Gasping for air, drenched in sweat, wondering if you’ll be able to walk in the morning—if you’re already familiar with Beachbody’s other powerhouse workout, P90X, you know Insanity isn’t for the faint of heart or weak of body. The cardio-based program is a high-intensity, no-equipment, total-body system that requires you to work out 6 days a week for 9 weeks, with only a week of slightly less difficult “active recovery” workouts to bridge the gap between the challenging first month and the, dare we say, insane second month. What does it take to conquer Insanity, and will it work for you? Here’s our take on this high-octane program that—as its popular T-shirts remind you—makes you “earn it.”
The Exerciser (You)
It says it right on the box and it’s worth taking notice: This program is not for beginners and shouldn’t be attempted without a solid fitness foundation. Insanity was created as an intermediate-advanced graduate program for exercisers to move on to after mastering some of Beachbody’s more intermediate workouts like Power 90 or Turbo Fire, says Steve Edwards, a fitness expert with Beachbody.
But for exercisers not familiar with Beachbody’s other offerings, who fits the bill? “This program would be perfect for someone who has been exercising for a few years,” says Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise. “It’s for a person who has consistent training experience and is just looking for something that really challenges him. Or maybe she played sports growing up and the regular gym exercises and treadmill thing bore her. For these people, this would be a very stimulating workout.” You should also have experience with proper strength training technique as well as jumping and landing properly, says David Jack, director of Teamworks Fitness in Acton, MA. The program’s before and after shots paint a clear picture of its most successful clients: relatively normal-weight individuals who want to achieve gains in muscle definition and challenge themselves by taking their workout up a notch.
The Trainer (Shaun T)
Shaun T is highly motivating and provides encouragement throughout the DVD without sounding insincere or redundant. “I’m going to motivate you so hard that you have no choice but to get the best body you’ve ever had,” Shaun says during the introduction—and he’s not far off. His energy is contagious and you really get a sense that he’s passionate about the Insanity program and its effects. The gymnasium of people working out with Shaun also has a motivational aspect. In most DVD workouts, only one or two flawless assistants accompany the lead trainer. Insanity features a large group of sweaty exercisers, and they huff, puff, and cheer each other on, which helps create a live-class environment.
The trainer’s greatest shortcoming is that he fails to provide step-by-step instructions for each exercise—a result of the quick transitions between the exercises in each interval—which may put users at risk of performing the moves incorrectly. The instruction that is provided often occurs as you’re already performing an exercise, so there’s a chance you could spend a few seconds doing the move incorrectly before learning proper form. However, the breezy instruction may also be a function of the program’s intended audience: intermediate to advanced individuals who know how to perform basic exercises like squat jumps, high knees, high kicks, and sports drills like suicides, and just want some coaching.
In their review of Insanity, the American Council on Exercise found that the workouts contain some instructional inconsistencies and coaching miscues. In a few cases, incorrect muscle groups are identified in relation to certain exercises and incorrect explanations of muscle functions are provided. Whether or not those inconsistencies affect the overall effectiveness of the workout depends on the experience of the exerciser. The workouts progress quickly, making it difficult to keep up, let alone listen to the physiological benefits of each move, but a miscommunication about which muscles to fire could pave the way for potential injury in less-experienced people.
The Workouts (Hard)
The program kicks off with the “Dig Deeper” introductory disc, which dispenses several warnings not to attempt the workout unless certain you’re physically able. Shaun T also provides instruction on how to perform four moves used often in the workouts: Jumps, squats, planks, and the C-sit. For the most part the training tips are helpful, but essential information about how to safely launch and land jumps is quickly glossed over with only a caution to “land soft,” emphasizing the need for experience with plyometric training prior to attempting Insanity.