P90X2 Core Review

P90X2 Core reviewP90X2 Core: Building a Base for the P90X2 Workouts

If you have any questions about P90X2 Core, contact me at connectwithJade@getresponse.com.

First Impressions

Tony appears in P90X2 Core sporting a USMC t-shirt, a much appreciated homage to all current and former devil dogs. Ooh rah! Tony was never a Marine, and I sometimes get touchy about non-Marines wearing USMC swag (because they haven’t earned it yet), but I didn’t mind in Tony’s case because I have no doubt that he is hardcore enough for Uncle Sam’s Misguided Chilren, and would’ve made a good Marine.  Tony’s cousin is a colonel in the Marine Corps.  He commands a Marine Expeditionary Unit (a VERY prestigious job).  I saw a video of him one time, and there is a strong family resemblance, although I suspect Tony could do more pullups.

P90X2 Core-Tony in USMC t-shirt

In a tried a true format that you may be familiar with if you are a P90X grad, two men and one woman work out with Tony in P90X2 Core to demonstrate different the exercises and their modifications. This format worked great in P90X, so there was no reason to change a winning formula. In about 15 minutes, you’ll feel right at home in the P90X2 gym.

P90X2 Core is the introductory workout in P90X2. It is about 55 minutes long, give or take. If you’ve done P90X, you might press play for the first time with anticipation mixed with some trepidation. Will P90X2 Core kick my ass? Will it be lame like some people have complained? What fitness tricks does Tony have up his sleeve this time? I’ve eagerly waited for my copy of P90X2 to arrive since the availability pre-ordering was announced in late November 2011. When I finally did get it in my hot hands, I did the P90X2 Fit Test (same as P90X) and P90X2 Core the very same day. I was ready for new exercise routines because I was on my fourth round of P90X and Insanity.

P90X2 Core’s workout consists of a series of eighteen exercises. Each exercise lasts about 1-2 minutes. None are repeated (Yut!), except the ones where you have to switch sides. As evident from the title, the emphasis on P90X2 Core is the core (not just the abdominals). Every exercise will recruit the lower abs, upper abs, lower back, obliques, or all of the above. P90X2 Core is part of Phase I of P90X2. It is designed to increase your core strength to prepare you for the exercises in Phase II. P90X2 departs from P90X in that there is no recommended time frame to finish the phases. For instance, you can do Phase I for up to six weeks if you think you need more time to get acclimated to the workouts. It is not recommended that you do a workout for more than six weeks because you will reach a point of diminishing returns.

I appreciate the fact that the core finally gets its own workout routine. While in Phase I, you’ll devote at least one hour per week to core exercises. P90X2 Core is not the same thing as Ab Ripper X or even P90X2 Ab Ripper. I believe that Ab Ripper X put too much emphasis on the abs (as glamor muscles). It really didn’t have any exercises which worked the lower back, which is part of your core. P90X2 Core remedies this weakness, and includes several exercises that will activate your lower back so that you will have a full corset surrounding your midsection instead of just half.

The P90X workout that is close to what P90X2 Core offers is Core Synergistics. During its development, P90X2 Core was called Core Synergistics 2). While Core Synergistics was as much cardio as core (which still kicks ass BTW), that has changed with P90X2 Core. There is not too cardio involved. The emphasis is on balance and slow, controlled movements to really get those core muscles involved. Correct form is more important in P90X2 Core. Gross movements are not going to cut it anymore, because you’re likely to fall off the stability ball or lose your balance while on one foot.

Recommended Gear

To do P90X2 Core, I recommended that you use a stability ball, medicine ball, foam roller, and yoga mat. Dale, one of the fitness demonstrators, shows you how to do the exercises without the recommended gear. I got a chance to talk to Dale and he has an incredible fitness transformation story. Unless you can’t afford a stability ball, I urge you do the exercises in P90X2 Core the way they are supposed to be done. For only $25-40, it is critical but inexpensive piece of gear. It is not just another silly gadget. It appears in almost every P90X2 workout, especially in Phase II. Even though I haven’t done P90X2 for over two months, I still use the stability ball regularly in my other workouts.

A medicine ball is less essential because a basketball can be substituted. A basketball, however, will not have the same weight as a medicine ball, which will lower the intensity level. I always go for maximum results in each workout program, so I plan to use a medicine ball in all the exercises which requires one. The foam roller makes its debut in P90X2 Core. It will show up in every  warmup segment in P90X2. In P90X2 Core, over two minutes is spent on foam roller exercises. I have never tried foam rolling before, but now, I am a convert to its benefits, especially the ones with the crazy ass knobs. Foam rolling helps to release the kinks and knots in your muscles. It is great preparation for rigorous activity, or recovery. For the price, a foam roller work little miracles. It’s like having your own personal Swedish masseuse.

