P90x Review: The Brutally Honest Truth About P90x

P90x reviews

P90x review time.I don’t do a lot of reviews on my site but today I’m going to tackle the granddaddy of home workout programs, P90x.

First let’s get this out the way: Unlike most P90x reviews this is not going to be some feel-good story filled with fairies and unicorns about how P90x has changed my life.

Quite the opposite.

This is going to be a brutally honest P90x workout review and analysis of its system and methodology.

Let’s get to it.

Muscle confusion is (kinda) bullshit

Yeah that’s right, I said it.

In P90x, muscle confusion basically states that you must consistently switch up your exercise selection to continue to burn fat, build muscle, and avoid plateaus.

There is some truth to this but a lot of the theory behind muscle confusion is bullshit.

Your muscles can’t get “confused.” Sorry to break the bad news. As a human being, you and your thoughts can get confused (like when you go to Bangkok and find out half the girls there are dudes). But your muscles can’t get confused. Making your workout more confusing doesn’t result in a more effective workout.

Your muscles can ONLY adapt to volume and load. This means that if you want to gain more muscle, you need to be progressively push more weight and/or reps. For example, this can be as simple as going from only being able to do 1 push-up to being able to do 2 push-ups. You progressed from 1 to 2 so your muscles will automatically get stronger. And when you’re able to do 50 push ups, you’re going to have much stronger muscles.

See what I mean? You progressed from 1 to 50 so your muscles are now bigger and stronger. Boom! Logic and common sense FTW, none of that muscle confusion silliness.

P90x review: The workouts  are overkill and unnecessary

P90x workout review

With P90x you workout 6-7 times per week depending on whether you take the 7th day as a Rest or “X Stretch” day.

Day 1 – Chest&Back, Ab Ripper X

Day 2 –  Plyometrics

Day 3 – Shoulders & Arms, Ab Ripper X

Day 4 – Yoga X

Day 5 – Legs & Back, Ab Ripper X

Day 6: KenpoX

Day 7: Rest or X Stretch

7x per week workouts. Fuck…

Professional athletes train 5-7 times per week, so why would an average Joe who simply wants to lose weight and look better need to workout every single day.

The answer – there is no need to train 7 days per week. This is just all part of P90x’s extreme branding. Obviously you’re going to be tired and incredibly sore from doing P90x so people inevitably say it’s “working” for them.

Even if you’re an advanced trainer, I can almost never recommend training 7 days per week. Granted some of these days are more relaxed than others (yoga and stretching) but still, training 7 days per week is unnecessary especially if your goal is to simply look and feel good (which is probably what most are trying to accomplish).

Will P90x get results if you do it? Yes absolutely, but it is by far one of the least optimal approaches to losing weight.

When it comes to fat loss, one of the best approaches to working out is to simply train 3-4 times per week to mainly preserve muscle mass, and to let your diet create the majority of the calorie deficit and burn fat. P90x takes the opposite approach – it tries to use the workout to create a calorie deficit/burn fat and the diet to sustain energy.

It’s much easier to eat 100 less calories than it is to burn 100 calories via exercise.

P90x review: Dieting not made easy

P90x diet and workout

I’m not going to dive into the dieting section much since it’s a very very typical eat every 2-3 hours, 6 meals per day  “eat clean” diet. You’ll also get the and exact meal plan to follow in the diet section.

And I am not a fan of these typical diets mostly because they’re restrictive, allow no room for error, and makes you form a bad relationship with food.

Not to mention the fact that the whole “You need to eat breakfast and eat every 2-3 hours.” saying is complete myth. Sorry, eating every 2-3 hours does not boost your metabolism.

You can eat 1 meal per day or you can eat 6 meals per day. It doesn’t matter.

Check out a sample day of how I eat here.

Dieting is a lifestyle change but do you really want to live a lifestyle where you have to eat every 2-3 hours on the clock and can only eat a specific list of foods. Of course not, that’s lame. You want to live a life where ice cream and doughnuts are regularly involved.

I really like how Nate Miyaki’s approach to dieting, Feat Your Fat Away where you get to feast on food every night and still  lose fat. His approach makes it super flexible and easy to lose fat.

Why do you want to do P90x?

Serious question: Why do you want to do P90x? Just be honest.

