Illustration of a bodybuilder training with the X3 Bar by Dr John Jaquish to build muscle mass.

Dr John Jaquish is quickly becoming known for making extravagant claims about the benefits of training with his resistance band system, the X3 Bar. According to him, the product that he developed is the very best way to build muscle—three times better than traditional weight lifting. And not only that, it’s cheap, safe, and can be done from the comfort of your very own home.

But is any of that true? Are resistance bands an effective way to stimulate muscle growth? Is the X3 Bar better than the other types of resistance bands? And how does it compare to traditional weight lifting for building muscle? Can it really compete? Does it really offer any advantages?

So, is the X3 Bar good for building muscle? Let’s take a look.

Outlift illustration showing the before and after results of a skinny-fat guy building muscle.

What is the X3 Bar?

The X3 Bar is a bar connected to resistance bands. The resistance bands provide the resistance, the bar gives you something convenient to hold onto. The idea is that because you’re holding a barbell-like handle, you can handle heavier resistance, and so you can stimulate three times more muscle growth, hence the name—X3.

Does the X3 Bar Build 3X More Muscle?

Dr John Jaquish cites this study, The Effects of Combining Elastic and Free Weight Resistance on Strength and Power in Athletes, as proof that the X3 Bar stimulates three times more muscle growth than traditional weight training. Problem is, this study investigated whether we can improve muscle growth by adding band tension to free weights (accommodating resistance), like this:

Illustration of a man doing accommodating resistance.
This is accommodating resistance. This is what was studied.

The idea with accommodating resistance is that as we get closer to locking out the weight on some of the big barbell lifts—the squat, bench press, and deadlift—the moment arms get shorter, our leverage improves, and we’re able to lift more weight. So a band is added to the barbell, adding a bit of extra resistance at the top, keeping it challenging throughout the entire range of motion.

Now, this isn’t true with all lifts. If we look at the overhead press, barbell row, chin-up, biceps curl, lateral raise, or a hundred other exercises, the resistance curve is totally different, and so adding a band to the lift wouldn’t help at all. In fact, in some of those cases, we’d want to the opposite, offloading weight as we lift the barbell higher. That’s the idea behind the T-bar row machine. As we lift the weight higher, more of the weight rests on the pivot point, keeping the lift similarly challenging throughout the entire range of motion, like so:

Illustration showing a man doing a row on a t-bar row exercise machine.
The T-bar row, designed to flatten the strength curve of the barbell row.

But anyway, that’s not what the X3 Bar does. It doesn’t use accommodating resistance (like weights + bands) and it doesn’t flatten the strength curve (like exercise machines). It gets all of its resistance from resistance bands. This is a type of resistance called variable resistance, where the lift gets progressively harder through the range of motion. We’ll cover the implications of that in a moment.

Where this gets even more controversial is that the study being referenced to show the benefits of the X3 Bar didn’t even find a benefit to adding resistance bands to traditional weight training lifts. The study concluded, “While lean body mass was not significantly different between groups, both groups did significantly increase their lean body mass over the course of the study.”

Graph showing the differences in muscle growth between resistance bands and exercise machines, with the authors concluding that there were no statistically significant differences.

Dr Jaquish does cite one study that used resistance bands, though. It took a group of sedentary middle-aged women and compared their muscle growth after 10 weeks of either using resistance bands or exercise machines. The problem is, again, the study failed to prove that there was any benefit to using resistance bands over exercise machines. The women using the exercise machines gained twice as much lean mass and lost twice as much fat, but the results didn’t reach statistical significance, and so we can’t draw any conclusions.

With that said, none of this proves that the X3 Bar is a scam or that we’ve debunked its effectiveness, just that the studies being referenced don’t back up the claims being made. Even if the X3 Bar doesn’t build muscle three times faster than free weights or exercise machines, maybe it still works comparably well. For many people, that would be enough.

Does the X3 Bar Actually Work?

If we challenge the strength of our muscles, we can provoke muscle growth. This is true whether we use bodyweight exercises, dumbbells, barbells, exercise machines, or resistance bands. All of them put mechanical tension on our muscles, and all of them can build muscle. And that includes the X3 Bar. It’s a legitimate type of resistance training. You can indeed build muscle with it.

Illustration of a man building bigger forearms with forearm workouts.

With that said, just because something works, that doesn’t mean that all the claims made about it are true. It also doesn’t mean that it’s the best way to build muscle. It doesn’t even mean that the X3 bar is a good way to build muscle. So let’s dig a little deeper.

Is Variable Resistance Good for Building Muscle?

If you want an in-depth review of the research, we’ve written an entire article on the effectiveness of resistance bands. But I can summarize the main points here, as well as give the recommendations from the top muscle hypertrophy researchers.

What makes the X3 Bar unique from free weights and exercise machines is that it gets its resistance from resistance bands. This matters because as you stretch the band out, the tension increases, providing gradually more resistance as you go through the range of motion. This is called variable resistance, like so:

Illustration explaining the variable resistance of the X3 Bar.

Thing is, there’s a growing body of evidence that when we challenge our muscles at longer muscle lengths, we stimulate more muscle growth. And the effects are quite dramatic, too. If we look at a systematic review of 26 studies, we see that challenging our muscles at longer muscle lengths stimulates almost three times as much muscle growth:

Graph showing how training at different muscle lengths stimulates different amounts of muscle growth.

Now, just to be clear, these 26 studies were done using isometric lifts. What that means is that they had some people pulling against an immovable object with their muscles in a stretched position, other people pulling against an immovable object with their muscles in a more contracted position. It’s not comparing lifts with different strength curves, it’s comparing the effects of challenging our muscles at different muscle lengths. (And again, note that even with the worst way of training, challenging their muscles in a fully contracted positions with isometric lifts, the participants were still able to gain muscle.)

So, what we see with this research is that the more stress we put on our muscles when they’re stretched, the more muscle we build. This seems to apply to traditional weight training and exercise machine lifts, too. For example, if we look at a study on hamstring curls, we see that training the hamstrings at longer muscle lengths produced a more than twice as much muscle growth as training them at shorter muscle lengths.

