“Sooner or later, everything old is new again.” P90X — Power 90 Extreme — made its debut 15+ years ago, sweeping the airwaves with its 3 a.m. infomercials featuring Tony Horton’s voice echoing through a dim fitness studio. That clunky 12-DVD set is now neatly packaged in Beachbody On Demand’s online module. And, when COVID-19
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P90X has research backing its aerobic and weight loss claims, progress logging is easy, meal plans are clearly laid out, and many people lose 20+ pounds throughout the 90-day program. But it’s a grueling program (with 90 min workouts) that can wipe you out pretty quickly. If you’re looking for workouts that are “fun”, this is definitely not for you.
|Experience Level||Intermediate, Advanced|
|Home/Gym||Home (with equipment)|
- Backed by research and results
- Helpful nutrition guide included
- More effective than steady state cardio
- Up to 90 min per workout
- Grainy video quality
- Overly exhausting and not fun
“Sooner or later, everything old is new again.”
P90X — Power 90 Extreme — made its debut 15+ years ago, sweeping the airwaves with its 3 a.m. infomercials featuring Tony Horton’s voice echoing through a dim fitness studio.
That clunky 12-DVD set is now neatly packaged in Beachbody On Demand’s online module. And, when COVID-19 ravaged the nation and shuttered gyms, P90X saw an unexpected resurgence.
You heard that right: P90X is back, baby!
Now, it’s our turn to sift through this 90-day circuit program to learn three things: whether you’ll get ripped in 90 days, survive a 6+ day-a-week program, and build considerable strength/torch fat.
Let’s find out!
About the Creator – Tony Horton
As fitness DVDs became gym alternatives in the early-2000s, Tony Horton officially entered the limelight with his “Ultimate 90-day Home Fitness Boot Camp,” now known as P90X.
By 2010, skyrocketing sales invited the 12-DVD program into over three million homes!
Today, Tony Horton is self-described as the “most influential man in health and fitness” (humble, eh). But just who is the face of and mastermind behind P90X?
Let’s introduce you to him.
Tony Horton’s soiree into the fitness industry began in 1980 when he took a film executive on as a client. This early Hollywood connection later kick-started a stream of famous clientele, including:
- Bruce Springsteen
- Tom Petty
- Billy Idol
- Rob Lowe
- Antonio Banderas
Horton became the unofficial face of home fitness by the 2000s, attaching his name onto Thighmaster, NordicTrack, and, finally, his Beachbody brainchild — P90X.
He eventually severed ties with Beachbody, but not before releasing 15 programs and workouts on the platform (including 10-Minute Trainer and P90X3).
These days, his digital following is stronger than ever: 220K YouTube subscribers, 254K Instagram followers, and 164K Twitter followers.
What is P90X?
P90X is a Beachbody On Demand program launched as a 12-DVD set in 2005. The unofficial catchphrase seems to be “get in the best shape of your life,” setting the stage for the road ahead.
Warning: it’s not for the faint of heart.
In fact, if you struggle to meet the minimum Fit Test requirements or have pre-existing health conditions, Horton suggests you select a milder program (like his 10-Minute Trainer) instead.
This 90-day six-day-a-week program boasts 12 unique workouts hovering around the 45 to 60-minute range; the Ab Ripper X is the lone wolf, at just 16 minutes (short ≠ easy).
With this advanced routine, breaking a sweat, building your flexibility, avoiding plateaus, and slimming down (possibly 40+ pounds) are the goals.
Before you question how tough a 2005-era workout program can be, here’s what to expect:
- Training blocks divided into three pieces to accelerate progress: adaptive, mastery, recovery, repeat
- An anti-crash diet to help you sculpt lean mass and shred stubborn body fat
- Twelve unique workouts (everything from chest & back and Yoga X to core synergists and cardio X)
- Constant nods to the Beachbody and P90X product line (legend has it, if you say “Shakeology” three times in a row, Tony Horton will appear to serve you a smoothie)
Success hinges on your ability to persevere through the aches, catch your breath during hour-long workouts, and commit 6-7 hours a week to chase a “ripped” physique.
P90X Details & Features
P90X is a wild journey for the fitness buffs hoping to shed pounds and sculpt well-defined, vascular muscles. It’s not a program to buy on impulse unless you’re already in shape!
If you’re debating whether to dedicate the next 90 days to Tony Horton, read on.
The Module Layout
The Beachbody module sets a high bar for any online fitness platform looking to launch routines. It’s user-friendly, easy to navigate, and is compatible with your desktop browser and your phone.
When you type P90X in the Beachbody On Demand search bar, you’ll have everything you need at your fingertips (at least for the next 90 or so days).
There’s a 1:12 trailer that offers a taste of the journey ahead.
