Product Review: Zumba Fitness Exhilarate DVD Set

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I remember the first Zumba class I ever set foot in at my university's recreation center. The instructor was so full of energy that it made me a little uncomfortable, and the room was jam-packed with girls (and a few guys!) shaking their hips and laughing over pulsing Latin and hip-hop beats. When the first song started, I anxiously wondered what I had gotten myself into and thought about planning an exit strategy. But when the class ended, I was drenched in sweat and grinning like an idiot, in disbelief that an hour had just flown by. After years of being a slave to the elliptical machine, I walked out of that class feeling like I had just had a major fitness revelation: Working out could be both productive and fun! Some people feel this way about running, or lifting weights, or yoga. For me, at that time, Zumba was my thing. It was the spark that made me start to view exercise as a hobby rather than a chore, and I credit it for helping me to see the fun in other forms of fitness over time.

Since that class five years ago, I've taken Zumba more times than I can count, with about a dozen different instructors. I've taken some amazing classes, some sub-par classes, and some downright miserable classes (FYI: if you try Zumba for the first time and hate it, take it again with another instructor. It makes all the difference!). I thought I had experienced all of the possible facets of Zumba—until Zumba sent us a free Zumba Fitness Exhilarate DVD set to review and Coach Nicole let me do the honors.

The Zumba DVD experience is definitely a different animal. I was a little hesitant at first, unsure of how a live class would translate into a home DVD format. So did Zumba's at-home DVDs deliver the same fun and intensity as my classes? Did I really burn 1,000 calories per hour like their commercials claimed I could?
First of all, the sheer amount of options in this set is amazing. It comes with SEVEN different DVDs to try depending on your time allotment, mood, and experience level, and they're hosted by multiple different instructors. Here's a quick breakdown of the offerings along with a video preview:

In the box: Seven DVDs, a set of two 1-pound toning sticks, Program Guide with instructions on how to use the DVD, plus an optional meal plan.

Disc 1: Step-by-Step
This DVD serves as an introduction to the steps found throughout the rest of the set. I thought it did a great job of breaking down the moves in an easy-to-follow way, including a cool toggle feature that lets you view moves from both the front and back. This DVD is meant to be more of a reference than an actual workout; use it to get a feel for the steps and to go back to it if you need help with the moves in the other workouts.

Disc 2: Activate
''Activate" is a 45-minute beginner's Zumba class. There are basic moves mixed in with some challenging choreography. I thought it was a bit hard to follow for a beginner's class, but I'm sure it would get easier after a few tries.

Disc 3: Ripped
The "Ripped" DVD is a 60-minute workout broken up into a toning section, using the 1-pound toning sticks, and a Sentao section, which uses a chair and your own body weight. The toning section focuses on dancing accompanied by upper body moves using the toning sticks. The Sentao section incorporates body weight exercises such as lunges, triceps dips, and balancing moves.

Disc 4: Exhilarate
This disc features a full 60-minute Zumba class, led by two instructors. It was my favorite of the whole set! The variety of music was incredible: in a single hour, I danced along to Latin funk, Latin house, hip-hop, Indian, Reggaeton, and Flamenco music. The dance routines were fun, but, as in the ''Activate'' DVD, they were a little hard to follow along with.

Disc 5: Rush
This DVD features a 20-minute Zumba workout, led by two instructors. This is a great workout that gets your heart rate up quickly, and is perfect for when you're short on time.  

Disc 6: Mix
"Mix" was an unexpected surprise and probably one of the coolest features in the set. In this workout, you learn African, Latin, Indian, hip-hop, Asian fusion, and Flamenco dances from a variety of instructors. I also appreciated that it had two detailed sections dedicated to breaking down the moves.

Disc 7: Fitness-Concert
This DVD was my least favorite of the set. It features nine instructors teaching a Zumba class to a stadium full of people. Although the show on stage is great, it's very hard to follow the moves, as there is no verbal cueing from the instructors. The camera also often pans out over the audience, which can be distracting.

