If you have any questions about P90X2 Chest, Back and Balance, contact me at connectwithJade@getresponse.com.
P90X2 Chest, Back and Balance First Impressions
P90X2 Chest, Back and Balance is unlike any other upper body workout you will ever do. Instead of isolating your muscles to strengthen them, it does the complete opposite. P90X2 Chest, Back and Balance connects the muscles in your chest and back to your core, and forces them to all work together. Read on to learn how this training approach will create massive strength gains.
P90X2 Chest, Back and Balance is the first workout in Phase II. It’s a killer. Remember all that core exercises you did in Phase I?–You will now know why those exercises were so critical. You will need every ounce of core strength to do many of the moves in this workout.
The chest exercises are going to humble you. If in the past you have gotten used to pressing out 50 or more pushups at a time with ease, prepare yourself for a new reality where you’re going to feel that having done just 20 is a major accomplishment. In theory, P90X2 Chest, Back and Balance appears similar to the Chest & Back routine from P90X. In practice, however, it is at least twice as hard. It’s like going from riding a bicycle to a unicycle.
My descriptions of each exercise below will explain more. Every exercise will tax your limits because there are no easy moves. P90X2 Chest, Back and Balance is sixty minutes of tough mental and physical work. Starting off, you will fall on your ass many times in order to learn the proper form. Keep pressing play and pushing and you will see improvement and gains each week.
Working out with Tony are two dudes and one dudette. The first dude is Aaron, who looks incredibly intense. He lost over 100 pounds and possibly his sense of humor doing P90X. Mad props to Aaron for achieving this tough fitness goal, but he had a humorless almost snarling vibe during the entire workout. Maybe it was because Aaron was asked to do the modified version of the exercises while Kelly the bikini model got to do the hardcore stuff. As Tony noted, Aaron was doing a bad Phil (of P90X fame) imitation. Phil was intense but deadpan funny. Aaron was intense and not funny.
The second dude is Sean, whose bat-lats made Tony’s look puny. Those massive lats are not just for show, either, because Sean kicks serious ass on the pullup bars. Sean does some damage to his reputation by wearing black socks with running shoes. Only Sean seems to believe his fashion choice makes any sense.
The single babe in the group is Kelly. Above the neck, she looks about thirteen. Below the neck, it’s a different picture. She is also annoyingly perky and sprite; however, she grew on me because she demonstrated her mettle during the workout. Kelly is more Xena than Mary Poppins.
Breaking Down P90X2 Chest, Back and Balance
Pullup X. Basically a pullup move, except that your arms are placed at the widest grip, and your legs are fully extended and spread apart. That way, your body should form an “X” shape on the pullup bar. I do pullups with my knees slightly bent to prevent kipping, but the Pullup X version is harder. I really felt my lower back muscles engaged while doing this pullup. It takes a lot of effort to keep your body completely rigid while doing a pullup. Your maximum number of pullups will most likely drop.
Plyo Stability Ball Pushup. Plyo pushups are where you launch yourself so that your hands leave the floor with each rep. Now perform that exercise while balanced on a stability ball. Sloppy movements are not going to work in this exercise. It’s tough to maintain balance on the stability ball, but it’s even tougher to re-balance after landing each plyo pushup. If you don’t feel your core activated during this exercise, you’re not doing it right.
Core Crunch Chin-up. This exercise is a chin-up with an abdominal lift. Do a regular chin-up, but hold the position at the top and lift your legs with your abdominal muscles so that your toes touch the pullup bar. It will be impossible not to feel this in your core unless you have mutant monkey genes. The additional abs lifting move will lower the maximum number of chin-ups you will be able to do.
Pushup Side Arm Balance. This is precisely the same exercise that first appeared in P90X2 Total Body. It looks easy but looks can be deceiving. Start in the plank position with a medicine ball supporting each hand. Your points of contact to the floor are your toes, and the medicine balls. Do a pushup, then twist your body and raise one hand up into a side balance position while the other hand remains balanced on the other medicine ball. Alternate sides with each pushup. You can make life easier during this exercise by spreading your feet further apart. I can do about fifty regular pushups at a time, but I have a hard time doing twenty pushups like these. This exercise works your chest and arms, but your core is recruited in order for you to maintain balance on the medicine balls. Unfortunately, your core will probably give out before your chest and arms do.
Lever. This move is done on the pullup bar, but is more about core rather than back strength. In order to keep your body rigid to properly execute a lever pullup, your entire midsection and legs must be fully engaged. It’s impossible for me to adequately explain the mechanics of this exercise with words, so check out this video of Tony doing a proper lever (go to 2:18). My levers are atrocious looking. I’m still working on getting perfect form. I also want to be able to hold the lever position for at least a few seconds at the top.
4-Ball Pushup. It is the featured move of P90X2 Chest, Back and Balance. This exercise looks like a silly gimmick at first. It’s not, because you must have amazing core strength and balance to be able to do more than just one rep. You are doing a pushup with both feet and both hands balanced on medicine balls. It takes real effort just getting into plank position on the balls, let alone doing a pushup. The key to this move is to engage the entire core and legs to stabilize yourself on the medicine balls before even trying to do a pushup. Also, your core must be locked rigid for the entire duration of the exercise or you will drop off the balls after just one rep.
Chin Pull. Nothing too fancy here, just two chin-ups (then come off the bar) followed by two pullups. Alternate hand positions until your back muscles fail. I can do 12-14 before having to stop. Notice that Kelly is using the Chinup Max to assist her. This is a highly recommended piece of gear.
