Review: Shaun T’s Insanity Program

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Insanity LogoUPDATE:  Have you seen Shaun T’s new program?  Focus T25.  5 days a week, 25 min a day.  Results are insane.  It’s like Insanity without the breaks.  Check it out HERE.

 

UPDATE:  Are you looking for the Insanity Schedule?  See the comment section below to see how you can get the schedule for free.

After 63 days of hell, it is time to do an honest review of the Beachbody program known as Insanity. As of today, I am officially a graduate of both P90X and Insanity. However, one thing that you will not find on my site anywhere is an “honest” review of P90X. Why is that? Well, P90X is the first Beachbody program that I ever did and I am extremely partial to it. Given that I now sell the program as a Beachbody Coach (which I became because of my love for P90X) and I credit it with seriously improving my triathlon training and performance, I don’t know that I could give an unbiased review of the program. However, despite the fact that I do also sell Insanity, I do not have the same connection with the program that I do with P90X. Therefore, I think that I can give a fairly unbiased review of the program. Ultimately, you will have to decide how unbiased you think it is but at least I warned you that I do sell the program.

Now, understand that when I say “63 days of hell” I actually mean that in a good way. I love to be challenged and this program certainly did that. I have never been through a workout program that had so many moves that I could not keep up with or that I had to modify to accomplish…and that includes P90X. This program truly is Insane! However, with that being said, just because a program has really hard moves doesn’t mean that it is the most effective way to train your body. Especially since everyone has different goals. So, I will try to give you my take on Insanity both in how it relates to getting the body you want as well as how it applies to triathletes (or swimmers, cyclists, and runners separately).

The Intro: Here is what Beachbody says about Insanity:

What is it?
INSANITY® is a 60-day cardio-based total-body conditioning program that’s perhaps the most intense workout ever put on DVD. Fitness expert Shaun T drew on his collegiate track and field training plus his subsequent years of experience as an elite trainer to create a program that takes total-body conditioning to an extreme level. Just as P90X is the height of resistance training, so INSANITY is the pinnacle of cardio training.
Why is it effective?
Interval training allows you to beat the “stress adaptation response,” which is what happens when your body gets used to exercising at one level of exertion and stops improving. An interval workout includes a set where you perform at your maximum, followed by one of lower intensity, with the cycle repeated to achieve a cumulative effect.
INSANITY uses MAX Interval Training which replaces your moderate intensity exercise with maximum-intensity exercise, and your short intervals of intensity with short periods of rest. Adding high-intensity exercise, during which your heart rate is raised to 80 percent or more of its maximum
capacity, forces your body to use fast-twitch muscle fibers not normally engaged in cardio exercise. These fast-twitch fibers continue burning extra fuel even during lower-intensity exercise. INSANITY’s high-intensity activity is likely to have you working out at over 85% of your maximum, instead of the lower rate recommended in other programs. As a result, you’ll experience faster increases in fitness and more efficient burning of carbohydrates and fat—as much as 1,000 calories per hour.
How does it compare?
Unlike Shaun T’s earlier best-selling programs, Hip Hop Abs® and Rockin’ Body®, INSANITY is not dance-based. Instead, it turns to sports science and high-level conditioning techniques to create fast body composition changes.
Other extreme programs, such as ChaLEAN Extreme® and P90X®, focus on building muscle and burning fat through weight training. They utilize weights to help ignite your metabolism. INSANITY uses only the power and resistance of your own body to amp up your cardio, lower your body fat percentage, and sculpt your muscles. You won’t need any gear other than water, a towel, and your own strength of purpose.

Here is what I say:

1) For the fitness enthusiast that wants a 6-pack: First of all, in my opinion, if you want to look exactly like Shaun T, this program will not get you all the way there. It is in no way designed to build a large and chiseled upper body like Shaun T and Tony Horton have. As the description from Beachbody states, this program is a cardio-based program. It is intended to teach your body to use fast-twitch muscle fibers and increase your aerobic capacity. It is not intended to build your shoulders and biceps. If that is what you are looking for then P90X is a better bet, in my opinion. That is not to say that there is no upper body training in this program though. There are plenty of pushups (in just about every workout) and there are some other upper body moves here and there (pike shoulder presses, tricep dips, etc.). However, it is not the focus of this program. This program will help you lose weight and build aerobic capacity. If you want to be able to beat your buddies up and down the basketball court next summer during the pick-up league without being winded, this program is perfect for you. If you want huge biceps and pecs, this program is not your best bet.

