- Updated 12/8/16 to include Core De Force
- Updated 8/15/16 to include the original 21 Day Fix
I get asked all the time, “is this Beachbody program harder than that program?” That’s a difficult question to answer because the hardest Beachbody program for one person may not be the hardest program for another depending on their physical condition, limitations, and interest level. But it is possible to compare programs’ intensity level by using objective data like heart rate monitor (HRM) data. Being the engineer and data junkie that I am, I’ve been cataloging my Heart Rate and Calorie Burn data for the past several years. If you would like to see how some of the most popular programs stack up, you came to the right place.
Popular Beachbody Programs Evaluated
Back in the summer of 2014 I created my “Beachbody Bracket” to determine what the “best” workouts were from this list (read about the Best Beachbody Workout here). I recorded HRM data at least once for every workout:
- Focus T25
- Rev Abs
- Les Mills Combat
Since 2014 I have added this list of new programs to my database:
- 21 Day Fix
- 21 Day Fix Extreme
- Insanity Max:30
- Body Beast
- Master’s Hammer and Chisel
- Insanity Asylum Volume 1
- 22 Minute Hard Corps
- Core De Force
Heart Rate Monitor Data Recorded
I’ve been using the same $40 Timex Analog HRM since I started my fitness journey with Insanity over 4 years ago. The only thing that’s changed over the past few years has been my age 🙂 Here is a definition of what I record:
- Date: date of the workout.
- HRM Time: the total elapsed time from the very start of the workout until I stop it at the end, inclusive of any pauses or breaks during the workout.
- Avg HR: average heart rate over the total HRM Time as reported by the HRM; I have my HRM set up to record data 100% of the time between Start and Stop, not only in a specific HR zone.
- Max HR: the maximum reported HR during the workout; a good estimate for your maximum possible heart rate is 220 minus your age–for me that would be 168 right now. An intense cardio program like Insanity should get your maximum HR up near this level.
- Calories: the total calculated calories burned over the elapsed HRM Time of the workout; in an absolute sense this is a very useful number, but you can’t use this to determine which workout is more intense than another–longer workouts by nature will burn more total calories.
- Calories/Hour: calories burned divided by the HRM Time; this ends up being almost analogous to Avg HR but is another good way to compare relative intensity levels between workouts.
The Hardest Beachbody Programs
My complete database is available below, but here are how the
13 15 programs stack up for three of my metrics. For the purpose of creating the charts (which are “averages of averages”), I only used each program’s typical full-length workouts in the calculations. I omitted the shorter ab routines, the yoga and stretching workouts, as well as any of the Deluxe or free Team Beachbody Bonus workouts that were not typical length (for example, I omitted workouts like Hammer & Chisel 15-Minute Leg Hammer and Glute Chisel).
Average Heart Rate
Average Heart Rate is a great measure of relative intensity or difficulty, and according to this metric Insanity Asylum Volume 1 is the hardest Beachbody program that I’ve done. Surprisingly Core De Force is right up there with the Shaun T programs. One thing to note however is that the four programs on the low end of the chart (P90X, Body Beast, P90X2 and Rev Abs) have lower averages in part because they are longer, have somewhat longer warmups and cooldowns, and have longer breaks than the other programs. Trust me, you still get work out of these four programs as shown in the next two charts. (NOTE: as of this post I just started doing Asylum Volume 1 workouts and have only recorded data for 3 workouts. I will come back and update my charts after I record data for the remaining routines; 8/15/16 added 21 Day Fix; 12/8/16 added Core De Force)
Total Calories Burned
Average Total Calories Burned paints an entirely different picture, although Asylum still comes out first as the hardest Beachbody program. The conclusion here is pretty simple–the longer the workouts, the more total calories you burn. The chart is a little misleading for programs that have variable length workouts like Insanity, Body Beast and Core De Force since I average the shorter and longer workouts together. That’s why in the last chart I normalize them over workout time. (8/15/16 added 21 Day Fix; 12/8/16 added Core De Force)
Calories Burned Per Hour
In my opinion Average Calories Burned per Hour is a pretty good representation of the level of intensity you must maintain over the course of the workout from start to finish. Using this metric Max:30 is the hardest Beachbody program. Just remember though, you will not actually burn this many calories in programs like Max: 30, T25, and 21 DFX unless you do two 30-minute workouts back to back (see previous chart for single workout burn). What this chart doesn’t take into account, however, are the long warmups and cooldowns of the longer workouts on the right side of the chart. In fact I could argue that P90X2 is the hardest Beachbody program because of the complexity of the moves, but I’ll leave that opinion to you 🙂 (8/15/16 added 21 Day Fix; 12/8/16 added Core De Force)
Beachbody Heart Rate and Calorie Burn Database
What do you think? If you have a different opinion please let me know in the Comments below. Here is my complete database, enjoy scrolling, searching and comparing different workouts and programs. A few notes to get the most out of the data:
- “TBD” under Date means I have not yet recorded HRM data for that specific workout yet
- To sort any column, click on the small up and down arrows at the top of the column
- To Search or Filter for a specific program or workout, enter the name or keyword in the Search box
- You can Show 25, 50, 100 or All Entries at one time
- If you do not see all columns, look for the horizontal scroll bar