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P90X Review

Posted May 06 2010 10:29am

I have been asked many times about the programs I do, and so I have put together a comprehensive review of P90X for all those curious people out there who are thinking about giving it a try.

What it is: P90X is a flexible cross-fit stylized ‘home revolution’ program that utilizes weight lifting, body resistance, cardio, core/ab exercises, yoga and flexibility. The program is scheduled in 3  phases that in total, last 90 days.

The primary principle of P90X is Muscle confusion: Doing the same thing over and over develops what is called muscle memory. Muscle memory is the ability that muscles have to adapt to rigorous and repeated motion, which then causes an eventual plateau, where the muscle is not tearing, therefore not growing. Muscle confusion changes up the movements not only throughout every hourly workout, but every 30 days so that your body can never quite reach that full adaptation of your muscles, causing you to bypass the plateau and continue to progress!

P90X also comes with a complete 90 day Nutrition Guide, designed to encourage healthy, clean eating habits at proper portions to facilitate muscle growth and the torching of fat. The guide, like the program, follows three phases of eating schedules: the first is designed to shred fat with high protein, low carb meals and snacks, the second is developed for building and maintaining stamina with a healthy increase of carbs, and the third phase balances out the two in an easily maintainable meal plan that can be followed well after the program is complete.

The Creator: World class fitness expert and celebrity trainer, Tony Horton is in my personal opinion, THE greatest fitness motivator out there.  Tony has a phenomenal attitude towards fitness, and is so enthusiastic, its hard not to get excited about your results when hes jumping around and making you laugh. Tony Horton makes exercising fun like no one else I have ever seen! Moreover, Tony knows what he is talking about, and passes his knowledge onto you in simple, easy steps; Tony gives you the tools to succeed.

Who it is for: P90X is for anyone who is looking to transform their life, health, diet and body through hard work and sweat. It is not for the lazy, or negative. Tony will demand your positive thinking, and your dedication. This program is for people who want the capability to work out at home or at the gym, on the road, or anywhere else! P90x is for man, woman, young and old, as Tony would so put it. Anyone can be successful with P90X.

How it can be done: P90X comes with 3 schedule options: P90X Classic, Lean, and Doubles. Classic, is as it sounds, the basic program, where you will be working out from 60-90 minutes per day. Doubles follows the same schedule as class, with the addition of an extra cardio cycle on every resistance day, meaning that you will be working out from 60-120 minutes per day. Lean substitutes upper body workout days with extra cardio, and for that reason, seems to appeal primarily to women. (Note: Women lifting weights will not bulk up! This will be the subject of an upcoming post, so be sure to check back!)

Strengths: P90X is flexible! Whether you are looking to drop weight and body fat, or build muscle, whether you are looking to increase your strength or stamina, Tony can show you how. You can take it anywhere! All you need to work through the program is a set of weights or resistance bands, a yoga mat and a pull up bar. Don’t have a pull up bar? No problem! You’ll be shown how to use resistance bands to do the same exercise. Not flexible enough to complete the move, not strong enough to perfect form, or worried about a past injury flaring up? Listen, and Tony will show you how to modify to your personal needs. Whatever your goals are, P90X can get you there.

Weaknesses: If it can be considered a weakness, this is not a program that is recommended for beginners; it may require being eased into. Most people who start on with P90X without any earlier fitness experience often find themselves getting half way through the videos initially. (I did not have this problem, personally, but it does deserve to be addressed). I think the only real weakness with this program is that it relies on personal motivation. You do not have a personal trainer accountable for your results, YOU are responsible for getting up, and pushing play. However, I find the P90X mentality overcomes this weakness for most!

To further review the benefits of this program, I am going to review all 12 workouts in detail.

