“So What Do You Think of P90X?”

by Ninja Master Mark Fisher

Rarely does a week go by without someone asking me my opinion of the ubiquitous infomercial smash hit, P90X.  For those of you who may not watch TV late at night or Saturday afternoon, P90X is a three month long DVD program of home workouts. The program is the mastermind of fitness guru/ celebrity trainer Tony Horton.  Although by all accounts P90X has been a big commercial success, it’s been somewhat controversial in the broader fitness industry.

Tony Horton: “I’m smiling, because I’m jacked AND rich as fuck.”

So since I’m asked all the time, let me share what I believe are the pros and the cons of P90X:

The Pros:

  • If you’re doing 6 to 8 hours of intense activity a week, you’re going to probably get leaner, particularly if you were out of shape to begin with and you go from mindlessly eating to adopting some common sense nutritional strategies for your goals.  (P90X does include some nutritional recommendations).
  • It’s cheap!  Once you’ve bought the DVD’s (around 120 beans), it’s yours.  Even if you have to invest in some of the recommended equipment (pull up bar, dumbells, etc.), it’s still not a huge financial investment.
  • You can do it at home, which is a big plus for people who are intimidated by gym culture and want to pursue hotness in their own home.

The Cons:

  • If you’re just starting to workout, it’s unlikely that you’re form will stays solid through the whole workout.  And if you’re doing it 6 days a week, the program is pretty high volume for a newbie.

The cost benefit ratio here will be largely individual; if you’re already fit and your form is excellent and you’re sleeping and eating well, its’ probably not going to kill you.  Frankly, you probably will lean out if you work your balls off.

However, if you’re deconditioned or have some movement dysfunction, you’re likely to challenge the health and integrity of your joints.  Additionally, if you’re dealing with any muscular imbalances (like most humans), you’re likely to exacerbate your issues.  For many, a program with this much volume at this high level of intensity is a recipe for injury; either an acute one while you’re doing the program, or one down the line when your body ages and starts to pay the price for the less than optimal form of your youth.   And frankly, it’s the latter that worries me; you may pay for your sledgehammer approach to looking good in your twenties by spending a lot of time in physical therapy in your forties and on.  You only get one pair of knees kids.

  • It’s by no means appropriate programming for every goal.  It definitely will work for fat loss, but unless you are brand new to training, it wouldn’t do much for building any appreciable muscle or maximum strength.
  • You can do it at home, which means there’s no accountability.  Again, this is going to be highly dependent on the person.  A highly self- motivated person is probably going to do ok on it.  For people who do better with the social support of a trainer, or a class, or a gym environment, this can be a downside of P90X.
  • It’s not really a con of the program per se, but it’s a pet peeve of mine when someone repositions common sense, as an “advanced exercise technique.”  ”Muscle Confusion” (which is apparently a trademarked term) just sounds cheezy.   Yes, obviously you want to change up your workout to avoid plateauing.  But the ad copy for P90X makes it sound like its’ some recent super science-y breakthrough.  I guess it makes for stronger marketing, but it’s also part of why the program comes off so tacky to those who are well versed in the practice and history of exercise science.

So is P90X a good program?  The answer is… it depends.  I’m not as hardline against it as many in the industry. By no means is it ideal, but I do think there is a certain population (young, fit people with great form and body awareness looking for fat loss) that will do ok on this program.  I don’t think it’s optimal to ever do  your own thing with a general program, but if you’re totally broke and meet the above criteria, you may get through without doing too much long term damage.  Maybe.

That said, for any of you that give P90X a whirl, I lovingly but firmly encourage you to listen to your body if you find an increase in nagging aches and pains.  Particularly for those of you whose livelihoods depend on your body functioning well (dancers and actors, I’m talking to YOU!).

And if you want an intense fat loss training experience under the supervision of an actual human who can keep your form on point, answer nutrition questions, and give you high fives, check out the details for Snatched here. Booyah.

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