Monday, December 20, 2010

P90X (Part 3): THE Theory of Fat Loss Argument

Part 1
Part 2

The Theory of Fat Loss is made up of two unique constructs that, when integrated, become a powerful fat loss tool. The theory of absolute intensity tells us that the greater the absolute intensity one can achieve with training, the greater the fat loss result will be. The limiting factor theory tells us that within any fat loss program exist multiple potential limits than can inhibit one's ability to achieve success.

In parts 1 and 2 of this critique series, I go into great detail explaining why I believe P90X is less than adequate with respect to these two constructs. In this long overdue Part 3, I will critique P90X in terms of the unified theory as a whole. Let's see where that takes us.

The Theory of Fat Loss tells us that the greatest possible fat loss is achieved when maximizing the absolute intensity one can reach with respect to all individual limits. In Chapter 19 of the book (link will take you to the facebook page), I explain that respecting individual limits requires that you do one of two things.

1. Breaking through the limit
2. Bypassing the limit

Breaking through a limit is always the best solution in the absence of time constraints. If weakness is preventing you from getting in an intense workout, then get stronger. Why bother staying weak and inhibiting your fat loss if you have plenty of time to train for strength? Likewise, if you lacked muscle mass, why would you ignore this if you had the opportunity to do some hypertrophy training? The same goes for all other physical limits such as coordination, posture, and injury. If you spend enough time training to break through every fat loss limit, absolutely nothing could prevent you from achieving a ridiculously great absolute intensity and burning off every fat molecule you felt the need to get rid of.

Of course, we live an a world where time is ALWAYS a factor, and that is where bypassing a limit comes in handy. Pretend there are 3 months until bikini (or man-thong) season). How are you going to maximize your absolute intensity if you don't have enough time to break through a strength limit? In other words, how do you get around that? You take tradeoffs. Train longer, take less rest time, increase the time under tension, etc. If you are limited by daily time limits, you can perform a heavy strength circuit, perform high intensity intervals with bodyweight exercises during your recovery time. It's simple. Avoid your limits, but only if you don't have enough time to break through them! Then, when it comes time to burn as much fat as possible, maximize your strengths to put together a program.

Okay, now that we have the very basics of the theory of fat loss covered, how does P90X stack up? Well, what do we know about it? First, it is a 90 day program. Therefore, it establishes your global time limit for you. Second, the workouts all have a set time (in my previous post, 2 commenters let me know that each workout, including warmup time, etc., takes approximately 1.5 hours... sometimes less, sometimes more). That means that it also establishes your daily time limits whether you like it or not. Of course, since this is a DVD product, this can't be avoided (one reason why I dislike DVD products, but I won't hold it against P90X because it is what it is).

Anyway, what is really important to ask is in these 90 days, what do you do? What limits are broken through? What limits are bypassed? How much respect are we giving our limits when trying to maximize our intensity?

The only limits that I can think of that are broken through in P90X are cardiorespiratory limits and local muscular endurance. Unfortunately, these are by far the simplest limits to break through. It should never take more than 1 month to see drastic increases in ability when it comes to these things. Then increases tend to level off and only increase very slowly without a change of other biomotor abilities (max strength for example).

The limits that go unbroken over the course of 90 days are muscle mass, (some people will argue with me here, but seriously, nothing about P90X is designed for hypertrophy), muscular strength and power (this is not to say that people cannot or never get stronger following P90X, the real issue is that they don't make gains worthy of what I would consider "breaking through" a limit, as outlined in The Theory of Fat Loss), coordination, posture, injury, and knowledge (all as addressed in Part 2).

In fact, what I consider to be a shame is that P90X introduces new limits. Many people lose a great deal of muscle mass along with any fat they might burn off, and in the long run (and actually the short term), that is not a good idea when it comes to sustainability. More importantly, a lot of people get nagging injuries when following along with this program (again, rarely serious, but enough to cause problems working out). For a lot more detail on this, please read part 2, if you haven't done so yet.

Okay, so P90X does really offer much in terms of breaking through limits. That is actually quite alright for a 90 day program. Dedicated fat loss programs are not actually designed to break through many limits. They are usually meant to put on finishing touches to a body that is ready to handle intense programming. P90X is marketed as a "get ripped in 90 days" program... in my opinion, that means that we should treat it as a dedicated fat loss program. So, for this sort of thing, we should be looking at whether or not P90X bypasses the right limits to maximize absolute intensity.

Well, by this point, you should know what my opinion is going to be. P90X fails to allow individuality. I know. I know. Tony Horton tells you that it is okay to modify exercises if you can't do them. Tony Horton tells you that you have more than one option depending on your ability. Well, Tony Horton says a lot of things. In fact, he also tells us that the principle of "muscle confusion" is real when it is absolutely ridiculous. So anyway, all I'm saying is that it doesn't matter what he says if it isn't true.

Pretend for a minute that you have a bum right knee. Which P90X DVDs should you skip to maintain a high absolute intensity while respecting your injury? How are you going to swing that? Well, that should be no problem right? You can just skip all the leg workouts and only train your upper body. Oh... that won't work actually. The bodybuilder splits don't really allow you to do that because you would end up overtraining each muscle group. That, and lower body exercises are usually far more intense than upper body ones. The other option is that you can just skip the individual exercises that are causing you pain. That way, you can follow each DVD still and just pass over the parts that hurt. What's the problem there? Intensity goes way down. See where I'm going with this?

Of course, some "healthy" people are going to say, "I'm not injured. Your example doesn't apply to me and P90X is going to be awesome." That may be true. In fact, if you want to try it, go ahead. Who knows, you might get great results, and I hope you do. I don't hold good results against anybody. However, I know that healthy people have limits other than injuries that P90X cannot address. I mentioned them above. It is impossible to maximize intensity when so little individuality is allowed for, and that (along with everything that was written in Parts 1 and 2) is the theory of fat loss explanation for why P90X is a poorly composed program.

The best fat loss program is the one written for the individual. There is no one program that can be designed that will work well for everyone. People have individual strengths and limits that should be taken into consideration when designing any type of program. There is not a single resource that takes all of these factors into consideration and allows individual freedom. No document exists that will allow you to assess your own individual limits in a simple and straightforward way... one that allows you to design a long term sustainable fat loss program customized to your unique needs... that is... this resource did not exist until December 15th, 2010. That date was the official release date of The Theory of Fat Loss.

If you don't want to purchase this resource, that is completely fine. However, I don't want you to walk away with nothing. So, if you head to The Theory of Fat Loss official Facebook page, you will find some absolutely FREE resources that I am practically begging you to take from me. You will get a fat loss special report I designed specifically for readers of this blog and 4 completely customizable training templates (2x and 3x per week for hypertrophy, and 2x and 3x per week for strength). Also, you will find a 15% discount code for The Theory of Fat Loss, your reward for taking the time to follow this blog and/or be a Facebook fan.

So please, just go to and get your hands on these free resources.

And of course, if you have comments on this post, leave them below. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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