Fitness Friday - P90X review

Friday, December 18, 2009

So whenever I post on facebook or on my blog about P90X Workout Program it usually ends up with comments PMs or emails asking for my opinion on the system, what I think about it, is it any good, how they were thinking of buying it etc etc and I figured as I have now completed the program (ok almost I am supposed have a rest week next week, but I'm not to big on the rest weeks, lol) I am going to do a LONG indepth review of the P90X program. Remember I am a certified personal trainer so some of my opinions may be a little different to the "average Joe".

Ok for those not in the know P90X is a home fitness workout system. You can see the details below in the Amazon ad for the product, this system IS pricey, I won't beat around the bush, the DVD package is $140 but it is worth it IF you are the kind of person that likes to work out at home, which I am. Plus although it's a 90 day program there are 3 versions lean, classic & doubles which triples the 90 day program if you progress through all 3 versions. Plus once you've finished you can start over...

For the $140 you get a collection of 12 highly diverse and intense DVD workouts (explained in detail below), a comprehensive three-phase nutrition plan, fitness guide with three level exercise planner and workouts, and also a DVD on the information behind the program and how to motivate yourself to complete the program or how to "Bring It" to use the P90X trainer Tony Hortons words.

However this isn't all you'll need! To complete the program properly you'll need a few other things. Essentials are:
Optional for the program
  • Heart Rate Monitor - ensures calorie burn for weight loss on the nutrition program
  • Weight scales, Tape Measure and a Body Fat caliper - to see progress at the end of the 90 days. In the fitness guide they also advocate taking before and after photo's :) If you google search you can see lots of before and after comparisons.
Before you start any at home DVD program and especially P90X I really really advise to read ALL the information booklets AND if possible watch the DVDs through first before actually doing them.

Fitness Guide
The fitness guide contains information on the "muscle confusion" system behind P90X Now I've put that in quotes because it's nothing new. As usual in the fitness industry they slap a fancy new name on it and repackage the information. The science is sound though but the new name makes me giggle. In the fitness guide is the information you need for the fitness test to do prior to starting P90X. I will state here in bold: P90X IS NOT for beginners! If you are new to exercise then try something easier. The X in P90X stands for EXTREME. If you still feel as a beginner you want to try it, fine, just be aware that you won't be able to do everything or complete every exercise till your fitness levels increase.

In the fitness guide is the 3 program approaches to P90X: lean, classic and doubles. I really wish they'd called the lean version something else though as it gets a little confusing for a beginner trying to decide which version to choose. Really it pans out that
  • Lean = easy
  • classic = regular
  • doubles = hardcore
Lean basically has more cardio based workouts as opposed to resistance based workouts. Not sure why they called it lean, cos it won't get you physically leaner than the other versions. IMO it's the beginner option. Like I said, this program isn't for beginners, but if you are a beginner or not that fit, then start with this program. 6 days a week program with more cardio that resistance and more 'easy' workouts than other versions.

Classic is the version I did. This is the regular version that the others were based on. I had no problem jumping into this version although I was previously running 5-6 miles 3 times a week and doing some resistance training. If you already workout for 4-5 days a week including both cardio AND resistance work then this is the version for you!

Doubles is basically the classic version PLUS some more cardio. So three times a week you'll need an extra 45 minutes each day to do a double workout of added cardio. Great if you have 2 hours to spare on exercise. Again NOT for beginners!

The premise behind each program is a 90 day/13 week workout program. For weeks 1-3 you do a set routine, then have a 'rest' week where the workouts are lighter and varied, repeat with different DVDs for week 5-8 with another rest week, then weeks 9-11 with the final rest week at the end.

Nutrition Guide
I read through it once, and then discarded it. It didn't offer much help in the vegetarian options, and honestly I eat a good balanced diet that I had no interest in changing. For me P90X was purely a fitness challenge. If you are doing it to lose weight then I do advise reading through it and modifying the program to your lifestyle. I'm not a huge fan of diet plans that tell you exactly what to eat to me they just aren't realistic in a "one size never fits all" kind of way.

