If you’re a regular reader of this site, you might imagine I’m one of those people who practically lives at a gym- exercising constantly, always watching what I eat, keeping careful progress of my ever improving level of fitness. I’ll admit, though, like almost everyone else, I’ll go through phases of heavy exercising before falling into a bit of a slump as life gets in the way. You know, work, family, marathon Game of Thrones viewings… all that important stuff!
Recently, however, I was pulled face-first from this slump by an advance preview version of Focus T25, the new workout from Insanity Workout mastermind, Shaun T. It’s my pleasure to bring you one of the early Focus T25 reviews, of which I’m sure you’ll see more of very soon.
Real quick, before I even get into it, I want to list a few benefits of T25.
● It’s only 25 minutes long.
● You don’t need any equipment besides the included resistance band and maybe a nice mat and a towel to soak up all the sweat you’ll be sweating. Oh, and water. Whole lotta water.
● There is enough variation to keep you from getting bored, and Shaun T even manages to make it fun.
● Results quick enough to keep you motivated to do more.
● It helps you lose a ton of weight (about 20 pounds in my case!), gain endurance, strength and muscle tone. Fast!
Interested yet? Read on…
Focus T25 Review – What’s In A Name?
This product is pretty new, so even though it comes from Beachbody, makers of the ever popular P90X and Insanity Workout, and created by the same guy who brought us the latter, it’s understandable if you’ve never heard of it. (And if you already know what it’s all about, you can scroll down to skip to the part where I get more specific about my own personal results.)
Focus gets its name from the fact that you’re going to focusing, really hard, on busting your ass for a good 25 minutes per workout. This is significantly shorter than your typical Beachbody workout, so it’s a great option for those of us with crazy hectic schedules that we use as excuses not to exercise.
The whole idea here is to pack what should be an hour-long workout into just 25 minutes! And it works!
It’s hyped as being a 5-day a week program, versus the 6-days a week of Insanity, but that’s a little bit misleading. It’s 5 days of intense workouts, and then a significantly lighter stretching workout on the 6th day. Also of note is the fact that day 5 is a double workout. Still, as I said, this is a lot less time than you’d spend doing one of the other Beachbody workouts.
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So Who Is It For, Exactly?
As mentioned a couple times, the short workout times make it a good choice for people without a lot of time on their hands. Pretty much everybody can find 25 minutes a day.
Of course, the next question is what fitness level is this product aimed at? Well, like Insanity, it’s really designed with everyone in mind, from people who haven’t really exercised in years, to folks like me who try to stay in relatively good shape all the time, to “real” athletes.
Yes, some of the exercise are pretty damn difficult, but fortunately one of Shaun T’s workout buddies, Tanya, is always doing a simplified version of the moves for those out there who aren’t ready for the more advanced stuff Shaun is throwing at you, so you can get through the workouts even if you’re pretty far from owning the body you want (but keep at this, and you will!)
Now, I mentioned in my Insanity review that that workout is not for people with joint problems. If you have serious issues with your joints, you’ll naturally want to consult a doctor first, but because T25 relies far, far less heavily on those explosive jumping plyometric moves, it’s a lot easier on the old knees and such.
Honestly, one of the biggest requirements for Shaun T’s Focus T25 is the desire and drive to really give it your full effort for those 25 minutes a day. Because the workouts are so short, it’s more important than ever not to just “phone in it”.
If you’re ready to work your butt off (literally!) then T25 can help you tone up, build your endurance, and shed a lot of pounds in a hurry.
What Are Those Workouts Like?
Like other Beachbody workout products, the core of T25 is a series of 10 workout DVDs designed to systematically tune up your whole body. Some folks will opt to just pick and choose their favorite ones to do, but for the best results, there is an included calendar with a schedule for doing them. I highly advise doing this, especially for beginners, because the earlier DVDs get you ready for the next ones.
I’ll tell you upfront that even if you’re fairly used to doing exercise DVDs, it may take you a couple goes at it until you’re switching exercises as quickly as Shaun and the gang. At first the lack of explanations kind of irked me, but then I realized it was essential to the fast-paced, quickly over-and-done nature of T25. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it soon enough!