2) For the Endurance Athlete: Given that this program is cardio heavy, it would seem that it would be a good fit for the triathlete…especially one that wanted to change things up a bit in the off-season. This is exactly why I decided to dedicate a full 60 days to the program rather than just using parts of it. Overall, I think that is a true statement. This program is indeed a good fit for the triathlete in the off-season. However, an argument could be made that it is a little too intense and plyometric heavy for what most triathletes need in the off-season. The reason I say that is because most triathletes go very hard during the regular season. Let’s face it, most triathletes are very dedicated, hardcore people…they overtrain during the regular season and they really need to take a step back during the off-season. For an Ironman athlete that is racing under 10 hours, this may very well be a step back from training…however, for the average triathlete, this is not much of a break if at all.
With that said, if you have the time and you are not overtrained, I think you can get a lot out of this program as a swimmer, biker, runner, or triathlete. Here are some of the things that can help you:

a) Increased Aerobic Capacity: Just like any other interval training that you might do over the course of a training season, Insanity will help you train your aerobic system to operate at higher intensities. Your heart will recover faster as you train your aerobic system and that has obvious benefits for the triathlete. Specifically, there is direct application to the short course athlete that operates on shorter bursts of higher intensity.

b) Increased short burst speed: Because the moves in Insanity focus mostly on fast twitch muscle fiber, it is bound to increase your sprint speed. Basically, Insanity is like doing an intensified version of P90X Plyometrics for 63 days in a row. If that doesn’t drastically increase your explosiveness then I don’t know what will.

c) Flexibility: While Shaun doesn’t do a ton of stretching during the program, if you are one of those athletes that neglects the stretching, this program will get you in the habit. Shaun does a good job of covering the muscle groups that triathletes use the most in the stretching section before each workout with a little extra stretching and “yoga-like” moves in the recovery workouts.

d) Core/Ab Strength: This program only really has one workout that is specifically dedicated to core (Cardio Abs). However, Shaun enforces the practice of engaging your core during every move in every workout, and many moves are designed so that you cannot complete them without using your core. For the first couple of weeks of the program, I thought that the core work wasn’t really very good in this program but Shaun proved me wrong. My core is stronger than ever but it wasn’t achieved by doing ab specific moves…it was all done by using your core in the cardio and plyo moves.

So, as I said, this is a great overall program for those that want to get in great shape and those that want something different to do in the triathlon off-season (as long as it doesn’t take you into the overtraining zone). Now, I want to talk about some of the less important things that I liked or disliked about the program.

Let’s Start with the Good:

1) Shaun T is an excellent motivator. He does an amazing job of keeping the atmosphere pumped up and electric throughout the workout. He tells you exactly what he expects of you and what you are getting yourself into and he delivers on his promises of intensity.

2) The bi-weekly fit tests keep you going. Even when I didn’t necessarily feel or look like I was more fit, I always performed better on the next fit test and that was very encouraging. It seems to actually be a pretty good gauge of how you are doing in the program.

3) The people are fit but real. Every person in the workouts behind Shaun is very fit but also very real and human. I love this about Beachbody programs like P90X and Insanity. They use real people that go through the program in a trial run before being cast in their videos. These people are usually better at the moves than you are at first because they have done them for the full 60 days before shooting the video, but they are not superhuman…they take breaks and they sweat and they get worn out just like you.

And now the Bad Stuff:

1) Despite the fact that Shaun is an excellent motivator, he tends to say some things that just don’t seem to fit. For instance, during your 30 second water breaks, he will often say things like “you gotta push through” or “I’m pushin’ you…you gotta push”. For me, during a water break, this does nothing for me. I don’t need any motivation to “push through” my water break. I am sure that he is referring to pushing through the rest of the workout but it just doesn’t seem to fit where he puts it. This, of course, isn’t a big deal but there are a few other times where his comments seem a little oddly placed or not very well thought out.

2) The workouts are poorly named. I have a hard time remembering which workout is which because they could all pretty much be named the same thing, in my opinion (with the exception of the cardio abs and the recovery workouts). For instance, in the first 4 weeks, you have Plyometric Cardio Circuit, Pure Cardio, and Cardio Power and Resistance as the main 3 workouts. To me, Plyometric Cardio Circuit and Pure Cardio are practically the same except that there are no scheduled 30 second breaks in Pure Cardio and each move is a little longer in duration. The moves are very similar in that they are plyometric-based so why not name them Plyo Cardio 1 and 2 if they are both going to be plyo based? Cardio Power and Resistance is also mostly plyo moves with some shoulder and tricep work in the middle. In month two, Max Interval Circuit and Max Interval Plyo could have been called Max Inerval Plyo 1 and 2. There is little difference as far as I can tell. Max Cardio Conditioning could just be Max Interval Plyo 3 as well if it wasn’t for that fact that there are no scheduled breaks…so I guess it is not really intervals? In the end, it doesn’t matter what you call it because they all kick your butt. I was just expecting more of a change with each workout than what I got. With P90X, the focus of each workout changes almost completely each day and the names of the workouts (like Chest and Back, or Arms and Shoulders) match what you are doing for that day. I like it that way much better.

3) It is a lot of Plyometrics. You might be able to tell from the rest of this post that there is a lot of plyo in Insanity. This stuff is pretty hard on your body. You really have to be careful with your form in order to keep from getting injured. Maintain your posture and don’t get lazy with your form or you will be hurting in a bad way.

