Insanity Review: Core Cardio & Balance

Insanity Core Cardio and BalanceIf you have any questions about this workout, contact me at

So you’ve made it through your first month of Insanity.  You should be feeling fitter, stronger, and faster.  Even so, your body needs to recover from all the pounding it absorbed in the previous thirty days.  Healing is an important part of the fitness cycle. This is why a recovery week is necessary.  You’re still exercising regularly, but you won’t be exerting maximum effort.  This is where Core Cardio & Balance comes in. This 37-minutes routine will work you out, but will leave some gas in the tank at the end. It appears on the schedule six times during the recovery week between Phase I and II.

Core Cardio & Balance takes place in the Insanity gym with a full complement of demonstrators, but the first thing you might notice is that Shaun T is a lot mellower.  He reminds you to take it easy and not to push too hard.  What?  Is this the same guy who’s been kicking your ass for the last four weeks? Well, okay Shaun.  Anything you say.  After jumping around like crazy for about a month, who would mind taking it easy?

Even the warmups are a little different.  They consist of six exercises lasting one minute each, with no repeating.  You won’t be doing any of them at hyper speed, either.

Switch Heel Kicks.  Start in the standing position.  Alternate kicking each heel out while twisting your wrists as if you’re jumping rope.  This exercise is low impact, and can truly be considered a warmup by most standards.

Mummy Kicks. Keep your body as straight as possible and kick your 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.

Football Shuffles with Clap (left, right). You run in place with your legs 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 to go right and left.  Each time you complete a movement, clap.  Not crazy about the clapping part because it gives me horrible flashbacks to Richard Simmons.

Sprints with Over the Log.  A combination exercise.  You will be running in place as fast as possible.  On Shaun T’s cue, hop to one side.  Repeat the moves, alternating hopping to your right or left.  Works your entire lower body.

8 High Knees/8 Power Squats Jacks.  Another combination exercise.  Run in place for eight steps, raising your knees as high as possible past your waist.  Immediately switch to doing eight power squats (hops in the squat position while alternating opening and closing your legs).  Your quads and gluts should feel the heat buildup.

8 Fast Feet/8 Hooks.  Fast feet is performed with your legs spread apart.  Your feet should be pumping furiously while your legs remain somewhat immobile.  Do eight fast feet, then immediately switch to eight hooks.  Works your calves and core.

The short warmup transitions straight into a 3:40 minutes stretching routine. Nothing out of the ordinary with the stretches, except that it is shorter than normal.  You then get a 30-seconds water break before the workout begins.

The format for the main workout is a little different than other Insanity routines. All the exercises last about one minute each.  There is no repeating.  There are also no breaks between each exercise.

Moving Ski Jumps. Keep your feet together while you make four hops to one side, then to the other.  Alternate hopping from to the right then to the left. Your body is positioned as if you are skiing and about to take on a massive mogul.  Works the calves, thighs, and gluts.

Suicide Drills. You sidestep to the right as fast as possible, touching the floor with one hand after 3-4 steps.  Repeat, but to the left.  This exercise activates your core as you touch the floor and raise your body.

Level 1 Drills.  A combo of a mini series of exercises.  You start off in the standing position.  Jump down into plank and do four pushups, then run in place eight times while remaining in the plank position.   Stop and hop back up to the standing position.  Repeat.  All the up and down movements will really get the heart pumping.

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.

8 Switch Kicks/8 Squats.  A double combo.  First, perform eight switch kicks.  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.  Immediately do eight reps of squat jumps.  This exercise works your legs, quads, and lower abdominals.

High Jumps.  Sounds exactly like what it is.  Jump up as high as possible as many times as possible within the time limit.

Moving Plank Walk.  Also known as moving pushups.  Do a pushup and as you go down, position your right arm and leg further out from your body.   With each rep, your body should move 12-18 inches to one side.  Repeat four times, then switch to the left side.