What does this have to do with resistance bands? Resistance bands put a lower amount of tension on our muscles when they’re at longer muscle lengths and a higher amount of tension on our muscles when they’re at shorter muscle lengths. That means that we tend to be limited by our strength when our muscles are contracted, not when they’re stretched. That’s the opposite of what we want. It’s the least beneficial resistance curve for building muscle.

Finally, there’s the claim that “X3 uses variable resistance, which effectively lowers the resistance during the lifter’s weakest range of the lift and increases it during the stronger portion.” For some lifts, such as the bench press, this is true, which is why accommodating resistance is sometimes used. For other lifts, such as the row, this is not, which is why t-bar rows are so popular. It really depends on the resistance curve of the lift. And in either case, the research still suggests that there’s a benefit to loading our muscles heavier at longer muscle lengths.

Where this gets confusing is that challenging our muscles at short lengths tends to result in higher electromyography (EMG) readings. The muscles bunch up, so more muscle mass is under the electrode, so the reading comes out higher. This is one of the problems with EMG research, and it’s why it pays to look at actual muscle growth instead of just muscle activation.

Outlift illustration of a bodybuilder flexing his biceps.

This style of high-rep, constant tension training also tends to give people a killer pump, it often feels quite hard, and it can lead to plenty of muscle soreness. It’s not ideal for building muscle, but it still feels like a rigorous way of training, and so a lot of people really enjoy it. And that’s fine. People should train however they want. But most research shows that we build more muscle by emphasizing mechanical tension, not by emphasizing the pump and burn.

Are Resistance Bands As Good as Free Weights?

So far, my hunch is that free weights and exercise machines are better for building muscle, but maybe I’m missing something. So I talked with one of the top experts in the world, Dr Eric Helms.

Not a lot of research on the topic, but I would agree with your general recommendations of free weights and machines for hypertrophy, with bands and bodyweight working in a pinch.

Dr Eric Helms, PhD

You may be familiar with Dr Helms already. He’s published several important studies looking into muscle hypertrophy, such as this one. He also the co-author of the Muscle & Strength Pyramids, which has been praised by other top hypertrophy researchers, such as Dr Brad Schoenfeld and James Krieger, MSc.

For another perspective, I asked Greg Nuckols, MA. Greg is the founder of Stronger by Science, he’s the creator of the research review, Monthly Applications in Strength Sport (MASS), and he’s the guy who turned me onto the research showing that our muscles grow better when we challenge them at longer muscle lengths.

Yeah, I do think, in general, bands are probably slightly worse for growth since it’s a lot harder to load a muscle at long muscle lengths.

Greg Nuckols, MA

Is any of this conclusive evidence that free weights are better than resistance bands for building muscle? No. That evidence doesn’t exist. But what’s abundantly clear is that there’s no reason to suspect that resistance bands are better for building muscle. In fact, most research suggests and most experts suspect that the opposite is true.

What About the X3 Exercises & Workout Routine?

Every exercise is a little bit different, and the X3 bar will be better at some than others. And just to be clear, this isn’t a horrible way to train. This is resistance training. It will build muscle. But if we look at a lot of these exercises, because of the variable resistance, the range of motion gets really short, and it’s typically the bottom part that gets cut off.

For example, if we look at the X3 chest press, we see that they’re using a very narrow grip (which is bad for the chest) and a shallow range of motion (which is really bad for the chest). To build a bigger chest, better to do the opposite of this, using a wider grip and bringing the barbell all the way down to the chest. That way the chest is trained under a deep stretch, stimulating something like twice as much muscle growth.

But again, if we look at the research comparing training at longer vs shorter muscle lengths, it doesn’t show that it’s impossible to build muscle by training at shorter muscle lengths, just slower. So if all you have is an X3 Bar, that’s okay, just be patient with it. You can still build muscle.

Is the X3 Bar As Good As Weight Training?

So, overall, we have a large body of evidence showing that loading our muscles heavier in a stretched position can stimulate 2–3x more muscle growth than loading them when contracted. This suggests that free weights are better for building muscle than resistance bands, although there’s no research looking at it directly. We also have the top hypertrophy researchers and reviewers suspecting that resistance bands are worse for building muscle.

What does this mean for the X3 Bar? Well, the X3 Bar is a metal bar connected to resistance bands. It’s a slightly more convenient way to use resistance bands. And just like resistance bands, we can indeed use it to build muscle. But because of the variable resistance, I’m doubtful that it can build muscle as effectively as using dumbbells, barbells, or exercise machines.

Illustration of Milo of Croton carrying a calf as it grows into a bull, demonstrating the principle of progressive overload.

I’d also argue that barbell and dumbbell training is actually quite easy and convenient. We’re lifting real objects, which feels quite natural and intuitive. Weights have a resistance curve that we’ve evolved to be good at lifting. And it’s easy to load those weights gradually heavier, adding tiny little weight plates to the bar over time. That doesn’t mean that free weights are necessarily ideal, but so far nothing has proven to be significantly better.

If you don’t have the money or the space for a barbell home gym, you can always get a couple of adjustable dumbbells that you can hide under your bed or stick in the closet. That’s how I would train when I lived in a small condo. There isn’t really a problem that needs solving. Except, perhaps, for the fact that free weights are so popular right now that they’re sold out everywhere.

What About Going Beyond Failure?

There’s more to the X3 Bar than getting the resistance from resistance bands. For example, one of the other ideas is to keep lifting long past the point of muscle failure. When you can’t complete a full rep, you do half a rep. When you can’t complete half a rep, you do a quarter rep. And so on. You keep pushing until you can’t stretch the band at all.

Graph showing that beginner lifters build more muscle if they take their sets to muscle failure.

The idea is that by going beyond failure, we do a better job of thrashing our muscles, and so we can stimulate more muscle growth. So far, the evidence points in the other direction. As beginners, we can build more muscle by pushing ourselves as little harder (studystudystudystudy), but then as intermediate lifters, it helps to stop our sets shy of failure (studystudystudystudystudy).

Graph showing that intermediate lifters build more muscle if they stop their sets shy of muscle failure.

