Looking for a fitness plan to get in shape in just a month, with 30-minute home workouts that are fun and inspiring? Read on to see an honest review — with some warnings — about why the “4 Weeks of the Prep” exercise program (on the affordable online Beachbody on Demand platform) might be a fit for you.
Honest Review: I’m Not a BOD Coach!
For context, please know that I’m NOT a Beachbody coach (meaning no one is paying me to write this review, and I don’t earn money if you use BOD) — I’m just a 39-year-old middle school teacher and mother who finds joy in detailed (like, really, really detailed), honest Beachbody Reviews.
I’ve gotten awesome results and happiness from BOD online workouts (what a deal at just $8 a month!), and I hope that this and my other articles help you find the best exercise match for YOUR life and goals. As always, please consult your doctor before embarking on a new fitness program, and listen to your body to avoid injury.
What is “4 Weeks of The Prep?”
“The Prep” is an intermediate level Beachbody on Demand workout program with trainer Amoila Cesar which is meant to prepare you for the advanced “6 Weeks of the Work” program.
“4 Weeks of The Prep” features a repeated two-week cycle of 30-minute workouts (with a smattering of 40-minute ones) with one rest day and one stretching day per week. The program requires dumbbells, resistance loops, sliders, and a mat, with the option to use a chin-up bar.
Beachbody Trainer Amoila Cesar
Enjoy swearing and tough love? Famous athlete trainer Amoila Cesar (pronounced “Ahm-WAH-luh”) is for you! I find him hilarious, endearing, and inspiring. If swearing isn’t your thing, though, click the “Workouts” tab instead of “Workouts – Explicit” tab in the Beachbody on Demand page for “The Prep” to experience the censored, bleeped-out episode versions.
Overall Review of “The Prep”
Ok, so this is painfully honest but… “4 Weeks of The Prep” is awkward. I absolutely loved “6 Weeks of The Work” (which I did first — reverse order), so I was expecting the same top-notch flow, cast, and back-and-forth banter… but it turns out that “The Prep” was filmed in somewhat of a rush AFTER “The Work” was produced (because BOD realized that they needed an intermediate level bridge to get people ready for the advanced moves in “The Work”) and…. that rush shows.
Don’t get me wrong — the exercise moves in “The Prep” are effective and fun, and it’s an overall excellent program, fitness-wise — well worth 30 minutes a day for a month. However, it’s just not as phenomenal in spirit as “The Work” (or other BOD programs that I’ll explain later), and some of the verbal exchanges are cringe-worthy.
I share this for an important reason: I pride myself on motivating people to exercise, and I was really confused about why three different friends started “The Prep,” but quit the program before they finished. Huh? I thought, remembering my excellent experience with Amoila Cesar in “The Work,” Why couldn’t they even make it past the first round of two weeks?
Now that I did “4 Weeks of The Prep” myself, I see why people didn’t stick with it. It has a disjointed feel which, alas, is not quite as motivating as some of Beachbody’s other programs. Let’s break down the pros and cons of “The Prep,” then troubleshoot ways forward.
Cons: Problems With “4 Weeks of The Prep”
1. Workouts are repeated.
If you’ve read my hulking round-up of Beachbody reviews, you know that I see no reason to do programs with repeated videos, when there are so many excellent ones on BOD which have unique episodes for each day (such as “The Work.”) “The Prep” has a two week set of workouts which you are supposed to repeat for the third and fourth weeks. Grr!
2. Casting choices and interactions are questionable.
I LOVED the cast of “6 Weeks of The Work.” In many ways, they were A-list fitness folks who really pop off the screen. In that program, you get to know each person, as Amoila Cesar has in-depth conversations with them about what they’ve gone through in their lives, and what’s motivating them to exercise.
In contrast, the personalities in “The Prep” seem more muted — especially the male cast members. Stories aren’t fully fleshed out, and there are several awkward verbal moments with the actors, especially in early episodes… so be warned.
3. Awkward, disjointed talking.
Amoila Cesar had just finished shooting “6 Weeks of The Work” when he was asked to come back to Beachbody to tape “The Prep.” He must have been exhausted, and after getting into a groove with the “Work” cast for over a month, it may have been jarring to find a flow with all new actors in the studio. In short, know that “6 Weeks of The Work” has a much better flow of talking than “4 Weeks of The Prep.”
4. There is no music.
After experiencing the joy that comes with the thumping beat in #mbf Muscle Burns Fat and #mbfa Muscle Burns Fat Advanced, I did find the talking-only background of “The Prep” kind of a bummer. I actually didn’t have this gripe for “The Work” because the verbal back-and-forth of that program was so fun.
5. The program is hard to do with adjustable dumbbells or a slippery mat, and you need a relatively wide space.
This is a very specific downside that may not apply to you at all, but many of the exercises in “The Prep” are so dynamic, that they’re dangerous to do with adjustable dumbbells, or a mat that slides around — both items that I’d grown used to using with the slower-paced “80 Day Obsession.”
