P90X, Insanity and Similar Nonsense

Drew Baye performing chin ups on the Nautilus Omni Multi ExerciseHard workout today:

  1. MedX Neck Extension
  2. MedX Neck Flexion
  3. Weighted Chin Up on the Nautilus Omni Multi Exercise (OME)
  4. MedX Shoulder Press
  5. MedX Leg Press
  6. OME Wrist Curl with thick bar attachment
  7. OME Wrist Extension with thick bar attachment

Total workout time was around 15 minutes. I’ll do it again in 3 or 4 days. Normally I’d take a little longer, around 20 minutes or so – not because I do more exercises but because I rest longer between sets – but I had to get it done before my next client arrived for his workout.

Why so little? Because if done properly that’s all it takes. The most important factor in stimulating increases in muscular strength and size, as well as all the other possible benefits of exercise, is the degree of effort. The effort put into a workout is what determines its effectiveness, rather than the volume of work performed. If the level of effort is high enough, very little exercise is required, but no amount of exercise will produce much in the way of results if the effort is not high enough and if too much of any type of exercise is performed the results will be worse, not better.

I’m often asked what I think about programs like P90X, Insanity, and similar popular training programs, and one of the first things I usually point out is the volume of exercise is way too high while the quality – both in terms of type of exercise and the manner of performance instructed – is very low.

To save myself the time of having to answer the same questions about these programs over and over, the following is a brief summary of what is wrong with them, and what you should be doing instead.

Form

I’ve watched some of the videos and the form on the exercises is atrocious. Too fast, and little attention to proper form despite paying lip service to it. Very fast, sloppy reps.

What you should be doing instead: Move in a slow, controlled manner, especially when reversing direction between lifting and lowering the weight. Don’t just make the weight go up and down, take your time with it and focus on intensely contracting the target muscles throughout the entire exercise.

Volume

These programs include almost an hour of exercise plus an additional and completely unnecessary fifteen minutes or so of abdominal work a few days a week. These programs have you doing way too many exercises and sets. Unless you’re taking steroids this is overtraining, and even if you are this volume of exercise is completely unnecessary and counterproductive. With proper training and diet you could achieve the same or better results with less than one hour of training per week, and in some cases less than thirty minutes.

Speaking of which, the results you see in the testimonials have everything to do with the diet and almost nothing to do with the idiotic training program. I’ve had men lose over 30 pounds of fat and women around 20 with less total training time over a period of two months than the P90X or Insanity programs require in a single week.

What you should be doing instead: One hard set of only one or two exercises per muscle group, working out no more than three non-consecutive days per week. Advanced trainees should do less, rather than more exercise.

“Muscle Confusion”

The concept of “muscle confusion” is nonsense based on a misunderstanding of motor learning principles. Muscles do not become resistant to stimulation from a particular exercise, they only appear to because improvements are faster initially due to neural adaptations and slow down after around six to eight weeks when adaptation starts to be more due to hypertrophy. Changing exercises too frequently is a huge mistake. I’ve already addressed this in detail in The Ultimate Routine.

What you should be doing instead: Don’t constantly vary your workouts. Consistently follow a well designed workout or routine that effectively works all the major muscle groups and focus on getting as strong as possible on that. If you plateau it’s more likely you need a reduction in workout volume or more recovery time between workouts and not to “confuse” your muscles by changing exercises.

Abdominal or “Core” Workouts

Fifteen minutes of abdominal work is neither necessary nor beneficial. One or two exercises for the abdominal muscles, a flexion and a rotation or lateral flexion movement are all that is required. Maybe four, if you’re doing an occasional abdominal specialization workout, but even this should only take a few minutes to complete, and the reason for doing so is to strengthen the muscles, not to improve abdominal definition. Getting ripped abs is almost entirely a matter of diet and has very little to do with abdominal exercises or workouts.

What you should be doing instead: Only one hard set of only one or two abdominal exercises at the end of your workout, which should take no more than one to three minutes. If you want ripped abs you need to focus on your diet.

Plyometrics

Plyometrics are incredibly stupid. They are relatively ineffective for building strength, unnecessary for developing speed or explosiveness or improving rate of force development, and carry a very high risk of injury. They have no place in any training program.

What you should be doing instead: If you want to develop speed or explosiveness simply focus on getting stronger. All these different things are expressions of strength, rather than different types as some people believe. You don’t need to train one way for “maximum strength”, another for “speed strength” another for “explosive strength” or any of the other types these people come up with to make their programs more complex and scientific sounding than they need to be.

Cardio

Cardio is included in these programs with the claim it is beneficial for both fat burning and cardiovascular conditioning, however it is very inefficient for fat burning and unnecessary for cardiovascular and metabolic conditioning if you’re already performing a proper high intensity strength training program. Additionally, the high impact and repetitive nature of the movements is more likely to cause injuries and contribute to joint problems in the long run, unlike high intensity strength training which is much safer for the joints when performed properly.

What you should be doing instead: If you want to become leaner you don’t need extra activity to burn calories – which is generally a very inefficient waste of time – you need to eat fewer calories and consume a diet which creates a hormonal situation conducive to fat loss. If you want to improve cardiovascular and metabolic conditioning, high intensity strength training will do that, and you can emphasize it further by limiting rest between exercises.

Supplements

The P90X and Insanity programs also encourage the use of supplements, including a meal replacement shake and other products sold by Beachbody. While some supplements are beneficial, they are not at all necessary to achieve incredible results from training. The same seems to be the case with other companies and makes me wonder if the workout programs were developed secondary to the supplements as a means of marketing them, kind of like every new training program introduced on certain bodybuilding web sites.

What you should be doing instead: Whatever your training goals, whether you want more muscle, less fat, better performance or health, your biggest nutritional concern should be your diet. Get that in order first, then if you can identify a legitimate need or benefit, consider supplementation. Be very skeptical of supplement advertising, though. Most claims are complete bullshit.

But what about those testimonials?

