Now it’s time for an even harder workout. P90X2 (Beachbody, $139.80), which shipped just in time for the holidays, is designed for folks craving more “muscle confusion,” a phrase Horton coined to describe the mishmash of moves designed to keep viewers’ bodies guessing.
What’s new for version two is that the cardio’s gone, replaced with workouts emphasizing a combo of speed, power and balance. And there are plenty of exercises Horton expects no one to be able to pull off on the first attempt, including lever pull-ups (performed with your body parallel to the ground rather than perpendicular) and a push-up variation he’s dubbed “the impossible.” “If you’re not in shape, it’ll be like climbing Everest,” says Horton, who notes that P90X2 is five days a week rather than six because anyone slogging through it will need the extra recovery time.
If you’re wondering who would pay to subject themselves to such a thing, meet 49-year-old lobbyist Stephen Sayle. The Capitol Hill resident bought P90X in September after pledging “to be in better shape at 50 than at 40.” It’s the challenges posed by Horton’s program that seem to be making that goal a reality.
“You do so many lunges you think you’re going to die,” Sayle says. But after more than three months of lugging his DVD player to Results Gym almost every day to complete the workouts, he’s a believer — and eager to take it to the next level.
He’s a typical P90Xer, as are young moms and college students and former athletes. The program appeals to a wide swath of folks who want to be told what to do without having to think about it, have the ability to work out where they want and when they want and know that they’re guaranteed to see results. Some also credit Horton’s goofy form of motivation that includes the occasional pterodactyl impression (although that’s not universally beloved).
But what really seems to set P90X apart from other DVDs on the market is that these workouts aren’t merely a way to lose weight or get healthier. They’re a kind of dare. Anyone can exercise, but it takes a certain level of persistence to keep up with such a demanding program day after day.
What worries Ed Ingebretsen, director of training at Results Gym, is that Horton’s encouragement to “Bring it!” can push people beyond what’s safe. “If you want intensity, jump out of a plane. Intensity doesn’t mean fitness,” he says. “Guys especially can blunder through something, and it can trash your body.” (Sayle admits that he developed tennis elbow from the huge number of reps of push-ups and pull-ups.)
Horton tries to temper overzealousness with his other motto, “Do your best and forget the rest.” He makes it clear there’s no shame in choosing one of the simpler modifications he offers of every exercise, or hitting the pause button while you figure out a move. And if something is deemed too risky, it’s cut from the DVDs. For instance, P90X2 viewers won’t see the four-ball pike press, a variation on the four-ball push-up that’s done in downward-facing dog position. It’s great for your delts, but not for your skull if you manage to smash your head into the ground.
The earliest clue of whether P90X2 is striking the same chord as the original will come in about three months, when the earliest adopters complete their initial pass through the program. They’ll be the first people to ever attempt it. For P90X, Horton worked with a test group for 90 days. For P90X2, he couldn’t be in any one place for that long and still manage a packed schedule that included traveling overseas to exercise with troops and writing his second book (“Crush It”).
If these people emerge buff rather than broken, it may not be long until we start seeing infomercials for P90X3.
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