Monday, January 20, 2014

P90X3: Total Synergistics Review

Today, I kicked off the P90X3 workout program. P90X3 is a 90 day program consisting of thirty minute workouts. The program is done in three phases. For more about my initial impressions, you can read my blog post from earlier. I will be doing the classic calendar for my first go-through.


I plan to do P90X3 as a supplemental workout to the workouts that I am already doing both in my fitness classes and with my running training. To that end, I think that the Total Synergistics workout will be a great compliment to what I am already doing.

Like all P90X workouts, P90X3 requires a pull-up bar and weights. There is some floor work in Total Synergistics, so I would also recommend a mat.


The workout starts with a standard P90X style warm-up for around three minutes. You jog in place, do jumping jack and arm circles. There is then a dynamic stretch segment where you stretch your chest, quads, and hips.

After the warm-up, you launch into the main workout. Here is the move list with descriptions modified from the P90X3 fitness guide and my comments in brackets:
  • Push-up/Side Arm Balance: In plank, do a push-up, then lift your right hand toward the ceiling and open your body toward the right. Rotate back to the floor and repeat, rotating to the left this time. (I liked this move. It was a good continuation to the warm-up and helped warm-up the chest even more. It was a good taste of the type of moves to come -- moves where balance and keeping your body coordinated were key.)
  • Crescent Chair: With feet and knees together in chair, extend one leg behind into a lunge for crescent. Step back into chair and then extend back on the other side. (Fairly easy. We did ten on each side, and I didn't feel that challenged. My hip flexors liked the stretch though.)
  • Pull Knee Pull: The first pull-up. You had to do a pull-up and bring your knees to your chest curling inward. (I admit that pull-ups and chin-ups challenge me. I used a chair for an assist but struggled on this move. I hope that all the pull-ups in P90X3 will help me improve on the pull-ups. Every time I do these, I wish that I weighed around 10 pounds less.)
  • Flip Flop Crunch: In forearm side plank, extend your top arm over your ear and pull it to your knee, extend back to straight and rotate to the other side. (Definitely another balance challenge. I think P90X3 does a great job making you engage your core muscles to do all these moves. They require very specific control and motor function -- a definite challenge. I found the balancing harder than having the required strength for this move.)
  • Crawly Plyo Push-ups: In plank with your torso hovering above the floor, bring your right knee and elbow together. Explode off the floor, switching knee and elbow in the air. (Woah! Super challenging. It reminded me of the jumping side to side push-ups that Shaun T does in Asylum 2. The people on the DVD start slow but build speed. Because I wanted to get used to the form on this move, I didn't go quite as fast as them at the end.)
  • Releve-plie, weighted: In wide stance holding a dumbbell, with feet externally rotated and heels off the ground, lower into a squat and extend upwards slightly. (This definitely worked the inner thighs. You also feel it a little bit in the calves. My legs were shaking at the end of the one minute that we did this exercise.)
  • Chin-up Circle Crunch: Holding the pull-up bar with palms towards you, do a chin-up and then circle knees up around to the right. Lower down, then repeat, circling legs the other way. (Yikes! Again, the work on the pull-up bar is a challenge. I do a bit better with a chin-up, as I find the underhand grip easier. Still lots room for improvement here. I used a chair to assist.)
  • Boat Plow: On your tailbone, extend your legs off the ground at 45 degrees and hold for Boat. For transition to Plow, roll back onto your shoulders extending legs overhead. Roll back into Boat. (I like this move for the core and legs. If you're not very flexible, like me, you can bend your legs a little bit in Boat. We did ten reps of this and my abs and legs were definitely feeling it at the end.)
  • Balance Arch Press; Balance on one leg, holding a dumbbell at your shoulder. Press the weight overhead, creating an arch from shoulder to shoulder. After ten, switch to other leg. (This is essentially a shoulder press with one weight shared in both hand that had some balance work built in. I did this with an eight pound weight, which was way to light for me. I will need to get a heavier one for sure, I'm thinking at least 12 pounds, since I usually use two eight pound weights in each hand when doing a shoulder press. I'll need to up my weight to make this challenging.)
  • 3 Hop Press: Begin in squat position, holding a dumbbell at chest level. Perform three hop squats to the right. Extend both arsm overhead in a press while lifting the outside knee. Go back the other way. (This was the only move to really get my breathing. I liked getting to do a tiny bit of jumping, even if they were just a few hops. This is a more standard move, but it's a good one, so I see why they included it. I again used the eight pound weight I had and wished I had a heavier one.)
  • Glamour Hammer: On one leg, holding two dumbbells, do a hammer curl in front and then a hammer curl with the forearms externally rotated. (We do this move in aerobics all the time. We did 30 seconds on one leg and then 30 seconds balance on the other leg for a full minute. Here the eight pound weights were fine, though I might try next time with tens.)
  • Branon Boat: In Boat (see Boat Plow), lower and lift you legs four times with torso stationary. Next lower and lift your torso four times with legs stationary. (So this was hard. I was struggling to figure out how much range of motion I should use when moving my torso especially. I think this is a move where practice will help. I'm eager to see how my balance improves as I do this move again and again. Definitely required leg strength and flexibility as well as a strong core.)
  • Flying Warrior: Standing on one leg with dumbbells in each hand, raise both dumbbells in front of your torso to shoulder level in a front raise. Lower and come into Warrior 3, bringing one leg straight in back of you. Bring the weights out t the side so they are parallel to the floor in a side raise. Stand and repeat. (I loved this blend of strength work and balance. The eight pound weights were perfect because we only did four reps on each side. I found it hard to balance in Warrior 3 when doing the side raise and had to really engage all my muscles to stay firm.)
  • Squat Rockers: In a deep squat, with a weight at chest level, begin to rock back and forth between high heels and lifted toes. Keep your chest lifted and abs in. (I kept falling out of this move on when rocking back on my heels. I found it helped a little to keep my chest a bit farther forward, though I am not sure that is the exact form that is desired. I also think I need to separate my feet more for balance. I want to watch this move again next time through and try to figure out the form better. I might need to go lower into the squat to get into the right place to have the balance to rock back. Regardless, this worked my legs a lot -- they were quivering at the end.)
  • Side Rise Punch: On your left side, with your right arm on the floor and your left holding a dumbbell, cross your arms over your torso. Extent your right arm, lifting your torso off the floor. Reach your left arm out from under and extend to punch parallel to your shoulders. Do ten on each side. (I found this move to be of average difficulty -- the eight pound weight was fine.)
  • Warrior Squat Moon: On your right leg, with your left leg extended behind you at hip height, reach your right finger tips to the floor and extend your left arm to the ceiling. Turn your torso towards the floor and reach to the front of the room. Do side to side. (This is another move that I am eager to practice to learn the balance. I don't do much yoga [read: I don't do any yoga], and these two yoga moves were a balance challenge for me.)