Beachbody, the company that sells P90X, Insanity, Hip Hop Abs and similar nonsense have done one thing right – marketing. Their infomercials are well done and they have some impressive testimonials. However, as I already mentioned, the results those people achieved were mostly due to the diet. They could have done the same or better faster and with only a small fraction of the total training time. As Nautilus inventor Arthur Jones was fond of saying, the fact that a particular method produced some result is not proof the same or better results could not have been achieved by some other means, more quickly and more efficiently.

In combination with proper nutrition a high intensity training program will produce better results than any of the currently popular DVD programs, and it will do so more quickly, more efficiently, and more safely.

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98 Responses to P90X, Insanity and Similar Nonsense

  1. Chris Lutz May 17, 2011 at 10:31 pm #

    I’m stealing your statement there about muscle confusion. “Muscles do not become resistant to stimulation from a particular exercise, they only appear to because improvements are faster initially due to neural adaptations and slow down after around six to eight weeks when adaptation starts to be more due to hypertrophy.”

    That’s great. It’s also right when someone should NOT vary a routine. Of all times, why right when you’re really starting to produce real hypertrophy? Just another way to avoid work and appear to be exercising properly.

  2. Ian May 18, 2011 at 8:29 am #

    Thanks for putting this to rest, Drew. I have several students in my classes now who are working on their parents’ P90X sets, and they are refusing to heed my advice.

    Guess who’s getting printed and read aloud to the boys today?

    Timely.
    Thanks!

    • Drew Baye May 18, 2011 at 11:22 am #

      Hey Ian,

      You’re welcome and I’d love to hear how it goes with your students. Tell them they can spend the five hours of free time they gain by switching to proper high intensity training workouts chasing girls.

  3. Sheryl Hathaway Blystone May 18, 2011 at 8:56 am #

    Nicely done, Drew.

    I run into a lot of people who brag about doing the P90X and Insanity as well. I agree that these folks’ weight loss is primarily due to dietary changes rather than the extra stress and strain these programs impose on their bodies.

    This is another example of good marketing. Frankly, if someone is resourceful, they won’t spend a dime on anything to lose weight. I lost 60 pounds years ago,simply by cutting my intake, performing exercise along with the show “Body Shaping” on ESPN, and pulling my kids in their wagon around the apartment complex and to the “candy store” which was actually a gas station.

    I saved money as I got fit. After which, I got a free membership and small paycheck to work as the baby sitting attendant at the local Powerhouse Gym. After a few months, I started teaching aerobics, became a personal trainer, and competed in body building. Heck, I was even published in Muscle & Fitness as I walked onto stage at my first competition.

    Enough about me, we all have our stories of how our lives progress and develop, but I think passion has a lot to do with our successes.

    Thank you, Drew, for more insight and opinions. Keep inspiring, your work is greatly appreciated.

    • Drew Baye May 18, 2011 at 10:59 am #

      Hey Sheryl,

      You’re welcome and you’re absolutely correct – the results people have had with P90X, Insanity and similar programs are almost entirely due to the diet. They could have achieved more, faster, far more efficiently, and more safely with a proper strength training program.

  4. Todd May 18, 2011 at 9:09 am #

    Great post Drew, probably way overdue. In a period of temporary insanity (pardon the pun), I completed the 90-day cycle of P90X two years ago. I got “ripped” yes, but skinny (major mass loss) and very burned out and unmotivated to exercise by the end. To note, it is over an hour of exercise not just a few days a week, but 6 days a week!

    For the past 2 years I have been back on a simple upper/lower split exercising 3 days a week with close attention to diet. I look better than I ever have, and am far stronger and motivated to progress.

    • Drew Baye May 18, 2011 at 10:55 am #

      Todd,

      Thanks, and yeah, this is way overdue. I should have written this long ago when they started selling that crap.

  5. Kevin May 18, 2011 at 9:11 am #

    Man you blow me away with the knowledge of this area of discipline (weight training). Since I started wait training in my country,Guyana, I have heard and witness many nonsense posited and perpetuated as the REAL WAY to gain lean muscle mass. I fell prey to many of these advertisements until I started reading and applying my God given reasoning. Then I stumbled across your articles and got hooked. Keep up the good work,because many are still parroting the useless methods and philosophies of the discipline, not realising that the Bodybuilding Magazines are not Science Journals and weight training is a Science. Thanks again for helping to free another mind.

    • Drew Baye May 18, 2011 at 10:51 am #

      Kevin,

      You’re welcome and I’m glad people are finding the articles helpful.

  6. Dave May 18, 2011 at 9:19 am #

    I think plyos can have a place, at least in sport training itself. Light plyos are part of some soccer training circuits that have proven very effective in reducing knee injuries in teenage girls.

    • Drew Baye May 18, 2011 at 10:50 am #

      Dave,

      There is no reason to do plyos. The same benefits can be achieved far more safely and effectively with proper strength training with controlled movement speeds. The highest priority of a strength and conditioning program should be the safety of the athletes so with their higher risk of injury plyometrics should not be performed.

  7. Farhad Ghorbani May 18, 2011 at 9:31 am #

    Drew, regarding “muscle confusion” and variety, I think this is the crux of the issue. You said that “Changing exercises too frequently is a huge mistake.” The key phrase here is “too frequently.” what does this mean in reality because it can be somewhat subjective. Does it mean one should not vary exercises every week? every month?

    How about changing routines? For example, including Max Contraction or J-reps or Super Slow as forms of variation.

    I never bought in to P90X fad. Any results from it will be short-lived, hence, P90(days)! And, it will mostly restricted to those who have never exercised before.

    • Drew Baye May 18, 2011 at 10:37 am #

      Farhad,

      Read The Ultimate Routine. I discuss variety and “muscle confusion” in more detail there, and cover changing routines and exercises.

  8. Dennis Rogers May 18, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    Just Great!
    I read this with envy as I think back to the times I have been asked the same questions and stammered an answer that was way too wordy.

    This was very well done in a simple, straight forward way.
    Each summary could have been ended with- ‘and thats all that needs to be said about that’.

