P90X2 Review: P.A.P. Lower

P90X2 PAP Lower[This is the eleventh 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.

General Impressions

This workout is your introduction to P.A.P., which stands for Post-Activation Potentiation. The P.A.P. workouts are the crowning achieving of P90X2. That’s why they appear in Phase III of the program. In these workouts, you will be taking the different functions that you developed in Phase I and II and combining them in a series of complexes in order to take your physical fitness to the next level. There will be resistance, plyometrics, and stabilization type exercises. Each one blasts different muscular functions. As Tony explains, it’s not about having ripped abs, big muscles, or losing weight anymore. P90X2 is about athletic training, the way real athletes train using state of the art techniques.

Although P.A.P. is considered modern, it is not new. It was first developed and practiced by Russian sports scientists in the 1980’s. If there’s anything sports related that has a Russian origin to it, I immediately take notice because the Russians are also responsible for plyometrics and kettlebells, two very effective conditioning systems. The layman’s explaining for P.A.P. is simple. First, stress a muscle group with contractive resistance exercise. While the muscle fibers are still recovering, stress them with an explosive move. This should translate to greater explosive power as the muscle adapts to different stimuli. Resistance training alone over time can create raw strength, but you will likely become slower in the process. Plyometric and explosive exercises alone does not necessarily lead to greater power. Take the best of both worlds by combing the exercises in quick succession and you have explosive power. Makes sense to me. There have been studies that bear this theory out, especially for well conditioned individuals. The bottom line is that P.A.P. is based on real sports science, and not some cute tagline Tony Horton and BeachBody dreamed up.

Cedric, Colette, and Adam are working out with Tony today. You’ve met Cedric before in the Recovery + Mobility routine. He shows a little more humor in this workout, especially at his own jokes. Tony introduces Cedric as, among other things, a dancer. Tony challenges Cedric to a dance off, and busts out his best robot man moves. Cedric counters with B-boy moves that were cutting edge during the heyday of Boogaloo Shrimp, but wouldn’t empress a grandmother from Kansas today. At least they are both in the same decade. We meet Colette from X2 Ab Ripper again. Based upon her lean physique, I had assumed she was a dancer or something, but I learned in this workout that she was formerly an Olympic weightlifter. Say what? I thought all Olympic weightlifters had stubby bodies, thick torsos, and massive necks. Colette smashed my preconceptions. As discussed below, she also smashed the workout like a warrior. Finally, there’s Adam, a former sniper/sniper instructor in the Marine Corps.

Warm Up

The warm up portion of the P.A.P. workouts are different from what you have previously encountered in P90X2. Gone are the stability ball exercises. They have been replaced with new warmup moves that appear nowhere else. I don’t have an opinion as to whether they’re more or less effective, but I tend to believe that Tony Horton knows is stuff, so I will follow his advice unless it’s going to kill me.

Heel Walk. Sounds like what it’s called. Walk for 20-30 seconds on your heels with your toes off the ground. It stretches your Achilles tendon and calves.

Feet Smackers. Walk around and smack the ball of your feet to the ground for about 20-30 seconds. Wake up those balls, because they will see a lot of action.

World’s Greatest Stretch. You know it, you love it. For a more detailed description of this stretch, read my review of X2 Core here.

Inch Worm. Been there, done that.

Fire Hydrant. The name of this exercise comes from the position of a dog’s leg when it encounters a fire hydrant it wants to mark. It’s supposed to stretch my hips, but it stretches my giggle muscles more.

Scorpion. Old hat, right? A great stretch for the lower back.

Groiners. Not new but still good for warming up the lower body.

March Skippers. Zippity-doo-da-zippity-de. That’s what I feel like singing when doing this warmup, which is comprised of a combination of skipping and slapping the feet on the ground. I feel slightly ridiculous, but to prevent injuries, I’ll do them.

Leg Swing. Same thing as what you’ve experienced in Recovery + Mobility. I really like this ballistic stretch for opening up the legs.

Speed Slalom. See the description of this exercise below. You will do a low level version in the warmup.

Speed Front/Back Hop. Same as above.

Lateral Plyo Skater. Same as above.

Foam Rolling. You’ve this already. Get to it.

The Main Event

The P.A.P. workouts are structured differently than other P90X2 routines. There are only eight exercises that are structured into two “complexes.” Each complex has four exercises. The exercises are selected to work certain functions such as contraction/resistance, plyometrics/explosive, and isometric/stabilization. There are no breaks between each exercise. You should do them one after the other in quick succession in order to get the full benefits of P.A.P. training. Once the train leaves the station, do not stop, do not pause, and do not slow down. Also, do not change the order of the exercises. Remember, the idea is to get the different types of muscle fibers firing together. If you wait too long between each set, this won’t happen. There are four rounds in each complex, so each exercise is done four times for a total of thirty-two sets. I’ve complained in the past that I don’t like to repeat exercises, and you would think that I would hate the P.A.P. workouts because each exercise is repeated four times, but this is not the case. The pace is so fast that I’m too busy to even think about it. Trying to keep up with Tony and the kids on each complex takes up all my energy and I don’t have time to get bored. Although P.A.P. Lower is over 60 minutes long, it won’t feel like it. It is more like a roller coaster ride where your heart is pumping really fast.

As the title suggest, the exercises selected for P.A.P. Lower are focused on your lower body. Your quads, hamstrings, calves, and other major muscles below the waist will get activated at one point or another.

