Hell Month in THE ASYLUM

Monday, April 25, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Steve Edwards

Even if you never played football, you've probably heard the term Hell Week. This is generally the first official week of football practice, which takes place before the start of school so the coaches can put the hammer down and not have to worry about whether or not the players can walk to class when they're done. It's essentially designed to condense preseason conditioning into one week-long period. Beachbody's latest workout program, INSANITY: THE ASYLUM, follows this example. Except instead of Hell Week, you're in for Hell Month, which promises to have you ready for a season of pretty much anything.

"This is not INSANITY®," says Shaun while pushing the team through THE ASYLUM's Vertical Plyo. He uses a tone that suggests INSANITY is some form of lightweight aerobic work rather than the most intense cardio program burned to DVD thus far. And, true enough, THE ASYLUM isn't INSANITY; it's a sequel to that program, and it's designed to take things to the next level. But THE ASYLUM actually isn't harder so much as it's different. So let's take a deeper look at THE ASYLUM so you can decide whether it's the right program for you.

What if you're not an athlete?

Beachbody® is promoting INSANITY: THE ASYLUM as sports conditioning, which the guide defines as "speed, coordination, balance, agility, and power." And while these performance traits will certainly enhance your contribution to the company basketball team, they'll also help you improve in other aspects of your life. When you move better, life becomes easier. Sports are just games that highlight human function, so nonspecific athletic training is simply exercise that helps you perform various life tasks more effectively.

And if you are an athlete?

If you're an athlete, or even were just an active child, you're going to feel a bit like a kid in a candy store doing this program. For someone like me, who played a lot of different sports growing up, it brings back memories galore, often involving sports I'd forgotten I'd ever done. The entire program feels a bit like playing, or, as Shaun says, as if you're part of Team ASYLUM and all practicing together for the big game.


On one of my blog reviews of INSANITY: THE ASYLUM, I was asked the difference between sports training and sports conditioning. The simple answer is that sports training is systematic, and sports conditioning is getting in shape for your season as quickly as possible. Back on the Hell Month theme, THE ASYLUM is designed to whip you into shape fast, so it pulls from many different training systems, meshing them together to form what seems almost like a mad scientist's version of cross-training. "Frankentraining," if you will.

I'll back up and define the so-called Frankentraining a bit further. I often explain to customers, when comparing P90X® and INSANITY, that the X is like training for a season of INSANITY. The X is a longer, more systematic training approach that can be tailored a number of different ways to target strengths, weaknesses, and goals. INSANITY comes at you like a challenge and never lets up—more like a sports season.

THE ASYLUM is for when the season is about to start and you have to get ready as fast as possible—when there's no time to systematically tear you down and build you back up. It has to happen now, so you want to target strength, speed, coordination, flexibility, and stamina all at once. You heard the coach: It's Hell Month. There's no time to mess around. Let's get busy!

So what do you get?

Seven workouts, only six of which are actually part of the official program, though. However, as INSANITY grads know, the Athletic Performance Assessment (or Fit Test) isn't exactly a day off. Here's a quick breakdown of the programs that are included in INSANITY: THE ASYLUM.
  1. Speed & Agility: Shaun used to refer to this as an active recovery workout, which we changed because this is the first workout you do and we didn't want people running away scared. It's a hard workout—very hard—but Speed & Agility targets proprioceptive awareness (neuromuscular patterns) and speed instead of explosive strength, so in a technical sense, Shaun's definition of "active recovery" is accurate. As any of you who've actually been through a Hell Week will remember, there were parts of practice that were obviously for strength improvements, like where you hit each other (or sleds, or dummies) with a lot of force. Then there were parts, usually during "breaks," when you did speed and agility drills that were often more painful than hitting those tackling dummies. This workout is about those "breaks." And because its target is speed, you'll most likely feel, like me, that there's no end to how much you can improve.
  2. Back to Core: One of the most interesting core workouts you'll ever do, Back to Core targets your abs by working everything but your abs. Having nice-looking abs is a function of having a strong core, low body fat, and good posture. Does it work? Check out the pic of Shaun.
  3. Strength: A full-body strength routine that's varied and interesting. I think it's summed up pretty well on my blog:

