P90X2 Review: X2 Core

P90X2 CoreP90X2 Review: X2 Core

[This is the first P90X2 review in a planned series.  I will write additional P90X2 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

Tony appears in X2 Core sporting a USMC t-shirt, a nice shoutout to all current and former devil dogs. 

In a tried a true format, three additional people (two men, one woman) work out with Tony to demonstrate different techniques and modifications.  Why change a good formula?  In no time at all, you’ll feel right at home in the P90X2 gym.

X2 Core is the first workout in P90X2.  It is about 55 minutes long, give or take.  If you’re a P90X graduate, you might, like me, press play with a bit of anticipation mixed with some trepidation.  Will it kick my ass?  Will it be lame?  What tricks does Tony have up his sleeve this time?  I don’t know about you, but I’ve been eagerly waiting for my copy of P90X2 to arrive since pre-ordering became available in late November 2011.  Due to some weird ordering glitch, my copy did not arrive until January 14, 2012.  I did the P90X2 fit test and this workout the very same day it came in.  My body was craving new routines and challenges.  I did not want to wait one more day before diving into the program.

The main workout consists of a series of about eighteen exercises lasting about 1-2 minutes each.  None are repeated (yeah!), except the ones involving only one side of the body.  As the title suggests, the emphasis on this workout is the core.  Every exercise will activate the lower abs, upper abs, lower back, or obliques, or all of the above.   X2 Core is done in Phase I of P90X2.  It is intended to build your core strength up in preparation for Phase II.  P90X2 departs from P90X in that there is no set time frame to do each phase.  Instead of Phase I lasting three weeks, you can continue doing Phase I for up to six weeks if you think you need more time.

It’s great that the core finally receives its own workout routine.  Each week while in Phase I, you’ll devote at least one hour to intense core work alone.  X2 Core is different from Ab Ripper X in the sense that I felt the latter emphasized too much the abs (as glamour muscles), and had no exercises that worked the lower back, which is part of your core.  X2 Core remedies this deficiency, and includes several exercises that will activate the lower back.  The P90X workout that comes closest to what X2 Core offers is Core Synergistics (I think at one point X2 Core was called Core Synergystics 2). Remember though, that Core Synergistics is only done during the rest week and was not part of the regular routines.  Also, I felt that Core Synergistics was as much cardio as core.  No more with X2 Core.  There is very little cardio involved, and the emphasis is on balance and slow, controlled movements to activate those core muscles.  For this reason, correct form is much more critical.  You won’t get away with gross movements, or you’re liable to fall off the stability ball or lose your balance while on one foot.

Recommended Equipment

For X2 Core, I strongly recommended that you have a stability ball, medicine ball, foam roller, and yoga mat.  There is one cast member (can’t remember his name), who demonstrates how to do the exercises without the stability ball by using a towel, but unless you’re somewhere away from home and don’t have access to a stability ball, I urge you do the exercise the way it is intended and invest $25-40 for this very critical piece of gear.  It is not just another fitness gadget.  It will appear in almost every P90X2 workout.

A medicine ball might be less essential because you can substitute it for a basketball.  Keep in mind that a basketball will not have the same heft as a medicine ball, so your intensity level will suffer. I am looking to achieve maximum results, so I am using a medicine ball in every exercise that calls for one. The foam roller is a new piece of gear for P90X2.  In fact, it shows up in every pre-workout stretching routine.  In X2 Core, at least two minutes is devoted to stretching with the foam roller.  I have never used one before, but now that I have, I am a believer in their benefits, especially the ones with the wicked looking knobs.  The foam roller helps to massage out the kinks and knots in your muscles, and is invaluable for preparing them for strenuous activity, or recovery.  For the price, they work little miracles.  It’s like having your own personal Swedish masseuse.

