When a Grammy-bound Sheryl Crow announced that "a friend had turned [her] on to P90X," fans assumed that Tony Horton, the creator of the $100-plus infomercial workout DVDs, had personally trained the fantastically fit singer. But according to the company owners, Crow bought the 12-DVD set herself. So what made the self-described former runner and yoga-phile stick with the plan?
How the P90X Workout Works
While P90X sounds like a brand of glass cleaner — it stands for Power 90-Day Extreme — it's a series of pretty intense workouts, including plyometrics (jumping), weight-training (dumbbells and bands), Kenpo (a martial art), yoga (the sweaty kind), ab exercises, and stretching. Oh, and don't forget the diet plan!
The P90X program involves alternating among all of the above to elicit "muscle confusion," by which your body is constantly challenged (and responds faster) because it never gets used to one routine. For example, you might do the Cardio X DVD (43 minutes) on Day 1, Shoulders & Arms (60 minutes) and Ab Ripper X (16 minutes) on Day 2, and Yoga X (92 minutes) on Day 3 and so on. The program is 6 days a week (with an optional Stretch DVD for Day 7), but then, with Week 4, you start a whole new 6-days-a-week sequence. The program lasts for 90 days and includes three phases.
You can also choose between three types of programs within these phases: Classic (one hour a day to build strength), Doubles (build muscle and burn fat with cardio), and Lean (more cardio plus intense strengthening, typically for women). No matter which program you're on, the moves are not for newbies. For instance, the first move on the "Core Synergistics" DVD is a "Staggered Foot/Staggered Hand Push-Up," far more difficult than a modified, knees-on-the-floor beginner version. Throughout, there are lots of high-reps pull-ups, one-arm balances, and squat leaps — and even the yoga sessions are brisk and require lengthy holds of balance-challenge poses, such as Crane or Dancer.
The P90X Diet Plan
Along with customizing your workout plan, the P90X program asks you to pick from among three diets designed by nutritionist to the stars, Carrie Wiatt: the extremely low-carb "Fat Shredder," a Zone-like "Energy Booster," and a higher-carb plan called the "Endurance Maximizer" designed for the focused athlete and that most closely resembles a traditional food pyramid. Even within each diet plan, there are three follow-along options: an "eat-this-exactly" menu (egg-white omelet, strawberries, and cottage cheese for breakfast), a create-your-own-meals list, or a limited number of fast-food offerings.
Should You Try P90X?
While almost all of the information presented follows standard fitness and nutritional guidelines, this tester found a few moves (which require lowering your head below your heart after cardio) a little questionable. Also, you might not find the DVD chatter to be performance-level and his companion exercisers aren't, for the most part, fitness models, but there is still a lot of inspiration. In fact, one guy in the plyometrics program has a prosthetic leg. (He jumps! So no excuses for you!) Even though the program is not designed for beginners (and says so), some seasoned exercisers may still wish there were some shorter, one-hour workouts for allover toning a few times a week.
If it worked for Sheryl Crow, will it work for you? Probably, if you are already at a higher fitness level, have lots of time (including time to read two 100-page booklets that come with the kit) and the dedication to eat very lean. You do get a lot of bang for your buck (a single fitness DVD might cost you $15), but the program also nudges you to buy recommended supplements and workout equipment. Nevertheless, the sell isn't as hard as the muscles on Tony and his exercise gang. And, to lift a few lyrics from Crow, if it makes you happy, it can't be that bad.
Have You Tried P90X?
We've tested it — now it's your turn. Post your reviews of the P90X Workout Program below.
Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, February 2009.