Wanna get jacked? Ditch the free weights and cable machines and get an X3 Elite Bar instead. Here’s our X3 Bar review.
Jaquish Biomedical, the manufacturer of the X3 Elite Bar, promises the best, most effective workout available that will yield greater muscle gains than any other resistance training method, by using their single device for just 10 minutes a day.
The company claims that weightlifting is a complete waste of time. And cardio too, by the way. The X3 Bar inventor, Dr. John Jaquish wrote a book that claims so in its title. Although we’ve not read the, it’s a safe bet to wager there are no Schwarzenegger quotes in it.
For those of us who’ve been around resistance training for decades and have diligently experimented with exercise equipment of all sorts during that time, we were curious and thought we’d give it an open-minded closer look.
In our X3 Elite Bar review, we evaluated the following:
- Product design
- Analysis of product type for its stated job
- Supporting clinical evidence
- Biomechanics, in general
- Summary pros and cons
Product Design: What is the X3 Elite Bar?
The X3 bar is both an exercise tool and workout program that uses latex bands as its resistance source. X3’s bands connect to hooks on the 23-1/2” Olympic diameter X3 bar, allowing the exerciser a comfortable, secure grip for pushing and pulling exercises, including front squats.
The X3 ships with the following components:
- The X3 Elite Bar
- Ground Plate
- Four resistance bands
- Extra-light, 15-50 lbs., 100 lbs. when doubled-over
- Light, 25-80 lbs., 160 lbs. when doubled-over
- Medium, 50-120 lbs., 240 lbs. when doubled-over
- Heavy, 60-150 lbs., 300 lbs. when doubled-over
- A fifth Extra-Heavy band is sold separately, 200-300 lbs., 500 when doubled-over
Those are some pretty heavy resistances, more than what you’ll find from most band sources. An advantage.
Exercises easily possible on the X3 are:
- Standing chest press
- Standing upright row
- Triceps pushdown
- Front squat
- Bent over row
- Biceps curl
- Calf raise
X3 Elite Bar System Design
X3 is a set of resistance bands that includes a cleverly designed, reportedly durable 23-1/2” alloy steel bar with integrated hooks at either end to attach the X3 bands and a ground plate that makes doing several popular band exercises more comfortable and maybe safer in some instances.
The bar’s hooks rotate on ball bearings so that the exerciser isn’t fighting off-axis torque during a press or a pull.
X3 includes a program that beginning exercisers will find helpful. The company also sells another accessory claiming to boost growth hormone production, and it also sells dietary supplements.
X3 has competition.
Teslang Resistance Band Bar, the Dansking Home Gym Resistance Band set, the Foser Portable Resistance Band kit, the Elevtab Portable Resistance Bar, and Body Boss all feature resistance bands and handles. Body Boss includes a footplate; a ground plate is one of the X3 system’s strengths in our opinion.
The X3 is limited to its straight bar, meaning that you won’t be able to perform movements that move your arms or legs into abduction or adduction, with the exception being the upright row since the elbows do flare out for that exercise, abducting the upper arm.
The product’s strengths are its design, durability, and portability. The clever handle and ground plate solve a user-comfort issue that resistance band users have faced since the invention of bands: wrist torque, palm burn, and foot pronation.
By all accounts, the product functions as advertised. The ball bearing assembly inside the handle allows the band hooks to revolve through the range of motion, which makes the X3 bar react as a barbell would, where the collars roll so the bar doesn’t, and not compromise a secure grip. Pretty cool.
The footplate includes a slot for bands. Traditional bands require the exerciser to stand directly on the bands. That’s uncomfortable and causes foot pronation. If you know your biomechanics, once the foot pronates, it sets up a chain reaction up the leg which causes the knees to roll into the valgus. So the footplate is a plus. Nice feature.
The product looks durable, and steel alloy sounds like a material that will last. The company says that the product is sturdy, and the reviewers we read agree.
The Ground Plate claims to withstand 600 lbs. (272 kg) of resistance and the band’s range in resistance from 10 lbs. up to 600 if doubled-up.