I invested in the P90X2 Ultimate package, which comes with a stability ball, two 8-pound medicine balls, a knobby foam roller, and Tony Horton’s power stands.  I did a bit of online research before investing in the package, and figured that you would not save any money by purchasing these items on your own, unless you got them secondhand.   If you want the complete P90X2 experience, the Ultimate package may seem steep, but is actually a good deal because it saves you the time and expense of running around trying to source the equipment list.  Sooner or later, you’ll want to get them because doing the exercises differently than the way they were intended is. . .(drum roll). . .not the same.  I know, because I tried it myself.

Let the X2 Core Warmups Begin

All the warmups in P90X2 are pretty much the same, so this will be the only time that I will discuss them in detail.  Generally, they are a lot different than what you’re used to from P90X because they require either a stability ball or foam roller.

Side to Side Body Twist.  This is done with a stability ball (or towel).  You perform this exercise standing upright with your feet slightly apart.  Grasp the stability ball with both hands outstretched in front of you and twist your torso from left to right.  Pivot your feet to extend the twist.  This will stretch out and warm up your entire core region, including your lower back.

Squats with Arm Raises.   Standing upright with a stability ball grasped with both hands outstretched in front of you, lower your body into the squat position.  As you lower, raise your arms above your head.  Due to the size of the stability ball, it will be unlikely that you will be able to get your arms completely above your head, but go as far as you can.  Return to the standing position and repeat.  Gives the quads, gluts, and shoulders a nice burn.

Side Stretches.  You’ve probably done this stretch hundreds of time in P90X, but the addition of the stability ball gives this stretch a potent kick.  Stand upright with the stability ball held directly over your head with both arms.  Lean your torso to one side for a few seconds, then to the other side.  Repeat and enjoy the stretch to your lats and obliques.

Lunges.  Nothing but basic lunges, except with a stability ball raised over your head.  The extra burn in the gluts, quads, and shoulders feels good.

Atlas.  Basically, a bend, twist, and reach with a stability ball.   Stand upright with feet wide apart holding a stability ball in front of you.  Bend down and touch the stability ball to the ground on one side of your feet.  Then, twist your torso as you raise yourself up and reach as far as you can to the opposite side.  This core exercise should be familiar to you from P90X, but the stability ball adds intensity.

Foam Roller Exercises.  Instead of traditional stretching, Tony devotes the next two minutes or so to foam roller exercises.  He shows you how to use it to stretch and massage various muscle groups.  It’s basically free form because there are no regimented exercises.  You’re supposed to use the foam roller on muscles that you think need some tender loving care.  Tony recommends that you take as much time as you want/need on the foam roller.  It’s easy to take this advice because the rollers feel damned good.

Angels.  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, move your arms to stretch out your chest and back.

Sphinx Plank Hold.  Place both elbows on the foam roller.  Keep your entire body straight, rigid and aligned from head to toe.   Hold this position for about 30 seconds.   Heats up the core muscles to prepare them for a workout.

Runner’s Stretch with Frog Squat.  Tony calls this “the greatest stretch in the world” because Tibetan monks do them every day.  I’m not Tibetan or a monk, so I have no way of knowing if Tony is full of crap. Basically, you are in the low lunge position, with one leg bent in front and the other straight and extended behind you as far as possible.  Raise one arm towards the ceiling so that it is perpendicular to the floor while keeping the other palm firmly planted on the ground, then switch arm positions.  To switch legs, move the extended leg up to the bent leg until you are in the low (frog) squat position.  Hold for 1-2 seconds.  Repeat these series of movements several times, alternating sides.

Inchworm.  I have never seen this exercise before, but I feel it the most in my hamstrings.   From standing position, bend over and slowly walk your hands forward until your body is in the sphinx position.  Instead of reversing the process in order to get back up to the standing position, you will slowly walk your feet up to your hands (which remain stationary on the ground) until they are aligned with each other.  I can’t do the second part without raising my hands off the floor or bending my knees.  Turn around and repeat until time is called. This exercise gets its name from the slinky way inchworms move.

