A couple of my friends swear by the P90X program. Is it worth trying or is it better to go to a gym? -- Tim, 28, Pottsville, PA

P90X and programs like it are good all around fitness programs and are fine if you are just looking to get "into shape" so to speak. To say the gym or conventional training is better or worse really depends on your goals. If you are an athlete looking to get to the next level you will need to have a more individualized program and approach and programs like P90X are probably not the best way to go.

For instance, if you play a sport you will want to do something to address your speed, power and running bio-mechanics which help you increase first-step explosiveness. Basketball players would want to work on better jumping ability and so forth. All athletes should be working on reaction and balance. There are many areas these programs will not address.

I think that the benefit to a pre-set general fitness program is the fact that it will help an average person get in shape and, when combined with a sound nutrition program, aid in weight loss and all around better health. They also offer some direction which many people need when approaching their training.

Home workout programs are most beneficial when combined with a more increased weight program. There is just no substitute for good old fashioned free weight work to build strength and muscle. The combination of the two -- plus a correct dietary program -- is a solid combination. The results will suit most people.

The thing I like about those programs, and CrossFit to be more specific, is the versatility of the types of training. When I workout myself, and when I work with athletes, we try and incorporate many different types of training. We use MMA, powerlifting, strongman, CrossFit, agility techniques etc. We don't have one style of training, we have many. This approach helps create a more balanced athlete who is better suited for the field of play.

This approach also is best for creating better overall health as it helps you avoid the usual pitfalls of training most people run into including over-training or under-training because the workout is mundane or the daily grind takes its toll. CrossFit claims the term "functional fitness," which I suppose is true to a point, but if you balance your training correctly it is all "functional". I also like the fact that these programs incorporate "playground style" exercises such as pull ups and push ups.

If you choose a preset fitness program to follow don't be afraid to deviate from the prescribed regimen and hit the weights harder or increase your time working out. It is all good for you and will create a better balanced approach and may help fix your own personal weaknesses. Learn to use many different types of training you will find it more fun and it will feel like less of a grind.

Rick Scarpulla, the creator of The Ultimate Athlete Training Program, is a highly sought-after and renowned strength, speed and conditioning coach who works in developing top high school, college and professional athletes and programs throughout North America. You can follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.

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