I’m no fitness expert but I do work out often for health and fun and as a hobby, I try to keep in pretty good shape and be an all-around fit person; which involves working hard in various and varied areas of fitness. And in my case it includes the
occasional lots of exercise DVD’s, especially during the long Northern NY Winters.
Some people love doing workout DVD’s, some people hate ’em and but do them, and some people just plain detest them and won’t touch one. Then again, some people also only lift weights or only run or only bike or only concentrate on one area of their bodies and fitness – and that’s not good either.
Because even those with an interest in just one sport need cross-training for good performance.
Exercise DVD’s are great, if you’re new to fitness and exercise and you need some guidance (without having to hire a personal trainer) they’re an excellent way to get it – as long as the guy or girl on the DVD really does know what the heck they are talking about. There’s so many DVD’s out there that sometimes it’s best to just stick with the most popular, tried-and-true ones.
But even if you’re an old hand at good fitness, or an athlete; it’s nice to have someone to work out with if you’re not at the gym or have a workout buddy nearby. Or maybe you need some structure when you’re not working on your own exercise plans and schedule, or possibly you need someone to guide you through things or even entertain you if you know that well-worn (figuratively) DVD by heart 😉 Mix it up, it’s good for you – health-wise as well as in the area of keeping you from getting bored.
So I wanted to do a blog post on the most popular series of multi-DVD workout schedule programs and give my personal opinions on each, and then close with what I think is the best. It’s my mega-review and super-pick for my personal favorite.
Just a note – I’m not including here anything here about the nutrition programs that go along with each of these series, I’m just covering the exercise DVD’s themselves.
And these are all BeachBody.com products. Are there other exercise DVD series? Yes, but the BeachBody.com ones are probably the most popular and it’s hard to beat BeachBody.com‘s popularity, production and marketing quality, and downright usefulness of the products themselves. I’m not getting any benefits from Beachbody.com for this review – their stuff is just some of the most popular so that’s what I am reviewing here. And what I review here are usually the deluxe version of the series, many have a base version that may not have all of the discs I mention here.
For other series check out ones like Bob Harper’s Inside Out Method, I review two of the series in my blog posts here – Bob Harper’s Inside Out Method Pure Burn Super Strength Workout DVD Review and Bob Harper’s Yoga for the Warrior DVD Review.
Anyway, so here we go.
I think you’ll like P90X, it seems like most people who do it find that they like it, and many even love it.
This series covers pretty much any aspect that you want a fitness DVD to handle, each disc concentrating on one general area of fitness. It’s comprehensive, fun, and many parts are hard.
Of course, like anything – it’s how much effort you put into it.
Tony Horton is a big part of what makes P90X fun, in fact you can’t really think P90X without thinking ‘Tony Horton’, once you’ve done the series a couple of times. He has a huge and amusing but instructive personality, as well as huge muscles (and on one DVD you’ll see him propelling himself into a crazy and almost inhuman number of pullups).
Tony will motivate you in a positive way without screaming, yelling, or any other high-pressure cajoling – Tony’s not like that old-school gym teacher you had back in the day.
Each DVD has a slightly different feel and ‘personality’ too, sometimes it depends on what the subject is and sometimes it seems that it might have to do with the people who are working out with Tony. Each disc also has three other people (with the exception of Yoga X which has four people in addition to Tony Horton) who are doing the actual full workouts, usually P90X grads or trainers. There’s usually a modifier too who will show you easier or beginner ways to do the various things on each DVD, with Tony explaining the modifiers to some of the exercises as well as sometimes also demonstrating various different versions of an exercise, both for those who need to modify to make them an easier or sometimes just as an alternative version.
This series is pretty polished for the most part, with a nice gym-style set as well as a good flow of things moving along as needed. Most of the camera angles are from the front with a few from the side or close-up for some moves, so you can see Tony and his peeps (as he says).
For the most part people do things correctly throughout P90X, sometimes with Tony‘s instruction and correction, unlike some other DVD’s you may run across; sometimes where even the trainer may do a move incorrectly.
There are a few exceptions once in a while that aren’t related to the modifications. Phil sometimes holds his breath during ‘Chest, Shoulders & Triceps’ – and continuing to breath through each exercise is something that Tony makes sure to drill into you often. Wesley’s (who supposedly introduced Tony Horton to Kenpo) sometimes bad form and laggy, sometimes lackadaisical performance during ‘Kenpo X‘ is another example.
