Workout Review – P90X3 – The Challenge

With my glute still a little tender from a prior injury, I decided to dust off an oldie but goodie workout – P90X3 – The Challenge. I’ll be doing a full review of P90X3 (Tony Horton is a character – you can’t help but like him) at a later date, but I like this particular routine so much, I do it once in a while outside of the P90X3 framework just to get a good high volume session in. This is a very simple and old-school routine that just requires a pullup bar and a floor. The workout is confined to the upper-body area, and is a simple push/pull routine. Meaning, you do push ups and pull ups. A lot of push ups and pull ups.

t rex pushups

photo credit: teepublic

The framework is pretty simple. You will complete 4 rounds, and perform the two exercises in each round twice before moving onto the next round. There is programmed rest between the exercise pairings, and then a slightly longer rest between rounds. This session won’t be a heart rate champ – this is just horsepower! I guarantee you will have blood in your muscles after this session is done.

Round 1:

  • Wide grip pull ups (overhand grip)
  • Regular push ups

Round 2:

  • Chin ups (underhand grip)
  • Military push ups (hands inside shoulder width, elbows close to the body)

Round 3:

  • Close grip pull ups (overhand grip)
  • Wide push ups

Round 4:

  • Staggered grip pull ups (one hand overhand, one hand under hand)
  • Staggered hand push ups (one hand forward, one hand close to the body)


  • 1 pull up (any style), 3 push ups (any style) for remaining 2+ minutes

The session adjusts itself over time to your strength gains. You basically pick a number for each movement, and you must do that number of reps throughout the entire session. For example, I’ve done this workout tons of times, so I decided to try and go big this time around, and chose 30 reps for my push movements and 9 for my pull movements. That means, for round 1, I had to do 9 wide grip pull ups and 30 regular push ups, rest briefly, and then do 9 more wide grip pull ups and 30 regular push ups. Following the rest period, I’d follow the same 9 & 30 pattern for the next set of pull/push movements.

The reason this is a good “volume” workout is because if you do the math, you are doing a lot of push ups and a lot of pull ups in 30 minutes. The key is to pick your numbers wisely as to challenge yourself, but also not shoot for the moon so that you can’t do the numbers halfway through. Be sure to keep good records so the next time you do it, you can either up the numbers, or make an adjustment.

As it turns out, I chose my numbers poorly.

chose poorly

After two sets, I realized I bit off more than I can chew. As it turns out, my strength is a little sapped since I’m in my first week of a ketogenic diet cycle. For the next round, I dropped it to 25 and 9, but quickly realized that 20 and 8 would be the only way I was going to complete all of the rounds. This was kind of a step backwards on my prior push up performance during this workout, but the pull work was on par. I’m not going to fret too much. At the end of the session, I clocked in the following totals:

Pull movements (including burnout): 76

Push movements (including burnout): 205

As mentioned previously, this session isn’t about heart rate – its about putting the muscles under tension. A lot. See – HR never even hit 100.

p90x3 challenge hr chart.JPG


This workout is a keeper! You don’t even need the video. The framework is simple. It very closely mirrors an AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) set up where you lump together multiple exercises for a predetermined amount of reps, set the clock for whatever time interval you want (10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, etc), and see how many rounds you can complete. For example, a very basic AMRAP circuit could be:

AMRAP – 20 minutes

  • 20 pushups
  • 8 pullups
  • 20 air squats

If you knock out 10 rounds in 20 minutes, you just did 200 push ups, 80 pull ups, and 200 air squats. Not a bad volume session.

I completely recommend this workout as one to keep coming back to. There are many ways you can alter it to make it tougher. I’ve worn a 40lb vest while doing it (my numbers per set were much lower, but it was a totally different approach to the session).

Someday, I’d like to be able to do the session with 40 on the push and 18 on the pull like the guy in the video. That is a crazy cross-section between muscle strength and muscle endurance.

Have you ever done P90X3? If so, what do you think of “The Challenge?” Are you a fan of AMRAP workouts? If so, let us know about some of the tougher AMRAPS you’ve done. Please “like” and share if you enjoyed this post. Thank you.



3 thoughts on “Workout Review – P90X3 – The Challenge”

    1. Thanks for the post! Yes, I agree that its a tough workout, but feels great with all of the volume you accumulate afterwards. My advice with the P90x3 – learn to love the yoga. That opens up a whole new world of feeling good if you don’t skip it. If you are doing the beachbody on demand streaming, I’d highly recommend doing the recovery & mobility workout from P90x2 as a nice companion recovery workout. Its a solid hour of flexibility, mobility, and foam rolling. Great stuff.

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