Tony Horton’s P90X franchise has turned living rooms across the globe into makeshift gyms for the last 15+ years.
But the total body transformation series isn’t a 3-step program like it seems.
P90X2 follows the OG P90X, but it’s not necessarily a prerequisite. P90X3 is its own standalone program separate from the two “prequels,” but if you start with any program, make it P90X3.
Are you confused yet? Us, too.
Below, we’ll explain the differences between P90X, P90X2, and P90X3 (because the names certainly don’t make it clear enough!).
What Is P90X?
This 90-day at-home program boasts the simple goal of “getting in the best shape of your life” through a variety of 12 slimming, strengthening, and toning workouts.
But, in a way, P90X is the anti-traditional home workout. A household name in the fitness industry, Horton understands why most programs fail — plateaus, boredom, no visible results.
That’s exactly why P90X:
- Revolves around the concept of muscle confusion
- Features 12 unique workouts, including Kenpo X, Ab Ripper X, and Yoga X
- Doesn’t follow the same training pattern each week
- Teaches users how to build and follow a sustainable, healthy diet
- Focuses on traditional endurance and strength training plus flexibility and agility
- Guides users through three-week phases that gradually increase in intensity
The table below details the basics of the P90X program:
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4 Benefits of P90X
- P90X has time on its side — over 15 years. Just like ThighMasters and Shake Weights (R.I.P), most fitness trends fade into the history books after a few years. But Beachbody users still stream P90X every single day now fifteen years later.
- The workout variety is a sure boredom-killer. P90X is a comfortable and exciting blend of strength, flexibility, MMA, cardio, plyometrics, and yoga training. Each week follows its own schedule without becoming too repetitive (despite just 12 workouts total).
- The interval-style training is scientifically backed. Most P90X workouts follow high-intensity interval training (HIIT) principles. Although they aren’t weight loss cures, research shows they can burn 28.5% more absolute fat mass than traditional cardio.
- The P90X results speak for themselves. The average P90X training session shreds between 378 and 631 calories. That fact alone explains why repeat P90X users tout 20, 50, or even 100 pounds of weight loss after a few program cycles.
2 Reasons Against P90X
- Six 45–90-minute workouts per week is a ridiculous time commitment. The average P90X workout lasts about an hour, with Yoga X dragging on 92-or-some-odd minutes. (The long, energy-draining workouts are one of P90X’s top complaints.)
- It’s not for beginners; intermediates, proceed at your own risk. Some users claim that P90X is beginner-friendly. However, the “extreme-ness” of P90X will prove challenging to complete newbies; Power 90 or P90X3 are far better for beginners.
What Is P90X2?
P90X2 is the second installment in the P90X series and, according to Tony Horton himself, “ups the ante” in terms of training protocols, exercises, and intensity.
The original P90X helps make strides toward a better physique; P90X2 continues the journey through “post-activation potentiation” (or P.A.P.) and a routine better tailored to your needs.
With one less workout a week, somewhat shorter training sessions, and a new focus on building a more stable foundation, P90X2 puts a more athletic spin on the classic P90X.
This 9–16-week science-backed program:
- Builds strength, endurance, power, flexibility, and more
- Progresses through three distinct phases — foundation, strength, and performance
- Leans heavily on the concepts of instability and explosive movements
- Labels “bad form” the end of a set
- Increases overall athleticism, mobility, and functionality
- Offers several meal plan options that best match your personal physique goals
Check out the table below to learn more about P90X2:
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Is P90X2 Harder Than P90X?
P90X2 will prove challenging if you skip P90X or have no prior training experience, but it’s not necessarily a “harder” program (even Horton insists they’re about equal difficulty-wise).
Compared to the original P90X, P90X2 has shorter workouts and fewer training sessions per week, which is a relief. However, the second roll-out isn’t “easy” by any means.
The focus on an unstable base, other areas of fitness (agility and power), and enhancing overall athleticism instead of just strength and stamina could make P90X2 feel much more challenging.
4 Benefits of P90X2
- P90X2 requires minimal equipment (don’t listen to Horton!). If you have a chin-up bar, lightweight dumbbell set (up to 40 pounds), a stability ball, and medicine balls, you’re already prepared to tackle P90X2.
- The phases are somewhat customizable. Unlike the OG P90X, P90X2 doesn’t have to end on day 90. Horton suggests remaining in phases 2–3 weeks longer if you’re still seeing results or not completely satisfied with your progress.
