Alright, big guy, so you’ve conquered AX1. (What, like it’s hard?) Now, Athlean-X founder Jeff Cavaliere has an even X-Treme-r mission for you … AX2.
If you want to rise to the ranks of “Athlean Supreme Athlete,” you’ll need to blast through 12 phases, 200+ exercises, 60 workouts, and 11 weekly challenges.
But is AX2 worth the near-triple-digit price tag? Will the kitchen sink approach really build even more muscle and shred even more fat?
Check out our in-depth review of the entire AX2 workout program below!
Table of Contents
About the Creator – Jeff Cavaliere
Wait, the guy caught in the hellfire of controversy after Scott Herman and Sean Nal exposed him for using fake weights in his deadlift videos? Uh, yeah, that’s the one!
With 2.2 million Instagram followers, 12.4 million YouTube subscribers, and a 21,000-member subreddit, Jeff Cavaliere is far from new blood in the fitness industry.
In fact, the internet crowned Cavaliere the “brains behind the brawn” for his Bachelor’s degree in physioneurobiology and Master’s degree in physical therapy. Cavaliere’s educational background later inspired his training approach, zeroing in on safety and biomechanics.
He also served as a strength coach & head physical therapist role for the New York Mets (boo) and has a slew of top-tier clients, including future hall-of-famers and elite-level athletes.
Cavaliere’s big break came in 2009 when he founded Athlean-X. The training platform now has a dozen-plus programs for men wanting to improve their physiques and athletic prowess.
Read more about Athlean-X’s best-selling programs in our Ultimate Athlean-X Review.
What Is Athlean-X AX2?
(‘Member AX1? Welp, AX2 is his stronger, taller, faster older cousin from out of town who’s threatening to whoop your ass for pushing his troll of a cousin into a locker.)
OK, but really, Athlean-X AX2 is essentially AX1 to the max — or Athlean-X AX1 2.0. (Yeah, we see why they didn’t go with that.)
Over the next 84 days, Cavaliere will keep you on the edge of your seat with 12 unique phases, more than 200 exercises, 60 brand new workouts, and 11 willpower-testing weekly challenges.
AX2 is advanced, X-treme (which is just an edgier spin on the more conventional “extreme”), and backed by “true muscle science.”
Combined with the infamous X-Factor Meal Plan and Six-Pack Shuffle core workouts, the 4+ 20–45-minute workouts per week will help:
- Endomorphs torch fat & build lean mass through high-intensity burst training
- Mesomorphs continue making gains & overcoming plateaus
- Ectomorphs build extreme mass with a gains-friendly diet & compound exercises
From the outset, AX2 sounds balls-to-the-wall insane. But is it actually worth the $70-plus — for limited 120-day access, nonetheless?
AX2 Details & Features
So if you modified the hell out of AX1 or wanted to skip it altogether, you’re better off repeating AX1 or starting with a more beginner-friendly program — like the bodyweight-only Athlean Xero.
Otherwise, here’s your sneak peek of AX2!
What Equipment Do You Need?
Part of the fun — or, ahem, “fun” — of AX2 is the unpredictability factor. But the seemingly random assortment of exercises, from dumbbell single-sided lunges to isometric step-down holds, means a lot of equipment, like:
- An adjustable bench (or Swiss ball)
- A pair of dumbbells
- A chin-up bar
- A resistance band set — ideally one with four or so resistance options
But this list is just barely scraping the surface. We’ve seen enough AX2 workouts to know you also need a jump rope, an Olympic bar, stairs, and a kettlebell (in place of dumbbells).
(Hey, if you round it out with a barbell, squat rack, and weight plates, you’re ready for the entire Athlean-X line-up.)
Bowflex SelectTech 552 Version 2
Each dumbbell adjusts from 5 to 52.5 pounds. Rapidly switch from one exercise to the next. You don't need multiple dumbbells cluttering up your home gym.
How to Use the Workout Module
Once you set AX2 as your “Active Program,” you can access it from the top toolbar in the “Programs” dropdown menu. From there, you can select “View Today’s Workout!” — which picks up right where you left off — or “View Workout Calendar.”
Now, as an AX1 warrior, you’re probably an expert in the Athlean-X dashboard. But here are a few tips & tricks within the modules to help you make the most of the AX2 program:
What to Watch
OK, the whiteboard “Phase Explanation” presentation is about as exciting as that one college professor who reads directly from the PowerPoint for an hour-long lecture. But it’s here that Cavaliere explains the science behind the current phase and what makes it unique.
If you’re wondering why you’re suddenly starting a split in week two or doubling your time under tension out of nowhere, you’ll find out in the video.
Notorious quitters, watch these every Monday!
