Aerobic Step

An Honest Review of Transform 20

July 23, 2019

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So, what’s the Transform 20 program all about? Who’s it for? Do you have to have an aerobic step to do the workouts? Are all the routines just cardio?

I’ve done every workout in the 6-week, 42-day program so stay with me and get the answers to all those questions (and more).

This topic was covered in a recent podcast episode of Crunches and Cosmos. You can listen to that episode below:

Here’s a brief overview of what you’ll learn in this post…

What’s Transform 20?

Transform 20 is a 6-week workout (and nutrition) program by Beachbody. All of the main workouts are about 20 minutes long and taught by Shaun T (from the Insanity series).

But there’s a lot more information you need to know before you try this program.

Keep reading to get all the facts…

Do you have to have an aerobic step to do the workouts in Transform 20?

Yes, you really do need an aerobic step to do the workouts like they’re designed.

However, there are 2 groups of people who I think should do the Transform 20 workouts without an aerobic step–anyone who’s just starting a regular exercise routine and considers themselves a beginner. Also, anyone with a physical limitation that would make using an aerobic step dangerous.

They used 2 different styles of aerobic step in the Transform 20 workouts.

I don’t recommend that you buy the small circuit sized aerobic step some of the team uses in the series, buy the larger gym-sized step, instead.

Keep reading to find out why…

Who’s the Transform 20 program ideal for?

If you’re looking for short, intense (cardio-focused) workouts you can do at home then you’ll like Transform 20.

Keep reading to find out what kind of exerciser will love this program…

Are the Transform 20 workouts just cardio?

Nope. You’ll get strength training in some of the workouts, too. But the main benefit from the series is cardiovascular. You’ll supercharge your metabolism for the whole day with Transform 20.

How many calories will you burn doing the Transform 20 workouts?

It’s going to be different for everyone but I’ve kept the data and will tell you below exactly how many calories I burned doing each of the Transform 20 routines.

How hard are the Transform 20 workouts?

There’s no complicated choreography in the workouts so you don’t need to worry about Shaun T breaking out into a step aerobics workout.

The step is used as a tool to make the exercises more challenging by increasing the size of your moves. It’s a good thing. That means you’ll burn more calories.

Most exercisers will be able to do all of the moves in the series. You might not be able to do as many reps. (You’ll get there, though.)

I’ll tell you below how this program compares to Insanity Max:30 and show you what the workout calendars inside Transform 20 look like.

How much space do you need to do the Transform 20 routines?

I recommend you have a clear area 3 to 5+ feet around your step to do the workouts. The more space you have the better.

Keep reading for a tip about how to figure out if you have enough room to do the workouts…

Will you lose weight doing Transform 20?

That’s hard to say. At the end of the day, to lose weight you need to burn more calories than you’re consuming. The longer a workout is, the more calories you’re going to burn.

So, if you’re already doing at least 20 minutes of cardio several times a week on a regular basis and you replace those workouts with a Transform 20 workout then it’s unlikely you’re going to lose weight.

Keep reading to find out who’s far more likely to lose weight with the Transform 20 program...

Pro tipDo Transform 20 (and any exercise program) because it’s an amazing program that’ll make you feel strong and healthy and able to take on the world (rather than for just weight loss) and you’ll be surprised with the way it changes you (and your body).

Where can you buy Transform 20? Where can you buy an aerobic step to do the Transform 20 workouts?

There’s really only one way to get the Transform 20 workouts. But you can find an aerobic step in a few different places.

I’ll give you all the details below…

You’re gonna want to keep reading to get the detailed answers to all these questions BEFORE you try Transform 20...

This post may contain Amazon (or other) affiliate links which won’t change your price but will share some commission. You can get more information about that here.

Before we go any further…here’s a video about the program. I wish the video focused a little bit more on the actual workouts but it doesn’t. This video is all about emotion and how Transform 20 can ‘transform your life’, which is the main theme of the series.

So, this video does a great job showing you the vibe of the series, even though you don’t really see much of the exercises. I recommend you take the time to watch it.

So, what’s Transform 20?

It’s a workout series produced by Beachbody and taught by Shaun T (from the Insanity series of workouts).

All the workouts in the series use an aerobic step and are approximately 20 minutes long.

Here’s the Transform 20 tagline from Beachbody:

Transform:20 is a high-intensity, six-week workout and nutrition program that will help transform your body and mind in just 20 minutes a day.

Attention–Before you read any further you need to know that currently the ONLY way to try out Transform 20 is by signing up for a Beachbody on Demand membership.

So, the question you need to be asking yourself is this, Is Transform 20 worth the cost of a Beachbody on Demand membership??

The answer to that will be different for everyone based on their personal fitness goals, physical abilities and finances.