Sure, it’s got a few other problems – to some Tony‘s jokes and explanations may get repetitious. My niece mutes the sound and listens to something else why she does the discs. But I don’t mind and I prefer not to distract myself from the workout, I kinda believe that Tony’s dialog helps you to keep up the intensity and your attention from wandering.
But probably the most important thing that some of the sessions don’t have enough static stretching warmups at the beginning. Current sports medicine says that we really should be doing isometric or dynamic stretching instead of static stretching exercises before a workout (though some will say no warmup is best, just a good cooldown – there’s a lot of debate on this so you have to go with what works best for you), to help cut down on injuries and lessen negative impacts on performance. You can find plenty of research on this (remember, Google is your friend, or DuckDuckGo or whatever you use) like this New York Times article. I don’t blame BeachBody or Tony Horton or any of the others who helped create this series, as our knowledge concerning the positives of using dynamic stretching over static stretching is relatively new, and P90X is the ‘elder’ series here (2003). But you will find some dynamic stretching which is good.
And how many people like the long Yoga routine? Yea, it’s a bit long. Where most of the DVD’s in the P90X series are an hour-long the Yoga is an hour and a half and for me there are some somewhat repetitious and boring vinyasas at the beginning. In fact I edited a custom version for myself that makes it come in at around an hour.
But otherwise P90X is a great mixture of everything you need, there’s a DVD that’s going to cover everything from upper body and lower body weight training to jump training to cardio to stretching and yoga to Kempo to the core.
I’m sure there’s other nitpicks but many are just personal opinions. I think you would find this a good series all-in-all.
You properly learn form and discipline, yet you are shown modifications if needed and are encouraged to take breaks if you need to – something very important for those just starting out. As Tony says; “No shame in that!”
You need minimal equipment outside of regular weight training items, like weights (of course), a pull-up bar or resistance bands. Alternately you can start out on many things with just bodyweight if needed.
Is P90X for beginners? I tend to think not so much, but I don’t want to discourage anyone. You can do even the most extreme things in any of the DVD’s I am going to go through here if you do modifications and take breaks and do them at a less intense rate, but really to do them as intended would mean you should be in in fairly good shape. But if you aren’t – modify, take breaks, and you’ll get there for sure if you stick with it.
I want to mention here also, Power 90 is an earlier BeachBody DVD series than P90X as well as the other ones I am going to talk about here, and Power 90 might be more suitable for people starting out and who aren’t comfortable doing P90X yet.
But I’ll say right off the bat that Insanity really needs some longer warmups. You’ll find a mixture of static warmups and lower-intensity dynamic exercises, yet for this kind of workout I think there should be some more.
In addition to more warmup I think it’s too easy to not do the moves properly and take the chance of injuring yourself.
So it’s VERY important to watch and listen to Shaun T and do every move the correct and safe way. And I’m going to contradict myself immediately – because sometimes Shaun T doesn’t even do the moves correctly when he’s talking or instructing you so you, he will do them correctly initially but then get a little sloppy as he talks and/or tries to motivate you. Understandable of course, especially trying to talk during such an active series.
You have to use some judgement here and watch carefully for his first moves as well as some of the others. And maybe even warmup on your own a bit beforehand.
And with this one you really need to take breaks if you need them, have a heart rate monitor watch and know how to use it (you’re not really doing any of these without a heart rate monitor, right?), and be aware of messages from your own body and also be aware of when you may be pushing yourself too far and past what is safe.
I think you need some body-awareness here. If you’re young your body can maybe take some screw-ups but it’s best to be aware of what your body is telling you no matter what age you are.
Back to the DVD – Shaun T is likable enough, and he’s motivational, but sometimes a bit hurried and you just never get to see much of his personality, nor very much of the other people’s personalities on the DVD – unlike Tony Horton and those on P90X. That’s not surprising when comparing him to the big personality and different style of P90X, as well as the different form of exercise of Insanity versus P90X.
Insanity is a hell of a lot of high intensity cardio and interval training. You’ll be soaked in sweat after the majority of workouts. And some people probably won’t be able to go full tilt and everything, no shame in that for sure – it’s hard.
I’ve even heard of people puking while doing it. But geez, if you’re pushing yourself that hard you’re liable to hurt yourself, and you’re sure not getting enjoyment out of it. Stop, take a break, slow down if you’re doing an exercise until you are going to puke. That’s not good, that’s not enjoyable nor safe, and you’re going to get sick of it (pardon the pun).
