By June 29, 2011

DrFaulken’s Guide to the P90 Workout Series

I have heard this conversation many times: “hey DrFaulken, I’ve started P90X!” This is usually from a friend, co-worker, or acquaintance that knows I like the Beachbody.com workouts. They also tend to have almost zero knowledge about working out and are definitely not in the physical condition to undertake the P90X workout series, let alone finish it. Only two of my friends out of about two dozen who started P90X have finished all 90 days.

This is not because P90X is incredibly hard or because my friends are incredibly weak. It’s because people try to go from couch potato to Tony Horton in 90 days. They, like me, may not be ready or willing to make the lifestyle commitment to complete the P90X program.

My friends attempt P90X, fail, and then go back to sitting on their asses. Don’t do that — start off gradually, and benefit from the great lineup of home fitness material from BeachBody or other content producers.

I’ve been doing one of the Beachbody work out series since the fall of 2008. I have completed the Fat Burner Express, P90 Basic, Power Half Hour, 10-Minute Trainer, and Great Body programs several times each. I own P90X but haven’t started it (I’ll get to why in a moment).

This post is my opinion of each series in general, with broad guidelines on the order in which I recommend doing them. Please note: this is not training advice. Please consult a physician before starting any physical training program.

General tips

  • Watch each program once before starting it. This will help you gauge if you’re ready for the workout routine, and it will also help you learn the moves ahead of time. You will have to complete each session a few times before you get the complete hang of things. However, I found it easier to learn everything by watching each session one time.
  • Consistency is the key. It’s better to show up and do the work than blast a few workouts with high intensity and then take a few days off. If you feel lethargic or just not “into it,” don’t worry. Keep going at the best pace you can manage that day. Showing up and doing a half-assed workout is better than sitting full-assed on the couch because you didn’t feel like going at Level 10 Super Mega-Blast Intensity.
  • Recycle. Your body will get used to doing the various routines. This means you’re getting stronger, which is good. It also means that your body has adapted and isn’t making the same level of gains as when you first started. This is bad. Complete a series and then do a different series. Avoid doing the same series over and over again. Besides, monotony is one of the top workout killers.
  1. P90 Basic

    Start with the basics: P90 Basic. This is the most introductory of the BeachBody series. It is also the most boring. I was bored to tears by day 53 and took a break with the included Fat Burner Express DVD. However, starting with the P90 Basic and finishing it is important for two reasons: it gets you in the mental and daily routine of completing an exercise program, and it teaches you the standard moves you’ll need in every other BeachBody program.

  2. P90 Fat Burner Express

    This is how I started the BeachBody programs, and it’s still one of my favorites. The moves are fun and high energy, and the sessions are short. Unlike the other P90 programs there are a lot of participants, so finding someone who looks like you — and someone you want to look like — is easy. After doing 90 days of the same routines, doing a week of Fat Burner Express will go by in a flash. I would come back to the Fat Burner Express program regularly for the times I became demotivated due to boredom. It’s like my vacation from longer, more monotonous series. This DVD is typically included in the P90 Basic package, yet another reason to start at the beginning.

  3. Power Half Hour

    The Power Half Hour is my favorite BeachBody workout series. The sessions are short enough that you can do them in the morning before work, or right when you get home, or after you set the kids to bed. There are five different routines including a stretch session, so it will keep the monotony down to a minimum.

    There is a big difference in difficulty between the P90 Basic course and the Power Half Hour series. Expect soreness (the good kind) after doing the sessions for at least the first two weeks. I went from doing “extra credit” in the Ab Ripper 200 P90 Basic sessions to failing ten minutes into the Power Half Hour ab session. You will definitely get strong enough to complete the sessions within 30 days, but it’s a great reason to start with the P90 Basic series first. You will reuse a lot of the same movements. Don’t make it hard on yourself by starting with this set. It’s not good practice, nor particularly safe, to try to figure out how to do the moves while you’re working out. Give yourself a head start.

