Firefighter Fitness- does P90X work?

  November 22, 2013
It’s often said that any movement is better than no movement at all.  I personally have to agree with that statement, I think its imperative that everyone (especially FireRescue Athletes) are active.  The big question milling about in the Fire Rescue field is what is the most effective type of activity for firefighters?  Ideally, we should be performing movements that support, enable, and enhance our physical skills and add to the quality of life. Our exercises should make us stronger, faster, and more capable of accomplishing just about any physical feat a “job” throws at us.
One of the more popular programs floating around firehouses these days is P90X.  P90X is the extensive fitness program from Beach Body fitness created by Tony Horton that claims it can get you “ripped in 90 days….guaranteed.” Does it work?  Maybe, but as Firefighters, EMTs and Paramedics we need to be more than just “ripped” don’t we?  
The purpose of this blog post today is not to give my thoughts on whether or not P90X is right for firefighters (that will come on another blog post…stay tuned).  Today’s blog will list the pros and cons of P90X (just like I did with CrossFit) to help you decide for yourself if P90X measures up.
Let’s take a look at the pros of P90X
–Use it anywhere – You can easily use this system at home or the firehouse.  All you need is a DVD player, some weights and a little room to move.  

–Great Workouts– The P90x workouts are challenging, regardless of your level of fitness.  If you follow the program you will definitely get leaner and more cardiovascularly fit.
–Emphasis on Proper form – One mistake that many people make when trying to get into shape is not using the proper form with their workout exercises. With this program, you will easily be able to maintain the proper form just by using the videos and doing exactly what they ask you to do for the exercises.
–Energetic Workouts– Tony Horton is a fun, energetic trainer that seems to keep you motivated and focused during the training sessions.  He keeps you engaged which helps with adherence to the program.
–Workout Format-  The workouts always start out with a quick warm up and stretch and finish with a cool down.  Even if you dislike stretching, the videos somehow make stretching not so painfully boring. 
–Complete workout system – If you purchase the entire system, you will get a complete system that is designed to workout your entire body and not just certain areas. The program includes workout logs, tips and a nutritional program.   All this is included tools help get results, especially the nutritional plan, its easy to follow and provides menus and guides.
–P90X provides a wide variety of workouts which prevents boredom, boosts metabolism and increases muscular strength and endurance through strategic muscle confusion. 
If you follow the workout you will see an improvement in your level of fitness.  Does it measure up to be a great fit for firefighters?  Keep reading to decide.

So, now that you know some of the pros, let’s look at the cons of P90X.

–Time Investment: The schedule requires at least 60 minutes a day for 6-7 days each week. Weight and abdominal workouts are 75 minutes combined. The yoga workout lasts 92 minutes.

–Teaching Technique– The videos show people performing the exercises but doesn’t spend a lot of time actually teaching the proper form. This is especially a problem because many of the exercises include lower-body movements (such as squats, dead lifts and lunges) that can be especially dangerous if they’re not done properly.

–Risk of Injury: This workout is extreme with plenty of warnings given at the beginning of each video. Tony repeatedly instructs users to “bring it!” Especially determined individuals with type A personalities are more prone to “bring it” too far to the point of injury. Increase resistance and reps gradually to reduce the risk of injury, and take care to use proper form.

–Sales Pitches– Beware of plugs for P90X nutritional supplements, says Comana. “Regardless of how safe they think their dietary programs and products are, people need to recognize that supplements are not regulated by the FDA.” Lastly, at the end of some (if not all) of the videos, the parent company likes to slip in advertisements for their back-end nutritional products. Pathetic. Tony’s even a little guilty of going a bit over the line “hawking” these products during the video. I came to work out guys – not to be pitched on something.

–Not for everyone— If you have a previous injury or are imbalanced in anyway, this program may not be for you. There are some movements that can potentially lead to overuse injuries (shoulder and knee tendinitis, low back pain).

–The speed of the workouts-– P90X workouts follow a specific format which means you have to keep up with the videos. while this insures a good workout it can sometimes lead to improper form and “rushed” reps along with an overwhelming feeling of “trying to keep up.”

–While I like Tony’s personality, I can see why he might get on some people’s nerves. He does talk a lot. I guess this works out since there are other people I the videos that appear to be afraid to talk.

-The Nutrition guide— The nutrition guide was just about as helpful as the fitness book. This plan I am sure would help me lose weight – but I am not going to follow it. I’m sure I would lose weight if I ate berries and oats for the rest of my life, but it doesn’t mean I want to. Again, the design of the book is nice; I just see a lot of people wanting to follow this plan.

–Forget About Your “Beach Muscles”–The P90X program refers to the shoulders and arms as your “beach muscles” which is something that I’m sure will motivate many people. However, Firefighters, EMTs and paramedics need to have more than beach muscles. Here lies another problem, some of the workouts focus on particular muscle groups instead of full body exercise. These types of workouts don’t seem to match the demands of our job, almost every movement we do on the fireground or ems scend requires compound full body functional movement.

–Muscle Confusion doesn’t necessarily mean muscle adaptation— It’s difficult to make significant gains in strength without eventually increasing exercise resistance beyond body weight. Although the P90X program does suggest using dumbbells for some exercises, even this can be limiting unless one buys a complete set which can be quite expensive and take up a lot of space. The plyometrics workout is hard on the knees and joints, so exercise caution with this workout and modify as necessary

This is not an all-encompassing list of the pros and cons of the program, I know that I missed some. I’m not going to get into whether or not I find it valuable for all firefighters…that post will come shortly. For now, absorb these cons (and pros) and of course make some comments. I welcome all comments and emails with open arms and an open mind.

Stay safe and remember to “Train like a life depends on it.”

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