Insanity Workout Review (The Ultimate Fitness Challenge?)

By Greg Martin / a couple of years ago

The Short Answer:

Insanity is definitely a challenging workout, especially if you complete the program within the recommended timeframe.

If you have an interest in health and fitness, then you have no doubt heard of the Insanity workout program. From the Beach Body stables (P90X, Brazil Butt Lift) Insanity is tough. How tough? Many people consider it one of the most intense workout programs ever put on DVD. But is it as tough as has been made out to be? Is it worth the $119.00 compared to paying for some gym time? Does it get the results it claims? And, is it right for everyone?

In the following Insanity workout review, I’ll cover all aspects of the program. The analysis includes an overview of the exercises themselves. And my thoughts on how effective it is after completing the program twice.

What Is Insanity

First up, let’s cover exactly what Insanity is, and isn’t.

Insanity is a 60-day “body transformation” program. The program’s delivered on DVD by fitness expert and professional butt kicker Shaun T. It consists of a balance of plyometric strength training, high-intensity interval training, and cardio. The program requires no specialized gym equipment except a decent pair of shoes. It’s also advisable to have a water bottle and towel handy, you will need it.

The program is all about transforming your body over 60 days and claims you can achieve results comparable to what most people expect after a year of training.

What you get

For $119.85 (paid in full or 3 monthly payments of $39.95 + Shipping), you receive ten workouts. All presented on DVD along with a nutrition plan and progress calendar. (All Beach Body programs are now also available as a streaming service online).

Over the course of 60 days, you will repeat these ten workouts based on the workout calendar provided. The training requires a commitment of six days per week.

The Workouts

How tough is Insanity? Many consider it one of the most intense workouts ever put on DVD. Click To Tweet

Shaun TGetting started

Insanity is a game of two halves. For the first month, your workouts are sharp, intense and approx. 40 minutes. The first month includes a warm up which is surprisingly challenging in itself. The warm-ups based on moderate stretching with a focus on hip flexors, lower back, and hamstrings. It’s followed by interval training before a warm down stretch.

The three workouts consist of a mix of plyometric strength and conditioning and cardio. All workouts have the same warm up, or similar. After each workout, there is a stretch and cool down period.

There is also a recovery session once per week. The recovery workout is a shorter abdominal session that you complete once per week. It is only for the last three weeks of each month. There is also a fitness test you must take every two weeks to chart your progress.

Recovery week

After the first month of Insanity, you enter recovery week. During this week, the focus is on deep muscle work and stretching. Doing things this way allows your body to recover from the first month.  It’s an ideal time to get over some of the inevitable aches and pains and allow you to freshen up for what comes next.

Max training

In the second month, the workouts increase to between 45 minutes (Cardio) right up to 60 minutes. The warm-up is longer and includes some variations on the first round also. The stretching session is much the same with the inclusion of a calf stretch. But it’s the interval training that takes things up a notch.

Unlike the first month, time spent on interval training increases by a full 3 X 3-minute rounds. It’s a step up from the first month in intensity and will test your fitness and drive. Particularly the max interval training session with Shaun T, who announces from the outset that he’s going to kick your butt today, and he ‘ain’t’ playing.

What is high-intensity interval training (HIIT)?

The foundations of the Insanity program build on the principles of HIIT. HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training. The HIIT concept is nothing new, although it is popular at present. It also shares some similarities with Fartlek training. Fartlek training started in 1937 and utilizes the concept of interval training. HIIT training typically combines high energy and low energy exercise performed in intervals. 

HIIT training combines high energy, and low energy activity carried out in intervals. A practical example of this is running. e.g. when running, you can mix short, intense sprints with periods of moderate pace. Essentially you are maxing your body out in bursts followed by low-intensity periods or complete rest. Your body doesn’t get time to adjust as it would doing moderate intensity exercise and, as a result, your heart rate will rise to approx. 80% capacity and fall during the low-intensity period.

The concept of this type of training is about maxing your body out in bursts. Followed by low-intensity periods or complete rest. Your body doesn’t get time to adjust as it would doing moderate intensity exercise. As a result, your heart rate will rise to approx. 80% capacity and fall during the low-intensity period.

