The truth about Insanity workouts

Essentially Zumba on steroids, Insanity fuses callisthenics (bodyweight exercises) with martial arts and plyometric work (jump variations) to make a series of short, high-intensity workouts. And its creator, Shaun T, claims it, “Turns old-school interval training on its head.”

How so? He told us, “You work flat out in 3 to 5-minute blocks, and take breaks only long enough to gulp some air and get right back to work. It’s called Max Interval Training, because it keeps your body working at maximum capacity through your entire workout.

You keep pushing your limits – so your body has to adapt.”

A slick, well-marketed pitch, but does it work? We completed the Insanity workout below, which you can also try at home, then performed a strength and conditioning autopsy to see if there’s any truth behind their claims of melted man boobs, solid six-packs and the general consensus that it’s the greatest creation in sports nutrition and exercise conditioning since the invention of the dumbbell (ancient Greece, if you’re wondering).


Double Diamonds

Trains the shoulders, abs, glutes and thighs

  • Stand with feet wider than hip-width apart
  • Squat until thighs are almost parallel to the floor
  • Jump touching the hands together above the head with elbows bent as you tap your heels
  • Forming a diamond shape with your body in the air
  • Land (ensuring you bend the knees and “cushion” your landing)
  • Repeat as fast as possible for 1 minute

Stance Jacks

Trains the shoulders, abs, obliques, glutes and thighs

  • Stand with feet together, arms raised to chest level (with elbows out and finger tips touching)
  • Jumping into a wide squat stance
  • Push the hips back as you reach your left hand toward the right foot with the right arm extended behind you for balance
  • Jump back to the start
  • Repeat on opposite side
  • Repeat as fast as possible for 1 minute

**Hit The Floor


© Rex Features

Trains the abs, glutes and thighs

  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart and arms down
  • Crouch, placing the right hand on the floor near a left “instep” with the left hand behind for balance
  • Jump, reaching arms overhead, to land in a crouch position with the left hand now bear your right “instep”
  • You essentially land in a “mirror” opposite of the initial position
  • Repeat as fast as possible for 1 minute

**Power Jump

** Trains the abs, glutes and thighs

  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart and arms down
  • Squat while extending your arms behind you
  • Jump bringing the knees towards your chest as you touch hands to thighs
  • Land (bend the knees and “cushion” your landing)
  • Repeat as fast as possible for 1 minute

**The Heisman


© Getty Images

Trains the arms, abs, shoulders, glutes and thighs

  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart
  • Elbows bent, arms close to the body
  • Hop on the left foot, bringing the right knee toward the chest
  • Drive the left arm forward and right arm back like a sprinter
  • Quickly hop onto the right foot, reversing the motion
  • Repeat as fast as possible for 1 minute

Switch Kicks

Trains the triceps, back, abs shoulders, glutes and thighs

  • Sit with knees bent, feet flat, palms behind you and finger tips pointing towards your heels
  • Keeping the hands and feet planted, raise hips off the floor and alternate kicking in the air
  • Left and right leg as quick as possible
  • Repeat as fast as possible for 1 minute

What’s The Science behind the Insanity Workout?

The Insanity Workout is good, but not as great as their marketing literature would have you believe. In 1991 the National Strength and Conditioning Journal stated, “Is there a single, perfect workout? A workout with the best weight training, plyometric, flexibility and endurance exercises? A workout with the precise number of sets and repetitions? A workout that tells the athlete exactly how much weight to use? The answer is “No”.

Basically, there is no perfect workout plan. Of course the company behind the Insanity creation, the Beachbody Corporation, would beg to differ. With glowing testimonials and equally as impressive transformation stories, they claim it’s, “Everything you need to get in the best shape of your life”. But research shows the use of the word, “Everything” might be a stretch. Here’s why.

Plyometric work is best performed


On the Insanity website it’s written, “Plyometrics for insane legs and glutes.” Let’s unravel this. Plyometric training can trace its origins back to the old Soviet Union during the Fifties. A time when the Soviet’s athletic endeavours were considered by many to be at the cutting-edge of strength and conditioning.

American coaches noticed that, prior to a competition, Soviet athletes were performing jumping-based drills. This seemed odd and was completely different to traditional static stretching. This was thanks to pioneering strength coach, Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky, and a training protocol he called the, “Depth Jump.”

Verkhoshansky would have athletes drop off a box, land on the floor – whilst absorbing the shock – only to then instantly jump as high as they possibly could. Later labelled, “Shock Training” in reference to the body’s ability to absorb the shock/impact, it was believed one short-term adaptation to the “Depth Jump” was a higher vertical jump compared to a static jump. Research would later reveal this was because Verkhoshansky was able to play around with the elasticity of the muscles and tendons by positively manipulating the body’s stretch-shortening cycle.

Essentially, this is where the muscles contract eccentrically (the muscles lengthen) which is followed by an immediate concentric contraction (the muscles shorten). This – based on research from the School of Kinesiology at the University of Zagreb in Croatia – has been shown to improve the concentric phase resulting in increased force production and output. This explains why during a, “Depth Jump” athletes were able to jump higher. They effectively used the ‘elastic energy’ built-up during the eccentric phase (when landing) to then use during the concentric phase (the jump itself).