Now, there’s a bit of nuance here. Different lifts are hardest at different parts of the range of motion, meaning that training to failure can look quite different depending on which lift you’re doing. With a bench press, the lift gets a little easier towards the lockout. People are more likely to fail with the bar close to their chests. So with a bench press, when you’re done, you’re done.

Illustration of a man doing the bench press to gain muscle mass.
The sticking point of the bench is near the bottom, where the upper arms are horizontal.

With other lifts, such as the barbell row, the lifts get harder at the top of the range of motion. People are more likely to fail to bring the barbell all the way up to their torsos. So it’s totally possible to do what Dr John Jaquish is recommending, where you keep lifting with a progressively smaller range of motion until you can’t lift the barbell at all.

Illustration of a man doing a bent-over barbell row to build muscle in his upper back.
The sticking point of the row is the top, where the upper arms are horizontal.

But is that a better way to build muscle? Probably not. Going past failure is hardly ever recommended, and there’s no evidence to suggest that it stimulates more muscle growth. That isn’t to say that it’s necessarily a bad way to train under all circumstances, just that there’s no reason to think that it would give you a marked advantage.

Illustration of a bodybuilder doing front squats to gain muscle mass.
A deep front squat, challenging the quads at long muscle lengths.

So, if you can, it’s probably best to choose lifts that allow you to lift through a deep range of motion and that challenge your muscles at long muscle lengths with a good resistance curve. Think of lifts like a deep front squat, a bench press, a deficit push-up, a Romanian deadlift. And then stop 0–3 reps shy of failure. That seems to be ideal for stimulating muscle growth.

What About Keto and Carnivore?

The X3 Bar isn’t just a resistance training tool, it also includes a workout routine and a diet. It recommends a meat-based ketogenic diet with minimal carbohydrates, as popularized by the orthopedic surgeon, Shawn Baker. Again, this flies in the face of most research, which shows a strong and clear benefit to the consumption of carbohydrates for building muscle.

Illustration of a chicken, a common source of protein for people trying to build muscle.

The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends getting 40–60% of our calories come from carbohydrates for gaining muscle mass and strength. The National Strength & Conditioning association recommends getting 45–65% of our calories from carbohydrates to improve our health, gain muscle, and increase our strength. These recommendations also line up with muscle-building research that compare different macronutrient intakes (studystudy). And if we look at expert recommendations from researchers like Dr Eric Helms, he recommends getting around 50% of our calories from carbohydrates.

Graph showing how muscle growth compares between a keto diet and a high-carb diet.

Now, how much does this matter? It’s hard to say. The higher-quality studies looking into the effects of the keto diet on muscle growth, such as this one (shown above), tend to find an advantage to eating more carbohydrates. But it’s not quite that simple. Part of the advantage is that it’s easier to eat more calories when eating more carbohydrates. That’s why other studies, such as this one and this one found that when athletes started eating a keto diet, they stopped gaining muscle mass. But even if we factor out energy intake, carbohydrates still appear to speed up our rate of muscle growth.

The reason that carbohydrates help is because our muscles prefer to run on a fuel called glycogen, which is made out of glucose, which typically comes from the carbs we eat. So the more carbs we eat, the more glycogen we store in our muscles (studystudy), and the better our workout performance gets (study). But what’s especially interesting is that having higher levels of glycogen in our muscles seems to boost our rate of muscle growth (studystudystudy).

But again, just to be sure, I asked the hypertrophy researcher Dr Eric Trexler, who specializes in muscle-building nutrition and supplementation, what he thought about the pros and cons of using keto for building muscle:

The current evidence doesn’t suggest that it’s impossible to gain muscle on a ketogenic diet, but its effects on appetite and high-intensity exercise performance make it hard to view keto as the ideal dietary approach for gaining muscle.

Eric Trexler, PhD

If you want a more in-depth review of all the relevant research, we have a full article about using keto for muscle growth. But the point is, similar to training with variable resistance, it’s not that eating a ketogenic diet can’t work, it’s just that there’s no evidence showing an advantage, and quite a bit of evidence pointing towards at least a slight disadvantage.

Can You Gain 20 Pounds of Muscle in 6 Months?

One of the criticisms that Dr John Jaquish often comes up against is his claim that when people start using the X3 Bar, they can gain 20 pounds of muscle in 6 months. I actually don’t see a huge problem with that, especially if we’re talking about it more casually, and especially if we’re talking about people who are still relatively far away from their genetic potential.

Before and after photos showing a skinny guy doing a lean bulking transformation.

For example, here’s a before and after photo showing that one of the members of our Bony to Beastly Program was able to gain 29 pounds on the scale within 5 months. Is all of that weight muscle? No. His muscles are storing more glycogen, he’s got more food in his stomach, he’s surely gained some fat, his bones are getting denser, and so on. There are many factors contributing to his weight gain. But when people see this, it’s common for them to say that he gained 29 pounds “of muscle.” It’s not true, but it looks true, and it’s just a casual way of talking about his results. I think that’s fine.

The other aspect of this is that when someone is fairly thin, they’re typically able to gain muscle at a much faster rate than someone who’s already near their genetic potential. This is why you’ll see guys gaining 20+ pounds of seemingly lean mass during their first year of weight lifting, but fast forward a few more years, and they’d be lucky to gain 5 pounds of muscle in a year. It all depends on how close to your genetic muscular potential you are.

So is it possible that someone can gain 20 pounds of what appears to be muscle when they start training with the X3 Bar? Maybe! That’s not realistic for everyone, and I’d guess that’s not the norm, but I’m sure it happens from time to time.

Summary

The central claim behind the X3 Bar is that it builds muscle three times faster than traditional weight training. Here’s the evidence behind that claim: study found that adding resistance bands to barbell training did not build more muscle than barbell training alone. I feel like this must be some sort of mistake. The research isn’t on a training method that’s similar to X3, and it didn’t find a muscle-building benefit.

Plus, if we look at the overall body of research on accommodating resistance for gaining strength, the meta-analysis that had found a benefit was retracted. When the mistakes were corrected, no benefit was found. So even when using a hypothetically optimal mix of weight training and resistance bands, the addition of variable resistance didn’t help in any measurable way.

