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LIIFT MORE Beachbody Program with Joel Freeman: a Review

Welcome to the seventeenth installment of my super honest and detailed reviews of Beachbody workouts. For this article, I completed and took notes on the new 8-week “All Levels” LIIFT MORE Beachbody exercise program with Joel Freeman: the sequel to Joel’s wildly popular LIIFT4, combining HIIT training and weightlifting. So, what’s the verdict of my LIIFT MORE review?

Well, for the first seven weeks of the program, I absolutely adored LIIFT MORE — and certainly liked it way more than LIIFT4. During the final week, however, I realized something upsetting about the results that put me on the fence about whether or not I would recommend the program. Read on to learn more.

LIIFT MORE Beachbody review
Behold my LIIFT MORE Beachbody review!

Why Trust this LIIFT MORE Review?

Unlike most other Beachbody (soon to be renamed BODi) workout reviewers, I am NOT a “Beachbody Coach,” meaning I am not employed or compensated by the company in any way. This means I can be completely truthful in my reviews, because my only incentive is that you find the best workout plan for YOU.

For context, I’m a 41-year-old, 6-foot-tall mother of two who is an English teacher and artist (I designed the colorful clothes that I’m wearing in these photos — click to shop them here!). I have a history of knee issues due to my college high jumping days, and am at an upper Intermediate fitness level.

As always, a reminder: To keep you as injury-free as possible, remember to use wise judgment when starting any new exercise program, and consult a doctor or fitness professional first if you have any reason for concern. With that said, let’s dive right into the LIIFT MORE review!

Using the weightlifting bench at an incline.
Using the weightlifting bench at an incline.

LIIFT MORE Program Overview:

LIIFT MORE runs 5 days a week — versus four for LIIFT4 — lasting 35-45 minutes a day (with most workouts being closer to 42 minutes each), spanning 8 weeks. The program is divided into two phases, with the second altering format and intensity somewhat.

When does LIIFT MORE come out? It was released for advanced purchase August 2, 2022, and will be available in the BOD member library in February, 2023.

All moves in this program are extremely straightforward and traditional: classic weightlifting (with very few twisting movements), plus simple high-intensity interval training. The format of 3 sets of 12 reps of weightlifting, or 3 sets of 45 seconds of HIIT, is repeated throughout, and most moves are reprised every week with only small tweaks.

What about difficulty level? LIIFT MORE is classified as “All Levels” because there is a modifier for each move, but we’ll discuss later whether that classification is accurate. Every day focuses on a different section of the body (ex: “Chest and Back” and “Quads and Calves”), alternating between LIFT plus HIIT days, and LIFT-only days.

All 40+ workout videos are unique, meaning the only ones you’d need to repeat are the two “Recovery” tutorials, which are 15 minutes of foam rolling. Every workout has a “core component” at the end for your ab enjoyment, before the cool-down stretches. There are also nine 20-minute “Bonus” workouts which target specific areas.

Using the LIIFT MORE bench for core work.
Using the LIIFT MORE bench for core work.

Equipment for LIIIFT MORE

A relatively large amount of equipment is needed for LIIFT MORE — verging on the many purchases needed for “9 Week Control Freak.” (This section of this article features affiliate links which provide a small commission upon purchase at no extra cost to you.)

The LIIFT MORE Bench:

First, you need an adjustable weightlifting bench. Initially, I was extremely intimated by the idea of obtaining one, but ended up buying a relatively affordable that I ended up loving. Click here to see which bench I used and liked. It was easy to set up and sturdy, while still being light enough to move whenever needed. My only gripe with it was that it had a slight smell, but that faded over time.

Lots of Dumbbells:

If you do LIIFT MORE the way Joel models it, you’d need dumbbell sets from 5 pounds to 100 pounds — which would run you thousands of dollars and take up your whole workout room! I was not about to do that.

Because I ended up selling my annoying MX-55 adjustable dumbbells, I did LIIFT MORE by making do with my 10, 15, 25, and 20 pound weights (which I was able to pair together for some exercises like squats to increase the amount), plus an adjustable 1-10 pound ankle weight set which I used for lighter amounts. It was not ideal. If there’s any program where you do try adjustable dumbbells, this may be the one, just so you get the full range.

