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Insanity vs. HIIT: What’s the Difference?

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Insanity Vs. HIIT?

Or very simply is insanity HIIT training in disguise?

It’s easy to see how these two training methods can be intermingled. Both promote insane fat-loss and muscle mass building results.  On the surface, both types of training seem to be quite similar. The Insanity workouts, led by trainer Shaun T, could be mistaken for another get results quick HIIT program.

So in this article, we will break down the differences between each of these two types of workouts.


Insanity is part of the Beachbody On Demand series of training programs and was launched in the early 2000s. The workout is led by choreographer and personal trainer Shaun T. Overall insanity consists of a two-month program that costs around $140. Participants simply throw on the DVD and workout in the comfort of their home. 

No Equipment, No Problem

Just the name itself may scare many from this type of cardio workout. Touted as one of the hardest exercise routines around, Insanity uses no gym equipment. Just your own bodyweight.

Insanity differs from HIIT in one fundamental way. While HIIT training is based on shorter bursts of activity, Insanity utilizes maximal interval training. This is where you are moving for at least 3 minutes at a time. Because of this, you are hitting the aerobic portion of the workout hard. Insanity workouts take between half an hour and an hour to complete. Training should be six times a week, and the two-month program will have you alternating between plyometrics, conditioning, and resistance training to torch some calories.


HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. This type of workout has been a regular part of the modern athletes training for many years. The reason for this is mostly down to the sudden spurts of power and motion needed for sports performance. Swedish and Finnish runners developed versions of HIIT in the early 20th century. A few years after German trainer named Woldemar Gerschler developed interval training into something that more resembles what we call HIIT today.

A Worldwide Fitness Trend

One of the top trends in the health and wellness world in 2017, HIIT training modifies workouts to meet the needs of many different people and their corresponding goals. 

This type of exercise incorporates a period of work, followed by a period of rest. Typically this can be 30 seconds worth of a movement, followed by 30 seconds of rest. This can go on for however long you want it to, but the most typical HIIT set-up is termed, Tabata.

Typically done in 30 minutes or less, you can utilize as many different exercises and movements as you want for a Tabata workout; however, the workout is 20 seconds of work with 10 seconds of rest for a total of 8 rounds or 4 total minutes. With these quick bursts of work and short rest times, your heart rate increases quickly, and helps accelerate calorie burn due to EPOC the afterburn happening after a workout while your body recovers.

Comparing and Contrasting for Different Goals

So now that we’ve discussed the difference between Insanity and HIIT, how do you know which is best for you and your goals? Let’s compare and contrast these two forms of powerful workouts, and you can determine what’s best for you.

Insanity Suits Those with Fitness Experience

Shawn T on the Insanity cover

With heart-pumping exercises that will keep you moving for up to an hour, Insanity is definitely a full-body workout! Between combining plyometric movements, circuit training, and bodyweight strength building movements, you’ll be torching calories, losing weight, and developing lean muscles – and a strong heart!

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The Insanity program also provides a nutrition plan if you need guidance in this area. With tips and tricks based around your goals and body metrics, the nutrition plan with your weight loss goals, and also helps you to focus on a diet with lower fat content.

Because the workouts in Insanity are circuit-style, you’re not going to build a ton of muscle here. Insanity is geared more towards fat loss and toning up those muscles. With minimal rest between movements for up to an hour, this workout is more programmed for those who aren’t beginners; once you’ve got a decent cardiovascular base developed, then you can hop into Insanity for some new training exercises!

HIIT Provides Long Term Calorie Burn

Efficiency is the key term here with high-intensity interval training. With workouts that can be completed in less than half an hour (and typically even 15-20 minutes), even people with the busiest of schedules can most likely find a way to work in a few of these workouts each week! Time is of the essence nowadays, and the convenience of a quick and effective exercise session is ideal.

Working hard for such a short amount of time means your body has to do some major recovery work afterward. Due to all of this – and bringing your body back to a normal resting state with your healthier heart and stronger muscles – you’re going to be burning more calories after your workout than during it! In regards to calories, you’re going to notice that you’ll probably be losing more body fat than muscle when doing HIIT, especially when paired with a couple of days of weightlifting. Always a bonus to slim the waistline with some major heart pumping activity!

