Insanity Review: Max Recovery

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

This is the “recovery” workout for Phase II of Insanity. You will do this workout once each week for at least four weeks. It’s 47 minutes of low impact cardio. Since my experience with Cardio Recovery, I have learned to approach Insanity recovery workouts with caution. Low impact does not mean no pain or discomfort. Shaun T just finds different ways of bringing the burn without making you jump around. While your joints get a break for one day, your muscles and ligaments are still hard at work.

The DVD starts off with Shan T sitting on the bleachers in the Insanity gym chatting it up with some of the fitness demonstrators. This is supposed to put me in a relaxed state of mind, but it does the opposite. Shaun T is smiling too much. When this happens, my Spidey sense starts tingling because I know something crazy is about to happen. Also, I wasn’t part of their conversation, so I have no idea what they were discussing. Maybe they were plotting new ways of torturing us viewers? Read on and make up your own mind about whether my hunch was correct.

Shaun T breaks up the choreographed-to-look-impromptu meeting and begins the workout. He’s wearing tights that go all the way down to his ankles. They accentuate how freakishly massive his legs are. Shaun T’s thighs are shaped like turkey drumsticks.

Because this is a recovery workout, there are no crazy warmups. Instead, you get a long, soothing dose of light stretching that includes several rounds of standing back bends, chin rollups, lunges in flat back position, and hip openers. The hip openers are similar to what you’ve already seen in other Insanity stretching segments. There are also a few modifications, such as the flat back stretches with hands clasped behind the legs.

Max Recovery is broken into several workout segments which flow into one another without any breaks. The first segment begins in plank position. This is a series where you’re rounding out your back and raising your knees to your chest for 4-8-16 counts (meaning, you do four reps, pause for a few breaths, and do eight reps, pause, and do sixteen reps). This exercise recruits your core, but it’s nothing too difficult.

A series of pushups follows. Shaun T sticks to the 4-8-16 counts pattern. While the number of reps doesn’t seem too high, they are done slowly, which adds a lot of intensity to this low impact exercise. You won’t be in agony, but you won’t be skating through them either. The tempo of the entire workout follows this example—slow and controlled movements.

My favorite stretch for calves, downward dog, is next. Then, there are straight leg stretches for the hamstrings. Nice.

You’ll then transition to a series of lunges and butt lifts. Start off in the lunge position, then raise yourself up so that your momentum propels you forward. As you reach the top of the position, straighten the back leg and lift them off the ground with your butt muscles. This almost looks like you’re dancing, and is probably the most graceful move in the entire Insanity series.

Hip openers are a staple stretch in Insanity, and this portion of the workout adds a couple of new twists to the familiar hip openers to make them more intense. First level is where your elbow is pressed against the forward knee while the other hand is locked behind your back. The second level is where one arm is raised towards the ceiling while the other is placed firmly on the ground, and both arms are vertically aligned with each other. This is a stretch that should be familiar to yoga practitioners. And yes, they are as uncomfortable as they look. This is nothing, though, compared to what’s ahead.

The next series of exercises are done in plank position. The first involves balancing yourself in side plank position. Alternate balancing between the right and left arms. Do a pushup before changing arm positions. This series follows the 4-8-16 counts pattern.

Go down to low plank position (resting on your forearms instead of palms) for the next exercise that will work your obliques. Alternate bringing the right knee to the right arm and the left knee to the left arm in 4-8-16 counts.

When Shaun T starts demonstrating the next series of exercises, I had a premonition of pain and suffering. He gets a wicked gleam in his eye, so you know something crazy is about to go down. My suspicions were correct, because the butt burners described below is probably the most painful series of exercises in the entire Insanity program. It almost singled handedly caused the breakdown of the Insanity crew.

