“Bonus workouts” aren’t anything groundbreaking on the Beachbody On Demand platform. But we rarely see an optional workout that the hard-to-please Insanity crowd seems to love.
We’re talking — of course — about Insanity Max 30’s Saturday “Pulse.”
Shaun T dubs it a “recovery” session, which could be an hour-long sit-and-stretch workout for all we know (hint: it’s not!). But is it a good workout?
About the Creator – Shaun T
Shaun T is arguably one of the most recognizable faces in the entire Beachbody empire, second to maybe P90X legend Tony Horton.
The Beachbody veteran discovered his passion for fitness while attending college.
His newfound love for training inspired him so much that he switched to an exercise science major and kick-started Shaun T’s whirlwind career.
He earned a spot as a backup dancer for Mariah Carey before a chance meeting with a Beachbody executive solidified his future in the industry with his first hit, “Hip Hop Abs.”
Shaun T later created best-selling programs like Insanity, Max 30, and T25.
What Is the Insanity Max 30 Pulse Workout?
The Insanity Max 30 Pulse workout is this program’s version of a recovery workout. It’s similar to Stretch in Shaun T’s Focus T25 program or Recovery & Mobility in Tony Horton’s P90X2.
It could also be compared to the X3 Yoga and Pilates X workouts in P90X3 as well.
Shaun T describes the 20-minute Pulse recovery session as a “low-impact combo of stretching and small ‘pulsing’ movements.” Honestly, the Insanity trainer sums it up perfectly right there.
But for a clearer vision of what to expect with Pulse:
This moderate-intensity session rotates between stretches (like hamstring reaches) and bodyweight exercises (such as backstrokes) for 20 minutes.
Unlike the other Max 30 workouts, Pulse pushes aside the entire “Maxing Out” concept — or training at near-100% intensity until you need to take your first rest break.
Instead, Shaun T flips the switch to control, balance, mental focus, and recovery.
But is it a good workout?
Pulse Details & Features
Pulse is an optional workout for anyone following the Max Out calendar. But if you want to add a sixth training day to your schedule or attempt Ab Maximizer (featuring Pulse), keep reading!
When (and if) you try Insanity Max 30’s Pulse workout depends on which calendar you choose: Max Out or Ab Maximizer.
Pulse is the optional Saturday workout for the classic Max Out schedule and an alternative to one of your weekly rest days (the other being Sunday).
If you follow the core-focused Ab Maximizer calendar, here’s how your Saturdays will look:
- Week 1: Pulse
- Week 2: Pulse & Ab Attack: 10
- Week 3: Pulse & Ab Attack: 10
- Week 4: Pulse & Ab Attack: 10
- Week 5: Pulse
- Week 6: Pulse & Ab Attack: 10
- Week 7: Pulse & Ab Attack: 10
- Week 8: Cardio Challenge
Pulse is also a popular standalone recovery workout for Beachbody subscribers breaking from their usual routines. (Focus T25’s Stretch and P90X2’s Recovery & Mobility join Pulse!)
Nothing! However, we’d recommend a core comfort mat depending on your home gym set-up.
A concrete garage floor or a thin living room carpet could be tough on your lower back during floor exercises like switch kick abs, backstrokes, and crunch extensions.
What’s On the Screen?
At the bottom of the Pulse workout video, you’ll find:
- A progress bar that constantly updates throughout the workout
- The name of the exercise
- The elapsed time in the bottom left
- The current Max Out time in the bottom right
Like the rest of the Insanity Max 30 workouts, Pulse also has a Modifier Track available. To turn it on, click the circle with the word “MOD” inside of it at the bottom-right corner of your screen.
This setting activates a split-screen mode — Shaun T on the left and a crew member performing modified versions of each move on the right (except for most of the stretches).
Pulse’s exercises typically alternate between dynamic (or movement-related) stretches — like chest open knees — and calisthenic exercises — such as back lunge flies.
(Most Pulse exercises last for a flat 30 or 60 seconds each. However, some moves spill over by a few seconds.)
Shaun T coined the name “Pulse” after a few of the iconic moves featured in Pulse. (“Lunge pulses” quite literally lunge with a pulsating movement, like fast-paced quarter-rep lunges.)
Here’s the exact list of exercises in Max 30’s Pulse workout:
- Chest open knee
- Back lunge fly
- Lateral lunge
- Downdog spider
- Squat pencil
- Calf stretch (right, left, and center)
- Lunge pulse (right and left)
- Quad stretch
- Runner stance pulse (right and left)
- Hip opener stretch
- Plie pulse
- Hamstring stretch (side to side)
- Plank lat pulldown
- Child’s pose – cobra
- Plank walk
- Chest stretch
- Bear crawl walk-out
- Chest open stretch
- Reciprocating knee (similar to mountain climbers, just tamer)
- Downdog plank (if you have a mat, now’s a good time to grab it!)
