REVIEW – Nicky Holender’s STRONGER


Making a workout video is easy.  Making one that doesn’t assault the eyes and ears of the masses is another story altogether.  Any goof in shorts with an iPhone can make a video in the basement.  But when it all comes out in the wash, quality matters.  This is probably why companies like Beachbody have such a following while others struggle to grab a piece of the fitness video market share.

The uber-creepy antics of Brazil Butt Lift notwithstanding

Now you can watch some video on YouTube but more often that not they reek of poor production and trainers with bad communication skills.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a free option that could pass for a professional package?

Kids, that’s what I’m here to find out.  And that’s why I’m going to try a series of free online fitness programs to separate the diamonds from the turds.  First up is the 8 week STRONGER CHALLENGE by Livestrong and hosted by former pro soccer player and celebrity trainer, Nicky Holender.


The program consists of 10 workouts freely viewed from YouTube or from the Livestrong website.  Livestrong offers plenty of online services such as meal plans, calorie counters, and fitness logs to keep track of your progress.  Most of it is free and as such will likely only serve to supply Skynet with your detailed physical records in the event humans must be harvested for meat.

Sounds fair. Where do I sign?


Time: 32 minutes

FIRE is a HIIT ( high intensity, interval training ) workout designed to do the most damage in half an hour. I advise cross trainer shoes as there is a lot of fast lateral movement. The format is 9 drills, each containing a cardio ( 60 sec ),hold ( 20 sec ) and HIIT ( 30 sec )sequence.

First impressions are positive.  The initial exposure to Nicky’s extreme English accent hits hard at first, but I found myself growing accustomed to it quickly enough.  That combined with the hair and I was half expecting him to yell “HALLLOW GOV-NAH!” and peddle Marmite instead of Shakeology.  Because that’s obviously what bloaks across the pond do.

Sorry, but my total British exposure is limited to Time Lords

The STRONGER CHALLENGE immediately has a look to it that rivals even the choicest offerings of higher end fitness packages. It has good camera work, decent music and professional choice in sets.

Shockingly surpassing the classy standard which was Brazil Butt Lift.

Speaking of locations, if it seems familiar then congratulations, your cognitive memory is running on all cylinders. It’s the same set as Shaun T’s Hip Hob Abs and Diamond Dallas Page Yoga.  Thankfully we get to avoid shaking our booty to hip hop and opt instead to workout with our dignity intact.

Shot in high-def video and thankfully lacking a waxed metro-sexual cast.


Time: 34 minutes

Body weight will be your weapon of choice today and the target is head to toe. There are 3 blocks of 4 moves each that run though upper body, lower, cardio and abs. Each exercise is a 20 second interval.

IRON uses your own body weight to provide the needed resistance.

I appreciate that the warm-ups are slow and steady as opposed to going balls-to-the-wall the moment play it pressed. It makes this a more universal package instead of appealing only to hardcore enthusiasts.


Time: 36 minutes

According to Nicky, this is his “Best of” collection of plyo, HIIT and strength. It is comprised of 6 blocks of 4 exercises each. Cardio ( 60 seconds ), HIIT ( 30 sec ), recovery ( 20 sec ) and strength ( 60 sec ). This will target your speed and agility skills with glorious precision.


Time: 42 minutes

Stretch out with some low intensity cardio.  Refuel targets joint mobility with 1 minute range-of-motion followed by brief isometric posture, then 1 minute of low impact cardio. It’s a pleasant alternative to a yoga workout.


Time: 32 minutes

This is a plyometics style workout.  8 exercises that have three 20 second components: load, explode, and reload.  You will repeat twice before moving on.  An example would be first doing standard push ups, then plyo push-ups followed by a ballistic stretch.


Time: 34 minutes

Lower impact plyometrics and cardio workout on par with T25.  10 blocks consisting of 60 seconds of cardio, 20 seconds of control, 30 HIIT, and finally reloading before moving on.


Time: 38 minutes

Steel targets all body parts: upper, lower, abs and cardio.  3 blocks with that focus on each will be done 4x before moving to the next block.  Nicky uses a towel for many moves and resistance bands would work just as well.

The cardio here is not some wimpy running on the spot stuff either.   A round of Double Walk-Out Push-ups will make that abundantly clear.  Combined with ISO holds that take advantage of your body weight, this could easily sub for a T25 Beta round.


Time: 35 minutes

This total body workout from Nicky pummels you with 6 blocks consisting of 4 exercises per block that go after cardio, HIIT, recovery and strength.  Warrior demands digging down and finding that strength to get through some monster moves.  The audio track is a bit repetitive here, but still gets a pass.


