In the wide, wide world of workout programs, success is based largely on having an attractive, enticing concept. As the name implies, PiYo takes a combination approach to workouts and fitness, with the program being touted as an aerobic, high-energy combination of Pilates and yoga.
To get an idea of what PiYo is about, here’s a complete PiYo review, with a breakdown of some of the specifics, along with an analysis of the good, the bad and the questionable.
What It Is
PiYo has been described as a hyper version of yoga, a description that’s mostly accurate. The program combines Pilates and yoga into an aerobic framework, with fast-paced structured workouts that are designed into a 60-day format.
There are eight different workouts in the PiYo series, with the lengths of the workouts ranging from 25-45 minutes. The workout titles are designed to both describe the workouts (e.g. “Piyo Alignment: Fundamentals” and “Piyo Strength Intervals”) and draw in potential participants (“PiYo Sculpt” and “PiYo Buns”).
In addition to the DVDs, the PiYo Workout Beachbody Challenge Pack includes a Workout Calendar, a Get Lean Eating Plan, Tape Measure and a one-month supply of Shakeology, which is the meal replacement shake designed as a nutritional supplement to help workout mavens get faster results.
What It Isn’t
PiYo isn’t yoga, it isn’t Pilates and it isn’t a pure aerobic workout in the strictest sense – it’s a hybrid of all three. As such, it may offend purist advocates of yoga, Pilates and aerobics, because some of the modifications either skirt or violate the basic principles of all three.
It’s also different than most specialty workout programs. PiYo is less hardcore than the tougher programs like UXF and Crossfit, but more difficult than many aerobic workouts that stick to fairly fundamental movements played out as dance forms.
The fitness concepts behind PiYo are fundamentally sound. The ideas behind yoga and Pilates are well established when it comes to promoting flexibility and fitness, and PiYo adheres to most of the commonly accepted standards for establishing basic aerobic fitness. Its also a low-impact program with no jumping and no weights involved, which is a plus for many beginners. There’s nothing wildly experimental or truly risky or dangerous going on here, just a combination of three fairly basic approaches to fitness.
The program is also well-organized, with the basic outline structured as a series of eight basic workouts. Rather than being segmented into different levels, most of the PiYo workouts are based on either fundamentals and working on different body parts to get specific results. As such, this makes it somewhat easier to understand and get into than some programs that pigeon hole users into beginner, intermediate and advanced categories.
The approach is uniformly positive without being overly macho or hardcore, and the level of enthusiasm is kept high throughout. Considerable attention was paid to the DVD sound track put together by workout leader Chalene Johnson, who is featured on the DVD.
Technical Shortcomings. There’s a lot of physiology and kinesiology behind the core concepts and principles of Pilates and yoga, but very little of this is explained in detail in the PiYo background material. Instead, most of the emphasis is on getting a hot body and the sweat and angst that goes into finishing the harder workouts. While there are short videos on the various websites that explain PiYo, most of the explanations about the true origins of the program are pretty superficial.
Weight Loss. While PiYo never quite promises any specific weight loss guarantees, some of the success stories promoting this aspect of the program seem decidedly optimistic. There are plenty of stories on the sites about PiYo participants who lost amazing amounts of weight (20+ lbs) in amazingly short periods of time (60 days or less). The watchword here should probably be “caveat emptor,” especially given that there’s very little material on maintaining weight loss once you’ve taken it off.
While there is a ramp-up approach to the PiYo program, the risk of injury is rarely mentioned. As one user states in a review, “I have a great chiropractor who does Pilates and yoga on a regular basis, and he told me that power yoga basically paid for his first Mercedes – any program that combines things like Pilates and yoga in an aerobic format is going to put you at risk to some extent.”
“Some of these movements and positions are hard to do, he said, and if you rush into them or you try to do them too fast or you’re not built to do some of them, you’re going to end up coming to me to fix whatever happens.”
Overall, the reviews on PiYo are mixed, with a slight majority leaning on the positive side. Most of the positive reviews laud the innovative combination concept and the fact that PiYo addresses body parts and flexibility issues that aren’t included in many workout programs. The low-impact, no-weight aspect of the program also got plus reviews.
The best reviews by far consisted of compliments of Chalene Johnson and her approach. The pace of the workouts met with a high approval weight, as was the music soundtrack on the DVDs. Her message seems to have far more staying power than that of other workout instructors.
The negative comments questioned the weight loss capability of the program, and several hardcore fitness people thought that PiYo wasn’t challenging enough. Some reviewers had issues with the quality of the DVDs, and some were turned off by the upsells to buy other products.