p90x FAQ's

This is a very common question! To answer it succinctly, P90X classic is the better program, Lean should only be done if you think you won't be able to complete classic effectively.  Classic is how the program was originally designed - it focuses on specific opposing muscle groups and blasts them, then builds in enough rest time for you to fully recover.  It also has Ab Ripper 3x a week.  There are some great benefits and smart planning if you follow this schedule, such as doing Kenpo the day after Legs and Back, since Kenpo has an extended leg stretch at the beginning, and putting yoga far away from chest workouts since you will be doing a lot of planks.  The main difference between classic and lean is that lean subs in Cardio X for Plyo X and while you do core synergistics more often, you only do Ab Ripper once a week and don't hit every muscle group every week.  Cardio X is the easiest workout of the batch and the calorie burn is less than Plyo X, and by not doing the additional Ab Rippers, you really truly burn fewer calories per week with lean.  There is nothing about lean that will make you "leaner" than doing classic.  Many women especially worry if they do classic they will bulk up, when in reality classic isn't a bodybuilding routine, it is circuit weight training, and if you choose to do 12-15 reps with lighter resistance you will not bulk up.  The nature of P90X is moving fast between each weighted exercise and many moves are compound moves which don't give you strict isolation as a bodybuilder would, so even if you go for 8-10 you can't expect to bulk up, women or men.

So who is Lean for?  Ironically, it's not for cardio lovers, you actually do LESS cardio than in classic because Plyo is a longer workout that is excluded.  It is not for people that want to get "lean" instead of bulky.  It is really for people that aren't ready for full-blown classic yet.  If you cannot complete workouts like Plyo and Chest and Back on a regular basis effectively, Lean is an easier schedule to ease into.  Once you are ready for Classic, go for it!  I've heard other coaches call P90X Lean simply "P90X Lite" which I think is a great way to think about it!

So to summarize:

P90X Classic

-Works every major muscle group in a week with appropriate rest time

-Ab Ripper 3x a week, and Plyo X = more calories burned per week

-You won't bulk up, strength exercises are not meant to be bodybuilding exercises

-Might be too difficult for a beginner


P90X Lean

-Cardio X is a very light workout excluded from Classic which you will do weekly

-Ab Ripper only 1x a week, fewer calories burned per week

-More random schedule, but good for people not quite ready for P90X Classic. Many have still had great results!

Though p90x isn't a bodybuilding workout, it does tap into some bodybuilding philosophy.  First, let me describe a simplified version of how bodybuilders approach weight lifting.  Bodybuilders train by isolating specific muscle groups and blasting them for one day, and then giving ample rest on that muscle group before working it again.  They also pick heavy enough weights to only be able to perform 6-10 reps per exercise, to create microtears on the fibrous muscle tissue, which then repairs, growing stronger and bigger than before during the rest period through a process called hypertrophy. A bodybuilder's diet starts with a high calorie, high protein diet to ensure the addition of mass, and then before the competition involves a ketosis diet - which is a healthy low carb, high protein diet.  Ketosis occurs when you don't have enough stored carbs to complete activity, and the body must find a different pathway to create energy.  Technically, you burn more fat in this state, but you usually don't have as much energy and stamina to complete difficult workouts.  The bi-products of the energy reaction are called ketones, hence the name ketosis.

P90x does blast specific muscle groups in series with adequate rest (chest and back, then shoulders and arms; chest/shoulders/tri's, then back and biceps), but is more of a circuit weight training routine than a typical bodybuilding routine.  P90x is fast paced and moves quickly from one move to another, and doesn't repeat exercises more than once. Additionally, p90x contains many compound moves which don't isolate as well as typical bodybuilding exercises, and by having so many body resistance (push-ups and pull-ups) exercises, the potential for building isn't as high.  Body resistance exercises end up using many muscle groups, for example a chin-up accesses the biceps and back, where a standard biceps curl isolates just the one muscle group.  So basically, doing a chest press on the bench is probably more effective at building muscles than doing push-ups.  That is not to say that if you do push-ups to failure, you won't see decent results, it's just a fact of how things work!

