Insanity Review: Max Interval Plyo

Insanity Max Interval PlyoIf you have any questions about this workout, contact me at

Let me state for the record that Max Interval Plyo is my least favorite Insanity workout.  At 55 minutes, I found it to be the most tedious, mainly because there are a lot of pushup moves involved, and I’m not a pushup person.  Since my days in the Marine Corps, I see pushups as a form of punishment.  Doing something stupid like dropping a rifle will cost you twenty pushups.  Didn’t shine your boots until they gleamed like silverware?  Twenty pushups.  A loose thread on your uniform?  Pushups. And so it went.  There wasn’t any wrong that couldn’t be remedied with enough pushups.  Although I know very well pushups are one of the best upper body exercises you can do, that doesn’t mean I enjoy them.  I actually like doing pullups more, but Insanity has zero pullups exercises.

Aside from the pushups galore, Tonia is back.  La Machina went missing for the first time in [intlink id=”1749″ type=”post”]Max Interval Circuit[/intlink] but she returns in Max Interval Plyo to inspire us with her badass self.  An Insanity workout is not the same without Tonia around to remind you how pitiful you are compared to her.  She crushes egos between the striations in her abs.  By the way, that’s Tonia in the header image.

The new and more brutal warmup first seen in Max Interval Circuit appear again.  There are a series of eight exercises lasting about 30 seconds each.  The series is repeated three times with increasing intensity.  The last should be a sweat throw down.  If you’re doing it right, the end of the 10-minutes warmup should leave you very worried about whether or not you’ll have enough gas to finish the workout.

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,  Shaun T exhorts you to 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 increases 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.

Shaun T gives you a 30-seconds water break at the end of the last exercise.  Most likely, you’re splayed on the floor from doing the Side to Side Floor Hops.

The stretch routine, at only 4:40 minutes, seems very short to me.  I’ve suggested that the best strategy for Insanity is to do some pre-stretching even before you push the play button.  You won’t ever regret extra stretching, but you will regret not doing enough.  An extra 2-5 minutes won’t add much time to your workout, but can mean the difference between being able to work out the following day free of injury or not.

Another 30-seconds water break follows the stretching portion.  Shaun T rounds up the crew to get back into position to start the first circuit.

Max Interval Plyo is an interval workout comprised of three circuits.  Interval training generally means short bursts of high exertion followed by short rest periods. The first circuit is comprised of a series of four exercises lasting 30-45 seconds each (and a bonus one at the end of the third series).  The series is repeated three times, and you get a 15-30 seconds break between each series.


Switch Jumps.  Start in the squat position.  Jump and twist your body around so that you land in the squat position 180 degrees from where you started.  This exercise is a plyometrics staple for a good reason.  It’s easy to do but it gets the heart pumping.

Squat Pushups. Get into a high squat position with knees slightly bent.  Make sure there is a soft surface in front of you.  Drop down onto your hands and lower your body as if doing a pushup, but keep your knees bent.   Push yourself upwards, using your arms to drive your body back into the standing squat position.  Do not walk your hands up into the standing position.  Rather, push off with enough force to move your body backwards.  It should be one fluid motion from bottom to top.  You will need a bit of upper body strength to be able to do this exercise properly.

Wide In-Out Abs.  Get into the plank position with your legs extended and feet spread out a little bit past shoulder width.  Hop forward so that your feet come up to your hands, while keeping your hands firmly planted in the ground.  Hop back into the wide-feet plank position.  Repeat until time is called.  A variation of the Burpee move.  Activates your core if you use correct form.

Power Jumps.  You’ve seen this exercise before in the fit test.  It is not for the weak hearted.  All you are doing is jumping into the air as fast and as high as you can.   Your knees are raised past waist level as you jump.   In order to do this exercise correctly, you should be able to slap your knees with your hands at the highest point of your jump.  If you can’t slap your knees, that means you have not raised them high enough.   You land in the squat position and start the next jump from there.  This exercise works your entire lower body, and heart and lungs.

