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How It Works

If you're starting a workout program that calls itself "Insanity," you know it's going to be over the top. This is one of the most challenging fitness programs on the market.

Insanity is a total body workout that requires no gym or equipment. You exercise right at home, using your own body weight for resistance. The program is based on a fitness method called "max interval training." In traditional interval training, you exercise at a very intense pace for a short period of time, and then rest for longer periods in between. The idea is to increase your aerobic fitness level while burning fat.

Max interval training has you work as hard as you can for 3-minute intervals, with 30-second periods of rest in between. According to the Insanity web site, exercising at this extreme intensity level will help you burn up to 1,000 calories an hour.

There are 10 workouts in the Insanity program. Each routine takes between 30 and 60 minutes to complete, and you do them a grueling 6 days a week. Over the 60-day program, you change your workout schedule on a weekly basis.

The first month has five total body workouts:

  • Fit Test
  • Plyometric Cardio Circuit
  • Cardio Power and Resistance
  • Cardio Recovery
  • Pure Cardio

Before starting the second month, you do a week of recovery that includes a daily core cardio and balance routine. Although you will still sweat, this workout is less intense than those in the first four weeks. The idea is to prep your body for the even more extreme second month ahead.

That second month has four new workouts:

  • Max Interval Circuit
  • Max Interval Plyo
  • Max Cardio Conditioning
  • Max Recovery

Intensity Level: Very High

This is an extreme fitness program that requires you to work out at a very high intensity level with little rest in between. Even if you're already in good shape, it might be hard for you to keep up when you first get started.

Areas It Targets

Core: Yes. The program's Cardio Abs workout focuses on your middle section.

Arms: Yes. You'll use your own body weight to sculpt your arms, chest, and shoulders.

Legs: Yes. Insanity uses a technique called plyometrics, which features hopping and jumping exercises borrowed from sports like basketball, skiing, and boxing to tone your legs.

Glutes: Yes. Plyometrics also strengthens the muscles of your back end.

Back: Yes. The Insanity program is a total-body workout, so it does work the back, but it's more targeted to lower-body muscle groups.


Flexibility: No. There isn't much stretching in these DVDs to improve flexibility.

Aerobic: Yes. Insanity is all about aerobics. It will help you increase your cardiovascular fitness and lose weight/body fat.

Strength: Yes. The max interval program will build strength and really challenge your muscles.

Sport: No. Insanity isn't a sport, although it does borrow techniques from sports training programs.

Low-Impact: No. What makes Insanity such an effective cardio workout are the high-impact exercises, which include jumping jacks, jumps, and sprints.

What Else Should I Know?

Cost. The program costs $120.

Good for beginners? No. Insanity workouts are highly intense. They're designed for people who are already in good shape and are willing to work hard to get into even better shape. If you haven't been exercising, this program isn't a quick fix.

Outdoors. No. You'll need to be in front of a TV to follow along with the program.

At home. Yes. You do the workout right in your own home, following along with trainer Shaun T.

Equipment required? You need the DVD, a good pair of athletic shoes, and a lot of endurance. You use your own body weight for resistance.

What Dr. Melinda Ratini Says:

This is a serious workout for people who are already fit.

It's not for the fitness newbie. With high intensity comes greater risk of injury. To avoid injury, you will have to know the correct form and technique for each move. You really need to know what you're doing and listen to your body.

It is very intense, so be ready to give it your all when you are ready to take the plunge. Working out at that level means results in much less time. The rewards will be some serious cardio along with calorie burning and muscle sculpting.

High-intensity interval training programs like this are not for everyone. If you have any medical problems or take any meds, talk to your doctor before starting this workout.

Is It Good for Me If I Have a Health Condition?

You are sure to lose weight and build muscle with Insanity. Along with the weight loss comes a drop in blood sugar, blood pressure, and “bad” LDL cholesterol.

You have to be in great shape already to tackle this high-powered workout. Do not attempt Insanity if you have heart disease or any heart disease risk factors unless your doctor says you can. There are more moderate workouts that can help you reach your fitness goals.

Insanity is not for you if you have back or knee pain or arthritis. Instead, choose a program that is more joint-friendly. This high intensity/high-impact approach to fitness is very challenging and not for you if you have any physical limitations.

If you are pregnant, this is not the time to start Insanity workouts. If you are in top form, and your doctor approves, then you might be able to continue with Insanity for a time if it is already a part of your fitness routine.

You will need to listen closely to your body and make changes as your pregnancy continues. Your joints will become looser, so avoid jumping, lunging, and other moves that put you at risk for injury. Tone it down if you are becoming breathless or uncomfortable. Drink water, don't get overheated, and don’t do any moves that have you lying on your back during the last two trimesters. Be prepared to switch to an easier program as your baby and belly grow.

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