Athlean-X is one of the most well-known and polarizing fitness brands on the planet.
But with dozens of training programs to choose from and a few flops mixed into the line-up, choosing the right routine becomes a roll of the dice.
Here, you’ll learn everything you need to know — and a few things you probably could’ve gone without knowing — about Athlean-X and its best-selling programs.
This is what we call the ULTIMATE Athlean-X Review!
Table of Contents
- About the Creator – Jeff Cavaliere
- Athlean-X Program Reviews
- Athlean-X Resistance Bands
- Athlean-X vs P90X vs SX12
- Athlean-X vs V Shred
- Sample Athlean-X Meal Plan
- Athlean-X Doesn’t Promote Intermittent Fasting
- Sample Core Workout
- Typical Athlean-X Results
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- Athlean-X Review – The Verdict
About the Creator – Jeff Cavaliere
Jeff Cavaliere is one of the most talked-about fitness pundits in America, with diehard fans and staunch enemies on just about every bodybuilding forum in existence.
So who is the guy behind the relentless internet chatter?
Before launching Athlean-X in 2009, Jeff Cavaliere was slowly climbing the ladder in the fitness industry. He eventually built up his resume to include:
- A Bachelor’s Degree in Physioneurobiology & Pre-Medicine
- A Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy
- NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
- Assistant strength coach & head physical therapist with the ‘06, ‘07, and ‘08 Mets
- Author of Major League Insider Training Manual
- A slew of celebrity supporters like Sylvester Stallone and David Wright
He was later dubbed the “brains behind the brawn” for his unique approach to training: a shift away from bro splits and training fads and toward science-backed, safe, and efficient.
This later evolved into his fitness brand, Athlean-X, which now has more than 12 million YouTube subscribers and 2.2 million Instagram followers.
But Jeff Cavaliere’s inevitable fall from grace struck in summer 2020.
That’s when YouTube rival Scott Herman pushed a conspiracy theory that the brains behind Athlean-X — a 5’10” and 180-pound Cavaliere — wasn’t deadlifting 495 pounds in his videos.
(We can’t confirm or deny the fake weight theory. But, hey, at least this debate doesn’t make us question the fate of humanity like the Flat Earth Society.)
Athlean-X Program Reviews
Now more than a decade since Athlean-X’s ‘09 roll-out, the platform is home to over a dozen programs targeting just about every fitness goal imaginable:
- Muscle growth
- Fat loss
- Build muscle and burn fat
- Core strength
You could easily spend an entire weekend weighing the pros and cons of all 17+ if that’s your idea of a “fun time.” Or stay tuned as we explore 11 of Athlean-X’s top-rated programs below.
AX-1 Training Camp
AX-1 Training Camp hops on the same bandwagon that Sean Nal and Jeff Nippard have gladly hitched their trailers to the body recomposition craze. This 12-week, bulk, and cut-free routine is a blend of 120 exercises and three phases designed to build strength, lose fat, and add mass.
All. At. Once. But this best-selling Athlean-X routine is far from cliche, and not a second will go by where the thought doesn’t cross your mind, “Hmm, what’s next?”
From a noob-friendly push/pull to a cardio-heavy metabolic overdrive to a HIIT tsunami in Athlean Super 2’s, AX-1 is a great first date with the Athlean-X brand.
- Every phase has a new goal and training style (PPL, full-body, etc.)
- The whole “training camp” bit makes total sense
- It’s body recomposition to a T (… or an X)
- The equipment requirements are a bit unclear
- Some of the testimonials are mediocre at best
Xero is one of the few Athlean-X programs described as “100% bodyweight training” and proves that the $696 you waste a year on a gym membership is better spent on literally anything else.
The next 45 days will change your opinion on bodyweight training forever — for better or for worse. Xero features more than 150 calisthenic exercises, a specialized ab-sculpting program, and the choice to “lower the temperature” if your last real push-up was at a kegger in college.
You’ll long for a barbell or rusty weight plate by the end of Xero. But with challenges like the-totally-not-named-after-drugs Grinder and Lactic Acid Trip Challenge, exhausting Athlean Burst cardio sessions, and A/B strength combos, the Dear John letters can wait for now.
