The Best of the Best: Putting today’s top workout programs to the test

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With all the hype around workout programs that get you fit fast, it’s hard to know sometimes if you’re really getting the best possible workout for your money. Take a look at a previously published article titled High Intensity Workouts – The Best Options for Training at Home. It lists the key elements a workout program needs, to be truly convenient and successful. These elements including: being reasonably priced, video based, step-by-step guided, and proven to work by other people. It was also mentioned that there shouldn't be any major equipment requirements and that the program could be completed in short sessions, preferably in 30 minute sessions.

Programs should have at least some focus on nutrition, as a balanced diet is important to any fitness program if you want to get good results. We took this list and compared it to the top four workout programs on the market today, to see if they could really fulfill the needs of the average working person. The results were surprising.

P90X

p90x

While taking a look at the P90X program, we wanted to compile a list of reasons why this workout series is so great.

Cost:

This program isn’t cheap, however there are different kits that you can buy that give you some different options in how much you spend. And when you consider the value of everything included in the kit, it is not an unreasonable investment.

  • The Base kit, which includes the DVDs, the nutrition plan, the Fitness Guide, and the Workout Calendar costs $139.80 total, in addition to whatever you choose to spend on buying equipment.
  • The Deluxe kit includes everything in the base kit, as well as a “Gym-quality” Chin-Up Bar, a one month supply of their Beachbody Performance™ Orange flavored Recover Post-Workout Supplement, and three Pro-grade Resistance Bands. This costs $274.87 total.
  • The Ultimate kit includes all that is in the previous two, as well as five additional advanced workouts, Tony Horton's PowerStands, and the P90X Chin-Up Max, for a grand total of $369.45.
Learn more or get started here.

Ideally video based:

The program includes 12 DVDs with 12 workouts that lead you through the steps from beginning to end.

Proven for other people:

The overall rating on the website is 4.8 out of 5, averaged out of 3874 reviews on the site. So if it gets good reviews, it must be working.

Step-by-step: 

The steps are relatively simplistic. You do one workout video a day, with a rest/stretching day once a week. Even the basic kit includes a workout calendar for you to follow.

No major equipment requirements:

Resistance bands, a yoga mat, heart rate moniter, yoga block, dumbbells, and pull up bars are all recommended, but not required.

Length of Workout :

The average workout lasts between 55 and 75 minutes.

Nutritional focus: 

The three phase nutrition plan works in tandem with the workouts to get your body in shape.

  • Phase 1: Fat Shredder – The first phase focuses on high protein foods that help to keep up energy while stripping fat.
  • Phase 2: Energy Booster – The second phase reduces your protein intake and adds carbohydrates, to help with endurance as well as boost energy to help you get through the workouts.
  • Phase 3: Endurance Maximizer – The third phase begins towards the end of the 90 day program that combines lean proteins, complex carbs and reduced fat. The shift in the diet helps prevent a plateau in weight loss and muscle building/toning so that you can keep improving right to the end of the program.

 

P90X3

p90x3

Cost:

This program has essentially the same prices as P90X, with some changes to what each kit includes. The main difference is that the base kit also includes a resistance band, so you don't have to buy one in addition to the program.

Ideally video based:

16 DVDs with 16 workouts that lead you through the video from beginning to end.

Proven for other people:

The website does not give an overall rating, but it is full of positive testimonials. This program is advertised as the better version of P90X, and the testimonials definitely give that claim credibility.

Step-by-step:

With a similar workout rotation as P90X, the workouts focus on strength and cardio training for three weeks, then transition during the fourth week to focus more on flexibility through stretching, yoga and pilates.

Equipment requirements:

Like P90X, this program requires resistance bands, however, a resistance band is included in the Basic kit, which makes the need for equipment it slightly less off-putting. However, the program does also suggest that you have a chin up bar, jump mat, and Dumbbells ranging from five to fifty pounds.

Length of Workout:

Unlike P90X, P90X3 uses 30 Minute workouts, which makes using the program much more feasible for people with busy schedules, or who are hard pressed to finish an hour long workout.

Nutritional focus:

Though the P90X3 Nutrition Plan is far less structured than P90X, it is thorough and gives you the tools you need to balance your diet and physical activity. Instead of dictating what you eat for allotted time segments, the nutrition guide teaches “intuitive eating” and serves as a portion plan, so that you can continue healthy eating habits long after you’ve finished the 90 day program. The plan focuses on the three macronutrients : Carbs, Fats, and Protein. They provide three lists of foods that fit within the categories and within the diet, starting with the best options, working their way down to more questionable items. You choose your own diet structure, simply choosing from the three lists to create a healthy diet that gives you everything you need to get the most from your workouts.

