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P90X2 P.A.P. Lower First Impressions
P90X2 P.A.P. is your introduction to Phase III of P90X2. P.A.P. stands for Post-Activation Potentiation. The P.A.P. workouts are the finale of P90X2. In these workouts, you will apply the various functions that you learned in Phase I and II and combine them in a series of exercises called complexes so that you may push your physical fitness to greater levels. You will be doing resistance, plyometrics, and stabilization type exercises. Each type of exercise develops different muscular functions. P90X2 P.A.P. Lower is no longer about having ripped abs, big muscles, or losing weight. P90X2 is about athletic training to get you to perform better, the way real athletes train using state of the art techniques at the P.A.P. Institute.
P.A.P. is a modern term, but the principles behind it are not new. It was first developed and practiced by Russian sports scientists in the 1980’s, who used it to train their Olympic athletes. The Russians really know their sports training. Anything sports related that has a Russian origin to it, I will pay attention because the Russians are also responsible for two other extremely effective and efficient conditioning systems, plyometrics and kettlebells. This is my layman’s explanation of P.A.P. You start off by stressing a muscle group with a contracting resistance exercise. While the muscle fibers are still recovering, stress them with an explosive move. In time, this should translate to increased explosive power as the muscle fibers adapt to different stimuli at the same time. Resistance training by itself over time can create raw strength, but you will probably become slower in the process. Ever seen a fast bodybuilder? It’s not just their size that slows them down, it’s also the type of muscles they’ve developed.
On the other hand, plyometrics and similar explosive exercises alone do not necessarily develop greater power. Thus, when you take the best of both training techniques by combining the exercises in quick succession, you will have explosive power. This intuitively makes sense to me. There have been research that supports this theory, especially for well conditioned athletes. If you’re already in great shape and want to go to the next level, P.A.P. training will help get you there. If you’re just starting off in your fitness journey, your results will be less dramatic because P.A.P. training has very little benefit for recently reformed coach potatoes it seems. The bottom line is that P.A.P. is based on real sports science–not some cute tagline Tony Horton and BeachBody dreamed up.
In the P90X2 P.A.P. Lower workout, Cedric, Colette, and Adam join Tony. We have previously seen Cedric in the P90X2 Recovery + Mobility routine. He reveals a little more humor in this workout. He laughs at his own jokes now. Tony notes that Cedric is a dancer, then challenges him to a dance off. Tony busts out his best robot man moves. These were really cool when I was in middle school. Cedric answers with B-boy moves that were cutting edge during Boogaloo Shrimp’s heyday, but wouldn’t impress a grandmother from Topeka today. I’m pleased that they are both in the same decade.
We meet Colette, who is from the P90X2 Ab Ripper routine. I had assumed she was a dancer based upon her tone body, but I learned from Tony that she was formerly an Olympic weightlifter. You’re kidding me? I thought all Olympic weightlifters had stubby bodies, thick torsos, and massive necks. Colette crushed my preconceptions. As I discuss below, she also crushes all the exercises in P90X2 P.A.P. Lower like an Amazon warrior.
Finally, there’s Adam, a former sniper/sniper instructor in the Marine Corps. Yut! In case you don’t know, this is a big deal. Being a sniper in the Marines, a military organization that fetishizes marksmanship, is like being the top chef at Olive Garden. Wait, that analogy doesn’t make sense, but I’m too lazy to think of something else. You got my point, anyway. Adam also claims to be an body reading expert. He tells Tony that he is, “someone who needs a lot of information to change his mind.” This strikes home with Tony and he appears slightly blown away by this reading. I am not quite as impressed.
P90X2 P.A.P. Lower Warmups
The warm up portion of the P.A.P. workouts are different from the other P90X2 routines. No more stability ball exercises (although I thought they were great warmups). There are now new warmup moves that appear nowhere else in the program. I don’t have a strong opinion as to whether they’re more or less effective, just different.
Heel Walk. Exactly like what it’s called. Walk for 20-30 seconds on your heels with your toes off the ground. It stretches your Achilles tendon and calves.