- All you need is a body (yours, preferably)
- Workouts aren’t repetitive
- Exercise modifications level the playing field for newbies
- The diet plan is etched in stone
- The “training to failure” theme is a turn-off
Old School Iron
Bodybuilding legends like Frank Zane and the undercover detective from Kindergarten Cop turned the Golden Era of Bodybuilding into today’s version of traditional old-school training.
But while Cavaliere advertises Old School Iron as a Yates/Platz/Arnold fusion, it’s the “little bit o’ everything” vibe that draws the masses.
The alternating full-body and classic corrective workouts, color-coded meal plan, and remastered legend routines will keep you on your toes in a permanent calf raise. We can’t believe the elites sculpted Mr. Universe physiques with just this diet and workout alone (( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)).
- “Old school” doesn’t always mean outdated
- It can iron out muscle imbalance (pun fully intended)
- Hallelujah, there’s a meal plan!
- Days 28 and beyond are hidden under a veil of secrecy
- The PowerPoint lectures are as riveting as you’d imagine
Inferno Max Size
Jeff Cavaliere isn’t mincing words on this one. If you want to get absolutely jacked with a high-volume, mildly German routine, Athlean-X’s Inferno Max Size is a … hot choice.
This 12-week Athlean-X program is Planet Fitness’s worst nightmare. With a four-day split, “pro-pain finisher” 4 ½-minute burnout sets, supersets, 30-minute conditioning workouts, and self-esteem-busting challenges, Max Size cooks up a 12-week serving of regret (in a good way).
Cavaliere’s program is a helicopter rescue for those caught atop plateaus. But, be warned: while noobs attempt Max Size every day, only those with enough drive will outlast the next 12 weeks.
- The training variety almost guarantees gainz (yes, with a Z)
- Its slow progression narrowly escapes burnout
- Hard-gainers can choose “size swaps”
- It’s once-weekly training for the first 57 days
- Phase three is nothing short of self-torture
Inferno Max Shred
We thought we saw it all with Tony Horton’s relentless military references in 22-Minute Hard Corps. But Jeff Cavaliere and his Inferno Max Shred program miraculously have him beat.
Athlean-X describes this program as a fat incinerator designed to shrink the Coors gut during 12 brutal weeks of cardio-centered training. Each workout features four intensity levels — or “alarms” — to guarantee a calorie-shredding workout that doesn’t force you to tap out.
Between the Heatwave Challenges, regular strength training, speed-focused Burn-Up sessions, and women just generally yelling at you (yeah), Max Shred can chip away at stubborn fat.
It’s one of the platform’s best-laid-out programs and recommends Shred Swaps, depending on your current body fat. So Max Shred is doable if you have the fire inside (see, we can do it too).
- Every workout is like the prize at the bottom of a box of Cracker Jacks — a surprise!
- The program has a noob-friendly, easy-follow layout
- You’ll slowly tiptoe toward “inferno”
- It features a lifetime worth of cardio
- The maxed-out leaderboard will taunt you
Wolverine Beastmode is one of the newest Athlean-X roll-outs and yet another opportunity for Jeff Cavaliere to exploit a theme until it’s unfunny.
This semi-X-Men-style program is a shortie — lasting 28 days — and designed to maximize gains in a month. Cavaliere is typically hot-and-cold about bro splits, though Beastmode’s six-day split pays homage to the Swoly Bible, with workouts dedicated to the biceps and triceps.
Beastmode follows three condensed phases as you hunt down the scent of lean mass. From 90% 1RM reps in Animal Strength to slow ISO reps in Stalking to choppy reps in Ruthless Aggression, Wolverine Beastmode is a month-long hard gainer’s dream (without a meal plan).
- Isometric holds and negatives keep things spicy
- It’s just like your first high school relationship — over in four weeks
- Boredom is unlikely
- Don’t expect anything silly like a meal plan
- It’s ridiculously lax on frequency
Jeff Cavaliere’s obsession with adding X’s to his program titles is cringe-worthy at best. But we can look past Total Beaxst’s flat-out ridiculous title because, well, this program is a real doozy.
Total Beaxst busts the long-held myth that full-body workouts are either too tame for real gains or only suitable for a YMCA senior fitness class. In reality, this 12-week program’s modes — Base, Beast, and Total Beast — adjust how “beastly” workouts are based on your experience.
Whether it’s a standard full-body workout (with compound exercises), corrective exercises in Beast Regeneration, pure power workouts, or challenges, Total Beaxst lives up to its name.