Scorpion.   Another new stretch and my lower back loves it.   You do it lying on the ground face down.  Your arms are outstretched to your sides.  Your shoulders are touching the ground.   Your legs are outstretched and aligned with your entire body.  Raise one leg off the ground.  Drive the heel towards the ceiling, bending it slightly towards your head.  The leg looks like a scorpion stinger at this point.  Then, twist the leg to the opposite side of the body.  Keep both shoulders firmly planted on the floor as you are moving the leg.  Return the leg to the ground and repeat for the other side.  This doesn’t look or sound like a lower back stretch, but I really felt it there the most.

Groiners.   These are a lot like plank runs.  Instead of keeping your legs behind you, however, you move them so that the toes come up to your hands as you perform the “run.”   Does a nice job of warming up and stretching out the inner thighs, gluts, groin area, and hamstrings.

P90X2 Core: The Main Event

Sphinx Plank Cross Crunch.  This exercise begins in the sphinx (low plank) position (body straight, legs extended, head aligned with the body, and the points of contact to the floor are the toes and forearms).  While keeping your body rigid, move one leg so that the knee touches the opposite elbow.  Try not to raise your butt as you move the leg.  Then, return the leg to the extended position.  Do the same for other leg.  Primarily works your obliques, but also activates your entire core in order to stabilize your body as you perform the movements.

Warrior 3 Cross Crunch.  Start in the lunge position.  Quickly but in a controlled fashion move into the Warrior 3 position (Reminder:  With your arms outstretched over your head, bend your torso at a 90-degrees angle to your waist.  At the same time, raise and extend one leg behind you at a 90-degrees angle to your waist, with the other leg on the ground for support.  If done correctly, your arms, torso and extended leg are aligned in a straight line and should form a “T” with the supporting leg).  Hold Warrior 3 for 1-3 seconds.  As you straighten out, do not allow the foot of the extended leg to touch the floor.  Instead, take the knee of the extended leg and make contact with the opposite elbow while you are moving into an upright position.  Repeat as many times as possible (10-15 reps), then do the same for the other side.   This exercise works the lower back muscles and gluts while you are in Warrior 3, but will activate the front abs and obliques when you do the knee to elbow touch.  Also, your supporting leg will feel the burn as you must remain in balance for the entire duration of the exercise.   This exercise seems to illustrate one of the core (pun intended) philosophies of P90X2—more involvement of different muscle groups with each exercise, especially the stabilizers.

Single Leg Walk Outs to Sphinx.   You start out in the upright standing position with one foot off the floor.  Slowly lower yourself and walk out using your hands into the sphinx position without allowing the raised foot to ever touch the floor.  Then, walk your hands backwards up into the standing position while still keeping the foot raised.  Do this 10-15 times, then do the same for the other side.  A lot of balance and coordination is required.  I felt my entire core and lower body working in unison in order to do this exercise properly.

Half Angel.  Don’t let the heavenly name fool you, because this exercise is demonic. Go into the side plank position with your entire body held up with just one arm.  While in this position, straighten and raise the other arm from your side to above your head, while simultaneously raising the non-supporting leg as high as possible.  You will look like you’re doing a one-sided snow angel.  Do not lower your body out of the side plank position until you have completed at least 10 reps.   This exercise was pretty killer for me.  I watched Jade as she performed them, and her obliques were quivering like crazy.  They looked as though tiny beings were trapped inside and trying to punch through.

Roller Boat.  This exercise can be fun if you are well practiced with Yoga X.   You start off lying on your back on a yoga mat with your legs tucked to your chest and wrapped in place with your arms.  Roll your body forward and at the end of the roll extend your legs and arms into the flying boat position (legs 18-24 inches off floor, arms parallel to legs, torso straight).  Hold for 2-5 seconds, then return to the balled up lying position by rolling backwards.  Repeat 10-15 times.

Medicine Ball Plyo Pushup.  Here’s your 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.

