Looking at phase III of P90X2, your first question should be, "What is P.A.P.?" First of all, please pronounce it "p, a, p" - not "pap." Second of all, it means post activiation potentiation. According to the guides this is the state of the art way that athletes train. While I take that with a grain of salt, I will say that they are amazing workouts. There is a P.A.P. upper and P.A.P. lower which make up 4 out of your 5 workout days in phase III.
Basically, what these are about are combining heavy loading exercises with explosive movements and isometric movements. What I believe this does is awaken all the types of muscle fibers. For example, if you do a bunch of slow push-ups, clap pushups (for the explosive) and a plank hold (for the isometric) in succession, you are activating all three energy systems and both fast and slow twitch muscle fibers in a very brief amount of time. I'd imagine this burns more calories and has great effects on your functional fitness.
In my mind, P.A.P. Upper is the money workout of the two, P.A.P. is challenging but in some ways, since we are so familiar with explosive leg movements and isometric holds in the legs, the workout isn't as novel. It's still a killer. In phase III, you have to focus since there are essentially these two DVD's plus Yoga, and that's it, but if you follow the plan, it will get you where you need to be. One thing I am excited to try after P90X2 is the Asylum/P90X2 hybrid. I'd imagine the way the P.A.P. workouts are folded into this schedule is epic!
Overall, phase III is a solid B+/A- for me. At times, it's amazing, but there are only two workouts, it takes a lot of will power to press play on the same DVD's over and over. Like most of P90X2, you have to trust the science - more research was done in putting together these DVD's than any other, ever before. Trust and you'll be amazed!
If you are frustrated with month I of P90X2 for whatever reason, all I have to say is JUST WAIT till month (phase) II. For P90X lovers, month II is just what the doctor ordered. Going back to the familiar schedule, with familiar names like Chest and Back (...and balance), Shoulders and Arms, and Base and Back, and plenty of Ab Ripper X2's, you will feel the burn like never before. Instead of reviewing each DVD, I'll key you in on some of the elements of each workout in this one article. First of all, Chest, Back, and Balance is not just about cranking out as many pull-ups and push-ups as possible, it is about control and form, and doing push-ups and pull-ups while creating instability. Mastery of the stability ball and medicine balls in month I is essential to even consider doing this workout. The "poster child move" of doing push-ups on top of four medicine balls is part of this workout, and you can only use your imagination to think of other ways to create instability while working these two large muscle groups.
X2 Total Body can loosely be categorized as a strength workout that works most major muscle groups in synergistic combinations, often under the conditions of instability, resulting in core engagement. The workout is set up as 12 moves, which are then repeated in sequence, for a total of 24 moves. The moves including push-ups or chest exercises using the stability ball, pull-up exercises, biceps curls, triceps extensions, and combination moves utilizing shoulder presses and lunges. The legs and core are involved in many of the moves, though there aren't really leg specific workouts besides the lunges. The workout on the surface reminded me of P90X(1) Chest and Back in its form, but after completing it, I realized it was very different. In fact, in some ways it is a much easier workout than Chest and Back, however I still finished feeling worked and tired. It was encouraging that even the first time through, I was able to complete every exercise fairly well. I remember finishing my first Chest and Back 3 years ago and feeling like a Mack truck had just run me over, and I barely was busting out 1 pull-up per exercise by the end. This workout didn't leave me with that feeling, but during the exercises I aimed for form over everything else, went slow when I had to go slow, and felt a spent by the end.
The warm-up is consistent with all the other month 1 workouts, including dips and twists with the stability ball, foam rolling, and a set of stretches. Some of the highlights of the workout were "boing" push-ups, where you perform push-ups while holding the stability ball, crunchy lever pull-ups where you curl into a ball and rotate backwards and forwards on the pull-up bar, and mule kick burpees, which combine a yoga-type slow kick back into plank followed by prison-cell push-ups and jumping in, a la the burpee, in between reps. Some of the more difficult workouts utilized the stability ball, including a one armed triceps kickback while leaning on the ball with your forearm. There are also a couple of moves in warrior 3 position, which is definitely not easy!
X2 Yoga. The first thing you might want to know after experiencing the 90 minute Yoga X from P90X(1) is how long is DVD? The good news is that it clocks at about 66 minutes. Beyond the difference in duration, there are several differences between Yoga X and X2 Yoga, and I will assume if you are reading this you have done Yoga from P90X and will compare the two, it seems the easiest way to describe the new routine.