Illustration of a bodybuilder working out and gaining muscle mass.

When we’re talking about only using resistance bands, the situation changes. When we stretch out resistance bands, they apply progressively more tension, which is called variable resistance. This is the opposite of what we want when building muscle. After all, we have several dozen studies showing that challenging our muscles at longer muscle lengths stimulates quite a bit more muscle growth. That means that it’s better to load our muscles heavier at the bottom of the range of the range of motion (as with free-weight squats, bench presses, and deadlifts) or with a flat resistance curve (as with exercise machines like the t-bar row).

Still, there isn’t much, if any, research comparing resistance bands against free weights. With the evidence available, there’s good reason to infer that free weights and exercise machines are probably better for building muscle. And this is a position shared by the top hypertrophy researchers and experts in the world. So our argument isn’t that resistance bands are bad for building muscle, just that these claims that they’re better for building muscle are misleading.

Resistance bands have been around for over 120 years, and they’re cheap, convenient, and heavily marketed. They’ve never managed to fully catch on, but some people prefer them, and that’s totally fine. Resistance bands do provide resistance, and X3 is no exception. The claims are wild and unsubstantiated, but you can still build muscle with bands.

Shane Duquette is the co-founder and creative lead of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and has a degree in design from York University in Toronto, Canada. He's personally gained 65 pounds at 11% body fat and has ten years of experience helping over 10,000 skinny people bulk up.

Marco Walker-Ng is the co-founder and strength coach of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and is a certified trainer (PTS) with a Bachelor's degree in Health Sciences (BHSc) from the University of Ottawa. His specialty is helping people build muscle to improve their strength and general health, with clients including college, professional, and Olympic athletes.

How to build 20 to 30 pounds of muscle in 30 days. Even if you have failed before

40 Comments

  1. Rick J on December 9, 2020 at 1:25 pm

    I was using bands with a band-bar from Amazon (not X3 bar but similar principle) in early 2020 for rehab. My weight gain was completely stalled, despite going up to 3500 kcal. Then I switched to your War Chest program, and gained 10 lbs, with 1 lb / week for the first month.

    What’s interesting is that I was on the carnivore diet the entire time. My diet didn’t change, my calories didn’t change, only my training.

    To be fair, War Chest has a lot more volume than what I was doing with the band-bar. But I did notice some issues with the band-bar approach, such as not being able to feel my chest during the chest press. Since I couldn’t feel my chest and it wasn’t growing, this was a hint that something was wrong. As soon as I switched back to free weights with War Chest, my chest immediately started growing.

    • Shane Duquette on December 9, 2020 at 1:33 pm

      Ah, no way, that’s awesome! Congrats on gaining those 10 pounds, man! 😀

      With resistance bands, some muscles are easier to train than others. Our muscles grow best when we challenge them at long muscle lengths, so for the chest, think of a deficit push-up, weighted dip, or deep bench press. Those lifts put a deep stretch on our chest, and it’s that deep part that’s the hardest part of the lift, making them amazing for building a bigger chest. But if we use bands, what happens is that when our chest is stretched, that’s the lightest part of the lift. Then, as we press the band away, our triceps kick in, and that’s where it gets hard. So resistance bands can turn chest lifts into triceps lifts.

      Plus, it’s hard to get into a position of deep stretch in the first place. Using that demonstration video of Dr John Jaquish teaching the chest press, he has the guy doing what looks like a JM Press, which is essentially a triceps isolation lift. The grip is too narrow and the range of motion is too shallow for it to give the chest much work. So I’d expect people to get a nice pump in the triceps, see some growth there, and have their chest fall behind.

      Fortunately, the chest is fairly easy to train with bodyweight training. The deficit push-up is pretty easy to do at home. So if someone is training at home with resistance bands, no problem, just use push-ups for the chest, then use the bands for the triceps.

      Same idea with back training. Get a chin-up bar for your back (and biceps), and then for some extra arm work, do some biceps curls with the resistance bands. Are resistance band biceps curls ideal for building muscle? Not quite. But they’ll get the job done, especially when combined with chin-ups.

  2. Jonathan on December 9, 2020 at 2:33 pm

    Just want to say that these articles are tremendously helpful, well-balanced, and demonstrate a great way of addressing differences in a way that is respectful – quite the accomplishment in our age!

    • Shane Duquette on December 9, 2020 at 2:33 pm

      Thank you so much Jonathan. That really means a lot 🙂

  3. JohnnyGoPillaging on December 9, 2020 at 4:17 pm

    So funny. I spent a few days a week or two back looking over all the X3 Bar stuff. Watched some Jaquish videos. Read your resistance band article again. Just couldn’t really get behind it. Felt too much like those “if it sounds too great to be true…” sort of things. Love your thoughtful analysis.

    • Shane Duquette on December 9, 2020 at 4:41 pm

      Thank you, Johnny. Always great to hear from you 🙂

  4. Douglas on December 9, 2020 at 4:40 pm

    To echo Jonathan, thanks so much for this article! I’d actually been thinking about emailing to ask if you’d consider doing an X3 review, great to see it appear in my inbox today. I really appreciate the thoughtful writing and nuance that goes into these reviews.

    • Shane Duquette on December 9, 2020 at 7:50 pm

      My pleasure, man! So glad you liked it 🙂

  5. Jim C on December 9, 2020 at 4:44 pm

    Anyone want to buy a brand new in box X3? There’s a reason I have not opened it yet. No longer on the fence. Thanks.

    • Shane Duquette on December 9, 2020 at 4:46 pm

      Ahaha 😛

    • Spencer on December 9, 2020 at 6:19 pm

      I’ll buy. Serious.

  6. JOSH on December 9, 2020 at 5:31 pm

    Interesting read, however, I see this as two competitors cherry picking studies for jabs.

    I’ve been using the X3 for the last 4 months, and by no means am I lost to the ideology, marketing claims, or dietary program. I am not married to anything in fitness. Frankly, there’s too few studies, and what studies are available are often in conflict with one another. Most, for that matter, are either funded by conflicts of interest, or are conducted in such a way to produce a desired result (and/or skewed in interpretation by a marketer). So I’m of the “believe no one; find your own results” mindset.