Because it’s designed to be quick, the workouts don’t really start with a warm up, though they do start off relatively “slow” to sort of ease you into it. They also lack a real cool-down at the end, though there are a few minutes of stretching.
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Some of the moves get pretty complex, but Shaun does these things he calls progressions, where you start off doing one simple move, for example a kick, and then adding another move, like a twist, after about 30 seconds or so, and then adding onto that a short time later. I thought this was a pretty cool, not to mention efficient, method of easing into some really effective exercises.
And then, a couple of times per workout, he makes you do what he calls a “burnout”. Even though you’re going hard pretty much the entire time you’re doing Focus T25, when it gets to a burnout, you really push it hard! I realized that after I had done the workouts a couple times, I started subconsciously slowing down before the burnouts came up. I actually felt I had to counteract this by consciously working a little harder before those moments came up! They feel frickin’ awesome, though!!
Another thing I really like is this little meter that appears on the screen during the exercises. It shows how much time you’ve spent doing the exercise, and how much time is left until the next. Like I said, because of the speed it’s a little tough at first to get the changes right, but it’s entirely worth it when you get the hang of it.
One thing I’m not sure I agree with is the near total lack of breaks. Yeah, you get some easier exercises here and there, but no real water breaks. I understand this is all part of the 25 minute thing, and if you know how to pace yourself and when to drink fluids, it’s no big deal, but especially if you’re a beginner, you need to remember to drink!! Just because Shaun T isn’t stopping to hydrate doesn’t mean you shouldn’t either!
The music level is adjustable on these DVDs, so if you already know what Shaun is going to say, you can turn it up, and if you don’t like it all you can turn it off. For me, I really find that even though it’s probably not music I would listen to if I wasn’t exercising, it definitely helps drive me through the workouts. I keep it UP!
Focus T25 Reviews: Breaking It Down – A Look At Each Workout
The workouts, if you follow the schedule, are broken up into a 5-week Alpha cycle, followed by a 5-week Beta cycle. Again, if you do these in order the Alpha gets your prepared for the Beta. Here’s a list of the workouts from each cycle, with my impressions of each…
● Cardio – This is 25 minutes of pretty brutal cardio. You’ll be doing relatively simple moves like high knees, squats, and mountain climbers. At first I didn’t think it was as intense as Insanity, but then I remembered it’s all about bringing the intensity, so I stepped my game up and it’s absolutely a fat killer. It’s not quite as high impact as what Insanity throws at you, which I know will appeal to a lot of people. I think we can all agree that shin splints suck.
● Speed 1.0 – This is super fast, intense cardio. Having done Insanity multiple times, I felt like this was the classic Shaun T style I’d grown used to. You’ll do a minute or two of intense cardio intervals, followed by 30-60 seconds of stretch type moves.
● Total Body Circuit – This one is all about strength and resistance, though it only uses body weight. If you’ve done Insanity, you’ll actually recognize a bunch of moves in this one. It’s a lot like the Plyo Cardio Circuit from that program, though without all the crazy power jumping. Lots and lots of planks and pushups, though. (I read another Focus T25 review that mentioned the abundance of pushups in the program – they had clearly never done Insanity!)
● Ab Intervals – This is a pretty interesting mix of ab moves and cardio intervals. One moment you’re on the floor, working your abs, the next you’re on your feet, aggressively melting away excess fat. It’s actually a pretty efficient way to get nice visible abs, since half of it is working the abs themselves, while other half is melting the fat on top of them.
● Lower Focus – This one is all about squats and lunges and working the lower half. I find these workouts particularly useful, because I fall into the common manly trap of only working my upper body if I’m left to my own devices. Yeah, I know, you want to look good without your shirt, but you don’t want to end up all weak-legged and top-heavy!
● Core Cardio – Wooooo!!! Okay, now we’re cooking with fire! In typical Shaun T fashion, he suddenly manages to ramp it way the hell up when you thought you were already going as hard as you could. This is a serious cardio workout that left me spent, and with a bigger puddle of sweat on the floor than I had typically been dripping.
● Speed 2.0 – Once again, Shaun takes something from earlier in the program and cranks it up to 11. Classic Shaun T-style high intensity interval training here! (The program is actually pretty much all HIIT, and my article on the science of Insanity can shed some light on how and why this method of exercise is just so effective.)
