Insanity: The Asylum Volume 1 Review

Call it a graduate class for traditional Insanity if you’d like, because it feels a lot like it. If you jump into this program without any prior HIIT experience, you are in for a rude awakening. Shaun busted you up for 60 days in Insanity, and then all bets are off. He takes on a more hardcore trainer persona in this first installment of the Asylum series. Be ready to work and work hard.

asylum graphic

You’ll know this thing isn’t messing around when you do the warmup. Where Insanity felt more like a relentless cardio assault, Asylum has more of a sports performance feel to it. Between all of the agility ladder work and jump roping, you really do feel like you are developing the hand-eye coordination, and quick feet of elite athletes. The addition of the strength workout is a welcome one – back strength training was a major deficiency in the Insanity program, but this program addresses that. In 30 days, you will see some tangible improvement in your speed/agility as it relates to overall sports performance.

Overall Program Rating:

This is a great program. Challenging, but great. I first did the entire program in 2014, and decided to dust it off and see what the heart rate charts would look like. It was still just as hard as I remember.

The biggest weakness (similar to Insanity) is the lack of a true modifier option. I gave slight credit for modification because one of the workouts actually does show a modified version of a move. Beyond that, aside from lowering your own intensity, there aren’t a ton of easier moves. Or, at least you aren’t presented with options. Since this is pitched as an advanced program, I wouldn’t put too much stock into that. Most of these are body-weight moves that, given a baseline of fitness, a person should be able to perform.

The trickiest part that will require practice is the jumping rope and agility ladder sequences. Best advice is to stick with it, and you will get better over the course of 30 days. Specifically with the agility ladder work – start slow, build the neuro-pathways in your brain for the footwork, then try speeding up. If you try fast right out of the gate – you won’t learn the footwork, and won’t get the full benefit.

The biggest plus is the addition of the strength moves. Don’t get me wrong – you won’t be tearing phone books in half, or punching through a brick wall – these moves aren’t meant to build ridiculous strength or size. However, these resistance moves will provide stimulus for muscle growth that your bodyweight alone won’t. My best advice – DO THE PULL UPS! Get a resistance band if you have to – pull ups are such an under-trained move – you need these!

asylum vol 1 ratings

In total, I’d give this program 4.5 out of 5 “ass-kickings.” If you do the work (in some form or another), you will improve.

 

The Program: 

Insanity Asylum: Volume 1 presents itself as a 30-day program. You can purchase the program by going to Beachbody.com. Amazon does not currently have this available. Note about buying from Beachbody.com – you will be offered a BUNCH of upsell opportunities as you try to get your confirmation. My advice is to read the fine print and make sure that you aren’t signing up for or agreeing to a subscription for their supplements (unless you want to).

You are meant to do the performance assessment before starting day 1, and you end with the performance assessment on day 30. As always, you SHOULD do these two things. Nothing is better than seeing your progress soar. Beyond the 30 days, you are presented with some hybrid options to continue your training. You can hybridize traditional Insanity with Asylum 1 and 2, as well as a hybrid between Asylum: Volume 1 and P90x. Note – in the Beachbody universe, there are probably infinite permutations of hybrid workouts you can come up with. It’s just a matter of you sitting down and mapping it out. If you do, make sure you program rest/recovery days, and also aim to not whale on the same muscle groups two days in a row.

The basic workouts included with this program include:

  • Performance assessment (aka – fit test)
  • Speed and Agility
  • Strength (HOORAY!)
  • Back to Core
  • Vertical Plyo
  • Relief (aka – recovery)
  • Game Day
  • Overtime

The program will cycle through these, and pepper in Game Day 3 times. As it’s the longest workout, you’ll be happy it only makes a couple appearances. Oh, and just wait for Overtime.

 

Equipment Required:
Unlike traditional Insanity, you will need some equipment to get the full experience:

  • Pull up bar – build your own or buy one – you really should try to do the pull up exercises. He does offer modifications if you don’t have a bar, but I think you are missing out.
  • Dumbbells or resistance bands – I’ve done it with both – you can get a good workout with the resistance bands. Don’t cheap out and buy the ones where the clip/hook is integrated in – those snapped in my face. I found this heavy duty product by SKLZ, and it worked great. Buy the handles and bands separately. You can build some pretty heavy resistance.
  • Fitness bands (I used these (and still do) from Amazon – Aylio 3 Loop Fitness Bands).
  • Agility ladder – comes with the basic kit – I still have mine to this day – love it!
  • Speed rope (jump rope) – comes with the basic kit, but MINE broke. I ended up buying one on Amazon and liking it better (buy here on Amazon – ACCTREND Jump Rope Kit).