The Takeaway

  • Zumba Exhilarate includes a great variety of workouts, music, dance styles, and instructors. I liked the mix of shorter and longer workouts and was impressed by the amount of dances featured on the DVD. I felt like I learned a lot! I was also pleasantly surprised by the music, as I'm not usually a fan of canned workout DVD music.
  • Most of the workouts have a ''Learn It'' version, where you do the entire workout with verbal cueing from the instructors, as well as a ''Feel It'' version, where you can turn off the cueing once you get more comfortable. This is a plus, as I was not a fan of the cueing from the instructors.
  • All of the workouts have a high-energy ''party'' feel to them, which gives you that extra boost to get through the workout.
  • The production level on the DVDs is amazing—tons of lights, colors, and great sound quality.
  • The workouts are fun and motivate you to move!
  • The instructors' banter can be a little cheesy and annoying—but you can always turn it off once you're a pro at the moves and don't need cueing anymore!
  • The moves can be difficult to follow at first. The "Step-by-Step" DVD is easy to follow when the moves are being broken down slowly, but when they are integrated into a fast-paced routine, it gets complicated.  I consider myself a pretty seasoned Zumba-goer and had trouble with some of the steps. However, I probably would have caught on after doing the workouts a few more times.
  • Although the production is colorful, energetic, and reminiscent of a music video, this might not be for everyone. It's interesting to look at, but it can also be somewhat distracting and can negatively affect your ability to focus on the moves in the workout if you're not used to it.
  • There are a few strange parts where the instructors ''break it down'' and freestyle dance, which leaves you standing there and wondering what you're supposed to be doing. However, Zumba has always had a move-how-your-body-wants-to-move philosophy, so this part might be fun and freeing for some people. I personally like a little more structure in an exercise DVD.
  • The toning sticks used in the "Ripped" DVD are probably too light for most to get an effective strength workout. Some people still believe that high reps at low weight will help to tone and create long, lean muscles, but I'm not entirely convinced that 1-pound maracas are the ticket to building killer guns. The dance moves will get your heart rate up, but I would view the toning sticks as fun accessories (they rattle!) rather than as legitimate weights. Although, I'm sure if you substituted in heavier dumbbells, you'd definitely feel the burn! Zumba also offers 2.5-pound toning sticks on their website that you can purchase separately from the set.  
  • Take the calorie-burning claims with a grain of salt. The Zumba Exhilirate infomercial claims that you can burn "up to 1,000 calories per hour" according to a "university study." I wore a heart rate monitor, and the max I ever burned in one 60-minute session was around 500 calories. It's a great workout, but be realistic about how many calories you're actually burning, and watch out for any claims using the phrase "up to," which is typically not even close to average.
The bottom line? This set is for you if:
  • You like to exercise! Whether you're a beginner, intermediate, or advanced exerciser, you get out of the workouts what you put into them, and the intensity is entirely up to you. I've been working out regularly for years, and when I put my all into a Zumba class, I'm sweating buckets by the end! 
  • You dislike group fitness classes, but love to dance—far away from other people and in the privacy of your own home—and are willing to pay $90 for an exercise DVD set that allows you to do that.
  • You are a Zumba fanatic (but are willing to have an open mind: this set is much more glitzy and showy than Zumba has ever been).
  • You enjoy choreography-based workouts and like feeling challenged by a difficult dance routine.
  • You want your workout to feel more like a party than a workout.
This set is probably not for you if:
  • You dislike choreographed workouts and get easily frustrated and defeated by complicated dance moves.
  • You are injured or have mobility issues—this set features a lot of movements that might be tough on the joints (lunges, jumping, twisting, etc.) and there are no modifications included for the moves.
  • You like straightforward, no-nonsense, no-frills workouts. This DVD set is definitely a ''show'' and a workout mixed into one, so if you don't like strobe lights and impromptu dance-offs, this may not be your thing.
Do you Zumba? Have you tried the Zumba Exhilarate set? What did you think?

