» Men’s Health Reveals Truth About P90X

by RickP on June 7, 2010

P90X! P90X! Everywhere I turn, everyone is talking way too much about P90X! Which can only mean one thing: There’s something wrong with it.

Portrait of the author

Portrait of the author

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit of a contrarian. If something is being mentioned as a “miracle cure” or “quick fix,” I immediately discount it as a fraud. There never are any quick fixes or miracle diet tonics. The problem with any of these plans is embedded in their DNA; they’re short cuts. You think the people ordering these diet plans from their coach at 3 in the morning (when the infomercials for them air) want to actually put in lots of hard work at the gym? The only tried and true method of taking off that weight and actually keeping it off? Of course not! Which is why these workout methods become popular in the first place.

P90X, on the other hand, has seemingly evaded all of this criticism. So many people have had success with it that it has kept on gaining and gaining steam for being a valid workout method in order to tone your body in a short amount of time. Which puts myself, as a previously-admitted contrarian, in a bit of a bind. Does this mean that P90X is completely effective and has no flaws? Does this mean that, for once, popular wisdom is actually correct, which will force me to completely change my line of thinking.

Luckily, I don’t have to answer either of these questions since Trevor Thieme over at Men’s Health has put together an essay detailing exactly what is wrong with P90X. Let’s go to the quotes!

If you watch late night television, you’ve seen the infomercials: Fitness trainer Tony Horton and a handful of attractive models explain that by constantly introducing new exercises and workouts—which run the gambit from traditional strength sessions to Kenpo karate classes—you’ll achieve a constant state of “muscular confusion.” The less your muscles adapt, Horton explains, the faster they’ll grow.

The idea of “muscular confusion” isn’t new. And unfortunately for Horton and the folks at Beachbody—who also introduced the world to Hip Hop Abs and the Turbo Jam workout—it’s not based on science. “It’s a marketing term invented by Joe Weider [the creator of the Mr. Olympia bodybuilding contest] back in the 1980s,” says Bill Hartman, C.S.C.S, a strength coach in Indianapolis. “And it’s kind of counterproductive.”

Here’s why: If muscles don’t adapt, they don’t grow. “The whole goal of weightlifting to is to get an adaptation to occur,” says Hartman, “and that requires multiple exposures to the same stimulus.”

The article goes on from there, detailing how the method of P90X focuses more on the body losing weight rather than building muscle.  Which, obviously, is fine if that’s your goal. If you are using P90X to lose weight, then please, have at it. But plenty of my friends have been trying to use P90X in order to build muscle mass, and it’s just not a logical way to go about this.

So, the main thing to keep in mind is this: If you’re looking to quickly lose weight for a brief period of time, go ahead and use P90X. If you want to build muscle mass or keep the weight off for a significant period of time, P90X might not be the best way to go. I certainly hope this post wasn’t needlessly confusing to anyone.

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Rick is the editor for TSB magazine.

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16 Responses to Men’s Health Reveals Truth About P90X

  • Michael says:

    Judging from the response to that Men’s Health article (plus what I know as a trainer) it seems that the MH article is exaggerating the exaggerations.

    I don’t do P90X myself, but everything I’ve seen from it indicates that it’s a program for people who want to lose bodyfat at the same time as gaining a small to moderate amount of muscle. I mean, to start off with the average person doesn’t have enough weights in their home for a maximum muscle-gaining program.

    But MH (and you by extension) seems to be suggesting P90X is promoted as a bodybuilding program, and poking holes in that particular strawman. And “debunking” it on those terms does a disservice to every guy who’s looking for a way to lose weight, see some muscle tone and feel better.

    The truth about P90X (and any even half-decent workout routine) is that if you can keep up your intensity and do it regularly, and you don’t eat crap that cancels out your gains, you’ll see results. From what I’ve seen and heard from people doing it, P90X is built around maintaining intensity, and that’s really, really good. Yes, if you’re skinny now but want sinewy, veiny huge biceps then you’ll have to push low-reps (with a spotter) and consume mass quantities of protein (or steroids). But for most guys it’s a good idea to lose the flab first: you might be surprised at what’s under there.

    • Byron Wilson says:

      First and foremost the writer clearly doesn’t know anything about P90x! It is not meant to make you the biggest monster in the gym, its meant to get you in the best shape of your life! There is a big difference between the two. The average Men’s Health reader is looking for the latter, other wise they have a muscle mag. He did a complete dis-service to his readers.

