Insanity Reviews: Pure Cardio
The INSANITY workout is considered by many to be the hardest workout out there, and the Pure Cardio workout might be one of the key reasons why. After the Warm Up, and while Stretching, Shaun T has a moment of quiet reflection, during which he confides to the camera that he’s genuinely worried about this workout. If that isn’t enough to send a chill down your throat, then I don’t know what is. What is clear is that you should not be attempting these workouts without permission from your licensed physician. This workout is strenuous. Take it seriously, and make sure you’re ready for this kind of insane intensity.
The workout is 38 minutes and 18 seconds long, and is comprised of an eleven minute warm up, a six minute stretch, the main workout which is only 15 minutes, and a final five minute cool down stretch. Total number of water breaks? Two. Total number of seconds of both water breaks combined? 120. That’s right. Pure Cardio is practically non-stop. You may be thinking that a 15 minute main workout is nothing, but consider: you don’t get to stop. The intensity is full blast the entire way through, such that Shaun T is tapping out people from his Test Group left and right and telling them to take a break. And they’ve all just completed the 60 day program, so imagine how hard it’s going to be for you.
The warm up takes eleven minutes, and is broken down into three sets of the same seven exercises. Now, while Shaun T calls this a ‘warm up’, it’s fully as intense as most hard core workouts all by itself. Thus, if you’re wise, you will stretch and do your own warm up before attempting this ‘warm up’. Shaun T’s idea is to clearly get your system as revved up as is humanly possible, and he does this by increasing the intensity of each set until by the time you’re doing the last he’s tell you to go as fast and hard as possible.
The warm up exercises are the standard set, consisting of Jog, Jumping Jacks, Hesimans (leaping from side to side), 123 Heismans (in which you throw in some stutter steps between each high knee), Butt Kicks, High Knees (simply jogging in place and bringing your knees as high as you can) and Mummy Kicks. Remember to go easy on your first set of these; there’s lots of time and room for you to bring up the intensity, if not on the final set, than during the main workout itself.
Strangely enough, I find that I sweat the most during the stretch, and it’s because it’s during this slow, six minute stretch that my body comes to terms with the warm up its just been through. Keep your hand towel close, and be prepared to mop up the sweat.
The stretch itself is the standard stretch, which involves a number of side lunges, back extensions, and yoga poses such as the classic Warrior and triangle poses. The focus is on stretching out your hamstrings and opening up your pelvis. One thing that you will notice is that many of these stretches are hard to hold; Shaun T asks that you extend your arms straight ahead while lunging, tells you to lower yourself into the lunges as much as possible and support the weight of your body with your legs, or to kick out your leg several times while in one of the yoga poses. This stretch is not a chance to relax—the intensity remains high.
People accustomed to other workouts that can last up to an hour or more will find the length of this main workout laughable. A mere 15 minutes! Surely it will pass by in a snap. Trust me, 15 minutes will never have seemed so long when each second is this intense. If possible, remain aware of the amount of time you have left, and try to pace yourself. Going all out and burning yourself in the first five minutes will make the last ten complete agony. Try to start at a medium level, and then ramp up your effort so that you’re giving it all you’ve got at the final two minutes. Not only will you get the benefit of the whole workout this way, but you’ll feel great for having finished the whole workout as opposed to being forced to stop early.
The workout is divided into 15 exercises, each of which is done for a whole minute. The workouts are as follows:
• Suicide Drills
• Switch kicks
• Wide football sprints
• Stance Jacks
• Hooks and Jump rope
• Power jacks
• Level 2 drills
• Frog Jumps
• Power Knees
• Mountain Climbers
• Ski Down
• Scissor Runs
• Suicide Jumps
• Push up jacks (push ups with wide feet)
These are a good way to start. Run to one side, reach down and touch the floor, and then dart back to where you started, touch the floor. Up, over, down, up, back, down. Over and over again for a whole minute. Make sure to travel, don’t just switch sides in one place, and try to lower yourself by lowering your legs some, and not just leaning down.
Now it gets rougher. Arms up, elbows close to your body, hop from one foot to the other, kicking out with a front kick with alternating legs. Lean forward, keep your abs activated, your core tight, and make sure your legs are flexible and knees never lock.