    And with that, I can only speak to my experience, both with and without the X3… TLDR; it’s a good experience with the X3.

    I have a full gym in home, variable dumbbells, and two cardio machines. Before X3, I used to lift for 30-60 minutes with intense workouts. I would change things up regularly and more or less overtrain each and every time… so much that I was completely inconsistent (5 days one week, 2 days another, ect). It was tough getting started each day, knowing the time and energy it entailed. This also ultimately left me with major shoulder and elbow pain as well. I achieved considerable growth, however, this included my newbie gains which ultimately stalled (despite my continued strength gains). I recognize the overtraining skews my view; keeping it honest.

    For the last four months, I’ve skipped the free weights and adhered to the X3 only (to give the device a fair try). I didn’t follow the roadmap outright though… I’ve messed around with drop bands and added exercises. My X3 workout is roughly 20-30 minutes, with three extra band lifts each day. I also walk 2 miles, row 10 minutes, and include 4 core exercises after. All joint pain had disappeared within two weeks, however, I’m just recently experiencing deep muscle pain in the forearm (since going one super heavy rep per exercise).

    I’ve seen visible growth in these four months spending half-to a third less time lifting. That’s a major plus, and I don’t think I’m nearly done with growth on this product. Am I working out the ten minutes advertised? No. Am I seeing three times the growth? No. But I am seeing growth beyond my free weight stall, and with considerably less effort and time. I have no plans to reincorporate free weights at this time, however, I’m not selling them off quite yet either. I continue to feel out my progress and will adjust in and around the X3.

    The biggest achievement of the product is the ability to keep workouts small while producing results similar or better than my personal efforts with free weights. And there’s a massive TON of people on the Facebook group attesting to the same result. The X3 exercise is the only exercise that I’ve been consistent with (week over week), and I attribute that to the short workout periods associated with it. That said, I’m open to the possibility that I would get the same result by lifting heavy free weights to failure, limiting myself to 7 or so exercises daily as well (i.e. not over training). I’d love to see a side by side comparison, but ultimately I’m getting results, so I intend to stay the course. Beyond consistency, it has a great footprint in terms of size and portability. It can be used basically anywhere, with any bands, and I believe that will help those with limited space.

    I do think the mark-up is ridiculous, which will ultimately open the door to more affordable-competing products. But competition is good for the market. Personally, I have zero buyers remorse. I’m getting results past my free weight stall with a fraction of the time and effort.

    • Shane Duquette on December 9, 2020 at 7:25 pm

      Hey Josh, that’s awesome! Congrats on the visible muscle growth, and that’s sweet that your pain has gone away 🙂

      I hear ya. Cherrypicking is a legitimate issue in the fitness industry. I’ve really tried my best to give an overview of the entire body of evidence, citing meta-analyses and systematic reviews when they exist. And just to make sure my interpretation was correct, I got the expert opinions of the hypertrophy researchers who conduct these reviews. I’ll also point out that Dr Jaquish isn’t cherrypicking research that proves his point, he’s referencing research that doesn’t prove his point.

      Regarding the lack of research on resistance bands, yes, I agree. That’s why I wanted to write this article. Dr John Jaquish is making it sound as if the research shows that resistance bands can stimulate three times the muscle growth of traditional weight training. But that’s not true.

      I don’t doubt that people can get results with X3, just like they can get results with a Nautilus machine, or doing bodyweight workouts, or doing a variety of other exercise programs. What often matters most is following a proper program and putting in consistent effort. It sounds like you’re doing that, and it’s working, and that’s awesome. I tried to make it clear in this review that I don’t think it’s a useless product or that people can’t build muscle with it. Just that the claims don’t hold up to scrutiny.

      Could you make similar progress consistently following a good free weight program? I’d guess that your results would likely be a bit better per unit of time invested. I wouldn’t advise always training to failure, though. Stopping shy of failure tends to produce better muscle growth in intermediate lifters. And it’d probably be wise to figure out what was causing your joints to hurt and then fixing it. But you’re liking the X3 right now, and that’s totally cool, and I don’t mean to discourage you from that. Exercise is great. Resistance training is great. Resistance bands can work. I say go for it, man 🙂

      I don’t have any problem with the $550 price, either. Back when I as living in small apartment, I got two 100-pound adjustable dumbbells for $200. But if I had to do it again, I’d get the $700 IronMaster dumbbells instead. Fitness equipment is worth investing in, I think. I don’t have any issue with the price of the X3, just with the misleading information.

      • Josh on December 10, 2020 at 1:29 pm

        I appreciate the feedback, advice, and candor. I consider myself an openminded individual, and I try to take a common sense approach to most topics of interest (and ultimately appreciate another perspective).

        Does the X3 provide 3 times the results? Probably not. I think the company makes a lot of claims that are misleading (including claims with Fortagen). But there is no denying the literally thousands of testimonials on just one of several Facebook groups that suggest growth over free weights. I’m one example who has seen visible growth in just four months after hitting a long time stall with free weights.

        While I’ve only had the X3 for four months, I’ve followed the Facebook group for a year and a half and have seen more than enough real world testimonials to suggest this product is getting the job done where weights did not. There are typically three scenarios you’ll see in these testimonials:

        1. Weight loss folks using fasting/carnivore. The Doc preaches these in his book, but I don’t attribute this to X3. That said, there are incredible amounts of success stories shared daily using these methods.

        2. Hard gainers. Again, countless success stories from hard gainers who have never been able to grow muscle under free weights, adding considerable size with X3. Maybe the problem is that they’ve never had a proper weight lifting regimen. Regardless, they’re obtaining considerable growth with X3 when they never were with free weights.

        3. Free weight stall (my category). I’m one of many intermediate lifters who have spent considerable time in the gym with free weights who hit a stall. I changed things up; lifted heavier and lower reps, lighter and higher reps, and nothing was causing size gain (after I hit the stall). My strength was growing; my arms were staying the same size. Now, I’m not a professional, but I did read up/watch videos/look for advice… and nothing changed the free weight stall. Then I picked up the X3 and saw changes within a few months. Mind you, in half the time with far less effort. There’s tons of testimonials from all sorts experiencing the same.

