The first thing that comes to most people’s minds when they want to begin a fitness regime is to join a gym. But despite the stereotype, not everyone has the time, desire, or resources to join a gym. Maybe your commute to the gym would be as long as or longer than your workout. Maybe your local gym is simply out of your budget right now. Or maybe you just hate the typical gym environment.
Whatever the reason may be, at home workout programs have arisen to fill in the needs of people who want to stay fit but can’t or don’t want to join a gym. And while home workout programs have been around since the aerobics and tae bo VHS tapes of the 70s, with the advent of the digital age, they have never been more popular.
Today, we are going to be looking at two popular at home workout programs on the market; P90X and Body Beast. You’ve probably heard of P90X, it’s been around for quite a few years now and is probably the first name that pops into your mind when you hear the phrase ‘at home workout programs’.
But most popular doesn’t necessarily mean best. In this comparison article, we will look at the program goals, design, and structure of both P90x and Body Beast. We will analyze their pros and cons, and by the end of this article, you will know which program would be more suitable for you depending on your fitness goals.
- 0.1 P90X: Extreme Home Fitness
- 0.2 Body Beast: Home Bodybuilding
- 1 Body Beast vs. P90X Compared: Which Comes Out On Top?
P90X: Extreme Home Fitness
Launched way back in 2003, P90x has been around for so long that it can almost be called antiquated. P90X was created by Tony Horton, celebrity personal trainer and Nordic Track spokesman with the motto “Transform your body in just 90 days with P90X”. P90X stands for ‘Power 90 Extreme’ and was a successor to his previous program called ‘Power 90’.
P90X proved to be Tony Horton’s breakout hit and over the years released several variations of the original program, namely P90X2, and P90X3. Because covering all three programs and how they differ would make this article mind-bogglingly long, we will only be focusing on the original P90x program. Keep in mind that we will be reviewing the current iteration of P90x, which is a little different than when the program was first launched.
P90X aims for a total body transformation within 90 days. It aims to develop overall fitness and hence contains cardiovascular and flexibility workouts in addition to resistance training.
P90X is largely responsible for popularizing the term ‘muscle confusion’ in the fitness community. The idea behind muscle confusion is that by constantly changing your workout routines, your muscles will never be able to get used to them. Hence, you will never plateau.
Unfortunately, the whole idea of muscle confusion is flawed and is really more of a marketing gimmick that the company uses to differentiate itself. In order to make progress, the only thing that works is progressive overload. Research has backed up the use of the progressive overload method for both resistance and endurance training.
While P90X’s website claims that muscle confusion is backed up by science, it curiously links to no research whatsoever.
Does this mean that P90X doesn’t work? Should you stop reading right here? No, P90X definitely works; but the reason for it has nothing to do with ‘muscle confusion’. Skip to the ‘Verdict’ section if you really can’t wait to see why.
In order to successfully run the entire P90X program, the following pieces of equipment are mandatory.
- Pull up bar
- Lightweight resistance bands
- A pair of dumbbells (P90X recommends a starting dumbbell weight of 8lbs for women and 20lbs for men. A pair of good adjustable dumbbells would be your best option.)
The following equipment is recommended but not mandatory.
- Yoga mat
- Heart rate monitor
The 90-day program divided into three training blocks. Each training block consists of three weeks of intensity and one week of recovery. An intensity week consists of three resistance training days, three core/cardio/yoga days, plus one rest or stretch day.
Sample Intensity Week
Day 1: Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps + Ab Ripper X
Day 2: Plyometrics
Day 3: Back and Biceps + Ab Ripper X
Day 4: Yoga X
Day 5: Legs and Back + Ab Ripper X
Day 6: Kenpo X
Day 7: Rest or X Stretch
Sample Recovery Week
Day 1: Yoga X
Day 2: Core Synergistics
Day 3: Kenpo X
Day 4: X Stretch
Day 5: Core Synergistics
Day 6: Yoga X
Day 7: Rest or X Stretch
In addition to the classic workout schedule above, P90X also has two other workout schedule options: Lean and Doubles.
The Lean schedule is for those who want a more cardio bias; resistance training days is lowered from three to two per week and cardio or yoga workouts are increased from three to four days per week.