Time: 40 minutes

All about mobility and some low impact cardio.  There’s not a whole lot of difference between this and REFUEL except you do some isometric postures to get some balance work in.  Nicky also passes on advice from a wise sage such as “if there’s dolphins in the water there’s no sharks…if there’s a seal get out because it’s diner time.”  What dolphins and seals have to do with anything that’s going on I have idea.

I guess marine biology isn't one of Nicky's strong points.


Time: 31 minutes

Think you’re a hot potato because you can pull off Tony’s Plyo X?  Nicky will humble your sorry backside with Explosion.  8 exercises with 20 seconds each of loading, plyo, and active recovery done twice.  Easy enough right?  Wait, did I forget to say all of the jumping is on one leg?

ow. ow. OWW!!

Squats roll into jumps. Push ups roll into plyo-style.  Agony turns to white spots in your vision. Explosion surpasses even the difficulty of some Max 30 workouts due to the concentrated punishment.


Honestly, how this is free and steaming turds like Brazil Butt Lift will charge you actual money is a mystery on par with Stonehenge. The production and value blows away so many who charge prices in the $100 range and that includes major players like Beachbody.

Nicky Holdender as a trainer is a good motivator and is easy to listen to once you get accustomed to the strong British accent and punk-appearance.  He’s not a revolving door of jokes like Tony Horton but also not a stone-cold Vulcan like GSP in Rushfit.  He exhibits a sense of humor that never goes over the line and follows up with regular motivation, even though he sometimes repeats a few fitness catch phrases a bit much.

The cast too is shockingly normal.  They smile, but at the same time they are not like other videos where the cast is grinning so hard you swear the Joker hit them with his Smilex-gas.  Usually there are three people doing the regular moves and there is always one modifier for beginners which is a nice touch.

If someone asks me if there is a low cost/free entry option into fitness videos, STRONGER is a no-brainer choice with zero downsides.  It’s free folks.  I would recommend this for those who like T25 or P90X3.  Even better, use it as a hybrid.  It is a flexible, no cost addition to your workout library.

© 2016, Dysfunctional Parrot. All rights reserved. No reproduction of written material is permitted.

8.1 Awesome

Considering that this is free, what you are getting is absolutely unreal. STRONGER manages to go toe to toe with even the best video fitness packages available.

  • Trainer 8
  • Production Values 8
  • Cardio 7.5
  • Strength 7
  • Value 10

About Author

John Paul Parrot ( aka. The Dysfunctional Parrot ) is a disgruntled Systems Analyst who wanders the Canadian wastelands saving small villages with the power of Kung Fu.  His chair is also a little too close to the twenty year old microwave.  As you can well imagine, this has had certain side effects.

  • LT

    Does it have modifications for those who have enjoyed too many larger portions at the table?

    • RC

      Yes, there is a modifier for every workout, so even if you are just starting down your fitness path, you can do this!

  • freereel

    I just looked at the website for and I’m not sure whether its a good one or not. I just signed up for something called the Bodyrock fat burn challenge, 30 days of I think basically short HIIT videos sent to me via email. Having now looked at the youtube offerings and website, my sense is that the trainers and workouts are good, but that the site has so much content it is confusing, and lots of ads and attempts to upsell users.
    So, I’ll retract my reveiew request. I’ll be better off your good hands, Dysfunctional Parrot, as you decide what’s out there and what is worthy of your review!

  • SEM

    Well that was refreshing, thanks. We will have to look into this free stuff :)

  • Robin


    Is this bodyweight only ? Also, as we are speaking about bodyweight, is there any chance that you could review Mark Laurens three programs (one package now).

    • Yes, this is all bodyweight only. I’ll put your suggestion on my list! At the moment I’m looking at reviewing a couple free online options before getting back into buying more programs.

      • Rick

        Which brings me to ‘weider X-factor ST’ , another bodyweight program. It’s the precursor of ‘ruthless’ (not the be confused with the X-factor piece of equipment) and is not free, but almost. I’m a beginner in the world of fitness videos and I’m very curious what you think of it. Perhaps there’s a place for it on your list ?

  • Steve G

    Hi there,

    Thanks for your informative posts. It’s exactly the kind of balanced “non-coach” reviews the internet so desperately needs!

    I was curious how this measures up compared to the balls to the wall approach of Shaun T workouts, specifically T25. I know you mentioned it a couple of times in this review, but the run times of Stronger videos are roughly 10 minutes longer. In terms of calorie burn, do they stack up with less intensity but a longer burn, or do they still come up short compared to the 25 minutes of consistent punishment?


    • I would say they exceed the difficulty of T25 Alpha/Beta and are roughly equal to T25 Gamma. With the exception of a few extra tough workouts, STRONGER generally does not quite hit Max 30 levels. Pretty sweet for free!

