Insanity Review: Pure Cardio

Insanity Pure CardioIf you have any questions about this workout, contact me at

Because this workout is only 38 minutes, you know the pace is going to be ridiculous.  The title says it all—Pure Cardio. Unlike other Insanity routines, this one is not built around the concept of high intensity interval training.  This workout will be a simple endurance contest.  It’s all about cardio conditioning and how long you can exercise at high intensity without any breaks.  If you are putting out maximum effort, your heart rate should be in the 80-90% zone most of the time.

Shaun T is joined by a full complement of fitness demonstrators.  There is no one new. You’ve seen these men and women before in other routines. Their presence charges the atmosphere.  I imagine myself throwing down some sweat with these people.

The warmups are high intensity.  There are a series of seven exercises lasting about 30 seconds each.  Each series is performed three times, with no rest in between and with increasing intensity after with each subsequent series.  Go easy at first, but go big at the end.  They are similar to the warmups you’ve been doing already.

  • Jog in Place.  This exercise needs no explanation.  Pretend you are running.  The blood starts moving faster, and the breathing gets shallower as your body prepares for intense exercise.
  • Jumping Jacks.  A fitness staple for good reason.  Don’t forget to touch your hands at the top of each jack.  Complete follow through helps to intensify.
  • Heisman.  You are hopping left to right on each leg.  As you hop, bring the leg not touching the floor as close as possible to your chest.  There should be no stopping between each hop.  If you’ve done a tires course as a football player, that is what the Heisman looks like.
  • 1-2-3.  Almost the same thing as a Heisman, but with added running steps between each hop.
  • Butt Kicks.  This exercise is performed by running in place and kicking your heels backwards into your butt instead of in front.
  • High Knees.  Almost the same thing as running in place, but you’re bringing your knees above your hips with each step.  The raising gets the lower abdominals in play.
  • Mummy Kicks.  Keep your body as straight as possible and kick our legs out in front, alternating each leg.  Do not to stop between kicks.  At least one leg should be off the ground at any given moment, and the supporting leg should be moving in the air prior to the kicking leg returning to the floor.  The name of the exercise comes from your arms being raised up to shoulder level in front of you like the proverbial mummy.  Instead of keeping them still, however, the arms should scissor one another with each kick.  The head is held up straight in alignment with a rigid torso.

After three rounds of warmups, you get a 30-second water break, followed by a 5:40 stretching segment.  All the stretches should be familiar to you.

Another 30-second water break follows the stretches.  Then, the first and only circuit begins.  There will be no more breaks for the next eighteen minutes.  Each exercise lasts about 60 seconds, and is done one after the other until the workout is completed.  This is a slight departure from the other Insanity workouts where you can expect a break every 2-3 minutes.

