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Workout Review: P90X3

Just about everyone has heard of P90X, but a lot of people don't realize (unless you're a coach for these programs like I am) that there are actually three different versions of this program... the original P90X, P90X2, and P90X3.

Over the past few years, there has been a definite trend toward shorter workouts, to the point that it's almost inconceivable that someone would want to spend 60 to 90 minutes a day working out, as in the original P90X. (Although I am really tempted to go back and try it just to see what it's like, I'm doubtful of whether I'll ever get around to it.)

I've tried the original Insanity, which can be up to 90 minutes a day (though not every day) with more than one session back to back. To be honest, Insanity Max:30 is just as effective in only 30 minutes a day! The original Insanity felt like it had a lot of dead space—rest breaks and a really long stretching segment. I'll stretch on my own time, thank you ;)

So, although I've only done the 30-minute version of P90X (which is P90X3, the program reviewed on this page), I'm going to assume that it's similar. With only 30 minutes, every second is used efficiently, with only very short breaks to explain the basics of the move, and additional form tips given once you get started. In many of the sessions, your heart is pumping like crazy the entire time!

Program length: 90 days

Workout length: 30 minutes

What equipment is needed? Pull-up bar or resistance band; assorted (or adjustable) free weights; foam mat or carpet for floor work. However, some of the sessions don't require any equipment at all, so are great for traveling.

How is it structured? The workout schedule is six days a week, with one rest day (scheduled for Sunday but you can move it around as desired so it works with your schedule). There is an optional active recovery session that can be done on the rest day if you prefer to keep moving to help you avoid soreness. Yoga or Pilates is also incorporated one day per week.

The program is structured in three "blocks" of three weeks each, with a transition period between blocks 1 and 2, and again between blocks 2 and 3. During the transition week, easier workouts are done to allow the body recover and avoid overtraining, allowing you to hit it hard when the new block begins!

There are a total of 18 sessions in the schedule, so you won't suffer from a lack of variety in this program! Each block utilizes different sessions, and then the transition weeks have a different set of sessions again. In general you'll only repeat each session four times over the course of the entire program. The individual sessions are structured in a variety of ways: some repeat the same sequence of five moves in four rounds; others have slight variations on similar moves (such as push-ups and pull-ups) in each round; and still others go through up to 26 different moves one by one, never repeating.

What kinds of moves are involved? This is really hard to sum up precisely because there is so much variety. There's a yoga session and a Pilates session with exactly what you would expect from those sessions. There are two sessions that involve eccentric contraction (going fast on an exercise but then slow on the release out of the exercise, to come out with the utmost control and challenge the muscle to build a different type of strength). In general, Tony Horton (the trainer for this program) loves push-up and pull-up variations—prepare to do them fast, slow, jumping, and every which way you can imagine. I know Tony loves yoga, and there is actually a lot of balance work and slow, controlled moves that show the influence of yoga throughout the program—plus one kickboxing-style martial arts session. Some sessions involve upper body work with free weights, such as overhead presses, rows, and tricep kickbacks. There are also variations on staple workout moves such as lunges, squats, shuffles, skater jumps, planks, and Burpees. Core work is incorporated throughout all of the sessions.

Low-impact? A few sessions are, but most are not.

Are modifications shown? Some modifications are shown, and as your coach I can help you find modifications for your specific issue if the ones shown in the videos don't work for you. This program isn't as sensitive as some of the newer ones to physical limitations and injuries, but most of the moves have a safe low-impact modification that's an easy change to make.

Interested in trying this program? Learn more in my video review or email me at to find out when my next challenge group starts! I can also guide you to my recommended sources for the equipment mentioned here, or get you set up with a different workout program if this one isn't up your alley. I'm only an email away... Let's chat!

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