Insanity: The Asylum (Volume 1: Sports Performance) is a sports specific conditioning and cross-training program, and arguably the hardest workout program ever put on DVD. Using the concept of "Max Interval Training" from Insanity, Shaun T has put together a program that includes more compound moves, more agility and control exercises, a specific back-of-the-body toning workout, and a fun and challenging "Gameday" DVD which is meant to be the culmination of what your training and "practicing" is for. While, like Insanity, many of the exercises require only your body for resistance, there is a strength training day that requires weights or bands, and there are other various pieces of equipment that make the experience better, though most of the required equipment comes standard with the DVD kit. Asylum is a 30-day program, comes with a diet guide, and perhaps one of its greatest features is that it comes with schedules for Insanity/Asylum and P90X/Asylum hybrids. There is a lot of jumping, both vertically and laterally, so anyone with weak knees should skip out on Asylum, even if you survived Insanity. Ultimately, you will be pushed to new levels and you will improve in your lactic acid tolerance, muscle endurance, mental stamina, and control and hand/eye, foot/eye coordination. If you are an athlete, this is a great program to get you back on your game. If you are looking for a conditioning program, you can consider yourself an athlete at the end of this program. Finally, if you are a Shaun T fan, this program is a must!
Are you Ready?
It is suggested that you complete either Insanity or P90X before doing Asylum. The training is definitely different enough from both of these programs, that I couldn't really say one is better than the other. However, I believe knowing Shaun T's style and how he works is somewhat important, so I'd personally suggest completing Insanity before doing Asylum. In my opinion it is only slightly harder than Insanity, but quite different, as the focus is on athletic performance instead of cardio conditioning.
Agility Ladder (Included in base package). This plastic ladder is placed on the floor and has four chambers for fine tuning your footwork and agility, working on accurate jump landings and unified distances, and as a tool to progressively add intensity to workouts (e.g. in and outs progressing by one box length over time).
Jump Rope (Included in base package). This speed rope is used in the warm-ups often and sometimes during active recovery. Don't expect the jump rope technique to be a walk in the park, you will often be squatting, switching feet, hopping on one foot, or doing double jumps. The jump rope isn't necessary, some people in the video mimic the jump rope, but I highly recommend it - it will work on your control and agility.
Toning Bands (Included in base package, extra bands included in deluxe package). These elastic bands are used in several exercises to add resistance. Typical exercises from Insanity, like plyo push-ups and power jumps, are intensified by adding the bands.
Chin-up Bar (Included in deluxe package). The chin-up bar isn't necessary to complete Asylum, but adds a new level to both the Strength and Gameday workouts. Shaun always shows modified back workouts that don't require a chin-up bar. The Deluxe set also comes with a pull-up assist device.
Weights or Resistance bands - The strength workout requires some form of resistance. Moves with the bands are demonstrated by two of the people in the video. I use 15's, 20's, and 25's and that is enough resistance for me. Shaun seems to have one pair of weights (25's maybe?) that he uses for all the moves.
Unlike some Beachbody workouts, the schedule is somewhat erratic. There is no set day of the week that is always your rest day, which could be a problem for some people. It is basically a 30 day schedule with rest days sprinkled in on rare occasions, and some "relief" DVD's thrown in for recovery. As I already said, there are p90x and Insanity hybrid schedules included, though they suggest doing straight Asylum first before doing a hybrid.
Format of the DVD's
Unlike Insanity, which is fairly predictable in its standardized format, every Asylum workout is different. Often there is a warm-up circuit which is repeated 2 or 3 times. One main difference from Insanity is that Asylum seems to have fewer breaks. Often, you will perform a 3 move circuit, followed by 1 move of (tough!) active recovery, then immediately repeat the circuit without a break. Typically, intervals are 60 seconds, which is longer than sets in most Insanity workouts. In some of the workouts, during the repeats of the circuits, the workouts get more complicated and build. Shaun's mantra in Asylum is "the work doesn't begin until the pain arrives." In general the workouts are about 45 minutes, with Gameday being 60 minutes, however you can count on doing 3 full circuits in any workout, and some of the workouts have more of a "Pure Cardio" type feel where you never really take break, there is only some active recovery. Because of the variety of the workouts, the specific focuses each DVD provides, and the unpredictability of the sequence, you will never get bored of doing Asylum!