One Leg Lateral Leap Squat.  This exercise is a modification of the classic Heisman.  Start in the upright standing position.  Hop to one side, landing on one leg.  Keep the foot of the other leg off the floor.  Hold this position and squat down slightly to touch the toe of the support leg.  Go back to the upright position.  Do not allow the raised foot to touch the ground.   Now, hop to other side and repeat the movements.   Do about 12-20 repetitions.  This exercise will test your balance, agility, and core strength.  If you have weaknesses in any of these areas, this exercise will reveal them.  It takes a lot of muscles working in unison to ensure that you remain balanced while performing each movement in a controlled fashion.

Core Circles.  The simplicity of this exercise will fool you into thinking that it would be easy.  It’s not.   Get into the sphinx position, but place your forearms on a stability ball while keeping your toes on the ground.  Using your core and the stability ball, move your body in a circular motion clockwise.  Switch to counter-clockwise motions on Tony’s cue.  This exercise will not only force your core to keep you in balance on the medicine ball, which is hard enough, but it must do extra work to keep your body moving slowly without falling off the stability ball.

Holmsen Screamer Lunge.  Tony has some silly names for his exercises.  I don’t know who Holmsen is, but he/she is probably one of Tony’s buds.  If you’ve done Insanity, you’ve seen this move before under a different name.   You start off in the lunge position.  Leap vertically into the air with one arm reaching the ceiling while raising one knee as high as possible towards your chest.   Return to the lunge position as you land. Do about 15-20 reps and repeat for the other side.  This is one of the few jumping exercises in this workout.  It works not only your core, but your gluts, quads, and hamstrings as well.

Dreya Roll with Medicine Ball.  A modification of the beloved Dreya roll from Core Synergistics.  Start off in the upright standing position grasping a medicine ball with both hands at chest level.  Roll backwards to the ground.  As you reach the bottom of the roll, drive your legs towards the ceiling so that they are perpendicular to the ground.  Your feet should not cross over your shoulders.  In one smooth motion, begin to roll forward using momentum to move your body back into the standing upright position.  As soon as your feet make contact with the ground, leap vertically into the air while raising the medicine ball over your head.  Repeat 12-15 times.  This exercise activates your entire core as well as your lower body.  The medicine ball makes it easier to roll your body up and down, but jumping while raising it overhead is a challenge.

Plank Burpees.  This exercise uses a stability ball.  Get into the plank position with the palms of your hands resting on a stability ball.  Hold this position while raising one leg off the ground.  Hop on the one leg so that it moves as close as possible to your hands on the stability ball.  Then, hop back into the plank position.  Do a pushup.  Repeat 10-15 times, never allowing the raised leg to touch the ground.  Do the same for the other side.  This exercise really forces you to learn to become balanced on the stability ball.  I have a feeling this ability will become very important in Phase I and II of P90X2.

Banana Switch Crunch.  A modification of the classic banana roll using a medicine ball (or stability ball).  Starting position is on your back, feet slightly elevated and your arms outstretched and holding a medicine ball behind your head.  Your body should be curved in the shape of a banana.   Sit up and move your arms and legs together, using your butt and lower back as the balance point.  When your arms and legs meet, take the medicine ball and place it between your ankles.  Then, return to the banana position.  Repeat 10-15 times, alternate switching the medicine ball between your hands and feet.  This is as hard as it sounds.   Your core, especially the lower abs, will love/hate this exercise.  It looks pretty badass if you can do it with perfect form.  No one who sees you doing this exercise will doubt that you have abs of steel.

3-Point Squat Press.   A nice low intensity exercise for a change.  Start off in the low squat position while holding a medicine ball at chest level.  Stand up all the way to your tiptoes and raise the medicine ball above your head.  Lower yourself down to the low squat position and stand up on your tip toes, this time reaching with the medicine ball to the right side of your body.   Repeat the squats, each time alternating reaching between the center, right, and left.

Slow-Mo Mountain Climber.   Basically, oblique crunches done on a stability ball.  Get into the sphinx position with your forearms resting on top of the stability ball.  Raise one leg and touch the knee to the elbow that is on the same side of the leg.  Return to the sphinx position and do the same for the other side.  Try to keep your butt aligned with your body, even during the movements.  While this exercise activates your obliques, the addition of the stability ball will force your core to work overtime to keep yourself balanced while doing these crunches.