Most people who do P90x fall into the following categories:

  1. You simply want to get in shape (lose fat and build a little muscle).
  2. You want to get in shape but are too lazy or embarrassed to go to the gym
  3. You want to get absolutely ripped and need an intense workout program to help you do that.

People in category 1 are typically the beginners. They end up doing P90x because they simply believe it’s the best option. They constantly hear their friends talk about it, they see the infomercials, and what the hell, it’s the New Year so I may as well give this new workout a shot, right?

Those in category 2 have probably already tried losing weight in the past with no success. Perhaps they went to the gym and had no idea what they were doing or perhaps they had a bad experience with a personal trainer that touched them in weird places. Now they simply want to stay in the comfort of the home and maybe give this P90x thing a shot.

Category 3 people are those who are already familiar with working out but want to give themselves more of a challenge. These aren’t beginners, but they want a workout to push their body to the limit.

To be completely honest, the only people who should do P90x are category 3 people. If you find yourself in category 1 or 2, P90x is going to be overkill for you. There are much better options out there.

Conclusion: P90x gets results but it’s not the optimal solution for weight loss

P90x2 reivew

I know what you’re going to say.

“But Tony Horton does P90x and he’s ripped.”

“But my friend’s uncle’s second cousin did P90x and he lost a ton of weight.”

“Shut the hell up, obviously P90x works since so many people have used it and got in shape.”

And you’re 110% right. If you follow P90x to the letter, you will get results. You will lose weight and look better, guaranteed.

But you don’t need to do P90x to lose weight and get in shape. If you truly want to improve your conditioning, then P90x may be right for you otherwise it’s a bit pointless.

In fact when you talk to people who do P90x, all you do is hear them bitch and moan about how tough the workout is and how it’s kicking their ass. “Oh man, P90x is so hard but I know it’s working because I’m so sore.” No shit Sherlock, if you do any intense workout that you’ve never done before, you’re going to be sore. And people always tend to equate soreness to results even though it’s not true (but that’s another article altogether).

My point is – P90x works but it’s not optimal if you simply wan to to lose weight and get in shape. There are just so many more effective and simple options out there. Whether you’re looking for a great at-home workout routine (I like Bodyweight Burn) or you can just go to the gym 3x per week and do a few simple strength training workouts.

And boom, you’re done. There’s no need to train 6-7 times per week…absolutely no reason at all.

Remember, use your diet to lose weight and your workout to build/maintain muscle.

P90x review breakdown

Pros:

  • Exact meal plans for those who don’t know what to cook
  • Good workouts for building endurance and overall conditioning

Cons:

  • Over the top and unnecessary workouts if you simply want to lose weight and look/feel good
  • Absolutely no science to back up muscle confusion
  • Diet plan is laughably cliche – your typical eat 6 meals per day, eat clean stuff
Overall P90x score – 6.5/10

Need a more better home workout routine than P90x?

So if P90x isn’t as great everyone else makes it out to be, what are you suppose to do use for a home workout program?

There are a ton of great options but one of my favorite programs is Bodyweight Burn by Adam Steer.

It’s a fantastic program that allows you get a great workout in as little as 21 minutes. To some that might not seem like a lot but if done effectively like in Bodyweight Burn, sometimes that’s all you need.

I know I’m in the minority when it comes to doing more negative P90x reviews, so PLEASE leave any questions or comments you have in the comment section below. I’ll be more than happy to answer any questions you have. As Tony Horton would say, “Bring It!”

