Many of you know Beachbody’s President and co-founder, Jon Congdon, as a P90X Success Story. And, while he assuredly is, his go-to program when he wants to get back into shape is P90 because it works quicker for him. Let’s take a look at how this program differs from the others in Beachbody’s line-up to see if it should be your default program also.
What is it?
In the simplest sense, P90 is an introductory program, where as P90X and INSANITY are graduate programs. This means that even those who’ve never exercised, haven’t in years, or are massively out of shape can do it without having to alter the program to fit their fitness level. However, it’s progressive, which means that even if you were recently in shape, like Congdon, you can start slow and progress at your own pace, no matter how rapid that is.
The reason this works so well is that the program has three different training phase, or blocks, all which consist of different workouts. The fitness guide teaches how to use these to the greatest effect, not just for activity level, but for your goals and preferences. Depending on whether you’re a “weights” person or a “cardio” person, there’s a schedule to fit your personality, and the one thing we’ve found in all our years of creating fitness program is that the more you like what you’re doing, the better your results will be.
Since it’s a Beachbody program, it comes with a nutrition guide. This one is very simple to follow, and, since you should eat based on what you’re doing, it allows you to easily progress along with your workouts. Unlike some of our short term program plans, the P90 Nutrition Guide will give you an eating template that you can use for life, not just while you’re trying to lose weight or get in shape.
Sign up for a free membership to Team Beachbody and it will come with Beachbody’s legendary support, which includes Message Boards so you can ask questions, live video chats with Tony Horton and Beachbody’s other trainers, and access to other support tools.
Finally, you don’t need much gear; just a space in your house where you can take two steps in each direction. The program uses weight, but you have options. Bands are the most effective and space efficient but, if necessary, you could do the entire program using cans, water bottles, bags of rice and other stuff from your pantry for resistance. Not only that, we show you how to modify every movement should you have strength or lack of mobility issues. We like to eliminate every excuse we can.
The P90 History
P90 is a modernization of Power 90, Tony Horton and Beachbody’s first hit exercise program. The success of P90X, along with its successors and our other programs, has allowed Tony to give P90 a laser-like focus helping out of shape people transition to excellent shape quickly and easily.
Unlike P90x, P90 is easy out of the gate. If you’re out of shape, it won’t seem like too much for you. Sure, many people started with P90X, stuck with it, and got outstanding results, but their path would have been quicker, and easier, had they started with Power 90, which is what Beachbody intended when they made it.
P90 improves on Power 90 on both ends of the spectrum. It starts out easier and progresses further than the original, which means more flexibility, hence better results. People in worse condition will progress quicker in the beginning and those in better shape will be closer to elite fitness by its end. This won’t just mean better results than you could expect from Power 90, it will mean faster progression if you end up moving on to P90X, X2, X3, or one of Shaun T’s graduate programs.
Why P90 Works
Since you might think this is just our opinion, let’s dig into it a bit more. Here’s some simple science will explain why P90 is so effective for such a broad range of people.
1. The Specificity of Adaptation
This oddly-titled exercise term identifies how your body responds when it’s put under the strain of an exercise program. When you begin, your heart, lungs, muscles, bones, and connective tissues are all stressed out by the new forces your putting on them. You adapt as time goes by (how quickly depends on your fitness level). This is called an “adaptive phase.”
Once you adapt to your workouts, you get a period where you make rapid advances in fitness. This is called a “growth” or “mastery phase”. The quicker you adapt, the more time you can spend mastering. When you begin a program that’s too difficult for you, you spend more time adapting than mastering. When you get it right, you spend more time in the sweet spot, and result come quicker.
The P90 workouts get harder in each training block. By moving between these blocks, based on your pace of adaption and mastery, you increase your exercise efficiency (meaning you can exercise less). P90’s three phases (termed A, B, and C), allow you to move back and forth for greatest effect.
For example, when Congdon hasn’t been exercising he’ll start with the A rotation until he’s ready to move to B. Because he has a good fitness history, he won’t stay there for the full 30 days. He’ll move up when he’s ready and follow this pattern into the C block. This is a much more effective strategy than jumping straight into P90X or INSANITY, where you’d have to modify every workout in the beginning. Jon is fit enough that he’ll probably move on to those programs before a full 90 days is up, and so might you. Still, it’s most efficient to start slowly and continually progress than start too hard and takes steps back and forth as you get into shape.
2. The Power of Periodizational Training
P90X made periodizational training popular. The term you know it under is Muscle Confusion, which also takes into account variety in the types of workouts you do. Again, we’re talking about adapting and mastering, which you may remember if you’ve read the P90X fitness guide, only now we’re looking those terms of the full scope of the program and all of it’s training “blocks.” P90 uses Muscle Confusion, too, but dials it way back to an entry point that’s more optimal for a greater number of people.
Where P90X maximized diversity, P90 targets simplicity. Diversity is great, and even essential, at some point in fitness because it forced your body to continually adapt and master. But your ultimate goal is master as long as possible, and when you’ve been out of the game for a while, simplicity is how you achieve that. P90 keeps your bodyprogressively overloading so that you adapt quickly and master longer. Then you move into another training block, where the workload changes, and you do it all again.
Power 90 did this too, which why it worked so well, but P90 raises the bar by adding more modern exercise movements, more variety, and more training blocks. Not only does it have three phases, and an optional forth phase (Power 90 had two), it gives you more specific options. Essentially you have eight possible training blocks at your disposal. Or, in other words, all the muscle confusion of P90X, only simplified.
All of which is why it’s Congdon’s favorite. No matter how long it’s been since he’s been able to exercise, P90 offers him a place to begin where he can advance at a pace that’s perfect for whatever shape he’s in at the time. He’s doesn’t have to deal with getting too sore, or getting worse before he gets better. He can get fitter every single day until he’s back into shape. He won’t bother defining it this way. Ask him why he starts with P90 and he edits this article down to three words: “It works better.”
By Steve Edwards