Insanity Review: Max Interval Circuit

Insanity Max Interval CircuitIf you have any questions about this workout, contact me at This is the workout that put the insane in insanity.   It is sixty minutes in length, but if you’re following the program calendar, you will be doing this routine back to back after the Fit Test.  That means on the first day of Phase II, you’ll be doing over one hour of cardio (not including the 30 minutes of warmups, stretching, and cool down).  This introduction will set the pace and tone for the remaining thirty days of Insanity–brutal, long, and tough.  It doesn’t matter what type of condition you are in—your body will feel it. At the beginning of the warmups, Shaun T gives this ominous warning, “I’m here to train and kick your butt today, and I’m not playing.”  He’s true to his promise, because this workout will be relentless and merciless.  Shaun T ruthlessly pushes everyone to “dig deep.”  I notice that Tonia (La Machina), is not in the video.  She chose a good day to not work out with Shaun T. The format of the warmups is the same as the other workouts—but the duration and intensity have increased.  There are a series of eight exercises done one after another.  The tempo increases after each series is completed, and there are no breaks until the series are repeated three times. Run 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.  In Phase I, the warmup was jogging in place.  Now, you move your arms and legs faster. Straight Jacks.  Jumping jacks, but instead of moving your arms up and down along your side, you will be pumping them up and down in front of you. 1-2-3.  You are sidestepping from left to right, taking about 3-4 steps each way.  On the last step, bring one leg as close as possible to your chest.  Gets the entire lower body (including abs) involved, and helps improve agility. Jump Rope Side to Side.  Basically, you are hopping side to side while twisting your wrists as if you’re jumping rope. High Knees with Arms Extended to Side.  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.  Extending your arms to your sides raises the intensity level because they cannot be used to help you build momentum or maintain balance. Switch Kicks.  You perform this exercise standing up.  You alternatively kick each leg to your front as high as you can.  They 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. Hit the Floor.  Almost the same thing as suicide drills.  You sidestep to the right as fast as possible, reaching down to touch the floor with one hand after 3-4 steps.  As you raise your body, leap to the right side.  Repeat all these moves, but to the left.  Alternate sides with each leap.  This exercise activates your core as you touch the floor and raise your body. Side to Side Floor Hops in Plank.  While in a plank position, keep your feet together and hop from one side to another.  Use your hands to support your body.  Will activate your abs, shoulders, and lower back. You get a generous 30 seconds water break, followed by five minutes of stretching.  Nothing new to report in the stretching segment.  I should have mentioned this in an earlier review, but I don’t think Insanity’s stretching and warmup routines are adequate.  Before I even push play, I usually do about five minutes of lower back stretches and twists to get me going.  If I don’t, I will pay for it with lower back pain the following day. Your mileage may vary.  You know what is best for your body and must treat it with the proper respect.  Don’t blindly follow just what’s in the program.  If you think you need more stretching, warmups, or cooldown, then do it.  That’s what the pause button is for.  In Phase II, your body will take a beating with all the jumping, hopping, and leaping.  Additional stretching can only help. Enjoy the water break after stretching because you won’t be breathing easy for another forty-five minutes.  That’s right, even after stretching is completed, there is still about forty-five minutes left in the routine.  You begin to get nostalgic for Phase I when the each workout was less than forty-five minutes long, including warmups and cooldown. The first circuit consists of a series of four exercises lasting 45-60 seconds each.  The series are repeated three times with a 30-seconds break between each series.  After the third series, a bonus exercise is added to the end. 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 will 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. Level 3 Drills. A combo exercise that includes four Ski Abs, four Pushup Jacks, four In-Out Abs, and four Oblique Pushups.  Each one of these moves alone will challenge you, but combining them into a single exercise is pure Insanity. Power Strike. Punch towards the ground, using your core to propel your body for maximum effect.  That is, put a little twist in your body while punching.  Don’t just snap your fists up and down. 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. Football Runs Full Body Rotation with Clap (bonus exercise). You run in place with your legs spread out so that 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 to rotate your body right and left.  Each time you complete a rotation, clap.  I can do without the clapping part because it gives me horrible flashbacks to Richard Simmons. 