The Doubles schedule is for the hardcore fitness freaks. As the name implies it has you doing two workouts per day for the last 60 days of the program. In those 60 days, you will be doing a resistance training workout in the morning followed by a cardio workout in the evening. Definitely only for those with ample time and dedication.
Workout Routines and Details
The core of the P90X program is on 12 DVD sets. They are:
1. Chest and Back – 6 pushup variations and 6 back exercises (pullup and rowing variations). Workout format is 2 sets of as many reps as possible, rotating between all 12 exercises, within one minute. Many users find this one particularly tough.
2. Plyometrics – Jumping jacks, squat jumps, running squat jumps, circle runs, and knee tucks. Workout format is 5 stations with 4 exercises per station. Each exercise is to be done for 30 seconds to a minute. Another highly challenging workout.
3. Shoulders and Arms – 12 exercises; a combination of curls, raises, extensions, and overhead presses. Very similar to a traditional weight routine with higher weights and lower reps. Designed to add mass to the shoulders and arms (definitely designed for the guys in mind). Workout format is 2 sets per exercise, performing as many reps as possible within one minute.
4. Yoga X – A 90-minute standard yoga routine.
5. Legs and Back – 11 leg exercises and 11 back exercises consisting of variations of squats, lunges, calf raises, pull-ups, and rows. Users have rated this routine as another difficult and intense one.
6. Kenpo X – Using martial arts moves to improve cardio, balance, flexibility, and coordination. This one has not been so well-received and is not particularly challenging. Total beginners who lack any athletic background may find it more challenging, however.
7. X Stretch – A simple static stretching routine.
8. Core Synergistics – Pilates and yoga movements that target the core. Most exercises are performed lying on your back or in various plank positions. Positions are held between 30 and 60 seconds each.
9. Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps – 24 exercises, 8 for each body part. They are variations of pushups, overhead presses, and extensions. Workout format is each exercise is performed for as many reps as possible within a minute.
10. Back and Biceps – 6 back exercises and 6 biceps exercise; variations of pullups, curls, and rowing. Workout format is one exercise for as many reps as possible within a minute. A favorite workout of many users.
11. Cardio X – A low impact cardio workout using movements from yoga, martial arts, and plyometrics. This is not very intense at all, which might disappoint some users but perhaps be a relief for people tired from the previous day’s workout!
12. Ab Ripper X – A 15-minute finisher ab routine. Considered to be very challenging, the Ab Ripper X has been consistently rated as one of the highlights of the entire program. However, it may feel repetitious after a while.
Most P90X workouts take about 50 – 60 minutes to complete, not including the 15 minute Ab Ripper X finisher routine. Some routines run longer; Yoga X runs 90 minutes while Cardio X runs under 45 minutes. You can expect a weekly time commitment of 7 hours or more.
P90X also comes with a 3 Phase Nutrition Plan. The plan is considered essential; you are supposed to stick with it throughout the entire program. The plan lists each 30-day phase according to varying macronutrient breakdowns. They are as follows:
- Fat Shredder Phase: 50% protein, 30% carbohydrates, 20% fat.
- Energy Booster Phase: 40% protein, 40% carbohydrates, 20% fat.
- Endurance Maximizer Phase: 20% protein, 60% carbohydrates, 20% fat.
The plan calls for you to determine your basal metabolic rate in order to estimate your daily calorie requirements. From there you are assigned to one of three levels, each with varying daily calorie intakes.
- Level 1: 1,800 calories per day
- Level 2: 2,400 calories per day
- Level 3: 3,000 calories per day
From there, P90X provides you with a rigid 5 meals per day meal plan consisting of breakfast, lunch, and dinner with two snacks in between. They even list out the specific meals you are supposed to eat on each day, and give you the recipes as well! Talk about micro-managing.
The meals themselves are the standard clean eating healthy fare recipes that you can find anywhere on the web. Nothing special, but tasty and nutritious if you do it right. What’s good is that if you follow their meal plan to the letter, you will get the exact macronutrient breakdown as stipulated.