- Switch kick abs
- Back stretch
- Crunch extension
- Hamstring reach
- Shoulder stretch
- Table balance (right and left)
- Child’s pose
Once you finish the child’s pose countdown, deadbolt your front door, shut the shades, and check in with your mom — because Shaun T’s final words are a haunting “I’m coming for you.”
(Side note: The entire crew is absolutely drenched in sweat by the 12-minute mark. Granted, the studio’s radiator might be cranked too high, but Pulse is decently tough as well.)
What Is the Pulse Workout Actually Like?
I’ll be the first to admit that cardio and plyometrics rank dead last on my list of favorite styles of training. However, since Pulse is a 20-minute “recovery” workout, I decided to give it a whirl.
Keep in mind … I have the balance & coordination of a newborn giraffe, my 2nd-floor apartment has squeaky floors, and I had the genius idea of attempting Pulse a day after leg day (yikes).
Here’s what happened.
My heart rate jumped from 96 bpm to about 128 somewhere between back lunge flies and squat pencils. (Please don’t scroll up to see how early in Pulse those exercises appear. I know.)
During Pulse, my heart rate averaged 138 bpm and peaked at 160 bpm. On average, that’s about 72% of my maximum heart rate — which just barely made it “vigorous” exercise for me.
(Here’s a screenshot of my heart rate graph from FitBit for the Pulse workout.)
My FitBit also claims I burned 120 calories on the dot, but I can’t confirm that.
That said … despite the near-50/50 split between stretches and Pulse (or calisthenic) exercises, Shaun T’s Pulse workout defies the odds and puts a high-intensity spin on “recovery” training.
The lunge pulses burn like hell. The bear crawl walk-outs are mild versions of burpees. And, whoever suggested crunch extensions at the Max 30 concept meeting should’ve stayed home.
Yet, aside from heavy breathing & a few two-second breaks because my muscles were on fire, I never “Maxed Out.” Then again, I’m not sure if we were aiming to Max Out with Pulse or not.
I did, however, follow the Modifier Track for a few exercises — namely the backstrokes and crunch extensions.
If your muscles are shaky with 30 seconds left, you have squeaky floors (that plank walks really accentuate old-ass floorboards), or cardio isn’t your favorite, select the modified version.
Follow along with Shaun T until you can’t (or shouldn’t), then finish out with the modification.
A word to the wise: don’t let the word “recovery” fool you. Unless you’re an elite athlete who loves cardio, Pulse will drive your heart rate up, work your entire body, and require flexibility.
8 Rad Benefits of the Insanity Max 30 Pulse Workout
- Though it’s technically a recovery workout, it’s more of a low-impact cardio session with some much-needed dynamic stretching built-in.
- It’s 100% equipment-free (unless you opt for a comfort mat).
- Pulse is ten minutes shorter than the rest of the Max Out calendar’s workouts.
- If you absolutely hate it, you can still complete Max Out without changing a single thing.
- The Modifier Track includes a simpler alternative for nearly every Pulse exercise.
- Unless you’re a superstar athlete, it’ll land you somewhere within your target heart rate zone to provide heart health benefits. However, research from 2009 reveals that 60.2–80% of your maximum heart rate is when your body burns fat most efficiently — which just so happens to be within that THRZ. In other words, Pulse burns fat, too!
- There aren’t repeat moves anywhere in the workout.
- A 2014 study comparing “pulsing” reps to full reps discovered that the Pulse exercises spike the heart rate by an average of 11.8 bpm less than full repetitions. Pulsing reps also fall about 1.1 points lower on the RPE scale (12.2 vs. 13.3, respectively). Pulse is less intense than the typical Max 30 workout, but it’s by no means “easy.”
4 Negatives of Insanity Max 30 Pulse
- For those oozing self-hatred and desperate to torture themselves physically, the Pulse workout feels tame compared to the rest of the Max 30 lineup.
- Most of the exercises are leg or core-focused.
- If you were hoping for a relaxing static stretching or yoga workout, this isn’t it. Stretches last just a few seconds and are only long enough to catch your breath before jumping into plie pulses or plank lat pulldowns.
- It’s too mild to be a sixth Max 30 workout, but it’s too intense to provide a decent stretch.
Wrapping Up This Insanity Max 30 Pulse Review
Max 30’s Pulse is a surprisingly solid workout despite being slapped with the “recovery” title.
It’s fast-paced, burns at least 100–150 calories in 20 minutes, combines calming stretches with moderate-intensity calisthenics, and has a modification for nearly every exercise introduced.
The only real downsides are that it falls slightly short of Max 30’s usual heat, doesn’t focus much on the upper body, and isn’t a typical stretching routine (which could be a bonus!).
If you’re debating that Saturday workout during Max Out or looking for a standalone recovery workout to pair with another Beachbody program, this is it!