The home page also features things like:
- How many workouts there are, how long they last, and the preferred skill level (22, 45-60, and “advanced,” if you’re curious)
- A Tony Horton video called “How to Bring It” that explains the P90X philosophy
- A link to the Nutrition Center with two choices: 2B Mindset and Ultimate Portion Fix
- The low-down on Tony Horton, featuring his social media handles
- Convincing success stories
There are three tabs: Start here (which we just reviewed in this section), Workouts, and Program Materials. Let’s dive a little deeper into the meat and bones of the decades-old P90X!
The Workouts tab is where you’ll find all 22 P90X workouts. The collection features 12 P90X workouts, 5 P90X Plus videos, and 11 P90X PRO Team clips, which doesn’t equal 22.
This section is a bit of a mess. We’re not sure where the number 22 came from, and the PRO Team clips skip from round 16 to 21, with some split into two workouts.
Math is hard.
“Plus” seems to be an option if you’re a sadist and want an even more intense P90X workout. But it’s not clear whether you swap these workouts in occasionally or if it’s a brand new program.
What a P90X Workout Is Like
Unless you’re a professional athlete, even the tamest P90X workouts will leave you dripping sweat and begging to catch your breath and give your muscles a break.
For one, P90X hails from the early 2000s. The only reason we mention that is because it’s a blast from the past: somewhat pixelated video and — no surprise — microphone headsets galore.
What Horton describes as a “world-class workout” looks like this:
- A two or so minute of a light calisthenics warm-up (warning: Horton is already out-of-breath about a minute into the warm-up)
- About six minutes of dynamic and static stretching
- Somewhere around two rounds of 12 sets (in other words, circuit training)
- Form tips with literally every exercise; sometimes, Horton talks about how to modify an exercise (ex: resistance band pull-downs or chair chin-ups instead of standard)
- Occasional water breaks that you’ll be praying for after the first few sets
- A lot of chatter between Horton and his backup crew; he even talks directly to the camera, which could make it feel like an in-person group fitness class
As Horton mentions during each video, it’s your job to make this program work for you. Modify, take longer breaks, and lower the weight whenever you see fit — just finish the set strong!
And, of course, all 12 workouts are different.
The above-listed run-through might be totally off-base when you get to Ab Ripper X or Yoga X. For example, ab day is 11 moves with 25 reps apiece, all squeezed into a 16-minute workout.
Types of Exercises
Exercise-wise, nothing is off-limits.
In fact, the program features hundreds of exercises, meaning you’re sure to see at least a handful or two that are brand new to you.
You might see exercises like:
- Decline push-ups
- Swing kicks
- Warrior two
- Calf-raise squats
- Groucho walks
- Towel hoppers
If regular gym workouts with 5-8 exercises per session are boring or too short, the 20 or so exercises in each hour-long P90X workout will certainly catch your interest.
Reps and seconds per exercise are all over the place, which adds a mysterious and exciting touch to every workout (unless you memorize all 12 programs).
The Program Materials tab offers a good deal of reading to guarantee you’re satisfied with your physique by the end of the 90 days.
In this section, you’ll discover:
A 109-Page PDF Fitness Guide
Most users can go without reading the entire thing.
But if you want a run-down on the muscles, explanations for how to follow P90X, a guidebook to your workouts, and a written version of each workout, it’s worth a read.
You’ll also find ads, ads, and — no surprise here — more ads.
An 84-Page Quick Start Nutrition Guide
Unless you want Shakeology and other Beachbody bars jammed down your throat for 60-some pages, scroll down to page 42.
From there on out, you’ll learn about which beverages you can drink and find recipes for every meal of the day. It’s a generic Beachbody plan, so the calorie recommendations are way off.
A 126-Page P90X Nutrition Plan
This guide overviews your P90X three-phase eating plan: fat shredder, energy booster, and endurance maximizer.
Each has a unique macro breakdown, encourages you to calculate your BMR and a more accurate calorie count, and explains how many servings of each food type you need per day.
It explains portions and even offers meal plans and healthy recipes for each phase.
Seriously, every meal you’ll eat during the next 90 days is laid out for you.
Don’t skip this one!
A Workout Calendar
There are vague calendars, and then there’s this one. The calendar divides your program into three phases, but that’s about as much detail as it provides.
Write down which workout you did and circle Y or N to reveal whether you followed the diet.
It’s been 15 years; we need updates!
There’s no sense in following a resistance training and fitness program if you’re not tracking your progress along the way. Print out a copy of these worksheets to do just that.
Log your reps and weight for every workout!
Of course, the worksheets feature even more shameless self-promotions. Every post-workout nutrition recommendation includes a Beachbody product and not, you know, generic protein.
(There are also P90X Plus Worksheets if you’re traveling that route.)
The Fit Test is your way of seeing just how much your physique and fitness improve after hauling ass and completing all 90 days of the program.