The entire program is heavily influenced by HIIT training but with a twist. Most interval style programs involve moderate levels of exercise with bursts of high intensity. Insanity is pretty much the exact opposite. Instead, it consists of intense effort with short intervals of rest. Which as you can imagine is challenging.

The exception to the rule is the pure cardio and max cardio workouts.  Both of these do not allow for any breaks. There are recovery movements included in the max cardio workout to be fair. The recovery movements are low impact exercises which allow your heart rate to come down. It also provides you a short breather from the super high-intensity stuff.

Some of the benefits of this type of training include:

  • Burn Fat/The Afterburn Effect
    When working at capacity, even for short intervals, muscles demand more oxygen. Our muscles continue to require more oxygen hours after the workout. As a result, your metabolism speeds up, and your body will continue to burn fat for up to 24 hours.
  • More efficient use of time

    As HIIT is a more efficient form of exercise, the time spent is more effective. You will get similar results working out for less time. As opposed to moderate intensity jogging.
  • No equipment required

  • You can apply HIIT principles to weight training as well. But generally speaking. HIIT doesn’t need any particular equipment.
  • Build Muscle, instead of losing it
  • Steady state cardio exercise such as distance running is considered detrimental to muscle gain. Your body will burn a combination of fat and muscle if performing this type of activity for long periods. Short, high-intensity training helps retain muscle while burning fat. Need an example? Compare a sprinters body to that of a marathon runner.

So, How Hard is Insanity?

It’s going to depend on your current level of fitness. It’s safe to assume any workout with the tagline “the most intense workout program ever put on DVD” means business. Some might dispute the claim, but there’s no denying it’s a hard slog.

The program delivers results, but it requires a sustained effort to see it through. You can pace yourself by taking breaks, in fact, it’s encouraged as needed. You should also track your heart rate if you have a heart rate monitor to stay safe. Insanity is an intense program and will take plenty of willpower to see it through.

Mentally challenging

Backing up every day for Insanity (one rest day per week) is the most difficult aspect of the program. While you may be able to commit to one workout of no more than an hour of your day. Putting your body through Insanity 6 days per week for 60 days will test your commitment and will power. Make no mistake your body will be hurting, especially your legs and there will be times you feel too sore to work out. I was running up to 20km per week before doing Insanity, and there were many times where it was extremely hard going.

Insanity Work Out Results

Insanity DVDInsanity is going to set you back $119.85 paid in three installments. Is it worth this much, considering you could also pay for some time at a gym for around the same price?

Based on the production values of the product alone $119 represents good value. The program is slick.

It’s also professionally presented and comes complete with a fantastic instructor in Shaun T. Who has an ability to help you, ‘dig deeper’ without coming off sounding like a drill sergeant.

So should you invest in Insanity?

It comes back to what you want from it. The workouts maximize reward for effort, and you will see results if you stay the course. But it’s far from easy. In most cases, you will need to dig deep to get through it.

Is Insanity for Everyone?

In a word no. Having said that it certainly delivers results. If you are looking to commit to a program where you see a significant improvement, you won’t end up disappointed. That is as long as you complete it…..and that’s where the problem lies.

I can’t speak for everyone. But most people I have talked to or who have posted reviews online it is challenging to complete. It’s considered extreme by many, and shouldn’t be something you decide on a whim.

If you are out of shape, sticking to the course for the full 60 days may well be to too much for you. It’s not the sort of workout you will get through without at least some base of fitness behind you. That is unless you are more determined than most. If not, you may be smarter starting with something a little less intensive. You can then have the aim of building up to a program like Insanity.

Beach Body don’t recommend Insanity for anyone with a history of knee or back injuries. With the amount of plyometric work (jumping, leg strengthening exercises) this makes sense. The potential for (re)injury will be high if you have a pre-existing condition.

My recommendation would be not to do Insanity if:

  • You suffer an arthritic condition
  • Have a history of neck, back or knee injury
  • Have an existing cardiovascular condition
  • You have a respiratory condition

Final Thoughts

I love Insanity; it’s an excellent program that can even become a little addictive after a while. But like all workout programs, it’s not for everyone. If you are unsure, check out some of the example clips on YouTube and know what you are getting yourself into.


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