Wide Football Sprints
You can already see the wide eyed panic setting into the Test Group by this point. Begin with legs wide and sprint fast on your toes, feet barely leaving the ground, hands out before you. Then switch to face the left side, then switch to face back front, and then to your right. Shuffle to one side, still sprinting, and then fall back to drop to one knee, and then explode into a fast jog, working your knees and pumping your elbows, only to fall back into the wide stance sprints and do the whole thing again.
Jumping jacks, but heavily modified. Each time your feet open wide, you drop into a squat and reach down to touch the floor with alternating arms each time. His forces you to go into a deep squat, and then push back up to a straight position, arms by your side, and then wide open again to reach down and touch the floor, over and over again for a full minute.
The same sprint jog from before, fast as you can in place, only to drop into a deep lunge, jump and fall into a lunge with the opposite leg, and then back up into the sprint. You run, double lunge, run, double lunge, run, double lunge until you think you’re going to hack up a lung. Don’t.
Hooks and Jump Rope
These are my favorite. Legs wide, knees slightly bent, throw eight hooks into the air with the same arm, activating your torso, keeping your arms locked, moving from the hips, and then leap high as if whipping a jump rope twice under your feet. Leap up like that four times, and then do eight hooks for the other arm. There’s something about the hook punch that feels great after the previous workouts, and you can really throw your weight into them. The Jump Ropes suck though.
Similar to Stance Jacks, you simply drop into a deep squat, arms going down to your knees, and then pump back up to your original starting position, hands overhead. Up and down like you mean it, for the full minute.
Level 2 Drills
These are awful. Drop into a push up position, and bust out eight of them, and then sprint in place for the count, only to then hike your knees back up under your chest, and leap right up, reaching for sky. Drop, repeat. Do as many as you can. That jump to reach sky is awful. Awful.
This is where the Test Group starts falling apart. People are just dying by this point, barely able to shuffle through this workout. If you’ve made it this far without a break, you’re doing amazingly well. Frog jumps are simple. Squat and touch the floor, then leap up and back, fall into a squat, touch the floor, leap up and forward, fall into a squat, touch the floor.
Like the hooks, these require your core strength and are a nice change of pace. Go into a side lunge, and then begin to jack your knee into both hands, crunching it up so as to use your obliques. Go as fast as you can, over and over and over again, then switch sides on Shaun’s count.
Jog in place, and reach up with your hands as if grabbing handholds on a cliff face, and pull them back down to you. Knees go up, core stays tight. Don’t lean back, lean forward to activate your core, and breath.
Lateral jumps. When you land, sink, knees together, legs bent, and swing your arms down past your thighs. Then, keeping momentum, swing your arms right back up, and launch yourself to the other side, high, and then down into another crouch, just as if you were skiing down a hill.
By the time ShaunT gets to this one, he’s so tired that he can’t even remember the name of the move. Facing forward, alternate each foot forward and back, straight legged, like the arms of a scissor. Arms also go up and down. Get your breath back with this one if you can.
You can hear the people groan when this one is announced. Reach down, jump your legs out into a push up position, and then back up into a crouch, then leap up and grab sky. Down, out, back, up, down, out, back up. That jump is a killer. Half the test group is unable to finish this exercise. Go for it!
Push Up Jacks
The last exercise. Push up position. Go down into the push up, and kick your legs out as if doing a horizontal jumping jack. Push back up, and bring your feet back together. Repeat. As many times as you can. This is the last workout. And you’re done.
At the end of the workout, Shaun T collapses on the floor, and says, “That $%*& is bananas, yo.” Got to love it.
After your minute water break, you go right back into your four and a half minute cool down stretch. This is much the same as your warm up stretch, and involves a series of hamstring, pelvic cradle and groin stretches. Shaun T asks during the stretch, “Sometimes as a fitness professional, I ask, why do I do the things that I do?” Then he grins and answers, “Because I want to look good.”
And you’re done! If you’ve survived this workout in one piece, you’re doing great. Remember, a few last key reminders: take breaks if you need them. It’s dangerous to let pride push you too far. Know your limits, push them, but don’t break yourself. Insanity requires that you work out six days a week. An injury could cost you months of recovery time. If you feel pain, stop. Also, don’t compromise form. If you’re getting sloppy and falling all over the place, stop, take a breath, drink some water, and then jump back into it.