 

Workout Structure: 

  • Warm up – you are looking at around 10 minutes of very dynamic movement, and about 3 minutes of stretch (if you are lucky). If you thought traditional Insanity “warm ups” were nuts, you have no idea…
  • Ass kicking – the structure varies per workout, but you’ll either repeat a series of moves, OR, progressively make that move harder as you progress through the round. Not as cookie cutter as traditional Insanity.
  • Cooldown – series of static stretches – don’t skip it – you need it!

 

Nutrition Plan:
The nutrition plan with Asylum: Volume 1 is a little more specific than the one in traditional Insanity. The program advocates eating frequently, and introduces a little bit of meal timing. For example, it recommends your smallest meal of the day should be around dinner time, and shifting your carbohydrate intake (specifically starch) into the earlier part of the day. People are divided into three groups:

  1. Under 150 lbs – follow the plan that calls for 1500 calories
  2. Between 151-200 lbs – follow the plan that calls for 1800 calories
  3. Over 201 lbs – follow the plan that calls for 1800 calories, but add an extra meal at the end of the day following the macronutrient plan.

The program also advocates that you try giving up dairy. I do like the fact that it pushes hydration, and tells people to limit/avoid alcohol while trying to make a body-type change. The alcohol part is pretty important – it’s tough to jump start your body-changing process if you are bogging it down with empty calories from booze. I also like the fact that the program isn’t demonizing fat – it encourages it. Not to the point of a keto-style diet, but it doesn’t tell you to avoid it (which is a huge plus).

And, of course, no Beachbody program would be complete without pushing their array of supplements. I personally don’t use them – I just rely on my normal diet, normal protein powder, and normal collagen powder.

Overall the advice is good and solid. If you are a Paleo, Primal, or Keto person, just stick with that. But, if you are new to nutrition, and looking for some good advice and meal planning, this will help you out.

One note – in the meal plan documents, there is an “aside” note about Shaun and what he does. The first bullet point says he weighs himself every day. I don’t think this is good advice. Your bodyweight can fluctuate at least plus or minus 5 POUNDS due to water weight on any given day. A daily weigh in will only disappoint you. Shoot for a weekly weigh in. Also – find better metrics to track than the number on your scale. Find a way to measure your body fat – THAT IS A BETTER MARKER OF SUCCESS.

 

The Workouts:

Performance Assessment (25 minutes): do this before starting day 1, and do it on day 30. Revel in the progress you make!

Calorie burn: 150 C
Heart rate chart:

asylum fit test hr chart.JPG

Structure: warmup & stretch, followed by 9 exercises and a cooldown. Warning – agility shoulder taps are a BEAST!

 

Speed and Agility (45 minutes): Don’t get frustrated if you struggle with the jump roping in the warmup. You will get better at it. And, you’ll learn to love jump roping. This exercise program got me hooked on jump roping. Don’t be ashamed to take little microbreaks during the sets. You will need them. Also, the ladder work might seem a little foreign at first – just do it slow first, and pick up speed as you get the footwork down. You will get better! Oh, and when you start the 2nd set of mountain climber progression in round 1, and realize you don’t get a water break, that is a defining moment. But, Shaun does say to rest when you need it, so, I guess its a mental test for you to go as long as you can before you break down and grab some agua.

no water break.JPG

My favorite quote, “The work doesn’t start until you get tired.” This is sage advice and I think about that whenever I’m training. If I’m ever creating a hybrid workout program, Speed and Agility will always be a part of it. It’s tough – but great.