 

Max Workouts

 

Cost:

The PDF costs $40.00 and includes the additional books that give you the complete program – The diet, The 4-Week Body Weight Workout Program, and the Muscle Recovery Guide. Considering that you’re learning from a book and that the videos cost an additional $19.95 per month to use, this program isn’t terribly priced, but it’s also lacking in ease of use, which for some people is worth a higher price.

Ideally video based: 

This workout is in Book form, which includes detailed instruction on the workout – descriptions of the exercises with pictures that demonstrate how to do them, and the number of repetitions needed for each. As was noted before, there are videos available, but they cost an additional $19.95 per month to access, which adds as substantial sum for a ninety-day program.

Proven for other people:

The Program’s site features testimonials from users all over the world who give the workout a positive review. Our own site recently reviewed Max Workout and gave it less than stellar praise. The final verdict was that while it did give results it was a “massive struggle for the results you get.”

Step-by-step:

Again, the book includes detailed instructions for each workout, laying out what exercises to do, how many reps to do, the order the exercises should done in, and how much time it should take to do them all. The workouts are explicitly planned for each day, so it should be easy to follow. However, following a book is much more difficult than following a video, so many people will not find this program easy to use.

Equipment requirements:

The workouts do not require a gym membership and can be done from home, however you will need to purchase dumbbells and barbells, with a chin-up bar recommended.

Length of Workout:

According to the website, none of the workouts should last more than thirty minutes – but because you are responsible for timing yourself and can’t follow along to a video, that timing is not guaranteed.

Nutritional focus:

The program does include a diet plan, however it’s fairly basic, and mostly common sense. The guide does include detailed food lists including foods to avoid, which is very useful, but if you’re looking for an in-depth diet to go with your exercise regime, this isn’t going to cut it for you.

Click here to see a full in-depth review of Max Workouts

 

Insanity Workouts

Insanity-Logo

Cost:

Insanity costs $144.80 for the complete package which includes the DVD’s, a calendar that tracks your workouts, and the nutrition plan. While that isn’t cheap, it’s not a ridiculous price considering what you receive.

Ideally video based:

10 DVD’s with 10 Workouts.

Proven for other people:

The website features multiple glowing testaments to the program’s effectiveness, though it’s clear the program is pretty extreme, and is not for everybody.

Step-by-step:

The Program takes you through each workout step by step and has a clear schedule to keep you right where you need to be.

Equipment requirements:

Insanity requires no equipment at all.

Length of Workout:

Insanity’s videos vary in length. The first month’s video very from 35 to 45 minutes, but the second month’s videos are about 55 minutes long. This is because the program increases in intensity as it progresses to prevent you from plateauing as you build stamina. However, they still are a bit long for anyone with time constraints.

Nutritional focus:

The Program’s nutrition guide is very thorough. Once again it is split into two section for the two months the program covers. The guide urges you to five meals a day, and has a section with recipes for each meal, totalling 50 recipes in all. The first month’s meals are approximately 300 calories each, though that can be modified depending on the individual’s needs. This increases the second month, as the workouts increase and you begin burning more calories.

Click Here for the Insanity Workout Calendar

So, looking over all the data, we’ve come to the conclusion that none of the programs are truly perfect. However, the program that best meets our criteria is Insanity. It’s a bit pricey, but most would argue it’s worth the price. The only other obstacle is the length of the workouts, which go over our ideal thirty minute mark. However, if time isn’t as pressing an issue for you, Insanity is probably the way to go. A close second is P90X3. This new program blows P90X out of the water, and if you’re willing to spend more on the program and the equipment, you’re guaranteed to get results. As we’ve seen Max Workouts really isn’t up to snuff, and only a really self-sufficient person is going to succeed with it.

A couple programs passed our test, but if you’re interested in less intense options to get in shape and lose weight, check out our other articles. We’d highly recommended checking out these other programs we’ve recently reviewed and absolutely love:

Review of The Fat Loss Factor by the famous Dr. Charles Livingston

Review of The Venus Factor by John Barban (a great option for women)

Review of The Cruise Control Diet by James Ward

Review of Eat Stop Eat by Brad Pilon

The Bikini Workout Plan by Shawna K (30’s women only)

 

If you don’t want to exercise we’d suggest this smoothie program from Liz Swann Miller.

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