January 23, 2014 posted by

Customizing P90X3 & The 90X System

Customizing P90X3 & The 90X System

Here’s a library of info for those looking to use the P90X  system (1, 2, and 3) for specific purposes like sports, weight loss, or muscle gain or  how to mix it with other workout programs. There’s a lot of info here for anyone hoping to tailor the X system for individual goals beyond just getting in shape. It’s also a reference post for some upcoming articles on P90X3 that will be out soon. You can get those by entering your email in the “newsletter” box in the upper right of this page.

The X System

If you’ve done more than one of the P90X series of workouts, you’ve noticed similarities. It’s based on a periodizational training system, using micro and macro cycles that change at regular intervals. The aim is to keep your results curve pointed skyward and have you reach a physiological peak at the end of each 12-week training cycle.

The system is interchangeable, meaning you can plug various workouts from the different series’ together seamlessly. Each program is broken down into: weight training, interval “cardio” work, full body “synergistic” work, core work, and mobility/flexibility work.

The schedules that come with X: Classic, Lean, and Doubles are repeated in X3. X2’s slightly more holistic schedule (adds a foundation phase in the first block, 90X Classic as the second block, and a Performance block at the end) is also presented possible with X3 if you purchase the fourth training block, featuring the Complex workouts. X3 also offers a Mass protocol, which debuted in the series of articles below.

These are posted in chronological order. Most were written for X, some for X2, and you can pretty much substitute X3 into the theme and never be lost. If you’re confused skipping ahead, chances are your questions were answered earlier. If not, post a question on the Team Beachbody Message Boards and it will get to me.

Muscle Confusion

Customizing P90X

Insanity and X

Skiing and short cycles

Sore, Hungry, Tired: 3 Signs Your Program Is Working

Gaining Mass

Losing Weight

Endurance Sports Overview





Creating Hybrid Programs

P90X2 for Endurance Athletes

P90X2 and Sports Performance

P90X2: Designing a Sports Specific Training Program

P90X2 For Outdoor Sports: An Off-season Schedule


  • Hi Steve,

    I posted this over on the Beachbody message boards, but wanted to get your input as well…

    “As the resident gurus on the board in regards to proper intake of calorie levels on X3, I’m wondering what I should take in. I’m 28 years old, male, 5’11″, 137 lbs. I’ve done multiple rounds of X/X2/One on One hybrids and am currently in Week 3 of P90X3 and absolutely loving the program! I work a desk job, but move around a good bit of the day in addition to doing mobility workouts every morning when I wake up just to get the blood flowing (usually 15-20 minutes in length). I’ve also been doing the doubles schedule with X3 (I may be going to the Classic schedule once Phase 2 comes in 2 weeks). However, I’m not sure how many calories I should be taking in…should I got with the 2100 calorie plan or the 2400 calorie plan. I know I’m underweight for my height and age…I’d like to stay lean while also adding a bit of muscle during X3. What are your recommendations?”


    • This happened on the Boards, right?

  • You’re probably not eating enough, maybe by a long shot, but the most accurate way to figure it out, without gaining or losing too fast, is to zig zag your calories. To do this, bump your cals 200-300/day 3 or 4 days a week and eat how you’ve been eating on the others. See how that feels. My guess is that you actually might lose a little bit of weight with the first couple of bumps because your body will adjust by increasing its metabolism to adjust for your output. You performance should improve too. Somewhere near 3000 you’re probably going to find you set point, where you stop losing weight and can move up or down dependent on whether you want to gain or lose.

    • Thanks for the response Steve. I’ve decided to stick with the Classic schedule for X3 for the remainder of the program. The way I look at it is that that is the way the program was designed and that’s how the test group achieved their respective results. Given that I’m not doing doubles from here on out (started Phase 2 yesterday and just did Triometrics today!), should I stick with the 2400 calorie level or bump down to 2100? I’m still intending to do my daily mobility routines also.

  • You mention that a lot of the workouts are interchangeable. Example: Chest and Back lines up with Chest, Back, and Balance pretty neatly. Ok- Got it. But in the original X, the final Phase is geared toward “Maximum Muscle Confusion” where the training blocks are alternated weekly. Supposedly this intensifies the results/avoiding plateaus presuming you’ve already “mastered” the workouts and you want your muscles to keep adapting. I’ve completed several rounds of the X and X2 (as well as several others of the Beach Body Programs- Insanity, Asylum Vol. 1, Body Beast- etc.) At this point I have a lot of discs I can swap in and out at any given time. What are the advantages of designing programs where you are doing the same workout for several weeks in a row (Example: A regular Phase of X or even a Body Beast Bulk phase using a progressive overload philosophy doing the same workouts for 6 weeks before moving on to the final Beast phase) VERSUS designing a program where you are interchanging the discs more often (Like the last Block of X or Beast Phase)? Some of your competitors (Cross Fit or Gym Jones) kind of espouse a philosophy of never doing the same thing twice. So while they may be doing similar movements/exercises regularly, they are in a different order and variation constantly. Are you being counterproductive by working out like that all the time, not allowing for proper adaptation and mastery of the workouts? Or does the muscle confusion actually accelerate results once you are already in pretty good shape having completed the programs as designed? Thanks for any thoughts and all your work on utilizing the programs. I always enjoy reading the blog.