But the nice thing about Insanity is that the moves are not terribly complex so you can learn them correctly pretty quickly. Which is different from the later T25 series, which has somewhat more complex compound movements that you must learn and transition into quickly. It is important to note that the T25 series is a half hour-long without breaks where most of the Insanity series is around an hour with short breaks – this is true High Intensity Interval Training.
You may find some repetition in this series too but A) there is enough diversity for it not to come into play usually, unless you get bored really, really easily or do it really, really often and B) it’s so damn hard that you’re probably not going to be thinking about much else anyway.
Unlike the more intimate smaller set of P90X with just four people, this one takes place in a large gymnasium (with the exception of the weight-training one) with a large group of people. Most of them look to be in their 20’s or 30’s but occasionally you’ll see or Shaun will point out someone in their 40’s. The camera angles are similar to P90X, from the front or side angles and sometimes with the camera-person obviously walking among the exercising people, with some close-ups occasionally too.
In this series, in addition to the majority of it being cardio and plyometrics, there’s also an entire stretching and recovery DVD, as well as two ab/core discs corresponding to the level you have reached, and the fit test disc too so you can keep track of your fitness gains, and one weight-training disc – the latter almost seeming like an afterthought. It’s done in a regular gym crowded into a corner with a few other people, and Shaun T uses his iPhone as a timer. A good routine, don’t get me wrong, but it definitely has the feel of an afterthought.
Everyone’s in great shape of course.
Which brings me to a bone of contention – I’m in my 40’s and I find that I can go through each exercise without taking any breaks except the official ones. But often you see people on the DVD itself taking breaks in the middle, or going off to the side for water or just plain losing their form.
I have no problem with people taking breaks and of course Shaun T makes sure you know that you can whenever you wish to. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have them show that is an option.
But I suspect that some of the people taking breaks are doing it just for show, these guys are in tremendously great shape and if I can do it then they should be able to, especially since I assume that they have practiced it before. So anyway, that’s my little nitpick, though I certainly understand why they WANT to show people taking a break as an option. Pet peeve on my part, feel free to ignore 😉
I wouldn’t do Insanity all the time, the series is something that you probably want to do occasionally, mixing it with everything else you do in the way of fitness. The amount of high impact on your knees, hips, legs, and feet is tremendous. Even if you do the moves perfectly, have good sneaks, and land softly I don’t think you’ll find that you should be doing the whole series continuously back-to-back for a year. And why would you want to anyway; a good well-rounded fit person is going to do many different things, and while you’ll find Insanity a crazy fat-burning super-cardio jump-training extravaganza – you want to do lots of other things in every area of fit-training.
Did I already say it? Yes I did, but it bears saying again – this is insane. You may even work harder than you ever have at anything in your life, at least when it comes to the plyometric-type of exercises.
Tony Horton is back again in this series, leaner and maybe a bit more laid back. He’s lost some of his big muscular bulk and looks more streamlined, and his exercise philosophy has even changed and evolved – just like this incarnation of P90X has. But you’ll find his trademark lame but nonetheless amusing and sometimes hilarious jokes (at least that’s my opinion), as well as his strong but not overpowering instructional style.
You’ll find the familiar format of three other workout buddies alongside Tony, and you even may see a familiar face or two from P90X.
But now there’s extra equipment that you are encouraged to use (and buy), unlike the fairly minimal amount required for the first series. You don’t have to of course, there’s always a modifier to show you how you can do it without additional equipment and sometimes by just using common things you might have available (like during traveling, as Tony mentions as an example a few times).
But you may find that you do want to try some of the recommended equipment once you see others using it, I know I did. I picked up a foam roller, another resistance band, a Swiss ball, and a medicine ball and I did really enjoy the additional challenge (try doing plyo-pushups on a medicine ball!).
You’ll also find some new phrases and methods that are in vogue with trainers during the time this series was produced, primarily lots of encouragement to use foam rolling as a stretching exercise. There’s a whole section on one DVD with instruction for proper foam rolling and Tony encourages you to pause the DVD and take some more time to foam roll during some of the disc sessions. I really don’t think too many people do this.
The nice thing is that you will find more dynamic warmups in this series, and quite long ones; very long in some cases. Some of the warmup time is taken by foam rolling.
What is my opinion on foam rolling you may ask? Well, if you’ve ever had a massage and found yourself invigorated, well-stretched, and generally feeling better afterward then you’ll know what foam rolling might do for you. It’s definitely has its place, but is it as good as stretching? I just don’t know, and I suspect on its own it’s not going to be as good as a good dynamic stretch, but it is a good companion to stretching – my opinion here of course. You’ll have to be the judge of its effectiveness yourself if you try P90X2, as you will be thoroughly encouraged to use one. Foam rollers (you can find tons of them at this link) are relatively cheap and useful either way and you’ll find that even when not doing P90X2 you may find yourself rolling out a tight muscle or two.
