Exercise DVD Review: Jillian Michael’s Shred It with Weights

If you’ve read any of my reviews before, you’ll know that I generally take a very light-hearted and whimsical approach to them.  I hate dry and stuffy reviews, and I prefer to try to make them at least somewhat entertaining while providing you the reader with my impressions and opinions of the item or restaurant or book or movie in question.  Unfortunately, this review is not light-hearted, but I don’t think it’s going to be dry either.  Normally, when I write a review, I’m in a good genial mood.  Right now, I’m not.  Honestly, I’m a little angry.  I am also disappointed, and in a way, I feel betrayed.  Bear with me; there is honestly a review in here.

I’ve written before about Jillian Michaels.  I have always admired her, ever since I started watching The Biggest Loser and got inspired by her take-no-prisoners attitude and foul mouth.  She wasn’t afraid to scream or get in someone’s face, and I thought it was refreshing.  By contrast, she made Bob Harper look milquetoast, bland, and dull.  I bought her DVDs like The Biggest Winner series and 30-Day Shred, and loved them.  They were the springboard that I used to get into the shape I am today.  I love those workouts and the time-frozen Jillian that exists within them.

But right now, I don’t admire her.

I don’t like the Jillian that exists now, the one epitomized in the Shred It With Weights DVD.  This Jillian is all about marketing herself and moving product.  She’s got her lines of supplements and her website that charges you money for less content than you get for free from places like SparkPeople.  She got a new book that apologizes for the information in her last book, which did the same thing with the book before that.  She has a yoga exercise DVD that is the second-worst exercise video I’ve ever seen, which I may review later just to get it off my chest.  Now, she has teamed with NordicTrack to sell you a $100 adjustable kettlebell.  This DVD is designed for it.  If you bought the kettlebell she sells, I’m sorry.  Perhaps you can return it.

In the beginning of the Level 1 exercise set (25 minutes long, similar to her 30-Day Shred), she lets you know that you can use a regular dumbbell instead.  Listen to her.  Actually, let me repeat that, a little louder: LISTEN TO HER.  Use the dumbbell.  DO NOT use a kettlebell for this DVD.  Ignore her when she talks like a QVC pitchman about kettlebells.  Kettlebells in and of themselves are fantastic, provided that you know how to use them.  If you do not, they are actually dangerous.  You can very easily injure yourself quite seriously if you do not use proper form.  Jillian Michaels does not know how to use kettlebells properly, and she will not teach you how to do so either.

One move in particular started my downward spiral into actual feelings of betrayal.  In this move, you squat down, swing the kettlebell up to eye level, then back down, then you snatch the kettlebell up until your arm is straight in the air.  The kettlebell will swing up from the front of you to the back, bending your wrist backwards.  The weight then visibly strikes the top of the forearm of the people doing the exercise with the kettlebell.

OK.  First off, snapping your wrist back WITH A WEIGHT ATTACHED TO IT is really, really bad for you.  There isn’t a ton of muscle around your wrist.  It’s mostly tendons and other things.  They aren’t made for this kind of move.  Secondly, when is it EVER a good idea to swing a weight with momentum and strike the top of your arm with it?  Where the kettlebell strikes – and if you are using Jillian’s $100 special, there is an actual EDGE driving into your arm – on my own arm is just bone.  Impacting bone with weight is what people in the trade call a “bad idea”.  Even the shoulder action from this move is unnatural.  Most weight-lifting advice that you receive tells you to use smooth motions, never jerking or snapping.  In this video, she has you do quite a bit of both.  The only way you don’t hurt yourself is if you are using a 5-pound kettlebell, which is absolutely pointless.

If you have this DVD, use a dumbbell, I beg of you.  Many of the exercises that she does are simply unnatural when using a kettlebell.  Chest presses?  Yeah, you’re better off using a dumbbell.  Straining your wrists trying to awkwardly make  kettlebell do things it wasn’t intended for is also a bad idea.  Just use dumbbells.  Literally EVERY exercise can be done very easily and SAFELY with one, and in many cases you can do more and faster moves because you aren’t trying to manipulate an object that doesn’t accommodate itself to those moves well.  Otherwise, as long as you use a dumbbell the DVD is fine.  You’ll get your heartrate up and stuff.  It’s a fairly pedestrian routine that isn’t horrible.

And that, right there, is my problem.  Let’s say you shelled out $130 or so for this DVD and her kettlebell.  That’s a big chunk of change for something you don’t need.  The thing is, kettlebells are “hot” right now.  They’re a trend that’s picking up.  I feel like Jillian made this DVD for that reason and that reason alone.  She isn’t a kettlebell person, but she’s going to get your money from it.  It’s the same issue with Yoga Meltdown.  She isn’t a yoga person.  You won’t learn yoga from it, nor will… nevermind, that’s a different review.  Both of them together, though, revealed a trend for me today.  She wants to move product.  She wants to use the goodwill she’s built up from 10 seasons on TBL to get wealthy and famous – and more power to her.  I, however, am starting to feel like a sucker.  I am sad, and honestly feel like I am close to blasphemy, but I am also angry and hurt and betrayed.  The fact that she charges money for her website, and my wife actually paid money for it before she discovered SparkPeople, galls me.  She espouses that she wants to help people all the time.  Charging for a cut-rate website that can’t even save the foods that you enter (it’s supposed to, but after dealing with tech support multiple times Lady Aravan gave up trying) bothers me.  In contrast, Bob Harper’s site is free.  Track your food.  Watch videos with challenges and tips.  FOR FREE.  Because he wants to help people.

It’s not just me.  Kettleball – real kettleball – websites and groups like this one are appalled by this video.  Kettleballs are an amazingly effective and worthwhile addition to your repertoire, but you need to learn them properly from a professional kettleball trainer.  Unless you are really hankering for a lower back injury to go along with your torn rotator cuff, bad wrists, and bruised forearms.

I want to apologize for this post, but I will not.  I am not being irresponsible and cavalier with the health and well-being of others.  I’m just a little angry, and I’m not hurting anyone.  In fact, I might be helping someone who reads this.  And I’m not even making a dime from it.

About Alan Edwards

An indie writer who does accounting full-time on the side.

Posted on September 17, 2010, in Reviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. My girlfriend and I were turned off by her 30 Day Shred and haven’t picked up her products since. I even reviewed it negatively on Amazon, much to the chagrin of more than a few responders.

    I’m interested to see what the learning curve will be on Bob Harper’s upcoming Kettlebell DVD.

    • I didn’t mind the 30-Day Shred too much, but did outgrow it pretty rapidly. I am very hopeful that Bob’s kettlebell video will be better, but I’m pretty apprehensive, I have to admit.

  1. Pingback: Alton Brown, My Spiritual Father « Me and My Shovel

  2. Pingback: Exercise DVD Review: Bob Harper’s Kettlebell Cardio Shred « Me and My Shovel

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