      • Steve G

        Agreed. I did the Fire workout yesterday and some moves kicked my butt. That’s after a month of Insanity. I’ve completed Insanity before with great results, but needed something a little more balanced. I tried Max 30, and it’s just too much stress on the body, I’d say even for an athlete. In my opinion, it’s not sustainable, more of a temporary shock to the system … A humbling experience.

        Another pro for Stronger … No damn Shakeology adverts. I’m on board!

  • RC

    I finished up the Stronger program a couple weeks ago. Dropped 18lbs! Great program, especially for free. I’m now doing a run of T25 Beta to be followed by Gamma, as I wanted to start to introduce weights. I would not hesitate to use some of these Stronger workouts in my hybrid programs in the really is a very good program!

    • Jess Barron

      RC – Congrats on your 18-pound weight loss with STRONGER! That is excellent to hear. Glad you like the program.

  • Hawkman

    I’ve noticed Men’s Health/Rodale has a few new workouts if you ever want to look into them(MH60, MetaShred, Get Back in Shape, Spartacus,…).

  • Ruth Hubert

    I’m on week 5 of Stronger and really enjoying it! I’ve done lots of different programs and am a pretty big Beachbody fan, but I agree that Stronger fits right up there with BB as far as a quality program. Because it’s bodyweight only and free online it makes it a really nice travel workout as well. Nicky is really fond of different types of walkouts, and plank/mountain climber type variations…and burpee variations. Meaning, you’re on the floor a lot, so keep that in mind if you don’t like that kind of thing.

    P.S. Thanks for the review DP! I had stumbled over Stronger months ago and even tried one workout, but passed it over because I wasn’t convinced. Then I read your review of it and decided to give it a go after all and I’m really glad I did!

    • Jess Barron

      Ruth – Glad to hear you’re already through month 1 of STRONGER! Keep it up. Join the LIVESTRONG Facebook group and let us know if you have any questions at all.

  • Laura Lee

    I wasn’t going to bother doing the workout program, Stronger because for some reason I thought it was going to be too easy. After reading your review I tried many of the workouts. You were right there super challenging! I find Stronger to be a GREAT workout program. I’m doing a Hybird with it and Hard Corps. I would love it if you did a review on 21 Day Meta Shred. Since its not sold being on any sites that have comments sections you can’t find out what people think of the program.

    • 21 Day Shred is on deck after I finish reviewing the Hard Corps Special Ops bonus disk. I’m in the process of moving so we’ll see if I can get to it before I have to temporarily shut down the Parrot Gym!

  • Robin

    Mr. Parrot,

    I have 8 weeks now, before I have to be back at work (summer holidays) and when I go back, I want to be in the best shape of my life.
    Since I only have 8 weeks and since I’ll be travelling a lot it has to be a bodyweight program.
    So now I’m doubting between this and ruthless. I’m slim with a touch of bellyfat, I’m a decent runner, but I have rather weak arms (lifting 15 lbs in P90 once caused me a bursitis after three days and I haven’t done a decent workout since), so could you offer some wisdom, please ?

    Thanks a lot in advance

    • If you have 8 weeks and want to be at your best, then I’d go for P90X2. It covers all the bases including good muscle recovery workouts. The core development is also second to none.

      • Robin

        Thanks, P90x2 is on my list, but it does require a lot of equipment, which makes it difficult to use because of intensive travel in that period, that’s why I’m looking into bodyweight programs like ruthless and stronger. Any advice on these ?

        • I would definitely look at STRONGER. Not only is it as good as Ruthless in many ways, but it is also free. There’s no way you can go wrong with that one. Both are reviewed on this site.

          • Robin

            Ok. Both are equally good for muscle development ?

          • It’s been a while, but if memory serves they were both very much on par with each other. Ruthless was more cardio intensive while Stronger seemed to push the muscles more. Not sure your results will be too different with either one you choose.

          • Robin

            Ok. Thanks a lot !

  • Julie (O-kami)

    I am really enjoying Stronger. It is tough and really burns the calories

  • vickit

    Hey Mr Parrot, I really love all the reviews! I have started this workout this week (based on this review), and although I am enjoying it I really want to build muscle rather than burn fat. I was wondering if I can do this and something like Ript-90 (Jodi Hendrix) together rather than with T25 or if that would be pointless. if I can do them together would I run the program side by side (as in one workout after the other each day) or would I need to have separate strength and cardio days? I am new to this, and keep hearing things like ‘metabolic training’ but I’m not sure what the results of that are versus just mainly lifting weight… I have to workout at home due to a kiddie, and only have weights up to 10kg at the mo, is that heavy enough to build significant muscle?

    • I am not familiar with Ript-90 but see no reason a hybrid of the two would not work. That’s sort of the beauty of Stronger in that it is easy to shoehorn into just about any existing program.

      • vickit

        Thanks for getting back to me 😊

  • Jollem

    Hi DP

    Thanks for the review.

    How did you find this workout as far as knee impact.