Are you looking for an intermediate-level functional fitness workout program that features animal-like, “primal movements?” The “CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER” BODi at-home workout program with 645’s Amoila Cesar might be for you! But… it’s not for everybody. Read on to see my very honest review.
Workout Review Background
Why trust this review? My name is Lillie, and I’m a 42-year-old English teacher and mother of two. I have zero affiliation with BODi (formerly called “Beachbody on Demand”) — I’m not a “Coach” or BODi employee of any kind. This means that I can be extremely honest in my reviews… and I’ve written a TON of BODi workout reviews already! Twenty-one of them, to be exact.
“CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER” Overview
Amoila Cesar’s “CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER” workout program consists of a “collection” of 20 workout videos that last one month, and can be either 4, 5, or 6 days a week, depending on which calendar option you select. Each video is 25-40 minutes, with most being around 35.
“CWCS’s” difficulty level is categorized as “Intermediate” (more on this later). The title of the program is from a Zen proverb which is about building and continuing positive, functional habits.
The central focus of “CWCW” is that each workout builds on to an animal-like “primal flow” set of ground-based body-weight movements. By the end of the program, you should be able to do the entire flow, including all its “Crab,” “Scorpion,” “Kick-Through,” “Underswitch,” and “Beast” movements. There is also weightlifting throughout the program, meaning that it’s meant to encompass the broad-reaching trifecta of strength, mobility, AND agility.
Equipment Needed for “CWCW”
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For “CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER,” the equipment needed includes dumbbells (light, medium, and heavy — I used 5 through 25), a towel, mat, and foam roller. I found the big trick to success in this program was locating an area big, flat, and soft enough to do all the primal movement ground-work.
Ultimately foam puzzle piece workout ground coverings worked best for me (paired with a nonstick pad), but when I was traveling, a room with a big rug or carpet worked nicely. You’ll likely want sneakers for most of the workouts, but for the Primal Movement Flow, I preferred to wear just compression socks.
Finally, a disclaimer: When starting any new workout program, make sure to use wise judgment to avoid injury, and consult a medical or fitness professional if you are at elevated risk. With that out of the way, let’s dive into the review!
“CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER” Review
Pros of “CWCW:”
There was a lot that I loved about “CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER” on BODi. Here are the positive aspects of the program, enumerated.
1. Functional, exciting movements.
Unlike the traditionally, straightforward “LIIFT4” BODi program, “CWCW” is all about twisting, bending, balancing, and moving your body in all the real-life ways that help everyday strength. As a result, “CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER” left me feeling more limber and powerful from head to toe — including core.
As I crawled around on the floor, kicked through, then turned and arched backwards in the “Primal Movement Flow,” I was amazed at what “CWCW” was able to build up my strength and flexibility to be able to do, through step-by-step progressions each day. This is a creative and unique program, featuring moves that you’ll likely never have tried before.
2. Feel-good strength, mobility, AND agility.
What’s delightful about “CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER” is that it combines dumbbell-based strength training alongside bodyweight mobility and agility work. I entered this program right after completing “Xtend Barre,” which is all about using just bodyweight or very light hand weights — and wow, was it ever nice to be able to go back to heavy weights with “CWCW” — but not have to sacrifice continuing mobility work!
“CWCW” truly made me feel like an athlete, in that it gets you present to wild things your body can do, from “Loaded Beast,” to “Crab Reach,” to heavy weightlifting while in a balanced pose. It made me feel good about myself during and after, inside and out.
3. Amoila Cesar is an awesome trainer — and better than ever.
“Super Trainer” Amoila Cesar’s 2020 “6 Weeks of the Work” was the first program I ever did on BODi (called “Beachbody” at that time), and I loved it SO much because Amoila is an outstanding, hilarious, motivating, brilliant trainer. The issue with “The Work,” however, is that it’s at such an advanced level that it doesn’t even have modifier.
Then in 2021, Amoila came out with “645,” which is a 3-month, 6-days-a-week, 45-minute-a-day functional fitness program, which has some primal movements, but far less than “CWCW.” Though I adored “645” and got wonderful results from it, I had the same gripe as many, which was that its pace is SLOW, with lots of empty time, and it did go on and on.