    "Asylum Strength will get more use than any anything in my Beachbody arsenal. For someone like me who does a lot of mountain sports—or, really, any weekend warrior whose sport provides a lot of cardiovascular fitness—it's a perfect complement."
  4. Vertical Plyo: See "this is not INSANITY" above—this workout is absolutely brutal. You'll either spend most of your time in the air or on the ground doing push-ups, which is how Shaun penalizes the team when their form begins to falter.
  5. Game Day: A massive sports day, where you do sports specific movements 'til failure, from a veritable summer camp of options. If it weren't so painful, it would seem like nothing but fun.
  6. Overtime: Uh-oh, you've got another quarter to go. To be used after any workout for a bonus round. Some of the more explosive movements in the program happen here, so you have to want it—bad.
  7. Relief: A thorough stretching routine that's meant to be done when you have the time after any workout. Promises to be the best 20 minutes of your day.
Getting chiseled

As the Men's Wearhouse® guy says, "You're going to like the way you look®." A lot of people have already noticed that Shaun looks more ripped than he did during INSANITY. The thing about sports training is that body composition changes happen naturally. You're not bodybuilding, per se; you're just making your body more athletic. And the human body, in order to function well, tends to add muscle to places that look natural, balanced, and attractive. There's a reason why the most popular ancient statues are of athletes.

Are you ready?

My reviews have tended to make people nervous about starting the program. And in reality, maybe you should be. INSANITY: THE ASYLUM is clearly a graduate program. Without a good fitness base, you'll be better off using one of our introductory programs, like Power 90®, ChaLEAN Extreme®, Slim in 6®, or Hip Hop Abs®. Whichever one of these motivates you to move is going to give you better results than something you can't do well. But on the other hand, if you've completed one of these programs in style, and completed any graduate program (P90X, INSANITY, TurboFire®) at all, you're ready to get into THE ASYLUM and mix it up. It's hard. Very hard. But the difficulty isn't a world apart, either. And if you do buy it and it feels like too much, I've made a preparatory 1-month schedule on my blog.

Child's Play

Hell Week was accepted, and perhaps even enjoyed, because it was preparing you to get better at a game. And THE ASYLUM is all about the game: the game of life. The only thing that might make anyone think I need to be locked up is that it's given me a glimpse back at my youth. In closing, I'll leave you with an anecdote about "youthening," as they say in Camelot. You can tell me if I'm insane.

My summers as a kid were spent outside. My parents and pretty much the entire neighborhood would throw their kids out of the house with instructions not to come back in until dark. Without video games or money, we were pretty much left to make up stuff to do with what was in our garages. A day consisted of a football game, maybe some tennis, or some pick-up basketball. Sometimes we headed down the street to the school and jumped over hurdles or kicked field goals, or maybe we headed to the park for a swim. Afternoons would often feature a Little League® baseball game, after which I'd often stay late to work on my hitting or pitching. Summer days would end after dinner, with all of us feeling blissfully tired, doing our best to stay awake through The Brady Bunch.

My favorite moment doing THE ASYLUM so far was late in the Game Day workout where you're "playing" baseball. Baseball players haven't always been a paragon of athleticism, but on those all-sports days during my childhood, it felt plenty active. THE ASYLUM's baseball movements are decidedly tiring, and as I was delivering one of my many "pitches" in my garage during a snowstorm, I had an acute sense memory of a long-past summer evening. I felt the same warm fatigue those long days would provide. I could actually smell the grass, feel the setting sun on my shoulders, and hear my dad telling me to arch my back or keep my elbow up. So, OK, maybe that is a little insane. But that's an ASYLUM I won't mind visiting.