"Jane Fonda's Workout With Weights" and "Jane Fonda's SportsAid" Lorimar Home Video, VHS and Beta, 90 min. each, $39.95 each
In the five years since Jane Fonda's "Workout" first jogged the hearts and thighs of America, the impossibly fit actress has boosted both the home video industry and the fitness movement. The six Fonda workout videos -- including "The New Workout," "The Low Impact Workout," "The Workout Challenge" and "The Pregnancy, Birth and Recovery Workout" -- have logged sales of 3 1/2 million cassettes and helped make aerobics a household word.
Now Fonda adds strength and first aid to her home video library with two impressive new offerings, "Jane Fonda's Workout With Weights" and "Jane Fonda's SportsAid." In each, she shares the instructor's spotlight with a professional in the field: weight-trainer-to-the-stars Dan Isaacson in "Weights," and sports medicine specialist Dr. James Garrick in "SportsAid."
Best known as the trainer who shaped up John Travolta for his role in the movie "Staying Alive," Isaacson is a charismatic teacher whose presence is likely to broaden the workout's appeal to men as well as women. If you can ignore the cuteness factor (Jane to Dan: "Dan, does that feel good for you?" Dan to Jane: "Yes, Jane, it feels good for me"), "Weights" is an excellent program of progressive resistance.
"Weights" is divided into two 45-minute programs. Class One is designed for novices and primarily works muscles that cause movement at only one joint. Class Two involves more multiple joint movements and is more challenging.
Fonda and Isaacson perform the exercises along with a male and female student. Each of the four exercisers uses different weight levels to demonstrate how people of different physical abilities can modify the program to their needs.
Using a weight bench, a floor mat and a selection of dumbbells, they move though a series of classic exercises such as the dumbbell fly, the concentration curl, the abdominal crunch and the chest press. Fonda and Isaacson pay close attention to correct breathing and proper form and give helpful hints about posture, rest breaks and stretching. They address the important question of "more reps" (repetitions, for greater endurance) or "more weight" (for bulk) and present a sensible, balanced sequence likely to please those who are relatively unsophisticated in the sport.
Unlike Fonda's previous videos, "Weights" is not an aerobic program that seeks to improve cardiovascular fitness and burn calories. Instead, it is meant to complement aerobic programs by improving muscle strength and flexibility.
"Optimum physical fitness is actually a combination of strength, cardiovascular and flexibility fitness," notes the guidebook that accompanies the video. In a brief commercial at the end of the workout, Fonda explains why varying an exercise program to include strength, aerobic and flexibility work is vital to achieving all-around fitness.
"After doing the same exercises over a period of time, many people's muscles will adapt and you'll find yourself hitting a plateau," Fonda purrs from an office adorned with pictures of her famous father and husband. "To continue to see visible improvement in strength, muscle tone and endurance, you might have to change what you're doing. This might mean a longer period of aerobics, adding weights or changing the exercises slightly to work your muscles in a different way.
"Varying your program allows you to reach a higher level of fitness with less risk of injury," Fonda advises.
Injury care and prevention are the subjects of "SportsAid," a first aid class on tape. Taught by Fonda and Dr. Garrick, head of the Center for Sports and Dance Medicine at the St. Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco, the 90-minute program covers 17 basic sports injuries, including ankle sprains, knee problems, back strains, shoulder tendinitis, tennis elbow and jammed fingers.
"SportsAid" is based on Garrick's book, "Peak Condition," and in many ways would be more useful in book form. It's hard to imagine running home to the VCR to look up the treatment of jammed fingers or keeping a videotape as a reference in the Little League clubhouse.
But the format does have its virtues, chief among them the chance to observe exactly how a bandage should be wrapped or ice applied or a spasming muscle pulled into a counterstretch.
"SportsAid" is geared to the sophisticated exerciser, the kind of jock who feels compelled to continue running or dancing or lifting even while in pain. Fonda and Garrick are sympathetic to the compulsive or professional athlete's need to keep working out, yet they present some no-nonsense guidelines on when to exercise through the pain, when to quit and how to resume as safely and as soon as possible. They also give pointers on when to try home care and when to see a doctor.
Among their "general do's and don'ts":
Don't use heat, at least in the first 24 hours after an injury. Heat increases circulation, which is the last thing you want to do.
To keep swelling down, use compression, ice and elevation.
If it hurts, don't use it.
They also recommend freezing water in a paper or styrofoam cup and keeping it in your freezer. The excess cup can be peeled away, leaving an easy-to-handle ice applicator. For most injuries, "crushed ice is the way to go," says Fonda as she demonstrates the gentle art of placing ice cubes in a dishtowel and whacking them against a counter. ("Ha, ha," she laughs, as she repeatedly smashes the towel onto a butcher block. "It's a great way to get rid of aggressions at the same time. It's what I do.")
Some statements presented as fact in SportsAid seem questionable. For example, Garrick says, "The back is the most talked about and misunderstood part of the body." However, the overall program appears balanced, medically sound and helpful. But it is, they note over and over again, no substitute for good professional care.
Carol Krucoff is on leave from The Washington Post while writing a novel.