      If your goal is “Physical fitness” to be in the “Best Shape of your life” then P90x is an excellent choice. Its a tailored workout regime that you can do at home. Reason, most of us can’t tailor a program with a trainer, we don’t have the time or the money. P90X has a trainer, in front of you with 3 other people doing the exercises at different degrees. I have been doing the program for a year now 4/90 day rounds and I still pick-up tidbits. I am now on round 5!

      At 37 I can jump higher, have more flexibility, a lower resting heart rate, and more muscle than when I was running and lifting weights 6 days a week at 25. Just Youtube P90X can see literally 1,000′s of testimonies. If Youtube Tony Horton you can see a 52 year old man doing things a 21 year old man would be jealous of. I highly doubt there is anyone at Men’s Health that can match Tony Horton’s overall fitness level! I love to see a challenge!

      With yoga for flexibility, Plyometrics for that explosive elasticity, Kempo for both. Then for weight training, doing basic body movements “push-ups, pull-ups and lunges”, combining exercises with weights. It takes the confusion out of muscle confusion, gives you a kick-ass workouts that you are far to tired to get bored!

      The reason for the negative review on P90X its contrary to their business plan. Beachbody doesn’t buy adds, therefor no positive reviews. Which is proven by the first paragraph in the article. Where the writer states that P90X has never been mention by Men’s Health, only by readers comments!

      You would think a Magazine devoted to workouts for men would have some articles on the most popular workout program in North America! Their deliberate ignorance proves that they only write for those who pay them! They should of continued there deliberate ignorance, they can not be trusted for objectivity anymore than a Joe Weider publication!

  • Rick Paulas says:

    I don’t disagree with anything you’re saying, and while the Men’s Health article definitely mentioned that P90X advertising focused on the “muscle-building” aspect of the program — I, personally, can’t even remember the content of a P90X ad, just that I’ve seen them — a few of my friends who have been using it have been lauding the program for just that purpose: To build muscle.

    So, you’re not wrong at all. All evidence points to it being a great way to lose some pounds. (Especially if you maintain the workout regiment.) It’s just important for people (namely, my friends) to understand that there’s plenty of better ways to go about gaining muscle.

    There’s a very good chance this post was written in a fit of contrarian rage.

  • Michael says:

    “There’s a very good chance this post was written in a fit of contrarian rage.”

    I’ve done that.

    You’re right, for adding bulk P90X (or any system that features much fat burning) isn’t the answer. Your friends will have to throw themselves into a muscle-building program with just as much verve and dedication, though, and it’s hard to find a packaged program for that, because you usually need a gym to access sufficient weight. It’s a dilemma.

    Anyway, keep on with the quality prose. Cheers!

  • Evan says:

    I work as a personal trainer and what I’ll say exercise is exercise. This is basically weight loss and toning. This will not help you get ripped or build huge muscles. Everyones body I different and reacts to everything differently. they can’t really promise weight loss without diet which is always key. Kudos for the article you know what you’re talkin about here

    • Cole says:

      “they can’t really promise weight loss without diet which is always key”

      I can tell just by this comment that you have no idea what all in-tales with in the P90X package. There is a strict diet plan, with access to personalized options for people who might have trouble losing weight.

      To Mens Health readers,

      MH as stated in there title is supposedly about Mens Health. But being a reader over the past 10 years doesn’t always cover all aspects of Mens Health. P90X does! Take the time to tailor it to yourself. Up the weights a little, up your calories. You can gain mass within the p90x system.
      I think Trevor Thieme should keep his mouth shut until he has done 90 days of p90x along side me or any p90x graduate. Hell all pay money to see him go up against tony.

      Thank you,


  • Jill S says:

    I’m a professional tennis player. I’ve been training for 13 years to become the best athlete I can in my field. It wasnt until I started P90X 4 weeks and 4 days ago did I become the BEAST I wanted to become.

    I have REAL ab definition, back definition, I’ve lost weight that I’ve been struggling with all over my body even my face! I’ve dropped %s of REAL body fat.

    P90X WORKS!

