Insanity Review: Max Cardio Conditioning

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

Max Cardio Condition is the endurance workout for Phase II of Insanity.  At 56 minutes long, it’s the second longest workout in the program.  Because there are very few breaks between each exercise, you will feel every minute.  The first time I did this workout, it was quite the shock because I kept expecting a mid-circuit break that never came.  My mind wasn’t calibrated to the program, so it nearly knocked me out. Like its Phase I counterpart, [intlink id=”1586″ type=”post”]Pure Cardio[/intlink], Max Cardio Conditioning is a simple endurance contest.  Because it is done during the second month of Insanity, you are expected to endure for about 15 minutes longer.  To put this time into perspective, that’s about two extra miles in a run (if you are a 7.5 minute miler). Two extra miles at a fast pace is not something I would sneeze at.

You will do Max Cardio Conditioning about seven times in Phase II.  It is often paired with Cardio Abs, so if you’re following the Insanity program as laid out by the workout calendar, you have a seriously long and intense workout day in store.  This is why Insanity is a 60 day program as opposed to 90 days.  Most people would not be able to sustain another month of high impact/high intensity cardio training.  Even though (or because?) it kicked my ass the first time I did it, Max Cardio Conditioning is now my favorite Insanity workout.  There is only one main circuit with a minimum of repeating of exercises.  The circuit format works well, but it’s good to have one day where I can plow through an exercise without thinking about having to do the same thing over two more times.

The workout starts right away with a warmup segment.  You should know the drill by now—Insanity warmups are misnamed.  This warmup, however, is a little different.  There are two warmup circuits instead of just one.  The first circuit has a series of seven exercises done one after another.  It is repeated just once.

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.

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.   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.

After the first warmup circuit is completed, the tempo increases and the exercises are switched.  The second circuit only has five exercises, but you should exert maximum effort.  In the DVD, everyone is going crazy trying to keep up with Shaun T, who looks like a machine.  Each exercise is only done once.

Sprint In Place.  Exactly like running in place or jogging in place, but you should move your arms and legs as fast as possible.  Hold nothing back.

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.  In this video, you are jumping and moving your arms at breakneck pace, probably two jacks per second.

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 want to match Shaun T, hop like crazy.

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.  No time to get leisurely.  Double-time this exercise.

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.  This is the last warmup exercise, so don’t slow down.

After the warmups are completed, you get a 30-seconds water break, which is followed by about five minutes of stretching.  The warmup stretching is pretty much exactly what you’ve been doing in every other Insanity workout. Remember to pause if necessary in order to do extra stretches.

Another 30-seconds water break follows the warmup.  This is the last water break you will enjoy until the workout is completed.

There is only one circuit in Max Cardio Conditioning.  It includes pretty much every Insanity exercise you have encountered in the past.  Each one lasts for about 60 seconds.  The only repeating you will have to do is when an exercise needs to be done for both sides of the body.

High-Low Jabs. Leap vertically and when you reach the top, jab into the air. Land into the squat position and perform another jab. Repeat.

Football Runs/Plank.  A combo move.  First, 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.  On Shaun T’s cue, “Hit it!” drop down into low plank position.  Repeat.  I don’t Burpee-like exercises like this one, but damn are they effective.

Basketball Shots from Squat with Four Hops.  Pretend you are making a long shot far away from the 3-point line.  Start in the standing position and lower yourself into a squat.  Leap up to make the imaginary shot.  Remember to land into the squat position.  Repeat four times, then hop four times to the opposite direction.  Pretend to make shots from the other side of your body.

Right Kick/Left Kick.  Basically, you are standing upright and kicking one leg up past your waist.  Do this for a full minute, then switch to the other leg.  Not as easy as it sounds.

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).  A hardcore jumping move that will tax all your energy systems.

In/Out Abs with Pushup Jacks.  A combo move in plank position.  In/Out abs are where you hop while in plank so that your feet come as closely as possible to your hands. Finish the move by hopping back into plank position.  Follow this with a set of Pushup Jacks. Start off in the plank position with your feet together. As you lower your body, 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.  Alternate between In/Out Abs and Pushup Jacks.

