So, What is P90X?
P90X is an “extreme home fitness” workout program that is designed to get you in the best shape of your life. It requires a fairly high level of intensity and consists of 12 DVDs which each contain a different workout. Each workout lasts approximately 60 minutes (including the warm-up and cool-down exercises) except for the supplementary Ab Ripper X which lasts for 16 minutes (which is plenty long enough) and Yoga X which lasts for 92 minutes (maybe a bit too long).
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The other workouts include Chest and Back, Plyometrics, Shoulders and Arms, Legs and Back, Kenpo X, Core Synergistics, Chest Shoulders and Triceps, Back and Biceps, Cardio X, and X Stretch.
The mastermind behind P90X is a guy named Tony Horton. You’ve probably seen his crazy mug plastered all over the infomercials on TV. He turned 50 not too long ago. If you don’t know much about Tony now, that’s OK. That will definitely change if you decide to do the program. In fact, for better or worse, at the end of 90 days Tony Horton will resemble that friend or family member that you just can’t seem to make go away . . .
The main concept behind P90X is the theory of “muscle confusion.” However, this term is used mostly for marketing purposes. Muscles don’t really get confused! Muscles do like variety though, and respond well to it. In fact, what Tony Horton calls “muscle confusion” exercise scientists have called “periodization” for many decades.
The premise behind “muscle confusion” is that the more variety you put into your workouts, the better your results will be. Like the P90X fitness guide explains, “By presenting so many complex and challenging movements, P90X forces you to continually adapt, ensuring new muscle growth and strength gains.”
P90X consists of 3 training blocks that are each 4 weeks long. Within each training block there are also 3 phases: 1. The Adaptive phase, when the body learns how to do the new set of exercises; followed by 2. the Mastery phase, when the body responds to these exercises and experiences changes; and finally 3. the Recovery phase, when muscular healing occurs and your body grows strong, ready to be “confused” again.
Within the P90X program there are also 3 different plans you can follow, including Classic, Lean, and Doubles. Classic is what I would call the “normal” or unmodified version of P90X. The Lean version contains slightly more cardio and less strength training than the Classic plan. And Doubles is the same thing as Classic with the addition of a cardio workout 3-4 times a week.
I would encourage everyone (and women especially) to follow the Classic plan. Personally, I don’t think the Lean plan contains enough strength training to change (transform) your body shape. A lot of women seem to flock to the Lean plan because it sounds well, lean. But I think your time is better spent with the Classic plan. If your ultimate goal is to lose fat, go for Doubles. You can read more about the different plans here: What’s the Difference Between P90X Classic, Doubles, and Lean?
What P90X is Not
P90X is not a “weight loss” program per se. I look at P90X more like a “fat loss” program. The reason is, depending on your current body composition you might maintain your current weight or even gain weight while doing P90X. This seems to really freak people out, especially women. But muscle weighs more than fat! Lucky for us though, muscle takes up a lot less space than fat does and is more much attractive. It’s safe to assume that most women have some fat on their body they’d like to get rid of. If that’s the case, P90X will definitely help you achieve that goal. The best way to change your body shape is to replace fat with muscle. And guess what, just doing cardio ain’t gonna cut it ladies!
So, can P90X really give you the body of your dreams in just 90 days? That depends. If you look at the before and after photos of the test group participants Beachbody has published on their website and in the fitness guide, you can see that the men and women were already in pretty good shape to start with. I don’t know about you, but that’s not at all what I looked like on Day 1! In fact, Maren S. who appears in Chest and Back, could already do 5 pull-ups and 30 push-ups BEFORE P90X. Yeesh! So it’s no suprise that 90 days into the program her and the others resemble ripped gods and godesses.
P90X is an amazing program, but I would advise anyone starting out to have realistic expectations. Especially if you have a high percentage of body fat. Yes, P90X will definitely get you closer to your ultimate fitness goal(s) but don’t expect to get totally ripped in just 90 days. However, if less than 15 pounds of fat stands between you and greatness, chances are you’re going to be pleasantly surprised by your results just like I was. I still don’t have the body of my dreams, but I’m getting closer to exactly where I want to be.
Yes, if you stick with the program and eat smart, P90X will transform your body. For many people though, it will most likely take more than 90 days.
My P90X Experience
I’m 33 years old, 5’1″ and two months prior to starting my first round of P90X I weighed a chunky 133 pounds. I’m the kind of person that most people would look at and say, “She doesn’t need to lose weight.” But au contraire!! I just didn’t like how my clothes fit and usually avoided looking at myself in the mirror. Ugh! Who knows, maybe it’s genetic, but during my youth I also developed the notorious “soccer thighs” which always made shopping for pants a huge chore. We ladies blessed with soccer thighs know how it goes . . . either too big for the waist or too small for the thighs. *SIGH* I’ve always been embarassed that I couldn’t touch my toes. And I’ve always wanted to do a pull-up. In fact, that’s the main reason why I finally decided to do P90X. I just wanted to do one pull-up!
