Extreme Newsletter—Diet and fitness tips, recipes, and motivation

Issue #011 01/12/10 GAINING MASS WITH P90X®

To know reality is to take risks. Risk requires perseverance, courage, and wisdom.

Tony Horton

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Gaining Mass with P90X

By Steve Edwards
"Don't want to look small!" —Lou Ferrigno in Pumping Iron

Guys have a thing for mass. It's hard to explain, really, but boys seem to grow up wanting nothing more than to be big. Guys want speedboats and trucks, and they want to look like The Hulk, regardless of what their wives may think of green skin. If this sounds like you, here's the article you've been looking for: customizing P90X for mass.

Boat, Monster Truck, and Muscular Man

Even if mass is your only goal, make sure to read the subsequent articles in the series on customizing the X. The principles discussed in subsequent articles will be put to use here. To look like The Hulk, you don't need to have a mad scientist father, but you do need to consider science as we know it. The articles that have appeared in our last few issues all led up to the question: what is mass? (See the Related Articles section below for the last few issues on customizing the X.)

What is mass?

Because many of our Success Stories, not to mention Tony, aren't exactly skinny, we must begin by defining mass—most of you are looking for more. Mass simply means size. As part of the word massive, we assume it means above average in size. It doesn't, but that's beside the point. A program targeting mass is concerned with one thing: muscle growth (from here on in referred to as hypertrophy), and a lot of it.

In a training cycle for mass, we should target hypertrophy even at the expense of other fitness goals. P90X is not a system designed for mass. It's designed for overall fitness, which means that ultimate gains in targeted areas, like speed, strength, flexibility, and muscle growth, are compromised to provide a program that improves all of your body's physical energy systems during one 90-day effort. We feel as though this is the preferred training system because it addresses the big picture. But if your picture is quite literally being bigger, then you'll need to read on.


You've read about the capacity for improvement throughout this series, so here's where I tell you to do a round of P90X as it's designed before embarking on a mass-specific program. It's healthier, sure, but it's more than that. Training all of your body's energy systems until they're running efficiently increases your body's ability to do, well, anything. Part of anything includes looking like Lou Ferrigno. Once you've done a round of the X and aced your fit test, the foundation has been laid. You're ready to start gettin' big.


Man with Resistance BandsTony loves the word specificity. He often uses it when referring to exercise movements, but we're going to use it to refer to the equipment you'll need. With mass as your goal, you'd better acquire specific resistance equipment. The simplest form is weights; however, mass can also be created by using other forms of tension, like resistance bands. The bottom line is that if mass is your goal, you'll need to have more weight available than you've been using. Body weight and plyometric movements can be used effectively for strength training, but strength and hypertrophy are not synonymous (read "Sore, Hungry, and Slow: 3 Signs That Show Your Program Is Working" in the Related Articles section below). To make hypertrophic gains, you're going to need to find ways to make your body fail at a given number of repetitions. You'll want an array of weights and bands, and some extra devices like ankle and wrist weights, or a weight vest, to add resistance to all the movements you're doing.

The difference between size and strength

As we touched on last time, hypertrophy training simply increases the size of the muscle. Strength training increases the efficiency of the muscle. Large muscles have a greater capacity for strength. Absolute strength is the ability of the muscle to use all of its muscle cells for movement. People in sports dependent on strength-to-weight ratios target high muscular efficiency in their training, whereas those in sheer size-dependent sports will focus more on hypertrophy. Most sports are somewhat dependent on both size and strength, which are ideally improved during different cycles of training.


The periodizational concepts that have been discussed in prior issues need to be explained here before a mass schedule is created. Remember that a standard schedule would look similar to this:

Foundation phase (Power 90® or what you did pre-X) + block 1 + transition/recovery + block 2 + transition/recovery + block 3 + recovery = peak (final fit test)

The difference here is that we're going to structure an entire training cycle based only on hypertrophy. This means we won't be setting up a peak phase. Over a long period of time, you would want to teach your muscles how to function more efficiently. We'll get to this at the end.

For now, we'll just say that there is still a periodizational approach to consider. You will still adapt, gain, and plateau over time, so we'll need a structure to keep this happening. But the structure will be dependent simply on rep schemes (the number of repetitions that you target to bring you to failure) and progressive overload. The blocks of our 90-day schedule will each target a different number of repetitions, which you'll want to aim for to induce failure. But because we're not changing the schedule much, and thus creating less Muscle Confusion™, we won't need such frequent recovery phases.

Progressive overload

Man with WeightHypertrophy is all about creating progressive overload. To create muscle growth, you must keep stimulating the muscles during each workout. This requires that you add weight as necessary to create failure at the desired number of reps.