- Three intensity levels cater to all athletes
- You’ll end a more well-rounded athlete
- It’s the polar opposite of a bro-split
- There’s a risk of overtraining or quick burnout
Athlean-X’s Monster Maker takes the ol’ throw-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-at-it approach to building a lean and savage physique.
This 12-week program leans on just about every training style known to man — powerlifting, bodybuilding, the whole nine yards — while also helping your hard-gainers pick up the slack. Your “monster maker” will be your #1 focus from here on out (unless it’s your calves or abs).
The whole program is pieced together like Frankenstein: an odd jumble of spare parts. So workouts include 400-rep challenges, ladder sets, dynamic training, and classic circuits.
- Size and shred swaps overshadow the cookie-cutter diet
- Lagging muscle groups become your “Monster Maker”
- Challenge days turn up the heat for a more competitive edge
- Training to failure and ridiculous rep counts are wasted reps
Athlean-X’s Ultimate Arms is an ode to our two favorite muscle groups — the biceps and triceps — with a little forearm action for the hell of it. The next six weeks are about building Popeye arms via high-volume training, including 18 arm sets in 24 minutes and five rounds of circuits.
But while strictly arm training for more than a month is heaven to your ears, that’s not this program. Each week also calls for push, pull, and leg workouts for true full-body hypertrophy.
If you’re a loud and proud ego-lifter with baggy-ass shirts, Ultimate Arms will give your biceps and triceps a run for their money.
- It targets hard-gaining arms in roundabout ways
- Other muscles aren’t completely ignored
- It targets stubborn forearm muscles
- Non-arm muscles are an afterthought
- Where are the food substitutions?
Jeff Cavaliere’s TNT program is the bomb.com (couldn’t resist, sorry) is like calling 9-1-1 for your non-responsive muscles. Your “TNT” is a muscle of choice that you want to “blow up” during the next few weeks of training: Chest, biceps, triceps, shoulders, or back.
This single-workout program — yes, you read that right — calls in reinforcements to explode growth, including supersets, pyramiding, rapid-fire sets, and more.
While a doable standalone workout, Cavaliere designed TNT as an AX-1 plugin. So if AX-1 uncovered stubborn-growers, these workouts would do the trick (unless it’s your legs).
- It picks up where AX-1 might leave off
- You don’t have to buy AX-1 too
- The TNT choice is up to you
- You can beat the gym crowds with the “home” option
- Each TNT is a separate purchase
- It’s a rip-off for one lone workout
- There aren’t any leg TNTs
- Same-muscle supersets are … a choice
Core4 is an Athlean-X favorite that takes the anatomical, physiological, and biomechanical approach to sculpting six-pack abs ripped enough to serve margaritas while tanning.
This 12-week ab-only program divides your core into four sections: lumbar, obliques, upper/mid, and lower. Jeff Cavaliere will be your long-distance best friend by the end of Core4, with 4–6 workouts a week, <15 minutes a day, and bizarre exercises that make you say, “huh?”
If your current ab routine is a plank or hoping deadlifts leave you with a Zeus-like six-pack, Core4 will blow your mind and develop muscles you didn’t know existed.
- It features an in-module timer
- You can pair it with other Athlean-X programs
- All four zones of the core receive some TLC
- It’s beginner, intermediate, and advanced-friendly
- Good luck in the gym crowd!
- The instruc- — sorry — instruxions are bare
- The program is essentially six straight minutes of core work
Athlean-X Resistance Bands
It wouldn’t be an Athlean-X product without a random “X” jammed somewhere in the name, and Cavaliere’s Elast-X Resistance Bands don’t disappoint (at least it’s better than “Beaxst”).
More than a decade ago, the fitness giant launched these elastic bands to raving fanfare that only skyrocketed during the pandemic. Athlean-X’s full-loop fitness bands come in three varieties: X-Treme (45–90 pounds), Classic “X” (5–40 pounds), and Hip Burner (5–10 pounds).
Are you only paying for the name? That’s debatable.
Reports of these bands snapping or wearing thin are far and few between. Even better, the extra resistance without doubling up on bands adds a more simplistic touch to at-home workouts and exercises like squats, triceps kickbacks, and shoulder thrusters.