As for P90X2 itself; you’ll find Yoga, ab, core, plyometrics, synergistics, balance, recovery, and upper and lower body-weight training as well as conventional (usually with a twist) free weight training – all usually modifications of what you might be familiar with. You’ll sometimes find some crazy combos of workouts with swiss balls, medicine balls or other equipment and in compound moves.
It’s a valid and useful series, but I find myself rarely using it that much, except for the Yoga.
This series sometimes seems like there is TOO much warmup and too much time between doing things, and the exercises aren’t as interesting as perhaps those of P90X. There seems to be more repetition. I almost feel sometimes that there is wasted time and too many unneeded pauses or other things throughout some of this series.
I tried not to be biased toward P90X2, and kept an open mind when doing it but I just can’t get into it as much, and definitely don’t enjoy it as much as good ol’ P90X. But that’s not to say I don’t sweat and get a good workout while doing it.
T25 is another one with Shaun T as the trainer. This gets compared to Insanity a lot, and sometimes I call it “Mini-Insanity” as it’s only a half hour long. But that’s not really fair as it is definitely a different series with a differing fitness philosophy and with similar moves.
You might say that this is a more refined, matured, shorter, and probably somewhat safer and easier-on-the-the-body version of Insanity. At least somewhat.
Here you won’t find breaks as often as something like Insanity, or at all, so things are a bit more compressed, more hurried sometimes, with some familiar moves as well as new ones and modifications of ones you might have seen in Insanity. And these tend to be more complex than the Insanity ones. The first time through each one you may find yourself working extra hard to get everything done correctly.
And Shaun T definitely makes a point in this series to try to get you to do things correctly, in fact the full name of this series is “T25 Focus“, focus on the ‘Focus’. The emphasis is on doing things correctly each time with no loss of form. It’s certainly good to see Shaun make the extra point of making sure people do the moves right as well as safely and effectively, something that sometimes got lost during the Insanity series.
Again, you won’t find much or any warmup here, less than Insanity – of course there’s not a lot of time like there was in Insanity.
There is a nice but very short cooldown at the end which has some good (but again – very short) dynamic or active stretching. Not much, but it’s there at least. So again you might want to do some dynamic warming-up beforehand on your own, depending on what works best for you.
You’ll find lots of plyometrics, more interval training, upper and lower body weight and free weight training, and a stretch routine.
Also unlike Insanity each of these routines have just three other people along with Shaun T (the cooldowns are just Shaun T and are variations which are duplicated on the various DVD’s). Similar camera angles to Insanity and P90X here; mostly from the front or angled sides but with a few closer shots for Shaun T to point out different things.
You’ll also see Shaun T‘s future partner on a few of the DVD’s working along with the other workout people. It’s interesting to see the interaction between them, despite there being no acknowledgement that they know each other any more than any of the others working out along with Shaun T in the series, as you would expect.
While I like T25 just fine, I found myself getting bored with it. There’s a lot of repetition or similar moves per DVD, as well as across the entire set of DVD’s. Many times I’m really not sure which one I’m doing because some feel interchangeable with others.
I doubled up on this series some to get through it faster, just for fun and a challenge. As a person who works out twice a day, sometimes withe extremes – I thought I wouldn’t have any problem doing this but there were a few days when doubling up was very very hard to do get through. It’s difficult for sure, not the level of Insanity of course, still very hard and you’ll sweat like hell with it but you may also find it a bit repetitious.
There’s also some evidence that endorphins aren’t released until around half an hour after some good physical activity. Endorphins are chemicals released by the pituitary gland in response to stress or pain, usually after a period of physical activity, and they bring about a feeling of euphoria and help to block pain and discomfort (thank you evolution). So due to the shorter length you you may not get that good endorphin-high feeling that you get from other longer DVD’s here. Half an hour isn’t very long.
But if you want something that’s a lot of Plyo and some mixtures of weights and other cardio, not quite as intense as Insanity, and don’t want to do any of the P90X series than this one might be good for you.
Ah, P90X3. I had been waiting for this series for quite some time, especially after being a bit disappointed with P90X2. I had high hopes – some nice dynamic warmups, new intense and more modern fitness-theory derived workouts, and some good cooldowns.
