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Fitness Friday: P90X Shoulders & Arms Review

I love fitness friday all over the blogosphere.  You can find some great workout tips, new routines, and generally very happy people looking forward to a wonderfully fit weekend. 

Following suit, here is my next review in the P90X DvD Review Series:


Shoulders & Arms

On the third day of Phase I is the second strength training workout called Shoulders & Arms is performed.  By this time, you have already completed Chest & Back and Plyo-X so you are starting to feel a little depleted.  But when you pop in the Shoulders & Arms workout you are pleasantly surprised. 

This workout is just what you need to refuel and recover from the Ply0 workout the day before.  According to Tony Horton, this is the glamour routine to tighten, tone and build the glamour muscles that shape your upper body to perfection.  As a woman, this routine is extremely important in battling the flabby upper arms that we are all to familiar with as we age.  This is one of my favorite routines in the P90X series.  I look forward to doing this routine because it leaves me feeling pumped, strong, and capable. 

My first go around with the routine I started out with 3 & 6 lb weights gradually increasing to 8 lbs as I neared the end of my final 90 days.  However, in Round 2 I am starting out with 8 lbs and for most exercises I’m using 10 lbs and some 12.5 lbs. 

One of my biggest pet peeves with women and weight training is the fear of using of heavier weights and the stigma that comes along with it.  It is one of the myths that is so hard to get through to women that lifting heavier weights will make you bulk up like a man.  This is simply NOT true. 

Most women want to tone ~ understandable.  However, as a woman you should also want to build strength.  Muscle strength will not only help prevent injury, but in the case that injury was to occur, it also helps with a faster recovery.   And finally one of the best reasons to strength train with heavier weights is that it will also BURN more calories well after you complete the workout.  It is what is known as a metaboloic spike. 

So to all my ladies out there ~ DONT FEAR HEAVIER WEIGHTS!  Give it all you got while doing the upper body P90X workouts because

“Strong is the new Skinny”


The Workout:

As always, Tony starts out with a nice longwarm-up.  He gets your heart pumping and oxygen flowing with running, high knees, jumping jacks and run lunges.  After your heart rate is elevated he moves onto stretching with head and shoulder rolls, arm circles and then wraps up the warm up with some ballistic stretching. 

Now your all warmed-up and ready to get busy.  The workout is designed as supersets that are broken down into 5 sets that target the three major muscle groups: shoulders, biceps and triceps.  These exercises are then performed in this order throughout the entire routine.

My favorite exercises in this routine are:

  • Alternating Shoulder Press
  • In/Out Bicep Curls
  • Full Supination Concentration Curls (sounds hard, but its not)
  • Upright Rows
  • Static Arm Curls
  • Lying Down Tricep Extentions (I have shown 100% improvement here)
  • Straight Arm Shoulder Flys
  • Congdon Curls (named after the boss because they are THE BOSS)

The Shoulders & Arms workout really gets you feeling like you accomplished something here.  I walk away from the routine and run directly to the mirror to flex and pump my biceps (no shame here ~ I love my new muscles!)  Whether you want to build muscle or just tighten and tone, this routine rocks!  Tony tells you if you want to build muscle use a weight that you feel the maximum effort at 8-10 reps, if you are looking to tone then pick a weight you feel the burn at 12-15.  But the most important aspect to remember is to PICK THE RIGHT WEIGHT for your goal! 


Personally, I love all the upper body routines in this entire series.  I’ve said it in the past, and I’ll say it again now ~ I have never had upper body strength.  So to be able to see bicep definition and defined back and shoulder muscles is a complete turn on to me!  I love it!  I love the feeling of strength.  I love the feeling that I have a sense of power and accomplishment after these routines. It hard work ~ but so worth it to me when I see the results.

So my advice to all my women out there that are thinking P90X is a mans extreme fitness routine ~ think again ~ it will be the most powerful experience of your life if you give this series a try!

Do you like or dislike lifting heavier weight?

P90X Plyometrics Review

In keeping with my P90X reviews disc 2 or day 2 is the Plyometrics Routine.  Plyometrics is one of my favorite workouts because it gets your blood pumping workouts out your lower body and leaves you feeling like you most definitely accomplished something after this routine.

plyo·met·rics : exercise involving repeated rapid stretching and contracting of muscles (as by jumping and rebounding) to increase muscle power

One of the things I love about P90X is the variety of training all rolled into one program.  Plyometrics is one of the best and provided me with the most overall improvement through the series.  It not only gets your blood pumping, but the exercises are 90% lower body which I think every woman wants to improve the most. 

P90X Mary Katherine

The exercises are not your typical lower body moves.  Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of lunges and squats, but they are introduced in a different manner than what you would be used to in a typical leg routine.

Tony starts off, as he does in every video, with a 5-8 minute warm-up and stretch.  He really is consistent in stretching and warming up your muscles to prepare you for whats to come.  This warm-up seems like it could be part of the workout as there is a lunge sequence that he says if you can’t get through you might have a hard time finishing the rest of the workout.  However, don’t let this foul you; as with every P90X workout Tony provides modified moves for every exercise which makes it very do-able for almost everyone.  If you start the routine and feel like it is too much for you, in the set is another cardio version called Cardio-X.  It is a lower intensity version of Plyo-X and he recommends doing that first until you are ready for Plyo-X.  As always Tony is giving everyone a choice in the intensity of the program (one thing that I absolutely LOVE about P90X). 

After the warm-up you get right to it.  Jump Squats are the first of the series of moves.  While these seem like they might be easy to complete, the moves themselves are not what makes it difficult it is the fact that you are actually jumping and leaving the ground which makes the intensity of this workout EXTREME.  Almost immediately I feel the burn in my legs and can feel myself trying to catch my breath. 

