Review – Charlene Johnson’s PiYo DVD series from Beachbody


Pilates and Yoga have been combined before, I believe Jonathan Urla may have coined the term Yogalates, meaning a mixture of the two practices.

But more recently the term Piyo has come to be associated with Beachbody’s Charlene Johnson’s Piyo which, while it too is a combination of Pilates and Yoga, is a nearly continuous movement for a low- or minimal-impact workout.  Most of the DVD’s are between half an hour to fifty minutes, though most are at the lower end of that time scale.

I was a bit skeptical about trying this series as it seems to be marketed somewhat more toward A) women, B) those who want to lose weight and ‘sculpt’ their bodies, and C) people with varying levels of experience with workouts, all ages, and all physical abilities.

Usually these are a bit of a red flag for me as A) I am not B) I don’t need to – okay, maybe still a little around the middle C) this usually means it’s simple, possibly relatively easy, and may not be as much of a challenge to me personally; not that I’m a big athlete or anything but I want a good challenge and I’m used to the harder Beachbody series of workout DVD’s.

The inclusion of a DVD called ‘Buns’ almost sealed the deal when it came to discouraging me from trying it.

But after watching some demo videos, asking some questions about it of a marathon-running acquaintance as well as a Beachbody coach, and trying some non-Beachbody Piyo workouts on Youtube – I said ‘screw it, I’m going to try it!”.  After all; I like Yoga, Pilates, and working out, I figured I’d at least get something out of it, or possibly use it for lighter workout days or rest days.

Like most of the Beachbody series this comes with the workout DVD’s, a workout calendar, Nutrition Guide, Quick Start, etc.  Also like a number of the Beachbody series there is a basic version as well as a deluxe kit; the latter of which has some extra additions like more workouts, a yoga mat, etc.  The deluxe one also has “TurboFire: Low HIIT 20” which doesn’t seem to fit that well (it’s not on the workout calendar) with the rest of the DVD’s, even though it also is led my Charlene Johnson.  It’s really a totally different type of workout and I think it’s put there in an effort to expose you to and possibly get you to buy the TurboFire series.

Charlene is in absolutely spectacular shape, and so are all of her workout buddies including those over forty (you wouldn’t know it!) and the modifier.  Her sister even joins in, and she also, of course, is just as fit as the rest.

The faux gym set is pretty standard Beachbody fare, a nice ‘gym’ feel but homey, with various pieces of equipment in the background including weights, a bike, foam rollers, stability balls, etc (none of which are used).piyo1.png

A few of the notable workouts here;

piyobullet.pngThe first thing you probably will do is “Align: The Fundamentals”.  It’s considered part of the beginning of the workout calendar and you only do it once, but it’s not so much a real workout as an instructional video on how to properly carry out the various poses and the movements using them.  You will practice with it, and if you’re not familiar with Yoga and Pilates you probably want to do this, though you’re supposed to anyway.

piyobullet.pngThe “Define Upper Body” and “Define Lower Body” are the first two real workouts that you do, and they are pretty simple and short and basic.  Charlene is a bit too bubbly in these for my personal taste, fortunately she’s more down to business in the rest of the series.  If you’re not used to Yoga and Pilates you’ll definitely want to do these over and over.  if you are they are going to seem pretty rudimentary.

piyobullet.png“Drench” is a pretty good one, it’s about 48 minutes and while I didn’t exactly get ‘drenched’ (you want to get ‘drenched’ – do an Insanity DVD!) it was a good moderate workout.  I felt stretched, sweaty, and pretty well-worked out, though I wouldn’t have minded if it had been longer and/or harder.  Like others in the series I found that after doing it a few times I started modifying some of the moves to make them slightly harder.  I guess I wouldn’t have necessarily needed to do that for a good workout; just personal preference.

Like the others in the series you start out doing many moves in slower and possibly modified form and then work up to the harder and faster movements.  The modifier of course has the usual simpler, less strenuous versions.

This is definitely one of the harder ones.  There’s some good moves around the middle that give you some good leg workouts, with a lot of repetitious movements on one leg.

piyobullet.png“Sculpt” is one of the my favorites – not so much because it’s super-active or more interesting than the other videos but because there are some good bodyweight exercises in this one, both for the upper body as well as the lower.

piyobullet.png‘Strength Intervals’ seems short; it starts out slowly but works up in intensity.  If you are used to doing “intervals” in anything else then you may be disappointed in this one, and wish for more and longer intervals.  You’ll get some good bodyweight exercise but it is fairly light in the ‘Intervals’ department, it’s similar to the other of the more intense videos in this series.  Good but not real intense, and just when it seems to be ramping up it’s over with.


Screenshot from Beachbody’s website.

On to my impressions of the series in general – sometimes I feel that the cameramen and editors show too much of the modifier’s moves, but I can understand that this is geared toward all levels so this is necessary.

In one of the videos Charlene mentions a little about how she got into this, and that everyone in that particular video are over forty (and they sure don’t look it!).  So if you are a bit older and doing this series then know that you can do it at pretty much any age, at least with some mods if needed.

Charlene’s method of teaching is more of doing most of it, rather than doing a little to make sure people see the proper form and then going to walk around to correct or to point out what others are up to  You may like this better than other series, you may not.