But upon hearing that this would follow T25 Focus‘s lead and go with a 30 minute workout I didn’t have a whole lot of hope. How can you mash all of that into half an hour? Also, see my mention of endorphins at the end of the T25 Focus review above.
So now after finishing one go-through of the series I have mixed feelings. All in all I like this series, but don’t love it.
Many times it feels a bit hurried, somewhat like T25 in that aspect; though usually not quite as hectic as that series in general. There’s some nice dynamic warmups but they are really very short, and so are the cooldowns. If you want to do it beforehand there is a Cold Start warmup disc which takes the place of the regular shorty warmups at the beginning of each disc. But if you do the Cold Start along with the short warmups at the beginning of each one, as well as the cooldowns; your thirty minute workout is rapidly heading toward an hour’s time anyway.
Tony Horton is even more streamlined and less bulky, and he’s completely dropped the foam rolling. I don’t think there’s as much as one mention of foam rolling.
P90X3 has the same film style as the rest, and similar staging – a cozy-looking gym setting. Again, this series has three other people in addition to Tony Horton and again you will see a few familiar faces, like Dreya, and Shawna – Tony’s current real-life very flexible girlfriend. Look up Tony’s YouTube channel for some partner’s Yoga with the two of them.
Each disc session is, on average, a good sweat-raising workout. Not spectacular on average, but a good use of time with little or no breaks, and maybe a bit less explanation and talking on Tony’s part sometimes than previous P90X’s. But sometimes you may feel like everything gets a little hurried in an effort to get it done in thirty minutes time. A few new things here and there, but mixed in with newer things are variations and compound moves in some cases.
You’ve find the full gambit of exercise here. There’s bodyweight and free-weight training, cardio with weights, agility, speed, endurance, balance, core, upper and lower concentrated workouts, a new ab ripper, plyometrics, a couple Yogas, stretching/recovery, Pilates, and variations. You’ll find some new things like Decelerator and Accelerator where you do a move fast in one direction, slow in another.
And if you were a fan of Kempo X in P90X you’ll find a Mixed Martial Arts disc in P90X3 that will make Kempo look like a Sunday stroll. I tend to have to lay down and recover after this one. For me this was my favorite part of the series, and also the hardest.
I think I put more work into something that I enjoy, and I go full-out with this one. For me it is by far the one that I find to be the hardest, yet the most enjoyable. You’ll even find three breaks in this half hour routine – if that gives you an idea about its level of toughness!
On the other hand I had very high hopes for Triometrics. My thought was; three times normal plyometric! No, not really. While I found it satisfyingly hard in general the amount of plyometrics was really somewhat disappointing, and some things seemed more like bodyweight strength exercises than plyometrics. But it’s still a good workout, don’t get me wrong.
There were a few discs in this series that I was somewhat blah on, not that they weren’t good workouts. But a few bordered on the edge of uninteresting, repetitious, and I’m afraid my next go-through of the series will make them even more-so, and I really disliked the Pilates. I have a disc that consists of a combination of Yoga and Pilates before and I thought that I knew what was involved in Pilates, but I didn’t really enjoy this one despite my doing a fair amount of Yoga every week.
You don’t need much equipment for P90X3, except what you probably already have – free weights, pull-up bar or resistance bands, etc, unlike some of the extra things you needed in P90X2.
Definitely worth checking out and adding to your collection of fitness DVD’s, you’ll get a good workout in half an hour. But it would have been better as longer sessions perhaps.
Okay, so time to pick my favorite I guess.
Well, really I can’t. Each one has its merits, and each one has its demerits. But I guess if I had to pick I would pick P90X.
I may be biased as it was the first full series of fitness DVD’s that I did (after graduating from single disc workout DVD’s) but I still really like the variety of P90X.
Insanity and T25 Focus are a bit more centered around plyometrics and cardio, despite T25 Focus‘s inclusion of weights in the Beta and Gamma part of the series. P90X2 isn’t as enjoyable to me in general, and while I am getting used to P90X3 and enjoying it quite well it does seem short and sometimes hurried, and despite some good workouts I feel almost cheated in its shortness. I sometimes feel that way with T25 Focus also, but it is always intense where some of the P90X3 is moderately so – making it feel like I could be doing more.
And don’t forget the various workout schedules out there for doing hybrid workout timetables using sessions from the various series, or you can even mix-and-match your own to get what works for you.
That’s what I do, mix up parts of each series in addition to doing my regular weight-training, running, biking, rowing, elliptical, core, etc.
They are all worth it if you are interested, and definitely all worth using and will get you healthier than you already are.