V Pushups On One Leg (bonus exercise). This exercise is not your typical end-the-circuit-with-an-easy-move, because it will work your shoulders to failure.  Bend over and make an inverse V using your body.  Your hands should be one end of the V and your toes are the other end.  Your arms and legs are straight.  The point of the V is your butt.  Raise one leg off the ground to add resistance. From this position, lower your head towards the ground by bending your arms.  Push back up.  Do as many reps as you can for 30 seconds before switching the raised leg.

Another short break marks the end of the first circuit.  The second circuit follows exactly the same format, but with different exercises.


Pogo Jump.  Stand on one leg and hop to one side.  Keep one leg off the floor and hop back to the starting position.  Repeat until you run out of time.  Mostly works your calves.  You will jump from the right leg in the first circuit, the left in the second, and alternate legs in the third.

Power Pushup.  This is a plyo type pushup that requires good upper body strength.  Start from the plank position.  As you do a pushup, exert enough force so that your body moves directly into a bent over standing position.  That is, you’re trying to connect your hands and feet with each pushup.  If you can do this move properly and fluidly, you can probably audition for a b-boy crew.

Globe Twists.  Hop from one side to the other.  Touch your hands to the ground and raise them overhead with each hop.  Land in the squat position.  Repeat until time is called.  Your glutes and quads won’t like this exercise.

Level 3 Drills.  A double combo move consisting of sixteen pushups and sixteen plank runs.  Like all combo moves, this one will leave you breathless.

Lunges/Hop Squats (bonus exercise).  True to convention, the second circuit ends with a combo move with alternating two lunges and two hop squats.  Both moves work your gluts and quads, but in different directions.  Nice.

Enjoy the 30 seconds water break before the third circuit begins.


The third circuit is a little different from the first and second.  There are only four exercises in one series.  The only repeating you will be doing is when you alternate sides.  The exercises are more complicated than what you’ve been exposed to so far, so Shaun T takes more of an effort to explain them.  Take the extra time to catch your breath.

Side Pushups.  Place your hands on the ground so that they are perpendicular to each other.  Your legs are positioned to one side, and not in line with your body like a traditional pushup.   Do fifteen reps on each side.

Kickstand Touch the Floor. You start off in the lunge position.  Leap vertically into the air with one arm reaching the ceiling while raising one knee as high as possible towards your chest.   Return to the lunge position as you land. Do fifteen reps on one side and repeat for the other.  It works not only your core, but your gluts, quads, and hamstrings as well.  It resembles the pogo jump, but you will be leaping from floor with both feet.

8 Power Knees/4 Diamond Jumps.  A combo move where you are doing eight power knees on one side, followed by four diamond jumps.  A diamond jump is similar to a power jump, except that at the top of the jump, you touch your hands together above your head (to form a shape of a diamond), while at the same time touching the soles of your feet together (to form the end of an arrow).

Balance Pushups. Start off in the plank position.  Do a pushup.  As your body comes up, simultaneously straighten and raise you right arm and left leg off the floor, while maintaining balance on the right leg and left arm.  Return to plank and do another pushup, this time alternating the balancing arm and leg.  Do as many reps as possible before Shaun T calls time.  This exercise works mostly the core and pecs, but also activates the shoulders and gluts.

The remaining 4:30 minutes is devoted to cool down and stretching.  Not a whopping amount of time.  Shaun T always cautions that the stretching is the most important part of the workout, but he never seems to devote enough time to them.  This is one of my main criticisms about the Insanity program.  I can keep up with Shaun T and any of the fitness demonstrators, but my middle aged lower back will protest afterwards if I don’t do a proper pre-workout stretch.

Max Interval Plyo is the only regular Insanity workout that really blasts the upper body.  The Squat, V, and Power pushups come to mind. If you’re not used to them, get ready to hurt.  A lot.  Of course your legs will get play time, too, but your chest and shoulders will feel the brunt of this workout.

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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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