P90X review: Best bootcamp-style home fitness app for iPhone

"P90X, the popular hardcore home fitness program, has made a bold leap onto the iPhone with outstanding content, if not polished experience."

Mobile Nations Fitness Month: Read all the reviews!

P90X -- short for Power 90 Extreme -- aims to get you into better shape in 90 days through a combination of traditional exercises and nutritional advice, all highly packaged, polished, and available for purchase right on your iPhone. If that sounds slightly cynical, it is. The amount of money made from people buying and never using commercial home fitness programs probably tends towards the infinite at this point. From Jane Fonda to Richard Simmons to Tony Little to Billy Blanks to Jillian Michaels to Tony Horton, the amount of video tapes (Wikipedia it!) and DVDs collecting dust on our collective shelves could fill gyms around the country. But the age of physical media is over. We have iPhones and iPads now, devices that can not only show us the latest, freshest workout trend, but unshackle us from the living room TV and let us watch them anywhere, at any time. Moreover, since our mobile devices are tied into the rest of our lives, they can remind us when to work out (calendars and task lists), and the data they collect can help us track our progress more easily than ever before (location, time, movement).

P90X has been available in DVD form for a while and so P90X for iPhone can be used in 2 ways -- as a companion to help you schedule and track your P90X DVD progress (or just your progress in general if you're already familiar with all the exercises), or in its own right if you buy the in-app purchases and watch the workout videos right on your iPhone.

P90X for iPhone does a great job getting you started, but also offers a good variety of exercises to keep you going.

The P90X app itself is $4.99 and the in-app pricing for the workouts are as follows:

  • $59.99 for the all bundles
  • $29.99 for bundles of workouts (chest and back, shoulders and arms, legs and back, etc.)
  • $6.99 for individual workouts (plyometrics, Yoga x, Kenpo x, core synergistics, etc.)

There are both traditional fitness workouts, the bread and butter body-parts stuff, and some variety like the Yoga and Kenpo workouts. (Which shouldn't be confused with traditional holistic or martial arts, but include different enough movements to keep things fresh.)

As you might have picked up from the intro, I have a bias against these types of commercial packages. P90X, for example, litters the registered trademark (R) symbol around almost more than they do the exercises, and the app actually has you agree to terms and conditions for their content when you launch it for the first time (even movie apps don't typically do that). It makes you think the lawyers and accounts were as involved in the planning and design and the exercise and nutrition experts. That's okay. Products are supposed to make money. It's just a little to overt and, frankly, tacky in this case and makes me take them a little less seriously.

Back to the app. It's not the best user interface or user experience. It requires taps sometimes when swipes would feel better, it has tips that are helpful but not perfectly implemented, and it's heavy -- lots of video and resources -- so older devices may struggle with the load.

The content here is king, however, and there's enough really good stuff that any quibbles about tackiness and UI polish quickly fade. When you're sweating up a storm, you just need to know what to do next and how to do it. In those areas, P90X is excellent.

You can choose individual workouts in P90X for iPhone, but the real benefit comes from starting a 90-day guided program.

First time users can easily get started with a 90 day program and are immediately assigned some easing-into tasks, like taking a profile photo, inputting measurements, and taking a fitness test to establish a starting point. This data is fed into the P90X profile tab so you can make the experience feel a little more personalized, as well as view your achievements (+1 for game-ification), check your progress, and re-take the fitness test.

Once you're ready to get going, you can schedule your workouts, choosing between P90X classic, lean, or doubles, and it will push the appropriate times into the built-in calendar (but not into the main iOS calendar, at least as far as I could tell). If you exercise on your own -- spin class, hot yoga, Pilates, obstacle courses, grappling, whatever, you can add those in as well. If you use their online "Team BeachBody SuperGym", you can sync between your iPhone and the site.

All of your progress gets charted so you can hold yourself accountable to your goals. There's an option to keep a nutrition log in the app as well, but it's not very robust and while convenient to keep everything in one place, if you're serious about it you my want to try a dedicated diet app like Weight Watchers Mobile.

It wouldn't be an iOS app without a social component either, would it? Not only do you have the usual Twitter and Facebook options, but P90X even includes support for Apple's Game Center so you can share with the world and get a little peer-pressure working for you as well.

With P90X for iPhone, you can use it as a companion for the DVDs (or your existing exercise knowledge), or buy video workouts via in-app purchase.

The exercises available via in-app purchase are well presented. Much to their credit, P90X doesn't use a fitness model in a thong and a hero pose for the actual exercises, but instead a realistic trainer doing realistic training. The camera moves in and out, and around, so you can get a good idea of the movements involved. They also mention tips on proper positioning and form, though the primary goal here is fitness, not functionality, so you don't get Muscle Balance and Function focus or precision.

There are popup warnings if you try to do something like two resistance workouts in a day ("Tony would want you to back off a bit"), which is great for beginners who might try to start off too quickly only to get injured, get discouraged, and ultimately fall off course.

Better integration with the iPhone would be welcome. Having the schedule show up in the built-in Calendar app or Reminders app would be great. Tying into the GPS and clock to track activities automatically, where and when possible, would be welcome. Pretty much anything and everything that got the management out of the way so you could focus on the fitness activities should be the goal.

You can run P90X for iPhone on the iPad, but there's no universal app or specific iPad app version yet, so you're stuck in double fuzzy chunky 2x mode. If you are at home, however, thanks to AirPlay mirroring on the iPhone 4S, you can beam the content to your Apple TV and watch any in-app purchased workout videos on your big screen.

The good

  • Well packaged, well planned, well presented content
  • Thoughtful progression for new users
  • Videos available on-device (via in-app purchase)
  • Good variety of exercises

The bad

  • User experience needs more polish
  • Commercial nature of the program is too overt and distracts from content
  • Bootcamp-style might be tough for first-timers

The bottom line

P90X is a popular fitness program that's made a bold leap onto the iPhone with outstanding content, if not polished experience. If you're already all in on P90X, the iPhone app is a great companion and will make it easier to track and keep up with your goals. If you're new to mobile health, and you're looking for something a little more hardcore than your typical TV fitness show, P90X is a great way to get started. (It may be a bit much for an absolute first timer, however, so start slowly and work your way up to P90X if it's something your want to try.)

And if you're joining us for Mobile Nations Fitness Month, and P90X is your plan of choice, jump into our Health & Fitness Forum and work out with us!

$4.99 - Download now

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.