Tuesday, November 22, 2011

P90X2 Prep: Block 3

With the release of P90X2 imminent here are some final tips to have you read to take it on at full strength. While you’ve probably heard a lot about post-activation potentiation (PAP) in the various promos or, at least, on my blog, what might not have been made clear is exactly why you only see it during the final phase of the program. In answering this you’ll see why your final block of prep should be tailored very specifically for you personally.

Essentially, PAP needs to be earned. It’s only effective if you have the fitness base to withstand its rigors, which forces you to follow a heavy contraction exercise immediately with a 100% effort explosive exercise. And not for 30 seconds or a minute, but only for a few seconds, meaning that for the first time in a Beachbody program you’re being asked to give a one rep max effort--though one that’s been tempered by a set to failure (or close) of heavy resistance.

pap example at p3 from gordon hayward of the utah jazz

If you’re not physically ready the first set of exercise will wipe you out. However, once conditioned the resistance effort actually frees up higher threshold muscle cell motor units which, in brief, allows your muscles to work at higher explosive outputs than normal. When you train this process you increase your muscular efficiency that, in layman’s terms, means that your muscles get stronger without gaining any size, which not only improves your ability to perform now but also increases your capacity for hypertrophy (muscle growth).

So, anyway, I’m sure that sounds cool but here’s the rub; you don’t need to practice PAP training, you need to get fit for it. So block 3 of your prep should be to improve at whatever your weaknesses are up to this point.

If you don’t feel you have weaknesses you could start working on PAP with Tony’s One on One workout (see top vid). This workout isn’t dialed as Tony was just starting to learn about it but it’s cool in that it’s both an upper and lower body PAP workout and provides a template for you to create your own workout variations if you get time crunched while doing X2. Like pretty much everything, you improve at doing complexes with practice so trying this out now will provide benefits by the time you get to phase III of X2. You could also try this workout (added video of heel slide - aka "wall slide").

However, if you are still learning the balance movements from block 1 and block 2, I recommend that you spend more time focused on these. The better you get at these movements the quicker you will respond to the program. When you get to the point—like big wave surfer Laird Hamilton—where you can do heavy movements on unstable platforms as if you were on a concrete floor (note cameo by Shakeology guru Darin Olien) your strength gains are going to go through the roof. And then when you add PAP training to a base like that your body’s going to take you places you’d never dreamed you’d be able to go.

Final teaser: P90X2 is on schedule for early December delivery. Get psyched.


The Dude said...

Love the x2 prep blocks and love the science behind phase 3. Is there a measuring stick or tool for x2? For instance, in the original, it was pictures before and after, but I get the impression that the main goal of x2 is not appearance, but performance. I know we can each use our own judgement to assess how we are performing in our own areas, but I am curious if there are any pre-p90x2 tests that will be included in the program as a measure to assess improvement in actual performance? For instance, Insanity encouraged pictures but also had the performance test for zeven exercises so you could assess performance at the beginning and end of the program. Anything like that with X2?


Steve Edwards said...

P90X, too, was a fitness-first program where body composition changes were a result of performance increases rather than, say, a bodybuilding program where no interest in human performance other than aesthetics is targeted. It came with a fit test.

We've used the same test for X2 so that you could see how it stacks up with the original. You're going to look good, too, especially if you eat well. But you're going to look more like someone at the Olympic Village than someone at the Arnold Classic. This is no different than the original.

We haven't done much about soliciting performance gains but one of the coaches made an amazing video of performance improvements made using Asylum (I wish I knew where it lived). I expect similar things will happen with X2.

Anonymous said...


I believe coach Wayne at teamripped.com has the video you are referring to. I think it is called asylum legends or something to that effect.

Peter said...

Steve, so given the intensity of the program, it seems impossible to do the program next to any other sport activity, am i right about that? Im indoor bouldering 3 times 2 hours a week, and missed 3 months because of p90x, which i thoroughly enjoyed, but missed bouldering sooo much. Can this program be done along with that? Doing the bouldering on the possible cardio days and off days, or is that a really bad idea? Thanks.

Steve Edwards said...

Peter, yeah, for sure you can boulder along with it. If those are your goals you should. Your level will drop for a while but that will come back once you are adapted to the program. X2 is hard but it's still only an hour a day five days per week. Plenty of time left for some sports specific training.

I'll be doing a full unabridged round of X2 starting in Dec that will also incorporate climbing and cycling training and skiing for fun.

