P90X

People are attracted to the image of workout systems like P90X and Insanity. It’s hardcore! It causes even the toned, anatomically perfect people on screen to break a serious sweat. Additionally, who doesn’t want fast results?

The reality is often what we perceive we need and what we actually need are two very different things.

Claims that anyone can do P90X and that one simply needs to tough it out are more likely to cause someone to quit than empower them. Naturally, any workout should challenge you but if you feel like you’re at the foot of Mt. Everest when you pop in the P90X DVD something is wrong.

If you’re out of shape, overweight, no longer a young pup, or a combination of all three, you need to start small.

Go on brisk walks more regularly, or dust off the mountain bike. Do simple exercises each day like squats, pushups, jumping jacks, and workout your upper body with resistance bands.

Once you start to feel the increased vitality regular exercise provides and confidence in your fitness level has improved, it’s time to move on to a beginner’s workout system.

Jillian Michaels’ workout videos like 30 Day Shred, Ripped in 30, and 6 Week Six-Pack are an inexpensive, noncommittal way to get started. If you prefer to learn from a man, Bob Harper and Billy Blanks are also a popular choice.

Beachbody offers alternatives that are overshadowed by the success of P90X. The first is POWER 90: a less demanding 90-day regimen. The second is 10 Minute Trainer: a system for the busiest people or those not willing to do a 30-minute session every day.

For more detail, read my previous post about alternatives to P90X.

Once you’ve graduated from the options mentioned above or something similar, this is the right time to pick up P90X.

The problem with fitness advice is we often go to people who are much more advanced than ourselves for guidance who are more likely doers than teachers. Unless you’re speaking to a professional trainer it’s sometimes hard for people in good shape to step into the shoes of someone who isn’t. This is why I think it’s so common for people to recommend advanced systems like P90X and Insanity even when it’s not appropriate.

Keep in mind that we all need to start at the bottom floor. There’s no magic bullet or shortcut to a body you’re proud to show off at the beach.

Don’t be ashamed of starting small and with feasible goals. Let your mantra be any activity is better than no activity. It may take you farther than you ever imagined.

On a whim I bought the USS Enterprise of electric toothbrushes. My teeth are important, I reasoned, therefore I need a state-of-the-art tool.

How wrong I was. Once the post-purchase haze settled I went back to the modest but effective manual brush. Using it felt more comfortable.

It reminded me of a lesson I sometimes forget.

Sometimes the simplest, least expensive equipment fits your individual needs the best.

The same is especially true with fitness.

Part of the appeal of P90X is that it eliminates the need for a workout mega-station or a gym membership. All you need to get started is a chin-up bar, resistance bands or dumbbells, and an exercise mat.

People opt for resistance bands for three main reasons. First, because they’re flexible, accommodating a huge variety of exercises. Second, because they’re lightweight and highly portable. Thirdly, they’re wieldier than free weights to some, making the workout experience more natural.

While the varieties of resistance bands look mostly the same, quality, features and extras vary greatly. Excited to start with the program, people often pick up low quality bands on impulse, giving them a bad impression of fitness tubes as a workout solution.

To make the search easier I’ve ranked the five sets I like the best, also putting into account feedback from my workout companions.

Most brands offer a starter set, a comprehensive set and options for people with more specific goals. I’ll be focusing on the best-selling configurations.

Selections are based on overall build quality, value, usefulness of features, and of course how convenient they are to use with P90X.

1. Black Mountain Products Set

Making the top of the list is the popular set from Black Mountain Products. It includes 5 bands with surgical-grade tubing, attachable handles, door anchor, ankle strap and bag.

The clip system allows you to attach multiple bands at once, making it great for rigorous workouts requiring heavy resistance.

The padded handles are top-notch. However you only get one pair. It’s impractical to switch between tubes while keeping up with Tony Horton and his crew. Getting an extra set of handles is a necessity.

2. Bodylastics 12 pcs Set

Bodylastics system is stackable, utilizing a quick clip system to get anywhere from 3 to 96 lbs. of tension. Altogether you get 5 color-coded bands, foam covered handles, 2 ankle straps, heavy-duty door anchor, and bag.

