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P90X2 Base and Back First Impressions
Although P90X is a legendary workout program, there are some fitness enthusiasts who turn their noses at the cardio workouts, especially the much maligned Kempo X routine. I am the first to admit that the cardio component of P90X is not as hardcore as it could be, especially compared to the rest of the program.
Tony Horton has heard the grumblings and has answered with a hardcore cardio routine that can bring you to your knees. It’s a back workout. Are you kidding me? Yes, you read that right. P90X2 Base and Back is at heart a back workout, but also includes an insane plyometric component for the legs that is worthy of being called “extreme.”
P90X2 Base and Back is the most difficult routine in P90X2 so far. It will require sheer physical endurance just to complete it. While the P.A.P. workouts in Phase III came very close to the same level of intensity, they did not quite bring me to my knees like P90X2 Base and Back did.
To Create P90X2 Base and Back, Tony welded together the most brutal exercises from P90X2 Plyocide with a bunch of pullup moves. Therefore, P90X2 Base and Back will blast the two largest muscle groups in your body a single workout. At full exertion, it takes a lot of blood and oxygen keep your muscles going. The bigger the muscle group, the more blood and oxygen is needed. That’s why you should expect your heart rate to go off the charts and your breathing to get real deep. I was going at about 90% of my maximum heart rate for about 85%-90% of the workout. You may find yourself bent over with your hands on your knees sucking wind more than usual.
Joining Tony on this workout today are two men and one woman. First is Garrett, who Tony describes as having the biggest arms in the P90X2 program. Tony’s not exaggerating. Garrett is a beast. He’s also a former Marine (yut!). As big as Garrett is, he does have one serious weakness–no flexibility. During the stretching portion, the guy could barely touch his hands to his knees, let alone his toes. I suspect Yoga X is the most underused DVD in his collection.
Then there’s Julie, who looks a lot like Monica from P90X2 Shoulders and Arms. Tony reveals that Julie is a mother of three, with the eldest being in high school even though Julie looks like she just graduated herself. [BTW, I’ve seen Julie in person and she is super-fit and super-ripped].
Finally, there’s Brian, a mechanical engineer who has arms which make me suspect he’s been curling things other than pencils and protractors. With the two beasts Garret and Brian in the house, this is the beefiest crew yet in a P90X2 workout. They will need all that muscle to get through the pullup exercises.
P90X2 Base and Back is comprised of two rounds. Each round has five pullup and five plyometric exercises. The second round repeats everything from the first. Although I’ve complained about repeating exercises in the past, it’s not really something that bothers me so much here because this workout is at a breakneck pace. I’m too busy trying to keep up to ever feel bored.
Despite being a relatively short workout, you will get a powerful pump. In fact, you might feel wiped from one round alone. It will take real intestinal fortitude to tackle the second round after having finished the first.
Tony recommends that you pace yourself and do no more than twelve pullups with each set. I would heed this advice, because if you try to max out everything during the first round, you will probably run out of gas and not be able to finish the workout. I’m not even joking about this.
Breaking Down P90X2 Base and Back
No Kip Pullup. A pullup, but your hands are at the widest grip possible on the pullup bar, and your legs completely straight and close together. I really felt my lower back muscles engaged while doing this pullup. It’s a lot of work to keep your body completely rigid. Because you won’t be able to do a snake dance to get above the bar, expect to do fewer pullups than normal.
Plyo Frog Squat. Squat down, touch your hands on the floor, leap up, repeat 20-25 times. Breath hard afterwards.
Wide Leg Close Grip Chinup. This exercise is basically a chinup, but your hands are positioned at the most narrow grip possible on the pullup bar, and your legs are completely extended and spread apart. Keeping the legs spread apart and extended makes kipping almost impossible because you are diverting the strength in your core to maintaining rigidity instead of having it assist you with pulling up. If you’re tall and are using a doorway pullup bar like me, you may not be able to do this exercise.
Chair Jump. Start in the yoga “chair” position (arms directly overhead, knees bent, torso slightly leaning forward). Leap vertically, then immediately return to the chair position. Repeat 25-30 times. It sounds simple, but simple doesn’t mean easy. This plyo move will require serious exertion, which means your heart rates goes up, which means more calories are burned.
Chin Pull. Two chin-ups (then come off the bar) followed by two pullups. Alternate hand positions until your back is toast. You’ve seen this before in P90X2 Chest, Back and Balance.
Plyo Lunge Press. Katherine lunges while doing shoulder presses at the same time. To do regular Katherine lunges, get into a low lunge position where one leg is in front with the knee bent at a 90-degree angle (quads parallel to the ground), and the other leg is behind, also with the knee bent at a 90-degree angle (quads perpendicular to the ground). Leap up and land with the legs switched. In the P90X2 Back and Base version, dumbbells are part of the mix. Hold them at shoulder level and each time you switch legs, press the dumbbells above your head. You will feel it the most in your lower body, but your arms and shoulders will be recruited as well.
V Pullup. Do this pullup at the widest hand position possible. As you ascend, do not go straight up. Instead, move your body towards one hand. Alternate sides with each rep. Doing pullups this way forces one side of your back to work harder. A fantastic move for those who have mastered basic pullups.
Surfer Spin. Jump up, and spin 180-360 degrees before landing on your feet, depending on how fast you can spin or how high you can jump, or your state of dizziness.
Kippy Cross Fugly Pull. You might have heard about the nasty rivalry between team P90X and Team CrossFit. The name of this exercise is Tony’s swipe at the CrossFit community. If you’ve ever seen a video of a CrossFitter doing what they call pullups, you’ll know what I mean. Kipping is part of the exercise. They almost look like flopping fish on a bar. As a former Marine, I have been instructed from the first day of training that a pullup only counts if you go up after a full dead hang (arms extended). Kipping is out of the question. It’s so ingrained in me that I don’t even know how to kip. For the very first time, Tony encourages kipping during a pullup. I admit that kipping does help a lot. I was able to jerk up a couple of extra reps using my body’s momentum when normally I would’ve been toast.
Jack-in-the-Box Knee Tuck. This is the same exercise that appears in P90X2 Plyocide that Tony described as the “the STEP MOTHER-IN-LAW of all moves.” You begin in the low squat position with your fingers touching the floor, then leap vertically as high as possible and do a knee tuck at the top of the movement. Repeat 25-30 times. This exercise is manageable in the first round, but at the end of the second when all the glycogen in your muscles have been exhausted, you will feel as though you’re wearing lead shoes.
P90X2 Base and Back is hard. Brutally hard. You will feel accomplished for being able to complete two full rounds, especially with no pauses. Pullups are tough exercises to do because they require massive upper body strength and recruit a lot of muscles. The same is true of plyometric exercises for your lower body. Combine these two types of exercises in one workout, and crazy is the only appropriate description.
The first time I did P90X2 Base and Back, I was mostly sucking air through my mouth. My heart rate was at 179 over 85% of the time. Sweat was coming out of my ears. I loved every minute of it.
With any exercise program, I sign up to have my ass kicked. When a workout delivers the boot like P90X2 Base and Back does, I am happy. Call me a masochist, but staggering away from a workout is one of the best feelings in the world.
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