Comments

  1. DC28209 says

    Good review. I’m finishing up the next to last week of P90X today. When I started, I was in ok shape. 5’11, 192 lbs., 21% body fat. My workout experience was…well…none. My goal was to build muscle and lose fat (a goal which I’ve realized can only happen one at a time). I never followed the diet–though I already eat sensibly anyway. My normal diet is around 2300 calories and I naturally crave more healthy foods with the occasional beer or four. Here’s my take on my experience with p90X:
    1) It is advertised as a weight loss program using “ripped” people in their ads. This isn’t fair, in my opinion. The workout program is too intense if you are overweight and have no fitness experience. For those people, it is overwhelming and I can see people quitting quickly (in fact, most of the people I know who started quit within the first two weeks). The workout program is really designed for someone looking to improve strength and size. On the other hand, the diet portion is geared for people to lose weight. Ignore the actual diet itself–the calorie suggestions it gives you for each phase are for weight loss. If you want to “bulk up”–the diet suggestions are never going to get you there. So it’s a catch-22.
    2) The program is good because it encourages you to work towards your goal without shaming yourself if you can’t do something right now. Not everyone can do 12 pull-ups on week one. In fact, I could barely do one pull up. But the attitude of Tony (the guy talking you through the workout) is “do what you can….try…if you can’t do it now…you will later…if you need a break…take it…” I think this is an important motivator to people who feel like they “can’t do it” and want to give up. At some point, everyone “can’t do it”–but there are people who keep at it and don’t give up and those people are the ones doing 20 pull ups…curling 50lbs dumbells…and running marathons.
    3) Maybe the point of the overly intense diet and workout program is to “shoot for the stars” with the understanding that cheating will still allow people to see results. If you skip 2 DVDs a week–you are still getting a good workout in. If you eat a piece of cake every week on the diet–you are still in calorie deficit to lose weight.
    4) This is a great program for beginners wanting to get into shape because it puts you through a variety of movements.

    As far as my personal results: Keep in mind that I didn’t change my diet much. With the workouts–I was not getting enough calories to bulk up. I definitely see better muscle tone muscle definition in my arms and chest. I won’t say my muscle mass increased–but I have noticed a better shape to my upper pecs. My strength has increased significantly. Within 8 weeks I had gone from one pullup to five pullups. I had also increased the weights on the weight lifting exercises by 5-15 lbs depending on the exercise (ex: Static arm curls were a struggle with 10 lbs weights on Day 1, now I do them with slight difficulty using 20lbs weights). I went from 10 standard pushups to 25. Probably the most important result is that I feel better. I have more energy and I feel good about the fact that I stuck with the program–even when I wanted to quit so many times.

    You certainly don’t need to buy P90X to feel good or look good. If I had to give people advice I would say that you have to be reasonable about your expectations and do the things that keep you motivated. If you can’t do six workouts a week–then don’t…only do three…but actually do them. If you can’t stick to the ridiculous diet–then don’t–try to eat better. You’ll stick to it and see results if you don’t do things that make you want to quit. Realistically, any fitness program or diet is a lifestyle change which requires a psychological change before anything else. Once you’re mentally into a healthy lifestyle–the rest naturally follows.

    • Keith says

      Thanks for the comment.

      I agree witha lot of what you said.

      P90x is def not for building muscle in any way.

      My problem is that you can’t just tell people to start a program and “do what you can”

      You should do a program specific to your goals and experience.

      • Nelson says

        But you can tell people to start a program and say “do what you can”

        I started P90X with 14 max push-up and 0 pull-up. By modifying, like tony says in the video, you will get there.

  2. BirdofPrey says

    Interesting review.

    For me, p90x was a good fit. I was really active in high school / college (football, racquetball, was no stranger to a squat rack) but after working long hours at a desk job for years, drinking a lot more, forming bad habits — at 29 I found myself soft and completely unmotivated to exercise given the intensity of my work and travel schedule.

    The first few weeks were really tough, but it was the kick-in-the-ass I really needed. Waking up at 5:30am, jump outside and hit “play,” finish the workout sore and tired, make a solid, healthy breakfast — and head to work for 12 hours as usual. I needed a system that would force me into a new routine and that was intense enough to get the results I knew I really wanted. I knew I couldn’t workout at night, and starting a habitual morning routine from nothing is difficult. p90x forces that, and that is the benefit of a 6-day workout (which, don’t forget, includes yoga and kenpo).

    I’ve developed an amazing relationship with food. Healthy, daily, homemade breakfast. Solid lunch (protein w/ tons of vegetables) with light snacks during the day — and now I can make expertly cook atlantic salmon, filet mignon, quinoa, sautéed veggies, grilled portobello caps, etc. in no time. It pushed me to research how my body digests and processes food, it inspired me to make my homemade food better — and to never, ever revert to the “whole frozen pizza” night several times a month. On p90x I naturally gave up drinking and smoking, which added another layer of health-shock to my body.

    Your review is fine, but it’s a bit contrarian. It seems to annoy personal trainers that there’s a program folks can do that works without walking into a gym — but that’s short-sighted;. P90x can be the right fit for a lot of people and the inspiration to join new programs, start completely new, sustainable programs that work for them. And most importantly, to develop and nurture a love for REAL food.

