Fitness Programs

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.

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.

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.

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.

So you’ve decided to get serious about working out but aren’t sure if P90X is worth it. Well, that depends on you and your goals.

The first thing you need to look at is your current level of fitness. Do you manage to work out on a regular basis (even if only once a week)?

If you’re die-hard couch potato that doesn’t schedule in time for exercise you’ll have a tough time turning your lifestyle around and sticking to a rigorous system like P90X. Don’t waste your money unless you are sure you’ll follow though! You may want to start with something more casual that requires less commitment such as EA Active 2 or a few workout videos from Jillian Michaels or Bob Harper. Once you outgrow this introductory material you can step up to P90X.

People that are already active have less to be concerned about. You’re already used to sticking with some kind of routine so now all you have to do is scale it up to the next level. P90X can get you to where you want to be.

Now let’s get to the specifics for those that are ready to tackle a challenge!

The P90X system itself costs around $140. At first it seems like a lot of money to drop. There are 13 DVDs included in the slick retail packaging along with a hard copy of the nutrition guide. If you break it down per video that is about $10.75 each. If you think of it that way P90X isn’t expensive at all, it merely seems like it because you are grabbing a comprehensive set of videos and content all at once.

Another item to consider is the equipment you’ll need to get started. It’s recommended that you start with the basics and grab the additional toys once you are sure P90X is for you. At the very least you’ll want a solid pull-up bar, dumbbells or resistance bands, plus an exercise mat. This of course assumes that you are starting from scratch.

Here is an example cost breakdown for a very basic setup that makes use of resistance bands. View this article about equipment needed for P90X for more options.

P90X: Tony Horton’s 90-Day Extreme Home Fitness Workout DVD Program – $139.80
Iron Gym Total Upper Body Workout Bar – Extreme Edition – $34.09
Bodylastics 13 pcs Quick-Clip Resistance Bands System – $44.95
Harbinger 340100 Durafoam Exercise Mat – $17.50

Total: $235.34

So if you currently don’t have any equipment you can use for P90X you’re look at around $240 to get started at the very least. This is certainly way less than buying a gimmicky exercise machine that may end up collecting dust in the basement or the long-term costs of a gym membership.

The Verdict

P90X is totally worth the admission fee but only for those that are willing to stick to it. The 13 DVDs have enough material to keep even the most hardcore workout enthusiast busy for quite some time. The people that get taken by the P90X craze are inactive folks that hop on the New Year’s resolution bandwagon but quit after two weeks.

This system requires some serious lifestyle changes. Of course the payoff is astronomical. If you are ready to improve yourself and aren’t afraid of a little commitment, quit pondering the issue and pick it up now!

A good pull up bar will rack up more mileage with P90X than other piece of work-out gear. Using your own body weight instead of relying on workout machines is at the core of the system.

First off, many of the generic chin-up bars out there are absolute junk. Both the Iron Gym Extreme and 90X bar have an extensive track record with enthusiasts. So these two bars are the only obvious choices out there. It’s highly possible there are some obscure workout bars out there that are just as good, but there’s no reason to seek a needle in a haystack.

Not every door frame is a worthy choice. Consider the fact that supporting the entire body weight of a person is no easy task. You need to carefully measure your doorway and compare it with the dimensions of the pull up bar. The 90X bar works with doorways up to 32 inches wide. The Iron Gym claims to go up to 34 inches but in practice it is more like 32 inches. Ideally you want a few inches to spare for extra support, so if your door is 30 inches wide or less, you are among the lucky ones.

The P90X bar touts its ability to support up to 12 different grip positions. The Iron Gym is identical in this respect. The grips are all placed in the same way. Beside minor cosmetic differences, the design of these bars is close to identical. The all-black P90X does look a little slicker and more refined.

One major difference between the P90X chin-up bar and the Iron Gym Extreme is price. Currently the P90X bar by Beachbody sells for a touch over double what the Iron Gym costs.

Both bars have a good solid feel once mounted. Components tend to loosen up over time so you’ll need to tighten screws here and there if you want to retain the sturdiest feel possible. The screws on the P90X model were inclined to loosen quicker as they are undersized compared to the Iron Gym.