Chest & Back

The Workout: When you start p90x, you jump right in. There is no easing into this program!Chest and Back utilizes body resistance by alternating sets of push ups and pull ups, with one or two moves that involve weight resistance. This workout runs in 2 rounds: The first is meant to test yourself and your goals — how many can you do of each type? (write it down!), and the second is designed for the user to bring all they have, to hit their goal or max.
Bry’s Review: Chest and Back is not a bad combination, and it is certainly versatile enough to take anywhere. Its simple, classic, and old fashioned — the tried and true. It is also sure to exhaust your upper body strength by the time you have finished; you know you have gotten a solid upper body workout. As a general rule, I manage to do 20-30 reps a set for push ups, 15 per set of pull ups. It definitely can be an overwhelming experience the first time around, but sticking through will ensure beautiful chest and back muscles in no time at all. And though its not really relevant, I really love how Moraine, the woman, brings it just as hard as the boys! :P


The Workout: Plyometrics, or jump training, is widely agreed to be the most difficult P90X routine. It is without a doubt the most intensive cardio of the program, as well as an exhaustive routine for the legs and lower abs. Plyo works in cycles of 3 moves for 30 seconds, followed by 1 move for a minute. This cycle is performed twice before moving on to the next round after a 30 second water break. The rounds include low and high impact jumping techniques, as well as options as to how to modify in the case of knee injury.

Bry’s Review: Now, I struggle with cardio due to my lung problem, so at first, Plyo kicked my butt. Like most people I’ve talked to, after completing plyo for the first time, I was a hot sweaty mess on the floor, panting, and the next day both my quads and lower abs did not want to forgive me. But a few weeks into the program, I became convinced that this workout was worth its weight in gold. I could jump higher, move faster, and my cardio had improved exponentially. If you struggle with plyo, I beg you to stick with it, because you will LOVE the results!

Shoulders & Arms

The Workout: Shoulders and Arms is classic weight lifting, the perfect compliment to Chest and Back as the classic body resistance. Each round follows a rotation of shoulders, biceps, triceps, performed twice before a quick water break and the next round. As Tony explains, the shoulder is the link to chest, back, and arm workouts, so it well deserves its own attention. By switching up the moves in a repeated cycle, Shoulders and Arms delivers a great calorie burn, and helps strengthen the key body parts for all other upper body work.

Bry’s Review: Before Shoulders and Arms, my traps had never experienced any sort of resistance training, so I think I was the most sore I have ever been after a workout with this one. Its certainly not my favourite of the series, but Shoulders and Arms is definitely a sufficient and thorough workout.

Yoga X

The Workout: Yoga X is 90 minutes of Yoga, broken up into 45 minutes of Ashtanga salutations, and 45 minutes of balance postures, with a focus on balance, core strength, and flexibility. Yoga X is a steady workout that is intended to burn cardio while strengthening key muscles, in ways that weights and cardio simply cannot achieve on their own. It is also the staple that Tony swears by as the ‘fountain of youth’ as flexibility is key for maintaining motion while increasing muscle size.
Bry’s Review: Yoga X receives extremely mixed reviews within the Beachbody community: some  people love it, and some just hate it. Those who hate it usually complain that it is slow, and boring, but in truth, they invariably spend longer complaining than it would actually take to just suck it up and do it. Personally, Yoga is not my favourite thing to do, and I also find it painstakingly slow and repetitive! But, Tony swears by it and for this I take his word. Sure, it is slow, but it is there for a reason: the flexibility and stability learned with Yoga X enhances the results of all the other videos. If 90 minutes of yoga is too much (Which it is for me), break up the 45 minute sections, and do one in the morning, one at night.

Legs & Back

The Workout: Legs and Back is a mix of pull ups, and leg exercises that vary from body weight resistance to weight resistance depending on the move, as well as how far you are in the program. The general pattern is 2 forms of leg exercises followed by one form of pull up, and then the new round begins.

Bry’s Review: This workout is fun, simply put. Something about the squats and pull ups make a very good combination. Perhaps it is that an entire half of your body gets a break while you are working the other half. There is also a great deal of variety, which is welcome, for most leg exercises dote on the same moves, repeated multiple times. Tony mixes it up, with wall sits, and Groucho walks, and yoga postures and things you would not have even begun to think of.

