Sunday, July 22, 2012

Doing P90X: My Variations

Giant Rubber Bands
I bought P90X almost three years ago but didn’t try the whole program right away.  At the time I was doing a mixed workout of strength ball training, using stability balls and weights in strength and balance exercises, plus some stretching and cardio.  I used P90X to vary the regular routine, doing one or two workouts a week.  Over many months I went through all of P90X Lean, the more cardio-oriented version of the program.  During this period of gradually working into P90X I received two important benefits:  learning Ab Ripper X and deciding that I needed to be doing at least some plyo.

This summer I decided to do P90X Classic, the basic version of the program.  The strength workout I had been doing had gotten too easy and the three sessions of intense cardio seemed to be too much.  I had already done each of the P90X workouts before so I knew what to expect.  I had also read many of the reviews of P90X on, which can give you valuable pointers about how to fine-tune the workouts to suit your needs, as well as advice about whether you should be doing it at all.  If you haven’t exercised in years or were never in very good shape P90X is not the place to start.  But for people who want to take it to the next level it’s a truly great program.

When I first did P90X I couldn’t even finish all of the warm-up.  It had been years since I had done jumping jacks and some of the workouts include seventy or eighty of those before you even start the real exercise!  So I struggled through as many as I could and, over several months, got to the point where I could keep up with Tony Horton and the rest of the group, for that part at least.  With the five strength workouts, which are really the heart of the program, I could do most of the moves, somewhat.  One that I still can’t do is pull-ups and a couple of these routines have lots of them.  My trainer Greg Simmons introduced me to giant rubber bands which can offset part of your weight so you can do an assisted pull-up.  You hang the band from a bar, use a chair or short ladder to step into it, and voilĂ  – pull-ups!  The strength workouts also include many variations of push-ups so I’m getting better at those.  When I was younger I couldn’t even do one push-up except the on-your-knees kind.  In the yoga routine I can’t really do the sequences with Warrior 3 and Half Moon because my balance is poor, but I keep trying anyway.  Plyo is the toughest part of P90X for me because jumping and hopping take a lot of explosive energy, but they're hard for the people in the class too.

Ab Ripper X is the shortest of the routines – 16 minutes and you can get it down to 12 if you do it on your own­ ­– and the only one you do three times a week.  Less than that doesn’t get you good enough results, as I found out by trying it.  At first I couldn’t do some of the moves; Crunchy Frog was pretty tough, as was Roll Up/V Up, and Oblique V-Ups were almost impossible.  I did 25 reps of the ones I could do and at least tried the others.  Eventually I got to the point where the whole thing was too easy so, following a tip I found online, I used ankle weights and small dumbbells for some of the exercises.  I also use knee and ankle weight for Kenpo X, the martial arts workout.

I feel that these workouts have improved my strength, especially in the shoulders, arms, and back, totally reshaped my midsection, and helped my flexibility and balance somewhat.  I haven’t lost much weight, only a couple of pounds over eight weeks.  I also find that I’m not getting enough of a cardio workout, even in Plyometrics and Kenpo X.  My metabolism is very slow, about 1100 RMR, and I’m in good shape so my heart rate gets up to around 120 and then goes right back down to below 100.  This is true even when I keep up with the group on the DVD.  After about six weeks of this, I added back a couple of half-hour sessions of cardio at the Y in order to keep up my condition in that area.

The exercises in these workouts are varied and challenging but what keeps me coming back is the ambience.  These sessions combine playfulness and hard work.  Tony Horton clowns around but also gives plenty of direction and serious advice.  I also like the fact that Beachbody didn't over-edit the tapes to remove some unintentionally funny moments, like when the handles of Sophia's bands hit Tony in the face.   It’s a comfortable atmosphere, perhaps partly because what we’re seeing is Tony working out with his friends.  Dreya Weber is the wife of P90X’s Creative Director Ned Farr; Joe Bovino and Tony are longtime friends; some of the other guys work out with Tony at the beach on Sundays.  The often-repeated motto “Do your best and forget the rest.” epitomizes the combination of effort and self-acceptance that are at the heart of this program.

Related Posts: "Room for Improvement:  the Wisdom of Tony Horton,"
                        "Ab Ripper X - Argh!,"


  1. What a nice, quick, well-written article....I was about to do "Shoulders and Arms", and now I feel a little more motivated...thank you!

  2. What a nice, quick, well-written article....I was about to do "Shoulders and Arms", and now I feel a little more motivated...thank you!