Calorie burn: 290 C
Heart rate chart: Gotta love it when your HR is around 140 during the warm up!

asylum speed agility hr chart

Structure:

  • Warmup & stretch
  • Round 1 (each move is approx 1 minute long)
    • Mountain climber progression
    • Forward/back agility
    • Moving push up progression + in/out abs
    • In/out agility with double hop back
    • Mountain climber progression
    • Agility sequence
    • Moving push up progression + plyo in/out abs
  • Round 2 (each move is approx 1 minute long)
    • In/out abs progression
    • Stationary criss-cross (agility ladder)
    • Agility bear crawl
    • Agility stork touch (really try to not touch your lifted foot until he tells you to switch – you’ll train your balance a lot better)
    • In/out abs progression (yup, no water break!)
    • Criss cross + stationary power jump
    • Agility bear crawl with V push up
    • Agility touch squats (he calls this an active recovery – HA HA)
    • In/out abs progression (yup – again!)
    • Criss cross with MOVING power jump
    • Agility bear crawl with tricep ball pushup
  • Round 3 – POWER ROUND
    • Agility hop scotch
    • Agility hurdle drill
    • Agility dual hops
    • Agility plank
    • Agility shoulder taps (its almost inhumane that this is after agility plank)
  • Cooldown

 

Strength (50 minutes): I’ve done this with resistance bands and dumbbells. I prefer the dumbbells, but you can still get a nice workout with the bands. Don’t go crazy heavy with the dumbbell – being in the 20lb-30lb range for a majority of the moves will work. I do like the offset window that shows how to do the work with the bands. That is VERY helpful. I can’t say this enough – do the pull up bar work. Those exercises are SO MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE than the dumbbell/band alternatives.

Calorie burn: 255 C
Heart rate chart: not many HR spikes until the frog jumps at the end.

asylum strength hr chart.JPG

Structure:

  • Warmup & stretch (you will warmup with your dumbbell or resistance band)
  • Round 1
    • Dumbbell rotation complex level 1 x 8 reps (this combines multiple moves)
    • Alternating shoulder presses x 24 reps
    • Dumbbell rotational jumps x 30 seconds
  • Round 2
    • Dumbbell rotation complex level 2 x 8 reps (this combines even more moves)
    • Reciprocating overhead presses x 24 reps
    • Dumbbell rotational jumps + curl x 30 seconds
  • Round 3
    • Dumbbell rotation complex level 3 x 8 reps (this combines even more moves)
    • Dual overhead presses x 12 reps
    • Dumbbell rotational jumps + curl + press x 30 seconds (note – these can be tough with the bands)
  • Round 4 (BACK BABY!!!)
    • Hip flys x 12 reps
    • Wide flys or JUMP PULLS on the pull up bar – you should do this if you can! x 60 seconds
    • Hip flys x 12 reps
    • Pyramid rows + push ups OR pyramid pull ups + push ups x 2 minutes (again – do the pull up option if you have the bar) – this move means you do 1 pull up and 1 push up, then you do 2 pull ups and 2 push ups, then 3 of each, 4 of each, so on and so forth. Also known as a ladder.
    • Hip flys x 12 reps
    • Elbow/plank row OR rock climber switch on the pull up bar x 1 minute (I’ll keep repeating myself – do the pull up bar stuff!!!). If you come off the bar, just get back on it. Keep moving for the full minute.
  • Round 5
    • Chest press w/leg extension x 1 minute
    • Squatted fly x 30 seconds
    • Single arm/single leg chest press fly x 1 minute (switch arms/legs after 30 seconds)
    • Reverse lunge fly x 30 seconds
    • Chest press w/stationary leg extension x 1 minute
    • Frog jumps w/single leg plank x 30 seconds
  • Cooldown

 

Back to Core (45 minutes): This is a sneaky tough workout. It’s not a workout that gets your heart rate going in its max range. Rather, it is a workout that focuses on deep muscle work for your shoulders, back, and “core.” Note – your core is not just the ab area, but also your lower back. A byproduct of this series of exercises will be mobility. If done enough, you should be able to correct some imbalances in the shoulder area and improve your range of motion. Outside of the Asylum program, this is a good workout to mix in to your routine.

Calorie burn: 287 C
Heart rate chart: You gotta love his warmups. I like it when a warmup does two things:

  1. Dynamic movement
  2. Gets the heart rate going

Every single warmup I’ve ever done with Shaun T checks both of those boxes. Beyond doing Beachbody programs – if you just take any of his warm ups, and make them part of your routine, you’ll be better for it. The jumping jack sequence of this warmup made me think of this – I never really gave much credence to jumping jacks as a good warmup, but as you’ll see from the HR chart below, and the variety in the workout (6 varieties are displayed), you’ll probably agree.

asylum back to core hr chart.JPG

Structure:

