An In-depth Look at the Pros and Cons of P90x

Very rarely does a home workout system garner as much attention as Tony Horton’s P90x did when it first arrived on the exercise scene. It made Horton millions of dollars and helped to launch Beachbody CEO Carl Daikeler’s company into the stratosphere. Follow up products like Insanity and P90x2 and now P90x3 have also gained a lot of popularity, but none have reached the level of P90x (it accounts for half of Beachbody’s sales). I started using P90x working out in the mornings before work, and managed to get through an entire 90 day rotation. Here are a few of my thoughts on the P90x system; the schedule, Tony Horton as a host, and of the actual workouts.

Does it work? I guess the first thing to talk about is whether P90x actually works or not. The short answer to the question is yes it does. I managed to lose about 10 pounds off a 190 pound frame over the course of 90 days, but more importantly was able to add about 8 pull-ups and 20 pushups to what I was able to do before it started. There is a bit of a longer answer, and I guess it could start out with ‘of course it works’. The Schedule is such that you are working out 6 days a week for one hour plus, and it would have to a fairly terrible exercise system for a person not to see fairly good results over that time period. Whether it works better than another exercise program that is equally time consuming and intense is up for debate, all I know is that it was fairly successful for me.

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Tony Horton TrainingCredit: New York National Guard t Flickr.comThe Schedule: There are a few different options for schedules to follow: Classic and Lean. I did the classic program so that’s what I’ll review here. The schedule is broken up into three phases; 4 weeks, 4 weeks, and 5 weeks. The first weeks of each phase are intense workouts 6 days a week, followed by a single recovery or stretch only day. The last week in each phase is a recovery week that includes some core, cardio and yoga, but is still six days a week. This means that for 6 days a week for 13 weeks you are working out at least one hour per day, it isvery time consuming and intense but worth it.PullupCredit: Midwestnerd at

Tony Horton as a host: The first few times through the DVDs Horton is an excellent host, he is entertaining and is relatively funny when chatting with the folks he is working out with on the video. The problem is that he tells jokes, and after 90 days, you will have seen some of the videos more than ten times. The jokes get old very very quickly, and I found myself putting the videos on mute and listening to tunes after I had been through them enough times to learn the workouts. All in all he is not bad, it’s just that almost no one is so funny that I would want to see here their jokes more than 10 times in 90 days (Eddie Murphy Delierious excluded of course).

The Workouts: This is the most important part of this article for sure; are the workouts any good? They are, they are especially good if you are working out at home and have limited equipment. You can do all the workouts with just a pull-up bar and a set of resistance bands if you are very limited, but the workouts work better with a set of dumbbells as well (I’d say 10-40lbs is enough). One of the great things about the way Horton teaches his classes are there are always three versions of every exercise; beginner, intermediate, and advanced. For example, there are a lot of pull-ups in P90x, but not everyone can do a pull-up. There are three options given, wrapping a resistance band around the pull-up bar and pulling that way, chair assisted pull-ups, and finally unassisted pull-ups. In this way Horton ensures that P90x works for all fitness levels. Please excuse the bold, but I’ve heard a lot of talk on the net about how it’s ‘too intense’ or ‘too hard’ for beginners, but that is baloney, there are always options.

Push UpCredit: stroopsmma at

There is a workout for chest and back that is all push-ups and pull-ups and by the end your arms are on fire and you can barely pull  yourself off the ground, much less up a pull up bar. I’m a strong believer in body weight exercisers so I love this workout. There is a legs and back workout that is intense that mixes in plyometric exercises with weight training and body weight exercise with I enjoy as well. One of the workouts I’m not so fond of is the combined shoulders and arms workout; it rotates between bicep, tricep and shoulder exercises placing equal importance on each. Shoulders are a far more important muscle group to work out than the arms (purely for show), and should be given far more attention.

There is a yoga workout that deserves a paragraph of its own for sure. It is 90 minutes long and tougher than you can even believe. Before this workout I’d been to a few yoga classes of the more relaxing variety, and the P90x yoga was nothing like those; it’s long, grueling, and very challenging. Once again Horton always gives easy, medium and hard versions of exercises when needed, but no matter which one you chose it’s tough. After this workout I started viewing yoga more as exercise that just as semi-relaxing stretching.YogaCredit: o0bsessed at

I wasn’t too crazy about the Kempo workout, which is a fancy name for kicking and punching for exercise. I felt like a bit of a tool doing it, but that being said I was a bit sore afterwards. It is good exercise, I just felt weird doing it. The plyometric workout is a extremely challenging, and if your knees are too bad for jumping, Horton gives low impact options as well.

The Phase 2 workouts are more challenging than the phase 1 workouts; I think the idea is that once you pass through phase 1 you are ready for more. I found the back and bicep workout especially brutal (in a good way); mixed in with pull-ups are a bunch of bicep exercises. It is very challenging to do pull-ups directly after working your biceps out to the point of exhaustion, and it is a great burn.

Phase 3 is a combination of phase 1 and 2 workouts, so it keeps things fresh. This is one of the strengths of the P90x system, you are never doing the same thing for two long which is good for several reasons; you never get bored with the program, and your body never gets used to it.

All in all, P90x is a great workout system with relatively few flaws. It is very good in situations where there is limited equipment, and the grueling schedule ensures that if you stick with it you will get results. It is good for all fitness levels and ages, and is something I’d recommend trying whether you are just starting to exercise or are a seasoned gym rat. Please feel free to leave comments below with your experience with P90x or any other workout systems; I’d love to hear your story.