The guides are really heavy into their supplements. The only supplements I took was a protein powder smoothie after heavy workouts (5 times a week). I didn't buy the P90X powder though, I just bought a big container from Trader Joes instead. Being vegetarian and not wanting much dairy due to allergies I opted for soy. I can highly recommend the Vanilla Soy Protein Powder, mixed with cup of water, 1/2 banana and a few strawberries... Yum!

The DVDs are fun, Tony is a little annoying at times and the problem with DVDs is you hear the same jokes and comments again, and again, and again. Gets a little old after a while. The music on the DVDs is honestly so unmotivating to me, but as I mentioned I'm coming from a fitness background where I like pumping music, not everyone likes that, personal choice. Each DVD has the trainer Tony Horton and a mix of his crew who have all completed the P90X pilot group. Nice mix of body types and sexes in this group. There are some repeated moves so not everything will be new in each DVD and the warm up is pretty much the same for all the DVDs except stretch, abs, kenpo and yoga. I guess that means you should know what to expect though right?

Workout One: Chest & Back.
"This superset chest-and-back-blasting workout emphasizes two classic upper-body exercises--push-ups and pull-ups--to build strength and develop shape. The combination of these two push and pull movements will help you burn loads of calories while simultaneously attacking, strengthening, and developing multiple muscle groups."
Ah the first DVD I did aside from Ab Ripper X. Chest and back is basically pull ups and push ups with a few resistance moves thrown in. You do a routine, then you start over and do it again. After 90 days I can still only do ONE pull up without a chair. I am still waiting for that to get easier lol. Push ups however I progressed really well. On the initial day I could only do about 5 full push ups 1 set, and by week 12 I was doing 15 at a time multiple sets.

Workout Two: Plyometrics.
"Get ready to go airborne. Offering more 30 explosive jumping moves, this intense cardio routine will keep you in the air most of the time. Plyometrics, also known as jump training, has been proven to dramatically improve athletic performance. If your sport involves a ring, rink, field, court, or track, this training will give you the edge. Just be prepared to "bring it" for a full hour when you leap into this workout, because there is no letting up."
Urgh Plyo, love it but I hate it. I want to do it, but I have knee issues. Plyo is great if you do sports and it will definitely improve your fitness and chosen sport however, my knee just says NO. Well actually some weeks it screamed NO! I was coming off a knee injury so I did have more high impact cautions than most so I basically waited to see how I felt on the day and went from there. Some weeks I did Plyo, others I switched out for Kenpo. Other weeks I did the lower impact versions and just didn't work as hard and the DVD gang. For a fit sporty person with no injuries though plyo is great! I eventually replaced this workout around week 10 for Interval X plus (from P90X+) which has some plyo but only 20 seconds at a time. That I found I could do for almost all the exercises.

Workout Three: Shoulders & Arms.
"Nothing rounds out the perfect physique like a pair of well-defined arms and shoulders, and with its potent combination of pressing, curling, and fly movements, this routine will leave you feeling stronger and looking sexier. Whether you want to build muscle mass or just slim and tighten what you've already got, these targeted shoulder and arm exercises will give you the results you want."
In the intro Tony calls these the "glamor muscles". It's the DVD for those that want to wear short sleeves or tank tops. In this routine you alternate between shoulders, biceps and triceps for a great workout where you should feel a real burn. No pull ups, this is all weights and floor work. It also has my new favorite tricep move, the Side tri-rise, love it!

Workout Four: Yoga X.
"Yoga is a vital part of any fitness regimen, and is an absolute must for an extreme program like P90X. This routine combines strength, balance, coordination, flexibility, and breath work to enhance your physique and calm your mind. Yoga X will leave you feeling energized, invigorated, and maybe even a little enlightened."
Word of warning: This DVD is 90 minutes long! Even if you've done yoga on occassion before this Yoga X DVD will work you out BIGTIME! The first 45 minutes is moving Asana's (Vinyasa's) stemming from the Sun Salutation and incorporating Warrior, crescent pose, triange, half moon etc. The first 45 minutes will have you sweating and your arms ready to drop, the last 10 minutes of this section will also make your legs BURN! The second half of the DVD is balance poses, or as I like to call them "the falling over poses". Hahaha I am doing better now though. This yoga DVD has REALLY improved my flexibility x10! I now do a downward dog with heels on the floor, I can do plough again (shoulder stance), and wheel (20 seconds hold now!) and I can also now do crane (hand stance) though only for about 3 seconds, lol. If you are thinking of missing this workout DON'T!

