January 19, 2011 posted by

The Science Behind P90X2

“I’m excited,” said Marcus last night as we put the finishing touches on P90X mc2’s final third phase workouts. “We’re going to do a lot of good for people.” Apparently I was pretty amped, too, as I awoke in the middle of the night with a head full of possible scenarios that might challenge the periodiztional flow of mc2. A couple of hours later, with no obvious holes uncovered in our logic, I fell back asleep.

From a scientific standpoint P90X was easy. Our development team needed only to bring what they already knew worked to the table. The big unknown was whether or not the public would buy in to the concept of hard training. Now, with the world watching, the accountability bar has risen. To meet the challenge we’ve enlisted the help of Dr. Marcus Elliott, whom if you’re a Straight Dope follower you’ve been reading a lot about.

Elliott’s training facility, P3, works only with serious athletes. Their approach is based on the latest applied science and, in fact, is so far ahead of the curve that they are defining what the cutting edge in athletic training is. What we’re doing at Beachbody is taking this knowledge and distilling it down to the everyday athlete. By analyzing the data from a broad spectrum of athletes we can find common deficiencies that lead to breakdown and anticipate this in our structure so that it best suits almost everyone. Mc2 is our first foray into this arena—actually; if you subscribe to Tony Horton’s One on One series you’ll see the actual first in our mc2 preview PAP workout.

Last week P3’s blog published an article on Post Activation Potentiation and how they apply it to their athletes. Since it’s about to get applied to you, too, I would call this required reading for anyone interested in understanding why your training works the way it does. Here’s the rub:

At P3, a major route to improving performance is through the application of “complex training,” which involves combining high load strength movements with biomechanically similar plyometric/ballistic movements as a means of taking advantage of Post Activation Potentiation (PAP), a phenomenon that refers to enhancement of muscle function as a result of its contractile history. P3 has found that complex training is far superior in developing athletic power to either resistance training or plyometric training alone, and while there are other mechanisms involved in P3 complexes, the successful manipulation of PAP plays an important role.

Sciency, huh? That’s what you get when you work with a bunch of brainiacs. So you’re going to see these complexes in mc2 but not until the third phase. The reason is that you need to build up to them. At P3 they substantiate this with testing:

To measure the effects of PAP on vertical and horizontal jump performance we had athletes perform Depth Jumps and Skaters off of our custom made force plates. For all of these tests, the vast majority (75%) of athletes performed significantly better post loading. It is important to note the athletes who were tested were all experienced P3 power trained athletes and that studies have shown there is a lot of individual variability in terms of when the potentiation effect occurs.

And we, in turn, get to use their data to project how this will work on a less conditioned general public. Not that anyone who’s done two phases of P90X lacks conditioning. In fact, the base conditioning it provides is elite, which has been proven in how many professional athletes are using it. But when it comes to scientific training there is traditionally fit and, then, there is the next level. And that’s where we—and ultimately you—are heading.

Complex training and the utilization of PAP have and will continue to give athletes many advantages. Unfortunately, general strength exercises paired with aerobic conditioning is still the norm, even at the highest levels of sport. These old school forms of training rarely take into account individual needs and the need for power in movement. Eventually teams and performance coaches will begin to conduct more precise and individualized sports specific programs. Until this transformation takes place, it is paramount that athletes understand their own performance and physical needs, as well as the proven methods that exist.


  • This shit is so COOL. I need to change my line of work.

  • I CAN NOT WAIT for MC2!!!!! Will P90X be a suggested pre-req for MC2?

  • I definitley agree with Lee….I love science and being able to apply stats to growth is awesome.Will MC2 be more focused on producing better athletic performance, as opposed to specific hypertrophy ?

  • 90x won't be a pre-rec but it will be helpful for sure, and some fitness will be a pre-rec. I would not call 90x hypertrophy-centric, as there are a lot of elements to that program but, yes, mc2 is more targeted towards athletic (and non-athletic) preformance.

  • Wow Steve.. this is some amazing reading material I am so geeked for mc2. I have ever OoO vol 3 and im just waiting for that PAP DVD to come thru. You guys are doing something great here!Coach Carlos.

  • Hey will Tony be leading the workouts?

  • Been through several rounds of P90X and P90X+. I cant wait for MC2 to hit those shelves.

  • Of course Tony will be leading them! The man is a master. Someone at P3 (maybe Al Jefferson of the Jazz) asked Marcus and I if we were going to be in the workouts. We just laughed and shook our heads. No one would buy a video with us leading workouts. We're like coaches. Would you buy, say, a Phil Jackson workout video? Club training, and even more so video training, is an art form and Tony, Debbie, Shaun, Chalene et al all deserve that accolades because no one would want to train like this at home without their infectious personalities.

  • You guys better get hot! I've done P90X and Insanity and I'm getting tired of em!! Let do this!

  • Steve, I don't quite get this PAP. It sounds like resistance training followed by plyometrics with the idea that the muscle fibers are now "primed" for generating greater force. Is that right? After resistance training the muscles pull in more calcium and more actin/myosin interactions allows greater force. How would you implement this? Do some squats with weights and then immediately do jump-knee-tucks? And you'd be able to jump higher at this point?Have you seen a difference in us non-elite athletes (ie, p90x grads, but not professional athletes). I'm very intrigued! Can't weight (sorry, bad pun). I also heard of a new weight lifting series with someone named Sagi Kalev. Any details on that? Thanks for all the work you guys do!

  • I think a Phil Jackson Zen Yoga workout could be a huge hit.

  • How does Yoga fit into this, if it fits at all? To me, the most innovative aspect of P90X is that it added a serious Yoga component. Had it not been for P90X, I would have never tried it. Now, I don't see how I could train for anything without it.

  • Wow. Who's a fitness nerd now?