The good news is that “CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER” presents Amoila at his finest (well, minus the swears that he gleefully shouted in “The Work,” which I enjoyed). “CWCW” also has no weird tangents like “4 Weeks of the Prep” — a program I don’t recommend, because it was filmed in a rush.
In “CWCW,” Amoila tells jokes and gives phenomenal motivational speeches, gives timely form cues, and keeps the pace moving. His delivery is tighter and more polished than ever before — all without losing the endearing human charm and charisma that makes him almost pop out of the screen. After each workout, you’ll feel elated… like after hanging out with a great friend.
4. Excellent medium pace and doable length.
I want to focus a bit more specifically on the pace of “CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER” in this separate point. The speed of a program is absolutely essential. For example, though “21 Day Fix” is a beloved classic BODi program, a common complaint about it is that it has too much wasted time.
On the flip side, I find all the Andrea Rogers programs (like “XB Pilates“) so nonstop that I actually need to pause them to be able to complete them. Here’s the good news: With the exception of one style of workout, and a few of the lifts (both of which I’ll talk about in the “Cons” section), “CWCW” is a perfect Intermediate pace — not too slow and not too fast. Further, because this program is just 20 videos long and around 35 minutes a day, completing it is quite achievable.
5. On-screen timer!
Speaking of timing, let us celebrate far and wide that “CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER” features an on-screen countdown timer to the end of the workout! As I mentioned in my “Sure Thing” BODi review, I find these timers essential for planing out my exertion so I really give it my all. Do be warned, however, that the timer doesn’t include stretching, which are a few more minutes at the end, so plan your schedule based on the overall timing, not the one on the screen.
6. Breath-work and mind exercises are included.
As a Reiki meditation practitioner, I am always delighted when I see a workout program explicitly include breath coaching in many of its videos, like “CWCW” does. The program also really forces you to engage your mind, as the choreography of the Primal Flow and other movements can’t happen without it!
7. Fun cast.
Unlike “Job 1,” which has no cast at all besides the trainer, “CWCW” has a delightful, fun, ethnically diverse cast. Prunella from “The Work” even makes a comeback! As always, Amoila is fabulous at engaging the cast in conversations to show their human stories, though he does this less in this program than in previous ones.
8. Solid music.
Although no program has as good and useful music as “Muscle Burns Fat” #mbf in my opinion, I did groove to “CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER’s” background music. It was sometimes even conveniently timed to movements, helping with pacing so I didn’t always have to look at the screen.
9. Workouts can zip to right order?!
In an outstanding leap of technology, there is now a feature where you can click a button on BODi, and the workout videos in a program will zip into the order of the 4-day, 5-day, or 6-day calendar! This is a MASSIVE benefit, because it used to take so much time to flip back and forth between the written calendar and the video page for non-real-time programs to make sure you were doing them all in the correct flow. Wow… keep those innovations coming!
10. Difficulty level progresses appropriately over time.
Unlike “9 Week Control Freak” with Autumn Calabrese which goes from too easy to insanely hard, “CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER” progresses in difficulty at a doable and satisfying pace. Given that I’m a teacher, I appreciated that Amoila appropriately “scaffolded” each complex move in order to work us up to them. The program also features a foundational library of short tutorial videos to review the basics of primal movements.
11. Beautiful filming and visuals.
As an artist, I was greatly pleased with the filming of “CWCW.” The studio is bright, open, and simple, with sun streaming in the windows. The cast is gorgeous, and the camera angles make each exercise easy to see. As always, I give the BODi video crew kudos!
12. Cardio isn’t stressful.
Unlike “80 Day Obsession,” which has notoriously insane cardio workouts, “CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER” has doable — and I even dare say enjoyable — cardio moves. Being a 42-year-old woman who has had two children, I particularly appreciated that there wasn’t a ton of high-impact bouncing, and the few times there was, a low-impact modifier was always offered.
Cons of “CWCW“
Though I enjoyed “CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER,” it wasn’t my favorite program on BODi. Why not? Here are some reasons.
