10 Reasons Why Insanity Workouts SUCK For MMA

October 9, 2021

What makes insanity workouts for MMA great, is the marketing. That’s about as far as it goes. Since they are also the creators of P90X, they had the blueprint in their hands to create another multi-million-dollar fitness program.

The MMA community ate this up. I mean, who wouldn’t want to challenge themselves with a program that labels itself insane? While the appeal is there, using Insanity as a way to condition for MMA is likely doing you more harm than good for your MMA performance.

Since its release, there have been three new editions to cater to the quick-fix weight-loss crowd. But I’m going to focus on the original Insanity. Here’s a quick background on the program. You have 11 different workouts within the Insanity program.

Insanity Program Workouts

Insanity Fit Test

This is essentially 30 minutes where you'll perform 8 different exercises. For each exercise, you perform as many reps as possible in 1 minute with 1-minute rest between exercises. It involves a range of jumps and abs.

Plyometric Cardio Circuit

This plyometric cardio circuit involves no plyometric exercises so I’m not sure why it’s called a plyometric cardio circuit. But I digress. This involves 20 minutes of 3 minutes on, 30 seconds off. Mainly of simple jumping exercises.

Cardio Power & Resistance

The cardio power & resistance circuit is exactly the same format as the plyometric cardio circuit but involves fewer jumps or more bodyweight calisthenics.

Cardio Recovery & Max Recovery

Both of these “recovery” workouts involve various bodyweight exercises and stretches. This isn’t really a recovery day. More like a bodyweight strength session.

Pure Cardio

Pure cardio involves no intervals. It's just redlining sprints and jumps for 15 minutes straight. This will usually be followed by cardio abs.

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Cardio Abs

After pure cardio, it's straight into 20 minutes of cardio abs that involve 10 different ab exercises done in a circuit format.

Core Cardio & Balance

This is done every day as part of a recovery week. It’s a 40-minute workout of essentially the same exercises from the other workouts so not sure what makes this a recovery week.

Max Interval Circuit

This is where each workout is leveled up. Max interval circuit is a 60-minute workout consisting mainly of jumps.

Max Interval Plyo

Max interval plyo is an extended version of the plyometric cardio circuit that goes for 55 minutes. Again, it involves non-plyometric exercises.

Max Cardio Conditioning

This is the next level of Pure cardio and is a smorgasbord of running and jumping that is non-stop.

10 Reasons Insanity Workouts Suck For MMA

Why Insanity Workouts Suck For MMA

Now you have a brief rundown of what Insanity workouts involve, I’m going to show you why Insanity is a horrible choice for MMA training.

Random Exercises Thrown Together

If you're trying to become an above-average MMA fighter, throwing random exercises at the wall just so you can get your heart rate flying is a recipe for no progress. 

Exercise selection when it comes to conditioning is about transfer to the sport of MMA or about preparing the body for more intense conditioning.

That means exercises should be performed with exercises close to the sporting movements. Shadowboxing, sprawls, solo wrestling and BJJ drills are all movements that are better suited for getting you in fight shape.

That doesn’t mean you can’t use non-specific means like the stationary bike. It just means to prioritize the conditioning modality that will transfer best.

Random Interval Formats

15 minutes of all-out training doesn't do anyone any good. You can't maintain the high intensity you start the session with leading to reduced quality of execution. Further, you sit in a highly anaerobic environment which is not great for a highly aerobic sport.

Essentially, you’ll be developing each energy system in a sub-par fashion. Other interval times never change so making progress is even harder.

6 Days A Week Of Workouts

As an MMA athlete, 6 days of conditioning is well… stupid. There is no way you can fit that many conditioning sessions in a week. And you wouldn’t want to even if you could. You need to cover all of the technical skills, some live training, and strength training on top of your conditioning into your MMA training schedule.

I assume that most MMA fighters who are using Insanity are picking and choosing workouts to do for their conditioning sessions each week. As you’ve read in the first two points, this isn’t a smart idea.

Everything Performed At Maximum Effort

Contrary to popular belief, leaving yourself in a heaping wreck after each session isn’t a sign of a good workout. Or a sign of getting “fitter.” The intensity of exercise dictates the adaptations you are targeting. Volume dictates how much of it you'll get.

If you’re always redlining your Insanity workouts, you are pigeonholing your conditioning adaptations. Only performing high-intensity cardio means you are missing out on low-intensity cardio adaptations such as eccentric hypertrophy of the heart chamber so you can pool more blood per heartbeat.

That is why CrossFit and Tabata aren’t good options for developing overall MMA conditioning.

Plyometric Workouts Aren’t Plyometric

Plyometric Exercise

A plyometric exercise is defined as a rapid change from an eccentric to a concentric contraction. This is so fast that it isn’t about muscular force product, but rather the ability to utilize elastic energy. By fast, I’m talking less than 250 ms of ground contact time.

All of the exercises used in Insanity are jumps, not plyometrics. So, you aren’t improving reactive strength or that “light on the feet” quality.

Jumps Being Done For Cardio

Jumps and plyometrics have no place to be used as a continuous cardio modality. The only time they are used in a circuit format is stage one of a preparation program as a work capacity and tendon conditioning modality.

These are done at sub-maximal efforts and never at maximal efforts as the goal is to prepare the body for higher intensity plyometrics and jumps later in the program.

Jumps Being Performed In Every Session

I can almost guarantee that shin splints, knee problems, and foot pain is a leading injury in the Insanity program. The volume of weekly jumps is nuts. Not even professional athletes will reach these kinds of numbers for maximum effort jumps in a week. Let alone a session.

If you’re not prepared to handle this workload, something will give and it’ll be your lower body.

Resistance Workouts Won’t Get You Stronger

None of these workouts are designed to get you stronger. It’s near impossible when you’re gasping for air to perform movements at a high enough intensity or volume to make progress in strength.

No Pulling Exercises

This isn’t just a drawback of Insanity, it’s a drawback from calisthenic exercise in general. Bodyweight movements are limited when you don’t have any equipment at your disposal. At least with some dumbbells or a pull-up bar, you can do rows and pull-ups to develop the back muscles.

But with Insanity, it is all upper body pushing. Practically every day. Couple that with MMA training and you're setting yourself up for an upper-body injury.

The Fitness Test Provides You With No Actionable Information

The idea of fitness testing has been stolen from the professional sporting world and bastardized into the general fitness community. The idea of fitness testing is not just to provide you with a score that tells you you are getting better or worse, it’s to provide actionable information that can inform your programming.

That is why the Underground MMA Conditioning System has fitness tests that will dictate which program you will run. There’s no point measuring your resting heart rate and when it is sky high, going on an intense conditioning program.

There is no need and all you’d need is some easy low-intensity cardio to get started and make epic progress. So, if you're looking for a scientifically-backed method of boosting your MMA conditioning so you never gas out, check out the Underground MMA Conditioning System below.

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About the author 

James de Lacey

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international level teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your combat training.


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