    • Drew Baye May 18, 2011 at 10:35 am #

      Dennis,

      Thanks. I wanted to put together a summary of the main problems with those and similar programs to refer people to when they ask about them, and based on the responses I’ve received I’ve hit the nail on the head.

  9. Eric Lepine May 18, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    Thanks for addressing this Drew. As usual, excellent job of pointing out all the fallacies involved and of providing proper substitutes. Except maybe for the diet part, the whole article would actually apply pretty well to an other nonsense popular approach using different WODs every day ;)

    • Drew Baye May 18, 2011 at 11:20 am #

      Hey Eric,

      You’re welcome. I think you’ll enjoy my post on Crossfit.

  10. Eric Lepine May 18, 2011 at 11:38 am #

    I’d read that already, of course… haha.

  11. Brian May 18, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    Drew,

    Awesome post! I am so tired of hearing people try to brag about P90X. You’re right, the only transformation they experience if from dietary changes. I also can’t stand that term “muscle confusion.” It goes back to what Mentzer said about the reality of things- a muscle is a muscle. It has a basic function & that is it. To think that you can “confuse” it to stimulate growth is ridiculous.

    That being said, could you recommend a good HIT Shake Weight Routine? LOL!!

    • Drew Baye May 18, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

      Hey Bryan,

      Thanks. As for the Shake Weight, you can always keep one handy to throw at people who brag about wasting so much time doing P90X.

  12. Trent May 18, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    Does anyone else find this a little concerning that the same man that created p90x also created another “program” (and yes I use that term loosely) that says you only need 10 minutes instead of an hour?

    • Drew Baye May 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

      Trent,

      This isn’t surprising. They’re designing these programs to appeal to different markets based on what they think will sell, not on what is effective, safe and efficient. While their ten minute program won’t overtrain people like P90X or Insanity it’s still pretty bad from what I’ve read on their site, and the marketing claims show their ignorance of the proper role of exercise in fat loss and physique improvement. Either that or they know better and they’re just telling people what they think they want to hear. My guess is a little bit of both.

  13. Rose May 18, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    Thank you, Drew. I was also one who bought into the P90X routines, and the first week got a chest injury. Finally got healed and started up again, to end up with a back injury and fatigue from overtraining.

    Not any more!

    I’m sharing this with my FB friends! Thanks so much!

    • Drew Baye May 18, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

      Hey Rose,

      Thanks for sharing the link and I hope your training stays injury-free from now on!

  14. Paul (Holland) May 18, 2011 at 3:35 pm #

    Hi Drew,

    Very interesting information. What do you think of a more periodization aproach like Clarence Bass is doing in his book Challenge Yourself? Build to a peak, back off for a while and coming back building a higher peak?

    Do you think training effects will be diminish after a while because of the “General Adaptation Syndrome” GAS?

    • Drew Baye May 18, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

      Paul,

      This sounds similar to the “strategic deconditioning” in Bryan Haycock’s hypertrophy specific training program. There is neither necessary nor beneficial as long as one avoids overtraining to begin with. If you are overtrained it is necessary to either take a layoff from training or back off significantly for a period of time, but if you’re not there’s no physical reason to do this.

      Training effect doesn’t diminish over time due to general adaptation syndrome unless one doesn’t regulate their training volume and frequency properly.

  15. Paul (Holland) May 18, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

    Hi Drew,

    Thanks for the fast response. I asked this because I progressed quite well in the bench press for weeks (training 1x a week) adding about 1 pound a week. Now I’m stuck for weeks and progress seem stopped.

    Is is a good idea to reduce training volume and train once every 10 days for example?

    • Drew Baye May 18, 2011 at 5:58 pm #

      Paul,

      Assuming everything else is in order (diet, sleep, etc.) take some extra time off and if that helps it’s an indication you need more recovery time. Another option would be to reduce the volume of your workouts or go to a split routine.

  16. Eric Lepine May 18, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

    Drew, following your last response to Paul, I can’t help but ask… “Where were you 15 years ago, when I needed this information????” HAHA!!! Sadly, not sure I would have been likely to listen at such an early age anyways… The field of exercise physiology is wrought in even more misinformation, half-truths and myths than nutrition, if that’s even possible!!!! (http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-network-total-access/09000d5d808feae0/NFLTA-Polamalu-s-rehab)

    • Drew Baye May 18, 2011 at 6:01 pm #

      Erik,

      I didn’t start writing on the web until around fourteen years ago, but the Nautilus Bulletins have been around since the early 1970’s and they also explain what’s wrong with programs like P90X.

      Just watched the Polamalu rehab video and that is some of the most idiotic training I’ve ever seen. Those people have absolutely no idea what they’re doing.

  17. Trent May 18, 2011 at 5:01 pm #

    Drew,
    I completely agree with both of those statements. The “programs” are a joke for sure, I guess my point was why would the same person thats been pushing p90x also endorse something that seems to be almost the exact opposite and noone (or the vast majority of people) dont catch on to the fact its just a marketing ploy. love the site by the way!

    • Drew Baye May 18, 2011 at 6:14 pm #

      Hey Trent,

      Thanks, I’m glad you like the site. It’s not just P90X and the 10 Minute Trainer, it seems the majority of what is popular in the fitness industry was developed with marketing rather than exercise science in mind, assuming they really understand exercise to begin with.

  18. Dwayne Wimmer May 18, 2011 at 6:21 pm #

    Drew,

    Another excellent post!! It really is a shame these types of things need to be written. Too many people throughout the years have taken advantage of the ignorance of the general population (when is comes to exercise) for the all mighty $. They truly have tarnished the exercise industry. I can only hope that you, I and other like minded people can pull together and make a dent in this industry, that is headed down a dead end road, and make a difference.

    Thanks again for the GREAT Information,

    Dwayne Wimmer

  19. Silverback Stevens May 18, 2011 at 6:26 pm #

    Excellent article… I will be sticking with the fullbody with specific bodypart emphasis like we talked about in your e-book… Thanks for lookin out for the rest of us!!!