On day one and day 90, you’ll measure things like your resting heart rate, toe touches, bicep curls, and more.
Each also has a black box beneath it called “P90X Minimum.”
Anyone can try P90X, but if you struggle to meet the minimum, you may find the program to be too intense or have to sit a few exercises out if your strength isn’t up to par.
The 13-week P90X schedule looks simple from the outset but isn’t as simple as following the videos (or discs, if you enjoy the 2000s nostalgia) in order.
The 12 P90X workouts are:
- Chest & Back (52:50)
- Plyometrics (58:36)
- Shoulders & Arms (59:53)
- Yoga X (92:24 — not a typo)
- Legs & Back (58:56)
- Kenpo X (55:46)
- X Stretch (57:32)
- Core Synergists (57:27)
- Chest, Shoulders, & Triceps (55:44)
- Back & Biceps (51:36)
- Cardio X (43:18)
- Ab Ripper X (16:07)
What Makes Each Phase Different
But then things take a somewhat confusing twist. The P90X program consists of three phases (three weeks at full intensity, a cool-down “recovery” week, repeat).
Each three-week batch follows a unique pattern; this is phase 1, for example:
- Chest & Back, Ab Ripper X (a twofer)
- Shoulders & Arms, Ab Ripper X
- Yoga X
- Legs & Back, Ab Ripper X
- Kenpo X
- Rest or X Stretch
The follow-up to that is a week of core synergists, yoga, stretching, and Kenpo to give your body (and mind) some much-needed recovery time.
More About the Phases
P90X might seem like somebody put all 12 workouts into a hat, shook it, and planned the entire routine around sheer luck and chance. But to put the “phases” into better perspective:
- Phase 1 (weeks 1-3) is about mastering the movements.
- Week 4 is a recovery and ab focus.
- Phase 2 (weeks 5-7) turns the attention to adding mass (8-15 reps).
- Week 8 is another recovery week.
- Phase 3 (weeks 9-13) emphasizes “extreme muscle confusion” to maximize your results before the program ends.
You can add a week or two to a phase if you toned down the intensity or skipped a few workouts, but it won’t make or break your results!
P90X (and Beachbody On Demand) costs are always on the move. But generally, expect to shell out around $100-150 for the 16-year-old program — unless you buy an old-school used DVD set!
Or dust off that old one in your parents’ storage unit.
A Beachbody On Demand annual subscription sits at around $99, offering you unlimited access to the entire BOD workout and nutrition collection.
The physical DVD set (including the nutrition plan, workout calendar, the whole shebang) is closer to the $140-ish range.
The online subscription is the safer option because, if history repeats itself, discs face the same fate as VHS tapes (R.I.P) and CDs.
Since P90X is a bodyweight & resistance training fusion, you need some basic equipment to guarantee you don’t have to skip or substitute any exercises.
Stock up on the following gear:
- P90X Jump Mat: nothing like shameless self-promotion; a regular exercise mat with shock-absorbing features will do just fine during P90X’s plyometric workouts
- P90X Chin-Up Bar: again, a standard doorway or standalone pull-up bar is fine; bonus points if it has multiple grip options (back-up chin-up bar if out of stock)
- Dumbbells: somewhere between 5-70 pounds; an adjustable dumbbell set can save you some hard-earned cash and space in a tight apartment
- B-Lines Resistance Bands: this is ridiculous; a simple ergonomic-handled three-piece resistance band set will get the job done
- Heart Rate Monitor: a Fitbit wrist-worn tracker can put your workout intensity and cardio improvements under a microscope and keep you in your target heart rate zone (THRZ)
- Yoga Blocks: regular old yoga blocks can help you build flexibility and balance during those 90-minute Yoga X workouts
- Body Fat Tester: skinfold calipers might be old-school and require a little math, but they’re far more affordable than bioelectrical impedance devices
- Tony Horton’s Push-Up Stands: when sets of 20 push-ups seem like child’s play, any non-skid push-up stands can ramp up the intensity and the resulting growth (back-up stands if out of stock)
ProsourceFit Home Chin-Up/Pull-Up Bar
Do pull-ups and chin-ups safely and effectively with this durable and multifunctional pull-up bar. It’s easy to assemble and attach to any standard door frame.
Holy, advertisements, Batman.
The equipment section is a shameless cash grab from Beachbody, but you can find cheaper name-brand and generic alternatives on the web or at your local sporting goods store.
As Boomers in online forums say, YMMV. Translation: Your mileage may vary (your P90X results won’t always match the side-by-side pictures of people claiming they dropped 43 pounds).
If you glance at the P90X Success Stories page on Beachbody On Demand, there’s an entire collection of drastic results.