    • Adam, answering yours requires a post on periodization. I’ve written a ton on it. You can search the blog and you’ll learn a lot. Essentially, you’re always looking for adaptation/growth (we call this mastery in 90x) in a training block. There is no such thing as max muscle confusion. You’re always working on the adapt/grow(master)/plateau graph. Weight/speed/tempo/height, etc, can accomplish overload for a given workout. How long it works is somewhat variable as you can only train the same system for so long before CNS overtraing takes hold. I don’t think Crossfit et al say that you should NEVER do the same workout. They are just looking to keep adaptation happening and only have so much equipment, etc, so they shuffle stuff around. At times it is very beneficial to do the same workout repeatedly in order to maximize the adaptation progress. You want to master something before you move out of it, otherwise you’re missing out on the most power phase in the training block, the growth/mastery phase. This is where gains happen the quickest.

    • Thanks for the response Steve. I’ve read most of your Blogs on periodization. I suppose I was thinking that if you have a Block of training and Thursdays are your Leg/Back days and on week one you plug in X legs/Back, week 2 One on One 4Legs, and week 3 X2 Base+Back, you are basically working the same system so it’s ok to keep swapping every week. But sounds like what you are saying is while that is “ok” you are better off sticking with the same workout for 3-4 weeks to maximize the adapt/grow/plateau cycle and then swapping the workout during your next block. Sounds good!

  • Steve,
    Great post! I have a few questions/statements.
    The first is are you going to show us how to pick or build “The X System” hybrid? Is there a strategy we should follow or is that more dependent on the results we want?
    The second is more of a statement I wanted to run by you to see what you thought. I was thinking there should be one more category for the “X System” Explosive/Power. My reasoning is simple; there would be some routines that are hard to place in one category, all Plyo work is more explosive in nature, the PAP workouts are more Power/Explosive. My opinion of the complete “X System” broken down by category/exercise:

    Resistance Routines
    1. Chest and Back
    2. Shoulders and Arms
    3. Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps
    4. Chest, Back and Balance
    5. X2 Shoulders and Arms
    6. X2 Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps
    7. V-Sculpt
    8. The Challenge
    9. The Incinerator
    10. Eccentric Upper
    11. Eccentric Lower
    12. Upper Body Plus

    Power Routines
    1. Plyometrics
    2. Legs and Back
    3. Plyocide
    4. Base and Back
    5. Triometrics
    6. Agility X
    7. Decelerator
    8. PAP Upper
    9. PAP Lower
    10. Complex Upper
    11. Complex Lower

    Total Body Synergistic

    1. Core Synergistics
    2. Total Body Plus
    3. X2 Core
    4. X2 Total Body
    5. Balance and Power
    6. Total Synergistics
    7. The Warrior


    1. Kenpo X
    2. Cardio X
    3. Interval X +
    4. Kenpo Cardio +
    5. CVX
    6. MMX
    7. Accelerator


    1. Ab Ripper X
    2. Abs/Core Plus
    3. X2 Ab Ripper
    4. X3 Ab Ripper

    Flexibility and Mobility

    1. Yoga X
    2. X-Stretch
    3. X2 Yoga
    4. X2 Recovery and Mobility
    5. Dynamix
    6. Pilates X
    7. Isometrics
    8. X3 Yoga

    I would assume you would follow 2 Resistance days, 2 Power/Explosive days, 2 Recovery/Mobility days/ 1 Cardio/Interval day for well rounded results. I am sorry for the long post but is all I am assuming correct?

    • Scotty, I could nitpick this but I won’t because you’re pretty dead on. You likely understand how “power” progresses, so something like Plyo is power training for some and becomes endurance (or power-endurance) training as you get better at it. PAP stuff, on the other hand, uses overload (weight) in order to target power much better. That makes it a more evolved workout from that perspective. It actually is a power workout over time, whereas a lot of the others on that list don’t remain power oriented. There are PAP progressions, too. If you were a power athlete you’d focus at the PAP part of each complex and reduce the amount of metabolic training (the repetition-based stuff). But, basically, you are dead on.