BUT, if you’re looking for an answer to that question from someone who’s done Transform 20 and knows a lot about Beachbody on the Demand then you’re at the right place.

I’ve had a Beachbody on Demand membership for years and I do think the Transform 20 program is a great reason to sign up for Beachbody on Demand today. (You can use the free trial period to try out Transform 20.)

Keep reading to learn a few tips/hacks for Transform 20, why I love the program and why I think it’s a great series for (almost) every home exerciser.

Transform 20 Tips/Hacks to Know (before you hit play)

There are almost zero breaks in the Transform 20 workouts. Have everything you need close by before you hit play (like your aerobic step and water).

If you hate push-ups then you might want to pass up this series. There are a LOT of different styles of push-ups used in Transform 20. (I recommend you embrace the fact that push-ups are an incredible exercise and power through them instead.)

Transform 20 is consistent with the Shaun T style of workouts we all know and love (with the exception of the T25 program). They all have the same ‘flavor’ but are still unique programs. If you loved Insanity or Insanity Max:30 then you’ll (probably) love this one, too.

Don’t wear baggy clothes when you do the workouts in Transform 20. They’ll get in your way. There are a lot of exercises in the plank position and a baggy shirt will trip you up.

Make sure you watch the entire video on day 1, workout 1 (Burn). Shaun T reveals his ‘before’ and ‘after’ images.

There are a few extra videos I don’t always watch when I do a Beachbody program. If you’re like that, too, then listen up, make sure you watch the ‘Get Started’ videos. There’s some information in there about aerobic step safety and how to modify the routines that’s helpful.

If you have the time, you might enjoy the ‘Transform Your Life with Shaun T’ videos, as well. I enjoyed the ‘Meet the Cast’ video.

Now let’s get to the detailed answers to all of your questions about Transform 20…

Do you have to have an aerobic step to do the workouts in Transform 20?

You can do the Transform 20 exercises without an aerobic step but the moves are actually designed around the step so you’ll have to modify every single exercise if you don’t have an aerobic step.

There IS a cast member who demonstrates all of the workouts without the step in each routine.

Pro Tip for beginners: If you’re just starting a regular home exercise program and consider yourself a beginner then go ahead and start Transform 20 without a step. You’ll still get a lot out of the workouts if you’re brand new to regular exercise. But this is the only group of people (besides people who’re unable to step up or down from an aerobic step because of a physical limitation) I’d recommend do the workouts without an aerobic step.

Where can I get an aerobic step to do Transform 20?

Aerobic steps come in several different shapes and sizes (as seen on the set of Transform 20).

The two most popular styles/sizes are the gym sized step and the circuit step.

Shaun T uses a circuit step to do the workouts in Transform 20.

Attention: I could talk about exercise equipment (and specifically aerobic steps) for a long time but that’s not why you’re here so I’m going to keep it brief and refer you to another article for further reading if you want more detailed information about buying and using an aerobic step (it’s the article at the end of this section).

What you need to know is that a circuit step is smaller and lighter than a gym sized step.

You can do the workouts in Transform 20 using a step like Shaun T’s (circuit sized) but I recommend you use a gym-sized aerobic step like the one some of his cast is using in the Transform 20 workouts:

a group of people doing aTransform 20 workout using 2 different kinds of aerobic steps (circuit steps and gym sized steps)

The exercises are safer to do with a bigger, longer and heavier aerobic step.

Sure, the circuit steps are light and easy to store (because they’re smaller) but the trade-off is for a piece of equipment that can flip out from under you very easily.

The circuit steps are also a very small target for your feet when you’re doing dynamic (moving) exercises.

And because it’s about 43 inches long, you can use a gym sized aerobic step as a weight bench after you finish Transform 20. You can’t do that with a circuit step.

Pro Tip: If you’re worried that you won’t have enough space to use a gym sized step then (before you buy one) take an old towel and cut it out to a size of 43 inches by 16 inches and place it on the floor where you do your workouts. You’ll need that much space, as well as approximately 3-5+ feet AROUND your aerobic step to be able to do all the exercises.

✔ Learn more about buying and using an aerobic step in this post: Your Expert Guide to Buying and Using an Aerobic Step

These links will help you find an aerobic step for Transform 20:

Click here to buy a gym sized aerobic step

And if you still want a circuit sized step you can get one of those here:

Click here if you still want a circuit step

What about the cast and the music in Transform 20?

There are 5 women and 4 men (if you include Shaun T) in the cast of each Transform 20 workout.

It’s the same cast for all the main routines so you’ll feel like you get to know them over the 6 weeks of Transform 20.

The music in the program is good–but not great.

The first thing I noticed with the music was the robotic voiceovers of Shaun T saying things like, ‘Your transformation begins now‘, and ‘Get ready to transform your life‘ and, ‘Say it, believe it and make it happen‘.