Building a Better Warmup

For the most part, the warmups in all P90X2 workouts are the same. I will discuss them in detail in this review of P90X2 Core because it would be your first exposure to them. The warmups are very different than what you’re familiar with from P90X. They will require a stability ball and a foam roller.

Side to Side Body Twist. This warmup is done with a stability ball (or towel as Dale demonstrates). You perform this exercise standing upright with your feet apart greater than shoulder width. Hold the stability ball with both hands while your arms are outstretched in front of you. Twist your torso from side to side. Pivot your feet slightly to extend the twist. This stretch will do wonders for your entire core region, especially your lower back.

P90X2 Core-side to side twist

Squats with Arm Raises. Stand with a stability ball grasped with both hands while your arms are outstretched in front of you. Lower your body into the squat position. As you go down, raise your arms above your head. You probably won’t be able to get your arms completely above your head, but reach as far as you can with the stability ball. Come back to the standing position and repeat 5-6 times. Warms up the quads, gluts, and shoulders.

P90X2 Core-squats with arm raises

Side Stretches. You’ve done a similar stretch many times in P90X. The addition of the stability ball gives this stretch new potency. Stand with the stability ball held directly over your head with both arms. Lean your torso to one side for a few seconds, then to the other side. Repeat 5-6 times. Enjoy the stretch to your lats and obliques.

P90X2 Core-side stretch

Lunges. Nothing but basic lunges, except with a stability ball raised over your head. Gives your quads and gluts a good burn.

P90X2 Core-alt back lunge

Atlas. Basically, you are bending, twisting, and reaching with a stability ball. Stand with feet wide apart holding a stability ball in front of you. Bend down and touch the stability ball to the ground on one side of your feet. Then, twist your torso as you raise yourself up and reach as far as you can to the opposite side. This core exercise appeared P90X Core Synergistics. The stability ball adds intensity.

P90X2 Core-atlas

Foam Roller Exercises. Rather than plain vanilla stretching, you will spend the next two minutes or so foam rolling. Tony shows you how to use the foam roller to release and massage your muscles. This segment is basically free form because there are no exercises. Just foam roll muscles that you think need some tender loving care. Tony recommends that you take as much time as you want or need. Pause the workout if you need to. It’s sound advice the rollers feel fantastic.

P90X2 Core-foam rolling

Angels. Lie on your back with a foam roller underneath you so that the length of the foam roller is aligned with the length of your spine. Keeping your shoulders, elbows, and hands as close to the ground as possible, move your arms to stretch out your chest and back.

P90X2 Core-angels

Sphinx Plank Hold. Get in plank position with both elbows on the foam roller. Keep your entire body straight, rigid and aligned from head to toe. Hold this position for about 30 seconds. There was a time when I thought this move was hard. Glad those days are long gone.

P90X2 Core-sphinx plank hold

Runner’s Stretch with Frog Squat. Tony calls this “the greatest stretch in the world” because he claims Tibetan monks do them every day. I’m not Tibetan or a monk, so Tony could be full of crap and I wouldn’t know any better. Basically, you are in the low lunge position, with one leg bent in front and the other straight and extended behind you as far as possible. Raise one arm towards the ceiling so that it is perpendicular to the floor while keeping the other palm firmly planted on the ground, then switch arm positions. To switch legs, move the extended leg up to the bent leg until you are in the low (frog) squat position. Hold for 1-2 seconds. Repeat these series of movements several times, alternating sides. Every time I do this stretch, a hear cracking in my back.

P90X2 Core-worlds greatest stretch

Inchworm. This stretch is supposed to work your hamstrings. From standing position, bend over and slowly walk your hands forward until your body is in the sphinx position. Instead of reversing yourself to get back up to the standing position, you will slowly walk your feet up to your hands (which remain stationary on the ground). Turn around and repeat 3-4 times.

P90X2 Core-inch worm

Scorpion. A new stretch that my lower back loves. Lie on the ground face down. Your arms are outstretched to your sides. Your shoulders are touching the ground. Your legs are outstretched and aligned with the length of your body. Raise one leg off the ground. Drive the heel towards the ceiling, bending it slightly towards your head. The leg looks like a scorpion stinger at this point. Then, twist the leg to the opposite side of the body. Keep both shoulders firmly planted on the floor as you are moving the leg. Return the leg to the ground and repeat for the other side. This doesn’t look or sound like a lower back stretch, but I really felt it there the most.

P90X2 Core-scorpion

Groiners. These are a lot like plank runs. Instead of keeping your legs behind you, however, you move them so that the toes come up to your hands as you perform the “run.” Does a nice job of warming up and stretching out the inner thighs, gluts, groin area, and hamstrings.

