What It Is
The name of this workout series, Insanity, says it all. This 60-day cardio-based program includes 10 workout DVDs with one goal in mind: To kick your butt with high intensity aerobic and anaerobic interval training. To that end, many of the workouts follow the same basic formula: High intensity exercises for 3 minutes, followed by 30 seconds of rest, which isn't nearly enough time to recover. This very short recovery time combined with such high intensity exercise makes for very challenging workouts that quickly sneak up on you.
The program also includes a basic nutrition plan (not reviewed) and a calendar mapping out your 60-day schedule, which includes 3 weeks at a high intensity (workouts are scheduled every day except 1) followed by a week of recovery workouts.
For the first 30 days, you do up to 6 cardio workouts a week, each with a different focus - Plyometrics, power and resistance, pure cardio and circuits along with core workouts as well. The last 30 days follows the same schedule, but your workouts increase in both time and intensity. Though they include different exercises, many of the workouts follow the same format: 3 to 5 high intensity exercises in a row for 3 minutes, rest for 30 seconds and then repeat the series for a total of three times, working harder each time. The workouts are led by Shaun T, a lean and motivating instructor and there are a gym full of exercisers that he pushes along the way. Though they're all very fit, they do take breaks throughout the workouts so you're not the only one coughing up a lung.
If you don't like high impact exercise or gasping for air, you won't be a fan of these workouts. The exercises are straightforward and athletic, requiring no equipment and you'll recognize many of them, such as jumping jacks, burpees and suicides. There are unique moves as well - Side burpees, combination pushups with jumping jacks, frog jumps and more. It's hard to believe someone could come up with that many high intensity, killer exercises with no equipment needed, but they managed to do it. The DVDs include:
- Dig Deeper Fit Test - You know a workout is going to be hard if you have to do a fitness test before attempting it. The Fit Test gives you a taste of what's to come with high intensity exercises like jumping switch kicks, plyo jacks, power knees, power jumps and burpees. You do as many as you can in one minute with, thankfully, a minute of rest between exercises. The fit test is about 30 minutes long, but is a workout all on it's own.
- Plyometric Cardio Circuit - This 40-minute workout may seem short, but it's long enough to kick butt with explosive moves like power squats, ski jumps, pushups and mountain climbers. There's a tough 10-minute warm up, a 5-minute stretch and then about 20 minutes of the intervals - 3 minutes at high intensity followed by 30 seconds of rest.
- Cardio Power & Resistance - This 40-minute workout feels similar to the plyo cardio circuit and it is - It has same format, but with different exercises and a focus on muscular endurance. Some moves include power jump squats, squat kicks, shoulder pushups, dips, hurdle jumps and moving pushups.
- Cardio Recovery & Max Recovery - There's no cardio here, but there's plenty of challenge and variety with a mix of planks, squats, lunges, pushups and stretches.
- Pure Cardio - This workout is 40 minutes of hell...er...cardio with no rests. You do move after move such as suicide drills, switch kicks, power jacks and frog jumps without breaks. Even the video exercisers look ready to drop.
- Cardio Abs - This 20-minute workout starts with high intensity cardio and ends with core moves. You hold the same position (a v-sit) for a number of variations followed by leg raises, planks and more.
- Core Cardio & Balance - This recovery workout includes a series of cardio exercises that get increasingly difficult followed by standing core and conditioning drills such as knee lifts, extensions and arm moves.
- Max Interval Circuit - During the second month, your workouts jump to 60 minutes, following the familiar format, but with even harder moves such as side burpees, pushup jacks, plyo lunges and more. Fatigue sneaks up quickly in this workout, but wearing a heart rate monitor can help you manage your intensity.
- Max Interval Plyo - By the time you make it to this 60-minute cardio extravaganza, you really will start to question your own sanity. You follow the same interval format, but this one is all about plyometrics, which means you do quite a few powerful pushups, squats and core exercises.
- Max Cardio Conditioning - This non-stop cardio workout (meaning all cardio, no breaks) is possibly the hardest with everything from switch-kicks and sprints to suicide jumps and planks with punches.
Pros and Cons
- A Well-Structured Program - The program is all laid out for you, complete with a calendar of your scheduled workouts, making this a snap to follow (if not to actually do).
- Effective - These workouts burn lots of calories with high intensity interval training designed to push your limits. You get a lot done in a short period of time.
- Easy to Follow - The workouts aren't easy, but most of the moves are straightforward and athletic with no choreography or equipment to worry about.
- Expensive - At about $120, this is definitely a long-term investment.
- High Impact - Most of the exercises are high impact and intense and, while Shaun T stresses safety and good form, there is a risk of soreness and injury.
- Repetitive - The workouts have different exercises, but most of them follow the same general format. Doing the same type of workouts day after day can get tedious.
- No Strength Training - This is, by definition, a cardio-based program but a complete program should include strength training, something you'll have to do on your own. That isn't easy with such high intensity cardio to recover from.
Overall, the Insanity workout series offers a variety of challenging, intense workouts that will appeal to the experienced exerciser who wants to take their cardio training to the next level. The workouts can be deceptive. I often felt like I was working moderately hard for the first 20 or so minutes, only to have fatigue hit hard halfway through the workouts. However, if you can monitor yourself and enjoy being pushed, the Insanity series may be a good choice for you.