8 Elbows/4 Suicide Drills.  A kempo/plyo combo.  Perform eight reps of kempo elbow thrusts, then quickly transition to eight sets of suicide drills (sidestep to the right as fast as possible, touching the floor with one hand after 3-4 steps).  This exercise activates your core as you do the elbow thrusts and touch the floor and raise your body.

4 One Leg Hops.  Nothing exotic.  Hop on one leg four times, then switch legs.  Repeat until time is called.

8 Jabs with Switch.  Do eight jabs on one side, then switch to the other.  Not hard, and not rocket science.  Try to put as much core into the jabs as possible to maximize intensity.

Hip Flexor Burners (30 seconds each).  The next series of exercises that Shaun T collectively calls Hip Flexor Burners are going to have you running for a fire hydrant to cool down.  They are no impact, but due to their isometric nature, will cause muscle failure.  There are no weights involved, but your muscle fibers will feel shredded nonetheless.  They are performed on one leg first.  Switch to the other when the entire series is completed.

Knee Raises.  While in the standing position, bend and raise your knees past waist level for as many times as possible until time is called.  Keep your knee raised as you transition to the next exercise.

Knee Pulses.  With your knee raised past waist level, perform a series of pulses (small movements) where you are lifting your knee up and down 2-3 inches each way.  This doesn’t sound like much, but the micro movements will bring the burn.  When time is called, keep your knee raised for the next exercise.

Knee Extensions.  With your knee raised past waist level, extend and retract your leg. Repeat until time is called or muscle failure occurs.  At this point, your calves, gluts, low abs, and quads should be whimpering like whipped dogs.  If you can do the entire series of knee exercises without dropping your leg to the floor at least once, you are a Zen fitness master in my book.

Obliques Raises to Elbow.  Very similar to knee raises, except that your legs are cocked to one side and you try to raise them up towards your armpits.  Touch your knee to your elbow each time.  Activates your obliques.

Shoulder Burners (30 seconds each exercise).  Just when you think the worse is over, Shaun T messes with your mind. This final series of exercises he calls Shoulder Burners do exactly as advertised—give your shoulders the burn of their lives.  They are no impact, but this fact doesn’t make them any less painful.  They are performed in the standing squat position with your legs open (Plié).

Flapping.  Extend your arms to your sides while in the Plié position.  Slowly move your arms up and down in six-inch increments until time is called.  Keep your arms extended for the next exercise and remain in the Plié position.

Front to Back.  Move your straight arms from side to front.  Repeat the movements until time is called, but do not lower your arms yet and remain in the Plié position.

Shoulder Raises.  You are still in the Plié position as you alternate raising your arms above your head and lowering them to shoulder level.  Touch your hands at the top.  By now, your shoulders should feel like fire ants are gnawing on them.  Enjoy the warm sensation for another 60 seconds because you have one last exercise to do.

Shoulder Circles.  If you haven’t given up already, the last series should bring about full on shoulder muscle failure.  You no longer have sensation in your lower legs from being in the Plié position for so long.  Move your outstretched arms in a forward circular motion for 30 seconds.  Immediately transition to moving your arms in a backwards circular motion for another 30 seconds.  If you can do the entire shoulder burner series without lowering your arms just once, then give yourself a freaking medal for endurance.

There’s only 2:30 minutes of cool down and stretching in this routine.  Makes sense, because you haven’t really done any serious high impact exercises.  If you think you need more, however, do additional stretching on your own.  Normally, I do about five minutes of lower back stretching before I even press play for any Insanity workout.  This has helped me stay free from the lower back pain that I used to have when I first started Insanity.  You know your body best.  More stretching is always better than less.

The featured shoulder stretches are sheer nirvana.  Except for the sadistic last two exercises, Core Cardio & Balance is an enjoyable workout that will give you a much needed break from the insane intensity of the other Insanity workouts.  That’s the good part.  The bad part is that after doing this routine for six days straight (if you’re following the program), you will never want to have anything to do with it again.

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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