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Does P90X Work? American Council On Exercise (ACE) Says, “Yes”

At this point–seven years and hundreds of thousands of success stories later– I think the question of whether P90X works or not is pretty much settled. The answer’s obviously a resounding “YES… DUH!”. And while P90X may have its detractors, they’re usually nitpicking over areas that may not fit “their goals” or preferred training scenario. And yes, I just wrote “scenario”.

Before P90X’s release, there was obviously test groups, supervision and study by Beachbody. But to date, there hasn’t been much in the way of an independently funded, scientific study specifically breaking down the P90X workouts and testing their individual effectiveness beyond the wall to wall results pictures and stories with personalized evidence the P90X works as promised. Enter American Council on Exercise (ACE)– a fitness education and certification group (of which Chalene Johnson is registered through) on the eve of P90X2.

The P90X ACE Study

ACE organized a scientific, monitored and supervised study of P90X. Here’s how it broke down:

The American Council on Exercise enlisted a research team from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. Led by John Porcari, Ph.D., and Joel Woldt, M.S., the researchers from the University’s Exercise and Health Program recruited 16 healthy subjects, ages 19 to 26, all of whom exercised regularly and had experience either with P90X or similar circuit-style weight-training and aerobic workouts.

The test subjects’ max heart rate and V02 Max (the max oxygen intake a person uses– it determines aerobic capacity– see pic above) were measured before three practice runs through P90X Legs & Back, Plyometrics, Cardio X, and Chest, Shoulders & Triceps as a representative sample of the program*. Subjects were then unleashed to “Bring It” with max repetitions, etc. while monitored throughout the workouts (data testing details and methodology can be found here).

P90X Study Results

P90X delivered… but was there ever any doubt? Still, the study came away with some interesting numbers:

  • Average Heart Rate: AHR for all four workouts was 67 percent to 83 percent of HRmax for the male subjects; 65 percent to 88 percent of HRmax for the females.
  • VO2 Max: Calculated VO2max was between 45 percent and 70 percent of VO2max for males and between 45 percent and 80 percent for females.
  • Calorie burn: For male and female, calories burned per minute averaged 12 calories. Male subjects totaled 441 to 699 kcals burned per workout. Females burned through 302 to 544 kcals per workout.

What was interesting to me in reading the numbers was they came out pretty close to my own personal totals when doing P90X with a heart rate monitor. I’ve seen some people claim burning 1000 calories in a workout but keep in mind that was most likely including Ab Ripper X and/or having their workouts extended over an hour thanks to heavier weight. My workouts when nearing an hour and a half definitely crept into that range. As the data suggests, 10 calories per minute would put you there (90 minutes x 10 calories).

As noted in the study:

“There’s no doubt that if people want to get into shape, the best way to do it is with high-intensity, interval-training like you’re seeing here with P90X,” says Dr. Porcari. “The muscle confusion—that’s one of the biggest draws because you don’t get bored, you’re doing a lot of different workouts in a different sequence and your body never gets a chance to plateau…”

Porcari’s fellow researcher, Joel Woldt, M.S., agrees. “If you do P90X, at least the four workouts I’ve tested, and if you do it to the best of your ability,” he says, “there’s no way you’re not going to get results.”

P90X Works… Who Knew?

Take it from me or take it from a scientifically monitored independent study… P90X delivers on its promises. Of course, nutrition, consistency and determination to finish P90X out all play a key part in its total success. Skip the nutrition angle and the visual results just aren’t going to happen.

If you haven’t tried P90X and have been thinking about it… now’s the time to get started. If you’ve started and fallen off the wagon… now’s the time to get started. If you’re currently using P90X to meet your fitness goals… now’s the time to keep it dialed in and push through for results not just guaranteed by testimonial, but by ACE testing as well.

To read the study in full, click here. To download a copy or view the .PDF, click here.

*Personally, I kind of teared up a little that they didn’t use the punishing Chest and Back but hey- you can’t win ’em all.> 


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