As mentioned in the upcoming “Equipment” section, you will need standard dumbbells for this program, and a sturdy surface to work out on. You also need enough room to do jumping lateral movements on either side — a fact that challenged me in the crowded laundry room where I work out.
6. Some moves need additional modifications.
As a former D1 varsity college high jumper, I have knee issues, and cannot do lunges deeply, even with basic modifications. Even though there is an official modifier in a program like “The Prep,” you still need to be highly alert about what extra exercise alterations your body needs to avoid injury.
7. Too much shoulder emphasis.
I enjoy a nice, defined shoulder as much as the next gal, but as a woman, I prefer the arms, abs, “rear” emphasis of “80 Day Obsession” to the shoulder focus of “The Prep” and “The Work.” The good news is that “The Prep” is more of a whole-body workout (including legs) than LIIFT4, so it’s not as imbalanced as that other program.
Pros: What I Loved About “The Prep”
A. Quality exercise moves that are effective and doable.
The purpose of a workout program is the actual workout, right? The good news is “4 Weeks of The Work” is an excellent set of exercises. What makes them so good?
The workouts in “The Prep” are well-chosen to exercise the whole body, and also get your heart rate up. There is lots of asymmetrical work to build your balance and core, and there are lateral movements and speed alterations to help your body avoid future injury.
B. Explicit modifications.
Unlike “The Work,” “The Prep” features a clear modifier in every episode, and the trainer also explains additional modifications. Mods help make exercises more doable if you have an injury or strength deficit — for example, a modified push-up is on the knees versus toes. For people who are uncomfortable making their own modifications, this is highly helpful — but I would urge you to start learning how to add your own mods eventually.
C. Manageable Time Frame.
Half an hour a day for 6 days a week is doable! I also really like the weekly pattern of two exercise days, one rest day, three exercise days, and one stretch day. Programs that require workouts every single day are exhausting.
D. Fun female cast members.
Though I connected with the cast members of “The Work” much more deeply, the female cast members in “The Prep” are cool. There is a grandmother who inspires with her weightlifting, a new mom, and a freely swearing dancer. They all made me smile and work harder!
E. Amoila Cesar is awesome.
Despite the fact that I liked the verbal flow of “The Work” better, trainer Amoila Cesar is a delight in both programs. If you haven’t already watched the short video about his life story on Beachbody, I highly recommend it. You might tear up, and it will give even more respect for this inspirational powerhouse of a man.
Equipment Needed for “4 Weeks of The Prep”
1. Dumbbells (not adjustable).
(Note that some of the links in this article are affiliates which provied a small commission at no extra cost to you.) For “The Prep,” you’ll need at least one set of dumbbells, and if you have to choose just one, a set of 10 pound weights would work. 5s, 15s, and maybe even 20s would be lovely.
A word of warning: adjustable dumbbells like the ones I’d gotten used to using for previous programs are not ideal for “The Prep” because the program has so much quick movement that any loose or shaky parts will rattle, and potentially even be dangerous.
2. Resistance Loops and Slides.
You can find loops cheaply bundled with sliders here. Truthfully, I found it much easier to use baby burp cloths on an uncarpeted floor than to use sliders, but do what works for you. I work out in just compression socks (with no shoes), so sliders probably work better with sneakers than they do for my unsheathed feet!
3. Squishy Mat.
You’ll want a thick, soft exercise mat like this one for floor moves, and to save your feet if you work out in just socks like I do. Normally, I also use a larger, thinner mat like these puzzle piece workout floor tiles, but those don’t work well with “The Prep” because all the sideways jumping makes them come apart. For this program, you may just want clean indoor sneakers on a bare floor or carpet so as not to slip.
4. OPTIONAL: Chin-up Bar.
Every chin-up exercise in “The Prep” has a modification which just uses dumbbells, and frankly is a lot more enjoyable than those infernal bars, so there’s no need to get one unless that’s really your thing.
5. Supportive Workout Clothes like Compression Socks.
Definitely consider compression socks for vein health. I like this brand and this brand. Enjoy my outfits photographed in this article? The red one is by Rochelle Porter, an amazing Black female designer. The Blue outfits are by Wanderbabe, an ethical, woman-owned company.
Workout Calendar for “The Prep”
Day 1: Push.
“The Prep” has a “Push and Pull” theme which helps build shoulders as well as legs. The “Push” workout day has pushups (of course — Amoila loves his pushups) but also features other moves that involve pushing weights upward with the legs and arms.
Day 2: Legs.
This is an excellent and doable leg workout with weights and cardio. Make sure the surface you’re working out on is stable, because my mats ended up slipping around a lot with the lateral movements.
Day 3: REST.
The flow of this rest day fits perfectly. You’ll be ready for the break even though it’s only two days in. I usually take a long 3-5 mile walk outside during rest days in Boston’s Emerald Necklace. If you want a faster program pace, you can skip this rest day, but I do find that then I need the break by day 4 or 5 in any program.
Day 4: Endurance & Agility.
