P90X2 Review: P.A.P. Upper

P90X2 PAP Upper[This is the twelfth 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.

P90X2 P.A.P. Upper Review

P.A.P. Upper is the other workout in Phase III of P90X2.  As the title suggests, this workout will blast your upper body with resistance, plyometric, and stabilization type exercises. Each exercise will work your muscular functions in different ways so that they become fully trained, which should lead to better athletic performance overall.

Robert, Christina, and Wayne are working out with Tony today.  These three folks are some of the most successful coaches in the Team Beachbody network.  Not only are they physically fit, but they are financially fit as well.  I don’t know exactly how much income they make from Beachbody coaching, but my guess is in the high six figures (I’m almost certain Robert has already broken the seven figure mark).  They achieved this level of success by walking the walk, and sharing their fitness success stories with everyone.  It’s cool that many of the fitness demonstrators in P90X2 come from the ranks of Team Beachbody coaches.  Getting face time on a high profile Beachbody workout program such as P90X2 is a great reward for being one of its most ardent supporters.

Warm Ups

The warm ups for P.A.P. Upper is the pretty much the same thing as what you’ve seen in P.A.P. Lower. If you’re wondering why so many lower body warmups and stretches are included, it’s because P.A.P. Upper has some isometric moves that will recruit your entire body.  See description below.

The Main Event

Similar to the P.A.P. Lower workout, P.A.P. Upper is structured in two different “complexes,” with four exercises in each complex. Each complex is repeated four times. The exercises are selected to work certain functions such as contraction/resistance, plyometrics/explosive, and isometric/stabilization. There are no breaks between each exercise, and you must do them one after the other in quick succession in order to get the full benefits of P.A.P. training. As I discussed in my P.A.P. Lower review, once the complex begins, you should not stop, pause, or slow down.  Changing the order of the exercises is another no-no.  The goal is to get the different types of muscle fibers firing together. P.A.P. Upper is thankfully a short workout at less than 50 minutes, including the warmups and cool down, but some of the exercises are so ridiculously hard that you’ll feel as if you’ve spent an eternity doing them.

Tony selected the exercises for P.A.P. Upper to target your back, arms, shoulders, and midsection.  Your vocal chords and eyebrows are recruited, too, from all the screaming and facial contorting you’ll likely be doing during this workout.


Renegade Row.  This is the resistance exercise in the first complex. Start in the plank position with your hands resting on dumbbell.  With a rowing motion, lift one dumbbell to chest level, then lower to the ground.  Repeat for the other side for at least ten reps.  This requires a lot of core and arm strength to do properly and smoothly, especially with heavier weights.

Plyo Push-Ups.   To really get the chest begging for mercy, this explosive move is performed right after the first. Get into plank position.  Do a pushup, but exert enough explosive force to launch your upper body off the floor.  Clap between each pushup for kicks.  You can modify this move slightly by getting on your knees.

Plank on Medicine Ball.  For me, this exercise was sixty seconds of hell.  This is how long you’ll have to hold yourself in plank position while your feet are raised off the ground on a medicine ball.  The balancing part really activates the entire core.  After thirty seconds, your butt will feel like it weighs two tons, and it will take every bit of core strength to keep your butt from sagging to the ground.  Having awesome abs won’t necessary help you, because this is a exercise for your core, not your abs.  As evidence of this, you’ll hear Wayne screaming in the background on each set.  Next to Tony, he’s got the most ripped abs in the group.  This move is no joke painful.  One set of it is bad enough, but you’ll have to do four in the complex.  My core is tightening up just thinking about this exercise.

Superman with Weighted Bar.  To make sure that both sides of your core are worked, the next move has you flipped over on your stomach.  While in that position, raise your legs and arms off the floor as if you’re Superman.  To intensify this move, hold a weighted bar in your outstretched hands.  You only have to maintain this isometric move for 45 seconds, but trust me, that’s plenty of time to be in pain and agony. This move gives your lower back a serious burn.


Towel Pull-Ups.  Is exactly what it sounds like—pullups while hanging from two towels.  You’ve done them before in Phase II.  They are super hard because you’ll need well developed hand strength to be able to properly perform them.  Not only will your lats get blasted, but your forearms as well (where the muscles to control your hands are).  The first time I did this workout, my hands were stuck in a death grip position for the whole day.  Tony reminds everyone not to do more than ten reps on each set.  I’m not even sure that was needed.  Most people will be struggling to get one.

Medicine Ball Pike.  Lie on your back while holding a medicine ball over your chest with outstretched arms.  In a crunch-like motion, bring the medicine ball and your feet together, then return to starting position.  Do this as fast as possible using good form for 10-15 reps.

Step-Up Hammer Press.  A combo move to blast your shoulders and biceps.  While holding dumbbells on each hand, stand with one foot firmly planted on a raised surface (15-20 inches off ground).  Try to engage your core as much as possible by pushing your body forward.  Curl the dumbbells using the “hammer” hand position (palms facing body), and transition directly to shoulder presses when you reach the top of the curl.  Do five reps and switch the support legs.

Roller Angel.  Lie on your back with a foam roller underneath you.  The length of the foam roller is aligned with the length of your spine.  Keeping your shoulders as close to the ground as possible, and move your arms to stretch out your chest and back.  While doing so, maintain your shoulders, hands, and elbows close to the ground.  I really don’t care what this exercise is for.  All I know is I’m glad it’s in the complex because it helps me to catch my breath.

There’s a short cool down and stretch period right after the last set of the second complex, but it’s nothing you haven’t already seen before.

Final Thoughts

Of the two Phase III workouts, I found  P.A.P. Upper to be more difficult.  It is a monster that had me panting, cursing, and screaming.  If you follow along without taking any unscheduled breaks like you’re supposed to, the pace is brutal. You have no time to procrastinate because the sets are stacked on top of each other.  I’ve heard some people complain that they were “bored” with this workout because of the repeating exercises.  I wonder if these folks are putting in the right amount of intensity, because frankly, I was too freaking exhausted from the pace to ever get bored.  My only thought during each complex was to make it to the next exercise and to the end.  If you find yourself bored, please consider turning up the intensity or adding more weights.  I promise the boredom will go away quickly when you’re fighting the pace instead of half-assing it.  I noticed too that my metabolism remained elevated for almost the entire day each time I did P.A.P. Upper in the morning, and it’s not even a cardio workout.

Does P.A.P. Upper work?  Hell yeah.  I remember being worried at the beginning of P90X2 about the lack of pullup exercises in Phase I.  Well, Phase II killed my worries and Phase III buried them.  Before P90X2, I had reached a plateau in my number of pullups.  For over a year, I maxed out at 27.  Two weeks after completing P90X2, I was able to do 33 consecutive pullups.  That’s a personal best that floored me.  I attribute my gains to the towel pullups because they really blasted my lats like nothing else.  I felt every muscle fiber straining. Tony made a believer out of me.
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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