A. Right and left are reversed throughout!
Ok, this is a MAJOR issue of “CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER:” Throughout the entire program, when Amoila says “left,” what’s shown on the screen mirrors your right! Given that there are so many directional instructions in each video (especially with the Primal Movement Flow), this really scrambles the mind. Usually what worked best for me to not get mixed up was to stop looking at the screen, and just listen to the directions.
I’d also like to emphasize that, in addition to this mental challenge from reversed directions piece, “CWCW” is a COMPLEX program. Though Amoila breaks down each move to smaller parts to teach, expect surprising moves that will strike you as very difficult at first — and maybe daunting. On that note…
B. Danger of knee or back tweaking with some moves.
“CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER” is not for beginners. It has a ton of twisting, arching, crawling, and wild animal-like movements that could tweak a person’s back or knees if you don’t have a solid base of fitness, and if you don’t have the internal monitor of when to modify an exercise to ease difficulty.
I will say this, though: Because of its steady build-up of difficulty and clear instruction, I actually did NOT end up getting injured in “CWCW,” despite my history of knee problems — which is more than I can say for “30 Day Breakaway.” I did, however, have to make some total modifications with the “get-up” movements (which feature standing from a kneeling position), and I had to slow down the pace of some of the squat lifts. Please always listen well to your body, and add additional modifications liberally, yourself.
C. Wrists can hurt from primal movements.
One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard people have with “CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER” is that it can hurt one’s wrists to be doing so many primal animal movements where you’re on all fours on the floor — from “Crab” to “Beast” and everything in between. To combat this, Amoila coaches you to “Do Pom Poms,” meaning shake out your wrists, and take breaks as needed. You will likely also want to add in extra rest days; I confess that I sure did.
D. Odd long pauses in “Mixed Met” workouts.
I felt that the once-a-week “Mixed Met” workouts were a weak point in the pacing of the program, as the timing — especially in the earlier weeks — left LONG empty pauses while the cast “waits for you to finish.” Honestly, that’s not really how at-home workouts function; usually we just do it at the same time as the cast, meaning those minutes are just awkwardly looking at the screen.
There were also a few moments in the 3-1-3 workouts with similarly long pauses to wait while “other team goes.” I suppose an answer could be to push yourself super hard on these workouts so you NEED the rest, but the style of exercises didn’t really match that tactic — so I’d just say this was an error in timing judgment.
E. Some moves are not done evenly on both sides.
Like Autumn in “4 Weeks for Every Body,” I’m obsessive about making sure any exercise is done evenly on both sides, and starts with alternating legs to even things out. For the most part, “CWCW” achieved this, but there were a few times — as with an AMRAP or general exercise which started only on one side — which felt uneven.
F. Somewhat short and disjointed program.
A program with only twenty videos — and with several choices for how you can organize them — runs the risk of feeling disjointed or overly short. Though Amoila’s charisma somewhat made up for this, I did find myself wanting MORE. Once we got to the full Primal Flow, I wanted a few more workouts where we used it further, instead of just being told to repeat the video again and again.
G. I missed explicit ab and core work.
A benefit of Joel Freeman programs like “LIIFT MORE” is that they have explicit ab and core work at the end of every workout. Although “CWCW” has a TON of core work (you can’t go from “Crab” to “Beast” without it!), much of it is incorporated into the functional primal movements, so it’s harder to recognize. I did find myself missing obvious crunches and planks, outdated as they may be.
H. Less connection to the cast.
I was a tad disappointed that we didn’t get to know the cast of “CWCW” as much as the folks in “The Work,” or “645.” There’s something about really getting into people’s stories — and the banter — that made those other programs seem more like TV shows than workouts, which incentivized me to push play! Further, the cast of “CWCW” isn’t as age and body type diverse as the glorious cast of “Let’s Get Up” or Megan Davies’s #mbfa.
I. Lack of dumbbell amount guidance.
A pet peeve of mine is when trainers don’t give dumbbell weight suggestions for lifts, and unfortunately, “CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER” is in this category. Either the suggestions are delayed until the middle of the lift, or they’re missing. Sigh!
