How to Gain Muscle Mass with P90X

I find my customers fit into one of two categories. Those that want to lose weight and those that want to gain muscle mass. An alternative on the second would be that they have lost the weight, and then want to add some lean muscle mass back on. You can read articles all over the internet on how to accomplish these two tasks. Simply google: How to gain muscle mass, or how to lose weight. Well, in my opinion, Beachbody has already proven that losing weight with their programs is easy.  Well, that’s not entirely correct. Beachbody programs provide you with easy to follow fitness and nutrition plans.

You still have to be prepared to do the workouts and eat properly.  But I want to focus on the question I get asked quite often. And if Beachbody is capable of giving you the tools to lose weight, then I believe they can help you gain muscle mass with P90X. Read the article below by Beachbody advisor Steve Edwards, and then get big. If you have success, we want to hear about it too. Email us your success story!

Before the BEAST, it was necessary to modify P90X to Gain Mass. NOW… you don’t have to modify. Body Beast was designed to gain muscle mass! Learn More

Can I gain weight with P90X?

Guys have a thing for mass. It’s hard to explain, really, but boys seem to grow up wanting nothing more than to be big. Guys want speedboats and trucks, and they want to look like The Hulk, regardless of what their wives may think of green skin. If this sounds like you, here’s the article you’ve been looking for: customizing P90X for mass.

Even if mass is your only goal, make sure to read the subsequent articles in the series on customizing the X.  Subscribe to our blog to catch these articles as they come out.  The principles discussed in subsequent articles will be put to use here. To look like The Hulk, you don’t need to have a mad scientist father, but you do need to consider science as we know it.  What is mass?

What is mass?

Because many of our Success Stories, not to mention Tony, aren’t exactly skinny, we must begin by defining mass—most of you are looking for more. Mass simply means size. As part of the word massive, we assume it means above average in size. It doesn’t, but that’s beside the point. A program targeting mass is concerned with one thing: muscle growth (from here on in referred to as hypertrophy), and a lot of it.

In a training cycle for mass, we should target hypertrophy even at the expense of other fitness goals. P90X is not a system designed for mass. It’s designed for overall fitness, which means that ultimate gains in targeted areas, like speed, strength, flexibility, and muscle growth, are compromised to provide a program that improves all of your body’s physical energy systems during one 90-day effort. We feel as though this is the preferred training system because it addresses the big picture. But if your picture is quite literally being bigger, then you’ll need to read on.

Foundation

You’ve read about the capacity for improvement throughout this series, so here’s where I tell you to do a round of P90X as it’s designed before embarking on a mass-specific program. It’s healthier, sure, but it’s more than that. Training all of your body’s energy systems until they’re running efficiently increases your body’s ability to do, well, anything. Part of anything includes looking like Lou Ferrigno. Once you’ve done a round of the X and aced your fit test, the foundation has been laid. You’re ready to start gettin’ big.

Resistance

Tony loves the word specificity. He often uses it when referring to exercise movements, but we’re going to use it to refer to the equipment you’ll need. With mass as your goal, you’d better acquire specific resistance equipment. The simplest form is weights; however, mass can also be created by using other forms of tension, like resistance bands. The bottom line is that if mass is your goal, you’ll need to have more weight available than you’ve been using. Body weight and plyometric movements can be used effectively for strength training, but strength and hypertrophy are not synonymous.  To make hypertrophic gains, you’re going to need to find ways to make your body fail at a given number of repetitions. You’ll want an array of weights and bands, and some extra devices like ankle and wrist weights, or a weight vest, to add resistance to all the movements you’re doing.

The difference between size and strength

As we touched on last time, hypertrophy training simply increases the size of the muscle. Strength training increases the efficiency of the muscle. Large muscles have a greater capacity for strength. Absolute strength is the ability of the muscle to use all of its muscle cells for movement. People in sports dependent on strength-to-weight ratios target high muscular efficiency in their training, whereas those in sheer size-dependent sports will focus more on hypertrophy. Most sports are somewhat dependent on both size and strength, which are ideally improved during different cycles of training.

Periodization

The periodizational concepts that have been discussed in prior issues need to be explained here before a mass schedule is created. Remember that a standard schedule would look similar to this:

Foundation phase (Power 90® or what you did pre-X) + block 1 + transition/recovery + block 2 + transition/recovery + block 3 + recovery = peak (final fit test)

The difference here is that we’re going to structure an entire training cycle based only on hypertrophy. This means we won’t be setting up a peak phase. Over a long period of time, you would want to teach your muscles how to function more efficiently. We’ll get to this at the end.