Cycling will be mainly deep offseason stuff (low-intensity spinning for position/engrams on a trainer). X-Country and skating will be most of my aerobic/VO2/max/LT/AT training. Most of my climbing training will be on the hangboard or systems wall--limiting movement and focusing on finger/hand strength and connectivity. With some downhill skiing thrown in for fun. This will be posted, which will give you an idea to use as a template for you own goals.

Travis said...

Tony says that plyo x will make you perform better..well it seems like p90x2 is going to make you destroy anyone one on a field, rin, rink or a court thats not doing it.

Schnides said...

"...one of the coaches made an amazing video of performance improvements made using Asylum (I wish I knew where it lived...": http://teamripped.com/the-asylum-legends

Anonymous said...

Steve--My question is similar to Peter's. At this point in my training, I do two workouts back to back Mon-Sat. For ex, Mon=Chest/Back/Balls + Max Cardio, Tues=Max Interval Circuit + Back to Core, Wed=Shoulders/Arms + Cardio Power & Resistance + Cardio Abs, and so on. This may be a naive question, but will p90x2 be too easy? Should I supplement with cardio workouts from Insanity and Asylum? Thanks, Tim Zeddies

brendan said...

You seem to be one of the only climbing training resources studying PAP for climbing.
What rest interval are you using between the one-rep max and the explosive movement?
We are planning on doing a max hang on the hangboard, then a campus exercise.

Steve Edwards said...


I answered you elsewhere, right? The short answer is no. It's strucutured so that as it creates maximum breakdown no matter how fit you are.


I'll answer you on the PAP for climbing thread with your other questions.

brendan said...

Thanks Steve. Can you post a link to that thread? I am a bit lost.

Steve Edwards said...


Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying the PAP workouts in X2, but I've read the scientific literature on PAP pretty extensively and the jury is still out on it. The actual scientific literature has not yet demonstrated that:

1) PAP produces sustained benefits, or are just a phenomenon that affects short term performance within the same workout

2) PAP effects are more difficult to demonstrate in amateur athletes than in elite athletes

3) even in theory the chief benefit of PAP will be explosive force generation, which is a very low priority fitness skill for the recreational athlete (compared with strength, mobility, flexibility, endurance, body composition, etc).

I'd also add that the PAP effects in scientific studies are primarily observed at 8-12 minutes following a heavy load, which means that any PAP effect in P90X2 isn't going to be evident until the 3rd or 4th round of each "complex".

Another concern is that the isometric moves in the P90X2 PAP complexes are not part of typical PAP training (at least in the scientific demonstrations of PAP). This raises concern that one is engaging in a fatiguing move that will limit explosiveness in the ACTUAL PAP complex (heavy load followed by plyo). In scientific studies one theory as to why PAP isn't demonstrated as well in non-elite athletes is because the heavy load induces fatigue to a greater degree than it potentiates explosiveness. This begs the question of why one would add very challenging isometric moves to the complexes.

In sum, I'd love it if there is a sustained fitness benefit to PAP Upper and PAP Lower. At worst they are challenging total body workouts that have fitness benefits independent of PAP. But I'm concerned that there isn't nearly enough scientific evidence to feel confident that this really has a place in a general fitness training program for recreational athletes (even fit ones). I'm also concerned that the PAP workouts are inconsistent with the way PAP is demonstrated in research settings.

Steve Edwards said...

Not sure what studies you're referring to as PAP training goes back to the 60s. P3's done more research here than anyone in the field and our complexes are set up exactly like theirs.

As far as elite vs recreational that assessment is about conditioning, not talent. Anyone in the third phase of X2 (keep in mind it's designed as post X) is at an elite level of fitness. They may lack the talent of an elite athlete but their conditioning will be similar, if not better. They will handle the initial stress load just fine.

All this comes down to testing. Athletes have been tested at PAP for many years as the complexes have been tweaked and I tested many recreational athletes (Xer "non-athlete") and we get great results in 100% of the cases.

Anonymous said...

The first PubMed-indexed scientific article on PAP training (as opposed to lab experiments on explanted animal muscles) was published in 2004. People may have been doing PAP training for years, but it had not been explored in a scientific way (at least that the scientific and medical community can evaluate).

Whatever research P3 has done, it hasn't been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Their own website should tell you that. A search in the national library of medicine (which indexes all sports medicine and biological science journals) doesn't yield a single article by Marcus Elliott on the subject of PAP.