  20. David Landau May 18, 2011 at 7:44 pm #

    Drew: True – The Return to the Primitive Parts 1 and 2 at http://www.exercisefraud.com Exposes the Neo Fitness Nonsense

  21. John May 18, 2011 at 7:48 pm #

    Great article Drew. In the Plyometrics section you talk about if you want to maximize speed and explosives to work on getting stronger.

    I’ve been doing martial arts for many years and know that speed is largely a genetic factor, but for example if I have to stay within a certain weight division for my fights, how do I increase my strength(speed+explosives+cardio) without gaining too much weight? Is this possible?

    I am also a fan of MMA and it seems lot of guys seriously lose out on speed and endurance when they add some muscle.

    Thanks Drew,

    John

    • Drew Baye May 18, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

      John,

      How much muscle a person gains for some increase in strength is influenced by a lot of genetic factors and varies significantly between individuals. Some people can get really strong without gaining much muscle size, while others can easily gain size but aren’t nearly as strong as they look. If you want to become as strong, fast and explosive as possible without gaining too much weight you need to become as lean as possible.

  22. Bill May 18, 2011 at 8:34 pm #

    Hey Drew,

    Great post! Thanks for sharing. I know a ton of people that have started P90X. I don’t know anyone that has stuck with it. It’s amazing how many people (given a choice between doing the ridiculous versus doing the sensible) will choose to do the ridiculous.

    There was an anti-HIT article in the last Muscle and Fitness that was blood-boilingly infuriating to read, but unfortunately probably served it’s purpose in keeping people misinformed. Glad you’re writing and providing a much needed (and researched\cited) response to the nonsense.

    Regarding non-HIT training, how does performing other physically-demanding activities like martial arts affect one’s workout frequency and volume? One’s ability to fully recover from HIT?

    • Drew Baye May 18, 2011 at 9:55 pm #

      Bill,

      Thanks for the heads up on the Muscle and Fitness article. Most of what they print is idiotic so this is no surprise. I’ll pick up a copy and write a response.

      There is only so much physical stress the body can handle and recover from within some period of time. If that increases, whether from work, sports, martial arts training, etc. then you have to adjust the volume of your training accordingly. When I’m attending Wing Chun classes regularly (twice weekly for two hours at a time) I find I progress better if I add another day or two of rest between workouts.

  23. Sean Preuss May 18, 2011 at 10:19 pm #

    Drew,

    Very, very well said. I get these questions a lot as well, especially about P90X and The Biggest Loser. Arthur Jones’ comment at the end sums it up perfectly.

  24. JKR May 18, 2011 at 10:45 pm #

    Do you only leave the positive comments up and delete the negative ones. I guess I’ll have my answer after this post.

    I’m not even a P90X user but I’ve done workouts with Tony Horton in Santa Monica where I wasn’t sure I could finish. (I’m a former two-sport college athlete in my mid 20’s). I’ve just finished two Olympic distance triathlons a few weeks apart. Long story short I’m in great shape.

    I’m sorry but your article is utter nonsense. The main reason people continue not to lose weight is because they simply don’t work hard enough. End of story. Yes some people must ease in to it so that they can avoid overuse injuries. However the great thing about P90X is that it beats you into the ground which is exactly what so many of these pampered and clueless exercisers need. Teaching people that hard work should hurt but the results are worth it are exactly what most Americans need. Watching the news and turning the Elliptical machine is worthless.

    • Drew Baye May 18, 2011 at 11:07 pm #

      JKR,

      Apparently you haven’t read the post carefully, or anything else I’ve written here. The biggest reason people don’t lose weight is not because they’re not training hard enough, it’s because they aren’t eating properly. Whether or not they exercise or how, it’s the diet that makes the biggest difference where fat loss is concerned. Second, while hard work is exactly what people need, if they really are working hard the amount of exercise required is far less than what P90X or Insanity involves. In fact, P90X isn’t even actually hard by high intensity training standards. Don’t mistake doing a lot of work for working with a high level of effort.

      You are right about watching the news while turning the elliptical machine being worthless. I’m wondering why you bring this up though, since nowhere do I recommend it and you’re actually agreeing with me on that point.

      If you ever want to experience real hard work, let me know and I’ll put you in contact with a trainer in Santa Monica who does high intensity training.

  25. PTB May 19, 2011 at 1:12 am #

    Well Dang Drew, now you tell me!, lol!!

    I will not be as harsh on the program as some have been. I did it – the full 90 days straight back in 2009 WITH NO CHANGES IN DIET. I was still a volume trainer then (5x/week, 5-7hrs/wk). The main reason I did it was because I lost for the first time to my 14y.o. nephew in basketball, and while I thought I was active training 5 days a week, my cardio conditioning sucked.

    The program was tough, very tough, and I hated the Yoga, but as with HIT, I did have to chart my progress – which I did make up to the end of the program.

    I lost 8 lbs total and I didn’t think I had a weight issue.

    I was definatley in better athletic shape the next time I played my nephew…. he still beat me, lol!! But I was much more competitive.

    When I went back to volume training, I was definatley weaker and it took me a year to get back to my initial strength stats. I then took on HIT in April 2010.

    I don’t think I’d do it again, but I’ve certainly encouraged those whove started it to finish it… if for nothing else, to stop quitting EVERYTHING they ever start.

    • Drew Baye May 19, 2011 at 1:22 am #

      PTB,

      There is nothing wrong with quitting something if the reason is to switch to something better. I wouldn’t tell anyone who is doing P90X to stop exercising, but I would encourage them to switch to a proper high intensity strength training program. They’ll get better results, faster, more safely, and with far less time invested.

  26. John May 19, 2011 at 1:13 am #

    “If you want to become as strong, fast and explosive as possible without gaining too much weight you need to become as lean as possible.”

    By lean you mean to get body fat really low?(through diet) When people say stuff like “build lean muscle”, I never get it, is there a difference between “building muscle” vs. “building lean muscle”. As I see it a muscle is a muscle and to get lean we lose fat through diet. Right?

    Also Drew I think I heard you say before you lived Green Bay. I live in Milwaukee…off the top of your head do you still know anyone involved with HIT around here that you can recommend?

