Thursday, March 31, 2011

Back To Core In The Asylum

Back to Core is one of the more interesting core routines I’ve done, and unlike any other core routine in that its focus isn’t on your abdominal region. Right now my back is sore in spots I’ve never felt. My back. Not my abs or obliques.

The core is not just the front side of the body and by the time most people reach the entry level for Asylum they’ve done requisite ab work. Back to Core puts its focus on areas of neglect, which are mainly in areas of the back that aren’t strengthened doing traditional back exercises. The net effect is that you can feel your posture improve after each workout.

On the challenge factor—important for both Asylum and Insanity—it ranks below many of the other workouts in the series as it's not explosive. You can do these movements. The only question is whether or not you can do them with good form and for the requisite amount of time, which results in a dialog with yourself about pain tolerance. I have good core strength and was able to “on sight” this workout (do all of it first try). But it didn’t get easier second time through; it was the opposite. This is because as my form and range of motion increased, as each exercise can be made harder and then harder still.

I begin each set thinking “this isn’t too bad” but by around 15 seconds it’s hurting. By 30 seconds I’m thinking there is no way I’ll finish. The rest of the movement becomes about concentration and staving off pain. My focus is clearly placed on only the next breath and, if I’m still standing I re-focus on the following one. Somewhere in this pain exchange I would find the zone, which allowed me to finish sets that lasted as long as three minutes.

The benefits of this workout are already apparent. I’m standing taller, my shoulders fall further back, my stomach tucks in a more natural position, and I move in a more aligned position. It’s going to stay in my arsenal of workouts long after I’m through with this training cycle.

pic: of shaun, in case you're questioning the six-pack factor

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hybrid Training Programs

Someone commented on my Asylum hybrid training posts that they’d like to see a schedule with a program that is already available, so here’s a hybrid training system primer. I’ve been creating training programs for pretty much my entire life—well, ok, that’s an exaggeration. I was eleven when I made my first training program after watching the Munich Olympics.

Anyways, if you dig through this blog, the Beachbody Message Boards, or you’ll see training program examples for all sorts of targeted events. I've made these with pretty much every program we've sold, from Slim in 6 to Turbo Fire to Power Half Hour to Ho Ala ke Kino (this will test your Beachbody knowledge). But to start here are a few more formal articles I’ve written about how to create a training program suited to your individual needs.

Creating Hybrid Programs

Insanity and The X

Customizing P90X

Customing P90X Part VII: Triathlon

pic: from brad schilt's birthday challenge

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Are You Training Or Just Exercising?

In an interview I did recently about program creation the interviewer was surprised, if not shocked, that the process began not with an exercise concept, movement technique, or gadget but simply with a goal. There are many different ways to train but if there isn’t a specific target in mind then you aren’t training, you are simply exercising. With that in mind, here is where I explain what I’m trying to do with my Asylum Hell Month schedule.


A: Expanded base fitness for a summer of climbing, biking, running, adventuring challenges

B: Duathlon Nationals end of April

C: Try something new

While the scheduled target is a race, if that were all I was thinking about I’d only be riding and running this close to the event. However, in all honesty, I don’t really like multi-sport racing that much and only targeting this as an early-season eye opener to force some focus on speed work. My true goals for the year will come much later. So this training phase is sort of an advanced base cycle to build towards a minor peak.
I’m also getting to try out a new program (the perils of my vocation), which doesn’t always work into my more sports-specific agendas. This seemed like perfect timing. Since I’ve been doing the MC2 workouts so much lately it will give me a better comparison between the two than I got when I did the Asylum moves back in its testing phase.

Ultimately, it will be a failure if I’m not faster in a month than I am now. But, also, I’m willing to sacrifice a lot of top end speed for the trade-off of more overall fitness that will aid my more mountainous endeavors over the summer and fall. With that in mind, here is my April training plan.