I agree that it is a matter of conditioning, but I don't agree that having completed P90X and then two phases of P90X2 is enough to qualify someone as elite by any reasonable measures. There is a reason that scientific studies of athletes refer to "training age". If you've done P90X and P90X2 starting from an unfit baseline, then your training age at that intensity level is only give or take 5 months. That may be on the right track, and it will certainly get most people fitter than most programs, but elite? Someone going from sedentary to 5 months of P90X/X2 is not the same as a division 1 college athlete who has been competitive and training in their sport for years.

Also, while you'd know the P90X/X2 market better than I, I'd be pretty confident in assuming that the P90X market is much older than the late teen / early 20s subjects in most scientific studies (which tend to be conducted by university academicians on college athletes). This also makes it very difficult to simply assume that the consumers of P90X are the same fitness substrate as college athletes. Factors such as deep tendon reflex responsiveness, VO2max, max heart rate, pliability of muscle and other connective tissues, not to mention accumulation of diseases, all are a function of age and will differentiate a 40 year old cohort from a 20 year old cohort.

I believe you that at least at an anecdotal level you are seeing good results from PAP training -- but if you are interested in seeing how this jives with the actual scientific literature on PAP you might interpret this with some caution.

Here is a very balanced review of the actual published scientific literature. As with any scientific topic, the generalizability of a study depends on the quality of the method and the similarities between the study subjects and the general population. This is pretty much the state of the science (and I can pull the referenced primary research sources if you're interested). That said, internal proprietary research as may be accumulated by P3 is not open to scientific scrutiny -- the quality of the research isn't open to our analysis. If we're just taking your word for it, this falls into the realm of "expert opinion". And one thing those of us in the evidence-based medicine world all agree on is that expert opinion is nothing in the face of peer-reviewed science.

Anonymous said...

Here is the link to the review:


Again, I'd be happy to pull any of the references cited if you're interested.

Steve Edwards said...

I use PubMed almost every day and it's finicky. It also does not contain all studies, especially those abroad. I've read a lot of science that's not there going back to stuff out of the USSR in '63.

This study is there, however, from 2003:

which is regularly cited by those using PAP.

I'd read the study you sent. It's good but only looks at the basics. We've taken it a lot further in testing with athletes (and non or ex athlets, including myself).

As for conditioning I think you'd be surprised at the general condition of a lot of great athletes. John Salley, in his 40s, said P90X got him into better shape than he ever was during his NBA career and Ken Griffy Jr would not train with Marcus because he was happy with his P90X results. These are just two names and there are many others.

I've worked with athletes my entire life. I think you'd be surprised at how human they are. So we do have some substance when we say P90X creates enough of a base to handle PAP. Furthermore, if you examine what is actually needed as the base for PAP it's only a level of fitness where one set of heavy contraction exercise at 8-12 reps does not require you fire your IIb (or fast twitch) muscle fibers. It doesn't take anyone that much work to get there. Certainly if you can complete Chest & Back from P90X you are there, easily.

Anyway, I worked on this for years. Put it through almost ever test I (and Dr. Elliott) could thik of and it works.

Btw, we've tried to do some "real" peer reviewed science and will continue to try but our stuff isn't that sexy. So far, everything we've presented to a university has generated a "of course that will work" response and no one wants to publish science boring ("duh?") science. Perhaps as we work more with aging athletes we'll get someone interested.

Anonymous said...

I didn't send a study, it's just a review article that pools a lot of the extant studies. The 2003 study you cited had only 7 patients in the group that experienced a benefit from PAP (the "elite" group). It makes it awfully hard to generalize this to, say, me -- a 37 year old with a P90X training age of 5 months.

At any rate, I'm a faculty member at a major medical school and both here and other places I've trained there are large programs on geriatric fitness, adolescent fitness, and obesity prevention.

I'd be surprised if you couldn't present this to clinical academics and garner some interest. (I'm a clinical academician and I'm interested, for starters -- and I'm not alone). I see RFAs from the NIH and from certain philanthropy groups all the time for grant proposals to study obesity management, so the funding, the visibility, and the importance is there.

The trick of course is always finding a way to study something proprietary (e.g. a Beachbody or a P3 program) in a way that minimizes apparent commercial bias -- but that's not impossible. Drug companies do it all the time -- they sponsor research, but they stay as far out of the study as possible so that commercial bias is as implausible as possible. It just depends whether your priority is marketing a product or contributing to science, which would mean getting independent investigators, an independent statistical reviewer, and possibly independent funding.

The important point, though, is that people are very vulnerable to expert opinion, and the published scientific literature for PAP is awfully small, focused, and scant. If you really believe in the science, then by all means get it out there for the world to see. Beachbody has a lot more resources than your typical assistant professor at a university, but those assistant profs survive on getting science out there.