We tried the good old P90X in 2021 to see if it lived to its mid-2000s hype and determine if people should still consider it when looking for a new workout routine.
Disclaimer: we are not affiliated with P90X or BeachBody and received no compensation for this article from them. This article is based on one person’s experience of going through the entire 90 day program.
What is P90X?
It is an all-inclusive workout program that claims to get you in the best shape of your life at home in only 90 days. Whether your goal is to lose fat, build muscle, or simply work on your athleticism, this program is said to work for anyone. Now those are some really bold claims, as a one-size fits all program that promises great results in only 3 months.
How and why did I decide to try this out? Simple, I had bought the CDs back in 2008 and being honest, back in the day I only managed to complete the first 30 days of the program, after which I decided to quit. So here I was, 13 years later in 2021 with a blank page for me to write my new year resolutions and a dusty pack of CDs. You can put the rest of the story together, 1 + 1 = P90X.
Starting My Journey
I started the program on January 4th and ran all the way to April, and boy was I happy to be done! Before we go any further, you should know that I am a person who enjoys routinely working out at home, I have tried many different workout programs, and I am in good overall shape (measurements below). Also, from 2018 to 2020, I managed to lose 37 pounds (192 down to 155) through workouts and paying close attention to my diet. In other words, I was no stranger to working out, BUT I certainly do not look remotely close to an athlete nor can I perform at such level.
Additionally, I had just finished a cutting diet plan that took me down to 151 pounds, and I decided to introduce a slight increase to my caloric intake and macro-nutrient split. During these 90 days, I consumed about 2150 calories distributed as 30% protein, 25% fat, and 45% carbohydrates. Through the program, I decided to keep my caloric intake the same to avoid adding additional variables.
In the following sections, I will give you more details about my journey and results (including pictures and measurements at day 90!)
The program offered several options for me to chose from: classic, doubles, and lean. I chose to go with the classic version as it was my first time I planned on running through the entire program. The principle of the program can be summarized with one word: VARIETY. You will not only be doing body building, endurance, cardio, and yoga workouts, but you will be shuffling the order and frequency in which you do them to prevent your body from fully adapting to them and hitting a plateau.
This program runs on 3 training blocks (30 days each) in which for 3 continues weeks you perform 7 different exercises (once daily) and on the last week (week 4 of the block) you focus on different recovery routines. Training blocks 1 and 2 follow this structure, while block 3 combines all the routines found in the previous blocks to create additional shock to the muscles.
Equipment Required to Complete The Workouts
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Hybrid Exercise & Yoga Mat: This 2 in 1 strong mat can sustain the use of free weights and shoes, and at the same time be soft enough with high grip for yoga practices.
Pull-up bar: You'll be doing plenty of pull-ups and chin ups (twice per week, every week). Don't get a cheap bar, as they won't hold up the use.
- Adjustable Dumbbells: You will use these for all arm workouts. You can also use this cheaper alternative of adjustable dumbbells
- Resistance Bands: An alternative to dumbbells. You can perform all the exercises that require dumbbells using resistance bands, however the motion of the exercise may vary, but they are very effective and less expensive.
- Gloves: Unless you enjoy calluses on your hands, get some gloves that will protect your hands.
Here is the moment you have been waiting for. Did it work? Before we get to that, a quick reminder that I started this program after a cutting phase (caloric deficit), and integrated a 150 caloric surplus during this program, hence overall weight gain was expected. However, my goal was to pack as much muscle as possible with little fat gains.
Here are my results. In some areas, I achieved the desired goal, while in others the program failed me. However, this could be due to a variety of factors (training volume, caloric surplus, metabolism, etc.) making it unclear as to who or what was at fault. While I was able to increase the size of my arms, thighs, chest, and put on 1.5 pounds of lean mass, I also noticed that I gained an additional 2.1 pounds of body mass which explains the measured 1% body fat increase. Please note that body fat was measured at home utilizing the caliper method which is not as accurate as having a medical facility conduct a body fat test. With these results, it is no surprise that I also gained a bit of hip circumference which was undesired. See my measurements below.
If I were to repeat this workout program in the future, I think I would try to do it again without the added factor of a caloric surplus. Without this variable, I anticipate that I should have experienced a body re-composition (same overall weight but a change in lean mass), however I cannot assume that the results would be in line with my initial goals, as muscle loss is a possibility in a low calorie diet.
- Flexibility: I became super flexible. I have battled with a bulging disc for many years, which forced me to attend many physical therapy session. This injury has kept me very stiff around my back and hips. Throughout this program, I pushed myself little by little and can now do forward folds and twists I never thought I’d ever do again. Note: I am not saying this program alone got me my flexibility back. As noted, I have done years of physical therapy to help heal my back issues. The program helped me push through my mental roadblocks in a safe manner
- Endurance and Cardio: Before this program, I had never done 120 pull-ups or push-ups in a single training session. I could do 3 sets of 8-10 before, but now I can easily crank 15 with proper form, and continue to do many more sets. My cardio has also improved quite a bit as I used to gas out in my first few weeks. But towards the last 2 weeks, I actually found the talking and breaks in the videos a bit too long, as I was ready to continue onto the next exercise/set.
- Convenience: Any time you can find a good program that allows you to exercise at home and at any time, it is a winner in my book. This is in line with our vision here at Fit Fiera which is to unleash people from constraints and allow them get exercise anytime and anywhere with our mats. No surprise, this was a mayor plus for me.
- Variety: I found the continued change in routines to be fun and motivating, as it did not allow my brain and body to get into my conform zone (which tends to lead to undertraining in my experience). It also prevented common plateaus from happening, as I was switching routines quite frequently.
- Frequency 7/90: This program is no joke when it comes to commitment. You are exercising 7 days a week, and most videos are 90 minutes long. In my opinion, these could be shortened to 60 minutes long and still provide the same value. Also, I know very few people who are willing to exercise every day of their lives, BUT I guess that is what the X in Extreme stands for.
- Sustainability: In-line with the first con, many people get discouraged by such a demanding workout routine that allows for no flexibility. While I enjoyed it for 90 days, it is not something I would stick to long term nor do I think most people would either. Take me for example: I am happy to have completed this program, but I am even happier to go back to an equally effective routine of 5 days per week.
- Expectations vs Results: Any program that promises to completely revamp your body in 90 days, is simply not obeying by human physiological and nutritional requirements. Period. Don’t fall for the 90 day transformation statement, because the reality is that our bodies need much longer (sometimes years) to burn fat and build muscle naturally. Of course, it all depends on your starting point. But let’s be real, this program is targeted to beginners and intermediate, normal people, not professional athletes looking to cut down on that last 1% of body fat. My point is, set realistic expectations for yourself and don't think that in fitness there are natural shortcuts you can take.
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All things considered; this is a really challenging workout program that will kick your behind unless you are already in peak shape. The videos are very entertaining and motivating which is a must for any at home workout program. Depending on your focus, you can build muscle, lose fat, gain flexibility, and find out a few things about yourself that will allow you to transition to whatever discipline you desire with ease. That being said, if you do decide to take on this journey, understand that no miracles will happen in 90 days, and that fitness is a long-term commitment with no shortcuts. Dedication, proper form, and nutrition are the keys to drive change and move closer to your goals.