Insanity Review: Cardio Recovery

Insanity Cardio RecoveryIf you have any questions about this workout, contact me at

You’re in for some relief because this workout is only 33 minutes.  Except for the one day of the week when you won’t work out at all, this is the most low-key workout of Insanity.  Don’t let the photo of the dude doubled over alarm you.  In this routine, you’ll be recovering from this condition, not getting into it. There is almost no jumping. Most of the routine is fairly painless, but some discomfort throughout should be expected.  This is Insanity, right?  To properly perform this routine, a yoga mat is recommended.  Your heart rate won’t race much, but you still need to control your breathing.  Deep breathing helps to expel pain and discomfort.  Regardless of your fitness level, there will be many points in this workout that will challenge you, because your body will be forced into awkward and unfamiliar positions.  I don’t want to say this is Insanity yoga, but it really is.  

Shaun T leads a group of about five fitness demonstrators in the Insanity gym, male and female.  The small group, along with groovy mood music, puts you into the right state of mind.  This is not going to be an intense competition to keep up like the other workouts.  There are some new faces and some familiar ones.  It’s interesting to see the different types of people who went through the program.

Believe it or not, there won’t be any hardcore warmups in this workout–just a lot of stretching and low impact movement.  You will start off doing some deep breathing exercises with arm raises.  They should be familiar to you from the stretching sections of the other Insanity workouts.   The back stretches include bending over with a flat back, contracting and rounding the back while bent over, slow chin rollups, side lounges with flat back, etc.  The low impact start is a nice change of pace.

After the easy start, you transition into some plank work without a break (BTW there are no breaks in this workout).  The first exercise involves slowly hopping from the low squat position into the extended plank position.  If you’ve done yoga before, this is nothing new.  Then you have plank pulses, which are small butt lifts in the plank position.  You’ll do about 24 pulses for each leg.  This exercise involves your gluts and core because your knees are not supporting your body like traditional butt lifts.

Then, Shaun T introduces a series of wide downward dog poses, and easy bent over hamstring stretching.  Did I mention that this workout is relaxing?

The next series of exercises will wake you up from your revelry.  It involves doing squats very slowly.  Nothing too strenuous yet, but after the last squat, Shaun T makes you hold that position for what seems like an eternity, but is probably about 30 seconds.  Your ass cheeks will feel like someone lit a bonfire underneath and your quads will scream, but wait, the real pain is just about to begin. Shaun T then has you doing 16 pulses in the squat position.  Pulses are tiny movements of about 1-2 inches.  You never get to fully extend into a standing position; instead, you are only raising your butt 1-2 inches.  That means you get no feeling of relief for having completed each movement, just extreme discomfort as you contract then contract some more.  I notice that Shaun T is not doing this exercise.  His eyes are gleaming with pure evil as he explains it using his favorite fitness demonstrator, Tonia.  She’s game, but clearly straining to stay in position.  La Machina is ready to have a breakdown.  The best thing to do to work through the discomfort is breath S-L-O-W-L-Y and deeply.  Contemplate each exhalation. Learned that from Yoga X.  Thanks Tony!

Shaun T is not done working your quads and gluts because the next exercise is single leg lunges in the upright position.  You’re not doing lunges per se because your feet don’t move from their position.  You are lowering and raising your body while your legs are in the 90-degree lunge stance.  Your body should look like a piston as you move up and down.  Your back is straight, and your knees never touch the ground.  Repeat sixteen times.  On the last count, you will have to hold your body in the lowered lunge position for about 30 seconds.  Your quads will not like this, and neither will your gluts.  After the hold, Shaun T tells you to do sixteen pulses.  Sixteen pulses don’t seem like much, but after having held your body in the lowered lunge position for over 30 seconds, your quads and gluts are close to failing.  You will hear a lot of grunting from the fitness demonstrators.  They are feeling it as much as you. Those little tiny movements are literally a pain in the ass.

You have two legs and when you’re done with one, you’ll have to switch your supporting foot to the other and repeat the whole series.  The fun never ends.

And then…what, more squats?!?  That’s right.  Since you enjoyed those squats with pulses so much, you get to do another series of them.  Hurts so good, I know.

The next series of exercises is done in the Plié yoga squat position.   Plié is a ballet pose that entails turning your legs and feet out.  You are in the squat position, but your legs are spread to your sides, and your feet are turned out.  While in this position, you will bend over and place one palm to the ground while raising the other arm into the air.  If done properly, your arms and shoulders should align and look like one straight line from palm to palm.  Then switch arms.  This position takes quite a bit of flexibility, balance, and coordination.  If you’ve had some yoga training, you’ll be fine.  If not, prepare for some pain as you try to spread your legs and feet open.

Shaun T doesn’t like to stick to conventions, and the next set of exercises illustrates his style.  We’ve all seen butt lifts before, where you have your hands and one knee on the ground, with one leg extended behind you.  You raise and lower the extended leg, which activates your gluts.  Shaun T’s version has a twist—you have to raise the knee of the support leg off the ground.  The toes of that leg are supporting you rather than the knee, which remains bent but is six inches off the ground.  This causes you to become unbalanced, which in turn activates your core in order to keep your body aligned.  Shaun T’s modified butt lifts will work your gluts, shoulders, core, and quads at the same time.  A simple butt lift turns into a full-body exercise.

After the butt lifts are completed for each side, you will stay in the same position.  You will now bring the knee of your extended leg to the shoulder that is on the same side.  Try not to twist your body to get the knee and shoulder to meet.  Repeat sixteen times.  This exercise works the shoulders, core, and quads, but you really feel the burn in your obliques which are doing most of the work of moving the leg.  Do this for both sides.

Next are hip flexor stretches (runner’s stretch), with one arm touching the ground and the other raised into air.  This stretch is featured in every Insanity pre-workout stretch, so you should be a master by now.

Shaun T calls the next exercise “table top balances,” but I know them as the “warrior 3” pose from Yoga X.  What you are doing is, with your arms outstretched over your head, bend your torso at a 90-degrees angle to your waist.  You will also have one leg raised and extended behind you at a 90-degrees angle to your waist, with the other leg on the ground for support.  If done correctly, your arms, torso and extended leg are aligned in a straight line and should form a “T” with the supporting leg.  This pose requires a lot of core strength as well as balance and coordination.

The last series of exercises are pure stretching.  The first involves standing on one leg, and pulling the knee of the other leg to your front towards your chest.  This helps with balance, and is a great stretch for your gluts.  The next stretch is almost the same thing, except that you will be bringing your knee to your sides towards your armpits.  They’re not hard to do unless you have no balance, and they don’t cause too much discomfort.

Finally, you will be doing a series of hip openers that should be very familiar to you already from other Insanity workouts.

Even though this is supposed to be a “recovery” workout, you might still find yourself drenched in sweat from all the stretching and deep holds.  This is the kind of awesomeness you signed up for, right?

Sign up for my free Fitness Success CourseDo you have any questions about this article or anything relating to health, fitness, and weight loss? Email me at I love to hear from my readers!

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About Khoa Nuyen

Aging and feeling crummy are for people who don't know any better. If a middle aged dude with a sedentary job can get these results, you can too.
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