- The bands are still flying off shelves ten years later
- The X-Treme Band supplies 90 pounds of resistance
- Getting a refund is easier said than done
- There aren’t any handles or attachments
Athlean-X vs P90X vs SX12
Athlean-X and P90X hit the airwaves in the mid-2000s and proved that fine wine wasn’t the only thing in life that ages gracefully. Jeff Cavaliere and Tony Horton are still among the most well-respected names in the craft and have since recruited millions of ripped groupies.
But what happens when you pit Athlean-X vs P90X? And, if you toss a third program into the octagon — Superhero X12 — which one reigns victorious?
Wonder no longer! We compared the pros and cons of each program to decide once and for all which X-rated routine (wait, not like that!) is best for noob gains.
Athlean-X vs V Shred
There’s a deep online divide between Athlean-X and V Shred advocates and naysayers.
Those in the “support” corner rely on the programs’ results, with many dropping 15–20 pounds in 90 days and packing on well-defined lean mass. The haters claim both fitness gurus are phonies — Cavaliere for his “fake weights” and Sant for not knowing a lick of anything.
But how do Athlean-X and V Shred compare when head-to-head? Both V Shred and Athlean-X offer per-program rates, dozens of programs, and detailed diet and training schedules.
Yet, they’re also vastly different. Newbies and intermediates alike dub Athlean-X sustainable and impressive, while V-Shred kick-starts weight loss and helps you escape plateaus (for now).
Sample Athlean-X Meal Plan
In 2019, Jeff Cavaliere finally revealed the top-secret diet behind his ripped, 5.8% body fat physique. The answer is three meals (plus dessert) a day and a never-satisfied appetite.
Cavaliere explains the Athlean-X Meal Plan as much more than a fat-burning, mass-gaining machine. Instead, this 3,000-calorie, nutrient-rich guide will walk you through the body transformation of an athlete — that apparently includes a s***-ton of whipped cream.
From an 850-calorie breakfast to a stuffed grilled chicken wrap for lunch to a cup of fat-free ice cream every night, the Athlean-X diet already sounds better than any diet out there.
- It’s sustainable, with plenty of food variety
- The plan doesn’t side-step carbs and fats
- The full day of eating racks up 3,000+ calories
- You need to sacrifice cheap, good, or fast
- Could be more flexible
Check out the meal plan for yourself: Is The Athlean X Meal Plan Legit? (Full Day Of Eating Review)
Athlean-X Doesn’t Promote Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting (IF) is only the latest dietary trend to tear the scientific and fitness communities in half.
On the one hand, IF shows plenty of promise, with the results of 27 trials proving that weight loss of up to 13% body weight is possible. But IF opponents suggest that the regimen is no different than standard calorie restrictions or even fad diets like juicing.
Athlean-X’s stance against intermittent fasting caught plenty by surprise in 2012. Then, Jeff Cavaliere doubled down on his opinion again in 2014 with his clickbait-y video, “Does Intermittent Fasting KILL MUSCLE?”
In a nutshell, Cavaliere speaks against intermittent fasting because he believes it’s unsustainable over the long term.
Promoting diets that can be followed for the rest of your life puts Cavaliere’s mindset in the right place, but saying IF is unsustainable?
Tell that to our founder, Kyle, who’s been skipping breakfast for the last decade with no problems.
Sample Core Workout
Jeff Cavaliere’s physique proves that dad bods aren’t inevitable after 30 or 40. So when fans begged Cavaliere for a FREE core workout, the legend — with abs sharp enough to double as a cheese grater — sure as hell delivered.
The so-called “PERFECT Abs Workout” defies the typical core regimen. Instead of thousands of reps and elbow-killin’ planks, Cavaliere simplifies it: seven exercises stuffed into <15 minutes.
This fast-paced sample core puts no-muscle-left-behind in action with its bottom-up pattern. You’ll crank out 30–60 seconds’ worth of quality reps per exercise before calling it quits!
- It targets every forgotten core muscle
- The bottom-up progression prevents early workout fatigue
- Cavaliere designed it with biomechanics in mind
- The workout disregards set and rep goals
Typical Athlean-X Results
Athlean-X — well, Jeff Cavaliere, really — has quite the hot-cold reputation in the fitness community. The near 50-50 strangely passionate divider includes two types of people:
- Newbies who think Jeff Cavaliere is the second coming of Jesus himself
- Amateur bodybuilders with a bone to pick on bodybuilding forums who label Cavaliere a greedy, fake-weight-lifting, B.S.-spewing quack
If you have a free Friday night and a bottle of Jack, watching these keyboard warriors fight to the death offers the same cringe factor as watching The Big Bang Theory without a laugh track.