The more we can focus on hypertrophy, the more muscle we'll gain. Since we only have so much energy to expend, this means we should spend less time working on other areas. This is where you'll see the biggest differences from the traditional P90X schedules. When you're not training for hypertrophy, your entire focus should be on preparing your body to create more hypertrophy. Therefore, the P90X mass schedule will have a lot of active recovery and flexibility work and very little intense cardio. This means we'll spend more time recovering during each training block and taking fewer periods focused solely on recovery.

Putting it all together

Before we get to the schedule, here are some general things to consider. The first is pacing. Instead of following the kids in the videos, target your rep scheme (and push pause when necessary). Do each set to failure (if you can add enough resistance; if not, get as close as you can), and don't exceed your targeted number of reps. Do not, however, use the pause button simply to increase the time between exercises.

A good way to choose the resistance for each movement is to use enough so that you can only do the lower number of your targeted rep scheme. Once you can do the higher number, it's time to increase the resistance.

Do your repetitions slowly and with control. Speed is for power, not size. Focus on perfect form and only add weight when you can do each rep with great form.

When you're done, you're done. You don't need to finish an entire workout if you're struggling. Once you lose the ability to move the weight or do the move in strict form, stop the workout. Any further training would only create more breakdown than you could recover from and increase your risk of injury.

Your diet

Healthy MealYou won't be burning as many calories as you would during the classic schedule of the X. If you eat the same amount, you may gain more mass, but you'll also gain more body fat. This might or might not be acceptable, so pay attention and adjust your diet as necessary. If you want mass, then you need to eat enough for your body to put on weight. I will write more about this diet scenario in the future.

Block 1, phase 1
Weeks 1 through 3

  • Day 1: Chest, Shoulders, & Triceps
  • Day 2: Cardio X, Ab Ripper X
  • Day 3: Legs & Back
  • Day 4: X Stretch; Ab Ripper X or Abs/Core Plus (from P90X Plus)
  • Day 5: Back & Biceps
  • Day 6: Yoga X
  • Day 7: Off

Targeted number of reps: 8 to 12 (focus on 10 to 12)

Block 1, phase 2
Weeks 4 through 6

  • Day 1: Chest & Back
  • Day 2: Cardio X, Ab Ripper X
  • Day 3: Shoulders & Arms
  • Day 4: X Stretch; Ab Ripper X or Abs/Core Plus
  • Day 5: Legs & Back
  • Day 6: Yoga X
  • Day 7: Off

Targeted number of reps: 8 to 12 (focus on 8 to 10)

Recovery Block
Week 7

  • Day 1: X Stretch
  • Day 2: Yoga X
  • Day 3: Core Synergistics
  • Day 4: Kenpo X
  • Day 5: Yoga X
  • Day 6: X Stretch
  • Day 7: Off

Block 2, phase 1
Weeks 8 and 9

  • Day 1: Chest, Shoulders, & Triceps
  • Day 2: Cardio X, Ab Ripper X
  • Day 3: Legs & Back
  • Day 4: X Stretch; Ab Ripper X or Abs/Core Plus
  • Day 5: Back & Biceps
  • Day 6: Yoga X
  • Day 7: Off
  • Day 8: Chest & Back
  • Day 9: Cardio X, Ab Riper X
  • Day 10: Shoulders & Arms
  • Day 11: X Stretch; Ab Ripper X or Abs/Core Plus
  • Day 12: Legs & Back
  • Day 13: Yoga X
  • Day 14: Off

Targeted number of reps: 6 to 10

Block 2, phase 2
Weeks 10 and 11

Same schedule as weeks 8 and 9
Targeted number of reps: 4 to 8

Block 2, phase 3
Week 12

Same schedule as weeks 8 and 9
Targeted number of reps: 4 to 6

Final note: This is an entire cycle of training based only on hypertrophy. To have an athletically efficient physique, you should do other training cycles that target different goals. Even if your only goal is hypertrophy, training these other systems properly will improve your body's physical systems and increase your capacity for muscle growth, as well as the speed at which you can add or shed muscle and fat. So while you can tweak and reuse this basic structure over and over, it will also benefit you to get back to basics and do P90X classic from time to time.

Related Articles
"Sore, Hungry, and Slow: 3 Signs That Show Your Program Is Working"
"Customizing P90X® for Skiing: How to Structure a Short Training Cycle"
"INSANITY® and the X"
"Customizing P90X for Specific Goals: Part I"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, January 25th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT, in the Beachbody Chatroom!

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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Tony Mixes It Up with MMA Athletes

On a recent trip to Philadelphia, Tony Horton hung out with professional mixed martial artists Jared Weiner and Wilson Reis at Jared's MMA studio. Both P90X graduates, Jared and Wilson worked out with Tony and gave him a little flavor of how the X was impacting their training.