Power Loops, Mat, and Weight Gloves:

You don’t need the Power Loop thick cloth resistance loops for many exercises in LIIFT MORE, but some moves do require them, so I was glad I’d already purchased them for “645.” You will definitely need a thick workout mat for the daily core moves. Finally, it’s optional, but I’d also recommend weightlifting gloves to keep your hands from getting overly calloused or blistered from all that weightlifting.

Got enough LIIFT MORE background? Good — let’s move on to my actual review.

Pick a weightlifting bench that's strong enough to stand on.
Pick a weightlifting bench that’s strong enough to stand on.

CONS: Problems With LIIFT MORE:

Normally I start my Beachbody Reviews with the “Pros” I liked about the program, but I feel compelled to launch this LIIFT MORE review with the cons, because the #1 downside has really been troubling me. Let’s get right into it.

1. This program is NOT functional movement.

I really enjoyed LIIFT MORE, and completed the whole thing with gusto — and that ended up being a problem. Why? Because the program is not functional movement. What do I mean by that? I’m defining “functional movement” here as the twisting, complex, asymmetrical movements that we use everyday in life, and that force our core to engage and full-body muscles to integrate.

In contrast, LIIFT MORE is a whooooole lot of standing (or sitting) in one place, doing classic bicep curls, squats, or bench presses over and over. At first, it was super enjoyable… then I started to notice what was happening with my body: I was steadily losing the mobility and functional strength that I’d gained with “Fire and Flow” and Beachbody’s “645!” I began feeling creakier and stiff — hunched over.

It’s not just that the old-style moves in LIIFT MORE caused this postural dysfunction — it’s two other problems as well. First, there’s only so much form correction that you can get from watching a video versus being in real life with a trainer. I’m an experienced home gym gal, but over the weeks of doing LIIFT MORE, I know my form started to slip — and that’s a problem because form is key in weightlifting. If you’re going to do this program, the ideal is to have a previous background in working with a trainer, and also to pay close attention to form cues. What’s the second issue? It deserves a section of its own.

2. Far too minimal mobility and recovery work.

I know I’m not the only home exerciser who’s too lazy or bored to open a separate mobility video after a workout — especially if I’ve just finished a full 45 minutes of another episode. Therein lies the danger in LIIFT MORE: there is almost zero mobility or flexibility work inside the actual program… just a handful of minutes at the start and end of each video.

Instead, there are a mere two 15-minute “Recovery” videos which feature foam rolling for the upper and lower body, respectively. You’re supposed to repeat these videos over and over, AFTER doing each long workout, according to Joel. Er — not gonna happen. “30 Day Breakaway” has this same problem of separate mobility videos, and I actually fully injured myself in that program as a result.

Moving forward, I will likely steer clear of programs with this separate recovery video setup, because what I need — and I suspect others do, too — is for the recovery work to be INSIDE the program itself, at least once a week, as it is with “21 Day Fix.”

Lat pulls with the LIIFT MORE bench.
Lat pulls with the LIIFT MORE bench.

3. Rushed pace can cause injury.

The pace of LIIFT MORE is breathlessly fast, which overall I appreciated after chatty, slower programs like “80 Day Obsession.” Unfortunately, in certain episodes, this comes with a price: distinct injury risks from speeding into moves without adequate warm-ups.

For example, in Week Two, Day Four, you dive right into weighted squats with almost zero leg warm-up. I wrote in my notes: “SUPER NOT COOL!” because I tweaked my knee and ankle as a result. It happened about six other times in the program, so my strong advice to you if you do LIIFT MORE is to be fanatically alert for moments like this, and if they happen, pause and add in your own warm-ups, or decrease range of motion — especially for lunges and squats.

Other programs are far better at easing you into movements than Joel is here. Further, even with warm-ups, it’s wild to do squats at the pace LIIFT MORE does. Guard your knees with vigilance.