  • I think I am getting this . . . . I recently started cross-training on a TRX several days a week, along with doing some other MMA workouts (Bas Rutten & The Pitt) instead of the usual P90X, OoO followed by Insanity. I obviously cracked some boundary I was at because within 2-weeks my body changed, more weight peeled off (than in 6-months of hard training) and I got even stronger. In two freaking weeks!

  • Phil says he's retiring this year. Maybe we'll get him into the video business. Anon, I think you do understand it but if you click on the post activation potentiation link and read all of my posts you'll get it better.The yoga question is great. For sure it will remain in the program. Like you, both Tony and I are huge propoenents of yoga. At P3 they don't any yoga but a lot of the specific mobility work they do leaves you feeling a lot like yoga. So through proper mobility exercises, and things like foam rolling (will be in mc2) you can achieve the results of yoga with less time and more targeted work. But yoga to me is fun, and fun is good so yoga will remain. Tony is fun and that's why 90x (and all his programs) have been successful. We are definitely going to do our best to keep in fun.

  • Wow…this sounds so cool. I have made it one of my goals to not just worry about being "fit" but worry about being athletic too. I want to return to competitive tennis someday and want fitness and conditioning to never be a factor.

  • Hi Steve, I found your site googling "workout from hell," and I'm now hoping you could give me some p90x advice. I'm a serious rock climber and really looking to take my climbing "physicality" to the next level. I know that I could probably benefit my climbing simply by cutting fat and getting that skinny, sinewy climbing look (I'm naturally very lanky/skinny), but I'm trying to balance that against the desire to also get that more muscley "beach body" look that I've never had. The lanky body can be great for climbing, but not so much with the ladies…My question is whether there's a balance to be found there? Is p90x a program that could help me become a better climber while still putting on some more chisled bulk, or is it going to add too much "unnecessary" muscle mass that actually weighs me down on the rock?It's tricky (or it seems tricky), because I definitely think I *do* need more mass in some areas, especially for the more physical climbing moves. But I guess it's a question of climbing-specific mass?Like I said, I'm trying to find a balance, because I'd like to continue improving as a climber without needing to stick with the super skinny lanky body. I'm a skinny, "hard gainer," but have managed to put on some mass the past six months through aggressive weight training and eating; unfortunately it's also added body fat as well, which is pretty much dead weight on the rock (and gives me a bit of that "skinny fat" look at the beach). Anyway, it sounds like you're pretty knowledgeable in that arena, so I figured I'd see if you had any thoughts/advice. Thanks!

  • THANK YOU for keeping in the yoga. One last question: I may be the only one who LIKES the 1.5 hour yoga in P90X. Will mc2 be just as long or longer, or will it be reduced to 1 hour? Feel free to tell me to shut up and wait, but like a lot of folks, I'm excited! My wife said that I look like an underwear model and I'm near 40! –all thanks to P90X.

  • Seems interesting, beachbody is the only company that seems to put science behind it's fitness products. I might consider using this if I can somehow modify it to fit my mass gains.

  • Did you hear about Jack Lalanne's death?

  • Cant wait to download it

  • Actually….this approach has been already done by an actual sports physical therapist. It's called AthLEAN-X. Apparently, P90X has learned something from watching how others do it…and felt compelled to change their entire training philosophy. Interesting!

  • I don't usually let spam through but this one amused me. To suggest that we're following your lead is ridiculous. Our development process is pretty transparent, especially in regards to our experts and the science we're using. And I've never heard of you while you, obviously, have heard of us. I'm surprised your company isn't called InsanLean-X Fire.

  • Athlean-X sucks. P90X2 for the win!Thanks Beachbody! I've been an following this boxer called Manny Pacquiao and for years I've been searching for at-home workout DVDs that produces similar results with his training.Thanks to Beachbody you people created the exact workouts I needed. Manny Pacquiao's workout is like Insanity + Insanity Asylum + P90X2 all packed in 8 weeks, but he's an elite athlete, we're just normal everyday people…But I'm glad that's gonna change now, with all your extreme workouts we can now be finally have the chance to be in the same league as elite ahtletes.You have all the things I needed!THANK YOU!

  • I know this isn't going to be let through.. but steve I bought p90x2, I just finished x2 core and plyocide and was completely disappointed. Far too long of a warmup, way too much equipment, product endorement up the wazoo and during the workout(s) the break times are far too long. I love p90x, insanity and asylum don't get me wrong. But whatever you think this program does well, athlean x does better. Hell there conditioning workouts on youtube that are free are more impressive than plyocide and pap lower. I'm beyond dissapointed in p90x2 which is why I am going to send it back and either stick with an athleanx/asylum split or just do athleanx straight through. I wish I could like p90x2 but imo anything p90x2 does that is new, athlean ix currently doing better. The number of sales you get on this or how big of a company you are dosen't always mean you product is superior.truly dissapointedDrew

  • I let criticism post as long as it's objective. I can see your point, especially from a perceived exertion angle, but don't agree at all. When you can do these workouts using heavy weight and 100% explosion it will do more for you than you can imagine. The speed of those other workouts is impressive but everything in sports isn't about that. Control through a range of motion, especially when unstable, and then turning that into explosive power works for recruiting new muscle fibers whereas speed work, like Asylum, work more on proprioceptive awareness where results happen quicker but are not as deeply rooted in biomechanical changes. We've got a lot of examples of athletes who've completely revamped movement patterns for the better using X2 style training. It does work.

  • Backing up my last comments, the Philadelphia Eagles strength coach just said X2 is the best athletic training program he's ever seen.

  • I want x2 so bad. But at this stage Im sticking with the x untill my group is ready to move on. Thanks for all the great info.

  • Going through X2 now…it's a beast!

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