Hypothesis: Muscle confusion is the way to peak fitness
Time Commitment: 90 days
Researcher: Ryan Krogh
Kelly Slater brings it. So does Barry Zito. Even the Old Spice man dished on Jay Leno about it. The only thing more ubiquitous than the hype surrounding P90X fitness is its snappy catchphrase: Bring It!
The philosophy behind P90X, a home exercise system designed, in part, by celebrity fitness guru Tony Horton, is muscle confusion—subjecting the body to a variety of exercises designed to prevent it from adapting to a set routine. Give your muscles new challenges and you won't plateau. P90X has 12 DVDs' worth of variety—each day is a new routine roughly an hour long, and the weekly lineup changes every four weeks. When my $120 P90X package arrived in the mail, I felt like I'd been given the training manual for a living-room boot camp.
I didn't exactly Bring It my first week. For starters, I watched the Chest and Back DVD while hunched over a bowl of Froot Loops. But by the end of week one, I was sweating like hell on my living-room floor. The workouts involve, among other basics, heavy doses of push-ups, pull-ups, squats, yoga poses, and core strength moves. It wasn't until week three that I finally managed to match the pace and volume of Horton and his fitness models.
So was it working? "'Muscle confusion' is obviously a marketing term," says Richard Cotton, national director of certification for the American College of Sports Medicine. "What it really is is exercise variety, and variety certainly makes a difference." But anyone can add diversity to his training; what P90X provides is structure—and reliable companionship. Despite his penchant for fitness televangelism, Horton grows on you. He's a good, high-energy, digital workout partner. Hit play and he's coming at you with "How many you doing?" and "It's going to burn. It's supposed to!"
I'm in my sixth week—almost halfway through—and I've dropped nearly ten pounds. Somehow I've managed to stick with the program's draconian three-phase nutritional guide, too—heavy doses of fish and vegetables and minimal fats. With the arrival of ski season and a noticeable improvement in both my flexibility and my core strength, I'm determined to keep Bringing It.