April 19, 2012 posted by

How To Choose The Right Exercise Program

In my last chat I was asked why P90X2 wasn’t as good for weight loss as P90X. Ironically that same week Tony Horton hosted some coaches for a workout at his house where they burned over 1,200 calories in an hour doing an X2 workout. This doesn’t mean the question was dumb. It means it requires a longer answer than I could give at that time because it starts new topic; how to choose the right exercise program.

If everyone burned 1,200 calories during an X2 workout it would be amazing for weight loss. But many people do not because P90X2 is what we call at Beachbody a post-graduate program. Its predecessor, P90X, is a graduate program and the series original, Power 90, is an intro program. Trying to do P90X2 before you’re ready is like walking into French IV when you haven’t taken French 1. You’re not ready and, thus, won’t be able get the most out of it. In fact you’ll probably feel lost.

At Beachbody we’re creating fitness solutions for the entire planet, and most of this planet doesn’t play in the NBA or NFL. P90X2 was created specifically for our customers who’ve become so fit they require an elite program on the level of the professional athlete. If someone lets you borrow a surfboard are you going to paddle into Pipeline and attempt to catch your first wave? Probably not. Choosing the wrong fitness program will drown your results just as fast. A brief rundown of the Beachbody line-up will help you understand why.

“hmm, maybe i should have started on a beach break…”

P90X2 and Insanity: The Asylum are currently Beachbody’s only post-graduate programs. They were designed for our customers who’d mastered P90X and Insanity. If you can’t do those programs it doesn’t make sense to begin something harder because you won’t have the fitness base to complete the individual exercises, much less the workouts. And if you can’t do the workouts you won’t get very fit.

As an example let’s take the workout P90X Chest & Back. I’ve had people tell me they only burned 150 calories in this workout. I’ve burned over a thousand. The difference is when you can’t do push-ups and you can’t do pull-ups and don’t modify correctly so that you fail at 10 reps or more per exercise than the difference in that workout is night and day. I’m completely pumped from my very first set to the last, 45 straight minutes pushing my anaerobic threshold—it’s everything I can do to not puke! But someone who can’t do the exercises won’t get pumped will likely max their caloric burn during the warm-up! This is exactly why we have you do a fit test before you begin: to see if you belong in P90X in the first place.

For X2 we expect you to be able to do P90X. If you can’t do, say, Warrior 3 in Yoga X you’re not going to be able to do Warrior 3 curls or kickbacks–just one of numerous examples. We do offer exceptional modifications in X2 but, like X, they still require you to find a point where you fail at the required number of repetitions to work their magic. As I said in another post, you can’t claim X2 workouts mastered until you can use the same amount of weight (in its difficult positions) as you can with P90X.

In Asylum, Shaun yells at his cast that “this is not Insanity, people!” as if that program is light cardio. Most of you know that Insanity is anything but so it shouldn’t surprise you that if you can’t do Insanity you might not make it through the warm-ups of Asylum.

Beachbody’s graduate programs include: 90X, Insanity, Turbo Fire, P90X+, and Debbie Siebers’ Slim Series. These programs were based off of intro programs that are similar in style but accessible to almost anyone: Power 90, Hip Hop Abs/Rockin’ Body, Slim in 6. If you’re inspired by P90X but can’t do the fit test, a round of Power 90 will give you much better results and will ultimately have you mastering X and X2 a lot quicker than beginning with the harder program.

In addition, our intro line has many other options to fit your personality. We now have what I call gentle, moderate, and hard into programs. Our goal is to have workouts for every single demographic. We want to eliminate all possible excuses for not getting healthy.

added bonus of power 90: retro chic

If you’ve never exercised or are coming off an injury that’s impaired your ability to move you might consider Tai Cheng because it will retrain your movement patterns. Love the idea of martial arts training but want something more challenging, try Rev Abs. If you hate to exercise but love to dance you might try Hip Hop Abs, Turbo Jam, Body Gospel or Yoga Booty Ballet. Conversely those who are challenged by coordinating their moves might prefer Slim in 6 or Kathy Smith’s Project You, which use simple exercises to great effect. Those who like pumping iron should consider Power 90 or Chalean Extreme. And if you’re ultra-time crunched we’ve got 10 Minute Trainer to get you in the habit of daily exercise.

As for results; all of our programs work exactly the same. Seriously, our test groups get similar results in every program we make (we don’t release them until the do). We screen the test groups to make sure the right people are doing the right program and you should too. Of course X2 graduates are ultimately fitter than Power 90 graduates but that’s because they’ve done more homework. Just like a French IV graduate is more fluent than a French 1 there is a logical progression to getting fit and it’s much easier and quicker if you’re taking the right class.