Climb = climbing training or climbing (didn't seem worth getting specific on this here)

NIS = neuro-integrated stretching, which is a stretching technique where you force reps to open up areas (see mc2 for more)

Mtb = moutain bike

LT = lactate threshold

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hell Month

Welcome to my preview of our newest workout program, Asylum. Over the next few weeks I’ll be using this program, along with my other training, to get ready for a race at the end of April that I’m nowhere close to being prepared for. It’s kind of like the “Hell Week” we’d go through prior to the football season, except this time it’s Hell Month.

I’d like to be previewing this program under more relaxed circumstances but my recent production schedule for the next 90x threw my training into a tailspin. I followed this by getting sick on the last day of production, resulting in another week off. Conventional fitness theory is that when you stop training it takes you the same time that you had off to get back to where you were. With a race coming up in a month I simply don’t have that much time. So I’m stacking Asylum on to my regular training program as a little experiment and you can watch me either soar or crash and burn here.

Asylum, for those of you who may not know, is the sequel to Insanity that we’re releasing in about a month. It’s more of a full body training program than Insanity and should prepare you for just about any activity. The show’s producer, Lara, succinctly summed up its effectiveness with “my tennis game is insane now!”

It’s positioned as sports conditioning, where as P90X mc2 will be sports training. As a sequel this follows the way I view P90X and Insanity, where I often tell customers that if P90X is your training for a sport Insanity is the sport. MC2 will re-train your body movement patterns so that you’ll perform better. Asylum will take that base and whip it into battle mode.

Asylum is a short program; only 6 workouts that you do for four week cycles. They are, to put it mildly, grueling. But once you can finish these workouts you’ll be ready for the 4th quarter, final set, 9th inning, or as one of the workout’s title suggests, overtime. If you’re an athlete that wants to raise your game in a minimal amount of time Asylum could be your pot of gold.

Monday, March 21, 2011

It’s A Wrap!

The next great home training program is in the can, as they say in Hollywood even though it’s more like “on the hard drive” these days. So I’ll be shutting down my P90X mc2 preview while the editors do their magic turning a bunch of sweaty workouts into a TV show. Even without our usual advanced rehearsal time that a test group provides I can say, with some certainty, that we got the shots we need. It’s going to be a sequel worthy of the original.

It wasn’t without its challenges, which is true of almost any shoot. Most coaches, trainers, and exercise scientists have no idea about what’s behind making good TV—nor do they care. But as we raise the bar of our target audience, now to include more discerning groups such as athletes and scientists, it becomes trickier to keep it all in balance because our programs are successful, primarily, because they are good entertainment; brining me to my first anecdote of the day.

Up at P3 one day Marcus and I are yappin’ about how to create and evolution to P90X when Utah Jazz big man Al Jefferson says, “You guys going to make a video?” We look at each other, simultaneously thinking about what that would look like, and both break out laughing. I answer something along the lines of “no one would want to watch that,” leading to my second anecdote.

Tony is affectionately called The Fitness Clown. Yeah, he’s a super fit dude who knows how to train but what really sets him apart is his personality and his ability to convey it on camera. During the shoot my two staff trainers on set were making notes about techniques and flaws, in both the cast and Tony, to help us edit and know when we absolutely have to re-shoot something. This is more tech advice than we’ve ever used—on 90x it was just me—and vital for us to deliver a solid program. But it also created a serious air on the set and very early on Mason—the director—had to step in and tell Tony to stop trying to be technical and focus on what he does best, entertainment. And the more Tony became Tony the smoother the workouts went and the better TV they made.

So back to P3 and anecdote #2: we’re up there working with Tony on some PAP training and he tells one of the trainers how much he envies his knowledge of exercise physiology. The trainer replies that he envies Tony’s ability in front of the camera, to which Tony lights up, changing from student to teacher.

“Every time I workout I pretend there’s a camera on me,” he begins before going into many of the subtleties of acting. Marcus and I again exchange a look because, for us, it’s absolutely the opposite of what we’re doing when we’re exercising, which is evaluating how everything works the body and how it may be useful if incorporated into a training program. But as I’m sitting in front of the A camera with a stack of cue cards and a note pad, watching Tony work, I think of this over and over. And each time I hold up a card I see his lessons from that day play out in front of me as he seamlessly works the tip into his repertoire as if he were about to say it anyway—a professional on the top of his game. And maybe he was going to say it. And we’ll never know. And that’s the magic of Hollywood.

