Aerobic Step

An Honest Review of the Step Boss Home Workout Program with Cathe Friedrich (read this before you buy)

February 11, 2020

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I'm Mickie. Co-founder and CEO of One Strong Southern Girl. Our team is here for you. We want you to remember us because we helped changed your life. 


The Step Boss home exercise program by Cathe Friedrich is a combination of classic step aerobics and strength training. But I encourage you to read this full review before you rush off and ‘add to cart’ any of these videos.  These workouts aren’t for everyone. I’ve done all of the main routines and can help you figure out which ones you’ll love and which ones you might want to pass up.*

*The beautiful thing about workout programs by Cathe Friedrich is that you can buy just one of the videos inside each series. This review will help you decide if you want the entire set of Step Boss videos (there are 3) or just one.

 Here’s a summary of the Step Boss program:

This series is designed for the advanced exerciser and is comprised of three step DVDs that will challenge your muscles and cardio endurance with fun new, energetic routines! While all of the routines are step-based, they follow different formats for three totally different types of a challenge!–Cathe Friedrich

This topic (Step Boss) was featured on a recent podcast episode of Crunches and Cosmos. You can listen to the episode here:

This post may contain Amazon (or other) affiliate links which won’t change your price but will share some commission. You can get more information about that here.

Here’s a quick summary of each video (keep reading to find out the difference in each routine, how many calories I burned doing them and my recommendations):

Imax 4

the cover art of Imax 4 with Cathe Friedrich raising her leg to the side

The main workout in Imax 4 is 45 minutes.

The difficulty level is an intermediate to advanced cardio workout but a fully ADVANCED workout when it comes to the complexity of the choreography (on a scale of fancy footwork this workout is a 10).

You’ll need a gym sized aerobic step with 2 risers on each side to do the workout exactly like Cathe.


the cover art of PHA 3 with Cathe Friedrich doing a one arm row in plank

It’ll take you 55 minutes to do the main workout in PHA 3.

This is an advanced dumbbell workout but there’s no choreography to contend with.

You’ll need a variety of dumbbells, an gym sized aerobic step with 2 risers per side and a pair of gliding devices to do the workout as it’s designed.

Step Sync

the cover art of the Step Sync video with Cathe Friedrich wearing a green workout top

The main workout in Step Sync is 57 minutes long.

Like the Imax 4 routine, the workout is an intermediate to advanced cardio challenge but an advanced workout when it comes to complex footwork (choreography).

You’ll need a gym sized aerobic step with one riser under each side to do this workout as it’s designed.

The Cast of Step Boss

There are 6 different crew/cast members (including Cathe) spread across the videos. You’ll see a different combination of the 6 in each of the workouts.

If you’ve been doing Cathe Friedrich workouts for a long time you’ll be happy to see the beautiful familiar faces of Jai and Brenda on the team.

the cast members of Imax 4 standing in formation wearing matching blue outfits
Imax 4 cast
the cast of Step Sync standing together wearing matching green outfits
the cast of Step Sync
cast of PHA 3 in the Step Boss series
cast of PHA 3

And if you have a membership to Cathe Friedrich’s Live streaming workouts then you’ll recognize Jennifer from Cathe’s home studio.

The Music in Step Boss

The music will NEVER be the reason you buy (or keep coming back) to Cathe Friedrich’s workouts.

The music gets the job done. It’s choreographed to fit the workout perfectly but it’s forgettable, overall. (The good news is that you probably won’t hate it. But you won’t love it either. I don’t know about you but there are workout videos I can’t do because listening to the music isn’t worth the workout.)

If the music in a workout is what gets you fired up then check out the workouts in Les Mills on Demand.


I burned roughly 400 calories doing each of the main workouts. (I use a heart rate monitor with a chest strap to get the most accurate reading.)

As always, I like to tell you how many calories I burn with every workout so you can use it as a reference point. You’ll burn a different number of calories.

Here are my numbers (Stay with me. I’ll break down all the rest of each video in just a bit.)

Imax 4

Workout length-45 minutes


Step Sync

Workout length-57 minutes



Workout length-55 minutes


Premix Routines

If this is your first look at Cathe Friedrich workouts then I need to quickly explain what a premix workout is.

*I’d been doing Cathe Friedrich workouts for 5 years before I ever hit the ‘Premix’ section of the menu and discovered all the workouts I’d been missing out on. That’s why I like to explain what they are (just in case you’re like me).