4. Spotty form coaching.

Because of the fast pace and simply the limited nature of online fitness programs (versus in-person training), the form coaching in LIIFT MORE is sometimes lacking. For example, Joel might not explain a key element or a modification until you’re already at rep seven. Because of this and several other elements, I would not recommend this program to a Beginner.

5. Three sets of 12 is a lot, as is 45 minutes.

I know I’m not the only person longing for the routine of ten reps from LIIFT4, versus the twelve in LIIFT MORE! Even more than this, however, I really detest having three sets of exercises — it just gets so repetitive. I definitely prefer the Beachbody (or BODi) programs that feature two sets, or even one. Pair this with the fact that each video of LIIFT MORE focuses on just one or two body parts, and that adds up to a vast amount of volume in one place.

Meanwhile, Joel says not to rush, but I did find myself impatiently speeding up the count to get through faster. Speaking of timing, 45 minutes per workout video is a lot of minutes! When you’re a busy working mom of two kids like me, 30 minutes feels much more doable to slip into one’s schedule than nearly an hour.

LIIFT MORE results.
My LIIFT MORE results were mixed.

6. Key information is sometimes blocked.

There are two frustrating places where LIIFT MORE blocks key information. The first is that the on-screen countdown timer for HIIT moves is projected onto a live screen in back — but when the camera zooms in on Joel, you can’t see it! The second is that on days when Joel has only male cast members with him (there are two men and two women who rotate in different permutations) such as Week 1, Day 2, we the audience miss out on learning the suggested dumbbell weight range for female bodies!

Oh, and a third: the cast consists of Ingrid, CJ, Katie, and Austin, plus a projected wall of at-home Zoom exercisers, but we don’t learn much about the former set of folks, and can almost never clearly see the latter. Mysterious and a little odd. Who are these shadowy humans? Raf the cameraman is also back — mentioned but never seen. If you are reading this and are in contact with Raf, I’m so curious to learn more about him, so reach out!

LIIFT MORE core work.
LIIFT MORE has core work in every video.

7. You need a ton of weights and equipment.

LIIFT MORE is one of the most potentially expensive Beachbody or BODi programs to do because you not only need the weightlifting bench — you need a vast array of dumbbells. You can try to make do with combining dumbbells (ex: lifting two 25 pounders for a squat instead of one 50-pounder), or borrowing a weight set from someone, or even doing the program while in a gym, so as to use their weights (does anyone do that? I’m curious), but the bottom line is that this program will stretch your workout room storage and budget.

8. No music, yes shoes.

This may be a pro, or a con, or neutral to you, but unlike #mbf and #mbfa with Megan Davies, or “Let’s Get Up” with Shaun T, LIIFT MORE has no music. I ended up just putting on an Afrobeats station in the background, but my preference is beat-based workouts with music integrated within.

Regarding shoes: You may recall that I usually work out barefoot (well, wearing just compression socks), but you 100% need to wear shoes for LIIFT MORE. Not only is there a real danger of kicking weights and stubbing your toe, but the style of fast, high-volume, high-weight lifting means that shoes are key in preventing injury. (I learned this the hard way by tweaking my ankle from pronating my foot while squatting too often without shoes, early in the program, before I gave in and started wearing shoes.)

9. Why no weights on shoulders?

This may seem like an odd gripe, but it haunted me repeatedly in LIIFT MORE: not once in the program does Joel offer the modification to carry heavy weights on your shoulders instead of dangling, suitcase-style, during squats and lifts. Do any readers know why that might be? If anything, it would seem a healthier and more ergonomic choice, and most other Beachbody programs offer it as an option.

I got stronger with these bench step-ups.
I got stronger with these bench step-ups.

PROS: Good Things About LIIFT MORE:

A. LIIFT MORE is really fun and motivating.

Despite my concerns with its lack of functional training, I truly enjoyed every LIIFT MORE workout. Each video put me in a great mood, and left me feeling strong and energized. Joel is hilarious, charismatic, and motivating, and the pace of the program is snappy and exciting. Oh, and I adore weightlifting, so it was a match in that way! Such an exhilarating endorphin high to pump those weights; I got so addicted that on days I didn’t get to do it, I got punchy — hehe.