The workout concluded with a minute an a half long cool down. This was in addition to the 30 minutes, but was worth it. There was some brief stretching. Since my heart rate wasn't very elevated, the quick cool down was perfect.

P90X3 nominally has a modifier; in this workout Draya. However, she does very little in terms of modifying. This is not like T25 where Tanya does significant modifications. I would recommend to anyone hoping to do P90X3 to make sure that you really think you can get through the move sets or that you have someone you know who can help with coaching you on how to make modifications. If Total Synergistics is any indication, you will mostly be on your own here.

Many times during the workout, Tony recommends tracking your reps and the weight you use. He references the P90X app, which is supposed to have the P90X3 calendar and workouts. So far, Beachbody has not updated the P90X app for iPhone to include the P90X3 calendar. I am fairly annoyed about this because I had planned to use the app to track my results. Until then I probably won't be doing tracking the way I should. Get on it Beachbody!


Total Synergistics is a total body workout that focuses on strength, balance, and form. You end up doing a lot of body weight isometric moves where balance is key. This is very different from the other training that I tend to do, which I found to be a great strength. While the workout made me feel like I was working because of the intense concentration that it required. However, the moves were not fast paced and I never felt like my heart rate got up very high. This is more resistance and balance training for your core than cardio. I would recommend supplementing this workout with cardio for better results.

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