As far as how to perform the workouts, picking the correct weight is of utmost importance.  P90x blogger Steve Edwards suggested a kind of "phasing" overtime.  For example, start phase I in the 8-12 range, and eventually get to just be able to do 6-8 reps by phase III. That means, literally pick a weight that will make you struggle even to get 6 out!  It's ok to take more time in between workout to ensure you can complete them.  And of course, build is in the recovery: drink your Results and Recovery formula and don't workout the same muscle group again for 48 hours.  You may also decide to put Back and Biceps (pull-up heavy workout) on day 1, and Chest Shoulders and Triceps to day 3, as to not have another pull-up day so close to Legs and Back (typically on Day 5).

The p90x diet is kind of the reverse of a bodybuilding diet: cut first, than add the carbs for energy.  To build adequate muscle you need to eat at least 1g of protein per pound of body weight daily (even as much as 1.5g) and you need to up your calories.  You will gain weight as both fat and muscle as you workout hard and up your calories.  Having a high protein breakfast in the morning is highly suggested. Using a Whey Protein supplement is also suggested, to help add clean protein calories.  When you get to a desirable muscle mass, you can then decide to "cut" using a modified ketosis diet, or the phase I fat shredder diet.  It's also suggested to do cardio first thing in the morning without having eaten during a cut phase, so doing p90x doubles during a cut phase would be smart. Other bodybuilding diet tips are to have your recovery formula immediately after the workout (40g simple carbs, 10g whey protein) and then an hour later, you can eat your "big" meal that has healthy fats, protein (of course), and complex carbs.

Ultimately, if you want to do a true bodybuilding routine, you will need even more isolation than p90x can offer.  For example: Back on Monday, Chest on Tuesday, Arms on Thursday, Shoulders on Saturday, Legs on Sunday.  There isn't any way to do that with the p90x DVD's.  If bodybuilding is for you, talk to a personal trainer, or look at Body Beast, but if you like p90x and want to up your mass, focus on form, up your calories, eat your protein, and up your weights.  It's that simple!

My P90X results were sort of the more "common" p90x look - toned with the makings of a six pack. (see below)

But, as you can see, I do have some nice muscle definition in my arms:

If you have some more questions, hit the contact page! I would be glad to help you customize your muscle building plan!

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is "it depends."  Certain factors like genetics, how much weight you have to lose, and how close you follow the diet play a big factor.  However, I think we can safely say that most people start noticing major changes at the end of phase II and beginning of phase III.  This could be because the change in workouts during phase II help break the plateau; it could also be that you are working out with better form after getting used to the first couple of weeks, and upping reps and stamina.  Another factor is that the stress your body is undergoing in the first weeks might cause you to retain more water, which will keep the scale number higher than you want.  Either way, no matter the explanation, stick with it and you'll see your results soon!

Of the 3 factors I list, following the diet is the only one you can actively control.  Eating clean and within your caloric range will probably do the trick as well, but I often tell people at least the first time doing p90x, you should follow the diet plan as closely as possible.  There is a lot of thought that went into the plan which is tailored for the p90x progression.  Doing the workouts, you will feel better and get into better cardiovascular shape, but if you want the look, diet is key.  Feed your muscles what they need for building, and avoid the fatty or sugary or high-salt foods that are so easy to eat, but will hinder your fat loss.  To answer your questions about the meal plan, go here.

How to measure your results

Often, the scale isn't the best way to gauge results, though it's so tempting to rely on the scale for answers.  First of all, our body weight shifts in and out throughout the day.  Second of all, you will likely be building muscle, which is denser than fat and therefore less volume of muscle weighs more than the same volume of fat.  If you measure your body fat %, this is probably the best way to look at your results. Body fat % is not the same thing as BMI (body mass index).  BMI is not a very important statistic, it basically takes a ratio of your height and weight, and determines if you fit in the normal range or not.  To estimate body fat percentage, log onto teambeachbody.com and click on Eat Smart > Nutrition Tools and there is a body fat calculator there. It is basically an estimator using your weight and size of your waist.  Click here if you need a team free team beachbody account.  You can probably find other body fat % formulas online too if you google it.  You'll be surprised if you measure inches lost how much a single inch can affect your body fat %!  

