Monday, December 13, 2010

Review: ChaLEAN Extreme - "Muscle Burns Fat"

If you've been reading my weekly weight loss reports then you know I've been doing ChaLEAN Extreme for 90 days now. I've waited a long time to write a review of this product because there are three phases to it and I didn't want to give my opinion until I was finished. Yes, you'll get before and after pictures and measurements (sort of... I forgot to measure myself the day I began). You'll also get my thoughts on each Phase as well as the extra workouts that come with the program.

Image from BuffBride.net
About ChaLEAN Extreme - A Short Synopsis
You will hear it over and over again in these videos: Muscle burns fat! Chalene Johnson takes you through a three phased weight lifting routine focused on adding muscle to your body and changing your body's composition in an effort to up your metabolism and burn away excess fat. To do the weight lifting portions of the program you need a set of free weights or a good set of resistance bands and a thigh toning band. The set comes with a light weight resistance and a heavy thigh toning band to get you started. Each phase consists of three weight training programs which you use during your weekly schedule.

Since you can't lift weights every day, ChaLEAN Extreme also comes with two cardio based workout programs, two ab programs, and a bonus video of the Burn Intervals program I told you about when I reviewed Turbo Jam Fat Burning Elite. There is also an exercise called


Sample Schedule
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Rest Day
or optional cardio
Weight Workout 1
Dependent on Phase
Rest Day
or optional cardio
Weight Workout 2
Dependent on Phase
Burn Intervals
Ab Burner or Extreme Abs
Weight Workout 2
Dependent on Phase
Burn it Off!
Recharge

Before ChaLEAN Extreme
The Burn Phase
In the first month of ChaLEAN Extreme, Chalene starts you out with weight lifting exercises doing 10-12 reps as heavy as you can lift them. These exercise sometimes, but not consistently, focus on using more than one muscle group. I found myself burning around 250 calories a workout pretty consistently. Within the first week I started to notice my biceps in particular had gained definition. This got me very excited. But the weights I was lifting made me realize how weak I was. I looked forward to each workout because I knew I would just be getting stronger. It was a rude awakening when I tried the Burn Intervals program for the first time... more on that later.

After ChaLEAN Extreme
The Push Phase
Many people's favorite phase, including mine. Here's where you really start to feel strong and powerful! Your goal is to fatigue your muscles by 6-8 reps, which means lifting REALLY HEAVY weights! I chose my weights according to what ChaLEAN was lifting and was surprised to find that I was lifting the same amount (if not more) by the second week. You truly learn what it means to fatigue your muscles during this phase.

During the Push Phase, the program also switches from doing Ab Burner to doing Extreme Abs. I did not notice this on my schedule (which I was keeping track of on TeamBeachBody.com). As a result I think I started to fall behind on my abdominal strength. I never quite made up for it.

Before ChaLEAN Extreme
I also realized that I got more of calorie burn doing Turbo Jam than Burn It Off! during this phase. I started substituting a Cardio Party for Burn It Off!  It wasn't long before I decided Recharge wasn't for me and ditched that too. But I stuck to the core of the workouts.

My thighs really gained muscle - you wouldn't believe the difference I started to notice in my legs and butt! I burned anywhere from 250-350 a workout in calories here.

After ChaLEAN Extreme
The Lean Phase
This phase, after the Push Phase, is a very rude awakening. You start lifting heavy (not as heavy as Push but heavier than Lean) and doing 10-12 reps. Not only that, but every single exercise involves more than one muscle group. And nearly every exercise has your core engaged. One person I know said that this phase was the one where she noticed the most dramatic changes in her body. It's easy to see why once you're in  it. For me, I began to notice that my back was changing and becoming more defined. After some exercises, I could feel my abs in a way that I never had before. Additionally, every single exercise has a "Get Extreme" part, or a "Break Down" set that you do after your muscles have fatigued. In the previous phases, you don't "Get Extreme" after each exercise.

Curiously, ChaLEAN Extreme's calendar on Team Beach Body ditches the ab workouts during this phase. Though you do start to get more core work with your core exercise programs, I'm not sure they should have done that.

My calorie burn was usually between 350 and 450 calories. It was seriously intense!

Before ChaLEAN Extreme
Burn Intervals - 47 minutes, about 450-550 calories
I made my mother do this workout with me. I don't think she knew what she was getting herself into. This workout consists of alternating cardio workouts with muscle endurance workouts. Each set of exercises is done in around 2 minute intervals on average. The idea is to bring your heart rate up really high, then to recover during the muscle endurance. I'll be honest - I dread doing this workout. But I make myself do it once a week because I swear I visibly see results the next day after doing this workout. It is crazy hard if you're not used to intervals. Because of that I've sort of come to love this workout just a little. There is one exercise, Sumo Burpees, I really had to work my way up to doing. Keep in mind that because this has a ton of exercises in it you may be better at some than others. But once the Sumo Burpees are over with you're home free.

