One of the most common critiques (to put it nicely) I hear about the P90X is that it doesn't build mass, or "can't build real muscle."
To a point, I think that this is true. Traditionally, the P90X program is not intended to build large muscles, as would be the result of a powerlifting or bodybuilding-oriented program. The P90X is more of a "total body fitness" program, targeting muscular strength, muscular appearance, coordination and balance and extreme cardiovascular fitness. That said, there are ways to "tweak" the P90X program to cater towards your specific goals, especially if one of them is to get BIG.
Lets recap how I've "handled" the P90X program thus far:
On March 4, 2010 I pushed "Play" for the very first time. I was 220.5 pounds and 31.5% body fat. I didn't have any goals, other than I just didn't want to be a "fat guy" anymore. I followed the program without deviations, was extremely "tight" with my diet and finished up on Day 91 at 185.0 pounds and approximately 11.0% body fat.
I took one day off and immediately kicked off Round 2. I had two specific goals for my second round: 1) add about 10 pounds of muscle, and 2) reach single digits in body fat percentage. I went hard everyday and did a program that I created called the Team Xcellent Fitness hybrid, or TXF Hybrid. I concentrated on more anaerobic days (four rather than three) per week and shorter, but more intense, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for my cardio sessions. Well, I finished Round 2 at 171.5 pounds (or down 13.5 pounds) and about 8.3% body fat. So, one goal was attained and I fell short on the other. All in all, I consider Round 2 a success - although I didn't add the muscle mass that I intended to, I did continue to make strength gains and finished the round in clearly the best shape of my life.
Looking back now, honestly, it would've been impossible to attain BOTH goals during a 90-day period. There's really no way I could've added 10 pounds of muscle while simultaneously dropping my body fat - the "positive calorie balance" necessary to build such mass in a relatively short period of time just wouldn't allow for an in concert decrease of body fat.
So, while allowing a nagging shoulder injury to heal which I suffered towards the end of my Second Round, I began to devise a plan for my Third Round to build those ten pounds of muscle that I wasn't able to before.
I came to realize that I hadn't run anywhere near a big enough "positive calorie balance" to give my body the building blocks it needed to build muscle mass. In fact, in losing 13.5 pounds, I had probably run a "negative calorie balance" for the entire round! So, I figured that in total, I probably burn around 3,400 - 3,500 calories per day. Therefore, I settled on a daily, caloric intake of 4,000 with an ingestion of 1.5 - 1.75 grams of protein per day. I decided to keep my carbs moderate-high to high as well.
I also looked at the specific routines and exercises of the "X" and modified them where I felt I could substitute in more mass-specific exercises. So, out were the Arm Circles and Pour Flyes and in were heavy Military Presses and Shoulder Shrugs.
I also looked hard at the P90X and chest development. If there's one area where I feel the P90X lacks it's in the muscular development of the chest. Push-ups and variations of push-ups are great and all, but to build deep, dense pectoral muscles you need to get on the bench!
So, I traded in my SelectTech 552's (52.5-pound max) for the 1090's (90-pound max) and got to work. Every time the video would transition to a push-up exercise, I would immediately transition to either my flat, incline or decline bench and use as heavy a weight that would put me at failure between reps 6 and 8 (usually 90's to start, 75's by the end).
To build mass on the P90X, just lift HEAVY! Forget anything above 8 reps, and pick a weight that puts you near failure at rep no. 6. So, on Lawnmowers for example, that would be 90's for me.
Finally, what I started to do near the middle point of my third round is concentrate on just one muscle group for the entire duration of the workout, and only work that muscle group once per week. So, for example, I'll pop in the Shoulders and Arms dvd and do all the Shoulders exercises. However, when the dvd transitions to either a Bicep or Tricep exercise I'll instead pick another Shoulder-oriented exercise and do that. For the most part, I've focused on Military Presses, Shrugs or Upright Rows, and doing the dvd this way leads to a full hour of totally blasting my shoulders, and then giving them basically a week to recover because I don't work them directly again till the following week.
Won't my body fat go up eating that many calories? Yes, it will. But, I'm okay with that for a couple of reasons: 1) I know how to "cut" and I have the discipline necessary to do it when I'm ready, and 2) the muscle I'm building now will inevitably help me scorch the fat later on (remember, muscle burns fat!).
Day 48 today, up 8.0 pounds so far - that's a projected 15-pound gain over the course of 90 days, and if 2/3 of that weight is quality muscle, that my friends is a 10-pound muscle gain!
So, to build mass with the P90X:
1) Run a "positive calorie balance" (ingest more calories than you burn)
2) Get 1.5 - 1.75 grams of protein per pound of body weight
3) Get 1.5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight
4) Lift as heavy of a weight necessary to put you at muscle failure on reps no. 6 -8
5) Focus on more traditional "weightlifting" exercises - forget Arm Circles, Pour Flyes and all the push-up variations - rather, go with stuff like Shrugs, Military Presses and variations of Bench Presses