      How to schedule is based completely on the individual and the goals. It’s very hard to generalize (hmmm… maybe impossible). This is why I post what I’m doing, to help you understand specifics and how to tailor things toward you (or clients, friends…) goals.

    • Scotty- Great list and I especially like the inclusion of the X+ workouts!

      Steve- For those of us that routinely live in X, X+, and X2 land, should we be viewing X3 as more of a “maintenance” routine in between our rounds of the longer versions?

    • I would call it more an element than maintenance. Though the workouts are shorter, they’re not really easier and can be mixed into your program just as well as anything else, allowing you to more easily tailor to life situations. Essentially, more workouts = more flexibility, versatility and, thus, muscle confusion.

  • Great thought process going on here. I’ll get back to these shortly. Looks like there’s fodder for a couple more posts, too.

  • Steve:
    On x3 mass.
    Is it ok to do a 45 min self defense practice twice weeky just to retain while on x3 blocks?
    The moves are done slow slightly faster than Tai Chi.

    • John, yes, absolutely.

  • Long time reader, keep up the good work!

    I wish to know what the thought process was behind the recovery workouts in P90X3. I have noticed that (now a few days into phase 2) that the focus of each ‘recovery’ and any ‘mobility’ is primarily leg oriented. I understand that a larger % of the workouts involve more legs than arms – but I wonder why more upper body recovery was not introduced. I know time was tight compared to the awesome X2 foam rolling… but it feels unbalanced.

    Again, thanks for everything you write. I have been inspired to do a 33 day birthday challenge this year 🙂

  • Mr. Edwards:
    Will the P90X3 Mass Blocks build as much as your mass version of the original P90X?
    And can this be followed indefinitely?
    I only have 30 minutes 4 days weekly to devote to training.
    Thanks for your input.

    • I would absolutely not follow any rotation indefinitely. As you adapt you will out grow any program. You can, however, move away and back to the same protocols without plateauing. Comparing X3 to X, for mass, is a little bit strange since neither program was developed for mass, whereas something like Body Beast was, and would be more effective if that were all you cared about, but that doesn’t really change the answer. It matters how fit you are and how well adapted to the program. In time, the longer workouts of X will be more effective based solely on progressive overload. If 30 minutes is all you’ve got, however, I’d do X3 over doing half the X workouts. Actually, I’d probably use them all (as well as X2) and do different cycles so that you don’t get stale. The balance work in X2 will force longer adaptations, which equals more effects over time.

  • A while back, someone posted a comment to this post that included a list of all P90X, X+, X2 and X3 workouts by exercise category. Unfortunately, it looks like the comments to this post were lost with the new comment system. Is there any way to retrieve this, or could you provide the list? It was very helpful and I wish I had printed it!

    • really?! I’ll check into it.

    • That was me, I updated it to include the Body Beast and Asylum programs recently. I would probably consider Strength more of power/strength routine. It was hard to place.

      Resistance Routines

      Chest and Back
      Shoulders and arms
      Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps
      Chest, Back and Balance
      X2 Shoulders and Arms
      X2 Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps
      The Challenge
      The Incinerator
      Eccentric Upper
      Eccentric Lower
      Upper Body Plus
      Bulk: Back
      Bulk: Legs
      Bulk: Arms
      Bulk: Shoulders
      Asylum Strength

      Power Routines

      Legs and Back
      Base and Back
      Agility X
      PAP Upper
      PAP Lower
      Complex Upper
      Complex Lower
      Asylum Speed and Agility
      Asylum Vertical Plyo

      Total Body Synergistic

      Core Synergistics
      Total Body Plus
      X2 Core
      X2 Total Body
      Balance and Power
      Total Synergistics
      The Warrior
      Beast: Total Body


      Kenpo X
      Cardio X
      Interval X +
      Kenpo Cardio +
      Beast: Cardio
      Game Day


      Ab Ripper X
      Abs/Core Plus
      X2 Ab Ripper
      X3 Ab Ripper
      Beast: Abs
      Back to Core

      Flexibility and Mobility

      Yoga X
      X2 Yoga
      X2 Recovery and Mobility
      Pilates X
      X3 Yoga
      Asylum: Relief

    • Thanks! I recently got the Beast but haven’t found a block of time yet to focus on hypertrophy. I might sub some of the workouts in the meantime.

  • I see this is getting a ton of re-posts so I’ll update it to include P90 as well in another article. Won’t discount this at all. It’s the same system. P90 adds an entry level that’s far more effective for people who are very out of shape.

  • Add this article to this:


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