After ChaLEAN Extreme
Burn It Off! - 30ish minutes, about 250-350 calories
This is similar to Burn Intervals in that you do a series of five exercises at around 2 minutes each, then you have a short break, then you do it again. I didn't find it to be as effective as Burn Intervals and thus ended up dropping it from my schedule and replacing it with a Cardio Party from Turbo Jam which was a lot more entertaining. I'd rather have fun with my workouts and burn more calories than do this workout. However, that being said there are some exercises in here that are very effective body shapers - like Screamers for example. If you do what I did with this exercise and ditch it you will come to miss parts of it.

Recharge - 30 minutes

Yoga workout. Yoga and I don't get along. I found this workout to be difficult at times and not as good at stretching my muscles as I would have liked. I really wish Chalene had more stretching in this one. There's a point where the yoga turns to more muscle training. I never felt "recharged" after this. I just bored.


Before ChaLEAN Extreme
Ab Burner - 10 minutes
This is mostly a crunches workout. But it's a great little 10 minute ab workout. There is one point where Chalene has you take a light weight and start crunching with the weight. That exercise is great. It was hard for me to do this the first two weeks I tried it. But by the middle of the Push month this became pretty easy.

Extreme Abs - 15 minutes
Oh boy... this workout really threw me for a loop! I thought my abs had gotten strong, then I went to do this workout and realized how wrong I was. I have only done this once - it is intense. But I am going to try to work it into my regular rotation. It's effective.


Choosing Weights
Your package of ChaLEAN Extreme comes with a resistance band. I strongly suggest either getting your own set of resistance bands from Target or somewhere else, or better yet... purchase a pair of Bowflex Select Tech weights. The resistance band given to you is very light and not very effective in my opinion. I didn't like it at all. You do need your weights to be easy to change sizes, and quick to change sizes. I ended up picking up a set of Power Blocks because they were cheaper than the Select Techs. The downside to this was that I couldn't do weights like 17.5 lbs which would have been very helpful when I couldn't quite lift 20 lbs on a certain exercise but 15 lbs was too light. Having not used them, I recommend forking over the extra $150 for the Select Techs. After all, it is also what Chalene uses in her videos.


After ChaLEAN Extreme
Using the Guide Book
ChaLEAN Extreme comes with a guide book to help you track your progress. It is very handy to write down the weights you were using  and make notations on how many reps it took to reach failure, if you need to change your weight in a future workout. The photographs and descriptions of each weight workout in the book are actually pretty bad. While I wanted to see them, they were misleading sometimes, or in some cases absolutely in correct. For example, In the Lean month the Lean Phase 1 workout requires the use of a chair for some workouts but the photos don't show the person using one. Also there is no place that mentions the Break Down Set - I would find it helpful to actually make notes of performance on Break Down sets as well. 

Quality of the Video
It's easy to tell that the video is of higher quality than Turbo Jam. Everything looks clean, there's a bit of glitz about the studio. What I didn't like was that you could see the camera men wandering around from time to time. To me, that made it feel like a cheesy badly made cheap porno flick (ok, I don't have a lot of experience here but that's what my husband tells me). I know it's a style choice by whoever directed these videos, but I found it distracting. Also, contrary to the Turbo Jam videos, Chalene walks around the room and points out what everyone's doing in the middle of the rep set. So she starts the reps, and finishes them, but does not work out with you the entire time. I didn't like that as much.

Overall
I definitely see a huge difference in my body after doing ChaLEAN Extreme. It may not come out in photos. But it is there. I have biceps! My back is totally ripped. My legs look awesome. My stomach could use more work, but that's my fault for picking and choosing what workouts I did on my non-weight training days. I would not recommend this video set for someone just getting into working out. But it is a great second set. I would also recommend it for someone who does want to do weight lifting but doesn't like the gym. It was very liberating to do this in the comfort of my own living room.

Note on Before and After Pics
By the way... The week I really started ChaLEAN Extreme I weighed in at 176.6 lbs after doing several of the workouts. . My Last weigh in was 163.5. My Before Pictures were taken around 185 lbs, but they were the best "Befores" I could find.

A Word Of Caution
I will say this, however: be careful you don't hurt your muscles. It is easy to do when you're weight training by yourself. I tweaked my back one time and it hurt for several days. Once my back got stronger, the pain I felt when I would put stress on my lower back went away. Just know your limitations and make sure you are using proper form.

You can purchase ChaLEAN Extreme from Beach Body through me for $119.85, or $89.89 if you are a coach. And don't forget... Becoming a Coach is FREE for the first month until the end of the year.

My Review of Turbo Jam and Turbo Jam Fat Burning Elite.
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