I decided to improve my diet and got down to 123 pounds before starting P90X. I followed the Classic plan for the first 60 days and then did Doubles for the last 30 days (Phase 3). I thought I’d be doing pretty good if I got down to 115 after the program. Lo and behold, apparently I really like the number 3 because today I weigh 113 pounds. I still have some body fat to lose, but I think right now I’m pretty close to my ideal body weight, but that will probably change once I get closer to my ideal body composition. Hopefully I know this a little better once I get closer to the 180 day mark.
Like most people I was a bit skeptical of the whole thing just starting out. In fact, I didn’t even want to take BEFORE photos. I didn’t expect big changes. You always see the tagline “Individual results may vary” and interpret it as “This could never happen to you.” However, my husband talked me into taking the BEFORE photos and I’m glad he did. They look a little fuzzy, but I’ll never forget how I felt the day I loaded my AFTER photos onto the computer and set them beside the BEFORE photos. Whoa. I couldn’t believe I actually looked that way 90 days ago. That day, 90 days later, I both looked and felt like a totally different person. It’s a feeling I think every person needs to experience. And if I didn’t have those old photos to look at, I never would have believed it myself.
Of course, after seeing the comparison, I knew I had to do a second round of P90X. On Day 90, I finally had a physique that resembled those from the test group on Day 1! Woot!
My P90X Milestones
I experienced a few different milestones during my first round of P90X that will never be forgotten:
Day 30: Just making it through to the first phase seemed like a major accomplishment. I thought to myself, “Yes, I can do this!”
Day 44: I fit into my skinny jeans.
Day 60: The first time I was able to grab my fingers during the Extended Right Angle Pose and Grab in Yoga X. Whew! That one is still tough!
Day 83: My first unassisted pull-up! I finally accomplished the original goal I set when starting P90X! The skinny jeans also started feeling a little too big in the waist.
Day 88: Instead of doing Kenpo X I decided to go for a run and see how far I could go without stopping. This was the first time I went running since starting P90X. Prior to that, I could only go about 0.5 mile (the end of our road) before walking to rest. That day I made it 4 miles! I took a short break and made it around the rest of the block (for a total of 5 miles) with plenty of lung capacity to spare. I thought to myself, “Geez, if that’s what happens after just 90 days, I wonder what I could do a year from now?”
If you have a lot of time on your hands you can read through my entire 90 day journey here: P90X Round 1
Likes and Dislikes
First, we’ll start out with the positives:
1. The variety of workouts and exercises is definitely a plus with this program. I’ve never been fond of workout DVDs before because after a week or two, you really get bored doing the same thing over and over and over . . . There’s so many different workouts and exercises that you often forget what’s coming next. I just started my second round of P90X and even now, I still have a hard time remembering the sequence of exercises.
2. Really, it’s pretty brainless. All you have to do is show up everyday and press play. Most people need structure and a plan to make progress. So as long as you stick with the plan and don’t decide to “do your own thing” by making up your own program and substituting workouts (for example, swaping out yoga for a cardio workout) you WILL see results.
3. For most people, 90 days won’t be enough. This might seem like a drawback for some, but for me it’s a positive. There are plenty of moves to master in this program and chances are 90 days won’t be enough to conquer them all. To me, this exemplifies the intensity of the program. I got to the end of 90 days and I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to keep going!
4. Tony Horton is the epitome of fitness and he seems like a nice enough guy. I attempted 3 other Beachbody programs before deciding on P90X and couldn’t make it through the first workout because the instructors just seemed too fake and annoying. Sure, Tony definitely has his moments and some people say that some of his comments are conceited, but all in all you can tell that he has a sincere interest in helping people. His cornball sense of humor will have you scratching your head at times, but I can’t imagine P90X without it. However, on those days when listening to Tony just seems a bit too much, there’s always the “mute Tony” option.
And now, here’s some things I thought needed some improvement:
1. The cardio workouts aren’t all that intense, although Plyometrics will definitely give most newbies a run for their money. It certainly kicked my butt into gear! At its very best, Kenpo X will make you sweat, but when Tony recommends everyone check their heartrate monitors you’ll say, “HUH?” My first P90X experience was with Cardio X a few years ago right after my husband purchased the program. At that time I found it difficult to make it through the entire workout. Apparently I was in pathetic shape back then, because now I use Cardio X as a recovery workout.
If you’re coming into the program with a high level of cardio fitness you’ll probably be disappointed with the cardio in P90X. But then again, cardio isn’t the main focus of P90X anyway, so it’s probably not a big deal. That being said, my little 5 mile run was something I could never do before. So apparently, the lack of super-intense cardio didn’t hurt me too much.
2. Enough with the recovery drink already! I know Beachbody want’s to get their plug in, but GEEZ! I think it’s a little much. The recovery drink doesn’t taste as good as Tony and Dreya make it sound, but it DOES help your muscles recover from a brutal workout. Sometimes I’m OK with a glass of low fat chocolate milk after working out, but on those days when I can tell I’ve worked extra hard the recovery drink does make a difference (especially during the next 2 days!).