My Results:

Starting weight: 177
Ending weight: 178

Fit Test Results:

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So, obviously, I actually gained a pound doing this program. To be honest, I consider that to be a testament to this program’s ability to shed fat and help you lose weight….because I ate very poorly for the last month of this program. It was the holiday season and I had my fun. I ate extremely well for the first month and lost 2 pounds and then gained 3 in the last month with horrible eating habits.

I think the fit test results show that my fitness improved dramatically. However, it should be noted that the first one or two improvements in the fit test results are likely partially due to learning the moves in addition to increased fitness. The last few improvements are most likely more from actual fitness improvements.

I hope you found this review helpful and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions about the program.

UPDATE: Shaun T and Beachbody have just released Insanity The Asylum! This new 30 day sports performance program takes it to a whole new level. Find out how to get your copy here.
Ryan Chapman
B.A.S.E. Training
ryan@tribasetraining.com

9 Comments

  • Michelle DeMarco

    December 26, 2010

    I had to chuckle at the part where you talk about the names of the workouts. I LOVE Insanity – it is my primary workout – but I can’t remember which workout is which to save my life. If it wasn’t for the calendar, I would probably do the same workouts all the time.

    Great article with a lot of good information! Thanks!

  • Rick Karboviak

    December 26, 2010

    Ryan,
    Thanks for this great review of Insanity. As a runner myself (and past sprint triathlete), I am planning on doing this routine in Jan & Feb, as I prepare to train with my track athletes during this spring’s track season. I, too, have graduated from P90X and am currently in a 2nd month of P90X+’s routines. I added a lot of mass onto my body since my running season ended, which is good, but I don’t want to gain too much and have it interfere with my speed. After reading your review, I think I shouldn’t have a problem with doing Insanity’s routines and hopefully shedding some weight in the process.
    One question: which routines would you recommend trying with the HS athlete crowd, since most of these are plyo-based moves as you say they are? I’m sure I’ll get my own ideas after going through the program, but I’m looking at using some workouts potentially with our track kids as we prep for the pre-season training. Our track season usually has us doing indoor workouts due to terrible winter conditions as the season starts. So, an intense workout video might be a training day option now & then to incorporate into our plans.

    Thanks,
    Rick Karboviak

    • BASEtraining

      December 26, 2010

      Hi Rick,

      Thanks for reading.

      I would say that you are correct that you should not have a problem with gaining mass on this program.

      As far as using it with the high school track crowd, I would use it this way:

      If you are looking for an interval/speed workout that is 30-40 minutes, use either plyo cardio circuit or cardio power and resistance.
      If you are looking for an endurance workout that is 40 minutes (no breaks) with some plyo, use pure cardio.
      If you are looking for an interval/speed workout that is 60 minutes, use max interval plyo or max interval circuit
      If you are looking for an endurance workout that is 60 minutes (no breaks) with some plyo, use max cardio conditioning.

      The recovery workouts are good too but I used some yoga instead in many cases.

      Happy training.

  • national nutrition

    June 13, 2012

    Fantastic article. Will read on…

  • Tadejaa

    November 26, 2012

    Hello. I’m doing the Insanity workout for about three weeks now and I’m not really sure how the programme works.. I download it from the internet and it doesn’t say what exercise you should do each day. So I just started from the top and continued. But I am not sure that the workout goes like that.. Can you please tell me the right way to do this? Which day should I do the workout? Thank you!

    • BASEtraining

      November 26, 2012

      Hello. Great to hear that you are doing Insanity. The program comes with a full calendar to tell you when to do the workouts. However, since you downloaded it from the internet, I am guessing you don’t have that calendar. If you go to http://www.xtricoaching.com and use the “join” button and then the “try free membership” button, that will get you a free team beachbody account. From there, you can see the calendar in the SuperGym under the “Get Fit” tab and you can log your workouts there. Let me know if you have issues with that. There is a very specific order for the workouts including doing fit tests at regular intervals. That is just another reason why downloading off the internet isn’t good.

  • Tadejaa

    November 27, 2012

    Thank you soo much for the information! But there’s a problem.. I have joined the membership and I found the calendar and everything. But I thought that the workouts, that I am suppose to do, would be already written on the calendar so I would know which workout I have to do each day. Or how does this work? I’m sorry for troubling you.. I’m really lost.. Thank you!

    • BASEtraining

      November 27, 2012

      Hey, no problem. Happy to help. Here is what you need to do: Login to your account at http://www.teambeachbody.com, click on the arrow next to “my dashboard” and click on “programs”. Add Insanity to your list of programs by clicking the check box next to Insanity in the list. Now, go to “SuperGym” under the “Get Fit” tab. When that page comes up, you should see a button that says “Add a Full Program Schedule”. Click on that button and you should be able to view the Insanity schedule and add it to your calendar on whatever start date you want. Let me know how that goes for you and feel free to ask more questions. NOTE: Now that you have that account, I am your assigned Coach and it is my job to help you…so don’t hesitate to ask. I can even add you to some support groups if you are on Facebook. Let me know.

  • Tadejaa

    November 27, 2012

    I’m sorry, but I found it. Again, thank you very much for everything!