This workout is 40 minutes instead of 30, and has fun activities with a game-like cardio challenge feel. I was breathless at the end and sore the next day, which is a good thing. This workout features the third cast in three days, and this one has some of the most awkward banter with the actors, including playing with a cast members last name in a way that felt odd.
Day 5: Pull.
This workout has pull moves like rows and emphasizes shoulders. We return to the first cast here, with the inspirational grandmother, and have some strange banter and repeated back-story.
Day 6: Full Body Tempo.
As you have to change your pace based on an “Amoila Says” challenge, this workout is exciting and unpredictable. I dug the cast interaction in this episode with the funny (and profane) stories about a cast member’s family’s nicknames.
Day 7: Range & Repair.
I was really thrown off that this stretching workout is a full 40 minutes, since in “The Work,” the Range and Repair days are 12-15 minutes. That said, the moves are excellent for loosening things up, and a persistent crick in my neck (despite my ergonomic DIY standing desk) and ongoing back pain were lessened after completing the episode.
Day 8: Total Body Push/Pull.
At this point, I began modifying to take pushups out of things like burpees, because I prefer to build more in my legs than shoulders. The good news is that by this episode, Amoila is hitting his stride with the cast members, and their stories of WHY they’re working out are inspiring.
Day 9: Strength & Power.
This workout was fun and went fast. It involves a lot of balance and jumping, and thus it’s an illustration of why you need a stable workout surface, and standard dumbbells versus adjustable ones. You do need quite a bit of space for the moves in this program.
Day 10: REST.
What’s funny is that I forgot this day was a rest day, and listened to my body saying, “Hey, you should take today off. You need some outside time, meditation, and a rest from intense weightlifting.” Plentiful was my joy when I looked at the calendar the next day and saw I’d accidentally followed the instructions! This goes to show what a good workout flow “The Prep” has.
Day 11: Cardio & Core.
This workout is 40 minutes, and was fun and doable. The banter with the cast is definitely getting smoother, and I love Leah, the foul-mouthed dancer. She’s fierce! The second section of this episode is core (on the mat) which makes the whole thing easier since I love lying down — haha. It’s just one round through of the the ab exercises, too, meaning it goes quickly.
Day 12: Isometrics.
The idea with “iso” moves is time under tension, meaning this workout is all about long, slow holds, with no jumping around. Yes, your heart rate goes up, but this is a workout you can do shortly after eating (timing my food so I’m digested before exercise is always a challenge) because of less bouncing.
Though I said previously in this article that you can make it through much of “The Prep” with just 10 pound weights, you will definitely want something closer to 5s or 2s for some of the arm holds in this episode. I ended up using my 2-pound push-up stands as makeshift weights, since I don’t own anything below ten. Amoila also points out that you can just use your arms without weight, or grab water bottles.
I accidentally did the “Clean” version of this workout instead of “Explicit,” and it was funny to hear the silent chunks where the swears were bleeped out!
Day 13: The Crucible.
This is the signature monster challenge which is repeated in increasing difficulty every two weeks in “The Work.” In the version from “The Prep,” you do 25 reps of different exercises (like weighted jump lunges) with HUGELY PAINFUL “army crawl” planks in-between each. Ouch!
You will probably fail several times, which is the point. Amoila offers the army crawl modification of just holding a plank, but I found it more comfortable to modify by mountain climbers, since my shoulders were on fire from the other exercises.
By this last video of “The Prep,” Amoila reaches the energy and inspiration level he sustained through “The Work.” There’s also a very mysterious reference to something that’s happened in the cast member, Ruckus’s, life, and it makes me curious what Amoila is alluding to! I wanted to know more about the actors…
Day 14: Range & Repair (Repeated from Day 7).
Weeks 3 & 4:
Days 15 – 28: Repeat Weeks 1 and 2 in the Same Order.
Should You Do “The Prep?”
To be clear, Amoila Cesar is a world-class trainer and motivator, and “4 Weeks The Prep” does feature an effective flow of exercise moves. That said, I do not recommend it to everyone. Let’s see which category you fall under…
You SHOULD Do “The Prep” If:
- You are almost certainly going to go on to “6 Weeks of The Work.”
- You are motivated enough to make it through a program which is slightly more clunky than others.
- You’re content with a focus on shoulder building.
- You don’t mind repeating videos, OR you’re at a high enough fitness level to be ready for “The Work” after just the first two weeks of “The Prep.”
- You enjoy a dynamic, swearing, tough love trainer.
You Should NOT Do “The Prep” If:
- You probably won’t do “6 Weeks of the Work.”
- You dislike repeating videos.
- You’re relatively new to Beachbody. (Other programs are probably more cohesive and complete intros — see the comparison chart above.)
- You dislike emphasis on shoulder building.
- You prefer gentle, quiet trainers.
What’s YOUR Take on “The Prep?”
To each their own, right? What are your thoughts on this Beachbody program, or on “6 Weeks of The Work,” if you’ve completed that? Do share!
August 2021 update: I’m currently in the process of doing and reviewing Amoila Cesar’s new exercise program, 645, so do subscribe to be the first to know when that review is published.
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 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 3.7 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!