One common complaint with the Iron Gym is the low quality of the screws, bolts and nuts. If you are above 200 lbs. this may start to become as issue as there are reports of the screws snapping. So are you in the clear with the more expensive P90X? Not quite. The hardware might break with this model as well. Either way, you’ll want to have some backup hardware on hand in case something snaps. Replacements are cheap and readily available at any hardware store so this isn’t a biggie.

The Verdict

It’s hard to find any obvious differences in quality between these pull-up bars as both are incredibly similar. Neither product is perfect as screws tend to loosen over time and have a chance of snapping – this is simply the nature of the beast. Some simple maintenance is required.

The price factor makes the choice obvious. The Iron Gym Extreme is just as good and sells for less than half the price.

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.

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.

Lack of a gym membership is no longer an excuse. It’s time get off the couch and work off the body fat that has been killing your self-esteem.

There are more sophisticated methods than ever to step you through a balanced work out at home. Video games like EA Sports Active aim to replicate the benefits of working with a personal trainer. Workout videos have evolved into full fitness programs. Included extras make getting started easier and ensure that neophytes are using the right tools.

Image Clash

Today, the two most popular DVD-based fitness programs are Zumba and P90X. Either will get you breaking a sweat but the approaches are completely different. Even superficially, the packaging, vibe and overall presentation couldn’t be more diametrically opposite.

P90X by Beachbody uses high-contrast black and white photos to emphasise the form of the ideal male physique. A hard-core, tough guy vibe is given off which may alienate females even though the program is just as valid for women.

Zumba artwork, on the other hand, blinds you with the most vivid colours in the rainbow. Fit, attractive males and females pose like they are having the time of their lives. It all looks like a fun time but borders on goofy. This time men are the ones that are alienated due to the bubble-gum façade. Still, the program itself has much to offer men that can look past this.

P90X Workouts / Review

p90xP90X is a comprehensive, intense program able to transform flabby bodies into sexy, ripped physiques. The catch is you have to be dedicated enough to stick with it. If you aren’t that serious about really turning your body around in the first 90 days, chances are that you’ll be wasting your hard-earned cash.

The main draw of P90X is the 12 DVD videos that are included. Each disc has a workout that is either tailored to tone up a portion of your body, or is dedicated to full-body cardio and stretching. There is a complete listing of the workouts along with descriptions on Amazon.com, so there is no point in repeating it here.

Since what you eat is crucial to your success, Beachbody has also compiled a nutrition plan design especially to work in tandem with P90X. Supplements and workout gear is also recommended so be weary of buying into the hype until you are sure the program is for you. It is a little disappointing that after spending around $150, Beachbody is pushing related products in the content.

Zumba Fitness Workouts / Review

zumbaGym rats may live for working out but for the rest of us exercise can be a monotonous chore. The goal of the Zumba approach is to make toning your body fun. On top of that, you’ll learn a few things about World dance. Some of the included styles include salsa, cumbia, samba and merengue.

The set comes with four DVDs that contain a total of six workouts. Any one you pick works out your body in a balanced fashion. Once basics are covered critical zones such your core, thighs, and abs become the focus of the workouts. To add to the entertainment value you get a pair of toning sticks that double as maracas. This addition gives Zumba the added dimension of a rhythm game if you are so inclined.

Overall Zumba is a fantastic choice for women (and men) that have an interest in dancing. A lot of guys may feel a fruity doing the merengue along with bubbly instructors on the TV. If you can get past it, the experience is surprisingly amusing. Time seems to move faster while grooving to Zumba compared to traditional workouts.

Obviously this is not the program for you if you are interested in bulking up. Zumba workouts are designed to keep you trim and sexy through some good old fashioned cardio.

Since you don’t need any equipment beyond what is included, this is a very inexpensive way to keep in shape.

The Verdict

As an overall program P90X is definitely superior to Zumba in every way. However the comparison isn’t exactly fair because Zumba isn’t intended to be a comprehensive system.

If you are serious about getting back in shape and are willing to stick with it, go with P90X, no matter if you are male or female. If you are a beginner looking for an interesting weekly workout that won’t break the bank Zumba may be a better place to start. Once you get rolling you can always get P90X as well and experience the best of both worlds.