B. It integrates feedback from LIIFT4: legs and pace.

If you recall from my LIIFT4 review, one of my gripes about Joel’s earlier program was that there was very little leg work. LIIFT MORE addresses this by really making sure to balance upper and lower body focus so there’s a true balance.

Oh, and there aren’t too many pushups in this program, either — Hooray! And Joel is actually doing the workouts, instead of just bossing around the cast. (The tradeoff is that this makes him slightly breathless at times.) The pace is also much faster than LIIFT4, which is both a pro and con, as explained in the previous section.

C. Modifiers make it “All Levels.”

Another change from LIIFT4, which is rated “Intermediate,” is that an effort is made in LIIFT MORE to be accessible to “All Levels” (like “4 Weeks for Every Body“), meaning that most exercises have modifications (unlike “6 Weeks of the Work“) that make them more doable, or take out impact. Speaking of which…

The "Skull Crusher" tricep move is all over LIIFT MORE.
The “Skull Crusher” tricep move is all over LIIFT MORE.

D. HIIT is more doable and less awful.

There was something about the HIIT in LIIFT4 that I found stressful. In contrast, LIIFT MORE seems to have less HIIT, overall — just two HIIT moves of 45 seconds, followed by 15 min rest — and always after 20-30 minutes of lower-impact weightlifting to get you ready. There are no HIIT-only days; LIIFT MORE is predominantly a lifting program, and for that I was thankful.

Moreover, the LIIFT MORE high intensity interval training moves feel more doable and less awful than the LIIFT4 exercises. In particular, Joel’s newer program has fewer jarringly bouncy moves, and modifications to remove impact abound. Ah, and there’s also an on-screen timer for the HIIT countdown!

E. The LIIFT MORE bench is actually awesome.

Like many people, I wondered, “Is the LIIFT MORE bench worth it? Can I do the program without it?” The answer is, yes, it’s worth it, and no, you honestly can’t do the program without it. I actually found the bench enjoyable and useful, and it was quite affordable with this affiliate link.

Why was the lifting bench so cool? Well, as a lazy person, I enjoyed having many more moves where you’re sitting down or reclining! Hehe. Also, though, it allows for useful exercises like step-ups. I was surprised that my budget bench could hold my full 150-pound weight, but it did, no problem.

I’ll also add that I appreciated that the equipment in LIIFT MORE was easier to manage than the jerky way Autumn Calabrese had us moving the Control Track up and down every few minutes in “9 Week Control Freak.” For the most part, you adjust the bench just once or twice per workout in this program.

Chest presses with the bench flat.
Chest presses with the bench flat.

F. A comforting mix of predictability and variety.

For a program with a LOT of repetition (3 sets of 12, over and over — often with the same moves), LIIFT MORE still manages to maintain excitement by dividing each episode into distinct parts, mixing around which body parts are LIFT vs. LIFT/HIT combos, changing orders, and progressing the movements. I appreciated the laser-like focus on one body part each day, including a full 45 minutes per week on just shoulders! My favorite.

Further, the progression of body part focus is wisely done to stagger the days when you’ll be sore in different places. Oh, and there’s some variety in the silly jokes, too, so overall I was not bored. There was a pleasing mix of stable predictability with fresh twists throughout the program.

G. Surprisingly good bonus short workouts.

Though I was highly underwhelmed by the “Recovery” videos, LIIFT MORE has nine excellent 20-minute “Bonus” videos that are legitimate and unique workouts in their own right. On days when I didn’t have time for the full 45-minute shebang, these bonuses helped me get exercise in without sacrificing gains. Some even have music, and a few have trippy background visuals on the screen.

H. Joel gives lots of form cues.

Though it wasn’t enough to offset the posture, form, and mobility issues that I developed from LIIFT MORE, Joel gives interesting cues and tips, many of which I found helpful. For example, he shares ergonomic and safe ways to move giant dumbbells on and off your lap for moves that require balancing with them off the side of the bench. He cues with phrases like, “Never lock out a joint,” and, “Longer lever, lighter weights,” and he even gives breathing cues.

