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P90X vs. Insanity vs. Body Beast

September 11, 2012 –

I have been asked the  “P90X vs. Insanity”question more times than I can count. So I wanted to address it once and for all. And  although Body Beast is a newer program, I have no doubt that this will become one of the top Beachbody programs. So I have thrown that in the mix as well.

It is very common for someone to come to me and say they want to do P90X or Insanity. The first thing I like to ask is what is your “Why”. WHat do you want to get out of the program? Where do you want to be in 60 to 90 days? Ideally, I would love for you to fill out the “Getting Started” Form because I want to know you and your goals before we prescribe a solution.

But, here is my perspective on the which program may be right for you! (I created another post covering all Beachbody programs and what program might be right for you HERE.)

What is Your Goal?

To meet your goals, you need your fitness program and nutrition plan to be aligned! So I am going to discuss some of the most common goals and what program may be best for you.

Losing Weight

Not surprisingly, this is the #1 goal of most people starting a program. Depending on how overweight you are and how strong your joints are, one may be better than other. There is a “LEAN BEAST” schedule for Body Beast, but the program has only one dedicated Cardio workout and in my opinion is not the best program of choice for this goal.

Insanity is all about Cardio. I have told numerous people that this program literally melts fat away with its High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). However, if you are significantly overweight, I do not recommend you start here. This program was hard for me to get through after two rounds of P90X. It is very hard on your joints given it is very high impact and Shaun T does not do any modifications on the video.  There is no doubt that it will absolutely sculpt your body, especially your core, but be forewarned that it seriously is an absolutely the most insane cardio workout put on DVD!

P90X is not intended as a pure weight loss program. But this is a natural byproduct of the program. What I like about P90X is that there are modifications by the cast and it provides a very well rounded foundation for your first 90-day journey. I have seen many results from 300+lb guys doing 3,4, and 5 rounds of P90X to get down to their ideal weight. And in the beginning, they struggled to even keep up with the “easiest” modification on the program. I do prefer the P90X guide over Insanity as well. And since your goal is to lose weight, diet and nutriton will be 80% of the battle (yes, really!).

If you are not significantly overweight and feel you could do both, take some of the other factors in this article into account.

Muscle Gain (i.e. Getting Big!)

It is very challenging to lose weight and gain significant muscle mass at the same time. Don’t get me wrong, Muscle Burns Fat! But if you want to gain 15 lbs of lean muscle while losing 20 lbs of fat, you need to focus on losing the fat first. So this goal is really focused on getting really toned for girls and down right big for guys.

Insanity is not a mass building program. Not even close. In fact, you are burning so many calories, it will be tough to gain weight on the program. Additionally, Insanity’s strong suit is not upper body strength. I definitely lost strength in my chest, back, and shoulders when I did Insanity. But it was also the first time my abs started really popping. So from your core down, it is a killer workout.

P90X is not a mass building program either. However, there are modifications you can make to the program to meet that goal. (To see how, click HERE. ) And I have seen many transformations where people gain mass and get seriously cut. However, I would say your body type does impact how easy you can do this.

Body Beast has one goal…getting BIG and gaining lean muscle mass. The supplements have been formulated for this purpose. The workouts have been designed for this purpose. Body Beast does not pretend to be anything other than what it is. In fact, at the end of “The Book of Beast”, it gives you tips on how to compete in a body building competition.

Training for an Event

The first question is what the event is, but let’s assume it has some serious cardio involved. 10 Mile Run? Warrior Dash? Olympic Triathlon? These are all races that I have used Beachbody programs to train for.

Insanity should definitely be apart of any cardio-based routine. The gains from those workouts cannot be achieved with just running, biking, or swimming. However, when training hard you always want to avoid is injury! And this is where P90X does a better job. Yoga X and X Stretch are critical to avoid injury. You need time to recover and give your body a break.

Unless it is a “glamour event” such as body building or modeling, Body Beast is not best suited for this goal. You need functional fitness and one that is going to focused on an increase in performance. And I will throw another program into the mix here. P90X2 is really a pinnacle in many ways for functional fitness. Incorporating that program, and especially the P.A.P. routines will also help you meet your training goals.