At times she does do a fair amount of explaining of moves and proper form, but none of them are so complex that you can’t just listen to her instructions and glance at the screen once in a while to figure them out rather than have to preview the videos, or stare at the tv screen the whole time.  She does at times concentrate on modifications, as well as general explanations as needed throughout the series.  And once in a while she also mentions proper nutrition and even a plug Shakeology, Turbo Wear (Beachbody’s brand of workout gear), and such as well.  There are also ads on the DVD’s but nothing obtrusive.

Funny thing happened for me with this series.  As I did it I felt like it was indeed a bit geared toward women, as well as towards those who perhaps didn’t do as many kinds nor as intense exercises as I normally do.  Yet it wasn’t long before I started feeling it here and there.  It wasn’t a “wake up in the morning and barely be able to get out of bed” feeling but it was there in specific likely-lesser-used muscles.  If you are a dude who wants to try this series go for it, and enjoy it for the exercise you get, even though each DVD only has one guy who does the session with the others.

I have to say that one day I overdosed on Piyo and ‘binged’ on four of the exercises in one day (plus a ‘Les Mills Combat ‘Stretch and Strength‘) and while I didn’t feel it at the time the next day I indeed did feel that it had been quite a bit of exercise in one day, for sure.

If you are in pretty good shape and especially if you are used to exercising this series is going to be a good workout but nothing terribly intense.  If you’re used to doing Yoga you especially will find yourself able to quickly follow along with Charlene and the others quite well, though it is probably going to feel strange familiar yet unfamiliar because of the constant movements.

If you are a ‘graduate’ of something like P90X or maybe even Insanity, or are a person who works their whole body out often you might find this a VERY moderate exercise series, and you may find yourself longing for something a bit harder.  You’re going to sweat, and it will be a good workout for sure, but maybe not as intense as what you might be used to if you do some of the more intensive BeachBody programs or other things.

If you are not familiar with Yoga especially, or are not very flexible, or aren’t used to working out or maybe are not in the best shape; it is going to be fairly difficult and take you longer to get into proper form.  You may  have to follow the modifier or make your own modifications until you are ready.

And it may even not be something that you can do easily by the end of the workout calendar period if you are really inflexible or in not-so-good shape; it may take more time and modifications until you are more flexible and able to keep up.  Don’t despair though, just give yourself a break and then start the series over again.

Even for those who are in good shape it may take a while to remember some of the moves and sequences at the beginning, especially if you are not used to Yoga terms.  The moves and sequences are not terribly complicated, and there are many repetitions – both in each individual DVD as well as among the whole series itself; so you are going to get plenty of opportunity to learn them.

Unfortunately the repetition might also be a problem if you start doing this series over and over again, there is a LOT of repetition and it may become a tad boring or tedious.  This can affect your enjoyment of it, but on the other hand you can develop a good ‘muscle memory’ eventually – a lot of personal preference here.  The high repetitions can mean that eventually your body will just follow proper form seemingly on its own, and you can consciously concentrate more on stretching further and getting more range of motion instead of having to get into a pose and then quickly out again.  Lots of repetitious moves has its pro’s and it’s con’s.

If you have wrist issues, or other mobility problems you might want to modify or talk to your doctor of course.  You’ll find some wrist work here so be aware.

Charlene is very enthusiastic and perky, and perhaps that annoys you a bit but I think you’ll find her generally down to business with only the occasionally foray into being overly enthusiastic.

I think of all of the DVD series I have reviewed on this blog this is perhaps one of the best for relative beginners and those who are not flexible and/or not used to working out.  There’s a lot of modification available, and the moves – even without mods – are not super-intense.  And for those who don’t want to or can not do high impact it’s also quite good.

But saying that it isn’t one of the easier Biggest Loser DVD’s either, you need to do some work here no matter what your abilities.

And you can make a number of the moves a bit harder and more intense – like starting out moves in the more difficult positions instead of the beginning easier ones, doing more reps and faster ones, adding a jump to certain places where you might be switching foot positions, lifting your foot when you are told to do a toe touch, doing knee push ups on your toes, etc.  Use your imagination.  And if you know Yoga you can do the more advanced poses that you might be already familiar with.

So in conclusion I would say on a scale of one to ten; where something like P90X is an 8 or 9 and Insanity is, well, a fifteen 😉 – PiYo series is somewhere in the five or six range.  It’s a good addition to my personal library of DVD exercise workouts but not something I will likely do as often as more intense workouts.

For those who are starting out or need a lower impact workout this would be excellent, and even for those who are used to more intense workouts this is a great intermediate combo bodyweight and stretching workout, but lacking if you need a very intense sort of bodyweight workout.  Not that there aren’t some good bodyweight sections here, and with some mods you can make them even more intense if needed, but this is definitely low-intensity low-impact in general.


Marc M

I am a web developer and fitness geek, but I have a heck of a lot of differing interests.  Biking, the Internet, technology, movies, fitness, running and walking and hiking, science fiction, photography, graphics, WordPress, flying and aircrafts, pets and animals, history, and much more.  I like to stay very fit but I don’t mind sitting at my computer for work and play either.  I live in upstate New York (that’s far from New York City) in a rural area, yet close to a small city, with my beautiful awesome wife, a bunch of beloved cats and dogs and chickens in a very old multi-century house.

One Comment:

  1. Thanks so much for the excellent review. I am an ex-competitive athlete and Insanity addict, but I am officially OLD (OK…. older…..mid-50’s), so I would like a terrific workout with less plyo and more stretching. I appreciate your thoughts and insight on this! Thanks so much.

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