  • Steve, I COMPLETELY understand where you are coming from.P90X2 can appear easy, when you are not "pushing" yourself. I would say I achieved 80-90% mastery of P90X. Right now, I'm on Insanity: The Asylum and sometimes find myself stumped with the moves. The are complex and synergistic! The longer I work on The Asylum, the harder it gets. I've was very impressed with my improved strength and flexibility in my hips, shoulders and joints with P90X2. I'm not sure I can do more pushups(haven't tested)……but wow, pushups feel "easier".

  • "At Beachbody we’re creating fitness solutions for the entire planet"um . . . you know that more than 50% of the world's population lives on less than $2.50 USD a day, and that 80% live on less than $10?The average american spends $10/day on entertainment alone.Maybe it'd be more accurate to say you're creating fitness solutions for fat westerners who eat too much and sit on their asses a lot.There'd be no shame in that.J

  • I'm sure every BB workout is available at most Indian kiosks for a couple of rupees, tops.- Samir

  • Then a fella just has to ask: why r u folks paying full pop? Economic irrationality.Milton F

  • I would never complain about calories burned during X2. I'm on my 2nd week of the PAP phase and am burning 700-1,000 calories on both upper and lower. Definitely haven't mastered this phase (and not sure I will within the 4 weeks), but I love the improvement you can see with each workout. It's probably what keeps me motivated. I won't do measurements again for a couple weeks, but I'm still losing and am definitely more fit, especially in the lower body, than when I finished P90X.

  • I have one week remaining with x2. I maxed out each phase so its been more like 120 days. I've gotten my best results with this program compared to x, insanity, OoO, and asylum. I really enjoy the beach body line of products and have great faith in all of your programs. However, when Tony has been on QVC selling x2 he sells it saying that beginners can do the program. He also stated that it's not harder than x just different. This angered me b/c it's not true and totally contradicts what you have been saying all along.

  • He's saying that because of the modifications, which will allow a large audience to give it a shot. But even the mods are difficult and a true beginner will struggle unless they have a solid athletic background and just happen to be out of shape. I don't think anything he could say would sway this opinion if someone sees a promo video. It's the same for P90X.When we compare the two, which is done in more detail in the guide, you see that, again, it's not "harder" if you base hard on how much you'll sweat and struggle (which most people do–can you get harder than Chest&Back, really?) but it's far more difficult to master, and that's where it's evolved. So while most people can start X2 at some level as you get fitter and better at it the workouts just get harder and harder and you keep getting more out of it.

  • FWIW I think a lot of people saying it's not as strenuous aren't using enough weight or doing the moves properly. It's hard to lift heavy with X2, at least initially. I'm only able to lift near my old thresholds now that I'm done. I had to learn the appropriate move (and there is a learning curve) and then bump up the intensity as I got more engaged and stronger. Foam rolling is key to recovering quicker. But everything even the yoga is more advanced in X2 IMO

  • Guys, I'm a coach and I need to know the rational behind the Amazon and Pepper Jam affiliate programs. They just seem to spit in the faces of the 65,000 coaches out there committed to the company and struggling for internet traffic. Please?

  • David Justus I'd would just say that P90 is remedial, Master Series is AP, P90X Intro, OoO / + Graduate, X2 Fine Arts, and post graduate we are out on the road racing and training endurance sports showing off our Friday Night Arms like Predators. ;0)about an hour ago via mobile · Like.Matthew Bohn Awesome article Steve!46 minutes ago · Like.Steve Edwards For you, David, that is likely true. Don't see many Predator handshakes on the multi-sport circuit. Hopefully you'll start a trend!Patrick Higgins I learn a ton from your blog. I sat at my computer for hours the other day going through the old posts.2 minutes ago via mobile · Like.Steve Edwards Thanks, Patrick. Nice to hear since that's exactly why I do it, as an educational resource.

  • I have no idea what those affiliate programs are but here's the number to something called the compliance hotline, which I've been assured rings a red phone in a special underground fortress built under BB headquaters and will probably be answered by a guy names "Chief". Compliance hotline (310) 295-5760

  • I look forward to doing a hybrid p90x + x2 as soon as my x2 is over next week. What I do know is that I can now do 1 arm and plyo pushups that I couldn't do through 2 rounds of p90x – because x2 really showed me the importance of core workout.