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I really miss my zumba class since my Curves closed. I now ride to my new health club with someone else and she is handicapped and must take a certain class. Report
Because of my disability, I can only do water zumba. However, this is a great review. Report
LAQUITACC1 you can go to your credit card company and file with them on not receiving the product. The company will have to prove that you did get the product but since you called to find out where it is that is on record. Report
I have this and love it...didn't have any problems with my order (also paid in full) was like $85(regular shipping) back in 2011 after I saw the infomercial. Report
LAQUITACC1, contact the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and watch how fast you get your money returned. That is unacceptable. Report
Yes, I have this box set. My son gave it to me for Christmas and It took me months to finally open it and start to use it. I was afraid I'd get bored with it! But it turns out it's challenging enough to keep me interested and, if I'm not "feeling it" on a particular day, I do something else or, I skip to the 20 minute version they've provided. I used to be a fitness instructor myself in the day so I'm ok with them not providing modification moves for some of the harder steps or ones that create pain in my old joints because I can design my own and work with it. My advice to those who wouldn't know what to do is to encourage others to simply keep moving during those parts and DON't feel bad if you can't manage to pull off their moves! Moving is the whole key, not perfection. Just have fun with it and yeah, I agree with the review here about the cheesy banter and the weird "freestyle" moments. It catches me off guard every time and I lose step and rhythm! They should have left that part out. Lots odf fun though! Report
My mum and I have been doing this for about two weeks now (our Zumba instructor went on holiday and we were kind of lost) and luckily, one of my friends gave me her almost untouched exhilarate box set (yay!) and we love it!!! (I'm 31 , my mum is 56) She finds it a bit harder to follow than I do but loves the fun party -like atmosphere zumba DVDs have.
I guess it depends on what suits you. My friend gave me hers because she found it boring and too complicated to follow but my mum and are completely in love with it (we usually do either the exhilarate or concert DVDs). I would probably advise that where possible, you would borrow a DVD from a library or a friend and try it out once or twice before committing to buying it (as it's rather expensive)
The concert dvd seems difficult to follow but it's almost identical to the exhilarate dvd so if you've done that one a couple of times, you'll be able to follow the concert easily. Report
I could not get the embedded video to play. Kept coming up with a message that "This video is private." I checked to be sure I was logged in. Didn't matter. Report
I had bought the basic Zumba Gold. Unlike other exercize products that I have bought, however, I began to use it and have averaged using the videos at least 5 days a week. I am also on weight watchers and have lost more than 10 pounds. I was a little frustrated, however, because there were only two videos (not including a video of interviews and one for couples.) I felt like I was in a grandmother's program. I was getting hot but it was not challenging. I was thinking of trying another program when I found the Zumba info on TV and bought it. I can't wait. I know I will do this. I question the 1000 calories an hour and I suspect that this might be true for people who weigh maybe 400 pounds. I just want to get healthy, lose some weight and become strong to keep up with caring for my 92 year old mother and keeping up with my 3 year old dog, Meme! Report
I ordered the dvd thru there website a couple of weeks ago. When I ordered I paid the 105.80 in full. So it said it should be at my house in 3 to 7 days. I waited a week and it never showed up. I called my credit card company and they said that it was taken in full. Nothing was pending for the order at all. Then I called the Zumba Fitness and they told me that my credit card was declined. When I told them that is impossible because the order went thru and that i paid for it. They then told me basically there is nothing they can do. So now I have been charged 105.80 for it and I am not going to get it at all. No one order this all they will do is rip you off. Report
I did a trial of this and was actually kind of bored. The people in the video were way too excited and the pan outs were almost dizzying. It was easier (and cheaper) to just turn on some music and dance by myself. I'm sure those who really love Zumba will enjoy themselves but this definitely wasn't for me. Report
I am a Zumba instructor and I like the set. When I was a hurt I could used some of the routines to modify in my set of routines and I enjoyed the routines. It is a great set for a beginning instructor to integrate in their routines. The Live Concert DVD is hard to follow if you are not a seasoned Zumba person though. Report
Havn't tried it yet, been thinking about it. I know a few people who love it. Report
I have the DVD set & have been using it for 8 months. I *love* it. This review was totally accurate & fair. There are pros & cons. I found a few of the DVDs frustrating but kept at it until I got the moves. I love my live classes but can only fit them in my schedule twice a week. These DVDs are perfect for the rest of the week! Report
Would like to have information on wall alternatives and DVD's targeting people with those limitations! Really do not want to invest in a program or DVD that is not geared to those issues. Many exercises do not address, rotor cuff, artificial knees, joint limitations. Some people can not do weight baring or floor exercises but would like to have the option to become more active rather than walking/stationary bike, etc. Report
I just received my set of Zumba Exhilarate, and I can't wait to use it, especially after watching the preview video!!! Report
I Zumba - I try for 5 days a week when my work schedule and car allow! I have an awesome instructor who talks to us and encourages us throughout the hour. Twice a week we do Zumba toning which is awesome.

