Home Exercise

Review: 28 Day Challenge by Robert Brace


Hubby and I found this 28 Day Challenge fitness plan, developed by my friend and fellow NYC fitness trainer Robert Brace, to be a balanced fitness and nutrition plan that is relatively easy to follow and offers both quick and lasting results.

Sometimes you just hit a wall and need something new, fun, and different to get excited about working out again. A few months ago, hubby and I hit that wall. He lost about 50 pounds but really needed to exercise. I had just restarted my bio-identical hormone replacement therapy after a period of imbalance during which I gained about 35 pounds. So we had completely different goals out of this program.


And in case you are wondering, even us master trainers need other people to kick our butts every once in a while. Sometimes it is so much energy to train our clients and handle our business that we would like to let someone else worry about our workouts for a little while.

I train clients along with Robert Brace, head trainer for Food TV's Fat Chef in Soho at Grasshopper Pilates and I would see him taking his clients through the same workouts that he uses in the 28 Day Challenge. My direct experience of him combined with the positive impression we both had of Brace after watching Fat Chef sparked my initial interest in this home program that I thought hubby and I could do together. The family dynamic is not always conducive to fitness training, so we prefer to bring outside trainers in.

We had a few parameters - no more than 30-45 minutes of exercise 3-4 days a week, no buying new equipment (we had mats and some light weights already), the system should retail at less than $100, and the exercises must be functionally and biomechanically sound (I am a highly regarded trainer, after all), and no crazy diets. We had already decided to try no gluten, sugar, or dairy to see how we felt.

Well, the diet plan was perfect! Seriously, lots of lean white protein, legumes, vegetables, and some nuts and fruits. We started playing with tilapia, turkey chili, lemon chicken, and all sorts of fabulous produce. Asparagus every meal, salad dressings made with no oil... just lots of great fresh food. We did find that it cramped our going out. After a while just eating salads or chicken was boring, but we figured we could do anything for 28 days and we did.

I lost about 16 pounds in four weeks; discovered how much better I feel eating clean food and not having dairy, gluten, or as much sugar; and while I have added back a little lean beef, raw sugar in my coffee, and gluten-free carbs I still feel great and am still losing weight. Hubby lost a tiny bit, but gained muscle mass. His biceps went up an inch, his waist is smaller, and his thighs and butt are filling out. As a bonus, with all this good food and exercise we are sleeping really well.


Now for the exercise portion. There are four workouts on two DVDs, and each workout is probably about 35 minutes. The earlier workouts take longer, as Brace explains more and interacts a bit more with his clients. The workouts are divided into sections - a quick dynamic warmup, abs, strength, cardio, strength, cardio, cool down. The cardio is high intensity, there is a lot of planking and push ups, lots of good basic exercises like jumping jacks and squats, and Brace is funny, endearing, and commanding all at the same time. He makes you want to push on and continue with him.

"Just think, when you're at work later and your boss is getting on you about something, you will know that you are burning so much more fat than he is! Everyone else is sitting there getting fatter, while you are sitting there burning fat!"

The 28 Day Challenge is a solid, well coached, home exercise program with a healthy diet plan. The exercises are intense, and some are hard on the knees so hubby had to skip or we modified, but you will see progress quickly in strength and coordination. In fact, now hubby can do some of the exercises that hurt his knees at the beginning. The diet is easy if you live in a major city with access to lots of fresh produce and good meat and fish. If not it is still workable, but your options could be limited and that can lead to boredom.

We are now three months out from the Challenge and have maintained our weight loss. While we do not exercise as regularly, we still average two to three times a week which is more than we were doing before. Stick it out! You will be glad you did.

Robert Brace's Supermodel Ballet Body Advanced
Starring AliciaRountree, RobertBrace

Poor Exercise Choices

The longer I work in fitness training the more I see people who have been really injured as a result of poor exercise choices. What makes it worse is that often these exercises were chosen by a paid personal trainer!

What do I mean when I say poor exercise choices?

First, there are some exercises that in general cause more harm than good. These include the seated leg press, the seated leg extension, the hamstring curl, the seated ab/adduction machine, the overhead shoulder press, and spinning. None of these mimics any good movement patterns for daily life and all can make existing injuries worse.

Second, instability does not always equal core strengthening! If you can barely stand on one leg for any period of time why get on a Bosu and try bicep curls on one leg? I can guarantee you will be no better for that exercise.

Third, flexibility is not always appropriate. Stretching your lower back all the time will in fact overstretch your lumbar support muscles and make you more prone to back injury. You want to use stretching judiciously.

Basically, the best exercises are the simplest. Squats, lunges, planking, side planking, bridging, and pushups are all great and you need no equipment.

Daily Core Workout Video

So many guests have asked me for a simple "core" stabilization workout. Here are some suggested exercises:

1. Bird Dog Also do with hands on foam roller

2. Plank Add lifting one leg and holding. Then progress to straight arms. Then progress to hands on roller.

3. Bent Knee Side Plank Add lifting top leg

Then progress to Straight Knee Side Plank Add lifting top leg

4. Bridging Add leg lifts.