[This is the eighth P90X2 review in a planned series. I will write additional reviews of the other routines as I do them.] If you have any questions about this workout, contact me at connectwithJade@getresponse.com.
This is the first workout in Phase II of P90X2. It’s a mother. All that core work you did in Phase I? It was for a reason because you’re going to need every bit of core strength to do many of the moves in Chest + Back + Balance. The chest exercises are ridiculous. If you’re used to popping out 50 or more pushups at a time, prepare yourself for a new reality where you’re going to feel accomplished for having done just 20. On paper, Chest + Back + Balance sounds a lot like the Chest & Back routine from P90X. In practice, however, it is at least twice as difficult. I’ll explain more below. Every exercise will push you hard because there are no gimme moves (e.g., lawnmower). It’s sixty minutes of tough work. You will no doubt fall on your ass many times trying to learn the proper form.
Joining Tony in Chest + Back + Balance are two men and one woman. First, there’s Aaron, an intense looking dude who lost over 100 pounds doing P90X. Props for his accomplishment, but he had a crotchety vibe the entire time. No doubt because he was tasked with doing the modified exercises while bikini-model Kelly got to do the hardcore stuff. He was doing a poor Phil (from P90X) imitation. Phil was intense but funny. Aaron was intense and not funny. Next is Sean, who has lats that made Tony’s look atrophied. They’re not show muscles, either, because Sean really crushes it on the pullup bars. Tony brings to the world’s attention that Sean is wearing black socks with running shoes. Sean defends himself by claiming that he was going 90’s retro. I was mostly awake during the 90’s, and I don’t remember anyone wearing black socks with running shoes. Hipster irony hadn’t become trendy yet. The lone female in the group is Kelly. She looks about thirteen. She’s perky and sprite and everything that I’m not, but she grew on me because it became clear throughout the program that she’s more Dreya Weber than Mary Poppins.
The Main Event
Pullup X. A pullup, but your arms are at the widest grip possible, and your legs are completely extended and spread apart. Your body should form an “X” on the pullup bar. I normally do pullups or chin-ups with my knees slightly bent to prevent kipping, but this version is even harder. For the first time, I really felt my lower back muscles engaged while doing a pullup. It’s a lot of work to keep your body completely rigid. Expect to do fewer pullups than normal.
Plyo Stability Ball Pushup. You’ll recall that plyo pushups are where you launch yourself off the floor with each rep. Now do that exercise while balanced on a stability ball. Sloppy moves are not going to work in this exercise. It’s tough enough to balance yourself on the stability ball, but you also must re-balance after landing each plyo move. If you don’t feel your core activated, you’re not doing it right.
Core Crunch Chinup. Basically, a chinup with an abdominal lift. Do a regular chinup. Hold the position at the top and lift your legs with your abs so that your toes touch the chinup bar (or higher). It’s impossible not to feel this in your core unless you were some kind of monkey. Again, the additional move will decrease the number of chin-ups you will be able to do.
Pushup Side Arm Balance. The same exercise that appears in X2 Total Body. It looks easy to do but is pretty tough. Get into plank position with a medicine ball supporting each hand. Your points of contact to the floor are your toes, and the medicine balls. Do a pushup, then raise one hand up into a side balance position with the other hand on one medicine ball. Alternate sides with each pushup. This exercise is much easier if you had your feet spread apart. I can do about fifty regular pushups at a time without difficulty, but I can barely do twenty of these on the medicine ball. Works your chest and arms, but your core is recruited in order for you to maintain balance on the balls. Your core will probably give out before your chest and arms do.
Lever. This pullup move is more about core than back strength. In order to keep your body rigid, your entire midsection and legs must be fully activated. I can’t really adequately explain the mechanics of this exercise with words, so I will share this video of a proper lever.
My levers are ugly. Still working on getting perfect form. I also want to be able to hold the lever position for at least a few seconds at the top.
4-Ball Pushup. At first, this exercise looks like a gimmick. It’s not, because you must have extraordinary core strength and balance to be able to do more than one rep. Basically, you are doing a pushup with your feet and hands balanced on medicine balls. You will have a hard time getting into plank position on the balls, let alone do a pushup. The key to this exercise is to tighten the entire core to stabilize yourself before even trying to do a pushup. Your core must be locked rigid for the entire duration of the exercise.
Chin Pull. Two chin-ups (then come off the bar) followed by two pullups. Alternate hand positions until your back is toast.
The Impossible/Possible. If you can pull this exercise off, you will be able to impress a lot of people, including me. It is so hard I am not embarrassed to admit that I can only do two at a time. It’s basically a pushup move while your feet are balanced on top of a stability ball and both hands are doing the same on a single medicine ball. Asymmetrical madness. It will take several tries before you can even get into this position, let alone do a pushup. You must have an iron core before you will be able to do this exercise with any proficiency, not to mention an acute sense of balance. You’ve been warned.
