Athlean-X rose to stardom for its science-backed approach to muscle growth, fat loss, and overall athleticism for hard-gainers and born-again athletes.
Insanity was an overnight sensation for its batshit-crazy “Maximum Interval” cardio training and almost unbelievable weight-loss success stories (to the tune of 20–40 pounds in 60 days).
Jeff Cavaliere’s Athlean-X and Shaun T’s Insanity took the fitness world by storm in 2009. But which of these still-kickin’ old-school classics is better — Athlean-X or Insanity?
Table of Contents
What is Athlean-X?
Athlean-X is what happens when a former MLB physical therapist and CSCS turn to YouTube to teach aspiring athletes how to up their game.
More than a decade since its inception, Athlean-X’s YouTube following is over 12-million members strong with over two billion views.
Video topics now include general fitness tips from how to explode the biceps to the exercises you need to ax from your routine now.
By 2009, Cavaliere launched the official Athlean-X portal (oOoOo). Here, he’s released over a dozen programs fusing athletics (power, speed, agility, strength) and aesthetics for hard-gainers, retired amateur athletes, the skinny fat crew, and anyone who didn’t hit the genetic jackpot.
7 Benefits of Athlean-X
- More than a dozen programs are available. Joining the Athlean-X club doesn’t mean locking yourself into just one program that you’ll repeat forever. There’s All American Muscle & Max Size for muscle-building, Max Shred for fat-loss, Monster Maker to shock lagging muscles into growth, and Xero for equipment-free home training. (The list goes on…)
- Designed by a well-respected personal trainer & physical therapist. Jeff Cavaliere weaves his educational background into each program in the Athlean-X lineup. He’s anti-upright-row, pro-face-pull, and obsessed with safe and stable movements. Back-to-back workouts are rare, as are jerky exercises bound to cause an injury.
- Customize the XFactor Meal Plan to match your goals. Depending on the program, the included XFactor Meal Plan may have three options for each core meal — Standard, Size Swap, & Shred Swap. If you’re a hard-gainer chasing newbie gains, add 1–3 Size Swaps per day, while Shred Swaps are ideal for double-digit body fat cuts.
- Never (ever, ever) get bored. A classic PPL, bro split, or cardio routine can quickly lose its excitement after a few weeks. Athlean-X programs are the trifecta. 1) Some programs never repeat a single workout. 2) Others — like AX-1 — blend 120+ exercises into a 12-week routine. 3) Reps, sets, failure training, rest, and exercise variation vary.
- In-platform leaderboards for some friendly competition. The Athlean-X portal has a leaderboard on the right-hand side where you’ll go head-to-head against your fellow X-ers during weekly challenges. Record your times here to see how you match up against the competition, but fair warning to the trolls: you may have to prove it!
- Bust through plateaus or shock muscles into growth. AX-2 proves the Athlean-X haters right — random training styles and 200+ exercises feel far too random. But studies also link more advanced techniques like supersets, drop sets, cluster sets, concentric, and eccentric training to overcome plateaus.
- Introduce yourself to hundreds of new exercises. Athlean-X programs are an eye-opener for newbies caught in the cycle of bench press, squat, deadlift, repeat. Each workout will expose you to brand new exercises, from clapping push-ups and shoulder thrusters to core death marches and dumbbell plate cauldrons.
5 Reasons Against Athlean-X
- Priced ridiculously high for a single program. Charging some $70 per 60–90 day program is flat-out crazy and reminds us that old-school home workout videos (which Athlean-X isn’t) were wildly overpriced. Plus, some Athlean-X programs only provide 120 days of access unless you’re willing to spend another $20+ for lifetime access.
- Not exactly compatible with a home gym. You can follow most Athlean-X programs with eight pieces of equipment — adjustable dumbbells, adjustable bench, resistance bands, pull-up bar, exercise ball, jump rope, Olympic weight set, and squat rack. But some also call for 50 yards of space for agility or speed training, stairs, an agility ladder, and seemingly “random” types of equipment most home gyms don’t have.
- Public enemy #1 at crowded gyms. It’s not the lack of equipment that’ll prove problematic. The supersets and equipment-hogging will force you to choose between getting kicked out of Planet Fitness or customizing the workouts to avoid hostility.
- No refund policy. Welp, there’s no going back from here. If you open the program to learn you don’t have the right equipment or it’s too plyometric-heavy for your achy knees or shin splints, don’t expect a refund. (That’s why we recommend learning the ins and outs of the program in our Ultimate Athlean-X Review before shelling over $70+.)
- Meal plan ignores macros and calories entirely. If you follow the XFactor Meal Plan religiously for 12 weeks, you’ll lose weight, build muscle, or both. But Cavaliere doesn’t mention calories or macronutrients anywhere in the guide, leaving you empty-handed and with nothing to carry forward into your next routine (unless it’s another AX program).