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5th Law of Exercise: Reality

By Tony Horton

Why do we want life to be different than it is? Why do we think about who we were and who we're going to be more than who we are? We certainly talk a good game about who we are now. Why do we try to predict the future with the hope that wishful thinking is enough to change it? Life is NOT the way it was. It's the way it is. Life is not our fantasy predictions of the future or our glory days of the past. Life is that thing that is happening to you as you read this. We fall into the trap of living in the past and future because right here is not good enough. Back then and up there are keeping you from right now.

Tony Climbing Ropes

This crazy cycle of mind hockey stems from our inability to stop caring about what other people think of us. The truth is that other people aren't thinking about you as much as you think they are. We lament for days, weeks, or years over some comment made in passing, by someone who forgot what they said 2 minutes after saying it. Other people's opinions of us are none of our business. Their opinions are their unfinished business.

"The man in the mirror should not cast stones from his glass house." —T. S. Hortonhead

If you want positive long-term change in life, accept the truth of your situation and ignore the people who don't support it. Let go of your ego and find ways to love who you are right now. Living in the past, in the future, and for others destroys your ability to stay in the moment. Life has peaks and valleys, ups and downs, lessons, and celebrations. This is how we grow and learn. If you're struggling with your finances, get financial advice. If you're unhappy with your health and fitness, do Power 90 or P90X. You could do nothing and hope that it all gets better on its own, or you could open a new door and find some answers.

"You can't solve a problem with the same brain that created it." —Albert Einstein

To know reality is to take risks. Risk requires perseverance, courage, and wisdom.

Take the Risk*

  1. Risk saying no. The first step toward having your own life begins with daring to refuse the demands of others. Saying yes because you're afraid to say no is a recipe for resentment. Risk walking away from the fear of saying NO.

  2. Risk NOT defending yourself. It's only when you risk laying down your armor, shield, and sword (quips, retorts, and criticisms) that you discover who you really are. You can't be hurt by letting others win.

  3. Risk appearing stupid. Pretending to understand something you don't, for fear of appearing stupid, only ensures that you'll remain a fearful pretender. That is stupid. If you truly want to understand something, risk asking all the questions you need to. That's smart.

  4. Tony in ActionRisk bearing your negative outlook. The weight of your problems is determined by how much you fear them. But the only weight any fear can have is determined by how much you try to push it away. Risk not "burdening others" with your negativity. The less you burden other people with your problems, the less of a burden they'll be for you.

  5. Risk being rejected. No is just a word, but fear of it is a prophecy self-fulfilled. Be bold! Risk asking for what you really want. Reject the fear of being rejected by daring to say no to the fear of NO.

  6. Risk catching yourself in the act. Your life can't be both a show and be real. Whenever you catch yourself in the middle of some self-created drama or lie, just stop it. Risk being "The Real Thing" and not "All Show and No Go." Life is real only when you are.

  7. Risk taking the lead. You can never know the true pleasure and personal satisfaction of having your own life until you take the risk of finding it for yourself, all by yourself. Followers fear the road less traveled. Risk going out front by traveling the road called "My Own Way."

The way to live in this world is to live in the real world. Lift the burden of having to "keep up with the Joneses" all the time. Stop lying to yourself and everyone else about what you're doing, what you've done, and what you're going to do. Stop telling others about your hard workouts and clean diet, and all the while pretending that what you're saying is true. If it is true . . . guess what? We'll know. Reality is about discovering the truth about the here and now. Reality is the ability to accept your present situation and love who you are through the process.

*From Design Your Destiny by Guy Finley, Llewellyn Publications; 2nd edition (January 1, 1951).

Tony H.

Related Articles
"4th Law of Exercise: Purpose"
"3rd Law of Exercise: Intensity"
"2nd Law of Exercise: Consistency"
"1st Law of Exercise: Variety"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, January 25th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT, in the Beachbody Chatroom!

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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My Transformation Story

By David Keenan

My older sister told me about this program that helped her and my aunt lose weight, and they enjoyed it. Now, for one, I'm skeptical by nature. For two, I have tried many programs that range from the cabbage soup diet to the ten-pounds-in-two-days diet and from the ab rolly thingy to the ab springy thingy. Lastly, neither my sister nor aunt was remotely as large as I was. One thing that helped was how enthusiastic she [my sister] was that it would work for me. She even got our younger sister to join. The next thing I knew she wanted to take before pictures and measurements. "What if the program doesn't work?" I remember thinking. I did not want measurements written down cause I thought the next time I checked, [I] will probably be bigger anyway. As for the pictures, I would not even take off my shirt because I was too embarrassed of myself. Even in front of my own family.