Coming fall 2011: P90x: The Sequel...

x next previews from t-b: we won't have any muscle bound charlatans trumpeting the x as you're are going to need to perform; we're still pushing iron but your form will force you to earn it; chicago’s (the band not the city) jason scheff promises some great TV by not only demonstrating hotel room modifications but attempting to out clown the fitness clown; the professional -- tony nails his nemesis moves when the camera rolls, every time.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Suffering In The Elements

This week’s Psyche post goes to Bob Banks for the birthday challenge he did in celebration of my last birthday. This monumental bit of suffering during terrible weather is going to help me get through the next month, training straight through what are generally bad spring conditions, to get ready for a race I’ve done nothing for so far. Any day the weather blows (chance of rain everyday in the extended forecast) and I’m not in the mood to get outside I’ll reference this gem of an epic. Bravo, Bob.

To start, bike ride to Romero from house. Got up at 5:45a and it was pretty bad looking outside. The weather report said rain wasn’t supposed to start until Friday night and I was hoping to get the climbing done right after the bike ride. After some coffee, pullups/etc, I got on the bike at 6:45a and within 10 minutes I was completely wet. No climbing during this challenge. The bike ride hyper sucked. It was long, cold, painful and windy, and cold and wet and cold. The Pukester had planned on meeting me Friday afternoon. For some climbing, and when I got to the top of Romero at around 9ish, I checked my phone to see a message from him saying, “Pretty wet out there.” I sent him the attached picture of me at the summit area, soaking and miserable..."

Banks, are most readers here are probably aware, is the guy who’s always supported my birthday challenges and done plenty of grueling ones himself (check here and here). According to his report this one ranks up there in grimness factor. Oh, yeah, here’s the set up:

Bob’s “50th Manny Challenge” Report:
• 50 miles running
• 50 miles SS mountain biking (over 50% on trail)
• 500 pullups / 500 pushups / 500 ab exercise
• 50 boulder problems (10 V5 or harder)
• 10 mile ocean paddle
• 5 Olys
• 5 glasses wine
• 5 hard boiled eggs
• 1 fritter

Ok, let ‘s get logistics out of the way first.

The idea of this Challenge was supposed to be incredibly difficult, maybe too difficult (by design), and I prepared very well for it. After some specific training, which was mainly starting to go bouldering again, I thought I had a decent shot. The weekend before the event I planned a high-altitude test run of a shitload of exercise at the cabin and I did better than I expected. Bitchin. Figured I was ready to take on the challenge after some much needed rest days.

Manny is one of my nicknames. The Pukester is another of our friends. Click through to read the rest, then get outside no matter what it’s like out there.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Stuff Of P90X2

“What do you people have against being prepared?”
- Burt, Tremors

We’re getting a ton of questions on all of the equipment seen in the background of the photos that have been posted on the making of mc2 so I’ll address all of it today.

The bottom line is that to begin the program all you need, just like P90X, are some exercise bands and a door attachment. We’ve set up the entire program so that it can be done anywhere using bands and standard items you’d find in any hotel room. It’s not the optimal way to do the program but it will work just fine—much better than I’ll bet you’re thinking it will right now. You’ll believe me once you see how hard the cast using the modifiers are working in the videos.

no matter where you stay we’ve got a workout for ya.

But given that it’s a state-of-the-art program that mimics what a lot of high profile trainers do in gyms, we are using a lot of modern equipment. Here’s the breakdown of items you might want to invest in, all of which will be available on the Beachbody web site, as well as their household equivalents.

Resistance: bands and/or weights and a pull-up bar. While you can mimic this at home it’s unlikely that anyone won’t make, at least, a band investment so I won’t go into options like water jugs, soup cans, or your old Chevy. If you’re serious at all, at a minimum get yourself some bands.

philo beddoe trains at home to take on tank murdoch.