1-Sided Jacks (bonus exercise). Like jumping jacks, but only raising one arm at a time.  Alternate sides and cross your feet as you hop off the ground. You get a 30-seconds water break before the second circuit begins.  The second circuit has the same format as the first, but with different exercises. Hooks and Jump Ropes.  This is a combo move where you will perform four high and low hooks (rounded punches) on each side, followed by four power jumps with a wrist twisting motion to simulate jumping ropes.  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. Like all other combo moves, your body never gets a chance to settle into a rhythm before having to change positions.  This has the effect of increasing the intensity for each move. High Knees with Body Twist.  Stand upright and run in place with your knees raised as high as possible.  They should reach at least up to waist level with each step.  Add a twisting motion to your upper body where the elbow is touching the opposite knee as it rises.  For instance, touch your right elbow to your left knee. High and Low Jabs into Squats.  Leap vertically and when you reach the top, jab into the air.  Land into the squat position and perform another jab. Repeat. Floor Switch Kicks.  Regular switch kicks are where you alternate kicking out your left and right legs with each hop. Now, perform the same move while in a low squat.  Support yourself with your arms as you try to kick your legs as high as possible up towards the ceiling. 1-2-3 Jabs/Cross combo (bonus exercise).  You may have noticed by now that Phase II of Insanity has a lot of combination exercises.  This is another one.  First, do a series of side steps (1-2-3), then follow that with jab and cross combo punches.  The sidestepping works your lower body, and the punches will recruit your core. With Tonia’s absence from this workout, Anna takes up the La Machina title.  She is on fire today.  Shaun T calls her out several times as maximum intensity personified.  She’s smiling (or snarling) like a crazy woman throughout the workout, but no doubt she’s rocking it. You get a 30-seconds water break before the third circuit begins.  The third circuit has the same format as the first and second, but with different exercises.  By this time, you might be feeling worn out and spent.  You’re not alone, because all the fitness demonstrators are in the same boat.  They are dropping off like fall foliage.  No one is able to hang on completely.  They resort to motivating each other to keep going.  If these hardbodies are finding this routine tough, you know it’s no joke. Side Suicide Jumps.  These are almost like plank hops (or Burpees), but instead of extending your legs back with each hop, you extend them to each side (alternating) left and right sides.  Leap up after each hop.  Pushing your body up/down and side to side will work almost every major muscle group.  Your heart and lungs will notice. Squats with Hooks.  Stand upright and hop into a squat position, then perform a hook (rounded punch).  Repeat until time is called.  Your core and quads get activated. Full Body Drill.  This combo is a mother.  It includes three sets of eight Plank Runs, four Moving Pushups, eight Wide Plank Runs (oblique runs), and hops to standing upright position between each move.  If you don’t feel exhausted from this combo, you belong in the pantheon of fitness gods. Plank Punches.  Get into plank position.  Punch outwards with your right or left arm, then return to plank position.  Alternate punching with each arm until time is called.  This exercise sounds deceptively easy, but after sixty seconds, your arms, shoulders, and midsection will have failed or is very close to failure. When time is called, everybody collapses onto floor, including Shaun T.  The camera glides over the Insanity gym, lingering on each person’s face.  They all look the same—delirious, relieved, exhausted, spent.  The women’s hair are soaked with sweat, and everyone’s body is drenched.  There are beads and pools of perspiration all over the floor.  It’s almost a cathartic scene.  You have no doubt that these people worked as hard as you, and they gave it their all.  You begin to understand better that limitations are meant to be exceeded. That’s Insanity, baby. After about thirty seconds of lying on the floor too tired to move or talk, Shaun T quietly picks himself up and leads the group through a final series of cool down stretches.

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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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4 Responses to Insanity Review: Max Interval Circuit

  1. Karan says:

    Hello there,

    I just started with day one of phase 2 yesterday. It was crazy and great at the same time. Only problem is my back has been hurting since then and i cannot even move much let alone do todays day two. Is this normal?

    • Jade Nuyen says:

      Yes it’s normal. This is one of the toughest days of the program and you will be extremely sore. You should try to continue with the other workouts (at a slower pace) and work through the soreness. Unless you are experiencing sharp pain, I would try to keep going. The soreness will recede.

  2. Karan says:

    Yes ok i will continue and hope the pain reduces. Thanks a ton for your advice. Appreciate it! 🙂