For now, we’ll just say that there is still a periodizational approach to consider. You will still adapt, gain, and plateau over time, so we’ll need a structure to keep this happening. But the structure will be dependent simply on rep schemes (the number of repetitions that you target to bring you to failure) and progressive overload. The blocks of our 90-day schedule will each target a different number of repetitions, which you’ll want to aim for to induce failure. But because we’re not changing the schedule much, and thus creating less Muscle Confusion™, we won’t need such frequent recovery phases.

Progressive overload

Hypertrophy is all about creating progressive overload. To create muscle growth, you must keep stimulating the muscles during each workout. This requires that you add weight as necessary to create failure at the desired number of reps.

Recovery

The more we can focus on hypertrophy, the more muscle we’ll gain. Since we only have so much energy to expend, this means we should spend less time working on other areas. This is where you’ll see the biggest differences from the traditional P90X schedules. When you’re not training for hypertrophy, your entire focus should be on preparing your body to create more hypertrophy. Therefore, the P90X mass schedule will have a lot of active recovery and flexibility work and very little intense cardio. This means we’ll spend more time recovering during each training block and taking fewer periods focused solely on recovery.

Putting it all together

Before we get to the schedule, here are some general things to consider. The first is pacing. Instead of following the kids in the videos, target your rep scheme (and push pause when necessary). Do each set to failure (if you can add enough resistance; if not, get as close as you can), and don’t exceed your targeted number of reps. Do not, however, use the pause button simply to increase the time between exercises.

A good way to choose the resistance for each movement is to use enough so that you can only do the lower number of your targeted rep scheme. Once you can do the higher number, it’s time to increase the resistance.

Do your repetitions slowly and with control. Speed is for power, not size. Focus on perfect form and only add weight when you can do each rep with great form.

When you’re done, you’re done. You don’t need to finish an entire workout if you’re struggling. Once you lose the ability to move the weight or do the move in strict form, stop the workout. Any further training would only create more breakdown than you could recover from and increase your risk of injury.

Your diet

You won’t be burning as many calories as you would during the classic schedule of the X. If you eat the same amount, you may gain more mass, but you’ll also gain more body fat. This might or might not be acceptable, so pay attention and adjust your diet as necessary. If you want mass, then you need to eat enough for your body to put on weight. For more tips on diet and nutrition, while trying to gain muscle mass, read this article.

Block 1, phase 1
Weeks 1 through 3

* Day 1: Chest, Shoulders, & Triceps
* Day 2: Cardio X, Ab Ripper X
* Day 3: Legs & Back
* Day 4: X Stretch; Ab Ripper X or Abs/Core Plus (from P90X Plus)
* Day 5: Back & Biceps
* Day 6: Yoga X
* Day 7: Off

Targeted number of reps: 8 to 12 (focus on 10 to 12)

Block 1, phase 2
Weeks 4 through 6

* Day 1: Chest & Back
* Day 2: Cardio X, Ab Ripper X
* Day 3: Shoulders & Arms
* Day 4: X Stretch; Ab Ripper X or Abs/Core Plus
* Day 5: Legs & Back
* Day 6: Yoga X
* Day 7: Off

Targeted number of reps: 8 to 12 (focus on 8 to 10)

Recovery Block
Week 7

* Day 1: X Stretch
* Day 2: Yoga X
* Day 3: Core Synergistics
* Day 4: Kenpo X
* Day 5: Yoga X
* Day 6: X Stretch
* Day 7: Off

Block 2, phase 1
Weeks 8 and 9

* Day 1: Chest, Shoulders, & Triceps
* Day 2: Cardio X, Ab Ripper X
* Day 3: Legs & Back
* Day 4: X Stretch; Ab Ripper X or Abs/Core Plus
* Day 5: Back & Biceps
* Day 6: Yoga X
* Day 7: Off
* Day 8: Chest & Back
* Day 9: Cardio X, Ab Riper X
* Day 10: Shoulders & Arms
* Day 11: X Stretch; Ab Ripper X or Abs/Core Plus
* Day 12: Legs & Back
* Day 13: Yoga X
* Day 14: Off

Targeted number of reps: 6 to 10

Block 2, phase 2
Weeks 10 and 11

Same schedule as weeks 8 and 9

Targeted number of reps: 4 to 8

Block 2, phase 3
Week 12 and 13

Same schedule as weeks 8 and 9

Targeted number of reps: 4 to 6

Final note: This is an entire cycle of training based only on hypertrophy. To have an athletically efficient physique, you should do other training cycles that target different goals. Even if your only goal is hypertrophy, training these other systems properly will improve your body’s physical systems and increase your capacity for muscle growth, as well as the speed at which you can add or shed muscle and fat. So while you can tweak and reuse this basic structure over and over, it will also benefit you to get back to basics and do P90X classic from time to time.