I don’t love the voice overs. Luckily, after a few weeks I guess I started blocking it out (or got used to it) because it stopped bothering me.

As far as the music goes, you won’t realize how important it is until week 6 day 38 when Shaun T announces that the entire workout will be done in silence. I did the silent workout once but I won’t do it again.

I need the music to find a tempo to do the exercises. It’s hard for me to focus on the exercises when I can hear myself (and the rest of the team) gasping for air. But I’d encourage you to try it. Silent workouts might be your jam.

Does Transform 20 come with a diet plan?


You’ll get access to a 33-page Nutrition Plan PDF. To access it you’ll go to the ‘Program Materials’ tab under the Transform 20 program and select ‘Nutrition’.

a screen shot showing you where to click inside Beachbody on Demand to get to the Nutrition Guide for Transform 20

Here’s a peek at the first 3 pages of the Transform 20 Nutrition Guide…

the cover of the Transform 20 Beachbody Nutrition Guide
a screen shot of the Table of Contents inside the Transform 20 nutrition guide
a screen shot of page 3 of the Transform 20 nutrition guide outlining how the plan works

Full Disclosure: I can’t tell you if this is the same nutrition plan Beachbody uses with some of their other Beachbody programs (or if this nutrition plan is easy/good/difficult, etc.) because I never follow the nutrition guide when I start a Beachbody program.

If you have any insight into the Beachbody nutrition plans (specifically the one provided with Transform 20) please share your thoughts in the comment section below this post. THANK YOU!

But if you’re wondering if there’s a nutrition plan that comes with the Transform 20 program, the answer is yes.

How many weeks is the Transform 20 program?

The main program is 6 weeks long and divided into 3 phases that are each 2 weeks long.

Phase one (weeks 1 and 2) is called Commit.

Phase two (weeks 3 and 4) is called Climb.

Phase three (weeks 5 and 6) is called Conquer.

There are 6 workouts a week with 1 rest day (a total of 36 routines). Every workout is approximately 20 minutes long.

The day one workout of every week is called Burn, day two is called Faster, day 3 is Stronger, day 4 is Powerful, day 5 is Cut and day 6 every week is a workout called Balanced.

The workouts that share the same title (all 6 Burn workouts, for example) share a lot of the same exercises but still manage to feel different. (With the exception of the Balanced workouts which are repeated inside each phase.)

The only exercises you repeat with every week are the ‘Transformers’. I’ll tell you more about those below…

You can find the workout calendars that come with the program under the ‘Program Materials’ tab and then select ‘Calendar and Tracking’.

There are 3 different workout calendars.

a screen shot showing where to click inside Beachbody on Demand to find the workout calendars

I followed the wall calendar/tracker to do all of the workouts in the order suggested (the first time I did this program).

Here’s what the wall calendar in Transform 20 looks like:

a screen shot of the wall calendar/tracker from Transform 20

The hybrid calendar has an extra column to track your ‘bonus workouts’. There are 6 bonus workouts you can do with dumbbells in place of the ‘Stronger’ and ‘Cut’ workouts every week.

Here’s a look at the hybrid wall calendar:

a screen shot of the Transform 20 hybrid workout calendar

As of the writing of this article, I haven’t done any of the bonus workouts with dumbbells. I plan to try those next.

I wanted to do the Transform 20 program all the way through the way most people will do it so I could give you a good idea of the framework and what to expect from the main workouts before I tried any of the bonus material.*

*I HAVE done the bonus ab workouts. I like them. They’re the perfect addition to a 3-5 mile run or another cardio or dumbbell routine. The bonus ab workouts DO use the aerobic step. They’re not cardio workouts but the exercises are done back to back with no rest in between. Most of the ab exercises used in the bonus ab workouts are core moves done in the main Transform 20 routines.

The 6-week Transformation Tracker is a 53-page PDF you can download and use to track basically everything while you’re doing the Transform 20 program.

It’s actually pretty impressive.

Here’s a look at the first few pages of the guide. (Remember you’ll find it under the ‘Program Materials’ section and the ‘Calendar and Tracking’ tab.):

cover page for the Transform 20 6 week transformation tracker with an image of Shaun T looking at the camera
a screen shot of one of the pages inside the transformation tracker for the Transform 20 program
the measurement tracker inside the transform 20 6 week guide
a screen shot of the week one day one tracking page inside the transform 20 6 week guide

Who’s the Transform 20 program for? And is 20 minutes really enough?

Honestly, I think any level of exerciser can do the Transform 20 workouts.

If you’re a beginner then start the program without an aerobic step and make the moves smaller, go slower and take breaks frequently.

If you’re an intermediate or advanced exerciser then go ahead and try all of the workouts as they’re designed.

And if you’re a beast then challenge yourself to keep up with the team!