You continue to move through the sequence doing Run Stance Squats, Airborne Heismans, and Swing Kicks.  Each set of exercises is broken down into 4 components consisting of 30 secs for the first three and then 1 minute for the last exercise then you get a short water break.

As you progress though the 60 minutes, each segment builds on the earlier in both intensity and stamina.  In the beginning I was taking frequent breaks and could not complete a full set of any of the exercises.  By the time I was in my 10 week I was not only able to keep up with them, but I was also doing the more intense versions of each exercise.  By no means did I get to the extreme version, but this dvd routine definitely helped me in both strength, endurance and stamina. 

Some of my favorite moves throughout the routine are:

  • Swing Kicks
  • Airborne Heismans
  • Double Airborne Heismans
  • Mary Katherine Lunges
  • Leapfrog Squats
  • Twist Combos
  • Rock Star Jumps
  • Military Marches
  • Lateral Leapfrog squats and finally
  • Monster Tire Jumps

I highly recommend going easy during the first few attempts of Plyo-X.  You will definitely feel this in the next few days, but as you build muscle and get better at the moves, you will get better and stronger and able to complete the moves. 

Tony also recommends in the very beginning to wear a heart rate monitor.  I absolutely agree.  I purchased my HRM in the first few weeks of doing P90X and I absolutely adore it.  I bought a basic HRM from PolarTec which seems to work fine for what I need.  Nothing to fancy and gives me the info that I am looking for while doing the cardio parts of P90X.  Basically I was looking for heart rate range and calorie burn so this fit my needs perfectly.

Do you use a HRM during intense cardio workouts to gauge your progress?

P90X Chest & Back DVD Review






Last year I completed the P90X program from the end of March 2012 through to the end of June fully completing the program and thus becoming a P90X graduate on July 2, 2012.


I have continued to do P90X DVD’s sporadically since then and have just recommitted to doing another full round.  However, I get a ton of hits on my blog of people searching P90X for women and P90X nutrition.


During my second phase I will be  giving you a summary of each DVD workout from my point of view and share with you a few tips that helped me through my first round and possibly help you to achieve P90X Graduate status.


Chest & Back

P90 Chest and Back

P90X Chest and Back

This is the very first P90X workout you will do after watching the Get Ready DVD and doing The Fit Test.  I highly recommend doing the fit test to gauge your starting point and also to gauge your progress throughout the series.  (I didn’t do it and by the end I wish I had ~ Tip #1 Do the fit test)


Each workout starts out with a warm-up session which includes a little cardio and some light stretching and lasts approximately 10 minutes or so give or take a few minutes.  The Chest & Back workout is divided up into six sets of four moves and then a water break or rest period between each set.  Most of the moves primarily consist of push-ups and pull-up and each set alternates between the two Chest/Back/Chest/Back.  For example:


The first set of exercises is as follows:


  • standard push-ups (max reps)
  • wide front pull-ups (max reps)
  • military style push-ups (max reps)
  • reverse grip chin-ups (max reps)
  • rest
English: an exercise of chest

Push-up  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


There are some moves which require weights like Heavy Pants and Lawnmowers, so you should have a few sets of varying weights to do these exercises with as well. I am currently using 6/8/10lb weights, but am hoping to move up to 8/10/12lbs  rather quickly.  During my first round my weight sets included 3/5/8 lbs and ending with 6/8/10 lb set.


One thing I like  love about Tony Horton is that he consistently in every dvd explains proper form, offers modified moves and drills into you to DO YOUR BEST ~ AND FORGET THE REST.  It is the P90X moto, but he really sends home the message that everyone cannot do everything so do what you can, you will improve and if you can’t then move on.


As a petite (short 5’2″) woman, push-ups and pull-ups were slightly daughting.  I have never had ANY upper body strength, so I wasn’t exactly sure how I would get through the entire 53 minutes.  But somehow I did.  In the first week I was only able to do 5-8 push-ups of each style excluding Dive Bomber Push-Ups and Decline Push-ups.  I wrote down a BIG FAT ZERO for each of those because it just wasn’t happening.


Pull-ups however, as terrified as I was to attempt them, Tony suggests using a chair to “assist” you in the pull-up.  The method works great.  As you pull up on the bar, you use your legs to “help” you with the moves.  As you build up strength you can push the chair out in front of you which intensifys the move, making your arms do more of the work.  Again, in the beginning I was only able to do maybe 5, 8 and sometimes 10 reps but by the end I was able to do 25-30 pull-ups (still assisted) in the allotted amount of time.


One of my goals was to be able to do an “unassisted pull-up” but that didn’t happen in round 1.  The closest I came to being able to do a pull-up was a more like a kipping pull-up in which you use your body weight to propell yourself upwards.  Maybe it will happen for me in round 2.


One other great thing about these workouts is that there are always (4) four people in each dvd doing the same moves but at different intensity levels showing you form from the novice beginner to the X-professional.


I think the important thing to remember here is that I made progress ~ and even though I wasn’t able to do a full standard pull-up I was able to increase my reps and build strength.  I think this is what itimidates people from trying P90X in the first place.


If you do not have a pull-up bar or have not place to successfully mount a pull-up bar, again in each of the P90X dvds, Tony Horton shows you how to use exercise bands to mimic the exercise using standard equipment.


It’s all about modifying to fit your needs and this program does that for you in more ways than you can ever know unless you just jump in and give it a shot.


My family thought I was crazy for attempting an EXTREME workout like P90X.


But I did it. 


I was successful.


I got results.


And you can too!


If you have questions about P90X whether you have the program or not, give me a shout at ddardeen {at} comcast {dot} net.  I’d be more than happy to discuss my results and give you some suggestions if your on the fence about the program.


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