The infomercials for the workout program Insanity show young and fit individuals working so hard that their sweat falls into puddles on the ground. The promise of the program is a lean body with six-pack abs thanks to lower body fat. The program has several catchphrases, such as “You Need to be Committed” and “Get Fit or Get Out.” The issue for many is whether the program works.
So Is the Insanity Program Effective?
The short answer is yes, Insanity is indeed effective, though it is a difficult program for users of any fitness level. The various exercises will raise and maintain your heart rate, and because the program calls for you to push yourself throughout each training session, it is not uncommon for your heart rate to rise to 75% or above of your maximum. Maintaining this intensity for 25 to 50 minutes is what makes Insanity effective because this intensity causes the body to burn fat.
Anybody with cable television has likely seen the infomercials for Insanity as well as other programs such as P90X and Hip Hop Abs. These home workouts are produced by a company named Beachbody, which was founded in 1998 by Carl Daikeler and Jonathan Congdon. These products feature workout experts who guide you through an entire program that may last from 60 to 90 days.
In the case of Insanity, the expert goes by the name of Shaun T (Shaun Thompson), who once served as a dancer for Mariah Carey. He has an intense yet alluring personality, and this is evident while watching the videos. His encouraging comments on the videos are generally appropriate, even though you are obviously watching a recording while engaging in the workout.
The Insanity routine is designed to last 60 days. The program comes with ten DVDs that contain the different workouts, along with a printed chart and a nutrition guide. The guide offers several options for each meal of the day and allows you to gauge the calories of the various meals. Many other nutrition guides are similar, but the one packaged with Insanity is worth reviewing. Insanity does not require any gear as it relies exclusively on your body weight to create resistance.
Before beginning the program, you complete a fitness test that lets you establish points of reference for various activities. The activities in this test include a series of alternating kicks (switch kicks); a combination of jumping jacks and squats (power jacks); an exercise requiring you to elevate your knee repeatedly to your chest (power knees); jumping exercises (power jumps, globe jumps, and suicide jumps); a variation of a traditional pushup (push-up jacks); and an exercise from the plank position (low-plank obliques).
These are not easy exercises, and even though the fitness test takes just over 20 minutes, depending on your level of fitness you may be very tired after completing it. During the course of the program, you will take this test four more times and will attempt to complete more repetitions each time you take the test.
The Insanity program is based on what is marketed as “max interval training.” Most parts of each routine are about three to five minutes in length, and during the parts of the program, you will maintain a high level of intensity for several minutes before taking a very short break. The breaks usually last about 30 seconds. You can see a timer on the screen, and the timer counts down the seconds during the exercises and during the breaks.
Even those who are fit before starting the program will likely sweat and have difficulty with some exercises. The videos were shot in a gymnasium and shows Shaun T with about eight to ten participants behind him. Most participants are clearly fit, but most of them cannot finish every exercise, and the video even shows them taking water breaks during routines. In fact, Shaun T also stops on occasion to take short breaks.
Many of the exercises are also high impact and are not well suited for those with joint pain. The various plyometric exercises require repeated jumping moves that can take their toll on knees and ankles. Some of the more advanced exercises also require you to support your weight with your arms after falling to the ground, and this can be difficult for those with weak wrists, elbows, or shoulders.
The routines get progressively more difficult, but you will likely see improvement after a week or two with each new routine. The time required also increases, as the early routines are usually less than 40 minutes while the later routines are nearly 60 minutes long. Before beginning the program, it may help to purchase a heart-rate monitor that can help you to gauge when to slow down if necessary.
The Insanity workout isn’t for everyone; some may prefer to train in a gym at their own pace, with their own workouts, or with a personal trainer. However, for those who want an intensive workout program that they can complete in two months, and do at home, Insanity is a effective program to consider.