3. Certain P90X personalities will begin to wear on your nerves after a while. I’m still not sure how Katie managed to make her way onto the P90X set. Did this girl even pass the fitness test? Every time I do that workout I almost expect her to clunk Tony over the head with a set of dumbbells just so she can be the center of attention and run the show. Hasn’t happened yet though. Maybe next time. You’ll also get tired of hearing how Dreya is GORGEOUS and can “fly through the air with the greatest of ease . . .” Didn’t you know–she’s a world famous gymnast and aerialist? You’ll also hear how Jason and Vanessa are engaged . . . to be married. Yes, all very interesting.
However, to help keep things balanced, there also are some endearing P90X personalities that quietly and confidently make their presence known. My favorites include Maren, Pam the Blam, and both Erics. I like Dominic too, but he’s just a little too springy for my taste.
4. You do need to invest in some equipment in order to do the P90X workouts. Granted, in the long run it’s probably a lot cheaper than a gym membership. At the very least you’ll need a few dumbbells or resistance bands and a pull-up bar. I’d also recommend getting a yoga mat and yoga block. You can probably get away without a pull-up bar if you have something to drape your resistance bands around to do modified pull-ups (they show you how to do this in the videos). But if you really want to get strong enough to do a real pull-up I’d get a real pull-up bar.
5. Ab Ripper X got really monotonous after a while. Yes, this is a tough ab workout but by the time I got to Phase 3, it seemed like my body had somehow adpated to the routine even though I still hadn’t quite mastered all the exercises. You’re required to do this workout 3 times a week on the same day as your strength training workouts. During the last couple weeks of the program I did Tony’s Power 90 Ab Ripper 200 instead just for something different and that seemed to help. For my second round of P90X I’m alternating between Ab Ripper X and Insanity’s Cardio Abs.
6. Tony Horton does a horrible impression of Forrest Gump every time a stretch comes up that involves the glutes or “but-TOCKS.” And that’s all I have to say about that . . .
What to Expect if You Do P90X and Other Words of Wisdom
1. Expect your peak to hit around Week 12. The first couple of weeks will be really exciting as you feel and see your body changing. You won’t notice huge changes, but enough to get you pysched up. For example, at first I noticed a big improvement in my flexibility and I found myself sitting up straighter. I had never been made conscience of my posture before. I just felt stronger. However, during days 30-60 or so, you’ll enter the P90X “doldrums” where it feels like nothing is happening. The excitement is over, and you wonder if all this hard work is worth it. By the time I got to Phase 3 I was really bored with my progress and I decided to start Doubles. By Week 11 those excited feelings and changes started to come back and by the time Day 90 came around I didn’t want it to end!
2. Don’t skip Yoga X or replace it with a different workout. Really, it’s there for a reason. For more information check out this post: P90X Yoga–Stop Whining and Just Do It.
3. Good nutrition is important. In fact, your diet accounts for 80% of your body composition. You can do P90X until the cows come home but it won’t matter if you continue to eat like crap. That being said, I didn’t take any vitamins or supplements or was faithful about drinking a particular recovery drink or protein shake. Did that affect my results? I have no idea. I also didn’t follow the P90X nutrition plan. Did that affect my results too? I have no idea. But I did stick mostly with the foods listed in the nutrition guide and I didn’t throw all caution to the wind. I know some people who say, “Well, I’m working out so I can eat whatever I want.” That, my friend, is the attitude that will get you into trouble!!
4. Just have faith in the program. A lot of people like to get freaked out and analyze every nit-picky thing. Really, all you have to do is follow the schedule and press play. It’s a beautiful thing.
5. Ladies, don’t be afraid to lift heavy weights. Don’t worry, you’re not going to look like a beast. Huge muscles require testosterone and luckily in our bodies that hormone is in short supply. Shoot for 8-12 reps with good form. Seriously. Let’s all ditch the Barbie weights. If you don’t believe me, read this book: The New Rules of Lifting for Women.
6. Ignore the scale! I know this is a difficult one but after while you’ll discover that number really doesn’t mean much. The best indicator of your progress is how you feel, how you look in the mirror, and how your clothes fit. Oh yeah, another good indicator is simply keeping track of your reps and weights! I would dare anyone starting P90X not to look at the scale at all during the entire 90 days. Too many people get frustrated because the scale doesn’t move when in fact their body is making enormous changes.
7. Try not to miss a workout. I know life happens, but one missed workout often leads to two, then three, then four . . . and then your collection of DVDs begins to collect dust on the shelf. Let the momentum work in your favor.
I like what Todd Miller, an associate professor of exercise science at George Washington University, had to say about P90X:
It’s very high-intensity exercises that you’re doing for an hour a day. That’s a lot of freaking exercise. If you do any high-enough-intensity workout and couple it with a healthy diet, you’re probably going to get pretty much the same results. Maybe the videos are well produced, or fun. But the reason the program works is ultimately because people do it.
Yep, that pretty much sums it up!