What Is P90X And Does It Really Work? A Complete Review

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If you’ve ever fallen asleep on the couch and then woken up in the middle of the night to the sound of an energetic voice promising amazing body transformations, there’s a decent chance it was a Beachbody infomercial.

Beachbody has long been one of the preeminent companies for at-home fitness and weight loss programs. Popular Beachbody programs include Insanity, 21 Day Fix, Piyo, and Focus T25. 

Most Beachbody programs promise impressive weight loss and body composition changes, achieved through the specific workouts of the given program and a certain diet plan, often with a reliance on branded supplements.

Since its original release in 2005, P90X has been one of the most popular Beachbody workout programs. P90X is an intense, complete workout program that millions of people have completed since its inception.

But what is P90X? More importantly, does P90X work?

In this article, we will explain what P90X entails and take a critical look at whether P90X works.

We will cover: 

  • What Is P90X?
  • Can Beginners Do P90X?
  • P90X Program Format
  • Benefits of P90X
  • Drawbacks of P90X
  • P90X Reviews: Does P90X Work?

Let’s get started!

A person working out at high intensity.

What Is P90X?

Like the majority of programs created by Beachbody, P90X is an at-home fitness program. It was created in 2005 by Beachbody Super Trainer Tony Horton. 

P90X was so named because it’s a 90-day workout program adapted from Horton and his business partner, Jon Congdon’s original Power 90 program.

The “X” stands for “extreme,” which is meant to denote the rigor of P90X.

In fact, Horton is said to have designed the program to be so hard that he posed trying it as a dare to TV customers. So, what is P90X’s goal, you ask?

The goals of P90X are to increase total-body strength while building muscle and burning fat so that you get shredded over the 90-day fitness program.

The focus of each daily P90X workout varies, helping minimize the risk of injury while providing your muscles with an ever-changing stimulus to present “muscle confusion.”

In this way, your body never really adapts to the P90X workout program; this prevents fitness or weight loss plateaus and ensures you’re becoming stronger and fitter in a balanced and well-rounded way.

A person smiling working out at the gym.

Can Beginners Do P90X?

P90X is not intended for beginners. It is geared towards adults who already have a good fitness base, both in terms of muscular strength and aerobic endurance.

You should also have familiarity with basic, foundational strength training moves like squats, push-ups, and lunges.

P90X Program Format

As mentioned, P90X is a 90-day workout program.

Workouts are approximately 60-75 minutes per day, though some are slightly shorter.

As per the P90X training plan, you complete six workouts per week and have one rest day.

Most P90X workouts require relatively little exercise equipment aside from a mat and pull-up bar, but dumbbells and a weight bench are highly recommended and used in many of the workouts

If you don’t have these, resistance bands can suffice.

You only need a workout space that’s about 7 feet by 7 feet.

There are a few different versions of P90X: 

  • Classic P90X: The Classic P90X training plan includes three days of strength training per week, focusing on different muscle groups, and three days of cardio and/or yoga.
  • Doubles P90X: This is the super-intensive workout program that involves doing Classic P90X plus additional cardio every day, usually done in two separate workouts per day.
A person doing mountain climbers on a ball.

Now you may ask, what is P90X’s schedule like? Let’s map out the schedule for the Classic P90X program to get a better idea:

Phase 1
Weeks 1-3Week 4
Day 1Chest & Back, Ab Ripper XYoga X
Day 2PlyometricsCore Synergistics
Day 3Shoulders & Arms, Ab Ripper XKenpo X
Day 4Yoga XX Stretch
Day 5Legs & Back, Ab Ripper XCore Synergistics
Day 6Kenpo XYoga X
Day 7Rest or X StretchRest or X Stretch
Phase 2
Weeks 5-7Week 8
Day 1Chest, Shoulders & Triceps, Ab Ripper XYoga X
Day 2PlyometricsCore Synergistics
Day 3Back & Biceps, Ab Ripper XKenpo X
Day 4Yoga XX Stretch
Day 5Legs & Back, Ab Ripper XCore Synergistics
Day 6Kenpo XYoga X
Day 7Rest or X StretchRest or X Stretch
Phase 3
Weeks 9 AND 11Weeks 10 AND 12Week 13
Day 1Chest & Back, Ab Ripper XChest & Back, Ab Ripper XYoga X
Day 2PlyometricsPlyometricsCore Synergistics
Day 3Shoulders & Arms, Ab Ripper XShoulders & Arms, Ab Ripper XKenpo X
Day 4Yoga XYoga XX Stretch
Day 5Legs & Back, Ab Ripper XLegs & Back, Ab Ripper XCore Synergistics
Day 6Kenpo XKenpo XYoga X
Day 7Rest or X StretchRest or X StretchRest or X Stretch
A group class at the gym doing lunges.