Workout Five: Legs & Back.
"Get ready to squat, lunge, and pull for a total-body workout like no other. While the main focus of this workout lies in strengthening and developing the leg muscles (quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves), there are also a handful of great pull-up exercises to give your legs a quick breather while you work the upper body."
Warning, you WILL feel this workout. I did, infact I felt it for 5 days afterwards. It did get easier though each week. Basically this workout is lunges, squats and pull ups repeated with slight variation, but enough variation to make me want to do it week after week. The throw in some calf raises to give you a burn. If you have knee issues (as I do) modify some of the moves, by using a chair for support and not lunging/squatting as deep. It took me a few weeks to do the routine without chair support. I still keep it around (need it for chair dips and some of the lunges etc) but I am mostly support free these days.

Workout Six: Kenpo X.
"Kenpo X was created to give P90X users a high-intensity cardiovascular workout packed with lots of punching and kicking combinations to improve balance, endurance, flexibility, and coordination. During this workout you'll learn some of the most effective ways to defend yourself, while at the same time getting your body in peak condition."
The first time I did Kenpo I had no clue what I was doing. In my aerobics background we use a four count beat, so when Tony did a three count move I was so out of my element I swore multiple times at the TV till I got it right. However the second time was easier and after that I was hooked. I LOVE Kenpo X. I read multiple reviews from others stating they hated this DVD and I will say it's one of my favorites. Many said that they never got a good burn from Kenpo, well then you are doing it wrong! Arms are always up 'protecting your cage' with nice isometric contraction. Abs contracted and then the moves kick ass (literally). This DVD really makes me consider taking up some kind of martial arts. Like I said though, others thought this was the weaker of the DVDs, personal opinions vary.

Workout Seven: X Stretch.
"Stretching is the one thing that will help you achieve a higher level of athleticism over a longer period of time. The X Stretch routine is an integral part of the program, as it helps prevent injuries and avoid plateaus. The extensive full-body stretches that make up this routine use disciplines from Kenpo karate, hatha yoga, and various sports to ensure that your body is fully prepared to meet all P90X challenges head-on."
In the classic version X-stretch is only advised on the 7th/rest day or as an alternative to yoga. I have to say I never did the X-stretch until about week 10 I liked the yoga, and so I did that. However having tried the X-stretch now I really like it too. Not as intense as the yoga, shorter in duration and IMO not as difficult. I like this for a rest day or as an addition for the day if my muscles are tight. Great workout for flexibility.

Workout Eight: Core Synergistics.
"Each and every exercise in the Core Synergistics workout recruits multiple muscle groups to build and support the core (lumbar spine and trunk muscles), while at the same time conditioning your body from head to toe. Loaded with a variety of fun, unique, and challenging exercises, this routine will get you moving in all directions to maximize your P90X results."
The first time I did this DVD I wanted to never do it again. I didn't feel like I'd worked out at all, but I had to remember that I did this on my 'rest' week. I wasn't meant to work out HARD. It is a good workout for the core though. BUT there isn't enough emphasis on the contraction of the core needed to work the core in the first place! Sometimes Tony needs to stop with the chatter and tell people what they REALLY need to know.

Workout Nine: Chest, Shoulders, & Triceps.
"Packed with an array of moves that target both large and small muscles, this workout will do wonders for your upper body. In just one full sequence you'll get a healthy dose of presses, flys, and extensions to push you to the brink. The results will be a stronger, leaner, and highly defined upper torso that will leave you looking awesome, with or without a shirt."
Again this is another sequenced workout, chest, then shoulders then triceps and repeat. In this routine we have push ups, weight work and body weight work. Again it's another the glamor tank top workout. Again you'll feel the burn.

Workout 10: Back & Biceps.
"With a host of curls and pull-ups, this routine will make it fun to flex those powerful biceps. But don't worry, ladies--by using lighter weight, you can focus on toning and tightening these showcase arm muscles without adding the size that most guys covet. Additionally, this workout also provides some great back definition that everyone can appreciate. Regardless of your goals, you will achieve them in dramatic fashion if you dig in and max out your reps."
Pull ups with bicep weight work. I now have guns of steel thanks to this workout! Awesome routine for back & biceps.