I. Solid time frame.

Though I prefer workouts that hover around 30 minutes like “Muscle Burns Fat,” I’ll take the 40-minute LIIFT MORE workouts over the 20 minute “Job 1” ones any day, because the longer ones leave me feeling like I actually worked out. I also loved that the program had two rest days — though I would prefer they be spread out to break up the week instead of bunched together on the weekends — and think that 8 weeks is an ideal program time frame. Two months is long enough that you can see clear progress and results, but not so long that it feels impossible to finish.

J. I did get stronger and make progress.

Though I didn’t love all the results I got from LIIFT MORE (see the next section for elaboration), I definitely did get stronger, and was able to lift heavier weights by the end of the program. It’s a satisfying workout plan in that way!

LIIFT MORE Results:

My LIIFT MORE results were really mixed. For the positive, I got stronger and more toned muscles — especially my arms and abs — and lost some weight. In particular, my triceps got beautiful toning that I’d never had before, thanks to all those “skull crusher” exercises, and my upper abs developed a clear six-pack ridge. I wore a lot of tank tops after LIIFT MORE to show off the work!

As for the negative LIIFT MORE results, my functional mobility went downhill, and that really annoys me. I felt stiffer and less fluidly limber due to the exercises being so NOT functional training, and my posture suffered. I also experienced more back discomfort and knotted muscles than I had with any other program.

Would this stiffness have been avoided by zestfully repeating the two “Recovery” rolling videos again and again for eight weeks after each workout? Perhaps — but to me, it’s a major flaw of the program that such vital work is not integrated directly into the central videos.

LIIFT4 vs. LIIFT MORE

In the battle of LIIFT4 vs. LIIFT MORE, which is better? Hands-down, between those two Joel Freeman workout programs, I preferred LIIFT MORE above LIIFT4. It’s more accessible to all levels, more engaging, and better structured. At this point, I wouldn’t even bother with LIIFT4 — just go right to LIIFT MORE. The former isn’t a prerequisite for the latter, and any issues I have with LIIFT MORE are actually worse in LIIFT4.

LIIFT MORE review
Pin and save this LIIFT MORE review!

LIIFT MORE, in Sum

I really enjoyed LIIFT MORE, and gained some great muscle tone from it, but the implications of its lack of functional training concern me. To be responsible, I’d recommend doing the program only if you are diligent about also adding in true recovery, mobility, flexibility, alignment, and myofascial release (MFR) work multiple times a week to offset the stiffness of the program’s old-school, traditional moves.

What kind of supplementary functional work might fit that bill? I’m currently in the process of doing and reviewing the “Functional Patterns” online course, and working with an in-person trainer on my alignment, so I will report back about how that goes. (Yes, there’s a geeky review on all that FP and MFR stuff coming soon.)

I don’t think LIIFT MORE is a bad program — I just would recommend for the integrated health of your body that you’d first consider a Beachbody or BODi workout plan that puts more emphasis on functional training. You can see a hefty analysis of other options at my “Best Online Workouts for Beginners” round-up — relevant to Intermediate levels, too — and the summary is that I’d probably pick “#mbf Beachbody, “Fire and Flow,” or “645 Beachbody” over LIIFT MORE because they’re more holistically healthy.

So what about you? If you’ve tried LIIFT MORE, what did you think? If you haven’t tried it yet, what thoughts do you have after reading this review, and what questions can I answer? Do share! Oh, and stay tuned by subscribing, because I’m reviewing “Sure Thing” next, and am very excited about it!

 

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Mary

Tuesday 31st of January 2023

Thanks for this review! It sounds like I will be doing this program as part of a hybrid, just like I did with Liift4. I did Liift4 as a hybrid with 21DF. I might re-do that hybrid and just incorporate Liift More instead...or find a way to combine it with 645.

Lillie Marshall

Tuesday 31st of January 2023

Excellent idea! This program is perfect for a hybrid with more mobility workouts. Let us know what you think as you go!

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