    Thank you

    • Drew Baye May 19, 2011 at 1:27 am #

      John,

      If you want to improve your strength to bodyweight ratio you have to get your body fat as low as possible. Any tissue other than fat can be called lean tissue, so it’s redundant to say you want to build lean muscle. What people usually mean when they say that is they want to gain muscle without gaining fat.

      I can’t think of anyone doing HIT in Milwaukee that I’d recommend. I suggest asking Mike Moran at Titletown Fitness in Green Bay.

  27. John May 19, 2011 at 2:46 am #

    Thanks Drew, really great article again.

  28. Andy May 19, 2011 at 5:59 am #

    Hi Drew,
    when in the process of changing exercise equipment, which in my case doesn’t occur often, do you think a HIT trainee is in danger of losing muscle mass?
    I have trained most of my Training time using free weights and standard brand machines, but want to change now to a new MedX facility inspired by your suggestion that MedX is among the best equipment you can use to build muscle . According to your newest article, during the first 6-8 weeks of using new exercises most of the progress is based on neutral adaptations. During that timespan is there an increased danger of losing some of your hard earned muscle mass?

    Thank you very much!

    Andy

    • Drew Baye May 19, 2011 at 10:11 am #

      Hey Andy,

      When switching equipment there will be a period where more of the progress will be due to neural and skill adaptations than hypertrophy, but you’re not going to lose any muscle mass. You wouldn’t even lose any muscle mass if you took a few months off of training, as long as you continued to eat and sleep well and weren’t immobilized for a significant period of time.

  29. Andy May 19, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    Thanks for your continued help and true information!!!

    Sincere congratulations for your e-book which I ordered and your newest article!!!

    I will be one of the first purchasers of your complete HIT-Book, when you have finished it to your complete satisfaction!

    Greetings from Germany,
    Andy

  30. Dale May 19, 2011 at 11:53 am #

    Drew –

    Regarding your routine, given it’s obvious intensity, why do so many fitness professionals _who might actually come close to endorsing this sort of brevity_ nonetheless also prescribe intervals for fat loss ? Are they simply hedging their bets ?

    Do HIT and intervals impact markedly different pathways ? I myself don’t see a difference between exhausting, minute-long bouts of compound exercises, punctuated by rests and, say, hill sprints.

    • Drew Baye May 19, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

      Dale,

      They’re probably hedging their bets. If you strength train hard enough you’re hitting all the metabolic pathways to an equal or greater degree than with high intensity interval training and getting the same metabolic and cardiovascular conditioning effect but not being as hard on the joints.

  31. Steven.turner May 19, 2011 at 6:09 pm #

    Hi Drew,

    Another great article and from the responses I think that many people are just fed up with all the fitness industry crap maybe the message is getting through.

    My fitness students often tell me how much training they do, typically it is one body part per day for approximately one – two hours. I get them to do one set of Arthur Jones bicep curls most can’t get past about 4 or 5 repetitions and are totally exhausted the look on their face is one of disbelief.

    As for the muscle fitness magazine attacking HIT I would suspect that it is probably written by someone who I put through a one set of bicep curls (laugh). Most of the volume trainers who try HIT it is a big dent to their pride and ego having people see them collapse after only one set of an exercise.

    Arthur Jones also said, “But don’t make the still common mistake of pushing your athletes to train more…instead, push them to train harder.

    Overtraing leads to overuse injuries, losses in power, speed, strength, most MMA fighters are overtrained. The latest craze here in Australia is athletes lifting truck tyres across a field, now most fitness trainers get their clients to do the same thing – that is a good exercise for the overweight fifty year old – oops my BACK.

  32. Chris Lutz May 19, 2011 at 7:56 pm #

    @Dale, that’s a very good point I have brought up many times. In fact, I used to take people’s spin class heart rate plotted on a line graph from a HR monitor and compare it to another line graph using the same HR monitor on a different day in a HIT workout. Simply looking at heart rates and not knowing what activity was done, you can’t tell them apart. Yes, I don’t know why it is so hard to understand one, but not the other.

  33. carlos May 19, 2011 at 10:00 pm #

    I can not believe, in this age of technology and lightning information, this era of knowledge and rational superiority, people still training Joe Weider style, do they know that Arnold Schwarzenegger ran to Nautilus when the lights went out? Did they know that Tom Platz Build his now legendary quadriceps using Nautilus equipment? NOBODY serious uses Weider Crap System. Joe Weider was a keen marketing man, NOT A TRAINER, he has never created any system, He just STOLE what others discovered. Indeed he invented one thing: OVERTRAINING just to sell his phony supplements.

  34. js290 May 20, 2011 at 6:00 pm #

    Interval training likes to quote Tabata. Most people seem confused by what Tabata said. They only pick up the duty cycle part of it (20s on, 10s off), hence intervals. But, they completely missed the 170% VO2max. My interpretation is anything above 100% VO2max is anaerobic. Even in his abstract he states, “that adequate high-intensity intermittent training may improve both anaerobic and aerobic energy supplying systems significantly, probably through imposing intensive stimuli on both systems.” As pointed out in BBS, the byproducts of anaerobic metabolism drives aerobic metabolism.

  35. Brian Collins May 21, 2011 at 9:35 am #

    Hello Drew,

    if one is training in the prescribed ‘HIT’ manner and is competitive in a sport, how should they adapt their training to prepare for the competition? I have always believed that training for strength and demonstrating strength are two different things (as per Dr Ken Leistner) and wondered how a contest should be prepared for, incorporating HIT principles? Especially if the contest itself is a strength based sport?
    The physiology and motor learning texts (or certainly the ones I have read) always seem to prescribe a training frequency (for skill work) greater than that advocated in HIT training?

    Appreciate its a long winded question.
    Thanks
    Brian

    • Drew Baye May 21, 2011 at 10:31 am #

      Hey Brian,

      If you are also training for a sport you need to cut back your strength training workouts to avoid overtraining. Skill does benefit from more frequent practice but if the skill is physically demanding then too much practice will degrade rather than improve performance because of overtraining. If the contest is a strength based sport the practices would need to be done even less frequently than other sports because of the greater physical demands.

