After years of infomercials promising dramatic results with little or no effort, direct response–based fitness programs such as TaeBo, Turbo Jam and P90X took the opposite approach. If you wanted a rock-hard body, you were going to have to work for it. Given the huge success these products enjoyed, it appears a lot of people were willing to do just that. But along with the success stories were reports of injuries and burnout as few people have the motivation to maintain such high levels of intensity for long periods of time.
Insanity (which is distributed by Beachbody, the same company that created P90X) takes a similar “no pain, no gain” approach to getting in shape. Unlike P90X, however, which requires as much as 90 minutes of exercise per day and utilizes equipment such as a pull-up bar, dumbbells and a bench, Insanity relies solely on body-weight exercises combined with high-intensity interval training.
The complete set includes 10 “Insane Workouts” led by personal trainer Shaun T, a dancer and choreographer with a bachelor’s degree in sports science. The workouts range in length from 20 to 60 minutes, and each one is designed to get the heart rate up and the sweat pouring. Even the abdominal and core workouts are cardiovascular in nature, using high-intensity intervals combined with short periods of moderate exercise. Also included are a nutrition guide and a calendar to track progress, as well as online support tools offering access to “fitness experts and peer support.”
While P90X features a 90-day program, Insanity promises users results in just 60 days—provided they exercise six days a week and follow the recommended low-glycemic eating plan featuring their proprietary shake (called Shakeology). Unlike P90X, however, the nutritional up-sell is somewhat less distracting and does not include additional supplements as well.
The program starts off with a Fit Test and “Dig Deeper,” a 30-minute video that explains MAX Interval Training and teaches users proper form and technique. The first month of the program is designed to build a base of fitness using aerobic and anaerobic intervals. The six-day-a-week cardio workouts used during this phase are no more than 40 minutes long and feature sports drills, body-weight exercises, core conditioning and abdominal work. The workouts used during the second month increase in both length and intensity, but follow the same basic pattern of intervals. A recovery week between months one and two requires users to complete the Core Cardio and Balance six days in a row.
Subjects participating in ACE’s product review test noted that that it was a tough workout program that’s not for the faint-hearted. After seven weeks on the program, the subjects reported to have significantly increased cardio, strength and flexibility. Despite one experiencing a pulled muscle they stuck to the workout, but found because of the intensity, they had to limit their other physical activities. Subjects were in good physical condition prior to beginning the Insanity program. They were also highly motivated to increase their fitness levels. We found this was the key to finding success with Insanity. As long as participants stick to the program and follow a somewhat restricted diet, and don’t overdo it, there is no doubt they will see positive results in terms of overall fitness and body composition.
However, we caution, Insanity is not for everyone, particularly individuals with orthopedic issues or joint problems. Many of the movements—especially in the plyometric workouts—are high-impact and ballistic, which places excessive loads on the joints. This can be problematic for individuals with orthopedic issues, particularly of the knees, hips, ankles and feet.
While we like the variety and emphasis on core work, the program is designed with less-than-optimal recovery and progression. Clearly, Insanity is not an appropriate workout program for everyone, a fact that even the manufacturer acknowledges. “Insanity is an extreme and physically demanding workout,” reads the footnote included on every item included in the set. “This is NOT for beginners or individuals with any medical condition which may be compromised by extreme cardio and strength exercise.” And that’s really the bottom line with this workout—if an individual has a good baseline of fitness, is apparently healthy and without any orthopedic issues, and is highly motivated, he or she will probably achieve good results with Insanity. Individuals with any physical limitations or who have been sedentary should be encouraged to choose a more appropriate program.
What we liked:
- Recommends a fitness self-test to track progress and determine appropriate resistance/intensity levels
- Strong emphasis on development of core strength
- Participants are urged to track progress and modify exercises as needed
What we didn’t like:
- Workouts designed with less-than-optimal recovery and progression
- Not appropriate for those without a baseline level of fitness
- Many of the movements are high-impact and ballistic, which places excessive loads on the joints and can be problematic for individuals with orthopedic issues
- Intensity and dedication required may be discouraging to those who can’t keep up or don’t have time to exercise 60 minutes per day
August 10, 2010