The price of the P90X program will depend on which option you choose. They offer three options: P90X Base, P90X Deluxe, and P90X Ultimate. Here’s how what you get differs.
|Base ($119.85)||Deluxe ($239.70)||Ultimate ($329.55)|
|12 P90X Workout DVDs||X||X||X|
|3-Phase Nutrition Plan||X||X||X|
|P90X Fitness Guide||X||X||X|
|P90X Chin Up Bar|
(Doorway Chin Up Bar)
|Beachbody Performance Recover|
(Protein + BCAA post workout supplement)
|3 Pro-grade Resistance Bands||X||X|
|5 P90X Plus Workouts||X|
|Tony Horton’s Power Stands|
(Push Up Stands)
|P90X Chin-Up Max|
(Pull Up Assist Band)
Earlier, we mentioned that the so-called science of muscle confusion is largely nonsense. Progressive overload is the name of the game, yet we also said that P90X also gets results. This isn’t a contradiction at all. Let’s take a look at a hypothetical example of a person who religiously follows both the P90X workouts and the associated nutrition plan. That means that over a 90 day period this person will:
- Workout for an hour or more at least 6 days a week.
- Follow a strict and rigorous clean eating diet.
How can anyone do that and NOT get results? If you assume that most people starting off with P90X are not serious athletes (recreational or otherwise), then a 6 day per week exercise regimen, which is hardcore by most standards, plus a clean eating regime will most definitely give results!
But the question is, what kind of results will P90X give you? If you are looking to increase your general fitness and lose weight, then P90X may be right up your alley. You will probably shred fat and gain muscle mass, particularly if you’re not already an athlete.
This is what the average Joe or Jane is looking for; getting ‘ripped’ and getting ‘toned’, which by the way are the exact same things. In that respect, P90X delivers.
However, if you are looking to:
- Increase your strength in a progressive and structured manner
- Increase strength and conditioning for a specific sport
Then P90X is not what you are looking for! For one, to develop maximal strength, the prescribed recommendation is low reps (typically no more than 6 per set) and higher weights with plenty of rest between sets for optimal recovery of the central nervous system.
This is backed up by the research of elite weightlifters and powerlifters. The P90X program, with its lower weights and higher reps, will only induce strength gains in novice athletes, for others it will be more toward a strength endurance workout.
Similarly, sport-specific strength and conditioning follow the principle of Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands. The workouts will have to be tailored toward the demands of the sport, and as an inflexible structured program, P90X cannot do so.
That said, given the metabolic conditioning nature of a lot of the P90X workouts, you will probably shoot your heart rate through the roof on some of the workouts. This will be beneficial for your cardiovascular health in general, but again, do not expect it to have much carryover to specific activities such as running or swimming. We recommend you use a heart rate monitor if you are serious about improving your cardio.
If you are an average person who dedicates yourself fully to the P90X program, you will see results. You will simply be in overall better shape at the end of those 90 days. And if you have the discipline to stick to the meal plan as well, your results will be amplified.
However, if you have a serious athletic or strength training background, then you may find that this program does little for you. With its lack of specific goals beyond general fitness and weight loss, people with more serious training goals will be left disappointed.
Body Beast: Home Bodybuilding
Launched in 2012, Body Beast is another product of Team Beachbody (the same company behind P90X and a host of other fitness programs). This time, the face of the program is Sagi Kalev, a bodybuilder and two-time winner of Mr. Israel.
Body Beast is a mass building program. Its goal is to get you to add as much lean muscle mass on your frame as possible within the 90 day time period.
Body Beast uses what it terms ‘Dynamic Set Training’ to elicit maximum muscle gain. The idea is to maximize time under tension, which is the amount of time that a muscle is working during a set.
This is nothing new, and the methodology behind Body Beast’s has been tried and tested in the bodybuilding world. Go into any bodybuilding gym anywhere in the world and these are the types of workouts you will see being used.
In Body Beast, you will find a combination of pyramid sets, reverse pyramid sets, drop sets, forced sets, and sets with varying tempos. The general rep scheme is 8, 12, or 15 per set and rest periods are kept at about 90 seconds.
The following pieces of equipment are necessary to get through the Body Beast program.
- A pair of dumbbells (The Body Beast guide notes dumbbells ranging from 10lb to 70lbs. Again, a pair of high quality adjustable dumbbells would be your best option.)
- An EZ curl bar with adjustable collars
- Weight plates
- Adjustable bench (alternative: stability ball)
The following equipment is optional but necessary if you wish to really increase the weights used for the Body Beast program:
- Olympic barbell (to replace the EZ curl bar).
