Exercise DVD Review: P90X Back & Biceps (and AbRipper9000XKG or Something Ridiculous)
I see a lot of people talking about P90X. A friend does it every now and again. Others have watched them. A lot of people on Sparkpeople talk about working out to them. I never did. A couple of weeks ago, Lady Aravan and I saw that they were selling it on QVC, so we flipped it on. The infomercial was short on actual clips, but had people working out along with some lunatic talking about it. We assumed he was a QVC huckster, but it gradually dawned on us that this guy was going to be on each of the videos. Oy.
We dismissed it after that. Last week, the friend that occasionally does them gave us a couple to check out. I finally popped it in this week and took a look at what everyone’s been talking about. Well.
OK, first off, if you don’t like the guy in them (no, I can’t remember what his name is, I keep wanting to call him Tony Robbins. What? I have Google, and I could check easily? Oh, c’mon, that is WAY more research than I want to put in and… fine. I hope you’re happy. Wait here while I check and lose 15 seconds of my life I’ll never get back. Listen to a song or something while I check. His name is Tony Horton. Hooray for research), then you will absolutely not make it through an hour-long workout. He has some sort of schtick going, I’m not sure what to call it. Genial Meathead? Coked-Up Bodybuilder? The Situation in 30 years? Whatever it is, if you like it, cool. If, however, you think he comes across as the most smarmy, cheesy, greasy salesman you’ve ever encountered in your life, then you might have a problem.
As we watched, Lady Aravan turned to me and said, “My god, he’s like every grunting asshole lifting weights that I hate seeing in the gym.” She has a point. If you find jokes like, ” Hey, Kerry, did you get your tickets yet? What tickets? The tickets to the GUN SHOW” while some sweaty meathead flexes, then you’ll LOVE P90X. The whole routine is peppered with them. If, however, you are unamused, then you’ll either want to keep it muted or skip it altogether.
The exercises themselves in the Back & Biceps routine are a mix of standard stuff and other, similar moves. For example, you’ll do hammer curls, pretty normal, but you’ll also do front bicep curls that you turn into hammer curls as you drop them, or “Lawnmower Pulls”, which is like a normal dumbbell row except you’re in a lunge while you do them. There is also 4 or so pullup exercises of varying types, from normal to reverse grip to the hilarious “corn cob” style, where you lift up, move your head and body to one side, then the other, then back, then front, then down. I’m sure they’re hard, but not everything that’s hard is worth doing as an exercise.
Anyway, you do one set of each exercise. If you are looking to build size and strength, you do 8 to 10 reps, while for toning, 12-15 – again, standard weight-lifting stuff. You’re supposed to choose a weight that makes the last three reps very difficult, as per any weight-lifting routine. You do the set, then everyone walks over and writes the weight they did, reps, and a note of whether it was too easy or too hard. So, essentially, you lift, take a break, lift, take a break, and so on. Generally, the exercises alternate, so you might do a back exercise, then a bicep exercise, then a back one. The only difference between a standard weight-lifting routine and this is the fact that here, you do just one set as opposed to multiples, but you are doing slight variations of the standard exercises as noted earlier. The principal behind the whole thing is muscle confusion, a fairly well-known term in lifting that’s been around a long time, but for some reason on the P90X (the X is for EXTREME! Seriously.) site the term is marked with a TM like they invented it. Whatever.
All that leads into my second problem (I am one of those people who find his schtick incredibly annoying). In order to do this routine, I’d need access to dumbells from 50 pounds (or higher) all the way down to 5 (to cover Lady Aravan and I). I’ve looked into doing that before, and that is not cheap. I have never been able to bring myself to spend that when I have access to them at my work’s gym, where I am not going to be working out to a 57-minute video, because I don’t need a video to do strength training. Anyway. Even more problematic is the lack of a pullup bar. I don’t have one, nor does the vast majority of homes I’ve ever seen. That eliminates a good portion of the workout right there.
But wait! says Tony, bright teeth shining in his leathery tanned face. You can buy a pullup contraption that I assume goes right over a door! Well, in my basement where I work out, I don’t have a door. Anywhere. I know you can also get others, but I’m leery of attaching something that I am relying on to take my full body weight safely, and I’d need 2 of them, and screw that in general. I like pullups, but I am not going to try to install something in my house to allow me to do them. Smilin’ Tony also sells resistance bands to take the place of those expensive dumbbells, but I’m not a fan of those either. You have to make circles with them and stand on them to get the exact resistance you’re looking for, and I’m just not into that. Too much of a pain in the ass for this lazy guy.
The salesman game always turns me off. The P90X thing also sells Recovery Drinks, which Tony admonishes you to make sure you drink after the workout is done. Lame. I hate hucksters, except Ron Popeil, whom I absolutely adore for no good reason (maybe because he has always made it clear he’s a salesman/inventor, not a trainer like Tony and Jillian). Anyway, the relentless marketing of the thing turns me off and leaves me cold and several other euphemisms for “I don’t like it.”
The AbRipperX (I can’t think of anything polite to say about the name, so I’ll move on) is a 15-minute set of ab moves. You do roughly 25 of each move. If you have lower back problems, don’t try these exercises, which don’t take lower back considerations into account. If you don’t ever want lower back problems, it’s probably a good idea to skip it as well. Some of the moves are, well, ridiculous. As he’s demonstrating them, telling you what not to do, he is doing exactly what he is telling you not to do (also happens in the Back & Biceps exercise routine – “Don’t rock your body when doing these curls,” as his body rocks back and forth). In my opinion, you are just as well served by doing a mix of regular crunches, bicycle crunches, reverse crunches, plank twists, side plank raises, and other “normal” exercises than the frog-leg lifts or whatever the hell he does. Again, I’m sure they’re hard, but just because something is hard doesn’t make it a good exercise.
My bottom line is this: if you know how to lift weights, you don’t need this, except to maybe crib a few different variations of the standard exercises to work into your own routine. If you don’t know how to lift weights, this may not be the best place to start – doing corn-cob pullups while keeping one foot on a chair isn’t the best introduction. If you are having trouble getting motivated to work out and you love his schtick, then you’d probably enjoy it. The way I work out, I can do the exact same level of work in half the time without listening to this guy nattering on. My recommendation: borrow it from someone you know that has them – believe me, someone you know has them, probably tucked prominently on a case somewhere gathering dust – and watch them. You’ll know pretty quick whether it’s for you or not, which is in any case the only thing that matters to YOU as an exercise video. Do you look forward to doing it? Do you like it? Does it motivate you to get off the couch? If so, then it’s your thing, and run with it. If it doesn’t do those things, save your money and give it a pass. Me? I’m passing. In a big way. I work out where I work out because I can’t stand sweating, grunting meatheads with dumb jokes who sweat all over the weight bench and spend as much time flexing in the mirror as they do lifting. I don’t need to invite one into my home.