They claim their continuous dipped latex tubes are 99% snap resistant and failsafe. This isn’t just marketing hype because there is a woven cord in the interior of the bands. While it is tough to confirm improved performance anecdotally, Bodylastics bands are well rated by users with few complaints about snapping – a persistent problem with cheap tubes.

Again, you’ll need an extra pair of handles for quickly swapping bands without meddling with the clip system. Every second counts. You don’t want to become a slave to the pressing the pause button, as this will kill your momentum.

3. SPRI Advanced Traveling Trainer

This set includes 3 SPRI Xertubes (light, medium, and heavy), door attachment, and travel bag. You’ll need to purchase ankle straps separately to make lower body exercises easier.

SPRI Advanced Traveling Trainer SPRI Advanced Traveling Trainer
Sale Price: $39.95

The SPRI set stands out because the handles are pre-attached. This is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it makes changing resistance levels quick; you don’t need to mess with clips. On the other, you can’t combine multiple tubes for more tension.

Quality is comparable to top options although the price is a little steep at $39.99 considering you only get 3 bands rather than 5 like with Black Mountain or Bodylastics.

4. Ripcords Black Sniper Edition Set

Those that want a variety of options in resistance but prefer to have the handle permanently attached will prefer this set from Ripcords. The black sniper edition includes a strong tube that offers resistance levels up to 62 lbs. On top of that you get 5 bands and a door hook, making it a good value at only $54.99.

The most notable difference with Ripcords is the “ergonomic” handle design. Rather than a PVC tube or foam, the handle is molded plastic that slightly tapers towards the ends. To some it’s a little less comfortable but the advantage is your bands don’t smell like a locker room after an intense P90X session.

Ripcords offers a lifetime warrantee incase a band snaps. The catch is you’ll need to pay for shipping. It’s not a perfect solution but still cheaper than buying a replacement.

5. Aylio Basic Set

Ranking fifth the Aylio set is decent but offers less for your money.

Essentially, it excludes the lightest band common in 5 tube sets. You get a low, medium, high, and ultra-high-strength resistance band, door attachment, ankle straps and an attractive pouch.

Although the tube quality is good, users have noted the clips can sometimes snap off the band.

Extra handles are available for $12.99: essential for those following P90X.

Unless you have a big rack of dumbbells of differing weight right in front of you, it can be difficult manage your dumbbells while following real-time video in P90X. It’s especially challenging if you have limited space as various dumbbells can easily clutter up your workout space.

The best solution for most home gym aficionados is an adjustable dumbbell set. A good set replaces a huge rack of metal dumbbells, while taking up far less space. This makes it a no-brainer for apartment or condo dwellers. The other advantage is speed. Simply plop the dumbbells on the base, make your adjustments, and pull the set back up again.

There are two great options out there: the Bowflex SelectTech 552 set and the PowerBlock Classic set. Both are exceptional choices for P90X. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each so you can make the best choice according to your individual needs.

Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells Review

The Bowflex dumbbell set has a space-age design that is impressively intuitive. At the far end of each dumbbell is a large dial that allows you to increase or decrease the weight as you see fit.

The weight settings go up in increments of 2.5 pounds. This gives you a great deal of flexibility, making the shift to heavier weights more manageable. Each dumbbell can be adjusted anywhere from 5 to 52.5 pounds each (2.27 to 23.8 kg).

The fact you can go up and down in such small increments comes in very handy for P90X. With a traditional small set including a pair of 10s, 15s, and 25s it can be tough to reach the sweet spot while doing a given exercise. Due to the 10 pound difference between the 15s and 25s, most people end up feeling they’ve chosen a dumbbell that is either too heavy or too light.

The dumbbells measure 16” long which might make some P90X exercises awkward. Width on the other hand is perfectly manageable.

Although the design is appealing, come compromises were made to make the set so easy to adjust. The looseness between the plates is the biggest disadvantage to the 552s. The dial plus tiered system makes it possible for the metal portions to tap against each other. This might create a slight rattling sound when you are doing curls.