  • Warmup & Stretch
  • Workout
    • Side lunge flys (both sides)
    • Lat pulldowns with band
    • Straight arm lat pulldown with band
    • Rotator lunge series – this is a BURNER!
      • Rotator split lunge – left
      • Rotator split lunge HOLD – left
      • Rotator split lunge PULSE – left
      • Rotator split lunge – right
      • Rotator split lunge HOLD – right
      • Rotator split lunge PULSE – right
    • Hip up plank twist to hamstring curl – both sides
    • Band exchange around your back – clockwise
    • Band exchange around your back – counterclockwise
    • Low back strengthener with swim motion – forward
    • Low back strengthener with swim motion – reverse
    • Hip up series
      • Hip ups – hands on the ground
      • Hip ups – hands raised
      • Hip ups – hands raised – left leg raised
      • Hip ups – hands raised – right leg raised
      • Hip ups – single leg toe tap – right
      • Hip ups – single leg toe tap – left
    • Reverse plank (aka tabletop) series
      • Reverse plank with knee raise – this is TOUGH and will test the flexibility of your wrists
      • Reverse plank with knee pulse – left
      • Reverse plank with knee pulse – right
  • Cooldown

 

Vertical Plyo (40 minutes): I’ve always thought this is the “toughest” workout in this series. Game Day is the longest and makes you sweat/grind, but this one is TOUGH. The warmup up is INSANE. You are going to HATE the power bands. Guys – you might want to consider shaving your legs around your ankles – if you don’t, the friction from the bands will gum up with your leg hair, and it’s painful. Don’t worry – your leg hair will grow back 🙂

man shaving legs

photo credit: buzzfeedvideo, via YouTube

Wait, that wasn’t in the infomercial…

Calorie burn: 289 C
Heart rate chart:

asylum vert plyo hr chart.JPG

Structure:

  • Warmup – I’m actually going to detail this warmup for two reasons (1: it’s crazy, 2: the jump rope sequence is worth doing outside of the Asylum program).
    • Jump rope series
      • Split squat jump rope – alt
      • Split squat jump rope – right leg
      • Split squat jump rope – left leg
      • Adductor jump rope (do jump rope in chair pose position)
    • Adductor tuck jumps
    • Ladder hop squats back and forth – at this point, if you haven’t already, you just screamed HOLY SHIT! Shaun actually says, “…c’mon Daniel, it’s just the warmup…” Jerk. Dude had to take a breather during the WARMUP!
    • Jump rope hop scotch
    • Double jumps – these take practice. Lots of practice. Keep at it.
    • Wide spider lunges – there he is again, “…c’mon Mike, it’s just the warmup…”
    • Ladder rotational jumps

are you kidding me.

  • Stretch
  • Round 1:
    • Standing long jump
    • Split squat back fly (with band) – make sure you use a band that is light enough for you to keep your arms straight (if your elbows are bending, its more tricep than back)
    • Back fly (with band) tuck jumps
    • Low stance jacks (band around ankles)
  • Active rest:
    • Single leg jump rope
  • Round 2:
    • Resistance power jumps (band around ankles) – outside ladder
    • Resistance power jumps (band around ankles) – inside ladder
    • Resistance plyo pushups (bands around ankles and wrists) – hands in ladder – oddly enough, I loved this exercise. Its hard, but you know its working multiple areas. And, Shaun actually curses during this move. That alone is an endorsement
    • Resistance plyo pushups (bands around ankles and wrists) – feet in ladder
    • X jumps (bands ankles and in your hands) – still another one that I love (hate)
    • Mountain climber switch kicks outside of ladder – I prefer these to regular switch kicks – don’t get me wrong – they are harder. I just feel like they do more.
    • Mountain climber switch kicks inside of ladder
  • Active rest:
    • Low squat jump rope
  • Round 3:
    • Rotational jump squat agility
    • Decoy split jumps – left
    • Decoy split jumps – right
    • Scissor jump agility + walk out pushups
  • Active rest:
    • Double jumps jump rope
  • Round 4:
    • Single leg power jumps outside box – these are hard, but a GREAT unilateral exercise
    • Single leg power jumps inside box
    • Lateral jumps
  • Cooldown

Relief (aka – recovery – 25 minutes): I LOVE this recovery workout. Do it often. Do it outside of the Asylum program. I make sure this workout is locked and loaded on my tablet device whenever I travel. It’s a great hotel workout to get the blood flowing to the muscles. Even the music is mellow/nice.