Kenpo X

The Workout: Kenpo , (a multi-Asian discipline Martial Art), was introduced to Tony Horton while he was creating P90X, and he responded very enthusiastically to its inclusion in the program as a new, unique cardio routine. The Kenpo workout combines punching, kicking, blocking, striking, and brief intervals of jumping and jogging to keep the heart rate high, and the body in calorie-burning mode.

Bry’s Review: Just like being back in Martial arts class, all those old basics came flowing back in a wave of nostalgia. For this reason I liked working through Kenpo because it was so familiar to me, and it was easier on me despite the fact that it is a veritable cardio workout. However, I can’t help but modify some moves for the proper form I was taught so long ago! Tony will not convince me that vertical punches are acceptable, sorry Tony! Overall, Kenpo is a really fun, energetic workout that flies by while you’re having fun punching and kicking invisible targets.

Cardio X

The Workout: Cardio X is interesting, given it is the only program in this series that actually repeats moves from other parts of the programs. Cardio X is meant primarily as a supplement or substitute workout (if you’re not ready for Plyo, Tony suggests Cardio X instead) and is set up in segments. Yoga, Kenpo, Plyo and Core Synergistics make up the 4 phases of this video, so it is all moves and exercises you have seen before, or will see in the upcoming phases. It is a solid 45 minute video designed to get you sweating fast, and consistently burn those calories!
Bry’s Review: Given that this video is a combination of other videos I have reviewed in this article, I will simply state that Cardio X is great for days when you really don’t feel like an hour of Plyometrics, or as an alternative to the slow 90 minutes of Yoga. I do like to throw it in every now and then as a change of pace!

Core Synergistics (Recovery Week)

The Workout: Core Synergistics does exactly what the name implies: movements that are synergistic (or in other words, work more than one body part at a time) that have a specific focus on engaging the core muscles. From push ups with varied hand and feet positions to resistance exercises that require very light weights, Core Syn focuses on exhausting the pectorals, abdominals, glutes and thighs, while giving the arms and legs the minor resistance they require as to not lose definition during the rest week.

Bry’s Review: Core Syn is tough the first time around, and it doesn’t necessarily get easier right away. By the time you reach the recovery week and are ready for Core Syn, there is a tendency not to listen to Tony’s warning to use lighter weights. This is a habit that will quickly change, because he’s dead serious! When focusing so strongly on the core, it is detrimental to your form to be hefting heavy weights around as well. My first time around,  I struggled with some of the moves, though was always keeping in mind the need to engage my core with every move. This makes everything twice as hard. However, I find that for as tough as Core Synergistics is, it really seems to fly by! If you’re focused, and bringing it as hard as you should, then suddenly, you’ll realize there is only ten minutes left!

Tony is really into stretching his chicken wing.

X Stretch

The Workout: Stretch X is a critical workout when it comes to overall fitness. One hour devoted entirely to stretching out all the muscles you worked for the week and more will increase your range of motion, your flexibility, and your capacity for muscle growth. For this reason, Tony and his team stretch from head to toe in a variety of stretches from your standard gym class, workout warm-ups and cool downs, Yoga, and a few creative moves never seen before.

Bry’s Review: Stretch X feels wonderful, and I can’t express that enough. Especially after the first week of pounding your body through this program, you really can begin to appreciate the importance of taking the time to take care of your muscles. At first, it might feel like a real challenge (I learned just where I am flexible, and where I am not at all), but it is one of those workouts that the more you do, the more you become aware of your progress. It is very easy to measure your improvement when it comes to stretching. I also should point out that this is a very different type of slow compared to Yoga X; Whereas it is easy to lose yourself to daydream while holding a Yoga pose forever, it is so much easier to remain focused with Stretch X, when you can feel your muscles expanding, and relaxing.

Chest, Shoulders and Triceps

The Workout: Chest, Shoulders and Triceps is the first video of Phase 2, and a monster of a workout at that. If you thought surviving Phase 1 meant you were going to coast, think again! Chest, Shoulders and Tris employs a moderate amount of shoulder and tricep weight training, and unique variations of push ups, (including one armed and plyometric pushups) to make you as sore as the day you did Chest and Back. Wait, one handed and plyo push ups? Its true, and it sounds incredibly intimidating at first, but rest assured, with Tony’s guidance and the varied levels displayed, you’ll be able to achieve one form.