Athletic Performance Assessment
Like with Insanity, this short fit test is a series of moves you complete for one minute each, and you record your numbers to track your progress. There is only one fit test at the beginning, and again at the very end.
Speed and Agility
This workout is a circuit training workout that utilizes the jump rope during the warm-up, and heavily uses the agility ladder during the main workout. There is fast footwork, jumping, crawling, and planks/floor drills throughout. This workout is your Day 1 of Asylum, so I suggest previewing it. The workout is tough enough when you know what is coming next, but some of the moves have some real complicated footwork, and you'll find you are missing 5-10 seconds of each move trying to figure out how to perform the move if you don't preview the video.
This workout uses dumbbells and the chin up bar for a true cross training, circuit weight training routine. A lot of people were expecting this to be a typical weight lifting workout, but in many ways there is a heavy focus on compound/core balance moves and moving fast between exercises to get a great cardio burn as well. I wouldn't recommend this workout for someone trying to work muscles to failure and bulk up, but it is an excellent circuit workout that utilizes resistance training. There is a warm-up circuit, a long compound shoulder/core/biceps/legs circuit to start the main workout, a short back circuit, and a short chest/core circuit. Overall, this is a great workout.
Back to Core
This DVD is probably the only workout of its kind on the market. It is a core/control, slow moving workout that focuses only on the back half of the body: posterior delts, lats, back, glutes, hamstrings, calves. Lots of training tips I've read say we focus too much on the front of the core, so having this workout can be very beneficial. Additionally, the abs and obliques are heavily utilized in just about all of the other workouts for stability and power, so having this workout to balance out the rest is very wise. If you've done P90X Core Synergistics, this workout has many similar moves, including back/arm pulses in a squat, and a whole section in superman position. A lot of people are weak in their back, this is a great workout!
This workout is the beast and unquestionably the hardest workout in the batch. Everything from resistance plyo push-ups, to resistance power jumps and X jumps, to double jump ropes, and lateral jumps where you jump side to side across the whole length of the ladder - this workout is not for the weak. Your lactic acid levels will be almost intolerable in your legs during the workout and you'll be begging for mercy. But you can guarantee that you'll be jumping higher and moving faster than ever before. This workout uses ladder, rope, and bands. Check out this video of me doing some of Vertical Plyo.
This 25 minute workout is a straight forward stretching workout, and is a nice change of pace that will work on your flexibility. If you were worried that this is like the "max recovery" DVD of Insanity, don't worry - it really is a "relief" and is quite simple and just what your body needs. Often instead of rest days, relief will pop up on the schedule.
Unlike so many workout programs where you feel like you are training and training for nothing specific, this one actually has a competition built into it. If you treat the other workouts like your practices, this is literally the game. Shaun puts together a 60 minute, brutal, but actually quite fun, workout of sports specific moves. You will start with a "mile run" where you sprint for about 6 minutes with running in place, high knees, and butt kicks including "hills." The workout is extremely creative and without giving it away, there is actually section of "surfing." It is certainly one of the more difficult workouts, but you will have fun and are essentially competing, so as long as you do your best you will be doing fine. As the program progresses, you add the short "overtime" section to the end of the workout. Overtime should be renamed "over-the-top." Every time I get to it I am so dead and the moves are so ridiculous (like one-legged moving push-ups, where you jump in the ladder) that it's almost impossible to complete. But, if you want to push yourself beyond your comfort zone, just push play and do your best!
Sustainability after 30 Days
On the schedule, there is a built in recovery week before attempting other hybrids, or another full Asylum. I can say, you will wear down your body if you do Asylum for too long, especially your knees. Because of all the juking and lateral motion, your knees will take more battering than with Insanity, so just be wise about how long you need to do Asylum. Perhaps the best option is to do the p90x/Asylum hybrid afterward, since there are significant strength training days in between the crazy plyometrics, and you still get to use Speed and Agility and Vertical Plyo almost every week.
Asylum lives up to its name. But realistically, if you've completed Insanity, you are ready for the Asylum. Most of the difficulty is in the complexity of the moves, not necessarily the difficultly of the moves. Vertical Plyo is probably the "new" hardest workout ever put on DVD now that it has, in my book, dethroned Insanity Max Plyo! If you are looking to improve your performance in your sport, or simply want to get a great body in 30 days, give Asylum a shot - it is fun, creative, intense, and there is a ton of variety day to day - you will never get tired of doing the workouts.