David Keenan —Half the Man He Used to Be!!!

"Welcome to Power 90, I'm Tony Horton." This program changes lives? Will see how day one goes. Right off the bat Tony was moving. I was already behind and struggling to catch up. Tony and the crew lifted their knees, so I lifted mine. I kept up until I had to fight gravity with jumping jacks. Gravity won the battle big time. Something in the program and in my mind kept me going. By the end of the 35 minutes I looked like I stepped out of a pool and panted like a woman giving birth. But for whatever reason, I felt good. Each day I pushed play. People who saw me sporadically said I looked like I lost a bunch of weight. That motivated me more. Before I knew it I was halfway through the program and I lost 40 pounds! Granted I had about 100 pounds of pure Krispy Kreme to lose, but it felt great! I was swimming in my clothes. I tried to only buy a few shirts because I knew I would be swimming in those too. I got down to 250 in one year, but then I hit a plateau. So I got Slim in 6. Talk about kick-starting your life again. I had a whole new wave of dedication. For one month straight I did Slim in 6 in the mornings and Power 90 at night. Not to mention my diet was close to impeccable. I was hooked. I then got P90X. Talk about challenging gravity, say hello to Plyometrics. Ab Ripper X, "I hate it, but I love it." This program was the most challenging physical activity I ever even attempted. I got down to 180. Half of me . . . GONE! Luckily, it wasn't my good half.

Things change and they did. I had a surgery which put me on a slow recovery phase. I ate badly and with no exercise, I gained some weight. I got up to about 235. I felt horrible. It was just a short time ago that I was feeling better about life than ever. You know, one of those feelings that can only be felt. I let it slip away and I wanted it back. This time I joined the gym to lose it. Don't get me wrong, the gym is great, but it wasn't for me. I never pushed myself as hard as I did when I pushed play. I jumped back into Power 90 then P90X and I'm down to under 200! I could not be happier at this time of how I have complete control over my diet and my body.

P90X ProgramComing up on year 5, I have managed to lose a total of 160 pounds and at least 25 percent body fat. More importantly I have kept it off and changed my lifestyle. My eating habits and my exercising routine are all designed to help me be a better and healthier me. I have gained an abundance of knowledge. I have learned the sluggish feeling after eating bad whereas in the past those nachos would have been part of my normal diet. I have learned how important exercise is to my health. My friends and family ask me, former 360-pounder, diet and exercise questions. I have learned that it is not people seeing me in a different light now that I am in great shape, but me seeing myself in a better light.

To struggle with a battle your whole life and come out victorious is the greatest feeling anyone could ever experience. I won. Losing weight has obviously benefited my life physically more than I could have ever imagined. Friends from high school don't even recognize me. I now enjoy physical activities such as hiking, basketball, and even pull-ups (except corn-cobs). While going to work, I leave the train station and get pleasure from being the only one to take the stairs. I love my body, but my most valued changes through this are internal. I am making better decisions with my life than I ever did. I have more drive, determination, confidence, enthusiasm, success, and the list goes on, than ever before. There is nothing I can not do and no one could convince me otherwise. I owe it all to Tony Horton, Debbie Siebers, the entire Beachbody staff, the Team Beachbody community, and my family and friends. Thank you all for making me live and love life.

Click here to see David being interviewed by Matt Lauer on The Today Show.

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, January 25th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT, in the Beachbody Chatroom!

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Recipe: Portobello Burgers

Portobello Burger

Here's a recipe that puts the fun back in fungus! With way less saturated fat than a typical beef burger and a whopping 9 grams of fiber, this is a vegetarian treat you'll love.

4 large portobello mushroom caps, 5 in. in diameter
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 whole wheat buns, toasted
4 slices tomato
4 slices red onion
2 lettuce leaves, halved
Cooking spray

Clean mushrooms with a damp cloth and remove their stems. Place mushrooms in a dish stem–side up. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, water, sugar, garlic, and olive oil. Drizzle the marinade over the mushrooms. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for about 1 hour, turning mushrooms once.

Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill or broiler. Lightly coat the grill rack or broiler pan with cooking spray. Position the cooking rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat source. Grill or broil the mushrooms on medium heat until tender or about 5 minutes on each side; make sure to turn them often. Baste with marinade to keep them from drying out. Using tongs, transfer the mushrooms to a plate.

Place each mushroom on a bun and top with 1 tomato slice, 1 onion slice, and 1/2 lettuce leaf. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories: 283Protein: 8 g
Fiber: 9 gCarbs: 46 g
Fat Total: 9 gSaturated Fat: 1 g

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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