      Like most things, the balance is largely individual. In season or during periods where practices are longer or more frequent the high intensity training workouts would need to be cut back based on how the body’s responding. The athlete should be keeping track of not only his workouts, but measurable aspects of athletic performance and adjust both their workouts and skill practice accordingly.

      Keeping a training journal for sport or skill practice is just as important as keeping a workout chart or journal. Although the general principles are the same for everyone, some will find they improve more or less with certain changes to their practice and the only way to determine this is to keep track of what you’re doing and how you’re performing and compare over time.

  36. Brian collins May 22, 2011 at 10:39 am #

    Thanks Drew,
    Much appreciated.

    Brian

  37. Jeremy May 23, 2011 at 4:45 pm #

    I haven’t read the other posts, but you can’t argue with results. Try to find people that P90X DIDN’T work for. Those people are people who didn’t actually work the plan(like yourself I assume). Try it for 90days and(if you can actually do it) then blog about how bad it is. It serves a purpose. It gives people a plan to get results.

    • Drew Baye May 23, 2011 at 7:37 pm #

      Hey Jeremy,

      Sure I can argue with the results. I can argue the results had more to do with the diet than the program. I can argue the same or better results could have been achieved in a shorter amount of time and with much less weekly training time. I can argue the same or better results could have been achieved more safely using better exercises performed correctly and without the plyometrics or cardio. I would also be right about all of these.

      Additionally, there are probably a very large number of people P90X did not work for, but you only hear about the successes on the informercials, not the failures.

      I’m not going to try it, for all of the reasons I explained above. Did you actually read the article or did you just read the title and respond?

      While P90X does serve an important purpose, it does so very poorly, very inefficiently and with greater risk of injury than necessary. If a person wants to get stronger, leaner and healthier in a few months there are much better plans.

  38. Dwayne Wimmer May 23, 2011 at 7:59 pm #

    Drew,

    I agree, we can argue results. As professionals we have to believe in what is best for the individual. P90X is a plan, like Jeremy said, people need guidance and something to follow. They also need to believe there is more to it then there is. Again, it is our job to continue to help these people understand that it is SIMPLE, overload the body and eat right. Hummmmmm, complex isn’t it? Now the tricky part, what is overload? P90X, which overloads Tge body with excess force and excess repititions (both increase the risk of injury). Then there is the whole eat right thing (I am not a dietitian so I am not qualified to speak on this but type Nancy Clark into Google and find her, she makes A LOT of sense).

    I struggle everyday, fighting against these misconceptions and mythes that are spread like a virus through the fitness industry. So called professionals regurgitate this stuff without question. It would be so easy to jump on the band wagon and just sell people what they think they want. But I have integrity and can’t just tell people what they want to hear. I am an educator first, then a business man. I will go out fighting rather then fall into the same category as these “Snake Oil Salesman” who dominate the fitness industry prying on the ignorant and ill-informed.

    Ok, off my soapbox now, I feel better.

    Dwayne Wimmer

  39. Chris Lutz May 23, 2011 at 8:18 pm #

    @Jeremy, even if I had no knowledge of HIT, based on my first and most basic PT certification, I counted about 5 contraindicated exercises in the “Ab ripper” P90X video. 5 contraindicated exercises in succession in a few minutes, I can’t imagine that’s something you could call good for a person’s body. It does serve a purpose, but there are better and safer options. A pinto serves a purpose too, but a Volkswagon will get you there potentially quicker and definitely safer.

  40. Tami May 24, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    I am a junk food junkie..Was before I started P90X and still am..I didn’t start P90X to lose weight, in fact, I have never even viewed my food suggestion charts..P90X has given me the results that I was looking for, that was to increase my stamina, get rid of the cellulite in my legs, and add abs to my already flat stomach. My start out weight was 130, now I’m 135..I wanted a regimine to help my shape and not make me change my nasty eating habits, so with P90X, I can still look good and eat a big mac at 2 a.m.

    • Drew Baye May 24, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

      Tami,

      First, there is no such thing as cellulite. It is a made up term for the dimpled appearance caused by fat pushing through weak areas in the connective tissue under the skin.

      Second, you can’t out-exercise a poor diet, so I don’t believe you improved your abdominal definition and reduced the fatness of your legs while eating “junk food” by following P90X, much less that you did this while gaining five pounds.

      Third, even if you did, P90X is a very inefficient way to go about it not to mention placing a lot of totally unnecessary wear and tear on the joints with the plyometrics and cardio. A proper program addressing every aspect of general fitness requires less than one-sixth the weekly training time.

  41. Bill May 25, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

    Hey Drew,

    I think one of the things that seems to be a common sentiment amongst those advocating high-volume, high-risk exercise is the unwillingness to believe that there is a more efficient and productive way to train that involves doing less volume. The “at a high intensity” seems to often be forgotten or misunderstood.

    If you asked many of these people to do even MORE than what P90X advocates, they would happily give it a try. But ironically, not LESS. Most advocates of HIT, if not all, have gone through periods where they were exclusively performing high-volume, high-risk regimens. I certainly have. HIT has comparitively provided superior results in every way measureable.

    But my testimonial doesn’t really matter. Those that do not believe should try it themselves and compare. Words of warning… I used to think I worked hard before I switched to high intensity training. As it turns out, I grossly underestimated what it means to train to failure.

  42. Jeremy May 25, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    Hey Bill,

    Put a HIT program together on DVD that someone can do without paying for a gym membership, a rack of hex weights or an all-in-one machine. Implement the use of chairs, rubber bands, and imaginary tractor tires. Then formulate a nutrition plan that can be followed, is easy to read, doesn’t require a degree in nutrition and can be implemented WITHOUT going to a whole foods store. Eliminate the ALL your supplementation except protein, and put in in a box. You’ll make millions.

    This hasn’t been done to my knowledge. If HIT works and is BETTER than P90X, it would be more marketable and sell like hotcakes.