P90X2 Core-groiners

Breaking Down the P90X2 Core Exercises

Sphinx Plank Cross Crunch. This exercise begins in the sphinx or low plank position with your body straight, legs extended, head aligned with the body, and your forearms and toes touching the floor. While keeping your back straight, bend one leg so that the knee touches the opposite elbow. Do not raise your butt as you do this. Then, straighten the leg and do the same for other side. This move will mostly work your obliques, but will also recruit your core in order to stabilize your body as you perform the knee-to-elbow touches.

P90X2 Core-sphinx plank crunch

Warrior 3 Cross Crunch. Start in the lunge position. Quickly but in a controlled fashion move into the Warrior 3 position. That is, your arms are outstretched over your head, your torso is bent over at a 90-degrees angle to your waist while at the same time one leg is raised and extended behind you at a 90-degrees angle to your waist, and the other leg on the ground for support. In perfect Warrior 3 position, your arms, torso and extended leg are aligned in a straight line, forming “T” with the supporting leg. Maintain Warrior 3 position for 1-3 seconds. As you return to standing position, don’t let the foot of the extended leg to touch the floor. Bend the knee of the extended leg and touch the opposite elbow to the knee. Repeat for 10-15 reps, then do the same for the other leg. This move activates the lower back muscles and gluts while you are in Warrior 3, but will activate the front abs and obliques when you do the knee-to-elbow touch. Your supporting leg will feel fatigued as it must hold up your body weight for the duration of the exercise and remain in balance.

P90X2 Core-warrior 3 cross crunch

Single Leg Walk Outs to Sphinx. Begin in the standing position with one foot slightly off the floor. Slowly squat down on one leg and walk out using your hands into the sphinx position while keeping the raised foot off the floor. Then, walk your hands backwards up into the upright position while remaining balanced on one leg. Repeat for 10-15 reps, then do the same for the other leg.

P90X2 Core-single leg walkouts to sphinx

Half Angel. Don’t let the cute name fool you, because this exercise kicks ass. Get into the side plank position with your entire body supported on one arm. Straighten and raise the other arm from your side to above your head, while simultaneously raising the non-supporting leg as high as possible. Maintain the side plank position until you have completed at least 10 reps.

P90X2 Core-half angel

Roller Boat. This exercise incorporates a classic yoga position. Begin by lying on your back on a yoga mat with your legs tucked to your chest and wrapped in place with your arms. Roll your body forward and at the peak stop your roll and extend your legs and arms into the boat position (legs raised off floor, arms parallel with legs, and torso straight). Hold for this position for 2-5 seconds, then roll backwards to the balled up lying position. Do 10-15 reps.

P90X2 Core-roller boat

Medicine Ball Plyo Pushup. Show off your plyometric pushup moves you learned in P90X. Start in the plank position with a medicine ball underneath your chest. Perform a plyo pushup. As you come down, land with your hands grasping the medicine ball. Release the ball and return to the plank position. Repeat 25-30 times. You can modify by bending your knees while you do the pushups.

P90X2 Core-med ball plyo pushup

One Leg Lateral Leap Squat. Start in the upright position. Hop laterally, landing on one leg. Maintain the one-legged balance position. Squat down slightly and touch the toe of the support leg with the opposite hand. Return to the upright position, but don’t let the raised foot to touch the ground. Now, hop to the opposite side and repeat all the movements. Perform about 12-20 reps. It takes a lot of muscles working together to maintain a balanced position while you are performing each movement in a controlled fashion.

P90X2 Core-one leg lateral leap squat

Core Circles. This exercise looks easy but it’s not. Get into the sphinx position with your forearms on a stability ball and your toes touching the ground. Using your core, move your body in a circular motion clockwise on the stability ball. Switch to counter-clockwise motions after 30 seconds. For added intensity, raise one leg off the ground as you do the rotations.

P90X2 Core-core circles

Holmsen Screamer Lunge. Tony has some silly names for his exercises. This one is named after Steve Holmsen, one of the masterminds behind P90X2’s core exercises. I had a chance to chat with him about P90X2 and he truly is passionate about what he does. Steve appears in the P90X2 Balance and Power workout. Start in the lunge position. Leap straight up into the air with one arm reaching for the ceiling and one knee raised towards your chest. Land into to the lunge position. Do about 15-20 reps and repeat for the other side. This is one of the few jumping exercises in P90X2 Core.

P90X2 Core-holmsen screamer lunge

Dreya Roll with Medicine Ball. This is similar to the Dreya roll from P90X Core Synergistics. Begin in the upright position while holding a medicine ball at chest level. Roll backwards to the ground. As you reach the bottom of the roll, drive your legs towards the ceiling so that they are perpendicular to the ground. Your feet should not move past your shoulders. In one smooth motion, roll forward using momentum to move your body back into the upright position. When your feet make contact with the ground, leap straight up into the air while driving the medicine ball over your head. Perform 12-15 reps. This move will work your entire midsection.

