Tom Petty, Tony Horton, And The Genesis Of P90X

Welcome to part 2 of the 9-part Tony Horton interview.  If you missed part 1 of the interview, you’ll want to read what Tony learned early on in life that he now uses to help shape millions of people all over the world.

In today’s interview excerpt we discover the workout that reshaped Tom Petty, the origins of P90X, as well as some of Tony’s favorite exercises…so let’s continue on with  Tom Petty, Tony Horton, And The Genesis Of P90X…


Craig Ballantyne: Why don’t you tell us, maybe, a little bit more about the genesis of the actual program that you guys started selling on TV back in ’98 or ’99 or whenever it was?  That was the original – that was just P90; is that what that was?

Tony Horton: Power 90, yeah.  It’s become an acronym called P90 now, but it was Power 90.  Power 90 started when – we did a product called Great Body Guaranteed, and it was these 15-minute workouts.  And it was, like, maybe six different workouts that you did.  One was a stretch; one was an arm; one was legs; one was a little cardio routine.  And so Power 90 was sort of a slightly more involved version of that.

It was the routine that I gave Tom Petty, that I had with Tom Petty before he went on a tour, way back in those days.

And when I first met Tom, he was in terrible shape, and he just had never had an exercise routine before. So what we did was we tom-pettyconcentrated on a circuit training routine, where you started with your chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, legs.  And we’d do ab routines maybe three times a week.  So – and then we would do cardio.  We would emphasize cardio, because back in those days, he was not capable of doing what I was doing, which was going to the gym for an hour and a half and then doing cardio afterward.  It just – I didn’t wanna put him through that.

So I said, “Let’s just focus on your whole body, resistance-wise.”

That way when we jump from body part to body part, there’s not a lot of lag time in between because we’re not attacking the same – like, when you go to the gym, you do a set of – you do a bench press, and then you change the weights and you put your buddy on the bench and then he does a set, and then you’re sitting there spotting him; there’s all that dead time.

So we lightened the load with the weight, and we kept the pace up.  And then we did his whole body.  And then the following day, we would focus mostly on aerobic type moves or interval stuff that got his heart rate up, to build up his endurance.

And so when Carl came to me, he said, “Can you create some kind of a routine in front of a television set that’s similar to the one that you did with Tom, without machines?” And I said, “Sure.”  You know, you’d use dumbbells and bands and basic football drills, basketball drills, different kind of things we were using, kind of jumping around in a small space, ’cause people don’t have a lot of space in front of their television set.

And that’s what Power 90 was.

And our company was off the radar, and then Power 90 came out and all of a sudden we were the only fitness company in the country doing something that no one would have even attempted to do prior, which is try to sell six days’ worth of exercise and healthy eating in an infomercial.  That’s the stuff that you got when you joined a gym and had a trainer.

But the thing about a gym is, very few people were going to gyms six days a week, and especially not using a trainer six days a week.  It’s just too expensive.  So for the first time, people were getting all that stuff that I had learned over all that time with these celebrity clients, and getting it delivered to their front door.

Craig Ballantyne: I’ve got a question for you.  How important do you think is the follow-along aspect of P90 amagazine workoutsnd P90X and stuff like that?  I mean, personally I think it’s probably one of the most important aspects of it, but what are your opinions on that?

Tony Horton: The follow-along?  I’m not sure if I know what you’re asking.  You mean trying to keep up –

Craig Ballantyne:
People watch the DVD, as opposed to just getting a book.  Like, that takes it to another level, in my opinion.  Is that – like, would you agree with that?

Tony Horton: Well, my old line was, “It’s no brainer with a trainer,” you know? Because when you’re on your own, right, you’re going to the gym, and quite often people’s form is bad; they can’t stay inspired because they don’t have any sort of a guidance or pace to follow.

The amazing thing about P90X and Power 90 is, most men would have never – never, in the past – bought a DVD and done fitness in front of their television set.  They all thought it was hokey and stupid.  And a lot of men like the social aspects of going to the gym and hanging out with their buddies or meeting girls or whatever their objective is.

But the studies show that most women enjoy the privacy of doing whatever they’re doing in their own home, right?  They don’t have to get in the car; they’ve got kids to deal with.  And they can work out right there in front of the TV set and save a bunch of time and still get pretty good results.

dvd workouts

So I think having the DVD is infinitely better than – I mean, a lot of folks have been having to do it by picking up Men’s Fitness or Men’s Health or Muscle and Fitness or something and following little photographs with text beneath it.  I mean, that’s just not very inspiring.

The one thing about the DVDs is:  it was shot on film; there were four cameras; there’s modifications. Like, when you buy a magazine and you see – I mean, I just did an article for a very popular women’s health magazine.  And the restrictions on what I could write and how many photographs we could put in it were amazing.  The nuances are gone.  You don’t get the modifications; you don’t understand how to breathe.

There’s just only so much room on a piece of paper to disseminate information to help people.  On a DVD, it’s endless. I mean, it’s endless.  You just get so much more out of it that way.

Craig Ballantyne:
Perfect.  So what are your favorite workouts in the program?  Is there something that you could pick out as something that, man, you just love to do?

Tony Horton: In P90X, it’s gotta be chest and back.  It’s that first one.  When you open up the box, it’s the first one you do.  I think it’s a complete knock in the face for people.  They get that and they go, “Oh, my God, 24 sets of chest and back.  This guy’s out of his mind,” you know?

But it’s those kind of workouts that, if you’re willing to stick with it – that’s why Sheryl Crow and Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore and Jennie Garth and Emmitt Smith and David Akers from the Eagles and Kelly Slater, six-time All-American surfer, and Pink, and John Salley from the Detroit Pistons and – that’s why – why are all these celebrities, who can afford the very best of the best, using a DVD in front of their television set?

Because the thing works, you know?  It works like gangbusters.


So it would be chest and back, Plyometrics, and yoga. I think those are my favorites.  I also like the back and leg routine, too.  That’s your whole body, top to bottom.  Those are my favorite.  My least favorite are cardio routines.  I hate doing cardio, but I – but the benefits of doing cardio is like nothing else, so you do what works, even if you don’t like it.

Craig Ballantyne: That’s a great point.  And it brings us nicely into the next question I have for you…..

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