- Heavier weight plates
Again, the program is divided into three training blocks. These blocks are known as Build, Bulk, and Beast, lasting 3 weeks, 6 weeks, and 3 weeks, respectively. The workout schedule for the entire program is six days on and one day off. The weekly schedule very much resembles that of a traditional bodybuilding program.
Day 1: Shoulders
Day 2: Rest
Day 3: Chest
Day 4: Legs
Day 5: Back
Day 6: Arms and Abs
Day 7: Shoulders
Workout Routines and Details
The core of the Body Beast program is 12 different workouts. They are as follows.
1. BUILD: Chest and Triceps – Chest presses and flies in the first half; triceps work in the second half. Lots of supersets and drop sets. About 50 minutes.
2. BUILD: Back and Biceps – Deadlifts, pullups and rows in the first half followed by all manner of curls in the second half. Lots of straight sets and drop sets. About 50 minutes.
3. BUILD: Legs – All manner of squats, lunges, and step up variations. This is the workout that will leave you dreading leg day. About 40 minutes.
4. BUILD: Shoulders – A traditional style shoulder routine of presses, upright rows, and shoulder flies. About 40 minutes.
5. BULK: Chest – 30 minutes of dynamic, progressive (pyramid and reverse pyramid sets combined), and drop sets of press and push-up variations.
6. BULK: Back – 30 minutes of a traditional back workout of pullovers, deadlifts, and rows. Some sets add an isometric hold at the end (force sets).
7. BULK: Shoulders – Similar to the previous shoulders workout except with more progressive sets. You’ll have to use a lighter weight. Lasts about 35 minutes.
8. BULK: Arms – 35 minutes of biceps and triceps work with lots of progressive and force sets.
9. BULK: Legs – 40 minutes of squats and calf raises. Expect lots of progressive sets and a very painful experience.
10. BEAST: Abs – A simple 10-minute ab routine. What sets it apart from other ab routines is its focus on lower back work and its option to use weights.
11. BEAST: Cardio – Squat lifts, jump squats, plyometric pushups, dumbbell sumo squats, jumping jacks all combine for a 30 min circuit style cardio workout. Despite not being a cardio-focused program, this workout will send your heart rate through the ceiling.
12.BEAST: Total Body – More circuit training style workouts. During some weeks, you may use this workout or the Cardio workout interchangeably. This one is slightly longer though at about 40 minutes.
A typical workout should take you about 40 minutes to complete. A couple will be longer and a couple will be slightly shorter but it all averages out. Hence you can expect to spend about 4 hours a week total working out.
Like P90X, Body Beast also comes with its own nutrition plan called ‘The Body Beast Eating Plan’. It is basically a standard bodybuilding meal plan: 5 to 6 meals a day of the staple bodybuilding foods such as lean meat, eggs, oats, tuna, and brown rice.
The eating plan also comes in three phases to correspond with the workout program. The program lists out portion sizes and then depending on your caloric intake (anywhere from 1,400 calories all the way up to 5,000 calories!) it breaks down the number of portions per day of each food group. The plan also comes with food and shake recipes.
Much like P90X, Body Beast comes in three different packages. They are as follows.
|Base ($39.90)||Deluxe ($89.86)||Ultimate ($149.86)|
|12 Body Beast Base Workouts||X||X||X|
|Book of Beast + Supplement Instructions||X||X||X|
|Body Beast Eating Plan||X||X||X|
|Total Body Workout||X||X||X|
|Bonus DVD with 2 Additional Workouts||X||X|
|Beachbody Performance Energize|
(Caffeine + beta-alanine pre-workout supplement)
|Beachbody Performance Recover|
(Protein + BCAA post workout supplement)
Body Beast Review
Body Beast is a straightforward no-nonsense mass gaining program. The bulk of the program is straight up bodybuilding workout and routines designed primarily to increase muscular hypertrophy. While the cardio routine is good, 30 minutes of cardio per week is basically only paying lip service to it. There is also no stretching or flexibility component.
Like many bodybuilding programs, a lot of focus is given to isolation exercises. While there are also quite a number of compound exercises in the mix, it is clear that this program is more focused on size and not necessarily strength. As such, you should not be surprised that if after following this program, you may be one of those people who turns out to be ‘not as strong as he looks’.