Many of the core moves in the asanas are the same as the ones you experience in Yoga X, and in general I'd say if you've never done Yoga X you might be in trouble, but if you know the positions by name, you will be in great shape. One thing I found interesting is that the sequences tend to move faster, you don't always hold the moves for 5 slow breaths, but rather hit the position just long enough to lock in and then move on. Only the first time through a sequence do you spend some time in each position. And when I say the first time, I mean that on some of the sequences, say a vinyasa into warrior 1, you will repeat this sequence 3x per side. The first time is to demonstrate the position, and after that it's go time! I did like this faster paced yoga, though it wasn't as restful.
Another difference is that the asanas sequence take a while to get going, you spend a long time "warming-up" and then doing several vinyasas before the tough moves start. Additionally, the main sequences aren't really sequential, you'll find that in the second set of moves you are already doing warrior 3's and twisting half moons, which is a very difficult move and only appears at the very end of the sequence in Yoga X.
A lot of Yoga:MC2 from the One-on-One series is part of this routine, so you if you click on my product reviews of One-on-Ones you can learn more. There are no balance postures, a short ab workout, and then some stretches and relaxation at the end. One interesting note is that yoga comes after the only day you do ab ripper x in month I of P90X2, so it's odd to do abs two days in a row, but the ab section is very short, and probably doesn't make a big impact. Whereas MC2 seemed more like Tony showing off, X2 Yoga is a little more user friendly and it's nice to have 3 other people, all with different body types and ability, on the floor doing it with Tony.
Overall, this is a great workout. I don't feel as refreshed at the end as I do with Yoga X, but I think it's a nice compromise since so many people complained "Yoga X is too long!!" For 66 minutes, it gets the job done, you don't have to carve out a huge section of your day to do it, and there are new insights on the forms (like doing foot placement on warrior 2, the 3 points of pressure on the foot, etc.) that Tony shares to make you perform better. I'd give the workout a B+. I'm sure when I get to phase II of P90X2, I would upgrade this to an A-, it just seems amidst other slow focus workouts like X2 Core that the Yoga is less important than it really is.
The P90X2 guide states "this workout picks up where X2 Core leaves off." I think that is a very fair assessment. This workout is part Core Synergistics, part Total Body Plus, part Asylum: Strength (if you are familiar with any of those routines). Tony describes it as a total body workout, even though there is another DVD called "Total Body" but the focus here is on core balancing and really working your weak spots. There is a lot of work on the stability ball, which makes the work very intense and difficult. There are a couple lower body plyo moves. Some moves access the triceps and shoulders including some push-up type exercises, and there a number of planks and sphinx position, with or without the stability ball. Some of the exercises are straight up ab/core work, including a mason twist with a medicine ball between your legs while twisting and holding a weight.
Just as a little side track, I talked to a NYC personal trainer about the original P90X program, and he said to me "P90X has everything, except for twisting core work with medicine balls" which is something he does with his clients often in addition to strength training, cardio, yoga, etc. Thinking about that, except for Ab Ripper X mason twists, there really was nothing. As this is the last of the workouts in the "Foundation" (month 1) sequence, I can safely say that during this month, that part of my body, as well as many other weak spots are accessed daily. You want to talk about core strength, this month may be the most incredible set of core workouts ever put in sequence.
The workout is about 62 minutes and you need a stability ball for sure, although one of the cast members modifies many exercises by doing them one-legged and on a chair. There is an option for a medicine ball on a couple exercises, but I found you can get away without it. Weights or a band are pretty necessary, a lot of moves include a weight. In general the exercises are pretty hard to describe, as they are all compound, synergistic moves, so whereas in my reviews of the DVD's I could name a move and you could pretty much get the gist, it is more difficult here. I will say, the forms are very complex and I left the workout feeling like I only completed about 70% of it, since there were times it took me a minute just to get balanced on the ball! Here is a preview of some moves: imagine Warrior 3 with weights. You do a row for your lats in warrior 3 position, then stand up still balancing on one foot and do an overhead press. Or sphinx pushups while your feet are on the stability ball. The "poster child" for this exercise is the lolasana, which is basically grabbing onto power stands, jumping and tucking your knees into your body while balancing yourself with your upper body alone on the power stands. Think male gymnast upper body strength for this one. I was not able to do this by a long shot, but they show a 1/2 lolasana which worked well for me!