● Rip’t Circuit – If you’ve seen that “scientifically proven 7-minute workout” that you’ve seen making the rounds on the internet (and which isn’t exactly 7 minutes because you’re supposed to repeat it), this is sort of like a souped-up Shaun T version of that. You work your upper body, you work your lower body, you work your abs, you do cardio. And then you do it all over again! And the entire time, you go hard! If you’re following the schedule, this is the first time you’ll break out that resistance band (or dumbbells, if you’ve got ‘em). The workout is designed to get you Rip’t in a hurry, and you will feel it in your whole body and know it’s working by the end of the first workout. Trust me
● Dynamic Core – This is probably the craziest and most intense core routine I’ve done. Lots of ab DVDs can safely be renamed “25 different types of crunches”, but I was pleasantly surprised to find this one had me all over the place, doing all kinds of moves, on the floor and standing up. Oh, be careful about laughing or coughing after you do this one. Seriously. Those muscles are going to be tight!
● Upper Focus – I’d say this one and Dynamic Core are my favorites, though I have to admit it’s because, yeah, one of my biggest reasons for working out is looking good with my shirt off. And this one helps a lot! The first time I did it I was surprised at how sore I got, considering I started out just using the included 15-pound resistance band! I mean, come on, I can lift waaaay more than that. Once again, Shaun taught me that it’s not really about how much you can lift, but how you do it!
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And Then There Are These Optional Workouts…
There’s also an optional Gamma Cycle. I’m not going to get into it in too much detail in this article because it’s an add-on to the regular Focus T25, but it’s very heavy on strength training, focusing on getting you seriously ripped in a hurry. You can buy it separately without purchasing T25, but it costs more that way, and I wouldn’t recommend it simply because it builds so heavily on what you do in the Alpha and Beta Cycles.
If you do Gamma, you have two schedule options: Pure Gamma or Pure Strength Hybrid. Pure Gamma is designed simply to get you ripped as quickly as possible. This means lots of reps of some intense resistance exercises. Pure Strength Hybrid will also get you ripped, though it will take a little longer because you’ll also be building your strength as you go. I opted for the latter to get the best of both worlds.
Regardless of which you choose, you’ll be making good use of those resistance bands or dumbbells in these workouts:
● Rip’t Up – Oh, you know this is right up my alley, as it’s all about working the upper body. Biceps, triceps, chest, back, and shoulders. This is an awesome, intense and highly effective workout. It’s pretty atypical for an upper body workout, I think, due to Shaun T’s unique 360-degree moves.
● The Pyramid – This is another workout that combines intense cardio moves with strength building exercises. You’ll do increasing numbers of reps of the exercises for maximum results. It’s about 6-10 reps of each of the exercises, but they typically encompass a number of different moves, so it’s a lot more work, and brings much better results, than you’d imagine.
● Extreme Circuit – HEY! ARE YOU READY TO GET EXTREME? BECAUSE IN THIS WORKOUT, YOU’LL BE ON YOUR FEET THE ENTIRE TIME! AND YOU’LL NEVER PUT THOSE BANDS OR WEIGHTS DOWN EITHER! THIS ONE PUMPS IT UP ABOUT AS FAR AS IT CAN GO, AND IT PUMPS YOU UP WITH IT! YEAH! EXTREEEEEME! (Seriously, though, this one rocks!)
Is There A Diet That Goes With This Thing?
Because it’s marketed as something that can help you lose a bunch of weight in a hurry (and I can certainly attest to that!), it’s natural to think there might be some kind of crazy starvation diet that goes with it, but that’s absolutely not the case.
In fact, when implementing an exercise regimen as intense as this one, it’s just as important not to eat too little as it is to eat too much!
Over-exercising while under-eating can potentially put your body into starvation mode, which can set your gains back for up to a year as your body tries to hold on desperately to what it’s already carrying in case there’s even less food later. To this end, Focus T25 includes a simple “Get It Done” nutrition guide that has you eating around 1,200 to 1,600 calories per day.
Now, I read a Focus T25 Workout review where the user was really enthusiastic about the nutrition plan. I actually have mixed feelings about it.
