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The P90X System

By Michael Esco, PhD, HFS, CSCS*D
WebMD Commentary

The P90X System: What It Is

The P90X system is an intense home DVD exercise program that says it can give you a lean, ripped body in 90 days. 

But it's not for the faint of heart -- or the very out of shape. Getting fit the P90X way means working out 6-7 days per week, with each workout lasting about 1-1½ hours. And the workouts are so rigorous that you're asked to take a fitness test before ordering the P90X system, to see whether you're up to the challenge.   

What exactly is the P90X system? For $119.85 (made in three payments of $39.95 each), you get 12 workout DVDs, a 100-page fitness guide, a 113-page nutrition plan, and a 90-day calendar to track your progress. (You'll need some additional equipment -- a pull-up bar, dumbbells, resistance bands, and an exercise mat.) 

The P90X workout system is sold by Beach Body through its web site and via television infomercials. Beach Body offers a 100%, 90-day satisfaction guarantee, though you'll still have to pay shipping costs if you end up returning the P90X system.

The P90X System: How It Works

Each workout is presented in a circuit format, in which you move from exercise to exercise with little rest in between, thus keeping your heart rate up. The strengthening DVDs target certain parts of the body each day: chest and back; then shoulders and arms; legs and back; chest, shoulders, and triceps; and back and biceps. Other DVDs focus on plyometrics (explosive "power" movements), Kenpo kickboxing, cardio fitness, abs/core, yoga, and stretching

For example, the "Chest & Back" DVD is a 53-minute workout that works the chest muscles with variations of the push-up, including traditional push-ups, wide-stance “fly” push-ups, and push-ups done with your hands close together. It targets the back muscles with variations of the pull-up or pull-down exercise done with resistance bands, including pull-ups/pull-downs with your hands at shoulder width, wider, narrower, or reverse grip. It also includes rowing exercises done with dumbbells or resistance bands. 

The 59-minute “Plyometrics” workout is the most intense in the P90X system. After a lengthy warm-up, this cardiovascular routine leads you through a series of jumping moves that primarily work the lower body. You'll need a good pair of shock-absorbing shoes and a soft landing surface for this one. (Because it's high impact, skip it if you have lower back, hip, knee, or ankle problems.) 

Even the P90X yoga workout is intense: It's 90 minutes long, and quite challenging, especially to those not accustomed to yoga.  

The P90X system is based on the concept of "muscle confusion," which means varying the workout schedule and introducing new moves so the body never fully adapts. This is similar to the periodization techniques athletes use to get their bodies in top condition.  It also has a basis in science; research suggests that workout programs that offer variation bring greater benefits than those that do not.    

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