Power 90 Is Not P90X

Tony Horton’s Power 90 is not P90X (or, as Jon Stewart calls it, “The PX90”).

When I first decided to get my weight under control, I immediately went looking for P90X. After reading the reviews on Amazon.com, I decided that my sedentary husk couldn’t support that type of intense workout. Luckily, a few of the P90X reviewers mentioned Power 90 as a viable alternative. After doing more research (mainly, reading Amazon.com reviews – they’re the Wikipedia of consumer product reference), I decided that Power 90 was for me.

What is it?

It’s an exercise program by Tony Horton. Power 90 came out three years before P90X. Most people consider it the basis for the P90X workout. The difference? Time, intensity, and variation. Where P90X runs 60-75 minutes per workout, Power 90 only takes 30. Where P90X has a dozen different workouts, Power 90 has only four (plus abs). Where P90X rotates over three phases, Power 90 only uses two.

Why start there?

It’s easier. Coming from an absolute sedentary state (with fits and bouts of binge eating and borderline alcoholism), I was absolutely not ready for hour-long workouts that included weights and pull-ups. Power 90 let me ease-in to the process of becoming healthy with shorter workouts – averaging about 30 minutes. There wasn’t a single pull-up in the routine. I got by using only a yoga mat and some resistance bands.

How’d it go?

The first few weeks were tough. The program is six days per week, alternating “sculpt” (strength training) and “sweat” (cardio-oriented) workouts. Looking at my progress calendar – a handy wall calendar that comes with the program – I self-rated my performance as a 3 or 4/10 for the first two weeks. After that, it was a steady climb to regularly hitting 9 or 10/10 by the ninth week.

The workouts aren’t hard, unless you’ve been sitting and eating non-stop for the past few years. Focusing on proper form was the most critical part of getting started. With the wrong form, you either don’t work the right muscles, don’t work anything at all, or just plain injure yourself. As someone with experience with chronic back problems, I know how that goes.

The two hardest parts of the workout were the yoga warmup and the ab ripper at the end. I had never done yoga (and I’m sure some might argue that the yoga I did for Power 90 doesn’t count), but it’s not as easy as it seems. Beyond those items, the cardio, while short, was intense. The strength exercises were the most fun. I’ve always enjoyed the feeling of delayed onset muscle soreness. Even though it’s not the best indicator of a good workout, I always found that soreness comforting – like a pat on the back for a job well done.

Yup, my actual measurement card.

Combined with my dietary changes and calorie tracking, I went from fat to reasonably fit. Maybe “relatively fit” is a better way of describing the change. I still wasn’t reasonably fit yet. Admittedly, I didn’t push the diet as hard as I should have. I was still regularly breaking my calorie goals, but not by much. Part of that was my metabolism finally figuring out how many calories I really needed, and part of it was because sometimes you just need a treat. It wasn’t a perfect diet, but it’s what worked for me.


Yes. Power 90 is an easy starter workout for anyone looking to get off the couch. The real key is to stay consistent. Do all six workouts each week, for the requisite 13 weeks. Keep a food diary, and watch your calories. Do these things, and you’ll be off to P90X in a few months. Personally, I went three rounds with Power 90 before moving on to P90X (which I’ve been using for two years now). Training my mind to stay focused, stick with it, and eat right was the hard part. Training my body came naturally.

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