X2 Divers.  Another exercise that should be familiar to Insanity graduates.   Get into a high squat position with knees slightly bent.  Make sure there is a soft surface in front of you.  Drop down onto your hands and lower your body as if doing a pushup, but keep your knees bent.   Push yourself upwards, using your arms to drive your body back into the standing squat position.  Do not walk your hands up into the standing position.  Rather, push off with enough force to move your body backwards.  It should be one fluid motion from bottom to top.  You will need a bit of upper body strength to be able to do this exercise properly.

Ryan Sphinx Twist Crunch.  Another exercise that rocks the obliques.   Start off in the side sphinx position, with your body on one side and supported by one forearm.  The forearm should be perpendicular to your body, which is aligned in a straight line with the hips raised off the ground.   Using the free arm, twist your body in order to reach below past your chest, then raise the arm to the sky, then finish up by  touching the palm to the foot of the non support leg.  You must move the leg up to meet the palm.  Do about 10-15 reps.  You should hold your body rigid in the side sphinx position until you complete all reps.   The hips don’t come down until you’re done.  Repeat for the other side.  Your obliques will scream in protest, as you are working both of them at the same time.

One Leg Burpee Med Ball.   This is practically the same thing as the Plank Burpees discussed aboveThe difference is you’ll be using a medicine ball rather than a stability ball.  Get into the plank position with the palms of your hands resting on a medicine ball.  Hold this position while raising one leg off the ground.  Hop on the one leg so that it moves as close as possible to your hands on the medicine ball.  Then, hop back into the plank position. Do a pushup. Repeat 3-6 times, never allowing the raised leg to touch the ground.  Do the same for the other side.

You’re now done with your first P90X2 workout.  There are 6:00 minutes left to cool down and stretch.  You won’t be doing anything familiar.  Instead, Tony will show you how to do some fantastic new stretches using the stability ball.  My favorite is the one where you lie on top of the stability ball with your arms and legs splayed out.  It’s like resting on your own little slice of heaven.  Pretend you’re Rose from Titanic, floating away (still waiting for the sequel BTW). Your back and chest will love you.

X2 Core Final Thoughts

To answer my questions at the beginning: (1) X2 Core wasn’t lame, far from it; (2) It also didn’t kick my ass, but I still had to bring it; there were lots of moves I struggled mightily with; (3) Tony is a freaking magician with his new bag of tricks.

It’s hard for me to summarize where X2 falls into the grand scheme of things because I have not completed Phase I or II.  As of the date of publication, no one outside of Beachbody has completed P90X2 because it has been available for less than 90 days. I could sneak a peek at the DVDs but that would be cheating not to mention watching is not the same as doing.  Nonetheless, I can see from the emphasis on core work where Tony is heading with the P90X2 program.  The key words are balance, agility, flexibility, and strength.  This workout requires all of the above, and then some.  It will also address any weaknesses that you may have so that you will be ready for the other phases.

I don’t recommend P90X2 for recently reformed couch potatoes.  It’s designed to be an advanced program for people who have already completed at least one round (or more) of P90X. The expectation is that you should already have a high level of strength and fitness before starting P90X2.  P90X or Insanity grads will not find this workout to be a cakewalk.  You will be developing muscle groups that were mostly untouched in these earlier programs.  You will be trained in techniques that will be unfamiliar to you.  Even though I have completed P90X, P90X+, Insanity, and many of Tony’s One-On-One series, 60% of the exercises were unfamiliar to me.  New is good.  Change is good.  The muscle confusion begins again.

Watch this video to get you pumped up:

To read more reviews related to P90X2 Core, click here. If you have additional questions about P90X2 or P90X2 Core, email me at connectwithJade@getresponse.com, or send me a private Facebook message. I love to hear about your P90X2 experiences!

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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