Some reviewers commented that the warranty period was brief. We didn’t see any reports of product breakage, so not really sure a longer warranty period would be meaningful in the first place. We’re convinced that the product is well-made and durable. Thumbs up for equipment longevity.
The X3 Bar and its 19” x 10” ground plate is compact enough to fit in a medium-sized suitcase. One review included photos of the X3 bar packed in an overnight bag.
The X3 Bar provides a tasty alternative to larger at-home multi-gyms, with the added benefit of going on the road if you like.
If you travel, X3 might provide a workable supplement to incomplete hotel fitness rooms, or for VRBOs or AirBnBs with no available workout equipment. X3 would also work well for small living spaces, like loft apartments or tiny houses.
Now, for things that could maybe be better. In no particular order…
Unsupported Product Claims
The superiority of Band Training and 3-Times Faster Gains
The product boasts building muscle three times faster, and that other forms of resistance training are worthless. This is—they say—due to the “variable resistance” the product offers.
All resistance bands work the same way: as the band stretches, its resistance increases. Conversely, as muscles shorten during an exercise, they gain a mechanical advantage, thereby getting “stronger”. Of course, they’re not actually stronger, they’re just benefitting from the magic of leverage, mechanical advantage.
Regrettably, for resistance band advocates, muscle recruitment is at its greatest in the stretched—not contracted—position, as found in this literature review. There are a couple of reasons for this, but the physical principle of stored energy is a big one.
Let’s illustrate using another example from the weight room. Let’s apply this logic to the squat.
Anyone who has done a barbell squat knows that the last few inches of the movement are far easier than driving out of the bottom. This is because the muscles have shortened and the bones have lined up against gravity and achieved mechanical advantage.
Who would argue that doing quarter squats would be a superior muscle-builder to doing full range-of-motion squats? The difficulty at the beginning of the squat—driving out of the bottom—is where lifters know they’re getting the benefit when the muscles are in their stretched positions.
Ironically, the study that the X3 folks’ reference as support as evidence for the superiority of band training was performed when resistance bands were added to free weights and not resistance bands versus free weights.
Can you grow muscle training with bands? Yes. Anytime a muscle is subjected to adaptive stress it will grow or get stronger in the absence of a neurological injury or disease. Can you grow muscles three times faster with resistance band training? The clinical and anecdotal evidence says not.
What’s behind this is phase loading. Free weights are early phase loaded—more resistance at the beginning of the motion due to gravity. Bands are late phase loaded—resistance increases as the material is stretched.
By adding resistance bands to free weights, both early and late phase loads are optimized. The free weight becomes easier to move due to muscle shortening and mechanical advantage but is then resisted by the ever-shortening elastic, creating more resistance for the muscle.
You’re going to get the greatest muscle recruitment in the early phase when the joint is loaded most. At the beginning of repetition when using elastics, you’re getting the least load when it is most needed to challenge the muscle for growth.
Elastics have their place in the exercise armamentarium, particularly in space-constrained home gyms and “suitcase gyms” for the traveler.
Can you get a decent workout and build muscle using bands? You can. Are they better than other forms of resistance training? Research into muscle loading and growth suggests not.
X3 claims its users need just 10 minutes to get a complete workout. Casual exercisers, busy execs, and those just getting into resistance exercise may like the idea of a very short workout and it may be the only time they can spare outside of work and other life demands.
The US government suggested exercise volume for adults is at 150 minutes per week of some activity that gets your heart going with at least two days of muscle-strengthening, although they also say that if five minutes is all you’ve got, then do that.
One Set Per Exercise, Performed to Failure
The One Set to Failure method was first popularized by Arthur Jones, inventor of Nautilus, and promoted by the late Mike Mentzer. Mentzer’s motto was “intensity for density”. Each rep was to be executed extremely slowly and each set boasted very few reps performed to failure.
The X3 program recommends lighter bands and longer sets of up to 40 reps using shorter rep strokes as the muscles fatigue. What they refer to as a variable resistance would more accurately be described as a variable range of motion.
