An Advanced At-Home Exercise Program:
My #1 tip for staying sane and healthy during difficult times is to undertake a workout program that is at least 3 weeks long. It gives structure to each day, provides noticeable physical and emotional benefits, and builds on itself, meaning that progress is evident — and highly satisfying.
Over the past five months, I’ve tried more than 15 different at-home fitness programs, and would like to share with you the one which I most recommend: “6 Weeks of The Work” on Beachbody On Demand with trainer Amoila Cesar!
No one sponsored, paid, or cajoled me to write this article — I just found “The Work” so life-changingly fabulous that I want others to have the chance to experience it. As a note: there are affiliate links in this post, meaning if you purchase through them, I do get a small commission at no extra cost to you — but whether you choose to use them or not, I’m just happy to gush my geeky fitness-loving truth!
Who is “6 Weeks of The Work” For?
First, a warning: “6 Weeks of The Work” is an ADVANCED program. You need a strong base of fitness to complete it, and must already have an understanding of how to modify moves that don’t work for you, since there is no specific modifier indicated on most exercises.
Luckily, if you’re not at that fitness level yet, but you still want to try Amoila’s work, he’s created “4 Weeks of The Prep” to get you ready for “The Work.” Though perhaps I could have started with “The Prep,” I decided to get right into “The Work because I was a high-jumping college athlete, and in adulthood I still make time to work out obsessively. The program’s level ended up being that sweet spot of perfectly challenging for me, and even when I had to modify, I still got a great burn in.
Overview of this On-Demand Fitness Program:
“6 Weeks of the Work” has unique videos for 42 days — which include two rest days a week — one day with no video (just relaxation on your own), and one day with a short stretching and mobility video. I love that you never have to repeat a video!
The regular workouts (5 days of the week) are usually around 45 minutes long, which I found splendid timing. There is a cycle of what each workout focuses on (ex: “Push,” “Pull”) so you don’t over-work one muscle set, and each video includes a quick warm-up and cool-down. Unlike other programs, the cycle lasts roughly two weeks before repeating workout themes, which meant I was never bored from too much repetition of moves or styles.
There are two versions of the program: “Explicit” and “Not Explicit.” If you can deal with swears, I highly recommend the “Explicit” language version since Amoila Cesar’s language play kept me laughing the whole six weeks.
RESULTS from “6 Weeks of The Work”
There is no question that “6 Weeks of the Work” made me stronger and trimmer. Because I’m a middle school teacher, I’m not going to pose shirtless here, but I drew the cartoon above to summarize my fitness gains over those thirty-six days. (See more creative drawings on my new site!)
The biggest improvement I saw was in my core strength. Amoila builds on a series of ab and back exercises which work better than any I’ve experienced. Visually, I was thrilled to see the sides of my six-pack develop, and — I didn’t realize this was a thing before — the indent at the top middle of my abs.
The second major boost I got from “The Work” was shoulder and arm strength. This went hand-in-hand with the core work since a lot came from holding moving planks. More on this shoulder aspect later.
The third and most importantly benefit from “The Work” centers around the fact that I’ve have had knee pain much of my life due to my years as a high jumper. Because of Amoila’s emphasis on lateral and eccentric moves to explicitly treat and prevent injuries, I found my knee pain significantly diminished by the end of the program thanks to the surrounding muscles that got strengthened. I can now lift my two children without hurt!
You will notice I don’t talk about weight loss or nutrition aspect of this program, since I’m already in a happy place with both. However, if weight loss and improved diet are priorities for you, you WILL achieve gains in those realms through “The Work.” The Before and After gallery of photos on Amoila’s page are epic.
What I LOVED about this Online Workout:
Amoila Cesar MADE MY MONTH. He is the most inspiring, delightful, motivating, effective trainer I have ever encountered — in person or online. His style just works for me, and it may work for you, too, if you enjoy “warm-strict” humor. I also recommend watching Cesar’s introductory video, as his life story is fascinating.
I also really liked the cast. Some online programs don’t put mics on the background actors, but “The Work” does, meaning you get to know the quirky personalities of each set of people. As a woman and mama, I got such a kick out of the running joke in the program that the mothers out-work every man there! My workout motivation partner, Steph, and I spent many afternoons giggling by text about things the cast members said and did.
Because every workout has a unique video, I felt like I was watching a TV show for entertainment as much as for fitness. The jokes come fast a funny, and certainly take your mind off the reps.
Beyond personality, I LOVED the exercise moves and flow in “The Work.” It combines cardio AND strength together in HIIT style so after each video, I felt satisfied and cleansed — like I’d done exactly what my body needed. It’s exceedingly hard to find a program that hits this sweet spot of ideal exhaustion and requires neither supplementing nor cutting short.
What Was Harder for Me about “The Work”
The biggest challenge I had with “The Work” is its many shoulder exercises — specifically push-up and pull-up preponderance. Now, I’m a pretty fit, muscular gal… but there is something about those shoulder moves which simply does not match with my body. I had to modify most of them.
On that note, some gear suggestion: These push-up handles ended up being key to avoiding wrist injury for my particular arm set-up, and a thick, squishy mat like this saved my knees when I modified the push-ups.
Luckily, though Amoila Cesar emphasizes that you SHOULD get a chin-up bar for the pull-up components, he always has a modifier for people who either don’t have the bar or (like me) refuse to get one.