  • I admit to feeling a bit like I was "slacking" when I started X2. It's not that it wasn't challenging, but I had just finished Insanity and Asylum, and the pace in Tony's programs is definitely a lot more "relaxed" than Shaun T's. I found myself doing extra pushups etc between exercises, while Tony was joking around, just because I was used to a more frantic pace. That said, after a while I adapted and really enjoyed the "less is more" approach in X2.

  • I agree with Patrick on the "learning a ton"! Love your writing! I started X2 after Asylum and felt like I was going backwards at first but then the concepts kicked in and I was very grateful I had done Insanity and Asylum(core centric!!) or the stability routines might have killed me!- Harriss Warren Lauderdale

  • That is correct. It's slower and feels weird. I speed up the warm-up and, in fact, often do the warm-ups out running with the dogs to multi-task. You can of have to back shift a bit. But the key to X2 is form and with the extra time you should be trying to perfect each movement, which takes longer. Then when you get it and you're finally doing the workouts with weight you actually want the rest because each set is brutal. X2 definitely takes patience. It requires you to trust and believe and a bit of sacrifice from what you're used to. But if you want elite fitness that's generally what it takes, exiting your comfort zone and embracing something you're bad at.

  • Steve,I have to point out something I had a problem with. Tony did not burn 1200 calories, and these incredible calorie estimations we see all over the place…well, they're incredible (by its literal definition). I'm 26 and the fittest person I know, so I can push, and my competitive nature forces me to do that almost constantly. That said, for an hour workout to have me burning 1200 calories, my AVERAGE heart rate would have to be 187. And that's a more generous estimation that, say, what the heart rate monitor I use would give. I recognize the benefits of a lot of things Tony does in P90X2, but there is absolutely, unequivocally no way…even if Tony could create a workout that could challenge my cardio system as well as Shaun T (or myself in my private workouts), it would likely be impossible to push to such a degree for an entire hour so as to have an AVERAGE heart rate of 187, which Shaun has never come close to (because, like I said, it's not possible). Now, since you didn't claim that I would burn that many, I'm obviously willing to grant that these are different people with different physical make-ups…but there still is no way they burned 1200 calories. Unless, of course, their HRMs malfunctioned. That happens to me sometimes, so I suppose that's possible. I say all of this with respect, of course–I'm certainly not trying to be antagonistic.-Daniel

  • Daniel,Whomever taught you how to estimate caloric burn was/is wrong. We do metabolic testing at Occidental University all the time and have people burn that many calories consistently. We've even seen 1k plus from 45 minutes Turbo Jam workouts. A lot of it comes down to personal statistics so you couldn't know what Tony (or anyone) was capable of without doing metabolic testing. Btw, stacks of studies show that average caloric burn during an hour of a professional bike race is over 1K at tempo, which is far below your HR estimate with much smaller people. Also, if you take Michael Johnson's 400m WR and extrapolate the data he burns more than 42,000k/hr. Not possible of course but his HR during that race probably was around 190. Also, heart rates are very personal. Two people same age same condition can vary by 20-30bpm.So, anyway, you've been misled.

  • Thank you for that explanation. I am dying to try Turbo Fire but know that I am not ready. For now, I am biding my time with Turbo Jam and just recently started Chalean Extreme. It's something to aim for, to be able to do Turbo Fire.

  • Steve,Is the calorie burn shown by your average HR monitor incorrect when it comes to the weight workouts in p90x? When I've done 60 min of insanity, I believe the number I seeing (600-850). But the number seems low after a weight workout.Thanks,Matt

  • Thanks for this article Steve. It fits with what I discovered for myself. When I started and committed to getting myself healthy I started with P90X/Insanity hybrid. In hindsight that was a mistake. I wasn't ready but due to COPD and other issues I felt like if I didn't get quick results I would probably quit. Forward 1 1/2 years and doing P90X2. First week to 2 weeks of each phase I felt really weak and uncoordinated but after adapting I was able to push hard and get fairly high calorie burn. Going to do it again after some Insanity and see how I do in round 2. Awesome programs.

  • You mention that by doing the work outs "as prescribed" there will be a higher calorie burn and how important it is to ensure modifications are providing the same value as the normal move. I'm on my second round of P90X and am loving the program. It's given me great results, despite the fact that I cannot do a push up or pull up. I do my best to come up with modified movements that provide me the same benefit, but was wondering if there is a web page or place where Beachbody maks recommendations of how to modifysome of the basic core movements.

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