But rarely did Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky advocate using plyometric training as part of a circuit when the athlete was fatigued. This would be counterproductive to the sole objective to this form of training – to condition the body to produce greater power by training the muscles to contract more quickly and forcefully from an actively pre-stretched position.

Can Insanity really ‘melt fat’?

Yes and no. But make no mistake – it’s just High Intensity Interval Training and your body doesn’t know the difference between a H.I.I.T workout on the treadmill and a heavily advertised Insanity DVD. Physiologically the result is the same. Working hard at a high intensity for short periods of time (between 30 to 80 seconds) followed by a period of low intensity training or complete rest (40 to 120 seconds) which you repeat (between 15 to 30 minutes) has been found by researchers from Laval University in Canada, to burn more fat compared to traditional cardio.

So, the Insanity workout is good, but it’s not revolutionary.

It’s also a practical training protocol if you have no equipment or are short on time. But don’t be fooled by the marketing. Your body must be continually subjected to a range of stimuli to consistently improve.

Read more about fitness and body sculpting

  • How to increase your metabolism
  • How to get abs like a surfer
  • Eat your way to a six-pack
  • Three exercises that are a waste of time
  • How to lose belly fat
  • Build your own portable gym
  • How to get a chest like Calvin Harris
  • Get rid of man boobs

Follow Ross Edgley on Twitter: @RossEdgley

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New Insanity Workout Shaun T’s New Insanity Workout utilizes 150 new exercises packed into 12 workout DVDs. Shaun T shared one of the workouts from his new Insanity workout with Men’s Health in their January/February 2015 issue. Those familiar with Insanity will recognize some aspects of the routine, but the completely new 150 exercises will take your exercise routine to a new level.

The New Insanity Workout that Shaun T shared with us spreads out 12 exercises over 3 rounds. Insanity uses fat-burning, Tabata-style exercises to get you in shape. The New Insanity workout is called Shaun T’s Insanity MAX:30. In the DVD workout, he challenges you to dig deep. The goal, according to Shaun T, is to:

Go as hard as you can for as long as you can. Maxing out means taking a break because you know you’ve pushed yourself to the max.

New Insanity Workout Routine

Here’s the New Insanity Workout Routine, as shared in Men’s Health:

Exercise Sets Time Rest Circuit
Pushup Shoulder Tap 4 20 10 A
Genie Tuck Jump 4 20 10 A
Punching Abs 4 20 10 A
Switch Kick Punch 4 20 10 A
Dive Pushup 4 20 10 B
360 Squat 4 20 10 B
Oblique Knee Tap 4 20 10 B
Jump Cross 4 20 10 B
Pike Spider Lunge 4 20 10 C
Ab Attack 4 20 10 C
Alternate Toe Tap 4 20 10 C
Low Split Lunge 4 20 10 C

Do each exercise for 20 seconds on / 10 seconds rest. Then, move onto the next exercise. After doing each exercise in the circuit, move onto the next circuit. You never repeat an exercise twice. You’re always moving to the next exercise in the circuit. Then, you repeat each exercise in that circuit. Rest for 30 seconds after finishing each circuit (4 exercises in a row).

Insanity Exercise Descriptions

From each move above, here are the Insanity exercise descriptions:

New Insanity Workout Goal

The New Insanity Workout goal is for you to “Get the best at-home workout of your life.” With the HIIT training style, each workout is only 30 minutes long. Getting to that 30-minute mark, each day, will give you a sense of accomplishment.

The new Insanity workout goal is to work harder as the days go by. Insanity has always been one of the most popular at-home workouts. This is true especially among men, who aren’t into the totally choreographed workout DVDs that stock the shelves.

Insanity is a popular workout for men who are looking for a group setting, without the dance choreography. The group setting provides added workout motivation, as you feel you’re not alone. An A.C.E trainer, and health expert says:

More men are starting to participate in group workouts, and men are buying fitness DVDs. Everything used to be very, very choreographed, but now group fitness is very boot-campish. it’s more circuits, more intervals. it’s athletic driven, movement driven.

If you’re not ready for the whole program, then at least check out Shaun T’s Insanity Max 30: Sweat Feast Workout DVD.

The New Insanity Workout was especially designed for:

  • People looking for motivation to get in shape
  • Those looking for a fat-burning, Tabata workout
  • Anyone who wants a HIIT fitness challenge
  • People looking to burn up to 1000 calories/hour
  • Graduates of other Beachbody workouts

Get all 12 DVDs, including 150 new exercises, with Shaun T’s Insanity Max 30 Kit.

Insanity:Max 30 Workout Calendar

Here’s the Insanity:Max 30 Workout Calendar. The new Insanity workout program lasts 60 days. You’re free to repeat the program when finished.

New Insanity Workout Results

The New Insanity workout results are getting people in the best shape of their lives. Marques lost 30 pounds in 60 days of doing Insanity Max:30.

Share The New Insanity Workout

Know anyone who can benefit from the New Insanity Workout? Or, who wants to get in shape fast with Insanity Max:30?

Share the new Insanity workout, above, with them, below:

Insanity 15 minute workout

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