    You assume wrong to think that people want to do more work and get less results. IF that was the case, you wouldn’t be taking supplements, and the pharmaceutical industry would be bankrupt. People want easy, cheap, and effective. P90X MAY BE overkill, but it’s certainly easy, cheap, and effective.

    I look forward to seeing your infomercial. I will be the first buyer if if it’s easy, cheap, and effective.

    • Drew Baye May 25, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

      Hey Jeremy,

      It is possible to perform a HIT program with little or no equipment using bodyweight exercises, however it is more effective and more efficient to use weights or properly designed machines. The High Intensity Workouts ebook contains a chapter on workouts that can be performed with minimal or no equipment for people who prefer to workout at home and don’t have a well equipped home gym and there are plenty of other books on HIT with programs far more effective, more efficient and safer than P90X and Insanity.

      Sadly, what is popular or marketable and what works well aren’t always the same, and the fitness industry is an excellent example of this. What’s popular in exercise often has more to do with people’s misconceptions about it or what is profitable and thus marketed more heavily than what is objectively more effective. It is an industry that pays lip service to science but more often than not is driven by trends.

      I don’t think Bill is assuming people want to do more work, rather he’s pointing out that most people mistakenly believe more work is necessary or more effective thus more willing to try something based on rather than challenging that belief.

      If a person wants better results then they should be looking for ways to make their workouts harder, not easier. Do not make the mistake of thinking that more exercise equals harder exercise though. Increasing the effort put into each exercise performed will improve your results, while adding more exercises, sets or workouts quickly leads to stagnation, then overtraining. Harder exercise is what the majority of people need. More exercise is very seldom the answer.

  43. Chris Lutz May 25, 2011 at 7:21 pm #

    Drew,

    I have the start of an outline for a direct response HIT info product almost the same as you just laid out above. If worded correctly, I think it can be extremely marketable, but I think we keep shooting ourselves in the foot by using negative tone and terminology like failure, hard work, intensity, won’t cause fat loss, etc. We can get those points across just by using better terminology in the right situation (marketing and selling). In fact, I think we have multiple selling points over many other programs, we just don’t capitalize on them correctly. Compare:

    “HIT won’t cause fat loss alone, you’ll have to control your diet by counting your calories.”

    or

    “Forget working out 6 days a week hours at a time. With HIT, research shows you can raise your metabolism up to 15% and lose all the fat you want using our simple to follow fat blasting meal plan that comes with your HIT workout program FREE. All in as little as 20 min. workouts.”

    I just made that up off the top of my head, but the former is usually what you hear in a marketing and selling situation from a HIT advocate. Then is not the time for science. Which would you like to buy if you saw it on TV?

    I think it can be done.

    • Drew Baye May 25, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

      Hey Chris,

      I think a properly marketed HIT program could be equally or more successful than P90X, and I understand the importance of using “softer” terminology and buzzwords like “blasting” for the sake of sales, but I could never do it. I have a friend who is probably one of the best internet marketing people around and I could probably sell ten times as many ebooks, courses, etc. with his help, but I have declined to follow his advice because I do not like marketing to begin with, and what little I have to do I’d rather keep very simple and to the point with as little hype as possible.

      I would much rather just tell people this is really hard work and you have to be very strict with your diet, and while the potential results are greater and can be achieved more safely and efficiently than anything else out there they are going to be directly proportional to the effort and discipline you put into it. I realize this is horrible marketing, especially words like “hard”, “strict”, “effort” and “discipline” which are the exact opposite of what people want to hear, like “easy” and “fun”, but if I had to choose I would rather be honest than make more money by telling people what they want to hear. Proper exercise is not easy and it’s certainly not fun, and although I would love to eat a whole pizza and wash it down with a liter of Mountain Dew every night and be able to burn those calories off with a little exercise, it just doesn’t work that way.

  44. Chris Lutz May 25, 2011 at 9:29 pm #

    Drew,

    Fair enough. Although there is something to be said for speaking to your audience in your true voice and tone as well. Which you do very well as evidenced by your traffic and list. You don’t sugar coat a damn thing and so people will never think that you are trying to put one over on them. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t rule it out completely. You never know, you could just pay someone who may work for you in the future to market your highly successful programs to the masses. You wouldn’t have to do it, but it would still reach a large % of people in a way that could make you very successful. This is really my goal. I don’t see it as hype necessarily. Everything I said in that quote above is absolutely true about HIT, just worded in a more positive tone. I see it as a challenge and an art to be mastered. Of course, still being truthful and speaking in my own tone/voice and not sounding like Billy Mays or something. We’ve got an awesome system here, I think it would be a shame not to market it appropriately. I think I told you before, but It think even Jones was speaking to the wrong audience and using the wrong tone. With the growing popularity and greater technology, guys like you and me stand to do very well if we approach our business ends the same way we approach our exercise prescriptions.

    • Drew Baye May 25, 2011 at 10:13 pm #

      Chris,

      I had a partnership with someone for exactly that purpose. He’s a marketing genius but I dissolved the partnership despite knowing I’d make considerably less money because I wanted to keep things much simpler and straight forward and without doing a lot of the things that really bother me about other web sites selling ebooks or programs.

      It’s certainly possible to market high intensity training with a more positive tone by emphasizing the advantages over other training methods such as the effectiveness, time efficiency and safety, but the effectiveness and efficiency of HIT both rely on the thing most people don’t want to hear – it takes brutally hard work.

      It goes against good marketing, and I’m sure a lot of people would disagree, but I would prefer to speak my mind and turn off the majority of people who might otherwise have bought a book or course or personal training from me for the respect of the small minority who want straight forward, objective and practical information and aren’t looking for short cuts or promises of any kind of quick, easy results.

      One of my favorite quotes, from science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein reads, “Most people can’t think, most of the remainder won’t think, the small fraction who do think mostly can’t do it very well. The extremely tiny fraction who think regularly, accurately, creatively, and without self-delusion – in the long run, these are the only people who count.”

      The “extremely tiny fraction” Heinlein refers to are the people I write for. If any of the rest get it, good for them. If not, they’re welcome to keep doing silly crap like P90X.

