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The Long Awaited P90X Review

Posted by wmagnus On July - 5 - 2010

I’ve done P90X workouts off and on for a few years scattered in amongst other routines. Only recently did I begin doing the full program and have now pushed through 2 cycles. I’ve lost 15 pounds and leaned down dramatically. I don’t have the kind of fat to ripped before and after pictures that Beachbody uses in their marketing but at 10-11% body fat, I’m not looking too bad. (Sorry, no pics but I’ve got psoriasis and am more than a little self-conscious about my crappy skin.) The program definitely delivers results but it wasn’t until this year that I was ready to take on the whole thing.

So why did it take so long to actually take on P90X?


Honestly it takes a lot of time to do P90X, an hour plus per day 6 days a week for the minimum schedule. That’s more time than I was willing to commit to. When I started getting more serious about working out, I was coming from spending an hour 3 days per week doing cardio on the stationary bike and light work with free weights.

I wanted to do P90X but just wasn’t ready to jump to an hour a day. After Chalene Johnson’s 90 day program came out, I was willing to go for a little over 30 minutes 6 days a week and started her weight lifting program. That was the back door. Chalene’s program stealthily stretches to nearly an hour on 3 of the days in the last phase of the program. That time creep was it. I’d changed my routine to allow for more workout time. I was committed.


The other big excuse I used mentally to not do P90X was the equipment requirement. It takes some but not a lot. Free weights are really a must. You can use bands for resistance but it’s really not the same. Again Chalene pushed me in this area since here whole program focuses on weight lifting. I got a set Bowflex SelectTech dumbells. I generally like them and will review them fully at some point in the future.

Pull-ups are a big part of P90X and frankly without a good pull-up bar it will be hard to get the most out of the program. I got a door jam pull-up bar but it’s not well suited to working out since I have fairly wide shoulders and hit my elbows on the door frame. So I put off doing P90X. Ultimately I caved. The local sporting goods store ran a sale on a freestanding pull-up tower for about $100. It replaced the now idle stationary bike in my workout space.

Tony Horton and People of P90X

The face of P90X is Tony Horton. He’s a problem for a lot of people. If you don’t like his manner then it’ll be tough to get through the program, or at least be happy enough to do it again. The guy is perky and often goofy but that works for me. I don’t mind hearing the same silly jokes and weird little Tony-isms week after week, mind you I’ve also watched Star Wars countless times and committed most Monty Python’s Flying Circus to memory so repetition is clearly not a problem for me. If Tony isn’t your thing and you don’t fly into a blinding rage at the mere sight of the man, there’s a cues only option on all the videos so you can have the video with the timers and counters with the only voice over telling you which exercise to do when. That option works well for some people.

The group of people that were chosen to do P90X with Tony in the videos is a mixed bag. Spending as much time with the videos as the program requires means that you get used to some of their quirks and behaviors. For some of the routines it may become like working out with friends, others of them may annoy you to the point of seething. Everybody works hard in the routines and nobody just slacks off doing a simple demo which can be very motivating when things get tough. Of course this is only true if Tony works for you in the first place.

The Workouts

Once I was committed to the process and had the necessary equipment it was time to start. Looking back on day one of P90X, it was really, really tough. I came at it from a year of weight lifting and crazy cardio and pushed through. Starting from a level of lesser fitness would have meant lots of breaks but I did it without stopping or modifying exercises on day one. That wasn’t true every day but now I can do almost all of the exercises without modification. I sweat, I huff and puff but I do it. P90X has enough depth to stay challenging.

The program breaks down to 3 resistance or weight lifting days, 2 days of cardio and 1 day of yoga. Day 7 can either be rest or more stretching. There are alternate calendars for “Lean” which limits the lifting and builds in more cardio and “Doubles” which adds a second workout every day. Also there’s a dedicated abs routine that is built into the program as an add on to the other workouts. There’s a great little tool here for adding P90X to iCal or Outlook.

The weight routines are straightforward, old-fashioned weight training. There’s not a lot of complicated combo moves and the chest work is a little limited. It’s going to be almost impossible to get big pecs from P90X but for those with a genetic predisposition to them the number of push-ups in the program may get you there. Frustration is sure to come with pull-ups, I know it did for me. I couldn’t ever do pull-ups or chin-ups in high school. I remember being the somewhat mushy kid with the coach yelling at him as he dangled unable to get to the bar during the President’s Physical Fitness Test. It took months to get where I am and knocking out 20 pull-ups is still hard but doable. For lower body, the workout is just solid and leans down legs adding definition and strength over the course of the program.

The cardio routines are straightforward including a high impact jump routine and a kenpo based hour. There’s a more basic workout for those still working on the cardio fitness level that can substitute for the jump routine. Kenpo is a problem for a lot of people especially as their fitness level rises. The biggest complaint I’ve heard is that people don’t find the kenpo to be hard enough once they’ve been doing P90X for a while. Your mileage may vary but I’ve found that pushing harder during the “breaks” in the routine can push my heart rate to make up for the dips during the rest of the routine. Other people end up wearing weighted gloves and ankle weights to keep kenpo challenging.

The yoga routine to is my favorite part of the program. It really is. Most people don’t feel that way. For starters, if you aren’t flexible to begin with any yoga is frustrating, the P90X routine even moreso. Tony doesn’t fool around and the postures can be difficult. Secondly, it’s about the time. The yoga video is 90 minutes long. Committing to an hour every day is hard enough but that extra 30 minutes is killer. I’m still doing P90X but I don’t often do the full 90 minute yoga routine. I either strategically abbreviate the official yoga routine or do an alternate but similarly difficult routine on most yoga days. When I have the time, I’m always glad to when time allows me to revisit the official yoga video. I sweat like hell but at the end I feel so good it’s pretty amazing. Yoga really does belong in every workout plan.

The Diet

The diet is the same diet Beachbody sends out with most of their programs. It includes Michi’s ladder of things that are ok to eat and their level of desirability. The diet is fairly programatic and easy to follow, focusing on the low-fat model. There’s adequate protein to build muscle but it’s not overboard on any one thing. Philosophically, I like other diet models better but this one will get the job done for someone who needs help making the jump to healthy eating.


I love P90X and it’s my favorite home video routine but it’s not for everybody. If you’re not going to put the hour a day in, don’t bother buying the videos. Seriously, you’re wasting your money.

The equipment requirement is higher than a lot of home videos but the results are there. You’ve got to commit to spending some money on some weights for home. They don’t have to be fancy and you can build a set over time buying cast weights at the sporting goods store as you progress and need more weight. You can do pull-ups with a resistance band hung over a door. It’s daunting and makes a good excuse but really you can get by with very little equipment.

It boils down to Tony, though. If you’re not a fan and just can’t imagine listening to his man-perkiness every day for 90 days or longer then you really need to find a different routine. There are lots of options.

Note about objectivity: My usually co-author did some spell checking and minor edits but didn’t contribute any substance to this review. Why? She’s a Beachbody coach and can’t say anything negative. I didn’t really either but our readers deserve the completely straight poop. If you choose to buy it, please buy it from her.

2 Responses to “The Long Awaited P90X Review”

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