The Impossible/Possible. If you can pull this exercise off, you will be able to impress a lot of people, including me. There are many Youtube videos in cyberspace of people trying do do this exercise and failing badly. It is so tough I am not embarrassed to admit that I can only do two at a time. It’s a pushup while your feet are perched on top of a stability ball and both hands are doing the same on a single medicine ball. To make things easier, you can balance your hands on two medicine balls. This move will take many tries before you can even get into the starting position. Those balls have a way of slipping and sliding underneath you. You must develop an iron core before you will be able to do this exercise with any proficiency. Your sense of balance will be tested as well.
L Pullup. This move can be described as a pullup while your legs are extended in front of you so that your body forms an “L”. Kipping while doing this move is simply impossible. Your abs will scream in agony before you realize that is supposed to be a back exercise.
3-Ball Plyo Pushup. Tony has introduced another badass pushup move. Start with three stability balls in a semi-circle in front of you. Get into plank position with one hand on the center ball and the other on the right. Do a plyo pushup so that you launch your hands off the balls. Land with one hand on the left ball and the other on the center. Alternate sides with each pushup. If your form gets sloppy, the medicine balls will move all over the place and the exercise falls apart. You must maintain control of your arms and core for the balls to stay in place. If you think plyo pushups are easy, you will be humbled.
Vaulter Pullup. You are now halfway through P90X2 Chest, Back and Balance. This move is a pullup/chin-up combo where one of your hands is in the forward position (pullup) and the other in the reverse grip position (chin-up). Alternate hand positions every two reps. Do as many reps as possible before you back muscles fail.
Elevated Stability Ball Pushup. This move is pushups while your hands are balanced on a stability ball and your feet are raised. Have your nanny standing by to console your bruised ego if you are attempting this for the first time.
In & Out (Alternating Wide/Close Grip Pullup). The description tells you everything you need to know. Alternate between two wide grip and two close grip pullups. Repeat until your lats fail.
Swimmer’s Pushup. Start in plank position with a medicine ball supporting each hand. Your points of contact to the floor are your toes, and the medicine balls. Do a pushup, then extend one arm to your front, and lift the opposite leg off the ground. Hold the position for 1-2 seconds. Alternate sides with each pushup. This exercise is much easier if you had your feet spread apart. It recruits your core while working out your chest. Which muscle group will give out first?
4-Grip Pullup. This exercise has already appeared in P90X2 Total Body. It is pullups using four different hand positions (wide, front, back, neutral). Do a single pullup in one hand position then immediately change to another. Come off the bar after each rep. You might think coming off the bar would make doing these pullups easier, but it doesn’t. You’ll do fewer pullups because you don’t have momentum to help you get over the bar each time.
Double Wide Pushup. This exercise is pushups while balanced on two medicine balls, and using the widest arm position that is comfortable. This move is the closest thing to “easy” that you will experience in P90X2 Chest , Back and Balance. It’s not quite a gimme, but it’s not ridiculously tough like the others.
Double Wide Pullup. Pullups while using the widest hand position possible. It isolates your lats even more than a regular pullup. Tony mentioned that you’re a god if you’re able to do ten reps of this exercise at this point in the workout. It’s true because my lats were giving out big time, but I managed nine reps. That means soon, I’ll have to visit my local golden chariot dealer to get a new ride that would be fitting of my god status.
This exercise marks the end of the regular workout for P90X2 Chest, Back and Balance. Tony announces that there are three bonus moves for the hardcore people. Of course you’re not going to stop until Tony does. You signed up for this ride, so might as well go all the way.
Chattarocker. I can’t describe this exercise in any meaningful way, except to say that it’s a heavily modified sphinx pushup that will toast whatever triceps strength you have remaining.
Towel Pullup. Pullups while gripping a towel on each hand. This move belongs at the front of the workout. It is tough enough by itself. To place it at the end when your back, hands, and fingers are fried from the other exercises is just sadistic. Sean crushes them as if he just started the workout. Like I said at the beginning, the dude is a pullup animal.
Med Ball Plyo Pushup. This is one last chance to show off how strong your upper body has become from P90X2. Start in the plank position with a medicine ball placed underneath your chest. Perform a plyo pushup to launch your body off the ground. Your toes should remain in contact with the ground. As you come down, land with your hands on top of the medicine ball. Release and return to the plank position. Repeat 15-30 times. This move works your chest, shoulders, core, and triceps. It’s possible to modify this exercise by bending your knees and using them for support instead of keeping your legs extended, but your core will not benefit as much with the modification.
I complained a little about the fact that Phase I of P90X2 didn’t have enough pullup exercises. I got my wish delivered with a fire hose. P90X2 Chest, Back and Balance has over twenty pullup and pushup moves with no repeating. Tony promised that Phase II would be about strength training. He wasn’t kidding. It’s the first P90X2 workout that has given me a hardcore muscle pump instead of just wearing me out. My pecs and lats were completely spent at the end.
P90X2’s emphasis on core development is evident throughout every exercise. In order to do this routine properly, especially the balance pushups, your midsection must be well trained. There is no way to fake or half-ass any of the exercises. You either will be able to do them, or you won’t. There is only a hair’s width of wiggle room for cheating. For those of you who wondered why Tony devoted an entire workout to the core in Phase I, P90X2 Chest, Back and Balance is your answer.
This should put things in perspective for the doubters: the modified “easy” moves in P90X2 Chest, Back and Balance would be considered the hardcore ones in a P90X workout. [Afterthought: The bottom line is this workout delivers on its promise. I went from a maximum of 52 consecutive pushups to 65, and 27 pullups to 33. These are real strength gains. Any doubts I had about P90X2 disappeared one week after completing the program.]
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