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.

High Knees/Sprints/Plank Runs (8 each).  This combo of three exercises is first done in standing position.  Do eight reps of high knees.  Switch to sprinting in place for eight reps, then drop down into plank position and do eight plank runs.  Just goes to show that there is more than one way to run in place.

Ski Abs. Start in plank position.  Keeping your feet together, hop to one side of your body towards your hands while keeping your palms firmly planted on the ground.  Hop back into plank, then hop to the other side of your body.  Repeat until time is called.  Your abs should be doing most of the heavy lifting.

Kick Step Back.  You might have seen old film clips from the 1920’s where people are doing this dance called the Charleston.  This dance has now morphed into an Insanity exercise.  Start in the lunge position with one hand touching the floor.  Straighten your body and simultaneously kick the rear leg forward.  Return to lunge and repeat these moves for 60 seconds.  Do the same for the other leg.  This exercise is low impact and low intensity.  It’s supposed to give you some breathing space before going into the next series of intense exercises.

Squat Twists.  Shaun T called these “stance jacks” in another workout.  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.

Over the River Hops.  Hop from one leg to another in a side to side motion.

Attack.  Hop into a squat position and throw two open handed jabs.  Hop and twist your body so that it’s facing the opposite direction and repeat the moves.

Power Knees (on each side).  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.  When you’re done with one leg, switch over to the other for 60 seconds.

Ski Down Hooks.  Stand upright and hop into a squat position with your legs close together as if you’re skiing, then perform a hook (rounded punch). Repeat until time is called. Your core and quads get activated.

Belt Kicks. One of Insanity’s few low impact lower body exercises. You begin in the standing position, legs apart with both hands on your hips. Move to one side, squat, and kick up a leg. Alternate legs. It’s low impact, but because large muscle groups are involved (legs and abs), your heart rate and breathing won’t slow down much.

Forward/Back Suicides.   The same exercise was called “frog jumps” in another workout. 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.

Pushup Abs (side obliques).  You’ve done both pushups and side obliques.  This exercise combines the two moves.  As you lower your body into the pushup, raise one knee and touch it to your elbow.  Alternate knees with each pushup.

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.

Jump Ropes/Hop Squats (8 each).  By the time you get to this point in the workout, your body is pretty much spent.  You’re going to need to dig deep, because this combo exercise requires massive exertion.  Jump ropes are nothing more than power jumps with some wrist twisting action.  Do eight of them.  Quickly transition to eight hop squats.  Repeat the series for sixty seconds.

Squat Speed Bag.  After the last exercise, Shaun T commands everyone to remain in the squat position because there is one last exercise to do.  With your center of gravity low to the ground, make motions with your arms and fists as if you’re punching a speed bag.  Your quads are burning, your arms are slippery from sweat, and your core is toast, but hang in there because this is the last exercise.

There is no jumping for joy when time is called, just a collective sigh of relief.  No one has any more energy to jump or do anything else.  Everyone is just happy they made it through.  I’ve said this before, but none of the fitness demonstrators can finish the entire workout without stopping at least once, even La Machina and Shaun T.  It’s just a matter of how many unscheduled rest breaks each person takes and for how long.  Some people stop for a few seconds to collect themselves, others sit out the entire exercise. There are times when the camera pulls back and half of the 15-20 demonstrators have stopped moving because they are exhausted from an exercise.  Max Cardio Conditioning is relentless and its brutal pace can break down even the most hardcore.  That’s why it’s my favorite Insanity workout.  Anytime I think I need a kick in the ribs, I put this bad boy on.

The final few minutes are cool down and stretching.  You should see rivulets of perspiration streaming from all parts of your body.  If you don’t, my guess is that you half-assed the 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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One Response to Insanity Review: Max Cardio Conditioning

  1. Thank you! Exactly what I want/ed to know, :).