J. Momentum seemed to fade for me mid-way.
Maybe it was my life circumstances (I’m still doing a lot of processing and rebooting after divorce, and I’m juggling a reentry into teaching after a leave of absence), but I REAAAAALLY lost momentum with “CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER.” Was it stress about doing all those wild animal movements?
Was it the fact that the program is a little disjointed from having different calendar options? Was it that I’ve now done a zillion online workouts and am getting saturated? Was I missing “Fire and Flow?”
I’m not sure, but I do know that I was quite relieved after finally finishing the program — which was not what I was expecting going in; this had been my most hotly-anticipated workout set in years, so I though my motivation for it would be more robust. (Again, take this note with a grain of salt — this could be an “It’s not the program, it’s me” moment.)
“CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER” Results:
Despite my waning motivation, my “CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER” results were noticeable. In particular, this 42-year-old body became more… functional! I found myself more easily squatting to talk to my students, getting up out of bed, crawling to get something I’d dropped, arching to grab things from behind me, and lifting my increasingly heavy kiddos.
Further, two separate times during the month I was doing the program, I tripped on the sidewalk, but was able to catch myself (thank you, Amoila agility!) and prevent a possibly worse injury. I also noticed less back pain: a much-appreciated workout program result for a woman who spends many hours typing at a computer!
Finally, I finished the program with far more confidence in what my body and mind are capable of doing, athletically. As Amoila says, these primal movements are the “fountain of youth,” and keep a person limber! I plan to continue the primal flow and “ABCs” (Ape, Bear, Crab) for many years to come… ideally on the sunny ABC islands in the Caribbean — hehe.
Amoila Cesar Workouts, Compared
Time for the inevitable question: Which is the best Amoila Cesar program on BODi, and which order should you do them in? Here are my thoughts, having done them all.
1. Start with “645” (review here). It yields incredible results, and is a perfect introductory program to get the basics of fitness and body mechanics. (There’s a reason why it’s on my list of best BODi programs for beginners, even though it’s labeled “Intermediate.”) “645” is a longer program, and can be slow at times, but is totally worth it.
2. Do “CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER” next. It flows well from “645” because it builds on moves you learned in that slower program, and will give you a “toolkit” of functional primal movements that you can use for the rest of your life to stay limber and full-body strong.
3. If your fitness level and desire for challenge is enough, AND you’re able to add your own modifications confidently without seeing them on screen, go right to “6 Weeks of The Work” (which I LOVE) and skip “4 Weeks of The Prep,” which was filmed in a rush and I don’t recommend. The key with succeeding at “The Work” is just do your best; frankly, NO ONE can complete all the moves he throws at you there. As long as you’re doing whatever you can and modifying or pausing to stay safe, it will give great results — and be a rollicking good time.
4. I would recommend doing any new BODi Blocks featuring Amoila only after you’ve done at least two of his full programs mentioned above. Why? As you can see from my review linked in the first sentence of this paragraph, I find the quality of the full polished programs on BODi to be far better — and safer — than the BODi Blocks, so I would only attempt the latter after you have a strong fitness base.
“CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER” BODi Review, in Sum
Overall, I enjoyed “CWCW” and think it’s an important program for people to try at least once. You can see in my full ranking of BODi workouts that I’ve placed it near the top of the middle, out of all the programs I’ve done.
To recap, what are the “Pros” of “CWCW?” With only 20 videos, it’s very doable to complete, and the functional strength, mobility, ability, flexibility, confidence, and balance you’ll gain from being able to finally do the full Primal Movement Flow at the end is priceless — and will benefit you for the rest of your life. I also LOVE Amoila Cesar as a trainer, and appreciated doing such a different workout than standard lifting or HIIT.
That said, if you dive into “CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER,” be prepared to be challenged with complex, wild, and mind-bending movements — that are especially tough because right and left are reversed on the screen! Some of those moves might need additional modifications depending on your injury-prone profile. You may feel your motivation slipping towards the end, as I did — but you’ll be glad if you are able to push through and finish, as long as you add any necessary modifications to do it safely.
If you’ve tried “CWCW,” what were your thoughts? If you haven’t tried it yet, what questions do you have? Do share.
The author, Lillie Marshall, is a 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 4.2 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!