The Beginner’s Guide to Insanity Workout (Full Review)
Out of all of the workout programs on the market, few are growing in popularity as fast as the Insanity workout.
It’s easy to see why. In addition to the snowball effect of a popular workout gaining more popularity because of its current popularity, the Insanity workout has a lot going for it. In today’s climate, in particular, a huge benefit is that it’s purely bodyweight exercises. You don’t need a single piece of gym equipment, not even a pull-up bar or a treadmill. You can do the entire workout from the comfort and safety of your own home.
On top of this, it’s a relatively cheap, well-rounded workout program that promises to have you pushing the boundaries of your personal fitness in just two months. It sounds like it’s too good to be true, honestly, so how does it shape up in reality? Let’s dig in.
What Is Insanity?
So what is the Insanity workout? What does it do, and more importantly, what doesn’t it do?
Insanity is a workout designed by Shaun Thompson, also known as Shaun T. Fitness. Shaun has created several popular, effective workout plans in addition to Insanity, including Hip Hop Abs and T25.
Insanity itself is a form of cardio, high impact, interval training workouts. It’s billed as “the hardest workout ever put on DVD”, and it comes in several forms. What does it do?
Cardio. Insanity is, above all else, a cardio workout. High-intensity interval training, which is the foundation of the Insanity program, involves sprinting through exercises for short durations, at the highest intensity you can manage. This pushes your heart and cardio system to the max, which is a well-recognized way to burn fat and build muscle.
Strength. Insanity isn’t going to bulk you up into a strongman, but it will help improve your strength. The exercises involved in Insanity use your body’s weight as resistance, so you don’t need weights or equipment to do it. This inherently gives you a “cap” on the strength you can build.
Whole-body fitness. Insanity has a wide variety of different exercises. They’re generally complex, targeting multiple muscle groups at once. Arms, legs, back, glutes, core; you work out all of them throughout the program.
That’s what Insanity does. So what doesn’t it do?
Flexibility. Insanity is packed with stretches, but those stretches are more in the vein of yoga poses, meant to keep your blood pumping and your muscles oxygenated than to increase flexibility. You’ll stretch muscles, but you won’t increase your flexibility; you need a different set of stretches for that. That said, as you lose fat, you’ll naturally gain some additional mobility.
Sports prep. Insanity borrows several techniques from sports training, but it is not itself a sports regimen. You will boost your cardiovascular health, lose weight, and build general strength, but you will still need additional training for your chosen sport if you participate in one at all.
Strength training. As mentioned above, Insanity will build you some strength, but it can only do so much before you essentially cap out what you can get with pure bodyweight exercises. For many people, that cap is still a ways away, but it’s still a cap nonetheless. You will need an additional strength training routine if you want to build power beyond what bodyweight can do for you.
Joint safety. Insanity is a high impact workout. Many of its exercises are things like jumping jacks, which are great for cardio but hell on your knees. If you have joint issues or otherwise have a reason not to do high impact exercises, Insanity is not for you.
That’s Insanity in a nutshell. It’s a very high intensity, very high impact, high-effort high-reward kind of workout. IF you can do it, and IF you can do it properly, and you give it your all, you can have some astonishing results. If you half-ass it, you’ll get nothing out of it.
On the technical side, Insanity comes on a DVD or through the modern miracle of digital technology, on video streams. You can do it from the comfort of your own home; all you need is space where you can watch a screen with the workout guide videos on it and have the room to work out. Some additional equipment, like floor mats and appropriate shoes, may be helpful but are not strictly necessary. A high ceiling is also recommended since you do a lot of jumping activities.
Is Insanity Appropriate for Beginners?
Insanity sits in a strange place in workouts. On one hand, it’s good for beginners, because it does everything with your own body weight and form to work out. On the other hand, it’s extremely intense and requires a proper form for the exercises you do, otherwise, you risk hurting yourself.
As such, the Insanity workout is not really a workout for beginners. A newcomer to fitness CAN do it and can see perfectly great results from it. Unfortunately, beginners also need to be very careful with performing some of the exercises, so they don’t injure themselves. Beginners might also run into issues with putting enough intensity into the exercises to get real results from them.
Really, a lot of it comes down to what kind of beginner you are. A beginner who has never done an exercise program before, who lives a largely sedentary life, is significantly overweight, or has underlying health problems will find Insanity to be, well, exactly what the name says. A beginner who is reasonably fit and active, but who has never really participated in an exercise program before, will find it challenging but doable.
Probably the biggest thing you can do as a beginner is to study the forms of the exercises Insanity asks you to do. Your form is the most important part of the exercises, even over the intensity and speed of those exercises. It’s better to do 30 reps of an exercise properly than 50 reps of one with poor form.
