Okay, you’ve participated at some level in the Power 90 Extreme (P90X®) home exercise system. Now you’re ready to try something else, either because P90X system delivered results and you eventually got bored or it didn’t work for you. Depending on your reasons for wanting to change programs, there’s good news and bad news.
The good news: if you found great success with the P90X system and you’re simply looking for a change to a new, structured system, you’ll likely find continued success with another system.
The bad news: if you gave up on the P90X system because you didn’t see any results, other systems may not be the answer.
If you took it as bad news, you may be asking, “why not?” The issue is one of clarity of purpose and commitment.
The marketable hook of the P90X system is that it promises significant improvement to one’s health and physical fitness within 90 days as long as you follow their rigorous program plan, including dietary changes. As they advertise:
In just 90 days, you can get back in shape, or build the body you’ve always wanted. All you need is a set of dumbbells or resistance bands, a pull-up bar, and about an hour a day. No gym membership required with P90X®.
Well, they’re right, 3 months is plenty of time to affect measurable changes even without a gym membership. I just have to disagree with the “revolutionary” nature of the program. They’re not the first people to come up with the notion of deciding on a goal, following a plan, eating less crap, using supplements, breaking routines into segments, and consulting with experts when you have training questions. Other training systems also advocate muscle confusion; it would have been revolutionary if the P90X program departed from proven principles – like cross-training and periodizing to maintain adaptive benefits – to which successful fitness participants have been adhering for decades.
My aim is not to slam the P90X revolutionaries and the worth of their system; but, just to keep it real. The important thing is you’ve made a commitment to a well-structured plan.
So what are the alternatives to the P90X system? One particularly excellent training system is the CrossFit system. The minds behind it were a gymnast and a weightlifter, so unsurprisingly, it seeks general, real world, functional performance. The bedrock of the program is… cross training! The CrossFit guys get it: train the basics for the things we’re meant to do and want to do. The casual exerciser should have no qualms about his or her routine sharing similarities with the Olympic athlete. One person may run 1 mile and the other 10 miles; but, they’re both running.
The alternatives certainly don’t stop with the CrossFit approach. There is an old proverb, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life.” Knowing how and why, you won’t need a handout. In this case, the “handout” is dependence on a particular system or belief that only that system works.
As a competitive lifter, I work to improve my physical performance. Bodybuilders work to improve their physical appearance. Some people may be working to improve their performance and their appearance. Others still may be most concerned with health and longevity. Riding the tracks toward these objectives may be months and years, if not lifelong.
It’s been my experience that people bouncing from system to system and diet to diet are exercising and eating differently only to look marginally better or only to carry on bad habits with reduced guilt. This mentality is a barrier to reaching your real, fittest self and staying that way for a long time to come.
So, if you “tried” the P90X system and the end result was the same you as when you started, the problem is you’re not serious. For you:
- Exercising and training is a time-consuming chore.
- Dieting is transient, limited, and distasteful.
- Difficult exercises are a courtship of injury.
- Pain and sweat are a punishment.
To cast excuses aside and commit to any decent system requires a shift of mindset:
- Allotting the time for exercise and preparing meals matches a decision that other things in life are not more important.
- Exercising and training is gratifying work toward an everyday reward.
- Exercising is an anticipated outlet for frustration that releases tension and relieves stress.
- Training programs with structure are building self-discipline and giving you an understanding of your efforts and your body.
- Diets are reasonable, sustainable, satisfactory, healthy habits of eating throughout life.
- Difficult exercises are the precursors of muscle growth and coordination.
- Pain and sweat are confirmation of hard, honest effort.
When you’ve got the proper line of thought, the follow-on program to P90X is less consequential and trendy.
If you have failed in the past and the P90X system is your first taste of fitness success, you may now realize the importance of your attitude and seriousness. Identifying the attributes that P90X shares with other worthwhile systems, as well as what it demands from its participants, will help you choose a successor:
- Cycling or rotating according to near term goals
- Variability to target different skills and muscles
- Specific durations
- Weights, aerobic conditioning, plyometrics (e.g., gymnastics, yoga, tai chi, Pilates), and stretching
- Appropriate nutrition
If your goal is to be basically fit, slim, and more athletically competent, whether you do these things under the banner of P90X or CrossFit is quite immaterial. The recipe is pretty much the following:
- Do some weight/resistance training
- Add cardiovascular training/aerobic conditioning
- Add ligament and tendon conditioning
Mix them together several times a week. When you get hungry, don’t reach for the fast food. Repeat for the next few months.
If you make a commitment to this basic recipe, the result should be:
- Increased muscle mass
- Increased muscle, tendon, ligament, and bone strength
- Increased joint stability
- Improved posture and flexibility
- Higher endurance
- Higher resting metabolic rate with a higher percentage of lean body mass
If you want to make your own system, be creative and simply strive to be a well-rounded athlete. Well-rounded athletes participate in more than one unrelated sport, such as gymnastics and tennis, hockey and wrestling, or boxing and swimming, to develop multi-faceted physical ability. Explosive activities such as football, sprinting, and weightlifting might be paired to moderately explosive activities such as bodybuilding, soccer, and tennis paired to endurance activities such as long-distance running, swimming, and cycling.
Concurrently conditioning according to different sporting pursuits is known as cross training; the P90X system talks about it in the popular term of muscle confusion. An example of cross-training would be bicycling to develop the cardiovascular system and build endurance, weight lifting to develop the musculoskeletal system and build strength, and jumping rope to develop the neuromuscular link that will increase coordination, quickness and agility.
Total body fitness and athletic prowess is the combination of one’s flexibility, balance, coordination, speed, strength, cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, body fat percentage, metabolic rate, blood pressure and heart rate, cholesterol levels, bone density, and resistance to infection and disease. Understanding this is the key to understanding the systems out there and what they offer.
Now that you’ve done the P90X program, you can essentially repeat it with new goals and exercises in the mix or move to a new program.
If you want to do something on your own, you might decide that, for the next 12 weeks, 4 nights per week you will run to a local children’s park, use the jungle gym and other apparatuses to perform everything from pull-ups through handstand presses, then pick up and carry about the odd heavy object(s) you might find around the park grounds, walk home, and finish with some yoga in your backyard or living room. Just like the P90X system, this will take about an hour a day, and the result will be dramatic with no gym membership required.