P90X Need-to-Know Guide

Featured Article, Fitness, News and Advice
on October 24, 2011

Lately it seems like everybody who’s got a living room is doing P90X. Like, everybody. Forty-five million copies of the über-popular workout system have been sold since its introduction in 2004, and exercisers everywhere are raving about their results. But before you throw down big bucks ($120!) just to join in on the latest craze, you should probably figure out if the program is right for you first. Here’s the need-to-know info from a couple of our favorite fitness experts.

You get a lot for your money. The package includes 12 separate workout DVDs, a fitness guide and a nutrition plan to help keep you on track. “Most traditional fitness DVDs focus on one type of exercise and leave it up to you to integrate different workouts into your routine, but P90X mixes it up for you, providing strength, cardio and flexibility benefits all in one,” says trainer Jonathan Ross, owner of Aion Fitness in Bowie, Md. and author of Abs Revealed.  “This helps prevent boredom and overuse injuries.”

But not everything. You’ll still need resistance bands, a pull-up bar and dumbbells. “If you want to complete the entire program, your investment doesn’t stop with just the P90X package,” says Dr. Michele Olson, professor of exercise science at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala.

The program is intense. “Each workout is designed like a circuit, moving you from one exercise to the next with little rest in between, so you end up doing more work—and burning more calories—than you would during a traditional training session,” Olson says. Plus, the intensity and types of exercises you do varies every single day, a strategy known as muscle confusion or periodization. “Research shows that this can provide greater fitness improvements in less time,” she says.

Get checked out. If you’re a beginner, severely overweight or have joint issues, you should consult your doctor before trying P90X, says Olson. And don’t be afraid to modify the moves to match your fitness level. “Listen to your body and know that during the workouts, it can be easy to get in the zone and overdo it,” says Ross. “A little soreness lets you know you were challenged, but very sore muscles need to recover before you hit it hard again.”

It takes time to see results. “Like any exercise program, if you’re looking for success, you need to do the system as outlined, and if you only do certain parts of the program, know that your results will vary,” says Olson. What this means: You have to work out for the full 90 minutes, five or six days each week, to get the full effect. “If you can devote that much time to exercise, you’re almost guaranteed to see changes,” says Ross.

Diet is important. If your goal is to be like someone in the P90X commercials, you will also need to get plenty of sleep and watch what you eat. “Plan on catching 7 to 8 hours of Zzzs every night, eating small, frequent meals that are high in protein, fruits and veggies, and recovering properly between each workout with a massage or foam roller,” says Ross.

You will plateau. As with any other exercise program, your body will eventually adapt to the P90X program and hit a plateau. The good news is that now when that occurs, you can start P90X2, which is being released this December. For more info, visit beachbody.com.