Feet Smackers. Stomp around and smack the ball of your feet to the ground for about 20-30 seconds. Wake up those balls, because they will see a lot of action.
World’s Greatest Stretch. You know it, you love it. For a more detailed description of this stretch, read my review of P90X2 Core.
Inch Worm. Been there, done that. Stretches your hamstrings and calves.
Fire Hydrant. As you can see from the photo, the name of this exercise comes from the position of a dog’s leg when it encounters its favorite fire hydrant. Stop smirking.
Scorpion. A great stretch for the lower back.
Groiners. Not new but still good for warming up the lower body.
March Skippers. A combination of skipping and slapping the feet on the ground. I feel slightly ridiculous, but to prevent injuries, I’ll do them.
Leg Swing. Same thing as what you’ve already seen in P90X2 Recovery + Mobility. I really like this ballistic stretch for opening up the legs.
Speed Slalom. See the description of this exercise below. For now, just do a low level version in the warmup.
Speed Front/Back Hop. Same as above.
Lateral Plyo Skater. Same as above. Keep it low intensity for the warmups.
Foam Rolling. You’ve seen this already. Enjoy the pain.
Breaking Down P90X2 P.A.P. Lower
The P90X2 P.A.P. Lower workout has a different structure than the other P90X2 routines. There are eight exercises that are organized into two “complexes.” Each complex only has four exercises. Each exercise in the complexes are selected to recruit certain muscular functions such as contraction/resistance, plyometrics/explosive, and isometric/stabilization. There are no rest breaks between each exercise. You must do them in quick succession in order to get the full benefits of P.A.P. training. Once the complexes begin, do not stop, do not pause, and do not slow down. Also, do not change the order of the exercises. Keep in mind that the purpose of the complex is to get the different types of muscle fibers firing together. If you allow too much time to elapse between each set, this won’t happen.
There are four rounds in each complex. Each exercise is done four times for a total of thirty-two sets in the entire workout. You might think that with the repetition of the exercises, P90X2 P.A.P. Lower might be boring, but this is not the case. The pace is so brutal and relentless that I’m too busy to complain. Just trying to keep up with Tony on each complex takes up all my energy. No time to get bored. Although P90X2 P.A.P. Lower is over 60 minutes long, it won’t feel like it. It will feel like a crazy car ride where your heart is pumping out of your chest.
Obviously from the title, the P90X2 P.A.P. Lower exercises are focused on your lower body. Your quads, hamstrings, calves, and other major muscles below the waist will see serious action at one point or another.
FIRST COMPLEX (4 ROUNDS)
Step-Up Convict. Weights are optional in this exercise, but it would be silly to not use them. Use as much weight as you are comfortable with, keeping in mind that you will have to complete four sets. Have a sturdy surface ready that is 12-18 inches high to step on. A step-stool or chair works just fine as long as there is no sliding. You will repeat this exercise for both legs, so make up your mind which side you want to begin with. It’s easy during the heat of the exercise to forget. While holding dumbbells in both hands, step onto the elevated surface. As you reach the top, raise the knee of the non support leg towards your chest. Step off the elevated surface and immediately transition to a lunge position. This will take some practice to do smoothly. Do 8-10 reps for one side, then switch to the other. This resistance exercise will make you feel the burn in your entire lower body, including gluts, quads, hamstrings, and calves.
Skater Plyo. This is the explosive exercise of the first complex. Leap from side to side, landing on one leg at a time. You should be pushing for as much speed and distance as possible. The idea is to “load and explode.” That is, as soon as you land on one foot, immediately launch off the same foot. This is important because when you land, you momentarily load your legs with a lot of weight. Push off that that weight to improve your explosive power. Do about 8-10 reps.
Leg Line Hop. This plyometric exercise is pretty much the same one you did in P90X2 Plyocide. Hop from side to side, or front to back on one leg for about 20 seconds. Repeat the same moves for the other leg. Hop as fast as possible. Don’t hold back.