PowerBlock Classic Adjustable Dumbbell Set Review

This set from PowerBlock couldn’t look more different than the Bowflex SelectTech line. As the name implies each dumbbell resembles a rectangular block. The unique engineering plus color-coded buttons and components give it a future-retro vibe.

Each dumbbell can be adjusted between 5 and 45 pounds in 5-pound increments. In this area, the PowerBlock Classic set is trumped by the more flexible SelectTech 552 model. This limitation is exposed when certain P90X exercises either feel a bit too easy or too difficult. In a way less options are a good thing when you are making a split second decisions about which weight you should choose. With 5-pound increments the selections seem more obvious. Those that value simplicity may prefer this approach over the more exacting Bowflex scheme.

The most impressive characteristic of the PowerBlock Classic set is the solid feel the dumbbells have. This is partially due to the superior construction quality and partially due to the fact that all the pieces are rigidly held in place thanks to the design. You never feel like any plates are too loose as you do with the Bowflex.

Some care must be taken when you are aligning the pins to select the weight you want. It ceases to be a problem when you put it up on a table top or stand. If you are a somewhat clumsy or careless person you may want to get the Bowflex which is very forgiving in this regard.

The Verdict

If you are the type of person that values ease of use and flexibility the Bowflex is for you. It allows you to increase weight in 2.5 pound increments which is very useful when doing P90X. The drawback to this set is the looseness of the plates.

If you like designs that put ruggedness first, get the PowerBlock Classic set. It may look a bit strange to some but the engineering and quality components give it a solid feel. The drawback in this case is decreased flexibility. Adjustments are made in 5 pound increments rather than 2.5 pounds like the Bowflex set.

P90X has a number of similarities with Insanity. Before we move on to differences let’s look at the areas in which the two systems are most comparable.

Schedule

First off, the schedule you’ll follow is the same with each method. No matter if you go with Insanity or P90X you’ll be putting in a solid workout six times a week. The first three weeks are dedicated to maximum intensity workouts while the fourth week is for recovery. After the fourth week is completed the cycle begins again, bring you back to the week one routine.

Number of Workouts and Variety

Both P90X and Insanity have an extensive collection of workouts to keep things interesting and make sure every portion of your body gets equal attention. P90X includes 12 DVDs (each including one workout) while Insanity includes 10 DVDs.

In terms of variety P90X offers more but this isn’t necessarily a good thing for everyone. For example, a good portion of people are put off by the Yoga X workout in P90X. Not only is it hard but it takes up 90 minutes. For the more casual crowd this is a stretch.

Insanity has a strong cardio focus. While it is more accessible than P90X in some ways it also isn’t for complete beginners. If you are inactive or extremely overweight the intensity of the workouts will be overwhelming at first. At times it can get repetitive as well so if your attention span is short P90X may be a better match for you.

Muscle Building vs Fat Burning

The most important factor to consider when choosing a workout system is your goals. P90X excels at muscle building while Insanity is focused on toning and weight loss. Of course you can get ripped and lose weight with either system but if you want maximum efficiency choose according to what benefit is most important to you.

P90X DVD Workout - Base Kit P90X DVD Workout - Base Kit
Sale Price: $139.80

Commitment

Neither one of these approaches is a walk in the park. You need to put in an intense workout each and every day during the week, excluding one, to
get the advertised results.

Despite the name Insanity is arguably the easier system to complete (if you can keep up the pace) because it requires less time. The average workout length is 45 minutes as opposed to 75 minutes in P90X. In addition you can get good results in 60 days instead of 90 days.

Equipment

Both P90X and Insanity rely on your body weight, not a bunch of expensive, heavy gym equipment.

To get started with P90X you’ll need a set of resistance bands or dumbbells, a pull-up bar and a yoga mat. This post outlines equipment recommendations for P90X so be sure to check it out.

Insanity requires no equipment to get started. While it retails for about the same as P90X this makes it even more attractive to those on a budget.

