Behind The Allure Of The P90X Workout

This exercise regimen is not a joke.

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While there are plenty of gentle and low-impact workouts to choose from, sometimes people want to get a grueling sweat session in. In 2005, the P90X workout came out to offer just that: a super tough 90-day strength training regimen that promised to get you hella strong in three months.

The P90X program, created by trainer Tony Horton, was initially available in a pack of DVDs (#TBT). Essentially, it’s a workout plan based on variety — you’ll move through all different fitness modalities for the sake of increased overall strength. “Each day of the week would be a different DVD from the program,” explains Rob Wagener, a NASM-certified personal trainer and nutrition coach. “For example, one day might be plyometrics, which would be various jumping and power moves, and the next day might be yoga or shoulders and arms.”

According to Jen Steele, a certified run coach and Beachbody trainer who has completed P90X, all of the workouts start with a dynamic warmup before moving into the meat of the routine and end with a cooldown an hour or so later. And yes — the workouts range between 60 and 90-minutes in length. On lifting days, you might do strength training moves like squats, shoulder presses, or chest presses, Steele says, while cardio days focus on high-energy jumps and mountain climber-style moves. You’re meant to exercise six days out of the week with one day to recover. It’s no joke.

There’s a nutrition aspect to P90X as well, but many people would simply pop in a DVD and sweat it out in front of their TV. According to Trevor Thieme, CSCS, the executive director of nutrition and fitness content at Beachbody, the program has helped millions of folks meet their fitness goals since it was released. And it’s still around today (no DVD player required). Here are the benefits of the P90X workout as well as what to know in case you’re interested in giving it a try.

The Benefits Of The P90X Workout


1. It’s A Full-Body Workout

Each week incorporates a wide range of fitness modalities. “In a typical week, you do a combination of classic weightlifting, high-intensity cardio, MMA-inspired training, yoga, core work, and recovery-focused stretching and mobility exercises,” says Thieme. “The result is a comprehensive workout plan that helps you build muscle. Plus, it allows you to pursue multiple fitness goals simultaneously.” Think strength training, agility training, and stretching all within one program.

2. It Prevents Fitness Plateaus

P90X incorporates all these different types of exercise — where you do something new every day — to create “muscle confusion”. The idea is that your body can’t get used to doing the same move over and over again, so it ends up getting stronger faster. As Wagener says, mixing things up also helps prevent workout boredom and plateaus (aka when you continually do the same exercises and your progress stops) as you move through the full three months.

3. It Reduces Your Risk Of Injury

Doing different types of exercise also lowers your risk of overuse injury, Thieme says. Remember, though, that the workout is grueling, so it’s important to check in with yourself to make sure you aren’t overdoing it, especially if you’re newer to exercise.

4. It’s Great Cardio

According to Steele, the intensity of the workout program plus its combo of strength training and HIIT is guaranteed to get your heart rate up. And because it has you working out hard for a full hour or so, it helps you build endurance, too.

5. You Get To Exercise At Home

Another perk? You get to sweat, grunt — and collapse on your mat — in the privacy of your own home. This is a big plus if you tend to feel a bit self-conscious about working out in front of others, Wagener says. It’s also nice if you WFH or want to incorporate more movement into your day without having to leave the house.

6. It Provides Structure

If you’ve been on an exercise kick and want to take things to next level but aren’t sure where to start, a program like P90X might provide the structure you need. Wagener says he liked following along to P90X when he was newer to fitness. “Having a program that was simple to follow and guided me on what to do each day was a big bonus,” he says.

7. You Can Make It Your Own

That said, you can make the workout your own. “Even though the P90X program was intended to be followed every day for 90 days, that doesn't mean it's the only way to complete it,” Wagener says. “One benefit of at-home workouts is that you’re in charge of your own pace and comfort.”

If you need a break or an additional rest day, that’s OK. “In those cases, take a day off — or even a couple — and pick up where you left off,” Wagener says.

What To Keep In Mind

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Committing to the P90X workouts will definitely help you get stronger, but it isn’t the best choice for beginners. “The workouts do have a ‘modifier’ or a member of the cast who performs a slightly easier version of each move,” Thieme says. “But the program is intense, and you’ll get the most out of it if you begin with a strong foundation.” Before starting P90X, he recommends establishing a solid fitness base with plenty of cardio.

If you do try the program, remember to take really good care of yourself before and after the workout. It’s a lot of work, so you need to replenish all the expended energy. “Make sure you’re fueling enough to complete the workouts,” says Steele. “And have protein 20 to 30 minutes post-workout to prevent injuries and speed up recovery.” Hydration is key, too, since you’ll definitely sweat.

How Can You Try P90X?

Today, you can find P90X on Beachbody on Demand, a streaming platform that also offers all the newer P90X programs, like the slightly easier P90, as well as P90X2 and P90X3, which are ideal if you’re looking for more mobility and less old-school lifting patterns, Steele says.

While P90X has been around for over 17 years, it’s still as legit as ever, Wagener says. “It will make you sweat, and it will make you stronger.” In other words: It’s an oldie but a goodie.


Trevor Thieme, CSCS, executive director of nutrition and fitness content at Beachbody

Rob Wagener, a NASM-certified personal trainer and nutrition coach

Jen Steele, a certified run coach and Beachbody coach