L Pullup. A pullup while your legs are extended in front of you so that your body forms an “L”. Kipping is out of the question. Your abs will scream in agony before you realize that is supposed to be a back exercise.
3-Ball Plyo Pushup. Another badass pushup move. Place three stability balls in a semi-circle in front of you. Get into plank position with one hand on the center ball and the other on the right (or left). Do a pushup so that you launch your hands off the balls. Land with one hand on the left ball (or right) and the other on the center. Alternate sides with each rep. If you get sloppy with your form, the balls will move all over the place and you’ll look like you’re doing a stupid human trick. You must maintain control of your arms and core for the balls to stay in place. If you are a plyo pushup master, you will be humbled.
Vaulter Pullup. Do this pullup/chinup combo with one hand in the forward position (pullup) and the other in the reverse grip position (chinup). Alternate hand positions every two reps.
Elevated Stability Ball Pushup. Pushups while balanced on a stability ball and your feet are raised. Have your nanny standing by to console your bruised ego if you are attempting this for the first time.
In & Out (Alternating Wide/Close Grip Pullup). The description tells you everything you need to know. Alternate between two wide grip and two close grip pullups. Repeat until your lats fail.
Swimmer’s Pushup. Get into plank position with a medicine ball supporting each hand. Your points of contact to the floor are your toes, and the medicine balls. Do a pushup, then extend one arm to your front, and lift the opposite leg off the ground. Hold the position for 1-2 seconds. Alternate sides with each pushup. This exercise is much easier if you had your feet spread apart. Recruits your core while working out your pecs. Which muscle group will give out first?
4-Grip Pullup. You’ve seen this exercise already in X2 Total Body. In a nutshell, pull-ups using four different hand positions (wide, front, back, neutral). Do a single pull-up in one hand position then immediately change to another. You must come off the bar after each rep. You might think this mini-break would make doing pull-ups easier, but it doesn’t. You’ll be able to do fewer pull-ups because you won’t have momentum to help you get over the bar. Works your lats and arms.
Double Wide Pushup. A pushup on two medecine balls using the widest arm position that is comfortable. This move is the closest to “easy” that you will experience in Chest + Back + Balance.
Double Wide Pullup. Pullups using the widest grip possible. Isolates your lats even more than a regular pullup. Tony mentioned that you’re a god if you’re able to do ten reps at this point. I managed nine. Soon, I’ll have to pay a visit to my local chariot dealer to get a new ride that would be fitting of my god status.
This marks the end of the regular workout. Tony announces three bonus moves. Since you are crazy enough to sign up for this workout, you’re not going to stop until Tony does.
Chattarocker. I can’t even begin to describe this exercise except to say that it is heavily modified sphinx pushup that will fry your triceps.
Towel Pullup. Pullups while gripping on two towels. This move is already hard enough, but to place it at the end when your hands and fingers are Gumbied is just sadistic. Sean rocks them out as if he just started the workout. He gives me something to aim for.
Med Ball Plyo Pushup. One last chance to show off how strong your upper body has become from P90X. Get into the plank position with a medicine ball (or basketball) placed underneath your chest. Perform a plyo pushup. That is, try to launch your body off the ground from a lowered pushup position. Your toes should remain in contact with the ground. As you come down, land with your hands grasping the medicine ball. Quickly release and return to the plank position. Repeat 15-30 times. Works your chest, shoulders, core, and triceps. You can modify this exercise by bending your knees and using them for support instead of keeping them extended, but your core will not benefit as much with this modification.
I groused (mildly) about the fact that Phase I of P90X2 didn’t have enough pullup exercises. I got my wish delivered with a fire hose. Twenty pullup and pushup moves with no repeats. BeachBody promised that Phase II would be about strength training. They weren’t kidding. It’s the first P90X2 workout so far that has given me a hardcore pump instead of just wearing me out. My lats were completely spent at the end.
P90X2’s emphasis on core strength flows through every exercise. In order to do them properly, especially the pushups, your midsection must be well developed. There is almost no way to half-ass any of the exercises. You either will be able to do it, or you won’t. There is about a hair’s width of wiggle room for cheating. To everyone who wondered why Tony devoted an entire workout to the core in Phase I, Chest + Back + Balance is your answer. Let me put things in perspective: the modified “easy” moves in this workout are the hardcore ones from P90X.
I do have one major complaint: Ab Ripper is on the schedule three times per week in Phase II.Do you have any questions about this article or anything relating to health, fitness, and weight loss? Email me at connectwithJade@getresponse.com. I love to hear from my readers!