INSANITY Base Kit - DVD Workout INSANITY Base Kit - DVD Workout
Sale Price: $144.80

Final Thoughts

No matter if you choose P90X or Insanity you better be ready to bust your butt. Neither one of these options are for the faint of heart. If you feel a bit intimidated read this post about P90X alternatives.

Are you ready to press on? Your goals trump all other factors. People looking to lose weight quickly will want to look at Insanity. The crowd looking to get ripped (primarily men) need to grab up P90X.

Both require a good bit of dedication however you can complete Insanity in only two months instead of three. In addition the workouts are shorter. Be warned: that doesn’t mean it’s a cake walk.

When it comes to workout routines people gravitate towards systems that yield quick results. P90X promises a ripped body in only 90 days. Of course everyone is convinced that they’ll be able to keep up the rigorous workouts every day when they buy the product. However, living up to the commitment is tougher than it seems on paper.

At the end of the day P90X is a system for people that are already highly active. If you are like most people you’re probably looking to get off the couch but aren’t aiming to take on the lifestyle of an athlete either.

Although P90X is currently all the rage there are plenty of often less expensive alternatives that will push you in the right direction. Once you master any of these you can always step it up a notch and reach for P90X.

Power 90

If you are a beginner or are over 40 years old you may want to look the other system offered by Beachbody called Power 90. Think of it as a scaled back version of P90X.

Like its cousin it comes with access to fitness and dieting tips. Instead of 13 videos there are six videos dedicated to cardio and abs. You’ll learn how to tone, firm and sculpt your body as well as lose weight. Cardio moves pioneered by Tony Horton are included along with kickboxing and Pilates.

Also, it’s about half the price as P90X.

Wii Fit Plus and/or EA Sports Active 2

Video games are a blast but the traditional kind locks us into sloth-like behavior. Nintendo’s Wii aimed to change all that with motion controls. Now PS3 and and Xbox 360 has followed suit with Kinect and Move.

Wii Fit Plus comes with a balance board and as the name implies it is more concerned with balance and stretching games and not so much on breaking a sweat. The balance board doubles as a smart scale so you can track your weight loss with Wii Fit and other workout programs.

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EA Sports Active addressed the need for a game with an emphasis on Western style fitness. It delivers a fairly intense cardio workout that nicely changes up routines according to a dynamic program created by a top personal trainer. The beauty of the system is it is very cheap to get started since everything you need is in the box.

EA Sports Active 2 EA Sports Active 2
List Price: $39.99
Sale Price: $31.00

Jillian Michaels

Jillian Michaels is the TV trainer on the hit show “The Biggest Loser.” As the name implies she is geared towards big results – namely in the realm of weight loss. If you can commit to 20-minutes per day for a month you may be able to improve your fitness level considerably.

You won’t need fitness balls, rubber bands, and door clamps to get into cardio with Jillian Michaels. All it takes is a thirst for a high-intensity, high-impact cardio workout to get started.

Be warned that DVD videos like 30 Day Shred and Ripped in 30 will kick your but if you are out of shape. Even the advanced crowd may find level 2 in 30 Day Shred a challenge.

If you are ready to get serious with your exercise routine but are low on cash this is a great option. Jillian Michaels DVDs can be had for less than $10 each, making the deal even sweeter.

Jillian Michaels - 30 Day Shred Jillian Michaels - 30 Day Shred
List Price: $14.98
Sale Price: $4.12

DVD Information

Binding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Brand: Lionsgate
Manufacturer: Lionsgate
Original Release Date:
Actors:
  • Jillian Michaels

Get Eclectic

Variety is the name of the game in workout systems today. This is what maximizes muscle confusion so you get the biggest possible gains for the work you put in.

If you already have a few workout DVDs lying around you may want to build upon that and create your own system. Granted it won’t be quite as efficient as the pre-made systems but the goal here is to go for what inspires you and what interests you the most.

As an example you may want to do martial arts one day, yoga the next day, Pilates the next, then toss in some R&B dance lessons. The best way to keep active is to follow your unique passions.