Stephanie Mansour is a personal trainer, yoga and pilates instructor and fitness expert who loves to try new workouts. In this series for TMRW, Mansour gives her review of the latest workout trends and at-home fitness classes.
My sister introduced me to P.volve before she got pregnant with her first baby. It was the only workout she could do without back or knee pain due to some previous injuries.
Prior to and during her pregnancy, she suffered from aches and pains when she did traditional exercises, like the elliptical, and even sometimes just from walking. She needed something that was low impact but effective. So she resorted to swimming until she discovered Stephen Pasterino’s workout called P.volve. The workouts are all focused on functional movements that tone the core while lengthening the muscles throughout the body.
After six months post-baby, my sister started saying that she had never felt stronger in her core, leaner or more defined in her thighs!
Naturally, while visiting with her, I did all of the workouts, too. My sister had purchased some of the equipment, but I did the workouts without any. We watched Stephen on the laptop screen and I became enamored with his detailed instruction; he left no cue unsaid. Everything from proper positioning of feet to specific details about the angle of hips to core engagement was covered throughout every exercise. I wasn’t out of breath, in pain or drenched in sweat after the workout, but I felt like I worked my muscles deeply, and they were even shaking during some of the movements.
I went back to my normal gym workouts and tennis matches, but when COVID-19 hit and the gyms closed, I decided to give P.volve a go on my own. I’m used to doing abdominal work on my back (and being a Pilates instructor, I often do a routine on my own at the gym), but P.volve challenged me to engage my core from a standing position. I felt much looser in my hips, back and pelvis while feeling more stabilized and noticing more definition in the sides of my torso almost immediately.
I started with the "7-Day No Equipment" series on repeat. Zach is the lead trainer for these workouts, and his British accent made me feel like I was transported to another country in my living room. (During a pandemic, it’s the little things that keep you going!) It quickly became my daily go-to workout. The moves may look simple, but the more well-versed in the moves you are and stronger you become, the more challenging the workout is.
After a few weeks of doing the workout without equipment, I went all in and ordered everything, often watching classes in the library with Stephen and Maeve (another one of my favorite instructors). I started to use the P.band to work my arms, shoulders and back, the ankle weights to amp up my lower-body strength training sessions and the dumbbells to target my arms even more. I started doing workouts like “Express P.band” and “Summit Boost Arms,” which are both total-body workout focusing on the shoulders and arms with equipment.
It’s been six months since I've started streaming P.volve in my living room, and I was hardly missing the gym … but then I was excited to find out that P.volve was opening a studio in my hometown of Chicago. Amid the pandemic, I was a bit concerned: Could they safely open a brand new boutique studio in Chicago’s busy West Loop neighborhood?
I started asking myself if it was worth checking it out. After all, it was THE workout I’ve been doing since the start of stay-at-home orders. And when you see the same instructor almost daily, you feel like they become your friend. Plus, I’ve witnessed Stephen and all of the instructors’ attention to detail. They train Victoria’s Secret models and celebrities, and their method is all about precision. As a fellow trainer myself, I am always on the lookout for a missed cue or instructions that leave a client not knowing how to properly do the exercise. But P.volve’s method and their staff is so attuned to details that I trusted the studio would be just as meticulous when following safety guidelines.
So when P.volve invited me to come in for a private training session with Stephen, who was in town for the grand opening, I decided that I had to find out for myself just how sanitary, safe and doable an in-person workout would be. I put on my investigative workout hat and headed a few miles away to meet with Stephen.
Stephen had just gotten a COVID-19 test before teaching the classes for the grand opening of the studio. When I met Stephen, he was wearing a mask and looked even taller in person than he does on the streaming workouts.
Like many COVID-equipped places, the studio had a thermal body-temperature scanner, social-distancing decals and mandatory cleaning in between sessions. Classes are capped at 30% capacity, the lockers are socially distanced and plexiglass partitions are available if requested. (I even used one for part of my workout with Stephen to test it out.) I love how they have this option for people who want an extra barrier between themselves and someone else in the class.
The studio uses limited equipment and it’s sanitized in between each use, plus there’s an enhanced air-purification system. Stephen explained that they use hospital-grade filters and bipolar ionization units (BPI), which reduces airborne viruses, including the Coronavirus/COVID-19.
We stayed 6 feet apart during the workout session, aside from a couple of times he bent over to touch my muscles to make sure I knew which ones to activate during certain moves while always wearing a mask indoors.
He explained to me that the P.volve method was partially inspired by his love of swimming. As a former swimmer, he focuses a lot on longer movements that activate multiple muscle groups at the same time. His goal of creating a longer and leaner physique for his clients is achieved through the movements and proprietary equipment that he has developed, like the special resistance band, inner thigh ball and band and a brand new mat to ensure you’re doing the right steps.
As a personal trainer and yoga and Pilates instructor myself, I geeked out while talking with Stephen about different workout moves that I love in P.volve. We talked about how he works the triceps with the P.Band as if he’s swimming the freestyle in the pool rather than just doing a basic tricep extension. And the threshold movement for the lower legs really works the areas of the hamstrings and thighs that have cellulite by activating the leg on the upward and downward motions.
Since the workout is low impact, I felt comfortable wearing the mask the entire time because I don’t get out of breath in these workouts — but I felt the burn and loved it! The doors were wide open in the studio, and they were setting up for an outdoor class as I was leaving. I felt really comfortable and can't wait to head back to the studio for an in-person class.
P.volve is opening its third studio in Los Angeles this winter, moving full steam ahead even amid the pandemic. If you’re not in LA, Chicago or New York City (the original studio), you can still do the workout at home. You can sign up for the 15-day free trial here, and shop the P.volve equipment store here.