What Are the Drawbacks to the Insanity Workout?
Every workout has its pros and cons. In this case, Insanity has more pros than cons, but it does have a few.
First and foremost is the intensity of Insanity. It’s appropriately named. If you can’t keep up, do the exercises at the required intensity, and do them with proper form, you risk injury. This is why we say it’s not really for beginners.
At the same time, since it’s reliant fully upon bodyweight exercises and cardio, it’s not necessarily a good workout for advanced, fit people either. It’s good for endurance and cardio, but won’t necessarily help push you past a plateau or build more strength.
The lack of equipment makes it great for home use, which is part of why it’s so popular right now during these times of social isolation and while gyms are closed. It’s also relatively cheap, at $120 for the full program. The only purchases you need to make other than the DVD/video access itself is a good pair of shoes and a yoga mat.
Insanity also might not be ideal if you live in an apartment situation, particularly if you’re on an upper floor. Jumping, jogging, and stomping around is pretty rude to your neighbors below. That said, nothing stops you from doing it, and you can always make an arrangement to do your workouts when it won’t bother them.
Other than that, the only real drawback is the high impact nature of the exercises. If you have arthritis, joint problems, or issues with connective tissues and tendons, you should probably avoid Insanity.
Tips to Succeed with the Insanity Workout
If you’ve decided to give Insanity a try, first of all, good luck! It’s a very intense program, and while the results can be astonishing, it takes a lot of effort and dedication to pull off. Here are our tips to help you succeed.
Expect to get your ass handed to you. Insanity is intense, and if you’re not feeling completely wiped out at the end of each session, you’re not doing it hard enough. Expect to be absolutely destroyed, and revel in the sensation.
Make sure to do appropriate stretching. Insanity has some brief stretches and warmups for you to do before each session. Make sure to take the time to do them! Trying to dive into high impact exercises without warming up is a great way to tear a muscle and destroy your progress while you spend weeks or months recovering.
Drink plenty of water. High-intensity workouts can dehydrate you very quickly, so you want to keep water on hand and drink frequently. Dehydration can be very damaging to the body, so you want to make sure you keep an adequate flow of water through your system.
Drink slowly. Everything about Insanity is done quickly and at high intensity, but you shouldn’t drink the same way. Big gulps of water will hit your stomach like a sack of bricks and can cause cramping and stomach pains. Sip water slowly, bit by bit, to avoid hurting yourself.
Deal with sweat. You will sweat like crazy during Insanity, no matter how your body usually sweats. Have a plan to deal with it, whether it’s a headband, a wristband, or a hand towel kept close at hand. We prefer a headband, to help keep the sweat from dripping in your eyes while you try to focus on a DVD.
Don’t expect to go at the speed they showcase early on. These exercises are intense and very fast, faster than most people can manage right away. If you try to match their pace, your form will suffer, and you won’t get as much out of it. Push yourself to go as fast as you can with proper form, but don’t worry if you’re slower than the demonstration. Remember, those people are athletes showing off; you can’t match them when you’re first starting. Give it your all, but don’t sacrifice effort for speed.
Do all of the exercises in a day’s track. The temptation after pushing yourself through part of the Insanity workout is to stop part-way through the session. You might feel wiped out, but trust us, you can push further. That’s the point of Insanity; you push yourself more than you ever thought possible. Completing each exercise slower and with fewer reps is better than completing the first few and stopping.
Drink something with protein. Insanity does a lot of work tearing down your muscles so they can be built back stronger than ever. In order to recover, you need to assist your body. Insanity has a recommended recovery formula you can buy, or you can go with protein shakes with your favorite protein powder, or simply low-fat chocolate milk. It’s up to you what you want to recover with, but you should give your body something.
Conversely, remember not to over-eat junk food. Part of every good fitness routine is diet, and if you’re using Insanity as an excuse to eat an extra 1,000 calories worth of junk, you’re not going to see much progress in weight loss. Your cardio system will benefit, and you might gain strength, but you won’t lose weight.
Benchmark yourself. Taking a full-body selfie before the program, and then every two weeks during the program, helps you see your own tangible progress. A before/after photo can also earn you a free t-shirt from the Insanity team if you check their website. Additionally, every two weeks you’ll do a Fit Test as part of the program. This is a series of exercises you do for one minute each, doing as many reps as possible. Write down your results so you know how you’re improving each segment.
Get good shoes. Buying a good pair of cross-trainers that fit your feet is one of the best decisions you can make. Running shoes don’t have the support for side-to-side motions, and other kinds of shoes are right out. Doing the exercises barefoot is possible, but you want to be very careful not to injure yourself doing them.
So there you have it; a review of Insanity and our tips for succeeding with the program.
Do you have a question or a tip to add? If so, let us know in the comments.
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