(It’s self-torture, but it hurts so good.)
Yet, it’s tough to argue with the results and progress picture that Athlean-X users share online. Some of the most impressive success stories we’ve seen include:
- Gaining eight pounds of lean mass and shedding 4% body fat in six months
- Adding 1” to the biceps and 1 ½” to the chest during one round of Beast
- Dropping 6.7 pounds of fat while gaining 7.9 pounds of muscle in three 90 days
- Twenty pounds of weight loss by the end of X-1 plus more defined core muscles
Of course, you’ll also stumble across users expressing disappointing results or regretting their program choice. We’ll put it this way: if you choose the right program, you’ll see results.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Most Athlean-X programs are self-explanatory or figureoutable (not a real word, yet … but it will be one day) if you click around enough. But if you don’t want to dig for answers, here you go:
Does Athlean-X Work?
If you scroll through Athlean-X’s reviews and testimonials page, the dad-bod-to-ripped transformations will look nothing short of unbelievable!
Some of Athlean-X’s success stories include Mets player David Wright, users who’ve dropped 60 pounds and chiseled a six-pack, and former hard-gainers.
Then again, it’d be silly to advertise before-and-after pictures where there aren’t any noticeable differences. Or worse — the before shot is more aesthetic than the second (the ‘ol switcheroo).
So does Athlean-X really work? Given its high-intensity and intermediate-friendly design, Athlean-X does work if you:
Commit to the training and diet plans (if applicable) Set your sights on progressive overload Fuel your body with a proper calorie and macronutrient breakdown to encourage muscle growth and fat-burning Use scientifically backed supplements like creatine and whey protein
Whether your physique 90 days from now resembles those in the testimonials depends on your starting point. So it could take several rounds of Athlean-X programs to get truly lean or ripped.
How Much Do Programs Cost?
An aesthetic physique is an investment, and, boy, does Jeff Cavaliere drive that point home.
Many of Athlean-X’s best-selling programs come with a one-time $97 fee or three monthly payments of $39.99 for lifetime access.
Shorter, specialized programs like Wolverine: Beastmode run closer to $49.99*.
(* = All prices are subject to change.)
The real question is, how do Athlean-X prices compare to other fitness alternatives, like a standard gym membership or Beachbody On Demand?
|Platform/Method||Estimated Cost||Offers Access To|
|Standard Gym||$58/month (or $696/year)||Unlimited gym equipment & free or discounted fitness classes|
|Planet Fitness||$10/month + $39 annual fee (or $159/year)||Unlimited gym equipment & free or discounted fitness classes|
|Beachbody (12-Month Membership)||$99/year||Beachbody’s entire program line-up, including P90X and Insanity|
|Athlean-X (One 90-Day Program)||$97/year||One purchased program|
|Athlean-X (Four 90-Day Programs)||$388/year||Four purchased program|
If cost is an issue, a Planet Fitness membership or Beachbody On Demand subscription will offer more bang for your buck than Athlean-X.
Does Athlean-X Offer Refunds?
Unfortunately, Athlean-X doesn’t offer refunds or returns on digital program downloads unless you accidentally buy the same program twice. You can file a request to refund one here.
Yet, the platform may accept returns within 30 days for its physical products, such as Athlean-X resistance bands.
So how do you avoid flushing $97 down the toilet on a program that doesn’t fit your needs?
- Check out the official Athlean-X subreddit (r/athleanx). If you want some perspective from those who’ve completed the programs, Reddit is your answer. Ask members whether a program is doable with a pre-existing injury, no training experience, or combined with another program.
- Read honest program reviews. The official Athlean-X website and groupies on Reddit may not offer the no-holds-barred, brutally honest information needed to guide your decision. Honest reviews — like those above — reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Athlean-X Review – The Verdict
Athlean-X is a popular fitness brand with a library of digital workout programs and supplements designed to help you build muscle and get leaner like a professional athlete. Most programs appear to be well deliver expected results as long as the workouts and meal plans are followed without too much cheating. Overall, the Athlean-X brand uses extreme athleticism as its main selling point. The programs should work and they are reasonably-priced.
Rating: 8.0 out of 10