Insanity Vs HIIT – Which Is Better For Fat Loss?

insanity or hiit

Today I’m going to compare two cardio powerhouses.

I’m looking at Insanity vs HIIT, and I’ll be revealing which is better for fat loss.

I was asked to do this post by website member Candice, who said:

“Hey Russ,

My friend constantly berates me about how awesome Insanity is, and I just don’t fancy it. Am I missing out, or is the combination of HIIT and weights I’m doing enough?”

We all know that person who’s done a program like Insanity and suddenly proclaims it the best thing ever, right? Same as that guy in your office who recently discovered Crossfit.

Don’t even get me started on that guy.

insanity versus hiit

But how effective is Insanity really?

Today I’ll answer questions including:

  • What type of long-term results should you expect from Insanity?
  • Is Insanity as good as high intensity interval training for fat loss?
  • Can you / should you use both HIIT and Insanity?
  • Which style of training do I use?
insanity vs hiit
Olympic athlete Amanda Lightfoot during a recent bag workout.

Insanity vs HIIT – The Big Misunderstanding

To really look at Insanity vs HIIT, we need to address the elephant in the room first.

Many people believe Insanity actually is high intensity interval training.

It’s not.

And in order to discover the real winner of the Insanity vs HIIT battle, we must first understand them.

There is one key difference between the two forms of training, and once your body gets past the first few weeks – which will generally yield good results with either approach – this key difference becomes a crucial factor.


  • HIIT

HIIT – high intensity interval training – is a protocol which was first used by athletes three decades ago and, although it’s only become popular in the mainstream over the last half a decade, there are several key studies which document both how and why it works.

It revolves around manipulating your heart rate via short bursts of maximal activity exertion – jacking up your heart rate, before letting it return to a normal level, then jacking it back up again, and so on.

Here’s a full article on how to set up a good HIIT program.

Anyone who has ever tried Insanity – or any copycat Insanity programs – will read the above statement about HIIT and tell you this is not the same thing.

insanity vs hiit

  • Insanity

Insanity provides you with a form of training known as HISS – high intensity steady state.

It’s the elder, tougher brother of low intensity steady state cardio.

You know, the type of cardio you see those girls at your gym doing on a stationary bike while reading the latest celebrity magazine and telling Instagram they’re “going hard at the gym #fitspo”.

But despite being “related” to steady state cardio, HISS is far, far harder.

It’s like comparing a bird to a T-Rex.

HISS basically puts you at “full steam ahead” for the vast majority of your workout, with only brief periods of respite.

So as you can see, while they are both hard, they are certainly not the same thing.

insanity vs hiit

Which Is Superior For Fat Loss?

High intensity interval training.

That’s right. I said it.

Don’t get me wrong, though – you can get results with either.

Both are hard and both will shed body fat effectively.

In fact the one common trait when looking at Insanity vs HIIT is that both methods will leave you feeling like your lungs want to blow up!

But – when done correctly – the afterburn created by high intensity interval training – HIIT – and high intensity resistance training – HIRT – provide your body with a platform superior to any other form of interval-based training.

You see, while you will lose weight with either method, it’s time to focus on that crucial factor which I mentioned earlier in today’s post.

insanity or hiit for fat loss

The main reason many of the items in the fitness DVD market revolve around that 1-2 month time-frame is because they are based entirely on that initial shock factor which sees weight loss at the start of a tough new training plan.

And once the body adapts to it – just like any other program – results stagnate.

Your program needs to be progressive if it’s going to give you continually improving results – the concept of HIIT is built entirely upon that principle, and that’s why it yields better long-term results.

With Insanity in particular, I’ve also spoken to many individuals who have experienced knee issues due to the sheer number of high impact body weight exercises, such as squats, jump squats and explosive lunges.

This is usually as a result of somebody getting early results with the program, then re-running it over and over again in an attempt to experience the same success.

insanity vs hiit
Running a HIIT sprint session with actor Adam Baroni.


Long-term Adaptations

We have three types of muscle fibers in our body and they play a very important role in the overall adaptations you can expect to make from either HIIT or HISS.

They are:

  1. Type 1 – endurance.
  2. Type 2a – capable of being either.
  3. Type 2b – explosive.

Steady state cardio – regardless of intensity – tells our body that we need to create more Type 1 (slow-twitch) fibers to handle all the endurance work we are doing.

Regular interval-based work tells our body the opposite – we need to create more Type 2b (fast-twitch) fibers to handle the explosive workload we are faced with, such as sprints.

Whichever way those all-important Type 2a fibers go will be crucial to the type of physique you own.

Granted, some individuals are genetically gifted to look leaner of bigger than the norm, but this factor will make the big difference between looking “slim” lean and “athletic” lean for most.

Furthermore, it’s about fat loss, right? Not weight loss.

And your greatest ally in fighting body fat is building lean mass, so enhancing those Type 2 fibers is a great way to create further fat loss.

These pointers, alongside the wealth of scientific studies documenting it’s effectiveness, are just some of the reasons my clients base their program around HIIT and weight training, sometimes throwing in routines like Insanity as a means to shake things up.

is insanity hiit

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4 thoughts on “Insanity Vs HIIT – Which Is Better For Fat Loss?”

  1. Pingback: Russ Howe PTI
  2. You’re correct about the HIIT vs high steady training

    Except i see one problem.

    Insanity isn’t high steady state training. Insanity is actually HITT reversed and harder.

    Where Hiit has long pauses and short intense bursts. Insanity flips it and makes it short pauses and longer intense bursts. If you ever did any research into insanity you would have known.

    So i have no idea where you think insanity and HSST are the same. You clearly didn’t put enough research into this and just copied this article word by word from another across the web.(or is it the other way?)

    1. Hi there,
      This piece is my original work, yes. (?)

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing Insanity and indeed I make a point of saying it’s a top fat loss program. But it’s not ‘reversed and harder HIIT’. It’s a different form of training, that’s all.

      HIIT is about heart rate manipulation, which is specific to the individual, so bursts are either short with long recovery periods in untrained athletes, or short moderate bursts with short-to-moderate recovery periods in trained athletes. Insanity, on the other hand, uses a long burst and short recovery phases which is less about heart rate and more about total power output. Which is good for fat loss, but more akin to the type of training you’d to in order to boost explosive strength. Which is why it’s often mimicked by the type of training rowers would do (see the 2009 study whereby rowers used 3 minute intervals to boost VO2 max and explosive strength, but with recovery periods of around 2mins each so not as short as Insanity). It’s can also be useful when the goal is boosting vertical leap ( given the amount of jump squats, jump lunges, burpees, etc in there.

      As for research, though, my only research is the studies referenced in this article, running the Insanity workout itself 8 times over (I enjoy it), and working as a PT since 2004.

      Different training methods. Both good. Neither ‘harder’. Both good options for people depending upon their goal. But when fat loss (heck, and injury prevention) is the goal, one clear winner.

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