I have Zumba for Wii, but I've only done it a couple times. I just don't get as much out of DVDs or the Wii as I do in a live class. For me, the class is more than exercise - its also a social thing. The women (a couple guys show up from time to to time) are across age and fitness levels, and we all encourage each other.

I do completely agree that there are all sorts of instructors out there. I tried a new one last night - I will be going to her class again, but my "usual" instructor still wins out. I wear my heart rate monitor almost every time - when I hit 600 calories in the hour, I know its a good class! LOL! Report
I bought the Zumba Party for Wii before Christmas for about $40. I made it thru 2 tutorial dances, and I've tried to do the "class" feature of the game, and I get so frustrated by my two left feet and lack of rhythym that I end of quitting the game and doing one of my workout DVD's. Would be helpful if the Wii game had more instruction at a slower pace. Sounds like the DVD set you reviewed here has that...I'd love to try it out, but the price is a little out of my budget. Guess I'll keep trying my Wii game until I get the hang of it!! Thanks for the review! Report
I have this set and enjoy the dvds that I have done so far (Step by Step, Activate and Exhilarate). I continue to reach for it when it's time to work out. At first I was intimidated by all the steps but I kept going with it and had fun. I have been doing this for about a month now and still get confused with the steps but I just laugh and dance. I don't even feel like I've worked out. I say give it a try. Report
Yes, I Zumba and yes, have the Exhilerate set. I love Zumba and have an awesome instructor who I like best! I haven't gotten into the Exhilerate set except for the step by step intro and found myself sweating just by following the how to moves! I need verbal cues, so hope this will work. Just haven't made time to try it out! Report
LOL! Report
My Zumba experience has been completely the opposite: I started with the ooold DVD set close to 10 years ago, and avoid live classes because that's just not my thing. Might have to give this updated version a try, though! Report
I purchased the Zumba dvd set a few months ago after watching their infomercial and I have tried it a few times. I was billed in three monthly installments so it was within my budget.. I agree that it is a great workout once you get to know the steps. It is a bit difficult to follow the steps if you are new to some of these dance moves but you can learn them once you keep going. When I did my first actual Zumba workout I couldn't believe that I was done already and I did sweat a lot. When the instructors "break it down" I just continue moving at the same speed I was doing. I actually enjoy working out in the comfort of my own home and this makes me feel like I can do no wrong when it comes to the moves. I just keep on moving. I can't really do as many workouts as I'd like to yet but I will work my way up. I look forward to getting through the entire dvd set. It is a great workout. And even though I don't follow every single step correctly, I enjoy the challenge and the energy I feel when I Zumba. Keep moving!! ; ) Report
"Some people still believe that high reps at low weight will help to tone and create long, lean muscles, but I'm not entirely convinced that 1-pound maracas are the ticket to building killer guns."

