after one of his workouts. It was an interesting change of pace.
AMRAP. I’ve probably been living under an exercising rock, but I never heard the term AMRAP before this program. It stands for “as many reps as possible” or “as many rounds as possible.” Day 1 of the program included an AMRAP workout. I liked the workout, but I’m on the fence about AMRAP as an approach for weight-based strength training. When using weights, it’s better to lift more slowly with excellent form than doing as many as possible or as fast as possible. It’s too easy to get sloppy. But the instructor, Cece Marizu, did a good job of keeping focus on form in her video. Since this program, I’ve done some other workouts that have as many rounds as possible. One included 14 rounds of four different exercises. While it was a well-constructed workout, I was just plain old bored at doing the same 4 moves over and over.
Some Interesting New Moves. I really liked the amount of variety in this program, and I learned some cool new moves. Here are a few of my new favorites. Sorry I can’t link to the actual Daily Burn clips, but you need a subscription to view them. I linked some alternative examples.
I like this program for its variety, predictability, and creativity. If you decide to try it yourselves, my advice is as follows:
- If you’re new to exercise, make sure you add in extra warm up and cool down to avoid injury
- Keep a variety of weights on hand so you can switch quickly and easily if the ones you choose are too light or heavy. Having just “a light set” and “a heavy set” can be frustrating
- Be patient with yourself. Some moves might be awkward, especially the PNF and mobility moves
Happy fitness! -Kim