The Core Synergistics workout in the P90X® program is a ton of fun, but it is far from easy! Be prepared to be humbled as you try to do some of these movements!
The basic idea behind the P90X Core Synergistics workout is that the more you engage your core muscles, the stronger you will be for all athletic movements, for all real-world movements, and for injury prevention as well. That is all very true, and since the core muscles include the inner and outer abdominal muscles, the side abdominal muscles, and the muscles of the lower back and the spine, strengthening those areas is simply an all-around great idea.
Also, this is one of the P90X workouts that happens during each of the three recovery weeks (Week 4, Week, 8, and Week 13), and it's a great workout to keep up your intensity level, while at the same time allowing your joints, muscles and connective tissues to get a much-needed break after the previous week's very challenging workouts.
One very cool thing about the Core Synergistics workout is that you only do each exercise once, rather than repeating movements as some of the other P90X workouts had you doing.
Stacked Foot/Staggered Hands Push-up
The belief that this workout isn't going to be challenging goes right out the window with the first exercise! This is basically a push-up with one hand far out in front, and one hand close to your chest. You do 5 repetitions, alternate the position of your hands, do 5 reps, alternate, and so on. You do this until muscle failure, which doesn't take long! You can do this movement in the knee-supported position to make it easier.
It sounds silly, and it even looks silly, but it is oh-so effective. You start on your back with your legs extended and off the floor, and your arms extended overhead with your chest off the floor. Maintaining that position, and without letting your arms or your legs drop, you go through a series of rolls onto both sides, as well as your stomach. Less than halfway through the set you'll be struggling to hold the proper form.
Leaning Crescent Lunges
This is a 45-degree lunge while holding onto low-weight dumbbells, and as you lunge from one side to the other, you also bring the dumbbells up and do an overhead press. If you normally do overhead presses with 35 lbs or so, even 10 lbs will be plenty to start with - it's that hard. Make it easier if necessary by simply dropping the weights.
Again holding onto lightweight dumbbells, you get down into a low crouch, and start swinging your arms as they would swing if you were running or jogging. With the weights in your hands, it does not take long to get really tired, and you can easily modify the intensity as you go along by simply speeding up or slowing down the movement.
This is an amazingly difficult exercise that doesn't look very hard until you try to do it. In short, you get into the push-up position, only instead of your arms being fully extended, you are resting on your forearms. Then, without letting your body sag or bow in any way, you keep a straight line and push yourself off of your forearms until your arms are straight, and then reverse on the way back down. Again, use the knee-supported position to make it easier.
Bow to Boat
The Bow exercise is one of the movements in the X Stretch DVD, and Boat is one of the Yoga X moves. In "Bow to Boat" you start out in Bow, with your stomach on the floor, and then you switch back and forth going into Boat, back to Bow, etc. You can do the switches slowly, or you can speed it up in order to get more out of it.
Low Lateral Skaters
This is really fun movement where you start out in a very wide, side-lunge position, and you shuttle back and forth while staying very low, and lifting one leg up into a lateral leg raise on each side. Keeping your upper body higher or lower, or keeping your feet closer together or farther apart will all effect the intensity of this movement.
Lunge & Reach
Again starting in a wide lunge, you hold one dumbbell in both hands (palms facing together holding the weights) and you lunge down to one side, touching the dumbbell to the floor, then return to an upright position pushing the dumbbell to full extension overhead in exactly the opposite direction. In other words, you lunge to the right, then extend to the left. Do all reps on one side, then switch to the other side. Modifying the weight that you hold is how you can change the intensity.
Prison Cell Push-up
Starting out in a push-up position, you go down and up for one push-up, bring your right knee in towards your chest while keeping a straight line in your body, and then do another push-up. Repeat with the left knee, do another push-up, and then jump back to the standing position. This is a VERY tough exercise, so take your time and work at a slower pace until you get good at it.
Side Hip Raise
This movement is done all on one side, then on the other, and involves lying on one side of your body with your weight supported on the forearm of the lower arm, and the side of your bottom foot while your legs are fully extended. The repetitions are to use only your core muscles in order to raise your hips as far as possible towards the sky, and then return to the starting position. Repeat as many times as you can, and then switch to the other side. The height of your body and your hips off of the ground are the defining factors for intensity in this movement.
This is the exercise that is shown on the cover of the Core Synergistics DVD. You hold onto light dumbbells or exercise bands with your feet wide apart, and then you squat down as low as you can go. When you come back up you raise both of the dumbbells or bands into a fully extended "X" position, and then lower them under control for the next repetition. Done properly, this is a great movement, and you can modify the weights as needed to change the intensity.
