Monday, January 16, 2012

P90X vs CrossFit, a tale of two success stories.

There are probably hundreds of posts out there in the blogosphere debating the merits of P90X vs CrossFit.  There are probably millions of collective keystrokes that have been pushed supporting one side or the other.  There has been vitriol, conciliatory comments, moderation, and occasionally agreement. I'm not sure my post here will add much or settle anything, but I figure I'd take a few moments to add to the fray.

My P90X results from Sept-Dec 2008
First off, lets talk about my experiences with P90X.  For those of you following this blog, you'll know I had great success with P90X.  I dropped 20 lbs or so in 90 days and looked great.  After a while, I fell away from the program and over the span of 2.5 years I gained back everything I lost.   What P90X does offer is an awesome, specific 90 day plan to physically transform your body.  What you do with it after that time is up to you.  I tried to repeat the program, I worked a few other Beachbody programs, but I never was able match the initial level of intensity and enthusiasm I had during that first 90 days. 

Skip ahead a few years and my before pictures are again where they were in 2008.  (Insert bullshit excuses here).  I was driving home and out of the corner of my eye I saw a sign for a CrossFit gym. This was less than a mile from my house.  I found the gym's website, contacted the owners of the gym box and set up my first foundations workout.  That first workout was a shock to the system and a definite reminder of what I had lost in terms of fitness.

You can find enough internet dribble on CrossFit to fill reams of paper.  To define CrossFit in one sentence it would be "constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement."  By doing CrossFit, you'll become strong, but not the strongest; fast, but not the fastest; and so on.  You will become a very well rounded athlete prepared for a wide variety of potential physical tasks.  This ultimately is a great reason why CrossFit is so popular among police and military.  They never know exactly what challenges they may face (outside of a standardized fitness test) but they need to be ready for those challenges when they arise.

When it comes down to a nutshell, P90X and CrossFit are similar but they are also drastically different.  P90X has a very specific goal of improving outward physical appearance and is fantastic at meeting that goal in the time prescribed. 

90 Days of Crossfit, definite improvement, but not as much fat loss as P90x.
Ask anyone who does CrossFit and when it comes to "getting in better shape" they'll tell you that the physical signs of improved fitness are a "welcome side effect" of CrossFit.  For CrossFitters, it's rare to see a goal that has anything to do with physical appearance or weight.  A CrossFit athlete may have a goal of a specific weight they want to lift in a certain move, to get a muscle up, to get their "Murph" time under an hour etc.  By pursuing these other goals, the improvement in physical appearance will come as a very welcome byproduct.  The ultimate goal of CrossFit is improved health, and it delivers.

A P90X athlete may get bigger biceps in 90 days, have better abs in 90 days, but they ultimately may not be stronger than a similar athlete who does 90 days of CrossFit.  One thing that struck me was that in P90X, I was never nervous before a workout.  However, when I see a move on the board at my box, and it's one that I struggle with, I get nervous.  I both love and hate the challenge.  When my coach pushes me and gets me to try something that's way outside my comfort zone, I appreciate it (even though at first I might hate 'em.) P90X, without having the benefit of a coach right next to you and pushing you harder misses some of this element. 

So, I've rambled on.  I've added a few hundred more words to the CrossFit vs P90X debate.  What would I recommend?  That depends on your goals. 

If you are 90 days away from a Caribbean Cruise and want to get in great shape to look awesome on the beach, I'm going to tell you to buy P90X.  You'll be happy with the results.

If on the other hand, you're looking for a long term challenge and want to become physically stronger and more prepared for anything life throws your way, I'm going to tell you to find a local CrossFit box.

Ultimately, this isn't an "either or" proposition.  I may very well get to the point in a year where I need a break from CrossFit and will be popping Tony Horton into my DVD player again.  What is most important is that you get off the couch and move your ass.



  1. Whatever floats your boat. If you like working out in front of a DVD player by all means. P90X and Insanity are good programs if you have the money, the TV/DVD player or people to do it with. CF is more about having fun and being social, to me. Incidentally it gets me ready for my job and keeps me interested in going to the gym with amazing-looking, healthy and strong women there every day. To each their own. If you do anything that gets people off their butts and doing something, you're good in my book. Whether that's bodybuilding or playing frisbee or hiking or CF or P90X isn't terribly important.

  2. I have made amazing improvements in my health with Crossfit! Body fat from 25+% to 6%, BP from prehypertension to averaging 115/65, resting heart rate from the 70s to upper 40s!
    So I'm sold on crossfit because it works for me. But couldn't agree with the last post anymore - get off your butt, do something and eat better! That's not the recipe most people want to hear cause it's not a magical pill but it's the only thing that works!