Another positive to HIIT is the fact that your metabolism can see a considerable spike; one study found a large increase growth hormone levels after doing sprints for 30 seconds, which is an important hormone to have, seeing as how it helps to build muscle tissue and burn fat in the body.

Advantages and Disadvantages

There are several different ways that both of these workout programs can positively affect the lives of their participants; however, there are a handful of downsides to each, as well.


Cost is a big hurdle for many people, especially considering how some programs and trainers run well into the hundreds of dollars. With a program like Insanity, you’ll have to go through the BeachBody program to get set up and get your membership started – this can start at around $100, depending on which membership plan you utilize. HIIT, however, can be free! Using your bodyweight, you can take your workout wherever you’d like – with no cost. There are typically some classes in your local fitness centers that offer HIIT classes as well as part of their group exercise program, so check and see if your gym membership includes that.


Location is another consideration when deciding between Insanity or HIIT. With Insanity, you can’t really take your workout outside – you’ll need to be in front of a TV or computer to follow along with the workout instructions. If you’re more comfortable staying inside your home, then Insanity is perfect. On the other hand, with HIIT, you can take your workout wherever you’d like! The ball field, a local stadium, a high school track loop – you name it, you can do HIIT there. All you need is some space and your body weight, no TV required!

Intensity of Workout

Ease of workout isn’t probably something that most folks think about, especially when ready to dive headfirst into a new exercise routine and a healthier lifestyle! You don’t want your workout “easy,” but when it comes to Insanity, it would be best if you have some exercise history under your belt. Not exactly for newbies to fitness, Insanity is going to work best for those who know how their body moves, the correct positions, and form of different movements, and those who have little to no injuries present before beginning. As we mentioned earlier this is a super high-intensity workout, so those that are not quite used to listening to their bodies and knowing how they feel under stress and high power/high impact exercises might not want to jump right in with an Insanity workout just yet.

On the other hand, beginners might find themselves more at ease with a program based on HIIT. It’ll still be challenging, but participants can workout at an intensity that pushes them to a comfortable degree. Using the rate of perceived exertion and doing what you’re able, a HIIT workout is highly modifiable to every person participating. One person might be doing a round of Tabata for 45 seconds, while someone else might only be starting with 20 seconds – either way is fine because each person is getting in the amount of work that they need, and what is right for their body and fitness level.

The Results

Now that we’ve compared and contrasted these two forms of exercise and determined what each is best for in regards to goals, you can pick which one fits best for you! Remember – they’re both excellent in terms of boosting cardiovascular health and making your system stronger; HIIT workouts can be modified for even the first-timer(think in terms of changing the work to rest ratio) whereas Insanity has a pretty hard and fast way of jumping – literally – into their workout routines. And for a seasoned vet, this is great!

Keep in mind that there are a lot of bodyweight strength movements in both of these workouts…with that being said, there won’t be a ton of actual muscle growth. However, you will notice that they’ll both deliver some muscular endurance benefits and more of a toned and lean look due to the quick nature of the movements and the fat-burning that goes along with the heart pumping! If you’re looking for more of the muscle gains, then try adding in a couple of days a week of resistance training at your local gym or garage – incorporating some dumbbells or barbell work into your routine will not only have you seeing those muscles quicker but will help them become more defined.

Lastly, remember that there is noted to be a lot of pounding and jumping in the Insanity workouts – knowing that, if you have any injuries to your joints (like knees, feet shoulders, elbows, or ankles) then this workout might be a bit rough. So, therefore, active recovery is key to avoiding injury. With HIIT, you can modify and get a great heart-pumping workout without adding in any plyometric movements that might jar your body too much.

In Summary

Once you’ve got a solid base of endurance and strength, then you can slowly incorporate Insanity workouts into your routine if that’s where you want to head. Just remember to listen to your body, and not push yourself to the point of injury. Modify movements when needed, and soon you’ll notice that your workouts – either through Insanity, HIIT, or any other type of exercise – will have you on your way to accomplishing goals and living a healthy lifestyle!

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