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03
03
2010

P90x for Baseball?

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In an excellent (and controversial) post about Crossfit for baseball athletes, Eric Cressey talked about why Crossfit’s Workout of the Day is a poor way to train for baseball for many reasons. One such reason was:

3) I have huge concerns about poor exercise technique in conditions of fatigue in anyone, but these situations concern me even more in a population like baseball players that has a remarkably high injury rate as-is.  The fact that 57% of pitchers suffer some sort of shoulder injury during each season says something.  Just think of what that rate is when you factor in problems in other areas, too!  The primary goal should not be entertainment or variety (or “muscle confusion,” for all the morons in pro baseball who call P90X their “hardcore” off-season program). Rather, the goals should be a) keeping guys on the field and b) safe performance enhancement strategies (in that order).

Not only is this an excellent point, but the bolded section (emphasis mine) deserves an in-depth look as well.

P90x is a popular training system sold on infomercials and targets the young adult population from ages 18-30, who unsurprisingly have a lot of dispensable income and are predisposed to watching a lot of television. P90x’s secret?

The secret behind the P90X system is an advanced training technique called Muscle Confusion, which accelerates the results process by constantly introducing new moves and routines so your body never plateaus, and you never get bored!

Let’s just get this out of the way: This statement is stupid.

Want to train in a real gym tailored for baseball athletes? Click here.

Problem One: Constantly introducing new moves and routines on a daily basis ensures that you are unable to accurately track your progress throughout the program.

For those unaware of what P90x looks like, here’s a sample infomercial with their exercises:

You’ll notice a lot of light DB and bodyweight exercises done in rapid succession with a clock timing you.

Problem Two: P90x incorporates little – if any – heavy resistance training to build strength. Contrary to popular belief, strength is not some nebulous word that you throw around and occasionally combine with the word “core.” Strength is binary – it is the answer to the question “Did I move this heavy object that weighs X pounds?” You cannot build strength effectively without the ability to appropriately load an exercise that works your body’s musculature with compound movements. This typically ends up involving barbells and exercises like the squat, deadlift, bench press, press, and rows.

I happen to have a copy of the training schedule (given to me by a friend who failed to complete the program), and while I won’t reproduce it in its entirety, suffice to say that you are “training” six days a week with a single rest day that involves some light yoga and/or stretching.

Problem Three: Any exercise program that has you training hard for six days in a row will eventually lead to overtraining, a phenomenon I discussed in an earlier blog post.

Let’s get to baseball-specific problems with P90x, shall we?

P90x works your body in segments – isolating body parts over given days. Day 1 might be a “Chest and Back” workout while Day 5 is a “Shoulders and Arms” workout. The problem with this approach is that baseball (and every other sport out there, really) is not an isolation-based sport. Training your body to work via isolated movements will have little – if any – carryover to athletic competition. Strength, conditioning, and overall fitness is best built through compound movements that are capable of moving heavy weight through multi-joint activities – just like you would in any sport!

Problem Four: Isolation-based training – which P90x is – has little carryover to athletic competition.

While P90x can lead to building instabilities and promote dysfunction through isolated movements, I’m not terribly worried about the injury factor that it can absolutely lead to in baseball players (particularly pitchers). Why? Because P90x uses movements that necessitate low resistances, and so not much is getting done.

I can already see your responses: “But Kyle,” you say, “my completely sedentary and untrained friend did P90x Lean and got in much better shape over 90 days! Take that!”

There’s an easy response to this – and one that I hope everyone who reads my blog understands and memorizes. They are the three tenets of exercise science, and they are:

1. Everything works.
2. Some things work better than others.
3. Nothing works forever.

P90x for completely untrained individuals fall directly under the first bullet point. Training 3-4 times a week while focusing on squats, deadlifts, chin-ups, rows, explosive movements, and a focus on mobility fall directly under the second bullet point. And Olympic athletes who are trying to increase their Clean and Jerk from 212 kg to 214 kg in the matter of four years fall under the third bullet point.

If you take a completely sedentary individual and have them run 2 miles a day, every other day, their one-rep max (1RM) squat will go up. Does this mean running is the best way to increase your squat? No. It means that for individuals who don’t train and who have bodies completely unadapted to stress that anything will work.

While I’m not a fan of cookie-cutter workouts for baseball athletes, if you absolutely must get a program from someone – and you’re an untrained novice – do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore. It’s a must-own for anyone who takes strength training seriously anyway, so you might as well pick it up and follow the program. If you’re a baseball pitcher, I’d advise against overhead pressing and possibly switching the low-bar back squat for front squats or the high-bar back squat, but those are modifications you can make after you read the book and start to understand the basics of exercise science.

Friends don’t let friends do P90x. Just say no, kids.

Train at Driveline Baseball. Click here.

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Dan Blewett

I like this post, Kyle.