- Post-activation potentiation (or P.A.P) has the support of experts. P.A.P. isn’t quack science like– on second thought, we won’t say anything too controversial. But phase three’s P.A.P. focus is proven to improve athletic speed and power.
- The program adds a more athletic-based exciting twist to P90X. P90X2 will transform your newly aesthetic physique from P90X into an efficient powerhouse. This 9–16-week program builds power, speed, agility, flexibility, strength, and more!
2 Reasons Against P90X2
- The warm-ups drag on for a little too long. The addition of foam-roller warm-ups was a solid choice by Horton; studies show it can improve flexibility by some 4%. But one of the most common complaints is the sheer length of the workouts — they drag oooooon.
- The lack of resistance training is mildly disappointing. It’ll be 6–12 weeks before Horton introduces P.A.P. (heavy resistance exercises followed by explosive movements). Until then, most of the training revolves around bodyweight exercises.
What Is P90X3?
P90X3 is what many fitness junkies describe as a short-and-sweet blend of P90X and P90X2, with Horton promising to get you “totally” ripped with just 30 minutes of training per day.
The launch of P90X3 resulted from one common complaint about P90X and P90X2: time. Users raved about their results but didn’t have time to train for 60–90 minutes 5–6 days per week.
In what Horton describes as a “breakthrough” program, P90X3 combines the training principles of the two previous programs and condenses workouts into short but intense half-hour sessions.
P90X3 supposedly accelerates extreme fitness and:
- Offers five goal-oriented schedules, depending on your goals (i.e., mass, doubles)
- Adds tons of variety with MMX, Agility X, Total Synergistics, and Decelerator workouts
- Promises top-of-the-line training efficiency
- Doubles as a more realistic lead-in to P90X and P90X2
- Maximizes athletic performance without wasting an entire hour or more
- Cycles through 20 unique workouts to double-down on muscle confusion
Below, you can learn more about P90X3’s finer details:
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4 Benefits of P90X3
- Thirty minutes a day is hard to beat. The biggest user complaint about P90X and P90X2 is that not everyone has 60–90 to spare 5–6 days a week. Condensing the very same principles into 30 minutes a day opens the door to plenty more users with … lives.
- P90X3 takes variety to the extreme. Even if you prefer cardio over resistance training or vice versa, P90X3 is a strange but exciting blend of training variety. Boredom isn’t exactly an option between CVX, X3 Yoga, the Incinerator, Accelerator, and Eccentrics.
- It’s more compatible with various fitness and physique goals. Horton included four unique training pathways for P90X3 that’ll determine which workouts you do when: Lean, Mass, Classic, and Doubles.
- The aesthetic physiques sculpted at the hands of P90X3 are quite impressive. There’s no shortage of success stories. While the results might not be as amazing as the full P90X program, some users shred 11 inches and drop 40 pounds in three months.
2 Reasons Against P90X3
- The modifications aren’t really modifications at all. Sure, Horton includes exercise modifications for nearly every exercise in the program. But we’d argue that using a “weightless ball” for press jacks (and similar swap-outs) won’t produce the same gains.
- It’s a condensed version of P90X and P90X2, but it’s far from “the same.” Those who’ve completed P90X and P90X2 aren’t exactly impressed by the “shortcuts” promised in P90X3. If you’re expecting a toned-down P90X, look elsewhere.
P90X vs P90X2 vs P90X3: Conclusion
All things considered, there’s a reason the entire P90X saga is still one of the most-streamed on the Beachbody On Demand platform:
Horton’s quirky catchphrases really work.
But which installment is best for you and your needs? We’ll help you choose:
- Pick the original P90X if your goals are purely aesthetic — you want nothing more than to lose the dad bod and get lean from your basement or living room.
- Select P90X2 if you’ve survived P90X, hope to maximize an aesthetic physique, and value full-body athleticism (i.e., agility, power, flexibility, etc.).
- Choose P90X3 if you crave the aesthetic and athletic gains of P90X and P90X2 but don’t have a spare hour to exercise each day and are willing to train at 100%.
So you want to give all three of these P90X programs a try … but don’t know where to start? The logical answer would be completing P90X, then P90X2, and finally P90X3.
Then again, Star Wars starts with episodes 4, 5, and 6 before jumping back to 1, 2, and 3.
We recommend beginning with P90X3 to get a taste for what’s to come before vaulting into the real P90X. Then, after 90 days of P90X, you’re ready to finish the series with P90X2.