        And I understand your referencing specific studies, but I don’t know who funded them, or what variables, controls, markers, or dietary restraints were associated with them. And ‘experts’ are a dime a dozen in this industry, all with something cross to say about anything that doesn’t fit their program or experience. I’ve found that the fitness and nutrition fields are brimming with ‘experts’ who have biased views and countless studies to reflect opposing thoughts. This goes back to the controls of what limiting studies we have, and the infinite variables with nutrition and lifting protocols that can skew a final result.

        That said, I always appreciate a scientific review, and opposing thought. I believe free weights focus on the stretch of muscles (as you imply), and bands focus on the contraction side. Most of us have worked out our entire lives with free weights, and consistent lifters eventually hit a peak. Step in X3, and we find we have room to grow on the contraction side. And I’m sure if we used the X3 all our lives, we would have hit a peak there, and would have found benefits from free weights beyond X3. In other words, like you, I see benefits in both. I just don’t agree with the assessment that free weights are clearly better, when there are actively thousands experiencing growth beyond free weights, sharing their stories on X3 forums.

        I’ll leave it at that; my experience and personal results. I do appreciate the discussion though and haven’t given up on weights. I might be one that moves back and forth as I hit stalls on both.

        • Shane Duquette on December 10, 2020 at 2:40 pm

          I hear ya, Josh, and I appreciate your comments. And you’re making a lot of good points here.

          The X3 Bar is named after the claim that it builds muscle 3X faster. That isn’t true. We both agree. Not everybody sees a problem with misleading people in that way, but I do. That’s why I wanted to write this article. It’s not because I don’t think the X3 Bar works, it’s because I think the claims being made about it are wrong.

          You’re right that it’s common to hit a plateau as an intermediate lifter. I’ve been there, too. Most times it was solved by consistently following a good workout program and combining that with a calorie surplus and a sufficient protein intake. I’ll stall for years, decide I want to build more muscle, go back to those basics, and start making progress again.

          I was benching 265 pounds for 5 years. This year I decided I wanted to bench 315 pounds, I made a program for it, and boom—I got it. 50 pounds added to my bench press in 6 months. Before doing that, I switched from using a Rogue Ohio Bar to using a Rogue Ohio Power Bar. But can I credit my results to getting a strength training barbell? No. In this case, that wasn’t what made the difference.

          But your point is a good one. To break past a plateau, we need to change something. And oftentimes, switching to a new style of training will do the trick. For me, I switch between different types of free-weight training. I’ll do a strength phase, a hypertrophy phase, maintain for a while, then switch over to a bench specialization phase, and so on. But there are other ways to do that. And I think switching to resistance bands is fine. I don’t doubt that can work, too.

          I don’t mean to hate on resistance bands, and I certainly don’t mean to discourage people who are enjoying using the X3 or getting good results from it. I think that’s awesome, and it sounds like it’s working for you, and that’s totally rad 🙂

          I just don’t like false claims, deceptive marketing, or misrepresentations about what’s best for building muscle. I’m a hardgainer myself. I failed many times before finally succeeding. I failed with a few different methods, tried free weights, and failed with those, too. Turns out it was my diet that was the problem. I wasn’t eating enough calories. When I figured that out, things went much smoother. I really do care about people who are frustrated by a lack of results. We have two entire sites dedicated to helping hardgainers: Bony to Beastly (for men) and Bony to Bombshell (for women). That’s our area of expertise, what we care about more than anything else. And I don’t want them falling prey to deceptive claims, as I did.

  7. Nate on December 9, 2020 at 5:42 pm

    Love seeing this. I was one of the guys who commented about X3 a while back. I think I even brought it up in the forum years ago when I first saw it.

    I ended up getting it once gyms shut down, and I’ve been using it since March. I enjoy the quickness of the workouts, but I have definitely not seen the results promised in the marketing. At all.

    However to be fair, I will say that the FB buyers group is extremely active and full of people who ARE getting great results. At first I thought maybe these are paid actors or something…there’s no way all of them are crushing it like this….but then I saw a few colleagues in the group as well haha. And there’s like tens of thousands of people in the group…so they can’t all be faking it.

    So for some reason, some groups of people really do see amazing results with it and swear it’s the best thing ever. I am not one of those people. I did see a good increase in my arm size…probably since arms are involved in almost every exercise… but that’s about it.

    One annoying thing is that even though LOTS of people complain about the chest not being activated or growing at all, the response is usually “buy some band shorteners” – a huge turn off since the product is $500. If this exact problem is brought up countless times, maybe include those with the product then?

    Also they heavily moderate the group, if you challenge anything you get blocked/banned, if you even mention carbs you’re crazy, they gloat about eating pounds of raw meat, and the Dr is kind of a dick with his responses in the group. Come to think of it, the whole thing is very cult-ish.

    /endrant

    Anyways- it’s great to see someone actually research this and set the record straight 🙂

    • Shane Duquette on December 9, 2020 at 7:40 pm

      Hey Nate, yeah! That’s one of the reasons I wanted to write this article 🙂

      Results always come from a mix of different factors. For example, maybe the X3 workouts you’re doing are enough to stimulate muscle growth, but the diet you’re eating doesn’t have enough protein or enough calories in it to allow for that muscle growth.

      I don’t doubt that plenty of people are crushing it. Workout routines don’t need to be perfectly optimized for us to see good progress. Oftentimes just showing up on schedule and putting in the work is enough to see good growth. When I finally gained my first 20 pounds of muscle (after trying and failing 10 times), I thought I’d finally found the perfect way of training. But I was doing a 3-day push/pull/legs routine. Those aren’t ideal. And I was doing a bunch of mediocre exercises. That wasn’t ideal, either. And my form was terrible. I was doing quarter squats, benching with a tiny range of motion, missing out on the benefits of challenging my muscles under a deep stretch. But it was enough. I saw great progress.

