P90X vs. Navy Seal Workout

When you're looking to bust your butt to get into shape -- and you want to do it without a gym membership -- you have several tried and true options. Two of those are P90X and the Navy SEAL workout. P90X was designed as an at-home exercise program, while the Navy SEAL workout was developed to prepare candidates for the physical fitness test for the Navy SEAL training program.

Many Navy SEAL candidates use P90X when beginning their conditioning, and many recreational athletes use the Navy SEAL workout to improve strength and stamina. Both programs have their merits and drawbacks.


The 12 videos in the P90X system cover strength training, plyometrics, cardio and stretching. This includes resistance workouts for the body's major muscle groups, and two cardio-based workouts: Cardio X and Kenpo X, a martial arts-based cardio workout. A 90-minute yoga routine is also part of the P90X program.

The goal of P90X is "muscle confusion," which means constantly challenging your muscles by changing the workouts. In any given strength workout, you'll do several variations of push-ups, pull-ups, lunges, squats and more. This approach is supposed to help you avoid fitness plateaus.

P90X also includes a diet plan with three phases designed to burn fat, boost energy and maximize endurance. You receive detailed information on what foods to eat and how many servings a day of protein, carbohydrates and fats. You also have the option to purchase recommended supplements to enhance recovery and performance.

The program costs money up front for the DVDs and on a monthly basis for online streaming access. In addition to a DVD player and television or computer with Internet for streaming the videos, P90X requires a set of dumbbells or resistance bands and a pull-up bar.

Navy SEAL Workout

The Navy SEAL workout uses primarily traditional standard military exercises: push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups and running. What makes the Navy SEAL workout different from standard military training workouts is the addition of swimming. There isn't one standard Navy SEAL workout; you can find many varieties offering different options for completing the calisthenics exercises, as well as the running and swimming portions of the program.

However, one thing is standard: This is a tough workout that involves working up to high repetitions of push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups. It requires increasing your running distance and pace to meet the minimum standards set for acceptance into the Navy SEALS training program. Unlike P90X, you have set goals that you are trying to reach and exceed if you are using the program to train for the test.

There is no defined flexibility program as part of the Navy SEALS workout, but as with any challenging workout stretching is necessary to aid recovery and increase performance. There is also no associated nutrition program, but you can find nutrition guidance on the Navy SEALS website. You can also buy supplements in the online store.

The Navy SEAL workout is free. It requires access to a pull-up bar and a pool or lake for swimming.


The P90X system is the more comprehensive of the two programs because it includes strength training, cardio and stretching, as well as the nutrition program. Everything is provided for you when you purchase the program. You receive exercise instruction and can actually see people performing the exercises in the video.

In contrast, the Navy SEAL workout is much less comprehensive, with no videos, exercise instruction or nutrition program. However, it is considerably simpler, including only three calisthenics exercises and two cardio exercises. Your main goal with each workout is to complete all the exercises, adding reps and increasing distance and pace each week. As long as you are able to stay motivated, the Navy SEAL workout will work just as well for you.

P90X claims to avoid fitness plateaus, but it may take you to a plateau of cardio fitness as the workouts are the same every time. Because the Navy SEAL workout increases distance and pace each week, you will continue to become more conditioned as the weeks pass.


Each P90X session is about one hour in length, except for yoga, which is 90 minutes long. Following the program requires you to be in front of your television or computer with ample workout space. The Navy SEAL workout can be performed almost anywhere.

The biggest difference is your goals and what you are training for. If your goal is to build a solid base of fitness, P90X will get you there. If you want to build muscle size, P90X is also a good option because you have the ability to increase the weight and decrease the reps to encourage muscle growth.

If your goal is to dramatically increase cardiovascular and muscular endurance, the Navy SEAL workout is your best option because of its emphasis on high reps and longer and longer runs. If you are training for the Navy SEAL physical fitness test, the Navy SEAL training program is also recommended. You can also do P90X for 90 days, then go on to do the Navy SEAL workout to further prepare yourself.

Both systems are effective. However, if you cannot swim, have no access to a pool (or other place to swim) or dislike running, the Navy SEAL workout is not for you. On the other hand, if working out in front of a television or computer screen is not appealing, P90X is not a good choice.

About the Author

Marcus Schantz is an author and licensed attorney based in Chicago. He holds a Juris Doctor from the Northern Illinois University College of Law, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology and microbiology from the University of Texas at Austin.