    I fit your #2. I wanted to look and feel better. p90x helped me rewire my habits, love whole foods, and use that motivation, strength, and knowledge to jump start my motivation/metabolism and develop a long-term routine that works for me.

  3. Jess says

    Great review. As a pretty active person I decided to do P90X after my first child to regain some of the muscle I had lost during pregnancy and it worked great but I agree….6-7 days a week is exhausting. I made it through 60 days of the program before getting sick of committing an hour almost every single day to working out. For maintenance I did a video about 3 times a week sometimes subbing in another workout just to keep variety.

    I completely agree with your opinions on working out every day being too much. I now have had my second child two months ago and have been slowly building up to start P90X again but have decided on a different approach. I’ll be doing 3-4 of the workouts a week.

    P90X definitely works…but anything more than 4 days a week is very hard to keep up and stay motivated. I dread working out a lot less when I keep it to 4 and under.

  4. laura says

    Hi! Which home workout routine would you recommend just for toning? I don’t really need to lose fat (probably just a little bit on my stomach) I just want to look firm and toned. Bodyweight burn seems to be more focused in just burning fat.

  5. Jarrod says

    “Need a more better home workout routine than P90x?”

    “more better”

    “…..more better……..”

    just stop it. just stop.

  6. kvkr says

    Opinions will vary depends on whom you ask. For someone looking to stay healthy, fit and athletic P90X is a good choice. Some of their workouts are world class (chest and back, Yoga X ). I haven’t seen significant gains in my muscles though I religiously followed their program. One reason could be that I run, bike and swim a lot and that could be burning my muscles. All said and done I am happy with the program and I am into my 3rd yr of P90x. The way I look at it is anything that can get me out out of my couch is better than nothing .

  7. Nelson says

    I think your arguments are a bit weak.

    I will start off by saying that I agree with your findings on the Muscle Confusion. This was probably created by the marketing department at BeachBody, or maybe even Tony himself. Either way it’s stupid and dumb.

    Your second point.
    “The workouts are overkill and unnecessary”
    This is relative and a blanket statement like this is a bit silly. The workouts are 6 days a week with a 7th day stretch or rest.

    “training 7 days per week is unnecessary especially if your goal is to simply look and feel good “

    I did it to loose 80 pounds and it worked. If you search youtube you will see many others have done the same thing. This is the first time I have heard a trainer say “don’t work out so many days a week it’s unnecessary.

    “Professional athletes train 5-7 times per week, so why would an average Joe who simply wants to lose weight and look better need to workout every single day.”

    Come on? Are you really comparing an athlete to a over weight mom or day jumping around in their living room. You, as a trainer that Professional athletes are not training to loose weight, they are training a skill, they are strength building, they are building coordination. The average Joe (which by US statistics is overweight) is doing it to lose weight.

    ” P90x takes the opposite approach – it tries to use the workout to create a calorie deficit/burn fat and the diet to sustain energy.”

    Wrong, Wrong Wrong. there is a formula that comes with p90x that will help you figure out what your caloric intake should be. It also sets your macro which is something that is widely accepted in the body building community.

    “Dieting not made easy”

    You really are just one of those trainers that probably says.. loosing weight is easy and you don’t have to work as hard as you think. Come here I will show you.

    I eat omlette at 7am, protein shake at 10pm, lunch at 12, yogurt at 3, dinner at 6pm. Woah that’s crazy right? who can sustain that.

    “Most people who do P90x fall into the following categories:”

    Where is the research that backs this statement up? haha.. Ok I will play along. I’m a Cat 1 person. I started p90x two years ago at 250lbs and I weighed in yesterday at 181lbs. You’re a trainer, don’t categorize people. Everyone has their own reasons for getting health. Your attempt to fit everyone into the same box is insulting.

    BTW I am not a beach body coach, I never have been and I never will be. I’m not the pyramid scheme type
    I have little doubt in my mind that you review of p90x was influenced strongly by your need to promote or push “FitMole Elite Coaching”. It’s a shame when someone’ who’s profession in life is to get people health needs to bash other programs that are proven to work. It makes it seem like you intention are purely for profit.

  8. Ricky says

    I honestly love p90x! I was severely over weight before I began the workout and now i’m in the best shape of my life so far. If you’re talking about getting bigger you should follow the “mass” calendar where you aim for 10-12 reps in 3 weeks then 8-10 and finally 6-8.

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