Finally, the best way to determine your results is to measure how you look, how you feel, and how your clothes fit!  We all want to quantify everything in our lives, but in reality if you go by feel you are going to be just fine.  P90x is about more than just a body transformation, it's a mental transformation as well and breeds a healthier lifestyle!

A lot of people are frustrated by how complicated the meal plan seems.  I hope to address three major issues people seem to be having in this article.

I. Can you explain the 3-phase plan?

First, we must understand the philosophy of the plan.  Phase I is about creating a high protein, low carb diet.  With fewer carbs in your system, you will burn more fat directly during your workouts.  This is similar to, though not as extreme as, a ketosis diet bodybuilders will use in their "cut" phase.  Fewer carbs means less glycogen (stored carbs) and less glucose in your bloodstream for immediate use, so fat will be a more accessible fuel. Phase II is a normal, balanced diet with equal carbs and protein.  Being on a balanced diet will give you more sustained energy for your workouts. The Phase III is actually a high performance diet with higher amounts of carbs.  If you do this in sequence, by the time you get to Phase III you will be bouncing off the walls during plyometrics, I promise you!  The philosophy of Phase III is to allow you to really "Bring It" with more reps and higher performance.

II. I don't understand why I have to eat so many calories per day!

Many people do the calculation in the p90x diet guide and are surprised that even the lowest level of diet requires 1,800 calories a day. First of all, when you are working out as intensely as p90x, you need the proper nutrition.  To give you an example, I am (at least today when I'm writing this post!) 5'10", 165 lbs. and I am trying to maintain weight but tone up, and I still take in about 2,600 healthy calories a day! Many people, especially women find they need to "up" their calories to see better results, which seems upside down in our heads, but often it works.  What happens when your body goes into too large of a calorie debt is that it begins to store more nutrients as fat and less as muscle.  Fat is the "long-term" storage mechanism in the body, so logically if it thinks you are not getting enough food, it will stay as fat to provide long-term survival.  Additionally, to build muscle you need to be eating ample protein, as protein is the basic building block of muscle.

With that said, the caloric ranges in the p90x guide are very broad, and are only estimates.  What I actually suggest doing is signing onto teambeachbody.com and clicking Eat Smart > Nutrition Tools and using the caloric needs calculator.  This will factor in your age, weight, and height, as well as your daily lifestyle and the type of workout program you are currently doing.  It then subtracts a certain amount of calories based on how much you want to lose and gives you nice number to aim for that is personally YOURS.  It is still an estimate, but probably a better estimate.  If you don't have a Beachbody account yet, click here to sign up for free!

III. Do I really have to eat everything it says every day? My grocery bill will be 2x as expensive!

If you really want to follow the plan to the T, more power to you!  I use the portion approach.  This is outlined in the diet guide, but allows you to use mostly food you are already comfortable preparing by controlling how many servings of various categories you get per day.  It is separated into carbs, fats, proteins, veggies, fruits, dairy, condiments and snacks.  One thing to mention is that it considers a serving of carbs 200 calories and a serving of protein 100 calories, so you don't need to calorie for calorie match carbs and protein. Additionally, fruits and veggies are their own category, kind of like a food pyramid type thing, so just remember fruits are nutritionally a source of simple carbs, though they don't count as carbs here.  Similarly dairy is its own category, not a "fat."  Snacks are a little complicated at first.  Basically there is a single and a double snack, single being 100 calories and double being 200.  "Snack" refers more to when you eat than what you eat.  If you have a handful of raw almonds around 10:30 a.m., this is probably a snack and not a fat or protein, if that makes sense.  Lastly - to explain the condiment thing, basically it allows you a certain amount of oil based condiment, like a light salad dressing, which is nice.  The best part of the portion plan is that it gives you suggestions for each category, which is very helpful.  By using the portion plan, you can easily keep track of what you are eating each day. Feel free to refer back to the full-out meal plan for suggestions, but don't think you need to literally cook and prepare EVERY meal that is on there for 90 days, that would be quite difficult!