Just to toss a few numbers out there:
- 185 pounds in 13 months (started at 380 pounds)
- 101 pounds in 10 months (began his journey at 340 pounds)
- 71 pounds in 13 months (a college student)
- 36 pounds in 8 months (a father of five)
- 20 pounds in 90 days (a mom)
Now, we have a slight issue with these statistics (not to knock any of their results; they’re all amazing). But all but one of these P90X users repeated the program several times back-to-back.
When we crunch the numbers, anywhere between 5-15 pounds a month is average. Of course, that’s assuming you follow the meal plan and leave every ounce of energy in the gym.
Ninety days from now, a 15-pound weight loss with P90X is realistic.
P90X in Research
While often scrutinized, P90X’s interval-style workout also has science on its side.
A study conducted by the American Council on Exercise analyzed how participants responded to four P90X workouts: plyometrics, legs & back, chest, shoulders & Triceps, and Cardio X.
The results added even more credibility to the wildly popular program.
|Indicator||Range (Between All Four)|
|Heart rate (bpm)||128-164|
|Calories burned total||378-631|
|RPE (rating of perceived exertion)||13.9-15.2|
Now, if the lingo seems confusing, here’s what it means
2009 research shows that maximal fat breakdown hovers between 60-80% of a person’s maximum heart rate. (Subtract your age in years from 220 to find your MHR.)
These four workouts alone sit in the THRZ for any adult, meaning fat loss is a near-guarantee.
P90X is a six-day-a-week program.
If all workouts burn 378 to 631 calories each, you can shed 27,216 calories in 90 days (that’s somewhere around eight pounds).
It doesn’t include calories you’re likely slashing in your diet.
We normally measure RPE on a 0-10 scale, but some scales soar to 15. The bummer here stems from a 2015 study.
Researchers found that training at a 15 RPE for eight weeks could improve aerobic fitness by 11%. But aerobic capacity and endurance fell to near-baseline levels six months later.
P90X might get you into the best shape of your life, but it’s not a permanent change.
That might not be surprising, though.
Your Beachbody Coach
When you create a Beachbody On Demand account, the platform automatically assigns you a coach. You can find their name, email, and phone number at the top of your screen.
If you have any questions about P90X, your email will land directly in your coach’s inbox.
Assuming each coach doesn’t oversee thousands of Beachbody users, an expert on your side isn’t too shabby. But you can also find authentic answers from users on Reddit or online forums.
7 Killer Benefits of P90X
- The research has spoken. P90X — and programs like it — can help maximize your endurance and weight loss, even in as few as three months.
- While certainly wordy and lengthy, the fitness guide walks you through the workouts on the road ahead, and the nutrition guide steps in where most people fail: their diet.
- Unlike the 10 Rounds program (Joel Freeman), P90X comes with log worksheets to record your reps and weight for each exercise. Unfortunately, they’re print-outs.
- There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that P90X can guide you to 20 or even over 100 pounds of weight loss, though this often requires several rounds.
- Though there are only 12 workouts (or 22 or somewhere around there with the other programs lumped on), they’re all very different.
- Interval training programs like P90X have a better reputation than steady-state workouts (like regular jogging). One study from 2019 confirmed that the difference is -28.5% fat loss with intervals, further echoed by the 378-631 calories you might shed per workout.
- As long as you have the time and commitment, everything else is handed to you (meal plans, workouts, and an upcoming schedule).
5 Negatives of P90X
- A 45 to 90-minute workout six times per week is overkill, even for the fittest athletes. In a case report from 2013, a 23-year-old athlete suffered from rhabdomyolysis after just two P90X workouts. Listen to your body and don’t forget to hydrate.
- It’s been 15 or so years. This might be nit-picky, but you’d think they’d either reshoot the videos or add a little more definition to the video quality.
- If you can’t pass the minimum requirements on the Fit Test, P90X might be too intense for you at your current skill level.
- Many users have a love-hate relationship with the program; they love the weight loss and improved fitness, and they hate the exhausting hour-long workouts.
- Short of the videos, everything has an ad hyping up Beachbody products and food. And, no, the protein bars and recovery shakes aren’t much different than other brands.
Wrapping Up This P90X Review
P90X may owe its resurgence to the COVID pandemic, but it shined the spotlight on a program that millions still adore to this day.
The classic program has research backing its aerobic and weight loss claims, you can log your progress from phase to phase, and meal plans are clearly laid out.
Many people lose 20+ pounds throughout the 90-day program.
But it’s a grueling program and can wipe you out pretty quickly. Ensure you can pass the Fit Test first, read your body for signs that something’s wrong, and make the program work for you.
If you can survive all 13 or so weeks, P90X is one of the better programs if you want to shed some weight and sculpt a more muscular, fit physique.
Rating: 8.7 out of 10
Want to see our best-rated workout program? Check out Superhero X12!
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