What is Insanity?
Insanity is Shaun T’s 2009 Beachbody breakout hit that breathed life into the then-dying home workout video trend.
This advanced-level program is nothing short of relentless and hellish, packing ten high-intensity workouts into a 60-day program designed to melt fat and shred 600 calories per workout.
Shaun T torments users through a series of plyometric and calisthenic interval workouts in what he dubs “Max Interval Training.”
Alternating between three minutes of nonstop exercise and 30 seconds of rest, each 30–60-minute Insanity workout will leave you leaner, stronger, lighter, and desperately gasping for air. Insanity is equipment-free, six days a week, and ridiculously high impact.
7 Benefits of Insanity
- A long trail of weight loss success stories. Insanity would’ve died out a long time ago if it weren’t so damn effective. Beachbody dedicates an entire section of its site to impressive Insanity results, including a few dropping 20–40+ pounds in 60 days. Other sadists repeat the program to lose 60–100 pounds over the span of a year or two.
- Requires no equipment whatsoever. Yep, that “I don’t have a home gym” excuse is officially out the window. Insanity workouts revolve around plyometric and calisthenic interval training that requires nothing more than the weight of your own body. But for floor exercises and high-impact jump training, a jump mat couldn’t hurt.
- Just follow along with Shaun T every workout. If you need a kick in the ass to train and a sweaty dude (Shaun T) yelling at you to “dig deeper,” Insanity’s the closest you’ll get to having a lean, mean personal trainer.
- The Insanity franchise has two other spin-offs. Some Insanity die-hards are on their third, fifth, and tenth rounds of the program. But Insanity also has two spin-offs also hosted by Shaun T. There’s Max 30 to push your body to its limits with high-intensity cardio and Tabata-style training to “Max Out” at as close to the 30-minute mark as possible. Insanity Asylum puts a heavy-duty athletic twist on the classic Beachbody program.
- Extremely detailed two-month diet plan. The two-month Insanity Eating Plan is 70 pages of pure nutritional knowledge. Shaun T walks you through calculating calories to ensure weight loss, selecting elite-level “clean” meals & food substitutes, and understanding macronutrients’ role in your physique.
- Free access to all Beachbody programs with a monthly subscription. Access to Insanity (and every other Beachbody program, for that matter) is possible with a monthly or annual subscription to the Beachbody On Demand platform — <$100 per year.
- Sheer calorie-torcher. The concept of Max Interval training is so extreme that it fits the program’s name perfectly. These workouts can scorch 600–1,000 calories per workout, amounting to over a pound of fat shredded per week through training alone.
5 Reasons Against Insanity
- Ten workouts can feel repetitive. Insanity’s two-month schedule begins with plyometric circuits and pure cardio workout before turning up the heat for the “MAX” workouts. Repeating the same five or so workouts in month one and another five in month two can start to wear on you, particularly if you despise Max Circuit or Max Interval Plyo.
- Next to impossible for newbies. Beginners do Insanity all the time. But whether you’re doing original Insanity or Asylum, 60 minutes of high-impact plyometrics, circuits, and minimal rest periods means sitting some exercises out or modifying them to be newbie-friendly. Based on endurance and frequency alone, you should wait until you can at least pass the Fit Test before attempting Insanity.
- Six days a week and up to an hour per session. Shaun T’s Insanity is a massive time commitment, requiring up to six hours of training per week and only one true rest day — every Sunday — during the program. A lack of time is also one of the top reasons people don’t exercise (which is actually why Shaun T created Focus T25).
- Straight-up cardio and calisthenics for 60 days. Insanity is a horrendous choice for anyone who hates cardio or can’t fathom not touching a barbell, dumbbell, or bench for 60 days. It’s nonstop planks, push-ups, core exercises, jumping jacks, and all that.
- Lingering risk of training injury. For a lot of people, Insanity is simply “too much.” Ask your doctor whether you’re fit and healthy enough to try Insanity before loading up that first workout or attempting the Fit Test. Read your body, stop when you’re at your limit, take extra rest days as needed, and don’t aggravate joint or muscle aches.
Athlean-X vs Insanity Conclusion
Insanity and Athlean-X are hard-hitting programs that’ll push your mental willpower and athleticism to their limits. But all things considered, Athlean-X just barely edges past Insanity.
While “ancient” in some sense, Insanity still holds its grasp over the fitness community nearly 15 years later.
The triple-digit weight loss journeys and 15,000-member subreddit prove that Insanity doesn’t just work. It’s long-outlasted “fad” status and remains one of the best body transformation programs for anyone with enough grit to survive 60 days.
But Athlean-X is simply more versatile and all-around more welcoming. So whether you’re a newbie or washed-up D1 athlete, wanting to bulk or get ripped, or train at the Mecca of Bodybuilding or in a grungy basement somewhere, there’s an Athlean-X program for you.