  4. 10-Minute Trainer

    The best thing about the 10-Minute Trainer series is that it’s 10 minutes. If you’re a middle-aged guy, this means you can get in a workout in the same amount of time you take a dump. Just do the damn workout.

    Don’t let the short length fool you. There are very few, if any, breaks in these routines, and you’ll be blasting your body the entire time. There are four ten-minute workouts on the DVD. They’re good fun, and if you have more than ten minutes you can stack workouts on top of each other like LEGO. If you’ve made it this far with the BeachBody programs, you can trust yourself to know when to push and when to just show up and do the work.

    The biggest thing I dislike about this series is that it depends on equipment — especially the workout bands — more than the other series. It’s the least suitable for doing on the road when you travel. It’s the least friendly to do with more than two people in the room. Still, it’s a great next step after completing the Power Half Hour series. You’ll owe it to yourself to do some short workouts for a brief amount of time after doing the PHH for thirty days.

    Optional: you can do the P90 Basic routine after the Power Half Hour instead of the 10-Minute trainer. I recommend this if you’ve only completed the P90 Basic and Power Half Hour once, or if you feel like you still need some base-level strength and stability.

  5. Great Body

    I’m not saying to do this last — but I list it last because I consider it very very optional, especially since I think the 10-Minute Trainer is a better series. The Great Body set features five routines, each ten minutes or less. However, it is obvious that collection came out before the rest of the others I’ve tried. The moves are a little coarse, you can see the emergence of “muscle confusion” and compound movements, but overall the set isn’t as fun, well-polished, or challenging as the others.

    The one reason I’d recommend Great Body is that they require NO equipment. It’s great for when you’re traveling. You can take the DVDs with you (or rip ’em to hard disk) and watch them on a laptop or similar device. The workouts can also stack on top of each other, like the 10-Minute Trainer series.

  6. What to Do Next

    You should be in pretty good shape now that you’ve done the different workout routines. Doing the workouts again was a good way for me to measure increases in my strength and endurance. I remember being absolutely winded and unable to complete the beginner half of P90 Basic, and by the time I was done with my first rotation I transitioned to the harder portion of the series after about a week. You’ll boost your ego, and keep your routine from becoming, well, too routine.

    However, this might be a great time to try P90X if you don’t want to do the same-old same-old. Based on my personal experience of the other people who tried P90X, you’ll be much more ready to take on the signature BeachBody workout system. You’ll not only be in better shape, but you’ll already have done a lot of the moves you’ll encounter in the videos.

    After doing the Power Half Hour series a second time I decided I was ready for something totally different. I wound up doing some kettlebell routines, and I really recommend doing them if your physical condition allows. I found out that mixing the BeachBody workouts with the kettlebell system I was using was too stressful on my quads and I became concerned about knee injury. Your mileage will vary, but I felt and performed much better when I kept my kettlebelling separate from my BeachBody workouts.

Whatever you decide, remember that doing something, with any regularity, is what makes the BeachBody system work. Tony says it several times in several series: there’s no magic bullet, it’s all about showing up and doing the work. This is the order I recommend for newcomers, but you should tailor the workouts to your own interests and physical capabilities. Hopefully you’ll be making crazy X shapes with your arms and yelling “BRING IT!!!” in no time.

A note about buying the DVDs from Amazon.com: some of the series are much cheaper at the official BeachBody.com Web site. However, buying them through Amazon helps Gibberish, so please take that into consideration!

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3 Comments on "DrFaulken’s Guide to the P90 Workout Series"

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  1. mupedalpusher says:

    We like his videos as well. I tend to do them more in the winter when I can’t be out running or biking. You’ve given good advice, most people start gangbusters and burn out quickly.

  2. Ed says:

    I have decided to set aside the time to start working out. I am thinking about trying out the P90, I am a fellow who follows routines slavishly once I get in the groove (after a month or so). Is the P90 a good one to start with?

  3. DrFaulken says:

    Yes, it is an excellent foundation for you, especially if you haven’t worked out in awhile.

    Good luck with it, and remember that it will get SUPER monotonous but keep going 🙂