The P90x Recovery Drink is an awesome product.  It delivers about 40g of simple carbs and 10g of protein to your muscles immediately after the workout, when your body is calling out for nutrients to replenish its depleted glycogen stores.  I honestly buy a tub as I go, I don't go on the monthly auto ship, because I only recommend using it on days that you are in your anaerobic zone.  These would be any of the Day 1, 3, and 5 strength workouts, Plyo X, and Core Synergistics.  I don't use it after Kenpo, Yoga, Stretch, or Cardio X.  You can try to create your own recovery drink by either making non-fat chocolate milk with a syrup that DOESN'T have high-fructose corn syrup. Ironically, chocolate milk has a similar carb/protein ratio, but it will absorb much slower than a recovery drink which has simpler components, so it still isn't ideal.  I read on Facebook that many people make their own drink with a cup of gatorade (which uses the same sugar as p90x drink: dextrose) and half a scoop of whey protein powder.  This is fine, but by the time you buy the components and measure it out, it's almost worth it to just buy the recovery drink!

The macronutrient (carb and protein) content is by the far the biggest reason to drink it in your post-workout window.  By replenishing glycogen, you will be aiding in the muscle rebuilding process, assuring you'll have energy later in the day, won't be as hungry later in the day, and possibly will be less sore the next day.  Secondarily important, the recovery drink has a number of supplements and vitamins in it that will help battle soreness and help build muscle. 

If you want to know more about the Recovery drink and specifically how its components are beneficial to your post-workout nutrition, please read my review here.

P90x is an at home workout system, they bring the gym to your own household with the DVD's!  Knowing most people don't have the same equipment as the gym at home, much of the program uses body resistance exercises (e.g. push-ups, pull-ups) in place of weighted exercises.  However, there are a number of weighted exercises as well.  These can be completed with a set of dumbbells, or with resistance bands.  The pull-up exercises are best completed with a doorframe fitted chin-up bar for your home, though can be modified with resistance bands as well.  Optional equipment is a yoga mat, yoga block, and power stands, which are push-up bars that help you go deeper into your push-up motion.  Another possible piece of equipment is a plyometrics mat.  This is a padded mat that you jump on to lower the impact of the exercise.  I really only suggest this if you are working out in the garage or on concrete.

So to cleanly summarize:

Bare minimum:

-Set of resistance bands.  Having at least three different tensions is preferable.  Click on the link to go to the Beachbody store, where you can buy a set of 3 B-line bands.  For women, they recommend the "standard" set, for men the "super" set.  The "extreme" set is probably not useful by itself, but could be added to the super set for men.


-Chin-up bar

-Yoga Mat

-Dumbbells.  For men, having 10's, 15's, and 20's will get you started.  Dick's Sporting Goods usually has them for cheap.  The 10's might be too heavy for some "fine-tuning" work exercises, but you can always use books from your book shelf!  20's will be a little light for some of the back exercises for sure.  Ideally, you'll eventually want 5's through at least 40's with all the increments, but you can add to your repertoire as you go!

For women, 5's, 10's, and 15's are probably a good starting place.

If you want to buy a set of adjustable dumbbells, I recommend the Bowflex SelectTech brand.

-(optional) Resistance bands.  Dumbbells are advisable, mostly because the form is more straight forward with them, but everyone travels or finds they need to workout in a hotel sometime, so it's not a bad idea to have the bands around for a backup!


-Yoga Block.  This actually makes yoga easier, by not having to reach all the way to the ground

-Plyo Mat.  As described above, only advisable if you are working out on a hard surface, like concrete.

-Power Stands. For increasing range of motion in the push-up!  Very ergonomic, one of Tony Horton's favorite pieces of equipment!