That part made me laugh. Thanks for the review. I'm definitely not a good dancer but I've been interesting in doing zumba, just in the privacy of my own home. Now I know there's a good dvd set. Thanks! Report
Looks fun! May try it. :o) Report
For anyone having knee problem with Zumba, my cousin gave me a great tip. Put a sock over the tip of your shoe, like covering the ball of your foot. This will make for easier sliding during the moves. It helped me a lot. I almost sent mine back before she told me. Now I love it when I do it. Report
No it is to much for me!! Report
I have this set, minus the shakers. I have a difficult time with it because of my knee replacement. I have tried it several times. Doesn't mean I won't continue but perhaps at a slower pace. Donna Report
I bought this set a month ago, but have yet to take it out of the box. Now I am somewhat tempted to return it, based on your pros/cons review..... Report
Thorough review. I love Zumba and it's important to my physical life. Was thinking about the DVD's for non class days. This gives me a lot to think about. Report
On AMAZON the price is $82 with free shipping.
There are lots of ZUMBA work outs on YouTube that I do for free. Report
This is the first time I've heard of Zimba. It is very interesting and fun to watch. I have a long ways to go before I would be ready to try this. God Bless You and Have a Wonderful Week. Report
I love Zumba! Report
Wow! Very thorough review. Thanks for your candid comments.

I was hoping to work my way up to getting this for myself as a reward. However, I can identify with your list of 'cons' and am convinced my money could be better spent on new workout clothes or a state-of-the-art heart rate monitor. Report
Hoping to join this fall at college. :) Report
I've never tried Zumba but the infomercial for this item does look very interesting. It's good to get another point of view on this item. Report
I just started Zumba today............... Report
I just started Zumba today............... Report
Zumba Gold, a "Senior Version" of the same workout is my choice, and I LOVE IT! Our instructors put all the right moves into our routines, and shake it up week to week! We also are able to "intensify" our moves with each set of songs!
I dread missing ANY CLASSES, this is definitely for me! Report
I've been taking Zumba classes for over 2 years and I love it. Fortunately I've had a terrific instructor from the beginning. She is expert at helping each person work to his/her own capacity and she makes it so much fun you forget it's exercise.

The DVD set sounds great, but I know for myself, I need to be part of a live class and most likely I would hardly use it so it would end up a $90 dust magnet. Report
I love Zumba and I love these dvd's!!! I agree with Melinda and have had the same experience, "I've taken some amazing classes, some sub-par classes, and some downright miserable classes". I also agree with, if your first experience with Zumba isn't good, keep does pay off! I burn more calories, in less time than my other exercises and it gives me an all over workout and most importantly, gets my endorfins going and I ALWAYS feel better afterward. It doesn't feel like I am working out...I love to dance. The reason why I recommend these tapes is sometimes it's a huge challenge to find a class I like or more importantly, a teacher, if the class is often enough or at the right time for me. While I do take a great class twice a week, I wanted to do more. The tapes help me do just that. At first, I hesitated spending that much, but I broke the price down, and realized I would spend that much very quickly if I was taking a 'live' class. Start slow if you are a beginner, and then work up to more. And as they say in Zumba, as long as you're moving, you will get the benefits. I promise you, soon you will get ALL the moves. If you like to dance, these tapes are for you! Report
I have this set, but only used it several times. While I enjoy the workout, and it is fun and I do work up a good sweat, the moves can be difficult. What I find distracting is when you try and break down the moves, but then the instructors add their own flavor (and you are trying to keep up), but then they pan to the instructors faces, or zoom out to show the whole stage. Then I get really lost and lose momentum on my HR and zone. Maybe the live classes will be better, but I bought the CDs to get a little familiar with it first before I look like an idiot in public!! :) Now I can just look like an idiot in my living room. It's fun, and I do not regret the purchase. Report
Sounds like a good DVD set to invest in but at $90 it's still kind of pricey for me. Thanks for the review though! I'll check to see if maybe my local library has it so I can give it a try without shelling out major $$$ Report
How much is it? Report
I recently purchased this exact set and have only viewed part of Disc 1 so far. I am new to Zumba and look forward to learning the steps and picking up the pace. Report
Interesting Report