P90X3

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.

The popularity of P90X can be attributed to the fact you don’t need a gym membership or expensive equipment to do it. You can get outstanding results with a modest collection of equipment.

I’ve broken the list into two sections. The first is made up of must-own workout gear. The second section breaks down the stuff recommended by Tony Horton that you don’t need to get started. Pick up the absolutely essential equipment before you start the program then add optional gear once you are sure P90X is for you.

Equipment Needed for P90X

1. Pull-up Bar

This very well could be the most important item in your arsenal. Pull-ups work a number of muscles on your upper body, including: biceps, latissimus dorsi (lats), forearm muscles, deltoids and abdominals. There is no suitable alternative that does so much for your body so pull-ups are a must.

The cheapest, most convenient type of pull-up bar is the type that hangs on a door frame. No drilling or permanent modification to your door is required, which is especially good for apartment dwellers.

Tony Horton of course recommends the chin-up bar by Beachbody. The problem with it is there are alternatives that cost half the price and are just as good. Loads of members at bodybuilding.com swear by the inexpensive Iron Gym Extreme. It’s a big step up from the original Iron Gym. Save yourself some time and get it now.

2. Resistance Bands

A good set of resistance bands are indispensible. The wide array of exercises that can be done is mind-boggling, especially with the door attachment in the mix.

Don’t assume these are just for the ladies. Macho men among us can use the maximum tension bands for great effect. There are plenty of exercises that are awkward with dumbells, so it is best to keep an open mind. Switch it up between resistance bands and free weights as the need arises.

Bodylastics makes the best quality bands out there. Don’t cheap out as the lower priced products are prone to break. You’ll need a variety of bands with different tensions. Make it easy on yourself by getting the Max Tension Edition set – it’s perfectly balanced for P90X.

3. Dumbells

When you think of working out chances are images of dumbells pop into your mind. A good set is absolutely essential for a good upper body workout.

Preferences vary widely among men and women. Men tend to like to pump iron in a stationary stance while women use dumbells while engaged in cardio exercise. For this reason I have separate recommendations depending on your gender.

For men, the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells are incredible. By turning the dial while the weights are sitting in their station, you get a weight customized for an activity. This gives you three things: quick access, portability and a compact package.

For women, the 32-pound set from Altus Athletic is ideal for toning. It features 3-pound, 5-pound, and 8-pound neoprene-coated dumbbells and includes a cool triangular stand. The rubberized material makes them a pleasure to work with.

4. Exercise Mat

Unless you want your carpet to smell like a locker room you need to invest in a good mat. In P90X mats are used for plyometrics and yoga exercises. It is of course important that the product you choose is slip-resistant, comfortable, ample in size and easy to clean.

The durafoam exercise mat from Harbinger is a versatile one. It excels as a plyometrics and yoga mat, making it one of the best choices for P90X.

Optional Equipment for P90X

The following are recommended by Tony Horton in the “How to Bring It” video. I’m listing these as optional because the items in the previous list are all you need to follow the program.

1. Yoga Blocks

These can be useful if you are new to yoga, need extra support, or are advanced enough to lengthen your stretches. Blocks are available in a variety of materials, although cork is currently very popular.

Cork blocks by Hugger Mugger are made from the bark of long-lived cork oak trees. They are nice and sturdy yet not overly hard. Some find them too heavy so keep your individual ability at yoga in mind before purchasing.

Hugger Mugger Cork Yoga Block Hugger Mugger Cork Yoga Block
List Price: $24.49
Sale Price: $16.95

2. Heart Rate Monitor

Sometimes it can be challenging to know if you are working too hard at a cardio exercise or not hard enough. A heart rate monitor quickly gives you feedback without a personal trainer around yelling encouraging catch-phrases.

The Timex T5G971 is a top-selling personal heart monitor with the right amount of features for P90X at a decent price. The read out is pretty massive which makes it easy to keep an eye on your progress.