Calorie burn: 58 C
Heart rate chart: no huge spikes – just nice and mellow

asylum relief hr chart.JPG

Structure: no detail – just various stretching/breathing exercises. Durations vary.

 

Game Day (60 minutes): this is the longest workout, and probably one of my least favorite. There are some interesting moves – just on the whole, it never gets me excited. BUT, that doesn’t mean you won’t work. The workout is based upon modeling exercises after specific sports. I’ll give him credit – he does get creative.  It clocks in at the biggest overall calorie burn (due to the time). Plus, when you do Overtime afterwards, you’ll feel like you just worked out for two hours. I’m glad it only pops up a few times.

Calorie burn: 392 C
Heart rate chart: this one keeps you moving.

asylum game day hr chart.JPG

Structure:

  • Warmup & Stretch
  • Workout
    • Cross-country running
      • 1 mile run – you will do high knees, butt kicks, mountain climbers, and sprints
    • Track
      • 100m sprint agility
      • Competitive long jump
    • Basketball
      • Fake out lay up
      • Daikeler jump shot
    • Wrestling
      • Mounted mat maneuver (this is complex and a compound movement)
    • Soccer
      • Soccer kicks – he does a ladder structure (1, 1/2, 1/2/3, all the way up to 8 per leg) – this gets tiring
      • Soccer juggling – 1 minute in after each soccer kick leg – this is VERY tiring – you’ll do this twice
    • Tennis (I felt like these moves were a bit of a stretch, but I get it)
      • Forehand/backhand in the agility ladder
      • Volley/overhead slam
    • Speed skating – this is a good one – you really burn your glutes here
      • Speed skate sprint (1 min)
      • Speed skate coast (1 min)
      • speed skate sprint (1 min)
    • Swimming
      • 100m breaststroke (flutter kick and arms)
      • 100m breaststroke (arms only)
      • 100m breaststroke (flutter kick and arms)
    • Surfing
      • Paddle & pop up – I like this sequence. I’ve used this to create a pop up burpee in my own programming. The key is popping yourself up to the side. That is the challenge
    • Football
      • Lineman’s drill
    • Rock climbing – THIS IS A BEAST. You will empty your tank here. I think he underestimated how hard this would be.
      • Mountain climber plank jacks (up/down the ladder with your feet)
      • Rock climber switch (on the pull up bar) or lat push ups – REALLY TRY TO DO THE ROCK CLIMBER SWITCH. Watch Shaun do it a little bit – even he can’t stay up too long. He gets his wits about him, and then gets back up there. You will come down. The goal is to try and reduce the amount of times you come down each time you do it (throughout the program).
      • Mountain climber push up jacks (up/down the ladder) – yeah, I know, NUTS.
      • Rock climber switch (again) or lat push ups (again) but with a leg raised
    • Baseball
      • Pitching (both arms) + mountain climber
      • Hitting (both sides) – I actually grabbed my baseball bat for the swings – that made it kind of fun
  • Cooldown

 

Overtime (15 minutes): I think it’s crazy that this is programmed right after Game Day. Let me put it this way – if you are ever in a pinch, and want a quick 15 minute ass kicking, cue up Overtime and press play. Your legs will be on FIRE.

Calorie burn: 89 C
Heart rate chart: spike right out of the gate with the leg series.

asylum overtime hr chart.JPG

Structure: no warmup – just jump into the fire.

face melt.JPG

photo credit: bloodydisgusting.com
  • Scissor runs
  • Split squat sprint
  • Split squat jump
  • Split squat jump w/floor touch
  • Mountain climber clap switch (this is where things go downhill quickly)
  • Floor up decoy split jumps – left – I hate this move, but the hip power you need (and will train) is probably worth it
  • Floor up decoy split jumps – right
  • Stationary bear crawl + tricep push up
  • Floor up power jumps – left – I put these in the same category as the “Floor up decoy jumps” – if you train this move on a regular basis, the power you’ll generate is insane. It’s basically a plyometric single leg squat.
  • Floor up power jumps – right
  • Tricep push – hover around
  • Single leg moving push up with single leg jump (you’ll do both legs) – very tough – you might not get it the first time. It’s more important to get your balance with that single leg jump in than to wobble back to the push up. Really try to train the single leg balance.
  • Speed jump rope
  • BONUS MOVE(S) – 10 pull ups + 25 push ups
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