  45. Chris Lutz May 25, 2011 at 10:41 pm #

    Oh sure, I totally respect that and agree with the quote. Al Coleman has a very similar view to you too. He used to work in the facility I managed. Here I am trying to build a business and make it known, but he’s a true technician and likes to keep it to himself (sort of a punk rock mentality) and doesn’t really want it to be too popular.

    I want to emphasize that my intention is not to offer false hopes, or promises, or the possibility of a quick fix. Certainly nothing fraudulent, only to properly highlight the selling points, not dwell on the “negatives” so to speak. People are turned off by that kind of marketing for some reason, but like I said, I think it’s a challenge to get the communication right for the best result. Just like in personal instruction.

    I still believe it can be done to get people interested and to buy in and continue to further educate along in the process. I mean, it just makes so much sense that it is really the basis of any program regardless of it being hard or not. It’s not like something else out there will be more appropriate for someone looking for any kind of result besides the few truths we follow (you must overload, you must be progressive, etc.). HIT just embodies that best, I think.

  46. Dwayne Wimmer May 26, 2011 at 12:58 am #

    Drew & Chris, I understand both points of view, they are both very valid. I am looking at all of this in a different way. I have been wanting to create something bigger then any one of us can do ourselves. Chris, this was part of our first conversation, many months ago. For WAY Too long we (like minded people who believe in HIT) have been very territorial and not open, as professionals, to band together to create something bigger then any one of us alone. I would like to work with others to creating something BIG, something that can move this industry back in the opposite direction. I think we are all on the same page as to where the industry is and where it is going. We all want to make a difference. We can make our voices heard much louder as a group, rather then individuals. If we could orginize and pull together, we can make a difference. I have done things for myself and made some money, if money was the biggest driving force, I would do a lot of things differently. But, I would like to focus on the industry and help more people then I, or any one of us, could possibly help ourselves. I am interested in talking with the two of you and others about something like this. Let ne know what you think.

    Dwayne

    • Drew Baye May 26, 2011 at 8:41 am #

      Dwayne,

      I’m interested, but it would have to be a non-profit organization with the primary purpose being trainer education and certification rather than income generation. I have no problem with people wanting to make money, but for a variety of reasons I believe this is the best structure for a fitness organization. I’d been speaking with several others about this years ago but we were unable to organize due to everybody’s time commitments with their own training businesses.

  47. js290 May 26, 2011 at 2:17 am #

    The trick is to get them paying you to tell them the cold hard facts. ;-) One thing I’ve learned is presenting info pedantically doesn’t always work. You can still maintain the fidelity of your message/product. It just has to be tailored differently to each person. People will get it at different times for different reasons. As long as you haven’t lied to them or harmed them, you can still sleep well at night. :-)

    From my amateur experience and observation, people who seek the health benefits and improved physical performance in their other activities (like martial arts) stick with HIT. Those that aren’t worried about health or are satisfied with their physical/athletic performance give up on HIT pretty quickly.

    HIT is brutal. My guess is there’s lot of cognitive dissonance in the people that give up on HIT or criticize it. The folks I’ve seen give up on HIT acknowledged the improvements. But, ultimately they make up whatever excuse not to train HIT style and happily go back to spending a lot of time doing something far less effective. The folks I know that have stuck with it are really happy they’ve found this style of resistance training.

  48. Herb May 26, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    Drew, I find this timely support for your position: http://www.specialtactics.com/ubbthreads/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=57886#Post57886
    Special ops is a unique culture and what fitness matrix would fit their needs and mind set would be a good study and maybe a marketing opportunity.
    Thanks for sticking to your principals and not prostrating yourself before the $.

  49. Dj May 26, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

    Are you just mad because people would rather do P90x at home, for a whole hell of a lot cheaper than paying you to train them? You should just jump on the P90x train and become a beachbody coach, which will help you get the income you have been missing out on because P90x works and is cheaper. Don’t get me wrong HIIT is a great way to train and it works…look at how popular Insanity and Turbo Fire are..b/c the work too and they are based on HIIT. It’s also understandable to bash such a great product that has helped millions of people, because you cannot compete with it, that is why you have such negatively with it. P90x has changed peoples’ lives for the better. It gives them the structure they need. You can say all you want about the diet part of the program, but give me a program that doesn’t require a good diet. It’s the combo of diet and exercise that gets results for anyone, but again it all comes down to the word..easy. Americans want easy and Beachbody gives them easy by providing a diet guide with the workout. Also almost all your information is miss leading. I feel bad for any of your clients…don’t need plyos..WHAT? REALLY?…don’t need cardio to? You don’t make any since. HIIT is CARDIO! You just add lifting to it …

    • Drew Baye May 26, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

      DJ,

      You have no idea what you’re talking about. Did you even read the article or did you just read the title and get upset because it’s critical of something you’re doing or selling?

      If you had read the article and if you know enough to understand it you’d realize I’m talking about high intensity strength training, not not talking about high intensity interval training (HIIT).

      P90X, Insanity, etc. are not great programs. They are well marketed programs. I have a negative view of them because they are objectively poor programs for all of the reasons I mentioned above.

      Plyometrics provide no benefits that can not be more safely achieved with a proper strength training program and a proper strength training program will provide equal or better metabolic and cardiovascular conditioning more safely and efficiently than traditional cardio activities, making additional cardio unnecessary as well.

      Nothing I’ve written here is misleading. Everything I’ve written above about form, exercise volume, “muscle confusion”, plyometrics, cardio, etc. is correct. It’s you and the Beachbody “coaches” promoting this nonsense who are misleading people.

  50. Bear May 26, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

    As someone who did 5 rounds of P90X (and got great results) and a former “coach”, I prefer HIT.

    There’s no “one tool” for every job, but for overall health/fitness I believe HIT is better (and takes less time, less risk and less cost (depending on how you implement each)).

    I spent more $ doing P90X than I will on HIT: I kept needing bigger weights, I got more DVDs, heart rate monitor, etc. I didn’t HAVE to spend more, but I spent more than $20/month (6 months just by getting P90X and no equipment) which is what my gym costs.

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