Workout 11: Cardio X.
"This low-impact cardio routine can be used in a variety of ways to meet your P90X goals. Use it in addition to your standard P90X workload when you want to burn some extra calories, or as a substitute if your body needs a break from the program's high-impact workouts. Whatever your reason for using Cardio X, you'll find it a fun, full-throttle, fat-burning workout that will leave you feeling lean and mean."
Of all the cardio type DVDs this is my least favorite. It contains some cardio, some plyometrics and some Kenpo moves for it's calorie burn. When I finished I didn't feel lean and mean at all. I felt like I wanted to do another workout. I think if you are a beginner then this is probably a great workout I just know *I* personally didn't get a very high calorie burn from it. Thankfully I only had to do this on my 'rest' weeks. But I will be honest and say I switched it out for Kenpo instead :) I do know others though that enjoy the cardio X but I also know some people on the lean version that switched this workout for Plyo, so whatever floats your boat!

Workout 12: Ab Ripper X.
"The combination and sequence of movements in this unique workout taps into not only abdominal strength, but true core strength as well. Master these 11 highly effective exercises and you will achieve vital abdominal muscle strength to benefit your overall health and physical performance. You'll also develop that highly coveted six-pack as you take Ab Ripper X to full throttle. It's extreme work that's better than any machine in any club. "
Ab Ripper X was the reason I got P90X to begin with. I wanted an intense ab routine I'd heard good things about ARX so I found some video footage online, watched it, tried it and knew I had to have it. Ab Ripper X is intense on the abs. Don't be surprised if you can't do the whole thing, or keep up with the gang. This is killer ab and core work. It wasn't until week 3 that I could do the whole thing all the way through no stopping and I'd been working out for 9 months prior to this!! This is 20 minutes of floorwork for the abs and you WILL feel it! Oh and you'll be doing it three times a week, so get used to it :)

I think that's a pretty good indept review huh? Remember it's not for total beginners!!! If you want a workout that could last you through 9 months of schedules, with a great burn, and great results then this is the workout for you! For me it was more of a fitness challenge, to say I did it than anything else. I'd already lost weight, and lost inches and wasn't expecting dramatic changes. I did see some weight loss though, about 5lbs more though I don't want to lose anymore! And I did see some more inches lost. Mostly though it was the physical fitness element that spurred me along. Getting to do Ab Ripper X all the way through, finally being able to do some of the yoga moves, doing Legs & Back without the chair support etc. I'm much more motivated by those kinds of goals than weight loss goals. I like a personal challenge :)

I will say that as a fitness instructor and personal trainer I had to learn to 'switch off' my instructor self and just workout. I wish there were more safety instruction and more reliable countdowns (Tony has a weird counting system where a 5 count is actually more like 9 seconds, and the pauses!..... argh!). He does give a few safety pointers but I'd personally like to have seem more, just a personal opinion again though. However I imagine hearing that week after week would get tedious so... I dunno, lol!

Is P90X for you? Only you can decide, I know I enjoyed it, as do a few of my friends who are on the program. I liked it so much I am starting P90X Plus in the new year (or a blended version with P90X).

Up and onwards from here!

Hope this review helped and if you need any further help deciding if P90X is right for you just leave a comment, or if you have other fitness related questions just ask away! Every Friday here is Fitness Friday and I need some topic suggestions :)



Romaine December 18, 2009 at 12:35 PM  

Thank you so much for all the great information on fitness. I really need to start exercising since I am getting those old age aches and pains. Romaine

Brad January 4, 2010 at 4:09 PM  

Good write up. I've been doing P90X for almost 2 years now mixed in with other Beachbody workouts. Life changing to say the least.

Are you a Beachbody Coach? I don't see anywhere on your site saying you are. Go to and click on Coach to learn more.

Feel free to contact me about it.

Jamie April 6, 2010 at 8:12 AM  

Excellent post about the P90X workout. I just finished my first round and got great results. I am doing the Insanity workout now and it's hard-core. You can checkout my Insanity blog if you are interested in checking it out.

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