The Insanity "Fast and Furious" Workout: A HealthCentral Review


"My goal isn't to kill you; it's for you to kill yourself." – Shaun T

Infomercials could be the death of me.  Everything looks absolutely amazing.  It doesn't matter if it's RonCo's Showtime Rotisserie Oven ("Set it and forget it") or some other gadget I don't need, it all looks perfect.

The worst of the worst may be the exercise equipment.  Sometimes it might actually work – I did buy an ab wheel because of an infomercial I saw and that thing is quite effective – but more often than not, these advertisements fall into the "get fit quick" bucket that never, ever works.  And it doesn't matter how many times I remind myself that it's a combination of fitness AND eating right, I can never get the eating right part down.  (Seriously, I had a bacon sundae from Burger King this weekend.)

And then there’s the workout video.  From Jane Fonda to Yoga for Beginners and everything in between, the exercise video has been around for decades, often — at least from my perspective — marketed towards stay-at-home moms looking to firm up a bit without investing in a costly (both in time and money) gym membership. Then came P90X, one of the first mass-released DVD sets that was clearly targeted towards men.  It was about shredding your core, getting in ripped beach shape, impressing the ladies with your new lean, fit body.  Ironically – or not so much – the parent company of P90X is called BeachBody.

On the heels of P90X came Insanity, BeachBody's next workout.  Instead of the 90 days it takes to whip your butt into shape, Insanity takes only 60 days.  The infomercial stresses, more or less, pushing yourself to the max.  It's all before-and-after images of people without shirts on talking about how crazy (but satisfying!) the workout is.  Forty minutes a day, six days a week is all it takes.  Just one catch – it costs $120 for the box set, which is a lot of money for something that I don’t know will work.

So, after watching the infomercial at least 50 times, I started to do a little research.  I placed bids on eBay for used copies of the collection, but they still hit around $100 when the dust settled on bidding.  Still too rich for my blood.  But then I stumbled on Insanity: Fast and Furious.  $20.  21 minutes.  Much more my style.

I have to preface this review by saying that I work out a fair amount.  I do Crossfit-inspired total-body workouts without many isolated-muscle lifting sessions.  I always have limited time, so I would rather do some mix of running, sprinting, burpees, pull-ups, lunges with curls in the middle, squats with shoulder-presses thrown in… hitting the bench press this is not.  But that's just me.  I consider myself in fairly good shape, despite the fact that I may not look it – again, the disgusting eating habits – but really, how hard can 20 minutes be?

Quite simply: it's hard.  I read in the reviews that most people are pouring sweat during the "warm up" of the Fast and Furious DVD.  That’s no joke.  You start with jogging in place, then jumping jacks, followed by squat jumps (squat down, touching your hands to the floor between your feet, then explode upward and jump as high as possible).  Host Shaun T implores viewers to keep a tight core throughout to ensure maximum benefit.  Transition to high knee runs, half-burpees and football-inspired footwork drills.  By the time you hit the stretching at the five minute mark – the reviews were right – you will be sweating.

Then, according to Shaun T, it's go time.  Sprint in place, hit the floor for mountain climbers, four push-ups, back on your feet, sprint in place, hit the floor… repeat until Shaun says you're allowed to move onto the next series of moves.  Perform jumps as high as you can, hit the floor for "ski abs" (get down on your hands and feet and move your feet from side to side), in and out abs (ski abs, but moving towards and away from your hands), four pushups, then guess what? Back up for some jumps!  Oh, you mastered that?  Okay fine, now you  sprint in place, and hit the floor on command into the "down" position of a push-up, and hold it for three seconds.  Back up for some sprinting until you drop back down…

This is a sample.  All told, it's about four minutes of "warm-up" – I use the term loosely – followed by three minutes of stretching, then 12 minutes of hell.  You finish it out with two minutes of stretching.  Guaranteed that you will be gushing sweat.  I generally jump on the treadmill for 20 minutes or so afterward and finish it out with some light weights – usually squats, shoulder presses, curls, lunges, upward rows and bench presses – before calling it a day around the 45 minute mark, all told.  And I am soaked.  You probably will be too.

Without going into too much detail, Shaun T is an interesting character.  He vacillates between being a caring mentor, speaking in low tones with inspirational words, to yelling at both his viewers and his assistants (co-conspirators?) to "Dig Deep!"  But all in all, it is inspiring, it does get you moving, and if you can keep up – he switches moves very quickly and it took me three to four sessions to figure out moves were next – it will definitely whip your behind.  It's 20 minutes, doesn't require any equipment and will leave you feeling pretty exhausted afterward.  I wouldn’t recommend doing it in your apartment – it requires a lot of jumping and a lot of running in place, which could disturb neighbors – but this DVD is strongly recommended.