Plank to Chaturanga
This is one of those exercises that is hard for everyone, and impossible for some! You start out in the plank position, and without raising your body from being parallel to the ground, you alternate back and forth bringing one knee, then the other, up towards your head. After 10 seconds, you drop down into the Yoga Chaturanga position, and try to keep doing that, going back to plank after 10 seconds. The movement lasts for 60 seconds total, and most people will be wiped out long before then.
A surprisingly effective movement, the walking push-up starts out in the classic push-up position (no resting on the knees), and you "walk" one hand and one toe forward at a time without allowing your body to break from being in the straight line push-up position. Alternate hands for 4 "steps" forward and 4 steps back, and repeat for 60 seconds. The only way to make this exercise easier is to rest more between "steps".
The Banana movement was described above, and in the Superman Banana move, you quickly alternate back and forth between Banana, and the Superman pose, which is laying on your stomach with your legs and arms fully extended, and up off of the ground. It is very difficult to hold either of those positions once you start to get tired, and you can modify the height of your arms or legs in order to make it easier or harder.
Lunge Tricep Curl Press
This is a fun movement, although hard to get the hang of at first. You hold onto lightweight dumbbells, go forward into a lunge, bend over at a 45-degree angle, and pull your arms up so the upper arms are parallel to the floor. Extend both arms out for a Tricep extension, stand up straight, and then curls the dumbbells into a Bicep curl, and then press them overhead in a Shoulder press. Drop the weights to your side, bring your trailing leg up, and then repeat on the other leg. Go back and forth for 60 seconds, dropping your weights along the way if you get too tired to continue.
This is a simple to do exercise, but it is very difficult! Just like it sounds, all you are doing is hopping back and forth over a rolled up towel. To make it really hard, stay up on your toes the entire 60 seconds, or you can use various side-step movements when you start to get fatigued, which will happen very quickly.
Reach High & Under Push-ups
You start out by doing a standard push-up, but then you roll to one side going up into the classic Yoga one-arm balance pose. Reach as far as you can skyward, then rotate inward as far as you can before dropping down into another push-up, and then repeating on the other side. On one hand, this exercise gives you confidence because if you did the Yoga X DVD, by the time you got to the one-arm balance, you were probably too tired to do it right. Here, you are still strong enough to do the one-arm balance, but overall, this is a pretty challenging movement. Drop to your knees for the push-up part of the exercise in order to make it a little easier.
With your hands behind your head, you keep your eyes facing forward and you alternate back and forth bringing your knees up as high as you can, trying to touch each opposite knee to the opposing elbow. This is a great cardiovascular exercise no matter how you do it, but when done properly, it is also great for strengthening the hip flexors, and also working the core. Make it a bit easier by slowing down the movement and/or not raising your knees as high.
Dreya is one of the people in the P90X videos, and she is in absolutely incredible physical condition. She showed Tony Horton how to do the "Dreya Roll", and it is, in essence, a backwards roll on your mat until your legs almost go over your head, and then you explode into a forward roll, jumping to your feet. Most people will need to put their hands on the floor until they build up the strength and neuromuscular coordination for this movement. You can make it harder by jumping up in the air and/or turning around in the air when you pop back up on the forward roll part of the exercise.
Plank to Chaturanga Iso
In short, this is holding yourself in the plank position for 10 seconds, dropping into the Chaturanga position for 10 seconds, back to plank, back to Chaturanga, etc. It sounds easy, but it's not! by the 2nd or 3rd Chaturanga, you'll be ready to face-plant on the floor. Drop to your knees at any point to make this exercise a bit easier.
People who have done the P90X Plyometrics workout will recognize this as one of those moves. You do 2 large, forward, single-leg hops to each side, for a total of 4 hops, then you do a very fast, high-knee backwards run for 6 steps. Repeat back and forth for 60 seconds.
Table Dip Raise
Any of you who bought P90X after seeing the infomercial will recognize seeing Dreya do this exercise. You go up into the table pose, then raise one leg high in the air, drop your butt as low as you can without touching the ground, and then repeat for 5 reps before switching to the other side and doing the same thing. This is the last exercise in this workout, so give it all you've got, and finish strong!
Overall, this is one of the most fun and entertaining of the P90X workouts, yet at the same time, you are totally working hard throughout - it's no vacation!
Don't be afraid to watch the DVD before you do this workout. Some of the moves are a little complicated, so if you want to ensure that you get the most out of the workout itself, take a look at the video before you are actually ready to stand there and go through the workout.