It starts easy enough. Assume a Plié position where your hips are wide open as far as possible. Your feet are pointed out, and your arms are outstretched to each side. Lower your butt towards the ground by bending your knees in a series of 4-8-16 pulses. Return to the Plié position and place a palm to the floor and extend the other arm towards the ceiling. On Shaun T’s cue, alternate arm positions. Even though your lower body is burning from the extended isometric hold, remain in Plié position for the next exercise.

Next, you will be doing exactly the same thing as before, but lift the heel of one foot off the floor. Pulse your butt towards the ground with 4-8-16 counts, then place your palm on the ground with one hand extended. Since you have two sides, you will be repeating this series for the other heel as well without coming out of the Plié position. Near the end, your gluts, calves, and quads are failing from being in the Plié position for over two minutes. You start anticipating the relief you’ll being feeling as you are released from this position, but wait, because you must remain in Plié position for the next exercise.

Shaun T is not quite done with you yet because you now have to repeat the entire series with both heels lifted off the ground. I think he anticipated my feeling of dread. I literally thought to myself two seconds beforehand, “Please don’t ask me do this damned exercise with both heels lifted.” With your heels off the floor, you look like you’re doing squats on tip-toes. Let the pulsing begin. If you looked at your TV screen, you will notice that all the fitness demonstrators are near collapse, including La Machina. The strain of this exercise is evident in their faces. Their legs are shaking uncontrollably like a sewing machine needle. No one is having it easy. Everyone tries to put on brave faces, but their suffering is palpable. You have no time to worry about their suffering because you’re more concerned about yours, unless you already wimped out and straightened your legs. Everyone lets out a collective sigh of relief as Shaun T releases them from the Plié position.

The worst is over and you return to the low plank position for the next series of exercises. You will be doing a move where you’re going from low plank to high plank. That is, from low plank push yourself up with one arm followed by the other arm until you are in high plank. Be consistent with the pushing arm because you will repeat the entire 4-8-16 counts with the other arm doing the pushing. This exercise works you triceps. They will be throbbing at the end of the last set, if you make it that far.

You’ll be happy to know the last segment will be done in the standing position. The first is a series of oblique raises where you’re lifting your knee to your elbow. It follows the 4-8-16 counts pattern established by the rest of the workout. It’s such a relief to be able to move your body without being in an uncomfortable isometric position.

Next up are hammers. Don’t let the name concern you because they are pretty easy. Raise your arms overhead. Bring them down and raise your right leg at the same time so that they meet at waist level. Do 4-8-16 counts, then repeat the entire series for the left leg. This completes the workout portion of Max Recovery.

The rest of the time is devoted to cool down and final stretching, which are comprised mostly of leg openers. When I do yoga, I usually end up dripping with perspiration, even though there are no high impact moves. Same with Max Recovery. Rarely will both your feet lift off the floor at the same time in this workout, but the exercises are no less intense. Deep stretching and long isometric holds are uncomfortable as hell. You don’t have to lift heavy weights to experience muscle failure. If anyone scoffs at this idea, make this person do Max Recovery and see how long he/she lasts.

Since completing Insanity, I still do the other Insanity workouts on a regular basis, but I rarely put on Max Recovery. It’s probably avoidance on my part. This workout is serious, and will no doubt push your limits.

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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3 Responses to Insanity Review: Max Recovery

  1. Ernie Dow says:

    Just finished week 7 max recovery workout. I have never been through anything this intense in my life. With the help of guys like Tony Horton and Shaun T. I have never had a better quality of life, not to mentions the abs thing….hahahahahahaha

    • Jade Nuyen says:

      That is so awesome Ernie!! Rock On!! Take it all the way! : ) I agree with you, I have never been so fit and healthy in all of my life either. I hope you get to meet Shaun T : )

  2. Anis says:

    I have never felt so flexible in my life thanks to the stretching workouts we are doing twice everyday.

    I have also to agree with you about the fact that max recovery and recovery of Month 1 are for me more difficult than cardio or plyometrics.

    I was dripping in my own sweat even by doing stretches.