    Thank you,

  • Jared says:

    I was informed about your P90X post and I just wanted to let you know it’s been a god send for me. I went to the Gym for years doing the same thing Monday-Friday pushing myself harder and harder with little change in my body. I see the guys in there that bench 300-500 lbs that are strong; but they are not cut, and I think to myself how long will these guys be able to keep this up. I don’t want to be huge; I want to be in good health. I want to be able to work out past my 50s and still be able to enjoy my life. That is what P90X is; it’s my fountain of youth as Tony Calls Yoga. Oh and yea I have lost 30 lbs and I can do around 15 more pull ups than I could before this. So that is something right? Have you ever noticed someone cut that had fat on them? Loose the extra lbs and it shows your muscle. That is what is called being ripped. I would rather be a small ripped than a big ripped any day of the week. It’s easier and healthier to maintain. Most of the people in your magazine aren’t Huge. They are lean bodies that are healthy. Look at the cover of your own product and tell me if you see someone large, or someone with lean muscle. I don’t care if they used attractive people to make me want to look attractive myself; nevertheless it just so happens Tony and his Three Twins are studs. You use attractive people on your covers to get attention don’t you? P90X is very important to me. Thank you for reading my two cents.

  • Fraidoon S says:

    Before making any judgment; please try it the full length of the program. It seems your full of XXit..
    During the instructional video and documents it mentions on and on what to do for MUSCLE GAIN or BODY FAT LOSS.


    I am in Starting my second Month and I have already see improvements in every way…

    I don’t work for p90x I am a user of the Program…


  • p90x workout and Inanity DVD is a system based on P90X which provides you with the ultimate training at home.

  • Sarah says:

    First of all, being healthy is about maintenance and lifestlye choices. P90X STRESSES THIS IN THE MATERIAL YOU RECEIVE WITH IT!!! as with anything, you get out of it what you put into it. BLAH BLAH BLAH to you who think this is a gimmick, you haven’t done it probably and would know what it’s about in the community that does it, because if you did you’d see that this is more about looks because it’s changed people in more ways than physical appearance!!

    second of all, update the article, the link to the article no longer exists! I assume due to the bad publicity it got him because he doesn’t know one end from the other.

    third of all give this a try: TRYING OUT WHAT YOU ASSUME IS FRAUD. have you ever been taught what happens when you assume? because it’s true right now. If you knew anything about the program you’d have know that the author in men’s health contradicts himself because he describes and tells people to do exactly what P90X teaches people to do. It’s a serious and different order of dvd workouts which basically isn’t saying the muscles won’t adapt, they just won’t plateau with the same exact regimen 24\7. Tony switches up the orders of the workouts. muscles have memory and when its the same series day in day out same order yatta yatta, the plateau arises, this program helps you avoid it. and as for building bulk, I’ve know people that have after their initial weight loss. it’s called INCREASE YOUR WEIGHT USED and use the doubles program that the book gives you. I’ve seen it happen.

    do your research about stuff!! there are ways to bulk up with P90X, if you had knowledge you’d know.

  • Rich says:

    Hehe – completely useless ‘article’ from folks that have never done the program.

    For the real deal on it, just shoot over to the message boards, folks.

    Here’s the boards for P90X.

    Just read a few threads….pick shorter ones, longer ones or whatever. Variety being the spice of life, maybe pick one of each. There are threads with a few posts and some with thousands.

    These posts aren’t created by actors or maintained by Tony. They’re built every day around people who have done the program (sometimes multiple rounds) and are doing it now. All you need to do is read through a few to realize what the program is about. And you’ll find folks that don’t like it; folks that fail along the way.

    The community though is overwhelmingly supportive. People are encouraged by others of like mind to Keep Pressing Play. Tony’s coaching terms are about as simple as it gets at the most basic level — do your best and forget the rest.

    The program isn’t necessarily about muscle mass, but it can sure transform you – mentally and physically.

    So sad that the author and publishers chose not to do their homework.

  • Ana says:

    P90x worked for me, I’ve lost 42 pounds (in a period of 5 months) so far using beach body products. Haha short cut I don’t think so, it’s hard work, lots of sweat! and a healthy diet.

  • Max F. says:

    As a 3x P90x completer, and a Personal Trainer in school for Physical Fitness. I will completely disagree with this author. Sorry buddy, but for starters P-90 can be adjusted for any goals one have in mind..(ex: up reps, up rest periods, don’t do cardio days..etc,etc.) I have gained massively in all areas of fitness and rarely follow the P-90 schedule specifically.

    I’m in belief that Men’s Health (a FANTASTIC magazine) is against P-90 for the simple fact that you people do not want to admit that something is the right way to go – especially if you’re not paid or sponsored by them.

  • mark aguilar says:

    P90x is not just a 90 day workout it helps you change your old way of life of sitting around and getting fat. I see the program as a new lifestyle. When you do this workouts you can always up your weight and take breaks as you need them. You have to get the program to understand the real objective

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