The second challenge I had with “The Work” is its intensity. I sweated profusely every episode (except for the rest day and the mobility stretching day each week) which became increasingly problematic since we don’t have air conditioning at home. Cesar recommends doing two sets of the program back to back, but when I was done with the 42 days, I definitely needed a break!
What Equipment is Needed for “The Work?”
You could take or leave the push-up handles, but a thick workout mat is a must — at least half an inch but ideally closer to an inch thick. This is particularly vital for someone like me who works out in just compression socks without shoes. (I’ve been reading increasing research about why it’s beneficial to work out shoeless — especially for stability practice during weightlifting.)
You will also need resistance loops and sliders (I use these), dumbbells (I did the whole program with two 10 pound weights and two 7s, but you will likely want lighter and heavier), and — OPTIONAL — a chin-up bar.
Funny story about sliders: Before the ones linked above arrived (which are actually a little hard to use without shoes), I realized that you can make your own sliders with small towels or washcloths on smooth floors, or paper plates on rugs! In the video attached, observe me using two baby burp cloths (!) which we’d originally bought years ago for a Puerto Rico trip with out little guy.
Other On-Demand Online Workouts:
Before and after “The Work,” I experimented with other at-home online workouts, and have the following recommendations. First, if you don’t want to try Beachbody, the app called Daily Burn has a 30-day free trial and boasts some excellent programs (“Move” and “Inferno” especially!) and stand-alone workouts.
Overall, however, I prefer Beachbody for its rigor and its coherent program flow. Other apps I haven’t tried but am intrigued by include Peleton (which people rave about for its non-bike programs), FitBod, Alo Moves, NEOU, Obe, and many more.
Also, consider looking locally. There are countless fabulous fitness instructors who are running their own online classes through Zoom, Instagram, and other platforms. In Boston, I adore Angela at Sweat Remix and Renvil and Matt at Reps Studios. Ultimately, as long as you’re moving and avoiding injury, that’s all that matters!
Reviews of Different Beachbody Programs:
If you’re on the fence, try the Beachbody 14 day free trial, which includes tons of other programs besides “The Work.” As mentioned, I sampled a BUNCH of those programs, and here are my summaries (with the caveat that no trainer makes me smile and work as well as Amoila Cesar):
“80 Day Obsession” is the program I’m currently doing. Compared to “The Work,” it is longer (in daily duration and overall length), lower-impact and lower-sweat, so I do supplement it with other cardio like outdoor hiking, but what I enjoy about it is its focus on abs and glutes. Update, I’ve finished “80DO” and it was amazing! Read my full 80 Day Obsession review here.
“Barre Blend” is a ballet and pilates-based, low-impact workout which uses low weight and high reps for a burn which targets the core and glutes. I got through three weeks of it after “The Work” and then switched to “80 Day Obsession” because heavier weights make me happier. PiYo is somewhat similar to Barre Blend.
“P90x” is perhaps Beachbody’s most famous program (besides “Insanity”), and has versions of different lengths and intensities. I may try the 30-minute-a-day version next. The issue with a lot of these older programs is you need to repeat videos instead of getting a new one every day. For me that comes very close to being a deal-breaker, and I far prefer fresh episodes to get me clicking “play.”
“21 Day Fix Extreme” is the more intense version of the famed “21 Day Fix” and is only 30 minutes a day, run by 80DO’s Autumn Calabrese. I will likely do that program once I buy the resistance bands, since people really dig it. All the 21 Day programs have both live and pre-recorded versions so you have the option of not repeating videos.
“Insanity” is Beachbody’s beloved cardio bodyweight program run by the incomparable Shaun T. (Follow him on Instagram if you’re not… Ooo wow!) There are different versions with varying time commitments and styles. I loved the episodes I tried — they left me truly breathless — but ultimately I prefer weight training to bodyweight work.
Shift Shop is a solid medium-to-beginner weight and cardio program. I found the trainer very likable. Brazil B*** Lift is… bizarre but effective if that’s your thing. It’s a little dated at this point but might make you smile. (The Beachbody library has some very old programs still on offer when you purchase the whole “On Demand” subscription, and they are worth a peek for the grin.)
Core de Force is kickboxing style which ruled it out for me after one workout because I like weights. Hammer and Chisel features the antics of trainer Sergei who is a character for sure.
Country Heat and Cize are dance-based workouts which are accessible and fun for all levels, but I prefer the former because Cize sometimes doesn’t repeat movements on both sides, making me feel unbalanced. Turbo Fire isn’t exactly dance but has that flair to it.
As you can see, I’ve tried much of Beachbody’s menu, but there’s much more to sample, and new programs are always coming out. People have recommended LIIFT4 and Morning Meltdown among others, and there are hybrid calendars which mash programs together. In short — the whole shebang is a DARN good deal for less than $15 a month!
Thank You, “6 Weeks of The Work!”
I want to close with a passionate THANK YOU to Amoila Cesar for creating such an inspiring, effective, hilarious program to light up 42 of my days. If any of you have tried “The Work” or “The Prep,” I’m curious to hear what your experience was.
If you haven’t tried it and it seems like a match, I’d encourage you to check out the free trial. Whether you do “The Work” or another program — or just take delicious long walks in nature — as long as you’re moving and listening to your body, it’s all good. Here’s to health!