Insanity and HIIT: if you have stepped into a gym sometime in the last five years, you’ve probably overheard these terms in conversations. Maybe you’ve seen them as names on your gym’s class lists. Maybe you’re like me and have experience with both workouts (and hate them), but can’t really tell a difference. But what exactly are these workout programs, and more importantly, which one is better for fat loss?
What is the difference between Insanity and HIIT?
Insanity workouts were created by celebrity fitness trainer Shaun T as a 60 day, at-home, video fitness program that promises to get its users into the best shape of their lives. The program surged in popularity for a couple of reasons.
Users can complete these short yet action-packed workouts (30-40 minutes per training) on their own schedules without using any additional insanity workout equipment; these workouts strictly use bodyweight. Shaun T also promises a money-back guarantee for any user that finishes the insanity fitness course and is unsatisfied with their results.
HIIT workouts, or High Intensity Interval Training, is a tactic of varying between extremely high-energy exercise and low energy exercise, which is also known as active recovery. For example, a HIIT running exercise would consist of sprinting for one minute, then jogging for one minute, and repeating this pattern until the workout is completed. The concept of HIIT training outlasted the “fad” phase of effective fitness practices over the past several years. The reason for its success? It works.
Insanity and HIIT are constantly compared because they are based on Interval Training. Where they separate themselves is the type of interval training. But first, let’s start with the basics.
What is Interval Training?
Interval training is the method of alternating between high intensity and low-intensity exercises. This style of training can be applied to many different training options: running, biking, rowing, or plyometric exercises. This style of training has become the standard for many fitness and health professionals. Fitness enthusiast and professional model, Anna Targoniy, swears by HIIT exercises to maintain her slender and toned figure.
Benefits of Interval Training:
Target Fat Loss
First and most importantly, interval training is scientifically proven to burn more fat than longer periods of “steady-state exercise”. Steady-state exercise refers to workouts that maintain the same level of intensity throughout, like jogging or biking at one stable pace. Alternating between high exertion and low exertion has proven to burn far more calories because it shocks your body, engages more muscles, and boosts your heart rate. All of these factors result in a more productive workout that shreds calories and fat.
Less Time, Better Work Out
We’ve all heard the most common excuse to avoid the gym: “I don’t have time.” With interval training, anywhere between 20-30 minutes is more than enough time to complete an exhausting and calorie-demolishing workout. For example, insanity workout calorie burn is anywhere between 200 to 1,000.
Build Your Endurance and Speed
Due to the “shock your muscles” method underlying this type of training, your body will process lactic acid more efficiently, which then enables your muscles to develop and recover more rapidly.
Improve Your Overall Health
Interval training is linked to bettering other health conditions like: improving heart health, lowering cholesterol, and reducing high blood pressure. Other studies have linked interval training to reduced chances of inflammatory diseases, like arthritis.
Focus on Injury Prevention
Advanced steady-state cardio is more likely to result in injury than interval training. For example, long-distance runners are far more prone to injuries like stress fractures and tendon tears because of the repetitive stress distance running buts on the body. The shorter length of interval training significantly reduces chances of serious injury.
Insanity Interval Training vs HIIT Workouts
Think about Insanity and HIIT like the difference between a crow and a raven. They look the same, act the same, and most people couldn’t distinguish between the two if asked (for the record, ravens are bigger and crows travel in larger groups). Instead of using HIIT exercises, Insanity uses a slightly different form of interval training called Max Interval Training.
Where HIIT programs use active recovery periods that match or exceed high-intensity periods (sprinting one minute, jogging one/two minutes), max interval training uses extended periods of high-intensity training and then complete rest periods. These periods are called High-Intensity Steady State, or HISS, and by the time HISS periods are completed the individual should not have any energy left. MAX interval training also requires giving 100% energy while HIIT can be anywhere from 75-90% energy during high-intensity periods.
MAX interval training could look like this: 3 minutes sprinting as hard as you can followed by 45 seconds of rest before repeating the process. Given the long period of intense exercise, max interval training is extremely difficult and therefore not for everyone.
In Insanity workouts, the intervals are structured into three rounds and separated by a 40-second break between each round. Each round of the insanity fitness course is 3-4 minutes long and will focus on different HISS periods of advanced plyometric movements, like jump squats, bear crawls, and burpees.
Of course, these same exercises could be adapted to HIIT workouts if time per exercise was changed to match the period of active recovery.
So, which is better to burn fat between HIIT workouts and Insanity workouts?
While both exercise strategies provide excellent health benefits, they have slightly different results and restrictions. If you look at raw calories burned, Insanity workouts/max interval training burn more calories than HIIT programs in the same amount of time. As mentioned above, the Insanity workout calorie burnt can be anywhere between 200 to 1,000 although Insanity claims its closer to 1,000. Max Interval training has also proven to have a slight advantage over HIIT in building endurance and developing speed.
Evidence shows that there is no clear advantage between HIIT and Insanity in which has better health effects on the rest of the body: both reduce heart problems and lower cholesterol and blood pressure significantly. Similarly, both of these methods are known for releasing endorphins, which are the hormones that make us feel happy when we exercise (commonly referred to as runner’s high).
With that said, since HIIT regimens have shorter active periods and longer recoveries, they can be correctly completed by a much larger audience than Max interval training. Although Insanity workouts are structured to increase in difficulty every week, even the opening trainings require a level of fitness that most people cannot keep up with. This can result in improper form, injuries, or even frustration that leads to demotivation.
Additionally, max interval training relies on the ability to shock the body into such severe calorie burn. As our bodies adapt to certain movements and build stamina, the shock factor from repetitive HISS movements will gradually disappear, making max interval training less effective with time and familiarity.
Conclusion: Who is the winner?
Sorry for playing neutral, but deciding which workout program is better between HIIT or Insanity depends on you. If you are an experienced athlete, Insanity workouts can help put you over the edge to achieve your next level of fitness goals. They're also useful if you want to workout from home, as the program does not require any insanity workout equipment.
If you are not as experienced, HIIT routines are still an excellent way to pump up your workouts and continue to build strength. Although Insanity and max interval training will burn more fat than HIIT workouts on average, the level of difficulty may exclude individuals from earning optimal results. Regardless, both workouts will push you to your limits and burn fat much faster than steady state cardio ever could.
If you are up to the challenge, try both and see which works best for you! But as with trying any new exercise, always listen to your body.