COMPLEX 1 (4 ROUNDS)

Step-Up Convict. Weights are optional in this exercise, but highly recommended. Use as much weight as you comfortably can to complete four sets. You will need a sturdy surface that is 12-18 inches high to step on. A stepstool or chair works just find, as long as it doesn’t slide. You have to repeat this exercise for both legs, so decide which side you want to begin with. Since there are four sets of this exercise, I recommend starting with the right leg on the first set, then alternate to left on the second, etc. While grasping dumbbells in both hands, step onto the elevated surface. As you reach the top, raise the knee of the non support leg towards your chest. Step off the elevated surface and immediately transition to a lunge position. This will take some practice to do smoothly. Do 8-10 reps for one side, then switch to the other. This resistance exercise will make you feel the burn in your entire lower body, including gluts, quads, hamstrings, and calves.

Skater Plyo. This is the explosive exercise in the first complex. Leap from side to side on one leg at a time. You should be going for as much speed and distance as possible. Tony tells you to, “Load and explode.” Meaning, as soon as you land on one foot, immediately launch off the same foot. This is critical because when you land, you momentarily load your legs with a lot of weight. Use that weight to improve your explosive power. Do about 8-10 reps.

Leg Line Hop. This plyometric exercise is pretty much the same one you did in Plyocide. On Tony’ cue, hop from side to side or front to back on one leg for about 20 seconds. It’s your choice which leg you want to start with. Repeat the same exercise for the other leg. In P.A.P. Lower, Tony presses everyone to hop faster. Don’t hold back.

Tony’s Triangle. To round off the first complex, there is an isometric exercise to ensure that your stabilizer muscles are getting worked. This exercise looks a lot like a leg lift you would find on a Jane Fonda workout video, but it’s not. The key is to trace a triangle shape with you foot from the front to the back as you raise it up and down, and to hold at the top for 1-2 counts. Also, Tony will remind you to point you toe towards the floor. This will force the stabilizer muscles in the hips to work harder. He’s not kidding because doing so will double the intensity level.

You get a long break after the first complex is completed. This is the only break in the entire workout. While Tony is explaining the principles behind P.A.P., Cedric, Adam, and Colette are stretching, drinking water, and checking each other’s sweat puddles. Colette has none. Everyone is mystified.

COMPLEX 2 (4 ROUNDS)

Squat Cross Reach. As with the first complex, the second one starts with a resistance exercise. Stand upright on one leg while holding a single (light) weight. Lower your body into a squat position on the supporting leg. When you’ve reached the bottom of the squat, raise the weighted arm to chest level and lift the non-support leg off the ground to waist level. You should look like you’re the Flash (or Tony in the header photo above). Retract your arms and legs and then raise your body up to standing position. Repeat seven more times on the same leg before switching to the other. If you want to really intensify this exercise, place a medicine ball directly underneath the non-support knee. As you do your squat, touch the knee to the medicine ball.

Split Squat Jump. Exactly like Mary Katherine’s, but more explosive. Launch up as soon as you hit the ground, and leap as high as possible. You only need to do 6-8 reps.

Monster Slalom. Hop from side to side with both legs close together. This plyometric exercise is different from the line hops from Plyocide because you should be clearing 2-3 feet with each hop. Go as far and as fast as possible. Watch Colette for correct form because she rocks this exercise.

Side Bridge Leg Lift. This isometric exercise will test your mettle. If you think you’re tough, prepared to be humbled, because this is probably the most difficult move in the entire workout. Lay on your side, rest your body on a palm or forearm, then raise your hips off the ground. Your body should form a straight line from head to toe. Lift the non support leg up and hold the position for 30 seconds. The key is to make sure your toe on the raised foot is pointed downwards, which activates the stability muscles in your hips. You might have done a similar looking exercise in yoga, but the angle of the toe makes all the difference. This will be the longest, most uncomfortable thirty seconds of your life (until P.A.P. Upper), unless you have freakish endurance. You have two legs, so you must repeat the exercise on the opposite side. The first time may not be too bad, but three additional sets will bring about full muscle failure. Just ask Cedric and Adam, who were practically spewing sweat from their faces. Both collapsed before time was called. Colette, on the other hand, was unmoving. She held her position with a gritty determination that had “badass” written all over it. She made the two boys look like flounders.

Final Thoughts

P.A.P. Lower is a workout. If you follow along without taking any unscheduled breaks like you’re supposed to, the pace is relentless. You only have time to put your weights down from one set before the next one begins. This is a new way of working out with Tony Horton. He never once reminds you to “pause if you have to” because that would defeat the purpose of the workout. I like it. It’s challenging, tough, and really tests your fitness level.

P.A.P. Lower revealed a weakness that I didn’t know I had. That is, my left lower body is not as strong as my right. I don’t know how that happened because I have never suffered a lower body injury, but I noticed that each exercise is much more difficult to do on my left leg, regardless of which side I start with first. I am actually grateful for this revelation because now I can make proper adjustments. I will remind myself to not let my right side compensate for my left. Although I’m no elite athlete, I can see how these types of weaknesses can rob performance and possibly lead to long term injury.

One of my goals for working out is achieving functional fitness. While this expression means different things to different people, what it means to me is that I am becoming stronger, faster, and fitter so that I can live life free from physical limitations. I agree with Tony. It’s no longer about have muscular arms or losing weight. P90X2 is about advancing towards your physical potential. P.A.P. Lower will help get you there.

Sign up for my free Fitness Success CourseDo 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!

About Jade Nuyen

You know the people who tell you that life goes downhill after 40, or after you've had children? They're full of crap. I prove it to myself every single day that life begins after 40 and you don't have to accept being a frumpy out of shape mom as a lifestyle.
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