What’s The Deal With P90X?

Lately, it seems everybody’s been asking me about the current darling of infomercial fitness products, P90X, so I’ll give you my $.02 (and you might be surprised by some of my thoughts on the program)

It’s a product of BeachBody – the same company who brought “Hip-hop Abs”, “the 10 Minute Trainer” and “Turbo Jam” to the world (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

According to the official website, the P90X program consists of a series of “12 highly diverse and intense workouts”

1.) Chest and Back
2.) Plyometrics
3.) Shoulders and Arms
4.) Yoga X
5.) Legs and Back
6.) Kenpo X
7.) X Stretch
8.) Core Synergistics
9.) Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
10.) Back and Biceps
11.) Cardio X
12.) Ab Ripper X

Plus, you also receive some bonus materials including a nutrition plan, online resources and a training calendar.

Unlike the Thighmaster or the still-popular “Body for Life”, P90X includes a variety of training tempos.  From the methodical, controlled principles of yoga to the more traditional lift-as-you’re-able body part focused workouts to maximally explosive, total body plyometric movements – what I often refer to in my own training model as Stability, (resisted) Mobility and Agility – the 3 main “ingredients” of human movement.

The P90X marketing material suggests “the secret to the program’s effectiveness is …constantly introducing new moves and routines so your body never plateaus, and you never get bored”

Not getting bored can be important for someone who doesn’t already live and breathe to work out.  And I do agree with the need for variety, though not necessarily “constantly”.  It’s important to provide a repetitive, progressive stimulus over a period of time so that your body can be given an opportunity to “learn” what you’re asking it to adapt to.  Taking the randomly-different approach may help you avoid ‘plateaus’, but any results will be unpredictable and random (again, not that there’s anything wrong with that – as long as you’re happy with random results).

If there is any one thing that makes P90X effective, it’s the accountability factor.  Between the done-for-you training calendar and the online peer-support, it’s entirely possible to take something as laughable as the Thighmaster (sorry, Suzanne… I really don’t mean to pick on you all the time, but c’mon, the Thighmaster?!), create a way to get purchasers to actually USE the product… AND have other purchasers hold each other to the fire when they DON’T use it.  Couple these accountability systems with even a half-way decent training program, and you’ve got yourself a hit product.

On the other hand, you could have access to the best training plans, equipment and support systems known to man – if you fail to use them as intended (if at all), well… we might as well be talking about that Thighmaster sitting in your closet.

I don’t particularly care for the way the P90X program makes the “specially designed supplement options” a leading feature of the product.  It makes it seem as if your results will be somehow diminished if you fail to take (read: invest) in the exact supplements they recommend (I suspect it’s an important back-end profit center for ’em – not that there’s anything… you know the rest).  But overall, it’s a respectable product because it takes a systematic approch to fitness.

So what’s my bottom line on P90X?  For $140 (3 payments of 39.95 + 19.95 S&H), I’d much sooner recommend Dr. John Berardi’s Precision Nutrition ($109 incl. shipping) and the Lou Schuler/Alwyn Cosgrove book, New Rules of Lifting (or if you were born with ovaries, you might prefer NROL for Women with Schuler/Cosgrove and the addition of Cassandra Forsythe). Each is available for about 10 bucks through Amazon.  Then you can take the extra $20 and send it to me for pointing you in the right direction ;-)



  1. Nice even handed analysis. Mr. Horton’s use of the phrase ‘muscle confusion’ has me a bit confused.

    The idea that you must CONSTANTLY change your routine suggests to me that you’re not giving yourself a chance to even come close to plateauing in any area, I agree that longer cycles work better for most people. But some of the testimonials look pretty legit on the informercial, compared to the before/after ads you see in the muscle mags which I’m told are often done on the same day (Go watch Bigger, Faster, Stronger if you don’t believe me).

    Another element I like about their infomercial is people sharing the fact that they aren’t embarassed to be seen doing the workout or to have the DVD’s out in the open. The reduction of the shame factor is surprisingly important when it comes to fitness gimmicks, errrrrrrr products.

    Overall this is a fine blog, you’re reviewing a product developed by a company that proudly has chosen to no longer offer an affiliate program, there’s obviously no ulterior motive on your part.



  2. My boyfriend is on the P90X program and likes it a lot – he convinced me to do the stretch routine with him one time and it sure was thorough…but long! I’m sure if I wanted to take it to the next level it would be great, but for now I’m scared. :)


  3. P90X is an excellent program overall, but it is extremely intense. I’ve personally lost over 50 pounds within the last year with this workout.

    The supplements that you made mention of are not a necessity, and they certainly are a backend money stream for the company as you suggested. I will say, however, that it’s very important to follow the nutrition plan. You simply won’t see dramatic results unless a strict diet is combined with this (or any other) exercise program.


  4. I just finished phase2 of P90x and it is working very well for me. I have managed to put on some weight which I believe is completely muscle. I am also a big fan of the “muscle confusion” that you mentioned not liking that much for the reason you mentioned. I tend to get bored and loose motivation during workout routines and end up putting in less effort in the end. With P90x since the workout routine changes slightly every month it helps me stay focused and working my hardest.


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