You’ll find ‘Premix routines’ on nearly every single Cathe Friedrich video.

These are additional workouts that are shorter or longer than the main workout on the video. Some premixes are the main workout with sections taken out and some premixes take sections from the main workout and double them.

But the best premix routines take sections from the main workout and splice them together with other workouts. (You’ll understand completely when I show you the premix titles on these videos in just a moment.)

So, the important takeaway is that you get far more than one workout with every video.

The extra workouts you’ll see blended into the premix routines in the Step Boss program include the following 3 workouts (and 2 stretch routines not listed below):

Ab Stacker

Abs 2

Intermediate Step

Now I’m going to break down each video for you (including the number of premixes, how much space you’ll need and what the workout is like in each video) so you can decide which one (if any) are for you.

Imax 4

Here’s how Cathe summarizes the Imax 4 workout:

…follows the same basic format of the past IMAX workouts, with the added bonus of this one being entirely low impact! You’ll start each round with a basic step routine which we will repeat six times. You don’t have to be a master stepper to follow these mini combos. They will be straightforward and easy to follow. Each mini combo will be followed by a low impact high-intensity blast segment which then transitions into a short resting phase. This pattern will be repeated throughout the workout. The advanced nature of the workout comes not from the complexity of the routine itself, but from the intensity and nonstop formatting.

And here’s a look at the workout:

Yes, the Imax 4 workout IS entirely low-impact and yes, you do repeat each mini-combo 6 times.


You might disagree that you don’t need to be a master stepper to follow the mini-combos.

If you’ve never done step aerobics before do NOT start here.

I wouldn’t call myself a ‘master stepper’ (that sounds a little too cocky) but I can follow most step workouts. (It’s taken me years to get what I’d call ‘proficient’ with most classic step workouts.)

I was able to do the Imax 4 workout without missing a single combination by my 3rd try at it.

Other people I’ve talked to (who don’t do a lot of step aerobics) couldn’t do this workout at all because they felt like the steps were too complicated.

Taking all that into consideration, Imax 4 is still my favorite workout of the 3 videos. Once you learn it you’ll really appreciate the format and efficiency of the routine.

Here’s the other information you need to know about Imax 4:

Space requirement:

You’ll need 3 to 5 feet all the way around your step to do all the exercises as they’re designed.

Length of Main Workout: 45 minutes

Calories I burn doing the main workout on Imax 4: 422

Equipment used: a gym-sized aerobic step with 2 risers under each side

Premix workouts on this video (there are 14):

a screen shot of the premix routines in IMAX 4
IMAX 4 Premix Routines

Step Sync

cover of Step Sync

Here’s Cathe’s summary of Step Sync:

If you love step choreography this (Step Sync) is the DVD for you! This workout routine is entirely choreographed from beginning to end! We will build and execute advanced combinations that will make you feel like the “boss of your workout” by the time you’re done! This DVD includes a 20-minute intermediate step routine for those exercisers who want to challenge themselves with STEP SYNC but need a slower start. The combos in this bonus will be easier to grasp but will most definitely still be a challenge!

Here’s a peek a the workout:

Step Sync is (slightly) easier than Imax 4 because the step combinations are built up for you in layers.

As Cathe says above, the choreography is built up for you in Step Sync so you get to to ‘learn’ the combinations before you put them all together.

Even though you get the chance to learn the steps in Step Sync at a slower pace (you repeat each of them a bunch of times before you add to them) it still took me about 3 times doing this workout before I finished it without missing any steps. There are a lot of turns and changes of direction.

The beauty of this workout is that you’ll stay in a ‘steady state cardio’ for the majority of the routine so you burn a ton of calories even though you may never feel out of breath. I love that about this routine.

Here’s the other information you need to know about Step Sync

Space requirements:

This routine requires the most space (out of the 3 workouts) to do all the combinations. You’ll need at least 5 feet (about the length of your body) all the way around the perimeter of your step.*

*You can do the workout with half that amount of space but ideally you’d want more.

Length of main workout: 57 minutes

Calories I burn doing the main workout on Step Sync: 417

Equipment used: a gym-sized step with one riser under each side

Premix workouts on this video (there are 9):

the premix routines in Step Sync
Step Sync premix routines


cover of PHA3 with Cathe Friedrich doing a one-arm row in plank

Here’s a summary of the PHA* 3 workout from

*PHA=peripheral heart action

PHA by design is comprised of alternating upper and lower body exercises which allows one body part to rest while the other works. This DVD will follow that general pattern, but with an additional increase in cardio factor throughout the routine. With this workout, you can expect to sweat and burn as you challenge your endurance and muscular strength!*This DVD includes an ab bonus and a stretch bonus.