In general, the Transform 20 workouts are hiit style (high-intensity interval training) using short intervals of intense activity followed by a short period of (active) recovery.

Don’t underestimate the power of short workouts.

Learn even more about the benefits of short workouts right here:

HiiT Workouts for Women: The Awesome Truth About Short Workouts and Where to Find Them

When I have the time, I love using short workouts like the routines inside of Transform 20 to pair with other workouts (a method I call program stacking).

I’ve paired Transform 20 with lots of other programs and workouts but one of my favorite ways to ‘stack’ Transform 20 workouts is with a P90X3 workout (if you have Beachbody on Demand) or with one of Cathe Friedrich’s ‘express’ dumbbell workouts inside of Cathe on Demand.

Read more about Cathe on Demand here.

Are the Transform 20 workouts just cardio?

Every workout in Transform 20 will raise your heart rate and increase your metabolism for the day. Some of the routines are more intense than others, though.

The last workout of every week is called ‘Balanced’ and is the least cardio challenging. The day 2 workouts of every week are called ‘Faster’ and are the most cardio intense of the week.

You’ll definitely see some strength gains (muscle definition) after doing Transform 20.

There are exercises that incorporate each of the major muscle groups inside the workouts.

How many calories will you burn doing Transform 20?

I’ve done all the Transform 20 routines at least twice and kept track of my calorie burn*. (I use a heart rate monitor with a chest strap to do this.)

Here’s a summary of my results (these are the average amounts of calories I burned doing all 6 of the workouts of the same title):

Burn workouts-206 calories

Faster workouts-227 calories

Stronger workouts-195 calories

Powerful workouts-220 calories

Cut workouts-203 calories

Balanced workouts-157 calories

*The average amount of calories YOU burn will be different than me. But you can use my numbers as a reference point.

What’s a transformer?

There are 3 ‘transformers’ inside of each of the routines in Transform 20 (with the exception of day 40 where there are 9 transformers).

A transformer is a 1-minute intensity interval where you’ll give maximum effort for 60 seconds to one exercise that you repeat.

You’ll count how many reps you squeeze out in the minute and then put it on your calendar. This is how you’ll track your progress over the 6 weeks (by comparing how many reps you can do week over week of the same transformers).

Here’s a clip of the workout calendar so you can see how you track your transformers:

a screen shot of a part of the transform 20 workout calendar that shows how you track your transformers

How hard are the Transform 20 workouts? Are they step aerobics? How does Transform 20 compare to the other Insanity programs like Insanity Max:30?

The Transform 20 workouts are as hard (or easy) as you want them to be. When you only have 20 minutes to get it done, it’s more important than ever that you focus on form and maximum effort to get the most out of your workout.

The exercises inside of Transform 20 are what I’d call agility style moves. You’ll need some balance and coordination but there’s no choreography to learn (like you’d see in traditional step aerobics). In fact, Transform 20 is nothing like classic step aerobics.

I think Insanity Max:30 is slightly more intense than Transform 20 but that might just be because the routines are longer.

✔You can learn more about each of the Insanity Max:30 workouts right here. (Insanity Max:30 is one of my favorite programs of all time.)

What’s the day 40 Cut/Shaun-A-Thon workout?

You’ll notice the day 40 workout looks a little different on the workout calendar:

a screen shot of day 40 on the Transform 20 workout calendar

This workout doesn’t follow the same pattern as the other routines in Transform 20.

This routine is 65 minutes long and you’ll do it on the day before your very last workout of the Transform 20 program.

The first 20 minutes of Shaun-a-Thon is from the Commit phase of the workout calendar, the next 20 minutes is from the Climb phase and the last 20 comes from the Conquer phase.

You’ll do 9 transformers in the workout.

This is a beast of a workout. You’ll feel amazing if you survive it. I burn over 600 calories when I do this routine.

How much space do you need to do the Transform 20 workouts?

If you’re using an aerobic step to do Transform 20 you’ll need a 3 to 5+ foot perimeter (even more if you’re over 6 feet tall) around your step to do all the exercises safely.

You won’t need quite that much space if you’re not using an aerobic step.

Will you lose weight doing Transform 20?


Obviously I can’t tell you if you’ll lose weight with Transform 20 or not.

If Transform 20 is the beginning of any kind of regular exercise for you then there’s a good chance you’ll lose some weight.

I workout regularly and didn’t lose any weight doing the Transform 20 program.

But I love the short, intense workouts in Transform 20.

Short workouts are beneficial! Learn more in this article:

Quick Workouts for Women are Not All Created Equal (Find out Why–and Where to Find the Best Ones)

Where can you get Transform 20?

You’ll need to get a membership to Beachbody on Demand to get your hands on the Transform 20 program.

In my opinion, it’s worth it.

You can test out the Transform 20 workouts during your free trial period!

Learn more about Beachbody on Demand.  

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