Although the company says this type of “train to failure” workout isn’t possible with weights, such a workout method is in fact possible using free weights. Free weights, cables, and other adjustable weight machines don’t require full ranges of motion either, and the lifter is free to alter ranges of motion during a very long set.
The old classic “21s” for biceps used free weight curls to maximize the pump. A set of “21s” divided one large set into three segments of seven: 14 half reps (top to middle, then bottom to middle) followed by seven complete ranges of motion. And the lifter could modify which of the “sevens” went first.
Less Joint Strain Than Weights
Bands certainly treat joints more kindly than ballistic forms of free weight training, such as cleans, or even lunges. Even so, seasoned bodybuilders who value and pay attention to strict form will get no greater joint stress training with weights than will a novice with a resistance band.
Joints are always loaded to some degree anytime the body moves, including activities of daily living. Jogging loads the knees in a more ballistic fashion than does a sissy squat. But in both instances, the joint is loaded and this is how human motion is even possible.
At issue here isn’t that X3 isn’t stressful on the joints, it’s that they’re claiming less stress than weights. The company provides no clinical evidence to support this claim.
Possible Band Length Limiters
Band length isn’t specified. What we’re about to say is completely deductive and common to all bands:
- Because resistance depends on stretching any elastic workout tool—tubing, bands, bungees—the height and limb length of the exerciser play a huge role.
- Shorter exercises won’t get the same resistance as taller ones.
- There may be ways to shorten the bands, but we didn’t find any specifics on how. Again, in general, all band systems suffer from this same limitation.
Limited Almost Exclusively to Sagittal Plane Exercise
The X3 Bar system’s design limits the exerciser to movement in the sagittal plane: up-down, front-back. You could make an argument that the X3 upright row involves some shoulder abduction, and you’d be right. However, in general, the device limits the lifter to that single plane.
There’s nothing wrong with exercise in the sagittal plane. Almost all strength and bodybuilding exercises are performed in the sagittal plane. Our point is that that if you’re looking for a piece of equipment that allows for movement in all three planes—sagittal, coronal, and transverse—like suspension trainers, for instance, the X3 Bar isn’t going to deliver.
Summary: The X3 Bar Review
The X3 Bar provides a very well-designed resistance band training tool that has some distinct advantages over bands alone for pressing, pulling, and squatting exercises, where grip and stance are the limiters for traditional bands.
X3 would make a useful addition to a home gym setup, particularly where space comes at a premium, or for the traveler who wants readily-available portable gym equipment instead of relying on ill-equipped or non-existent hotel fitness rooms.
First-timers to resistance exercise and seasoned iron-gamers who want a traveling accessory or rainy-day device for at-home workouts in a pinch will each like the X3 Bar.
Kudos go to Dr. Jaquish for a nifty design in overcoming two of the traditional shortcomings of band exercise:
- Exercises that require standing on the bands are uncomfortable and cause foot pronation under heavier loads. The Ground Plate solves that.
- Discomfort and wrist torsion when gripping bands during pressing and pulling exercises. The X3 bar and its revolving hook assemblies appear to remedy that.
Boasts by the company that X3 is the only resistance equipment needed, and that weightlifting is a waste of time, fall flat. Gym lifers will not take such a claim seriously and may go out of their way to throw shade on it as a response to the claim alone.
The company would be better-served by pumping the brakes on the anti-weight room rhetoric and instead of selling to the product’s authentic strengths—its cool, unique design, user comfort, and its durability—instead of trying to outcompete traditional resistance training methods supported by reams of clinical evidence and hundreds of world-class physiques that were built using traditional iron.
As it stands, X3 comes off as an allegorical Don Quixote in the resistance training equipment world, jousting with a foe that doesn’t fight back because it doesn’t have to.
What’s kind of a shame is that, in the end, the X3 Elite Bar could compete just as strongly in the fitness market simply by being authentic…promoting itself a thoughtfully-designed, premium resistance band kit that’s worth the $500.