P90X is an extreme, hard-core fitness program developed by Beachbody that combines aerobic and anaerobic exercise with yoga, core exercises and stretching. Tony Horton, actor turned fitness guru, Carl Daikeler, CEO of Beachbody, and the Beachbody team designed the P90X program to dramatically increase muscle tone and fitness in 90 days. The website says, "All you need is a set of dumbbells or resistance bands, a pull-up bar, and about an hour a day. No gym membership required." There is a lively debate about which is better to use in P90X, dumbbells or resistance bands.
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Advantages of Weights
There are three distinct advantages weights have over resistance bands. If you are doing dumbbell curls and you want to accurately record your progress on the P90X exercise tracking forms, you know definitively that you are curling eight repetitions with 10 pounds if you pick up a 10 pound weight. If the following week you curl eight repetitions with a 15 lb. weight, you know with precision that you are able to curl five pounds more. Thus, by using free weights you can definitely track and record progress. The third advantage has to do with the look of weights, which can not be downplayed. Lifting weights looks much more macho and hardcore than using an exercise band. Do not downplay this advantage; attitude is very important in P90X.
Disadvantages of Weights
Weights are not portable. If you are traveling, you cannot tuck them into your suitcase but need to stay at a hotel with a gym, bring your P90X tapes down to the workout room and do them in front of other people, which may annoy them. Weights are hard to store. You have to put them in an out-of-the-way place when you are done exercising or devote an entire room or area of your house to them. Weights can damage your floors. Weights tend to be expensive. A beginner's weight set can cost over $100. You can injure your back with weights if you put them down incorrectly. Tony Horton gives instruction on the correct way to pick up and put down free weights in the P90X videos but if you are enthusiastic, you may forget to be careful.
Advantages of bands
Resistance bands are thick elastic bands that are used in resistance training. Resistance bands travel and store well. You can just tuck them away when you are not using them and they are light and very portable. Resistance bands are much cheaper than free weights. A beginner's set of resistance bands costs about $35. While weights only provide resistance on the contraction part of the exercise, resistance bands provide resistance on both the contract and relaxation part of the exercise.
Disadvantages of Bands
You must learn how to use resistance bands, and they are not as intuitive to use as weights. They are not as precise in terms of tracking and logging progress. If you adjust your stance you can increase the resistance of a band, but you do not know by how much. And, you may have difficulty maintaining this exact level of resistance on your next workout. Adapting the bands for use in P90X is sometimes difficult, because Tony Horton uses free weights and, although there is always someone modeling the adaptation for resistance bands, you do not get to see this on every move, and it is sometimes it is only demonstrated after the free weight move, which can be frustrating. Finally, they do not look very masculine. Tony Horton is the star of P90X and he does not use them even once in the videos. The subliminal message is very powerful -- if you want to look like Tony Horton, free weights are the way to go.