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P90X is as popular now as it’s ever been—here’s why it has staying power

Rachel Lapidos

Rachel LapidosJune 15, 2020

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Photo: Getty Images/Peter Griffith

In 2005, when big box gyms reigned supreme in the workout world, fitness trainer Tony Horton introduced P90X—which stands for Power 90 Extreme—a robust workout program that sold 11 million copies on DVD and quickly became all the rage. Fast forward to today, and the at-home workout is still as popular as ever, even still gaining subscribers (about 100 a day to its Facebook group, according to Horton).

When you think about it, in this era of COVID-19, P90X feels ahead of its time: Everyone is working out at home with limited space, and wanting to switch up their fitness routines. Horton’s fitness creation was made for people of all levels who either couldn’t afford big pieces of fitness equipment or simply didn’t have the space for it at home.

All it really requires is a mat, and sometimes some weights or a resistance band here and there. With so much of the country still unable to visit their go-to gyms and fitness studios, it’s easy to see why P90X was and is still such a success: It mainly consists of your bodyweight, and incorporates everything from high-intensity interval training to yoga and martial arts so that you’re working everything within your body, and never getting bored as you do it.

Horton, who has a new line of supplements called Power Life, spoke with us about what makes P90X such a timeless workout program, how it differs from the workouts that studios teach now, and what he believes an effective workout schedule should include.

How did you come up with the idea of P90X back in 2005?

The reason I created it was because there was nothing like it on the market at that point. There were a lot of gadgets and diet programs that had moderate exercise attached to them. We created P90X for the demographic of people who maybe couldn’t afford a piece of equipment or didn’t have the room for it. For the workouts, we wanted to make them intense, but as affordable and convenient as possible.

I realized that people tended to stop exercising because of either boredom, injury, or a plateau. So I came up with the idea of muscle confusion, which crushed all of that. P90X has 12 different types of workouts in it, with long warmups and decent cool downs. There’s yoga in there, bodyweight exercises, chest, back, shoulders, arms, abs. There are elements of martial arts. There’s a strength component, flexibility, balance, and even mindfulness, so that everything is one connected, very strong, very durable, less vulnerable body.

What separated the program from the other types of workouts that people were doing?

At the time, there were still a lot of trainers and gyms doing basic resistance and cardio routines. Just those two components. These are great, but I realized it wasn’t enough. People get stuck in that rut, but there’s so much variety with exercise and so many creative ways to train that there’s something for everybody. With P90X, we made each and every workout different from the other. And I created a substantial amount of modifications for almost every exercise so that everyone can do it and stay motivated to show up each day.

Why would you say P90X is just as relevant and popular now as when it launched?

Nowadays, there are a myriad of workouts out there—everything that you can think of. It’s interesting that with the pandemic [P90X is] as popular as it’s ever been. People are trying to get a great workout at home, but fitness also has a lot to do with your mental and emotional state. Because there are yoga and elements of speed and balance and range of motion in P90X, it helps to keep your body mobile. Variety will keep you in the game.

What do you think of the industry’s focus on recovery? How does P90X take recovery into account?

Recovery is incredibly important. If you don’t do it, you’ll wind up broken all of the time. Training too hard without decent warmups or cool downs doesn’t work. Recovery may as well be called healing, and it includes sleep, hydration, supplements, and rest. The other part of the equation is listening to your body. Back off if you feel sore in certain places, do less reps, use lighter weights, and relax between sets if you’re still going to work out.

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