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The P90X system is one of the hottest training tools on the market today. Offering 12-muscle pumping workout routines plus a three-phase diet that promise to take you from regular to ripped in just 90 days.

Sticking to the program, however, is essential to getting the results you want. Here are 10 essential tips from experts-and everyday users-that will help you maximize the benefits of the P90X program.

1. Do all the exercises, even the ones you don't like.

There's a basic physiological reason that it's important to do the exercises you don't like. In fact, it's especially important to do the exercises you don't like. That's because seldom-exercised muscles have more potential for growth.

When you stress and stretch a muscle to its limits, it needs some down time to repair, remodel, and reshape itself. To do this, it becomes unusually sensitive to insulin, for about two hours after your workout. The insulin that is powers your newly exercised muscle to take up amino acids and glucose isn't depositing fat into fat cells. Build the muscle, burn the fat, not the other way around. This leads to the second expert observation,

2. Be sure to drink your post-workout beverage.

To be honest, not all experts agree on the importance of this one. However, if you are otherwise following your diet plan, then it really is critical make sure your muscles get the nutrients they need to rebuild themselves during that critical two-hour window they are unusually sensitive to insulin. Drinking your workout beverage early or late won't get the nutrients to your muscles when they are ready to receive them, and they will miss out. Your fat cells, however, can take in excess nutrients any time.

3. Stick to the diet.

In the P90X program, you eliminate nearly all carbohydrates early in the program and add them back as you develop muscle mass. The idea here is to enable your body to use insulin more effectively. At first, your muscles won't be needing as much post-work out protein, so they won't be tying up as much insulin, so eating more carbs will tend to put on or keep on more fat. As you build up muscle mass, however, you will also increase insulin sensitivity, and it will be safer for you, from a metabolic standpoint, to eat more carbs. Just keep your consumption to the healthy carbs prescribed in your program.

4. Concentrate on form first.

The benefits of P90X derive from involving muscle groups your body is not "expecting" to be including in your workout routine. If you try to wing it through an exercise without using all the muscles that you are supposed to work out in the exercise, you don't get the benefits described in points 1, 2 and 3 above. You also increase the risk of strain and tissue injury. Practice until you can do it perfectly.

5. Focus!

The P90X program is designed to give you specific goals from each of the twelve workout routines. Make sure you know what you are going to achieve with the workout, visualize the result, and then get to work! Don't worry about what you haven't done or rest on the laurels of what you have done in another exercise session. Hone your attention on making sure the exercise you are doing right now is done right.

6. Make the first month of P90X a crash program for success.

The first month of P90X is the time your body is making the metabolic changes that will burn fat and build muscle. It's also the time you will feel more tired and, especially if you do not follow tip #4 above, achy, from your workouts. But this is the time you need to bust through to fitness. P90X gets easier and easier, but it doesn't get easier until the second 30-day segment of the program.

7. Don't skip an exercise.

P90X is a careful progression of exercises that develop muscle mass in ways that minimize injury and maximum flexibility, form, and balance. If you skip an exercise, you don't just miss out on maximizing those muscles. You also put the muscles you develop in future exercises under more stress and higher risk of injury.

8. There's nothing wrong with getting it right.

Sometimes you won't be able to master an exercise as quickly as you would like. That's OK. First focus on form, and then focus on performance, but make sure you are getting the full benefit of the exercise before you go on to the next. Doing the P90X routines in sequence is essential to getting maximum muscle mass and maximum muscle performance.

9. If it hurts to do an exercise, check your form.

Pain does not always lead to gain. In fact, the pain that leads to muscle gain is a very specific kind of pain, much more of a "burn" (from lactic acid production) than a "tear," as the kind of tear you feel from a torn muscle. Don't continue exercising if you think you have a muscle injury. Have it checked out by a doctor before you resume your routine.

10. Keep it up!

Users of the system agree that when you make it through the first month of P90X, it's easier to do the second. When you make it through the second month of P90X, it's easier to do the third. Don't give up. The gains you can see in the mirror are less than three months away and you can make them last for a lifetime.

What you see in the P90X advertisements on TV is amazing--and you can achieve this yourself. Think of how you will look in just 90 days, and think how you will keep up that look for the next ten years. If you have to skip a day, and everybody will at some time, don't panic. Just get right back on the program. The first two weeks are the hardest, but you will find you look and feel better and better and your muscles are more and more powerful the longer you stick with P90X.

  • Peters Futre EM, Noakes TD, Raine RI, Terblanche SE. Muscle glycogen repletion during active postexercise recovery. Am J Physiol. 1987 Sep, 253(3 Pt 1):E305-11.