Benefits of P90X

Unlike many at-home fitness programs seen on infomercials that promise huge results with a relatively low investment of time and effort, P90X is comprehensive and tough.

With the required time commitment of 60-75-minutes per day, six days a week for a full 90 days, P90X earns Tony Horton’s goal of building an “extreme” home fitness program.

However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the difficult nature and significant time investment—both in terms of the daily workout length and the sizable duration of the exercise program—are what make it actually effective at increasing your strength and changing your body composition.

In short, the main benefit of the P90X program is that it can work.

Another benefit of the P90X workout program is that it’s very well-rounded.

There are strength-based workouts that together focus on all the major muscle groups in the body, cardio workouts to improve your aerobic fitness and endurance, and yoga workouts for flexibility.

A person flexing their bicep.

In total, there are 12 different exercise routines that you cycle through over the 90 days, and there’s a specific order with three different phases of the workouts. 

Additionally, each workout has a warm-up and cool-down, along with stretching, which is a healthy approach to reducing the risk of injury.

Workouts are strategic, well-balanced, and varied, and they rely on sound principles of exercise programming.

Another benefit of P90X is that it’s well organized and easy to follow.

The instructions are very clear, both in terms of what exercises to do and how to do them during each video workout, as well as how to follow the P90X workout from a global perspective (which workout to do each day, etc.).

As previously mentioned, you also don’t need a ton of specialized or expensive exercise equipment or a lot of space. 

This is a major benefit for anyone working out at home, especially if you are on a budget or have limited open space to exercise in your home.

A person doing a box jump.

Downsides of P90X

The primary downside of P90X is the hefty time commitment you need to do the program.

Many people don’t have 60-75 minutes per day, six days a week, to work out.

Of course, you can choose to do fewer workouts per week and extend the duration of the program beyond the 90 days, but this will slow your progress, and it will still require an uninterrupted 60 to 75-minute daily time commitment.

You also need some equipment, and there’s a heavy emphasis on the nutrition program. 

You will not see the impressive body transformation results touted on the infomercials and promotional materials unless you follow the strict P90X diet alongside the workouts.

P90X Reviews: Does P90X Work?

By and large, the customer reviews of P90X are overwhelmingly positive. For people that can follow the program and stick to the P90X diet plan, the results can be extremely impressive.

Even people who just focus on the exercise component tend to note significant improvements in strength, as well as an increase in lean body mass and a decrease in body fat, as seen in changes in circumference measurements at various body sites (waist, hips, chest, etc.).

There’s also evidence to suggest the P90X program actually works. 

A person doing a jump squat.

ACE Fitness conducted a small study to measure the approximate intensity and calorie burn during P90X workouts to evaluate its efficacy and health-promoting benefits.

The study used only four of the 12 P90X workouts: Legs & Back, Plyometrics, Cardio X, and Chest, Shoulders & Triceps. 

The researchers thought these four workouts represented the program as a whole, and they wanted subjects to become proficient in each workout, so getting to that point with all 12 would be time-consuming. 

Results indicated that the average heart rate during the P90X workouts was 67-83% of the laboratory-tested maximum heart rate for men and 65-88% of the max for women.

Workout intensity was also measured by percent VO2 max, with data from men showing the P90X workouts corresponded to 45-70 percent of VO2 max for men and 45-80 percent of VO2 max for women.

Lastly, male subjects burned an average of 10.5-16.2 kcals per minute (for a total of 441-669 calories per workout), while the female subjects burned 7.2-12.6 kcals per minute (for a total of 302 to 544 kcals per workout). 

Of the four tested workouts, the Plyometrics workout burned the highest number of calories, and the Chest, Shoulders & Triceps routine burned the fewest number of calories.

A very small study looked at the effects of four weeks of P90X workouts on various measurements of strength and cardiovascular fitness in 13 college students.

Results found that in just four weeks of the 90-day program, subjects demonstrated significant improvements in upper-body strength, upper-body muscular endurance, lower-body strength, lower-body endurance, and body fat percentage.

Overall, P90X is a demanding fitness program, both in terms of time and energy, but if you’re dedicated, the results can be impressive.

If you would like to do some prep work on your own before taking on this challenging program, try some of our compound exercises for a total body workout to strengthen up prior to beginning P90X.

A person, after a workout, what is P90X.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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