Stability Ball: Instability is a large part of this program. Creating instability requires your body to fire its stabilizer muscles, which reduces muscular imbalance that is the number one reason for injuries and biomechanical breakdown in your body as it ages. If you can’t afford a stability ball you have wobbly stuff in your house. Couches, chairs, towels, and beds all move under load, as does your carpet, all creating instability. This means anyone busting out feaux 70s décor like shag carpeting is going to start off with an advantage of sorts. Or you can just buy a ball.

instability, in so many ways.

Medicine Balls: We mainly use these for stabilizing, not weight, so these can be swapped out for even less stable things in the rec room, like basketballs, soccer balls, etc. Med balls are a distinct advantage, especially as you start adding more weight, but you can replace them with all sorts of other stuff.

dr. j mid air during holmsen screamer lunges with med ball.

Foam roller: Here you can get fairly sadistic with cans, pvc pipe, rolling pins, baseballs, golf balls, etc. Many people “graduate” to harder items over time anyway but we’re pretty confident that if you start on them you’ll instantly feel the small investment you’re making for a proper foam roller completely worth the money.

mc2 producer heather coaxes her husband into some home foam roller testing.

Plyo boxes: We only step off of these, and never jump on them, so all you need is a sturdy chair or platform like a stairway.

an upsell for those who are serious about increasing their vertical leap ability.

Pull-up assist: We made it through all of P90x without mentioning this very cool improvement so it’s hard to say you’ll need it. But once you’ve used a proper assist you’ll never be as psyched again for the chair. Not only do you not have to alter your form to use the assist but it also helps you fire the proper muscles and not cheat in order to finish sets, creating better alignment in your movements.

Beddoe forced to mimic clyde after hitting the road without his pull-up assist.

Weighted bar: This is simply a luxury item. At home I use a broom, and I’d hope you’ve all got one of those.

broom or broom wagon; it’s your choice.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

30k On Crutches

30th Birthday Challenge from Micah Elconin on Vimeo.

This week’s psyche goes to Micah Elconin for surviving one of the grimmer days of suffering I’ve seen. When an injury forced him to change his original birthday challenge he went big--maybe a little too big but that's all the better for the viewer. His blog reports:

I’m a sucker for physical challenges, and a new idea was rising to the surface - could I cover 30km of trail on crutches in a single push?

It seemed possible, but given that I’d never covered that much ground with 2 healthy legs, I knew there would be significant suffering involved in an attempt. Perfect.

Yep, he said crutches. Micah nearly lost his foot in a climbing accident a while back and his one of his appendages is covered with something called a fixator. The video is quite entertaining should answer any questions.

Monday, March 07, 2011

P90X2 Rehearsals

We just wrapped shooting day 1 of P90x mc2 (name still pending) and it went amazingly well. But there's no time to relax as we shoot two workouts tomorrow and will have the entire program in the can before the end of next week. With so much work there’ s precious little time for taking photos, not to mention blogging (though I noticed our CEO Twitted a mid-workout vid cap even though we’ve a staunch “no photos on set” rule), so I’m not sure how many updates I’ll be making--but you might consider following Carl.

Last week our producer Heather (of the not-yet-but-soon-to-be famous “Church wrap”) and I snapped a few camera phone shots of our rehearsals. These aren’t good photos but when you see the final set and action it might be kind of cool to compare that to some down and dirty behind the scenes shots.

pics: below, tony and steve holmsen experiment with some band modifications. you're going to be blow away by how hard you can work in a hotel room with a band. above, if you want a shirt like i'm wearing you need to finish this program. maybe i'm lying... or not.

below, you'll be amazed at what you can do with some bands, light weights, and some instability. but don't get to thinking that's all there is. our rehearsal space couldn't find large enough dumbells for this crew.

demonstrating the "edwards variation", which may or may not make it into the final cut. doesn't help that this is the last movement of the final complex series of the coup de grâce workout of the program. ouch.

day one went well, duh! have a look at this cast: the stars of P90x plus and a human pogo stick named roberto.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Urban Downhilling

I've been leaving it all on the floor during mc2 rehearsals all week so the rest of the preview will have to wait until I have a little more free time. In the mean time, Here's some rad downhill mountain bike action from the streets of Valparaiso, Chile. Enjoy the ride.