It contains 25 recipes that take 5 minutes to make and consist of 5 ingredients each. You eat 5 of these meals a day. I have to admit, there is a part of me that thinks this is taking the multiples-of-five thing to absurd lengths. I actually LOL’d when I first took a look at it.
On the other hand… despite the gimmicky nature of the 5’s, there is some really solid advice here for eating well. The recipes aren’t bad, and there are options for vegans and vegetarians, as well as options for increasing your carbs or protein if you need to. The main thing I endorse about it, though, is just the general “how to eat well” advice it gives.
As with other Beachbody products that come with nutrition guides, I didn’t follow it to the letter, but I did get useful tips out of it. I recommend using it more as a guideline for healthy eating. If you’re used to eating a lot of processed, pre-made food, following this even a little bit will make a big difference in how much weight you can lose.
Do You Get Anything Else With Focus T25?
In addition to the workout DVDs, which are the real meat of the program, you also get the aforementioned nutrition guide, 15 pound resistance band, schedule calendar, as well these other goodies:
● Quick Start Guide – Just like you get with a new gadget, the Quick Start Guide helps you get off to a strong start and jump right into the program in just a couple of easy steps.
● Stretch Workout – This is your day 6 workout. It’s much gentler and relaxing than the rest of the workouts and focuses on stretching, as the name implies. I admit I don’t always do this, making it truly a 5 day program. It concludes with a commercial for wrinkle cream, for some reason.
● 5-Day Fast Track – If you’re looking to jumpstart your weight loss, and you’re not afraid of a little extra effort, this meal plan will put you on the right track. I mostly recommend this if you’re starting T25 because you want to look good in a hurry, for example if you’re about to go on vacation or something.
● 24/7 Online Support – Beachbody has always had really good online support, and it’s no different with this new product.
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Yeah, Yeah, But How Well Did It WORK For YOU, Brian?
Everything I’ve said here is pretty much useless if it didn’t actually give me real results. But really, do you think it’s possible to leave puddles of sweat on the floor 5 days a week working out really hard and not get results? Even if it’s only 25 minutes a day?
Like I mentioned in the intro, I had fallen into a workout slump before I started this thing. I’m well past the age where I can sit around eating chips and playing video games and still maintain my body, so in the 6 months or so before I started I had gained weight and lost endurance, strength and muscle tone. I took some measurements before I started and was embarrassed by how quickly my body had slipped from where it was. Still…
By the end of the second month (Beta Cycle), I had lost 16 pounds and nearly 3 inches off of my waistline!
I could hardly believe it, though if you want to know the truth, I knew it was going to be good because my heart rate monitor showed that by the end, I was burning an average of nearly 400 calories per 25 minute workout!
In addition to the weight lost, my endurance was way, way up and my muscle tone had improved dramatically. All in perfect time for beach season
The optional third month, though, the Gamma Cycle, managed to boost that muscle tone even more dramatically, and made a considerable difference in my strength. A pretty surprising difference, honestly, considering I wasn’t using super-heavy gym weights. I also managed to take off another 3 pounds. (I assume I actually lost more than 3 pounds in fat, because I definitely put on bulkier muscles during this phase!) If you want to get ripped, I’d say this add-on is worth it.
My Final Word On Focus T25
I’d have to rank this up there with P90X and Insanity. The focus is a little bit different, but it’s great for what it’s meant for. If I have any complaint at all, it’s an incredibly minor one: I really wish they had a native iPad/iPhone version so I didn’t have to mess with physical DVDs. (If you’re tech savvy, it’s easy enough to figure out how to rip video from DVD, though it’s still a legal gray area and way too complicated for a workout review).
You will no doubt see more and more Focus T25 reviews hitting the internet in the very near future. It’s a very new product, but like other Beachbody products it truly delivers. If you’ve got 25 minutes a day, and you’re ready to bring it everything you’ve got, this program absolutely can help you shed weight, build muscle tone and increase your cardio health in a hurry. Just remember to bring some comfy old gym clothes, because you’re going to sweat like crazy
(BTW – they’re currently offering a 30-day money back guarantee, but only at the official Beachbody Focus T25 site!)
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