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212 Comments

  1. Mark said:

    Robert,

    Can you explain why during weeks 1-3 legs and back is between the two arm work outs which allows maximum rest time. But then it is moved during weeks 4-6 to the end of the week and having 2 arm work outs in 3 days occurs seeming like not enough rest time is allowed. Why is this done?

    Lastly shouldn’t legs be workout out more than once a week. Your body grows in proportions and for the top to get bigger the bottom must grow as well. Shouldn’t legs be worked out then twice a week as well?

    Thanks!

  2. Robert Harden said:

    Mark, Not every rotation is going to be perfect for every person. This is a great guide, but feel free to move/add workouts to fit your individual tastes. Also, this is a “hybrid” workout, meaning it is being put together to change P90X from its original intent of getting lean and ripped to one that will help people also gain muscle mass. If you would like a program SPECIFICALLY for gaining mass, check out Body Beast. It was MADE for MASS. http://www.extremely-fit.com/body-beast-workout/

  3. Fernando said:

    If I do p90x regularly but try to add resistance to where I can only do 8 to 10 reps would I still gain muscle mass?

  4. Robert Harden said:

    Fernando, That would help yes. This hybrid would help too. It changes the rotation of the workouts in a way that makes it better for those wanting to gain mass. It also specifies number of reps etc. If you would like a program SPECIFICALLY for gaining mass, check out Body Beast. It was MADE for MASS. http://www.extremely-fit.com/body-beast-workout/

  5. rabih said:

    hey sean I’m 5’8 138 pounds, what would be the best thing for me to do? Should i go with this p90x schedule

    Sunday – Off
    Monday – Chest / Back / Abs
    Tuesday – Shoulders / Arms
    Wednesday – Legs / Abs
    Thursday – Chest / Back
    Friday – Shoulers / Arms / Abs
    Saturday – Off

    or should i go with your schedule because I’m trying to get a little big and still get a little cut, I am on a weight gainer that has 700 calories and 56g of protein but i currently deciding whether to go on lean protein in order to get a six pack and get muscle and can i get a six pack but doing your method

    So bottom line will i get a six pack with my mass gain schedule and by taking a weight gainer or will it just cover up my abs

  6. Robert Harden said:

    Rabih,

    It’s difficult to add muscle mass and keep a six pack. You are naturally going to gain some fat along with muscle as you add mass. The idea is to gain weight slowly, and reduce the amount of fat, but you’ll still get some. After you have added some muscle mass, then you can come back and cut off some excess fat weight that you might have gained along the way. Since Body Beast has been released, that’s the number one program I am referring now for people that want to gain MASS. Check it out here! This takes out all the guess work, follow the exercises, the nutrition, the cutting phase, it’s all SPECIFICALLY designed for MASS.

  7. Owen said:

    I posted a while under my middle name (Scott) but this is the final result of 1.5 years working out from April 2011 to August 2012 purely on a mildly modified version of this program (never done anything else, never been to the gym, never done an original P90x rotation before). I had to cut back hard after my first bulk – and ended up at about 147 (11% BF), I did a second bulk since then and now I’m around 162 at 5’8″ (what I’m guessing is about 12% BF). Once again, I never did any cardio or conditioning work just purely the weight training sections + diet and whilst I’m not super lean I am getting there. I couldn’t tell you what round I’m on because I rotate the weeks at will and don’t really keep count. Anyway, here’s a picture:

    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/4363530/P90X.JPG

    Unfortunately I don’t have a before one because I’ve never kept very good track of where I was, suffice to say before I started a friend told me I looked like I looked like a starved child I was that skinny. Anyway I’m hoping to reach the upper 160’s/early 170’s leaner than this by next year. Until then I’m cutting to 8-10% area or until I get bored and start craving metric tonnes of peanut butter again.

  8. Jason said:

    During some of the pushups. If I add resistance bands will that add mass? Rather than pumping out 20-30 pushups to get to failure. I did one workout that way,And feels amazing. But will it work?

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