Bry’s Review: First off, I really appreciated the new kind of sore that Chest, Shoulders and Triceps brought. Not only was I sure that I was working my muscles in an entirely new way from phase 1, the promises made about overcoming plateau made perfect sense to me. Now, for the actual workout: I actually was down on my knees to complete a few types of push-ups, which I hadn’t done in… ages! One armed push-ups, fly push-ups, plyometric push-ups… Tony are you trying to get my triceps to tingle? Because you did, you crazy-pants man you. Overall, this is the kind of workout in which you know right away, you are going to see solid results.

Back and Biceps

The Workout: Back and Biceps is yet another classic weightlifting set that works as a direct compliment to Chest, Shoulders and Triceps. To work triceps and biceps on separate days is proven to dramatically increase results seen in the arms. Anyways, back and biceps follows cycles of 2 bicep exercises with the weights back to back, followed by one type of pull up. As biceps are the secondary muscle group used when one does pull ups, the biceps just get blasted in this workout!

Bry’s Review: Back and Biceps is the hardest weightlifting of the entire program — plan to use a lighter weight than you have been using for your biceps up to this point, or you may lift to failure before the workout is over. In fact, lifting to failure is something I always reach when it comes to Back and Biceps, though by using a slightly lighter weight than usual, I can hold out until the last move, or close to. It is interesting though, because most likely, one arm will fail before the other, so you will really get a general idea of what side of your body is stronger (and where you should be watching your Bilateral Bias! ) Prepare to have an array of weights at your feet at the end of this one.

Ab Ripper X:

The Workout: We come to the last video of this review, and that is the famous Ab Ripper X. Ab Ripper is a 16 minute ab video that ideally will accompany your resistance day workouts, comprised of 11 moves at about 25 reps a piece, for a total of ~339 core/ab exercises completed by the end. The moves are never basic crunches or sit ups, but are listed as follows: In and Outs, Bicycles, Reverse Bicycles, Crunchy Frog, Cross-Leg/Wide-Leg Sit Ups, Fifer Scissors, Hip Rock ‘N Raise, Pulse Ups, V-Up/Roll Ups, Oblique V-Ups, Leg Climbs, Mason Twists, and about a minute of cool-down.

Bry’s Review: Ab Ripper X has also received mixed reviews – though no one doubts the benefits or the results of Ab Ripper X, some people just simply HATE preforming it after working hard for an hour already. Even Tony says ‘I hate it, but I love it!’ That I can understand, but truthfully, I just love Ab Ripper! With every move I can feel exactly what is being targeted in my abs and core, and I feel that in 16 minutes, I’ve achieved a hardcore extra workout. I have also seen amazing results in my abdominal area as a result of Ab Ripper, so I am a firm believer and advocate that sticking to it is the way to go.

Bottom Line:

Is this a good program? Absolutely. Tony covers everything needed for whole body fitness. I have gone through multiple cycles of the program, and it never gets old for me. The attitude, the movements, everything culminates in a kick-ass workout, that really makes you understand why P90X has been the number 1 selling infomercial on television for multiple years running.

Would you recommend this to me? I certainly would! I recommend P90X to all sorts of people on a regular basis, and have converted many of my friends (and family) to the P90X program and lifestyle. If you want to get fit, this is for you. If you want to get ripped, this is for you! If you want to lose fat, this program IS FOR YOU!

Will I see results? If you stick with it, there is no way that you couldn’t! Results are essentially guaranteed! Plateaus can forever be forgotten! This is no ‘magic’ gimmick, this is pure, real, good old fashioned work, and it WORKS!

Where can I buy it? For those interested in purchasing P90X, please click the banner below (and in the process, you will help out my good friend and Beachbody Coach Sushicookie!) Not only will you receive the full workout program, you will gain access to an entire community of committed people working through the same things, and a coach, who will help you through!

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