Fitness used to be so much simpler. Today, to get a good sweat on, you have to wade through wallet-busting boot camps, workout-boosting supplements, and the veritable army of intimidatingly fit bodies that is the #fitspo hashtag on Instagram.
Back in the ’90s, all you had to do was pop a tape into your VHS and follow the instructions (generally wisdom spouted by a neon-clad guru). Well, it’s time to dust off that VHS, because we’ve rounded up the ne plus ultra of ’90s workout videos—beat-backed routines that will still get your heart pumping, your muscles moving, and, of course, your memories flowing. And for more hilarious nuggets from the twilight of last century, refresh your memory with the 20 Slang Terms From the 1990s That No One Uses Anymore.
Tae Bo; Billy Blanks
At its core, Tae Bo is an aerobic exercise amalgamation of Tae Kwon Do and Boxing. But, as it soared to immense popularity in the ’90s, Tae Bo became an ethos, too: Total commitment to whatever you do. Awareness of yourself and the world. Excellence, the truest goal in anything you do. The Body as a force for change. Obedience to your will and your true desire for change.
And Tae Bo had some serious staying power; as recently as last year, inventor and fitness guru Billy Blanks was uploading weekly workouts to his YouTube channel, which boasts more than 100,000 subscribers. That’s right, people! Tae Bo is still kicking! And for more modern exercise fads that may not show such resolve, check out “Plogging,” the New Swedish Exercise Craze.
Lean Routine; Jane Fonda
For our money, Jane Fonda, the godmother of workout videos, peaked with 1992’s Lean Routine, a sartorial masterpiece starring sparkling leotards and shiny belts. The workout is a doozy, too, full of intricate footwork and heart-pumping cardio. And it clearly works: Just look at Fonda today for proof.
Get Up and Dance; Paula Abdul
Before Paula Abdul was the good cop on American Idol, she was helping America sing and dance its way to sculpted abs. Her best video? This Zumba precursor segment from Get Up and Dance, which combines dance moves and nonstop cardio for a total-body burn. For more ways to get a head-to-toe burn, learn the Best One-Move Total-Body Workouts of All Time.
Step Up; La Toya Jackson
Neon leotards! Tacky Photoshop overlays! That hair! You truly can’t get more ’90s than this. But what makes this gem of a video truly stand out is La Toya Jackson’s deadpan delivery through—or, rather, the fact that producers thought, at any point, that such sedated speech could motivate anyone to get their move on.
Shape Your Body; Cindy Crawford
For a truly grueling workout, look no further than Cindy Crawford’s 90-minute opus, which mixes aerobic intensity and body-strength training to work everything from your glutes to your abs. Fair warning, though: You’ll need a dining chair to do the whole routine. And for more great fitness knowledge, check out the 7 Things That Happen To Your Body When You Exercise.
Power Packed Workout; Karen Voight
The only digitally available copy of this video mislabels the date as an ’80s classic, but make no mistake: It’s a true product of the ’90s. (It came out in 1996.) For the full version of this intense routine, you’ll have to look to Amazon. Here’s hoping your VHS player still works.
Abs of Steel; Tamilee Webb
The glaring error at the video’s onset (“ab’s”) shouldn’t distract viewers from what is, to this day, a grueling abs workout. If you want to hit every part of your core—including the essential and oft-forgotten oblique muscles—copy Tamilee Webb’s moves to a tee. Or, just master The Single Greatest Flat-Abs Exercise You’re Not Doing.
Crunch Fitness; Terri Walsh
Terri Walsh coined the concept of active resistance training—wherein you drive motion from the inside out, effectively creating resistance with little to no impact—in the ’90s and, in the intervening years since, has turned it into a bona fide fitness trend. If you’re interested, consider jetting off to one of her luxe fitness retreats.
Stretchin’ to the Classics; Richard Simmons
The fitness guru and comedian—and omnipresent narrative specter of the “Missing Richard Simmons” podcast—made a name for himself with his Sweatin’ to the Oldies series. But the true gem of Richard Simmons’ oeuvre is Stretchin’ to the Classics, a little known video starring what might be history’s most shoddily constructed film set of all time. Ever.
Buns of Steel; Greg Smithey
There’s one surefire way to get buns of steel: A punishing, nonstop 40-minute glute workout. This routine, designed by Greg Smithey, stands the test of time. And for more ways to get in a good sweat session, master the fat-burning 15-minute workout this model swears by.
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