P90X: All Your Questions About This Intense Workout, Answered

P90X Guide

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P90X is an intense workout program that promises equally intense results. But this complex set of videos isn’t necessarily right for everyone. We’ll give you all the information you need to find out what P90X entails and whether it suits you and your fitness needs.

To help us understand this program and its results, we spoke to Vigor Active owner Stephen Newhart, Ph.D., We Strive trainer Veronica Borovilos, and NASM-certified trainer Brandon Nicholas of The Fitness Tribe.

Meet the Expert

What Is P90X?

As the name implies, P90X is a 90-day workout program. The name stands for “Power 90 Extreme,” and it promises muscular and toned results from home. It makes sense, then, that this workout system was made for those looking to get muscular fast and who are committed through the duration without fail. You’ll be working out nearly every day and often for well over an hour per workout, so you’ll need plenty of free time. These workouts are intentionally difficult and will push your limits regularly. Though some of the exercises will be familiar to you, the number of repetitions and variations may not be. And there are certain elements, such as the plyometrics workout, that will have you jumping for nearly an hour. That may be wholly new to even those who are experienced with exercise. 

Nicholas thinks that P90X is “specifically designed for boosting muscle confusion, which then yields drastic and powerful outcomes. It boasts a circuit-style fitness routine of high-intensity workouts that will push both your physical body and mentality to their limits in order to succeed.” He says that, “each day all throughout the workout, you will experience high heart rates—which signifies that more calories and fat are being burned, promoting weight loss and overall physical fitness.”

P90X is a set of twelve DVDs, a 100-page fitness guide, an even longer nutrition plan, and a calendar to track your progress along the way.

What to Expect During a P90X Class

Variety is key with P90X. Borovilos tells us that “the program has a variety of workouts, including several muscle conditioning and cardio workouts, and a great (albeit long) power yoga routine to satisfy different needs.” The DVDs target individual muscle groups, while other workouts—including plyometrics, cardio, and kickboxing—are more full-body-centric. 

Not only is there variety in class type, but there are also three different schedule options, Borovilos says: Classic, Lean, and Doubles. She notes that “the latter two emphasize cardio more so than the Classic schedule.” 

P90X workouts are circuit-oriented. You should expect to move for most of each session, with minimal time resting in between rounds while cycling through various exercises. This program is designed to take your fitness to a new level, so don’t anticipate any easy workouts. Borovilos tells us that to achieve optimal results, you have to push your limits. She suggests that you “have a variety of weights that will challenge you, as well as those to which you can scale down when you get tired.” This system also intends to create “muscle confusion,” where no specific group has the chance to plateau because routines are changed up so often. 

Because there are so many types of workouts involved, you may find yourself short on equipment. Borovilos says that “certain exercises may not be available for everyone to perform (e.g., pull-ups),” so you should also be aware of which options will challenge you. While the program offers a resistance band variation, Borovilos says that may be too easy for some and suggests using TRX as an alternative. 

Who Should Do P90x?

While there are numerous modalities in P90X, the focus is on visible muscles. “P90X is best for someone who is not afraid to build muscle and lift challenging weights,” says Borovilos. She warns, though, that “if you wish to always walk away drenched in sweat from a workout, this program may not deliver what you expect;" rather, “if you like picking up a weight that will max out your muscles in eight to 12 reps, this program is for you.” 

P90X is set up for six workouts per week. On the seventh day of each week, you can either rest or do a stretching video. Thus, it is best for people who can make a serious time commitment to their workouts. Borovilos thinks you’re most likely to follow through with the program if you “pre-schedule your workouts at the beginning of the week to make sure you have ample time to complete them without being stressed about other commitments.”

Benefits of P90X

People who are already in good physical shape will reap the most benefits from P90X, more so than those looking to get into shape. Due to its difficulty level and the weights used, it may be too challenging for less experienced exercisers. 

If you are already in shape and looking to take your fitness to new heights, P90X will have numerous benefits for you. These include:

  • Increasing muscle tone
  • Shedding body fat
  • Increasing strength
  • Learning new exercise variations
  • Proficiency in new workout modalities

Safety and Injury Considerations

Because of its difficulty level, it should be no surprise that this system isn’t for everyone. It’s important to initially make sure that your body is up for the challenge. Unlike many exercise systems that work if you haven’t been exercising already, anyone looking to start P90X should already have a moderate fitness acumen. You should be adept at lifting weights without supervision.

“While in order to get stronger, you have to push against your comfort limits, you need to know when to pull back," says Borovilos. "Those using this program should have an understanding of how to safely modify movements and when to reduce weight to reflect their unique needs.” She says that this “is especially important for someone recovering from injuries, or those who have chronic musculoskeletal conditions.”

Newhart says that because the “P90x program is more aggressive and plyometric in nature” than other workouts, it “can result in injury if the body is not first properly prepared with slow resistance exercise.” If you’re interested in P90X but not yet at its fitness level, he suggests that you begin with “slow controlled movements and low impact cardiovascular exercise,” then “progress to slow weighted exercise and higher impact forms of cardiovascular exercise. Once this fitness base is established, it is safe to progress to jumping, burpees, sprinting in place, etc.” That way, you'll set a strong foundation. 

Additionally, there are considerations regarding the ab exercise. Borovilos notes that “some of the moves (specifically the Ab Ripper X routine) are not safe for expectant [people], or [those] who are within six months post-partum or have separation of the abdominal wall (diastasis recti).”

Lastly, Nicholas warns that anyone with cardiac issues should avoid this system, noting, “since these [workouts] are also designed to boost heart rates the whole time, these are not the best workouts for people with CVD and high blood pressure.” He suggests avoiding P90X if you have any substantial physical limitations at all. 

How Much Does P90X Cost?

The program is sold through Beachbody and costs $119.85, payable in three installments. 

What to Wear for P90X

Because this is an at-home workout system, you don’t need to be concerned about how you’ll look in front of others. You should wear your typical workout outfit, such as a tank top or t-shirt, along with leggings, shorts, or sweats. It’s best to avoid anything extremely baggy, as baggy clothes can get caught in weights and prove cumbersome during cardio. You’ll want to wear sneakers that are in good condition, given how much you’ll be moving. This is especially true for anything involving jumping, where shock absorbency is vital. 

The Takeaway 

P90X is a three-month home video workout system that equips you with a wide array of muscle-building workouts, as well as a nutrition plan. Its goal is to get you in your best shape, with muscles to show for it. P90X’s top benefits include helping you build muscle, lose body fat, and achieve greater muscle volume. 

This home program is excellent for people who are already moderately fit and are looking to get in even better shape. It requires a serious time commitment during the 90 days of the program, with workouts six days each week. P90X is not for anyone inexperienced with working out alone, pregnant people or those who have recently given birth, anyone recovering from injuries, or anyone inexperienced with lifting weights unsupervised. It has many devoted fans; Borovilos believes that’s because “P90X demonstrates that lifting weights is for everyone, no matter the age or gender. It has empowered many to step into their power.” 

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