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Cardio Impact Challenge – Body Beast vs. Insanity Fast & Furious


Those familiar with the Body Beast and Insanity programs may be asking why I would ever compare Body Beast and Insanity with regard to cardio impact. Good point. After all, Body Beast is designed for mass gains using weights with limited “cardio” in the schedule to facilitate the muscle growth process, while Insanity specifically targets cardio intervals to lean out and drive athletic performance. However, I have graduated both programs and felt that some of the Body Beast workouts have a very significant “cardio impact” component where the dynamic set training keeps the heart rate elevated throughout the workout. Sometimes I felt even more so than traditional or interval cardio workouts.

Without getting into a discussion on aerobic vs. anaerobic threshhold, I wanted to simply put Body Beast to the test by leveraging heart rate and calorie burn tracking to gain a relative understanding of cardio impact for my body. You see, I received a new Polar H7 Bluetooth-enabled heart rate monitor for Christmas (thanks Mark and Val!), and can now sync the monitor to my iPhone 4s with Polar Beat app to track output in real time.

So, the plan involved comparing Body Beast BEAST:Cardio to Insanity Fast & Furious. I selected these workouts since they are both in the 22-30 minute workout time frame and I know that they push me to the limits when I am up to the challenge. BEAST:Cardio includes a combination of dumbbell resistance training with plyo intervals mostly, while Insanity Fast & Furious is a rocker with interval cardio combined with body weight training. Some say Fast & Furious is one of the hardest interval workouts on DVD. I tend to agree. If the correct weights for BEAST:Cardio are selected to seriously challenge your performance this is also a very difficult workout from my perspective.

The Plan

The sequence below was used so that I can take advantage of one continuous real-time display of Body Beast vs. Insanity in approximately 60 minutes eliminating variable factors from day-to-day (nutrition, rest, etc.). Beginning heart rates for BEAST:Cardio and Fast & Furious were both 120 bpm, respectively. I jogged before BEAST:Cardio to achieve what I thought would be a reasonable heart rate expected for the beginning of workout 2 at 120 bpm (thus the 15-min wait time to bring it down before Insanity). I was less concerned at what could be a higher beginning heart rate for workout number 2, Fast & Furious, but more interested in cardio impact as measured by heart rate and calorie burn throughout the workout, especially peak values. Again, the science behind aerobic vs. anaerobic and the effect of doing BEAST:Cardio before Fast & Furious is less concerning to me for this simple study. Of course a more scientific, long-term, double-blind or whatever study would be recommended to draw even more significant conclusions:)

1) Body Beast BEAST:Cardio workout using weights that lead to failure in the last few reps (used 20-30-lb dumbbells dependent on move, which is good for this workout)

2) Rest to bring down my heart rate to match beginning of Body Beast (ended up being 15 minutes)

3) Insanity Fast & Furious

4) Recovery time of 15 minutes (equal to rest time after workout 1 to measure calorie burn post-workout for each)

The Results

Wow. Check out the real-time graph display of performance with the major milestones marked. Cool stuff! I am surprised by the results, but I am not surprised.

Body Beast Insanity Heart Rate Monitor

For the 30-min BEAST:Cardio workout I burned 450 calories (incl warmup/cooldown) and resided primarily in heart rate zones 4 to 5. For the Polar Beat app, zone 5 = “maximum” at 90-100% heart rate max, 4 = “hard” at 80 – 90% heart rate max, 3 = “moderate” at 70-80% heart rate max, 2 = “light” at 60-70% heart rate max and 1 = “very light” at 50-60% heart rate max. So, for BEAST:Cardio that would be approx 450 calories/30 minutes = 15 calories/minute. Average heart rate was in the 160 bpm range. As I expected, my heart rate was most elevated in the highest zone during the resistance movements with dumbbells. Cardio impact was a combination of aerobic + anaerobic for the BEAST:Cardio exercises.

I began Insanity Fast & Furious 15 minutes later at 120 bpm (total calorie burn recorded at that time of 560 calories before the second workout). That is okay, looking for relative differences at peak performance. I felt really good with this workout and didn’t feel that my performance was compromised with doing Body Beast prior to Insanity. For the Fast & Furious workout I burned 340 calories in 22 minutes (incl stretch) and again resided mostly in zones 4 and 5. That would be approx 340 calories/22 minutes = 15.5 calories/minute. Average heart rate was in the 160 bpm range. Essentially the same as Body Beast BEAST:Cardio!

Polar H2 Workout SummaryAlso, I continued to measure heart rate and calories 15 minutes post-workout consistent with the process I used after Body Beast (calorie burn measured at 900 calories total workout immediately after Fast & Furious). Including that additional 15 minutes, I ended up with total calorie burn of 1025 calories with final heart rate of 118 bpm, similar to post-BEAST:Cardio. Thus,  I burned 125 calories in the 15 minutes following Fast & Furious compared to 110 calories following BEAST:Cardio. Again, another indication both workouts are very effective in providing cardio impact and sustainable calorie burn even though the workout discplines are quite different in approach. Actually, technically, it took approx 10 times longer post-workout to achieve the baseline heart rate of 120 bpm for BEAST: Cardio relative to Fast & Furious. Perhaps further confirmation of the commonly held theory that leveraging resistance with weights is more effective to ramp metabolism with sustained impact? Maybe.

Average heart rate for the entire workout today was 149 bpm. Not bad. Anyway, I rest my case, BEAST:Cardio is a VERY effective workout in the Body Beast schedule or any schedule for calorie burn and performance! The data confirms. Oh yeah, and the Polar H7 is awesome for bluetooth monitoring of workouts. Recommended for a very reasonable price.

P90X Results and Recovery Formula down and MUCH needed this afternoon. Chocolate Shakeology also mixed in water with PB2, banana and ice to taste 45-min later. Hope you enjoyed reading this blog as much as I enjoyed doing the research (exercise research is demanding on the body!). As always, I am here to help so please contact me at with any comments or questions. Rage. Become a Machine.

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Premiere 5 Star Diamond Independent Beachbody Coach, CEO and Founder of TEAM RAGE, Mike Nowak Fitness, and How Do I Get Ripped, LLC. You are about to learn how I went from out-of-shape busy dad with significant travel, 2 kids and a wife to losing 20 pounds, 16% body fat and 7" off my waist while getting paid more income from home than my Ph.D. in Science & Engineering. Retired my Ph.D. career to focus on FAMILY & FITNESS!


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