Here’s a look at the PHA 3 workout:

If you’ve done any of Cathe Friedrich’s other PHA workouts (like Strong and Sweaty PHA) then you’re already familiar with this kind of workout. What makes this routine unique is the fast pace.

Unlike her other PHA programs, there are more compound exercises in this one AND the pace is much faster. I was surprised and happy about the additional cardio workout incorporated in this strength training routine.

ATTENTION-Watch out for the push-up sequences. They’re awesomely difficult!

Here’s the other information you need to know about PHA 3

Space requirements:

PHA 3 requires the least amount of additional space (compared to the other workouts in the series). You’ll need to be able to put your hands on your step and fully extend your body without kicking any furniture.

Length of main workout: 55 minutes

Calories I burn doing the main workout on PHA 3: 421

Equipment used: Dumbbells, gym-sized aerobic step with 2 risers on each side, sliding discs, lifting gloves (these are optional, I don’t used them but wish I had some)

Premix workouts on this video (there are 15):

a list of the premix routines on PHA 3
Premix routines on PHA 3

What’s the best thing about the Step Boss Program?

I couldn’t pick just one but here are a few things that make the program amazing:

Effective (you’ll burn a lot of calories)

Fun (a must-have ingredient to any good workout)

Low impact (yes!)

Great stretching with each workout (plus some extra stretching you can do with the premix routines)

Challenging! (as always, Cathe will challenge you)

What’s missing in the Step Boss Program?

I’d have loved to see a premix workout that included parts of Step Sync or Imax 4 combined with parts of PHA 3.

That would’ve been a beautiful combination.

Which video is ideal for you?

Imax 4

If you’re familiar with classic step aerobics and don’t mind learning some choreography (you have patience) then start with Imax 4.

This workout is the most fun and challenging of the 3.

You’ll feel like a dance pro after every Imax 4 workout.

Step Sync

If you’re looking for a classic step routine that’s (slightly) less advanced then start with Step Sync (and do the Intermediate Step premix called Basic #2, as your first workout).


If you’re looking for a fast-paced toning workout that’ll challenge you then start with PHA 3.

Your aerobic step (a pro tip)

You’ll need a gym-sized aerobic step to do the workouts in Step Boss.

Don’t waste your time buying a tiny circuit step.

Yes, a circuit step is cheaper but it’s because it’s lighter and smaller (bad attributes in this case). And trying to do these workouts on a circuit step is dangerous. Please, trust me on this. A circuit step is a small (dangerous) target that’ll flip out from under you.

Invest in a gym-sized aerobic step you can safely use for step aerobics as well as weight training exercises.

You can find a gym-sized aerobic step (the same size Cathe uses) at The Aerobic Step Shop (you can watch a video there that compares circuit sized step features to a gym-sized step).

Learn more here–>>Your Ultimate Guide to Buying and Using an Aerobic Step

My recommendation for Step Boss

If you’re interested in these workouts the smartest way to try them is by signing up for a Cathe on Demand + Live membership (I’m NOT an affiliate but I love the service).

You can try every single workout Cathe has made (there are hundreds) including all of the Step Boss routines.

Read more about Cathe on Demand here.

BUT if you’re still interested in buying the videos individually here are some links:

Cathe Friedrich’s online store

Collage video


Other articles for you…

A genuine review of Cathe on Demand and Cathe Live

Fit Split with Cathe Friedrich

Muscle Max with Cathe Friedrich

Your fitness mindset–here’s what you’re doing wrong

Kira Stokes Fit

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  1. Denis says:

    Hey Mickie,

    thank you for that review. I’m reading your blog since the beginning of 2020 and I like a lot of your posts. I completed Shaun T’s programs and found your Cathe workout reviews and gave it a try; didn’t regret my first workouts. After reading your review now, I will succeed with Step Boss.

    Great work, again, thank you!

    • Thank you! You made my day! Shaun T and Cathe Friedrich are incredible. You can’t go wrong with any of their programs. Good luck with Step Boss! Check back in and let me know what you think. Have a great day! Mickie

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