  • Suicide Drills.  You sidestep to the right as fast as possible, touching the floor with one hand after 3-4 steps.  Alternate to the left.  This exercise activates your core as you touch the floor and raise your body.
  • Switch Kicks.  You perform this exercise standing up.  You alternatively kick each leg to your front as high as you can.  The key is not to stop between each kick. Meaning, at least one leg should be in the air at any given moment, and the supporting leg should be moving off the ground prior to the kicking leg returning to the floor.  This exercise works your legs and lower abdominals.
  • Wide Feet football Sprints.  You run in place as your legs are spread out and you are almost in a squat position.  Your feet are pumping as fast as possible, and your arms are raised as if you are blocking an imaginary person.  Shaun T will cue you go right, back, left, and front.  This move frustrates and perplexes me because even though I can run for miles, this      60 second exercise wears me out.
  • Stance Jacks.  Get into the squat position with your feet together.  Hop so that your feet come apart 18-24 inches.  As you do so, bend and reach down with one arm to touch the opposite foot (i.e., right hand touches left foot). Alternate arms with each hop.  Activates your lower legs and your core at the same time.
  • Pedals.  This is actually a combo exercise that should be called sprints with lunges.  You start off by doing sprints in place.  On Shaun T’s cue, you with do a series of alternating leg lunges, then return to sprinting.  It doesn’t seem like much, but the  stop/start motion and lunging action will get your cardio-pulmonary systems moving in high gear.
  • Hooks with Jump Ropes.  A combination exercise.  First, do eight hooks (rounded punches).  Then, leap up and raise your knees past your waist.  You will add a twisting motion with your wrist as if you were jumping rope.  The power jumps will make  your entire body cry for mercy, but I’m not sure what the wrist twists do.  If you’re doing the hooks properly, you  will also recruit your core muscles into the exercise.
  • Power Jacks (Same thing as  Squat Jacks).  We’ve all done  jumping jacks.  This exercise turns  up the intensity level by making you land into the squat position at the  end of each repetition.  Doesn’t sound like much of a difference, but your gluts and quads will be  screaming for mercy at the end of the minute.
  • Level 2 Drills.  This exercise is actually a mini series of exercises done in rapid succession. Begin in plank position and do eight pushups.  Follow that with eight plank runs.  From there, hop from plank into standing  position, and quickly leap into the air with your arms raised above your head.  Repeat the sequence until time is called. Works your entire body, and will make you suck wind.
  • Frog Jumps.  Start the exercise in the standing squat  position.  Hop back and bend over  and touch the floor with both hands, then hop forward and bend over and touch the floor with both hands.  Keep hopping back and forward until time is called.  Mostly works your legs and gluts, but  your core is also recruited as you bend over.
  • Power Knees.  This exercise looks easy, but will bring  the burn if you do it with full intensity.   It is done standing up and slightly bent over.  You start by putting  your weight on one leg and your hands clasped together.  The other leg is bent, and the objective  is to raise it up to chest level as quickly as possible, touching your  hands to the bent knee.  As you      lower the leg, your foot should only touch the floor for a millisecond.  If done correctly, you  will look like a piston in a well oiled engine.  This exercise works your lower abs, but I found that the butt cheeks of my supporting leg side will burn like crazy after thirty seconds.  I would  go faster and faster like a maniac just to keep my mind off of the pain in my ass.
  • Upright Mountain Climbers.  Your legs are moving as if you are doing high knees.  However, your arms are reaching up and down as if you are climbing an imaginary ladder.  Keep your torso erect.  The added arm movements  kick up the exercise intensity to another level.  Works the legs and lower abs.
  • Ski Down Ski Jumps.  Keep your feet together while you hop side to side and your body is positioned as if you are skiing and about to take on a massive mogul.  Shaun T makes a point of reminding you not to twist your body as you hop.  Not sure why this is a big deal, because it doesn’t change the intensity level that much.  Works the calves, thighs, and gluts.
  • Scissor Runs (Switch Feet).  I really don’t know how to describe this  exercise.  Basically, your legs and arms are completely locked in a straight position, and you are moving them as if you are a robot, but very fast.
  • Suicide Jumps (plank, leap up, jump back to plank) Suicide Jumps.  This exercise is aptly named because you’ll feel suicidal as you’re doing them.  You start off in the plank position as if doing a pushup.  Second step is to hop so that both feet land right behind your hands.  During the hop, your hands remain firmly planted on the floor and only your feet move forward.  When your feet reach your hands, immediately leap up with your hands raised to the sky.  When you land, jump back into the plank position and repeat the exercise.  The raising and lowering of your body from the plank position into      a leap will cause lots of heavy breathing (of the painful kind).  This exercise is also known as Burpees.
  • Pushup Jacks (same as fit test). Pushups, but raised to the next level.  This exercise is pretty much impossible to do unless you can already do a regular pushup.  It can’t be performed using the modified bent knee pushup position, unless you want crushed knee caps.  You start off in the plank position with your feet together.  As you lower  your body, you simultaneously move your feet apart by 18-24 inches.  As you push your body up, you will simultaneously bring your feet back together again.  If you are doing it correctly, it looks  as if you are doing jumping jacks while in the pushup position.  Works your chest like crazy.

The last exercise ends with about 4:30 remaining on the clock (which is devoted to cool down and stretching). There is a look of relief on everyone’s faces. The man himself, Shaun T, is collapsed on his back, lying in a pool of sweat.  I remember now that he kept on saying “I’m tired” throughout the workout.  He doesn’t give a crap that America is seeing him looking like a hot mess.  His parting words were something that was bleeped out.  The demonstrators are no better off.  Even after having gone through the program, no one is coasting through this workout.  One of them (Mario) shakes his head and mutters “What the f*ck” under his breath as he tries remain on his feet.  Indeed. This is why I love Insanity.

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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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