Monday, February 7, 2011

Gear Review: P90X Final Thoughts

You may remember that a month ago, I wrote up a review of P90X. Well, I've finished the 90 days, and figured I would give some final thoughts on the program, as well as a few pictures of my results.

Before I get into the review itself, I'd like to make it known that I use the term "finished" in a rather loose sense, since during month 3 of the program (the last month), I played around a bit with the workouts to eliminate the ones from which I felt I was getting little benefit and substituted trainer workouts. Sorry, but Kenpo X does not give me nearly as good of a workout as an equivalent amount of time on the trainer, and is kind of a waste of my time. I also did not follow the diet plan, mainly because I was doing a lot of cardio work on the trainer and P90X was my supplemental workout.

First of all, P90X is not a diet program. It's a fitness program. Many of the people who follow P90X and lose weight do so because they have a fair amount of weight to lose, and would get similar weight loss results off of any type of strenuous physical activity paired with a healthy diet. No need to spend the money on P90X if losing weight is your primary goal. However, if your goal is to build muscle, P90X may be something to consider. I've spent a good bit of time in the weight room and lifting weights in the past, but P90X gave me better anabolic results than any program I had tried in the past. Here are the pictures:


Please ignore the dirty mirror and the weird faces. The mirror is streaky because mirrors are impossible to clean, and my face is messed up because I was trying to look in the viewfinder while keeping the camera at an angle to take the shot. In the 90 days since starting P90X, I put on 5 pounds, the majority of which I'm hoping was muscle (it's nearly impossible to put on 5 pounds of pure muscle, and it's almost certain it was a mixture of fat and muscle). I was my heaviest at day 60, at 8 pounds higher than when I began the program, but lost 3 of those pounds in the past month. Now, I do want you to understand that there are some other variables to consider. Due my current injury, I haven't been logging my usual 85-100 miles per week of running, so the muscle catabolism factor from running huge miles was removed and replaced with cycling (and although the volume of aerobic exercise remained similar, an hour of cycling equates to less than an hour of running). Therefore, it is very possible I would have had similar results from my previous lifting programs. Additionally, someone who follows the low calorie diet recommended by the P90X nutrition guide is unlikely to put on significant muscle mass, since muscle needs calories for growth. Honestly, I'm not sure how anyone can follow the diet guide, since P90X just made me hungry (which makes sense, since muscles that get broken down should demand food to rebuild themselves). Therefore, I believe that anyone who is already fit who completes the P90X program will either maintain or gain weight. I also believe that as long as you fuel yourself properly, P90X will give you significant muscle building results, though it's unclear whether it's actually better than the previous weight lifting programs I have tried.

Another area where I noticed measurable improvement was in my flexibility. This is the first time since elementary school since I was able to touch my toes. However, while runners, like everyone else, need functional flexibility, most recent research states that stretching (particularly static stretching, the type of stretching utilized by P90X) before running does not prevent injury and, if anything, may hinder performance. Even more shockingly, flexibility may not equate to performance, and it has been suggested that runners who are less flexible may have better running economy than their more supple peers.

In Part I of my P90X review, I stated that I do not think P90X is a good program for competitive runners. I stand by this assertion since it's a significant time commitment (a little over an hour per day) as well as energy drain that could be spent doing more running-specific training. Additionally, large amounts of upper body muscle is of little benefit to runners, and may just be extra mass to carry around. Though runners can definitely benefit from strength training, they would be better served doing something more sport specific that isn't so time or energy intensive. Finally, as discussed in the above paragraph, the flexibility that may be gained by P90X will not help runners, and may actually hurt their performance (assuming the runner already has a functional range of motion).


  1. I think flexibility helps my running, but not leg flexibility. Also, I am probably on the extreme end of in-flexibility in my upper body, which my doctor pointed out was "hindering my ability breathe" and which I didn't believe until I started yoga.

    Are you going to keep doing P90X now that you are "done"?

  2. That goes back to the functional flexibility thing. There are certain ranges that are defined as normal, and as long as you're close to that range, you should be able to function normally. If you were inflexible to the point you couldn't breathe properly, you didn't have functional flexibility. You need functional flexibility to run (and to allow your body to function properly and to function normally in society, for that matter). But for people who already are within (or close to) the normal ranges, extra flexibility may not help them run faster, and too much flexibility may possibly be detrimental.

  3. And I totally missed your second question. I'm taking a week of no Beachbody stuff and then starting up Insanity, assuming it doesn't mess with my tendon. If Insanity screws with my tendon, I'll go between doing the workouts from P90X that I like and lifting at the gym.

  4. I disagree about p90x is just like a normal workout. I know plenty of people myself included that when in the gym only hit a few number of muscle groups. The thing that I love about P90x is the fact that you hit muscles you never really hit before its a great workout and leaves you feeling great.

  5. Wow, it's been a while since I did P90X so I'm going to have to refresh my memory! Do you remember where I pointed out that P90X is just like a normal workout? I guess that part depends on what you're already doing, and what your "normal workout" is. If you already know a bunch of good exercises to hit different muscles, it is a normal workout. If you're one of those people who goes to the gym and does dips and pullups and that's it, then no, it's not your normal workout, and it'll give you a more balanced workout than a normal workout.

    The problem I had with P90X is I don't think it's a good program for runners, for all the reasons I mentioned above. And I'm not someone who works out to get in shape or be healthy or anything like that. I work out to be a fast runner. So coming from that context, it's really not an effective program. There are people who have done it and gotten faster, but I believe that spending the same amount of time doing more sport specific training would have gotten them even faster. So in that respect, it depends on your priorities.

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