Tae Bo - Billy Blanks

If you're American or Canadian you're bound to have heard of the phenomenon that is Tae Bo. If you're from anywhere else in the world there's a good chance that while you may recognise the name you don't have a clue what it means!

Basically, Tae Bo is the name given by Billy Blanks (a martial arts expert and occasional actor) to the exercise routine that he has devised. Using a combination of martial arts type moves - which include different kinds of punches and kicks - and more regular aerobic video moves like squats, stretches and lunges he has created a new kind of exercise video.

If you're sick of plodding (or jumping and bouncing) along to the regular kind of exercise video and want something that makes you feel strong, de-stresses you, gets your heart beat up and, apparently, burns 400 calories in just half an hour you've found the right exercise for you.

There's something very empowering about doing a Tae Bo workout. If you've had a hard day at work, or are annoyed with your partner or your boss it's almost a relief to put on a Tae Bo video and punch and kick your heart out (imagining the annoying person is your target!) at the same time as getting your heart going, working up a sweat, toning muscles and burning calories.

Billy Blanks (the instructor) is incredibly motivating and even comes up to the camera on occasion and stares right at you (or so it seems) and asks if you're holding your stomach in, or pushes you to punch a little harder or kick a little higher.

True, when you start Tae Bo you will be completely puffed after your first attempt but, believe us, it does get easier and the results the exercise has on firming up your body (ever those flappy 'dinner lady arms'!) and increasing your muscle tone is so worth it.

We review the Tae Bo tapes we actually own and regularly use ourselves.

NB: These are reviews of videos made for the UK market - US and other versions of these tapes may contain differences or be named differently. If you'd like to read reviews of US Tae Bo videos we suggest you click here

Tae Bo 1

This is the first Tae Bo video we bought and is perfect for introducing the beginner to the series. At the end of the tape is the Instructional part which basically shows you how to perform the punching and kicking moves that you'll be doing in the 30 minute section at the beginning of the tape. Billy stresses how important it is to do the moves carefuly and not over extend your arm or leg when kicking or punching. The Intructional part of the video is like a little workout in itself so if you're very unfit you could do this section until you feel ready to move on to the 30 minute workout.

The actual workout itself is a good mixture of a lot of the moves. There's plenty of regular punches, upper cuts, round house kicks, side kicks and combinations. The tempo is upbeat and there's plenty of counting from the 'gang' and Shelley (Tae Bo moves tend to be done in sets of eight and the participants count along). The music is lively but not noticeable enough that it annoys you when you're doing the video for the nth time!

Buy Tae Bo 1 on Video
Buy Tae Bo 1 on DVD

Tae Bo 2

It's the second video in the series but that doesn't mean it's an advanced version of tape one. (If you want advanced look at the review for Tape 5). There is a lot of arm work in this video - plenty of punches, regular and upper cuts and speedbags but no real kicks. That doesn't mean your legs won't get a workout as the lunges are pretty evil and you can certainly feel your thigh muscles burn! Again Shelley and the gang are part of this video (though Shelley has a new hairstyle in this one!). It's up-tempo and a good addition to your collection if you need some variation.

Also included on this video is the Instructional part which teaches you how to do the moves safely.

Buy Tae Bo 2 on Video
Buy Tae Bo 2 on DVD

Tae Bo 3

This video is very similar to Tape 1 in that it includes punches, kicks and combinations but there's a few new moves thrown in there. You seem to need a bit more co-ordination to do this video as Billy has thrown in a few twists on the regular moves to keep you challenged but after a few sessions doing it you soon get the idea! There's a fair bit of waist work in this video - lots of twisting to the side as you do a squat and we could really feel the ache in our waist muscles the next day. It's also a quite arms intensive tape and your triceps really ache afterwards!

This video includes an 8-minute workout for when you haven't got the time to do a full 30 minute workout. It's just as intense as the 30 minute workout and at, possibly, an even faster speed - but only lasts 8 minutes!

Buy Tae Bo 3 on Video
Buy Tae Bo 3 on DVD

Tae Bo 4 - Abs and Glutes

Tae Bo 4 is the first in the series to specialise in a particular body part. Whilst the other videos all tone up the stomach as part of the routine (you automatically tighten your stomach muscles for balance for the kicks) this one specifically targets the abs and glutes or, in plain English, your tum and you bum! There is a very fast, very short aerobic/warm up section at the beginning and you also immediately get down on the floor for the abs section. Think you can do a few sit ups and will find it easy? Think again! You'll be shouting at the screen as Billy pushes you through the different stomach exercises. When you make it through you may be tempted to think 'Ah. I can relax and do the glutes bit now.' But oh no..the glutes bit is TOUGH. You can really feel it working your bum (people with dodgy needs might need to get a thick cushion for this bit as you'll be on your hands and knees) and you must already have 'buns of steel' if you can do every glutes exercise without stopping. This video is fantastic for the abs and glutes and you will DEFINITELY feel it the next day!

Buy Tae Bo 4 on Video
Buy Tae Bo 4 on DVD

Tae Bo 5

Tae Bo 5 is a great buy if you've done Tapes 1-3 and are looking for something to push you further. Infact, we think this tape is great value because you get a 30 minute basic workout at the beginning and a 50 minute 'Advanced' workout at the end. As a result this video isn't really suitable for the absolute beginner who should get one of Tapes 1-3 as they all include the Instructional workout. The 30 minute workout on this tape includes both punches and kicks (similar to Tape 1) but in a different order and with a few different moves thrown in (like a new variation on the speedbag punch).

The Advanced workout is something new! As well as a warm up and some punching and kicking there's a section in the middle that specifically works the abs and the glutes (that's stomach and bum to the rest of us!). As opposed to the rest of the workout you have to get down on the ground for the abs and glutes part and boy does it burn! You really, really can feel the exercises working and you know you're getting a firm bum if you can make it all the way through the glutes part without stopping!

This video is definitely recommended - a basic and an advanced workout for the cost of a basic and instructional tape. Really good value.

Buy Tae Bo 5 on Video
Buy Tae Bo 5 on DVD

Tae Bo Gold

This video is a bit of an odd one in that the music, the counting and the people are different from the 1-3 videos and video 5. There's no Shelley and the group is different (though 74 year old Marge is still there!). As a result there's no-one really shouting out "1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8" and the music isn't quite so up-tempo. Infact, although this video still helps you work up a sweat it seems far more of an introduction to the Tae Bo series as Billy stresses the easy version of the moves and even shows you how to do kicks if you are chair-bound.

It's an interesting video because it's a real mixed-bag of the moves we've seen in the other videos. There's still punching and kicking but doing this one doesn't leave your arms aching afterwards (like videos 2 and 3 for example). Unlike Tapes 1-3 there is floor work for your glutes in this video and a more in-depth cool down at the end.

We recommend this video to someone who hasn't worked out in a while and who needs a more gentle introduction to the Tae Bo series.

Buy Tae Bo Gold on Video
Buy Tae Bo Gold on DVD

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