You’re right about the low-bar back squat, though there are ways to accommodate it that don’t strain the rotator cuff. A Top Squat attachment is one, a yoke bar is another, or you can always grab a pair of lifting straps and loop them over facing forward, all of which will allow you to hold the bar in a neutral hand position out in front of your body. I don’t see a lot of people being taught the low-bar back squat these days, though.

Kyle

Dan,

Thanks for the comment. Indeed, you can use many implements to accommodate the low-bar position that’s less stressful on the rotator cuff and shoulder in general.

Starting Strength uses the low-bar position for more posterior chain and hamstring involvement, and I use it in my own training, but athletic carryover is a bit higher with the high-bar position and it comes more naturally to clients, I’ve found.

Eddie

Kyle,

I am 31 years old and have some fat to lose. I am guilty of being gullable I did buy the P90X package. I like it, its tough, I feel like I get a workout, but I don’t feel the same as I do when I lift weights and run outside. So what would suggest for someone who wants to get a little stronger, more flexable, but also needs to lose some weight?

Kyle

Eddie,

Sorry for the late reply!

Pick up a copy of Mark Rippetoe’s “Starting Strength” and check out basic barbell training. Losing weight is all about diet and very little about exercise. For good cardio to improve endurance (VO2max) and fat loss, search the Internet for “Tabata protocol” articles.

For flexibility, I’d look up Eric Cressey’s products like Magnificent Mobility and/or Assess and Correct.

Jeff

Interesting article Kyle. In my opinion and from personal experience I think P90x is amazing for baseball players, especially pitchers. Muscle confusion is NOT BS. Its science… Kung Fu masters have been using the science of muscle confusion for thousands of years! BTW, Eric Cressey gets PAID to train people… P90x takes money out of his pocket so of course he is going to give it a bad review!

I’m a 30 year old pitcher playing in amateur leagues year round. I just started p90x a few weeks ago. I’m not even doing it everyday, just a couple times per week and I can already feel a major difference. I threw a complete game shut out which I havent been able to do since high school. I usually tire after the 5th or 6th inning. My fastball had more “pop” to it as well.

Kyle

Jeff, you’re forgetting the three rules I laid out above:

1. Everything works.
2. Some things work better than others.
3. Nothing works forever.

Blair

I have completed P90x and Insanity, both infomercial fitness sets sold on TV. I would say you are dead wrong. I love your blog, but with P90x, you improve your cardio, core, leg strength and overall level of fitness more than any other workout I’ve ever done. I played HS basketball and volleyball with some pretty intense coaches, and I was never in this kind of shape. I think you need to try the workouts before you rip them apart. Sure, it might not be tuned to baseball, but it works muscles and muscle groups you never even knew you had.

The first routine is all pullups and pushups. If you do it twice, you’ll already see and feel a noticable difference. There is also plyometrics, yoga, stretching and core.

You might say “everything works,” but I would argue that P90x works better than anything else out there.

Bobby

Interesting. I won’t argue that P90X is not meant for baseball training. But the arguments you give show you don’t know the course. On problem one, tracking the progress in the program is a key part of P90X and it is emphasized in virtually strength routine. And Horton is constantly telling you to stop the tape when you need to rest, etc.

On problem 2, Horton also is constantly telling people that if you want size/strength, go to a weight where you go to 6 to 8 reps. If you’re looking for squats, deadlifts, bench presses, presses, and rows, these exercises do appear in various forms in the course (pushups for bench presses is the exception).

On problems 3 and 4, your problem with isolation training appears to be addressed through the core synergistics module, abdominals module and yoga module.

As I said, I wouldn’t advocate P90X for a total baseball training workout, though I think it is much better than what most people are doing (all that “muscle confusion” really means is “variety” and “variety” means the athlete won’t get as bored of the training as soon — a great motivator!). But the points you make against P90X are not convincing and seem to be based on a very shallow understanding of the program.

Turner

Why dont you try p90x? how on earth can you say that there is no weight training involved? about 60 percent of it is.

Kyle

“On problem 2, Horton also is constantly telling people that if you want size/strength, go to a weight where you go to 6 to 8 reps.”

I can squat 315 lbs 6-8 times. Can I do this in P90x?

“Why dont you try p90x? how on earth can you say that there is no weight training involved? about 60 percent of it is.”

Weight training is not doing push-ups and pull-ups with 20 lb. DBs or resistance bands.

I don’t see any deadlifts in P90x. Or power cleans.

Bplayersob19

your an idiot

Josh Butterstein

I tried XP90 but TIME was an issue.
Everyday became boring.
Doing full body weights 2 days, sprints 3, and stretching 1 works as good.
Only at gym 2 days, the rest can train in my cellar.
P90X still is phenomenal structured program created by Tony Horton

Driveline Baseball

It all depends on what your goals are. If your goals are baseball specific, P90X is not the best program to be using. Our Hacking the Kinetic Chain: Advanced Pitching book comes with strength training programming as well as throwing programming. This would be a great resource if your interested in executing our program on your own!

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