That being said, if you want to have more of a strength focus using this program, that’s certainly possible. However, light dumbbells and an EZ curl bar will NOT do the trick. You will have to invest in an adjustable weight bench and Olympic barbell with significant weight plates. At that point, you will basically have a full blown garage gym, which is not what most people looking for home workouts are looking for.
Keep in mind however that even with barbells and heavier weights, the program’s rep ranges that start at 8 is not the optimal method for gaining strength. As we mentioned in the P90X review, rep ranges for strength are kept at 6 or under. For more research, look at Prilepin’s chart, developed based on a study of Olympic weightlifters.
The Final Verdict
If you are looking for a straight-up mass building program, then Body Beast is for you. Just understand that because of the equipment needed, you probably won’t be able to do it from the comfort of your bedroom. Also realize that as a hypertrophy focused program, any increases in strength will only be secondary.
Body Beast vs. P90X Compared: Which Comes Out On Top?
After reading through both the detailed reviews above, you probably already have a pretty good idea as to which program is better for you. Nevertheless, let’s compare and contrast these programs from several different angles and see which one comes out on top.
Value for Money
Let’s start with the price. Body Beast is as much as 3 TIMES CHEAPER THAN P90X. Either Body Beast is ridiculously underpriced, or P90X is overpriced. Either way, the verdict on this one is clear.
Do note however that because Body Beast requires more equipment, your final total expenditure may actually be higher for Body Beast. But in terms of the program itself, Body Beast comes out ahead.
WINNER: Body Beast
The time commitment required for P90X is significantly higher compared to Body Beast although both have you working out six days per week.
WINNER: Body Beast
The reason that many people buy at home workout programs is convenience. In this regard, P90X definitely comes out ahead as it requires much less equipment. You can probably do it in your own bedroom, something that would be difficult to do with Body Beast.
This one may be a bit subjective, but overall we (and many others agree) that Body Beast is overall just plain harder. Now, keep in mind that harder does not necessarily mean better. Because Body Beast is so focused on only one aspect of fitness (gaining muscle) it puts in everything into that. On the other hand, P90X aims for overall fitness so the intensity is spread out amongst the various aspects.
Remember that more intensity is not always better. If you are a beginner, you would be better off starting with P90X. No point in choosing a more difficult program if you can’t finish it.
WINNER: Body Beast
Best for Gaining Muscle / Fat Loss
As the saying goes, ‘Abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym’. Hence, a big part of your physical transformation with any of these programs would be your diet. If you stick to a proper meal plan and follow either P90X or Body Beast, you will see concrete results.
That said, when comparing these two programs, we would have to give the edge to Body Beast. Assuming an equally healthy diet, Body Beast will put on muscle mass or get you more shredded or ripped compared to P90X. The reason is simple; Body Beast is essentially a bodybuilding program using tried and tested bodybuilding methods. And bodybuilding is ALL about putting on as much muscle mass with as little fat as possible.
On the other hand, P90X is based on ‘muscle confusion’, which as we have established, is not a proven method at all. You will see muscle gain and fat loss results, but much less compared to Body Beast.
WINNER: Body Beast
Best for Increasing Strength
While neither program is strength programs, Body Beast will give you more strength increases compared to P90X. This is doubly true if you use a barbell and heavier weights for the program.
WINNER: Body Beast
Best for Overall Fitness and Athleticism
This is not even a contest as P90X targets various aspects of fitness including cardio and flexibility. Body Beast only pays lip service to cardio and has no flexibility or stretching whatsoever.
Ultimately, we have to give the edge to Body Beast. Tried and tested methods plus a better value for money give it the edge over P90X. For people aiming to ‘look good’ Body Beast is the way to go. But realize that the program’s narrow focus means that if you want a more well-rounded athleticism, you will have to do additional cardio and stretching on your own time.
Quick Review Table
|Better for overall fitness and athleticism||Overpriced||Better for gaining muscle mass or fat loss||Requires more equipment|
|Requires minimal equipment||‘Muscle confusion’ is nonsense||Tried and tested workout protocols||Lack of cardio and flexibility training|
|Better for beginners||Better for increasing strength|
Health enthusiast, runner, protein nut. Owen likes to write about protein, particularly alternatve supplementation and supplement comparisons.