      I love min-maxing workout routines. But I don’t think everyone needs to think that way. A friend was over today. He just got engaged and he wants to build some muscle before his wedding. He’s a carpenter and his friend is a blacksmith, so he’s building a chin-up bar, a dip bar, and a few other pieces of equipment. And he got some 20-pound dumbbells to do some biceps curls and triceps extensions—as many reps as he can do to failure. Is his routine 100% optimal? No. But will he look awesome in time for his wedding? Hell yeah!

      Yeah, I think the X3 style of training will favour the arms. The chest press he does looks like a JM press—a popular triceps exercise. And it’s only hard at the lockout, which is where the triceps are most active. And your triceps are the biggest muscles in your upper arms, right? Your chest not growing is a problem, but you could solve that with (deficit) push-ups. They’re better than using band shorteners and they don’t require any equipment at all.

      That’s too bad that the group bans dissenters.

  8. Eldon Hoke on December 9, 2020 at 6:18 pm

    Referring to John Jaquish as “Dr” bolsters his carefully constructed yet fictitious educational charade. He is neither a medical doctor, nor did he earn an accredited doctoral degree from an accredited institution.

    • Shane Duquette on December 9, 2020 at 7:49 pm

      I’ve heard that, yeah. But I wanted to keep it about the hypertrophy research.

  9. Trevor Justice on December 9, 2020 at 9:29 pm

    Could you please address any benefits/advantages of the X3, in terms of protecting joints and minimizing the risk of injury? I currently lift dumbbells, and my right wrist hurts whenever I tilt it backwards while lifting or doing pushups. I have to wear a wrist brace. A yoga teacher also told me that when I do yoga poses, I put too much weight on my joints. I’m interested in the X3 to avoid further injury, and avoid overloading my joints. Is it beneficial in those ways?

    • Shane Duquette on December 10, 2020 at 10:12 am

      Hey Trevor, That’s a good question. I haven’t seen any research showing that resistance bands are better for our joints than free weights, but that could be. They’ve been popular as a rehab tool in physiotherapy for 70 years now, and that’s where you’ll most often see them used. I don’t think it will help in your specific situation, though.

      When doing resistance training, it’s not usually a good idea to let your wrists tilt back. That’s true with dumbbells, barbells, exercise machines, resistance bands, and, as you’ve noticed, bodyweight exercises. It can put a lot of stress on your wrist, which isn’t always bad, but in your case seems to be causing problems. The X3 uses a barbell attachment and it’s hardest at lockout, allowing you to push more weight at the top of the range of motion, which I bet will cause you the same wrist issues you’ve been having.

      Letting your wrists bend back is also a power leak. You’re creating extra moment arms, forcing your wrist joints and wrist flexors to bear more load. It will make you weaker at the lifts you’re trying to do. So when we see someone doing an overhead press or bench press with kinked wrists, we usually help them fix their grip position and then tell them squeeze the bar as hard as they can while lifting. Their strength shoots up and the lifts start to feel more comfortable.

      I took some photos to show you. In this photo, you can see that on the left, the wrists are bending backwards. That can cause strain. We want to get into a position like on the right. To do that, grip the bar like this, holding it lower in your hand, over your wrist joint. This is true whether using a barbell with weights or using the barbell attachment that the X3 has. Both will strain your wrist in the same way.

      The good news is that once you’re using good technique, the stress of holding and pushing weights, bands, or bodyweight will help to strengthen your wrist joint, bones, tendons, and muscles. So over time, the issue will probably go away. My business partner, Jared, had the same issue as you. His wrists would bend back, he had a ton of wrist pain, he wore a brace on each hand, and he was taking prescription medication for his tendonitis. Once he learned how to lift properly, though, the problem went away.

      The next thing is push-ups, and the same rule applies. You can get some push-up handles and do them with a straight wrist, squeezing tight. The handles also allow you to do deficit push-ups, which are even better for building muscle. So it’s a win-win. It will solve the wrist problem while also helping you build more muscle 🙂

      I really hope that helps!

      • Trevor Justice on December 10, 2020 at 12:33 pm

        Thanks Shane! I was already impressed with your articles. Now I’m even more impressed by your detailed reply. If I sign up for your program, does it show me (1) how to avoid injury and avoid overloading my joints (when using dumbbells), and (2) which stretches to do before or after working out?

        • Shane Duquette on December 10, 2020 at 12:42 pm

          Hey Trevor, thank you!

          Yeah, Marco is really good with that. He’ll teach you how to warm up for the lifts and then how do them safely using either a barbell or dumbbell. Every tutorial video covers the barbell and dumbbell variations (or bodyweight for some lifts). And we try our best to teach you how to build muscle and get strong in a way that maximizes your rate of muscle growth while minimizing your risk of injury.

          You can also ask questions, show us videos of how you do the lifts, tell us what problems you run into. Everyone is a little different and everyone runs into different issues when trying to build muscle. We’ll coach you through it 🙂

  10. Jesse on December 10, 2020 at 7:28 am

    Nothing but another gimmick

  11. Chris on December 10, 2020 at 12:12 pm

    This whole article is based on bullshit. People that have actually never tried anything always have negative things to say. You clearly don’t know anything about working out. This is 10x better than boring weights or machines, and with no joint damage. I sold my weights and machine because this is based on proven science. You only need the peak contraction. That’s where the muscle actually contracts, not the tension during relaxed position.

    • Jesse on December 10, 2020 at 12:20 pm

      I am USA weightlifting certified, USA track certified, NASM certified, and have a degree in exercise physiology with an emphasis in human performance. Oh, and I also work as a medic in a level 1 trauma center. I know my shit, and I would never use resistance bands but for warm-up, corrective muscular training, or rehab.

    • Shane Duquette on December 10, 2020 at 12:20 pm

      Hey Chris, we have a large body of evidence showing that we stimulate far more muscle growth by challenging our muscles at long muscle lengths. In the article, I linked a systematic review—this one—that included all 26 relevant studies. And since that review was published, more supporting research has come out, again linked in the article, and again showing far more muscle growth from challenging our muscles at longer muscle lengths. That’s what’s proven.

      Can you build muscle by emphasizing the peak contraction? Yes, you can. But the research shows that your muscle growth will be 2–3x slower, which is the exact opposite of what’s claimed in the marketing of the X3 Bar.