So depending on the event. I would use a hybrid of P90X and Insanity. (More on that in a minute.)

Workout Style / Personality

There is no doubt that ShaunT, Tony Horton, and Sagi Kalev all have different personalities and ways they like to train. You should factor in the type of trainer you gravitate to as you will be listening to them for the next few months.

ShaunT takes a fierce boot camp style approach with Insanity. He does not baby you and does not tell you how to modify. You do it or don’t do it. And you may find yourself yelling at him like I do. : ) But he pushes you and motivates you. When all your senses seem to be numb, you can hear his voice telling you to push harder. You want a TOUGH LOVE tainer, Shaun T is your man.

 Tony Horton defies alot of odds not only because of his age, but because of the cult he has created around P90X. And one of the reasons P90X is so successful is because of Tony’s personality. Like anyone, he can be polarizing, but Tony pushes you in a different way. He reminds you to “Do Your Best and Forget the Rest.” He tells bad jokes that still make me laugh. He is great at cuing the different exercises. And he has fun! You can tell he is having fun making the videos. So even though the workouts are intense, he encourages you throughout and makes you want to keep coming back!

Sagi Kalev is the newbie trainer at Beachbody, but not in his training career. He is a bit of a hard ass in the videos and likes to pick on his cast members. But getting to know Sagi through our Beast Feacbook group and meeting him in person, he really is a very passionate and intellectual person . However, when you are weight lifting, you don’t want someone tiptoeing around you. You want someone in your face, pushing you militantly. (And yes, Sagi was in the Israeli army.) And Sagi fits the bill.


We talked about different goals, but how do the programs vary workout to workout?

With the only equipment required being a good pair of shoes, Insanity is all about using your body weight for resistance and making a puddle of sweat in your 6′ x 6′ space. And to be honest, there is only so much you can do from workout to workout. Shaun T does do a great job varying the number of circuits, lengths of circuits, and increasing the difficulty of moves further in the program.  I made some of my ultimate spreadsheets to help the team be able to scan the workout before you start. However, they do start to blend together after a while. All will leave you sweating and all have a similar style.

P90X is about functional fitness. As Tony says, “It’s indoor training for the outdoor world“. P90X mixes Cardio, Strength, and Flexibility. What I have always loved about this program is it’s variation. 3 days of strength, 2 days of cardio, and 1 day dedicated to flexibility with Yoga. (You can add an optional 2nd flexibility day with X Stretch). There is also more equipment involved in P90X, which helps switch things up day to day. While some programs may be better at one certain aspect if fitness, P90X really is the best program I know of  to build an incredibly strong foundation.

Body Beast – At its core, Body Beast is about picking heavy things up and putting them down. And for some, weight lifting can get really boring and tedious. But I give Sagi alot of props. He has really switched things up in Body Beast. From single to combo to multi to giant to progressive sets, you have to be mentally in the game every second. These strength routines are different than the ones from P90X. But at its core, everyday in the Beast you are using dumbbells or barbells and picking them up and putting them down. So it is as much variation as I think can be created in a mass building program,. However given the goal of the program, there are only so many things you can do before it becomes a program of a different nature.


You know what is great about these programs? They all have their strengths. I will typically do a program as outlined once. However, after that, I love creating Hybrids. (You can see many of my hybrids HERE.) Take the best of each program and mix them together. Instead of doing Plyometrics and Kenpo in P90X, substitute some Insanity workouts. Instead of the P90X-Back & Bis, substitue the Body Beast-Back / Bis.

To avoid plateaus, you need to keep mixing it up and a hybrid is the perfect way to do that. The key thing in all of this is to Have Fun! If you aren’t having fun, you won’t stick with anything very long. And while that first 90 days may not be all that fun, when you do get into shape and possibly even get in the best shape of your life, remind yourself of the things you are doing now that in my case I couldn’t do 20 years ago!

P90X vs. Insanity vs. Body Beast? This is a high class problem. With these three tools in your toolbelt, there is no goal you cannot accomplish!

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