Tony’s Triangle. To round off the first complex, there is an isometric exercise to ensure that your stabilizer muscles are getting worked. This exercise looks a lot like a leg lift you would find on a typical aerobics or yoga workout video, but it’s not. Trace a triangle shape with you foot from the front to the back as you raise it up and down, and to hold at the top for 1-2 counts. Also, point you toe towards the floor while you’re tracing. Pointing the toe down will force the stabilizer muscles in the hips to work harder.
You get a two-minute break after the first complex is completed. This is the only break in P90X2 P.A.P. Lower. While Tony discusses P.A.P. theory during the break, Cedric, Adam, and Colette are checking each other’s sweat puddles. Colette’s area is dry. Everyone is mystified. She’s too badass to sweat.
SECOND COMPLEX (4 ROUNDS)
Squat Cross Reach. This is the featured exercise of P90X2 P.A.P. Lower. As with the first complex, the second one starts with a resistance exercise. Stand upright on one leg while holding a single (light) weight. 8-10 pounds is plenty. Lower your body into a squat position on the supporting leg. When you’ve reached the bottom of the squat, raise the weighted arm to chest level while at the same time lifting the non-support leg off the ground to waist level. You should look like you’re the Flash (or Tony in the header photo above). Retract your arms and legs and then squat your body up to standing position. Repeat seven more times on the same leg before switching to the other. If you want to really intensify this exercise, place a medicine ball directly underneath the non-support knee. As you do your squat, touch the knee to the medicine ball. This will take a lot of control, stability, strength, and balance to do this correctly.
Split Squat Jump. Exactly like Mary Katherine’s, but more explosive. Launch up as soon as you hit the ground, and leap as high as possible. You only need to do 6-8 reps.
Monster Slalom. Hop from side to side with both legs close together. You should be clearing 2-3 feet with each hop. Go as far and as fast as possible. Watch Colette for correct form because she rocks this exercise.
Side Bridge Leg Lift. This isometric exercise will test your endurance. If you think you’re tough, get ready for a dose of humility, because this is probably the most difficult move in the entire workout. Lay on your side, rest your body on a palm or forearm, then raise your hips off the ground. Your body be straight from head to toe. Lift the non support leg up and hold the position for 30 seconds. The important detail is to make sure your toe on the raised foot is pointed downwards, which activates the stability muscles in your hips. You might have done a similar looking exercise in yoga, but the angle of the toe makes all the difference. This will be the longest, most uncomfortable thirty seconds of your life (until P90X2 P.A.P. Upper), unless you have freakish endurance. You must then repeat the same exercise for the opposite leg. The first time may be doable, but three additional sets will bring about full muscle failure. Just look at Cedric and Adam, who were practically spewing sweat from their faces from this exercise alone. Both collapsed before time was called. Colette, on the other hand, was still as a statute. She held her position with a gritty determination that had “badass” written all over it. She made the two boys look like flounders.
Final Thoughts on P90X2 P.A.P. Lower
P90X2 P.A.P. Lower is a brutal workout. If you follow Tony and the kids without taking any breaks like you’re supposed to, the pace is relentless. You only have enough time to put your weights down from one set before the next one begins. Tony won’t remind you to “pause if you have to” because that would defeat the purpose of the workout. P90X2 P.A.P. Lower is no doubt challenging, and will really test your fitness level. You will sweat like crazy before you realize it’s not a cardio workout.
P90X2 P.A.P. Lower revealed a weakness that I didn’t know I had. For some reason, my left lower body is not as strong as my right. I have never suffered a lower body injury, so I’m not sure why I would favor one side over the other. In the beginning, I noticed that each exercise is much more difficult to do on my left leg, regardless of which side I start with first. This was interesting to me because it allowed me to make the necessary adjustments. The good part is that the exercises also resolved the same problem it identified. Although I’m no elite athlete, I can understand how these types of weaknesses can rob performance and possibly lead to long term injury.
One of my long term goals for working out is achieving functional fitness. This expression means different things to different people. What functional fitness means to me is that I am stronger, faster, and fitter so that I can live life free from physical limitations. I’m beyond the point of trying for muscular arms or losing weight. P90X2 is about advancing towards your physical potential. P90X2 P.A.P. Lower will help get you there the way the pros do it.