      • Jesse on December 11, 2020 at 7:43 am

        Show me the research. You actually inervate more muscle fibers and increase rate coding by training with deceleration movements and using reactive neuromuscular training. You’re selling a lie to people.

        • Shane Duquette on December 11, 2020 at 8:02 am

          I’m confused. I link the research every time I mention it. What lie am I selling?

          • Jesse on December 12, 2020 at 7:17 am

            Bands do not build bigger muscles. Why do bodybuilders, football players, and Olympic weightlifters use free weights? You only train 1 type of muscle fiber. Read about reactive neuromuscular training. HIIT training has been proven to increase GH and testosterone and also burn more adipose through EPOC. I’m 47 and this band training protocol came out years ago and faded. And now it’s back again. Just like fad diets.



          • Shane Duquette on December 12, 2020 at 6:42 pm

            Hey Jesse, did you read the article? I’m arguing against the claims made about the X3 Bar, saying that resistance bands aren’t ideal for building muscle. I know bands have been around for a while and have never managed to catch on in a lasting way. I think you’re right. It’s probably because they aren’t as efficient for building muscle as free weights.

            With that said, it’s clear that bands can stimulate muscle growth. Not as much as free weights, perhaps, but still some.



  12. Ron on December 11, 2020 at 9:58 pm

    I potentially explored this as an alternative to bodyweight training when on the road (I often travel up to 2 weeks per month). Do you think it has value there or am I better off with bodyweight? I train with a barbell when home and am looking for the best solution on the road.

    • Shane Duquette on December 12, 2020 at 7:14 am

      Hey Ron, yeah, that’s the kind of situation where resistance bands shine. Not necessarily the X3 Bar in particular, but resistance bands in general. Some people have adjustable dumbbells or a couple of kettlebells in their trunks instead, but I can see why you might not want to be hauling around the extra weight.

      Some exercises are really good with bodyweight. Deficit push-ups are just as good as the barbell bench press for your chest, shoulders, triceps, and abs. Much better than the X3 Bar chest press. On the other hand, it’s really hard to train your biceps and triceps with bodyweight, which is where resistance bands come in handy. So by mixing the two together, you can make it a lot easier to build muscle on the road.

      You can get an X3 Bar if you want. The deceptive marketing, the weird diet, and the emphasis on the contraction in the exercises he teaches all make me hesitant to recommend it. I wonder if getting regular resistance bands might be the wiser bet. Andy Morgan has some good advice on buying resistance bands in this article here. But that’s up to you. The X3 Bar would serve your purpose well, too 🙂

      • Ron on December 12, 2020 at 5:20 pm

        Thanks for the reply! It is pretty easy with some research to replicate the X3 for a much cheaper price gathering your own materials/bands. I will be taking that path.

        • Shane Duquette on December 12, 2020 at 6:45 pm

          That sounds great, Ron.

          For what it’s worth, my favourite resistance bands are the Rogue Monster Bands. They don’t come with a barbell or handles, but I don’t think those are required. A simple set of loop bands is quite versatile, the quality is very high, and they’re durable. After all, if you’ve got a lot of band tension and it snaps, you could hurt yourself (or break a TV or whatever).

  13. Ashhad on January 8, 2021 at 12:16 pm

    I was confused about this. I did think that it was too good to be true, but I was still confused about its effectiveness. Thanks for the clarification. You always seem to solve my problems. Keep up the good work.

    Can you give me some advice on lean bulking and cutting while maintaining or building muscle mass (for times when I gain too much fat) without counting macros? My family thinks that the act of counting macros is being overly obsessive with your progress and somehow harms your health. (Probably because they saw some people do it with ridiculously ineffective and wrong methods and end up quitting.)

    • Shane Duquette on January 8, 2021 at 1:06 pm

      Thank you, Ashhad! Yeah, definitely. We have an article on how to lean bulk over on Bony to Beastly.

      Counting macros isn’t healthy or unhealthy. It just gives you a better idea of what you’re eating. If you count macros, you have a better idea of how much energy you’re consuming and where it’s coming from. And the idea isn’t to do it forever, just to do it for a few weeks, maybe a couple of months. That way you learn more about the energy and macro contents of common foods, and then you can use that knowledge as you go through the rest of your life. I’ve only counted calories for 3 months of my life, but I still benefit from it now.

      You don’t need to count calories, though, all you need to do is keep a loose estimate of how much protein you’re eating, and then weigh yourself every week to see if you’re gaining weight or not. If you’re not gaining weight, eat more calories. A small snack or slightly bigger serving sizes will usually do the trick. And if you’re gaining weight too fast, eat slightly fewer calories. And just keep adjusting as you go. Over time, you’ll gain that same intuitive understanding of what it feels like to eat in a small calorie surplus 🙂

      Plus, your family isn’t wrong. Plenty of bodybuilders are overly obsessive, overly concerned with their appearance, and/or have unrealistic expectations. That can absolutely happen. And it can happen with everyday people trying to improve their physiques, too. It’s something to watch out for, for sure. If you’re wary of that, I think it will serve you well.

      • Ashhad on January 8, 2021 at 10:55 pm

        Thanks for the reply. I was talking about one of my relatives who is very weak and skinny and even got himself to hospital one day because of weakness. He counts his calories and he is horribly mistaken about this concept. He refuses to eat when he has “completed his calories” for the meal (even on formal occasions). He drinks a can of soda, says he has completed his calories and calls it a day. He does not even care about his protein intake. That’s why my family is concerned with me counting calories. I can’t believe how his childish practices have stopped me from optimizing my nutrition. My family also does not let me have protein powder because they have seen people (childishly) use it as a replacement for a balanced diet.

  14. kiwiguy5719 on January 18, 2021 at 8:10 pm

    I don’t know why some of you think Dr John Jaquish is a fraud.

    He has also developed a medical machine that reverses osteoporosis and that is where some of his original work came from.

    He is also backed by Tony Robbins, who is no fool.

    • Shane Duquette on January 19, 2021 at 9:50 am

      I’ve laid out why I think his advertising isn’t accurate in the article.

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