P90X2 Core-dreya roll with med ball

Plank Burpees. Get into the plank position with the palms of your hands resting on a stability ball. Hold this position while raising one leg off the ground. Hop so that the supporting leg moves as close as possible to the stability ball. Then, hop back into the plank position without letting the other foot touch the floor. Do a pushup. Repeat 10-15 times, then do the same for the other leg. The ability to maintain perfect balance on the stability ball will be important in Phase II of P90X2.

P90X2 Core-plank burpees on stability ball

Banana Switch Crunch. Basically, a banana roll using a medicine ball or stability ball. Begin by lying on your back, feet slightly elevated and your arms outstretched while holding a medicine ball or stability ball behind your head. Your body should be curved like a banana. Sit up and move your arms and legs together, using your butt as the balance point. When your arms and legs meet, transfer the medicine ball or stability ball and place it between your ankles. Return to the banana position. Repeat 10-15 times, alternate switching the medicine ball or stability ball between your hands and feet. This is tough move. Your core, especially the lower abs, will scream for mercy. It’s a great exercise to show off because it looks badass if you can do it with perfect form.

P90X2 Core-banana switch crunch

3-Point Squat Press. A low intensity exercise. Begin in the low squat position while holding a medicine ball at chest level. Stand upright all the way to your tiptoes and raise the medicine ball above your head. Lower yourself back into the low squat position and stand up on your tip toes, this time reaching with the medicine ball to the right side of your body. Repeat the squats, each time alternating reaching between the center, right, and left.

P90X2 Core-3 point squat press

Slow-Mo Mountain Climber. These are oblique crunches while performed on a stability ball. Get into the sphinx position with your forearms resting on top of the stability ball. Bend one leg and touch your knee to the elbow. Return to the sphinx position and do the same for the other leg. Do not let your butt stick up, even during the movements. The addition of the stability ball turns a difficult move into a really tough one.

P90X2 Core-slow mo mountain climber

X2 Divers. Get into a standing position with your legs wide apart and knees slightly bent. Drop down onto your hands and lower your body as if doing a pushup, but keep your knees bent. Push yourself upwards, using your arms to drive your body back into the standing squat position. Do not walk back to standing position using your hands. Instead, push off with enough force to move your body backwards. It should be one fluid motion from bottom to top. You will need upper body strength to get this move right.

P90X2 Core-X diver

Ryan Sphinx Twist Crunch. Start in the side sphinx position, with your body on one side and supported by one forearm.  Using the free arm, twist your body in order to reach below past your chest, then raise the arm to the sky. Finish the move by touching your palm to the foot of the non support leg. Move the leg up to meet the palm. Do about 10-15 reps. You must maintain the side sphinx position until you complete all reps. Repeat for the other side. This exercise works both sides of the obliques at the same time.

P90X2 Core-Ryan Sphinx Cross Crunch

One Leg Burpee Med Ball. This is the same exercise as Plank Burpees discussed above, but with a medicine ball. It looks easier than in really is. It always gives me a hard time, no matter how often I have done this workout.

P90X2 Core-One Leg Med Ball Burpee

To great relief, your first P90X2 workout is in the books. There is a 6:00 cool down and stretching segment. There won’t be any boring stretches. Instead, Tony will demonstrate some fantastic new stretches using the stability ball. My favorite is the one where you lie on top of the stability ball with your arms and legs splayed out. It’s like resting on an inflatable piece of heaven.

P90X2 Core-final stretching

Final Thoughts

To answer the questions I posed at the beginning: (1) P90X2 Core wasn’t lame. The people who complained it was “too easy” probably had crappy form. Even after completing a full round of P90X2, I still do not find this workout to be easy, especially when I’m doing each exercise as perfectly as possible. (2) P90X2 Core didn’t kick my ass, but I still had to bring it. The workout sneaks up on you because while it’s mostly low impact, there were lots of moves I struggled to get right. (3) Tony’s new bag of tricks will help you get to the next fitness level for sure.

As you can see from the emphasis on core exercises starting with P90X2 Core, this is where Tony is heading with the P90X2 program. The driving ideas are balance, agility, flexibility, and strength. P90X2 Core requires every one of these things, and then some. It will also address any specific weaknesses that you may have so that you will be ready for the other phases. [Now that I have completed the P90X2, I firmly believe that  X2 Core is critical to the success of the program.  Do not skip it, and do not try to cheat your way through it because that will only undermine your ability to advance in Phase II and III.  I did this workout again recently and I found that it was just as hard as the first time because I am now using much better form than before.]

To read more reviews related to P90X2 Core, click here. If you have more questions about P90X2 and P90X2 Core, feel free to email me at connectwithJade@getresponse.com, or send me a private Facebook message. I love to hear from my readers!

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About Khoa Nuyen

Aging and feeling crummy are for people who don't know any better. If a middle aged dude with a sedentary job can get these results, you can too.
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