AX2 — well, all of Athlean-X, for that matter — IsN’t LiKe MoSt PrOgRaMs in that “regular” exercises like the deadlift are rare. So instead of lunges, there are dumbbell creeping lunges, and you’ll encounter less-common combos like dumbbell curls & presses.
Just click “watch” next to the exercise to see Cavaliere demonstrate ‘em.
Because Cavaliere insists on wild-ass exercise variations and workout styles, it takes much longer to explain the workout top-to-bottom than can fit in the module.
Read the Introduxion and Instruxions to understand the logic behind the madness.
For example, Cavaliere dubs week #7 “X-Tinction Training.” These workouts feature four exercises per muscle group in order of toughness and ask you to train to failure for set after set until you can no longer reach the “X-Tinction Number.” (R.I.P. to the dinosaurs, though)
The reason: this training style revs up the intensity, doesn’t extend your workouts, and strategically targets all muscle fibers with drop sets and de-loading progressions.
If you’ve watched the videos and read the Instructions, the rest of the Workout module is pretty self-explanatory. All you have to do is follow along and track your reps and weights.
But, we’ll leave you with two extra tips:
Add Core4 to the end of your workouts. Or swap your default ab work to Six-Pack Shuffle or X-Tinction Abs in your account settings. AX2 is “meh” for a lot of guys, so adding in those familiar ab-shredding workouts can revive an otherwise dull session.
Scroll down to the bottom of the module first. Cavaliere doesn’t always add extra notes. But if he has tips about weight selection or form, he’ll leave them at the bottom.
If you want to be a petty, cocky SOB, there’s the Challenge Leaderboard on the right side of your screen. Here, you can see where you rank amongst other X’ers and toss a “Prove It” flag at the top-ranked challengers. (It’s completely passive-aggressive, but we’re here for it.)
Aha, we’re back to the main event! AX2 is one of the faster-progressing Athlean-X programs with a brand new phase each week.
Here’s a look at your upcoming 12-week journey:
|Week Number||Phase Name||Weekly Workouts|
|2||Retro Rep Training||5|
|12||Burst Training Blitz||4|
A Look at a Few AX2 Workouts
Pissed-off Athlean-X users have a few … choice words when roasting AX2 — stupid, pointless, meh, regret, boring, least-favorite, and “all over the place.”
But since there are few, if any, repeat workouts, we can’t possibly explain to you the difference between day 11 & day 18’s Legs workouts or the difference between “Bumps, Jumps, and Jacks” and “Sprint-erval Ladders” without boring you to death.
So we chose five AX2 workouts completely at random to give you a feel for AX2:
Maximum Metabolic Overdrive Primer (Day 4)
Maximum Metabolic Overdrive Primer is — surprisingly — one of the most basic workouts you’ll see in all of AX2.
With 3 x 10–15 and 30–45 seconds of rest between sets, you’ll complete four exercises: tubing reverse X-flys, dumbbell Bulgarian split woodchoppers, and spiderman crawl push-ups.
Legs/Shoulders (Day 26)
(Not to be confused with just Legs or Shoulders/RC, which are both entirely different beasts.)
Cavaliere divides the Legs/Shoulders workout on day 26 into three levels — high, medium, and low — each with three exercise choices for a semi-customizable workout.
You might choose split squat jumps, kettlebell swings, and physioball hamstring circle curls for legs. Then for shoulders, you may do dumbbell hang cleans and presses, dumbbell plate cauldrons, and tubing dual stretch front raises.
The goal is to condense five rounds into just 12–15 minutes of pure hell. (How X-Treme!)
“Stairway to Hell” Workout (Day 33)
The “Stairway to Hell” Workout will give you a newfound appreciation for level ground. This burst-style session includes three rounds, one minute of rest between rounds, and six grueling stair-based exercises — like running upstairs and hopping upstairs two steps at a time.
Upper Pull (Day 57)
By day 57, it’ll feel like Jeff Cavaliere has lost his ever-loving mind. The session is mostly normal, with four exercises, four sets each, and 10–12 reps per set.
But the normalcy of the bent-over rows and angled pull-ups suddenly brings the WTF factor. Being that it is Asymmetrix Training week, you’ll choose lopsided dumbbell weights for your left and right sides (alternating between the two). Absolute lunacy.
Olympic Bar Blitz X-Treme (Day 80)
Cavaliere adds another unexpected plot twist with just four days left of Athlean-X AX2 — Olympic Bar Blitz X-Treme. All you need is an Olympic bar, a weight plate, and a towel.
This three-round circuit style workout will require you to do eight reps (with no rest) of thrusters, landmines, jump twist thrusts, and one-arm snatch split-squat jumps. (Now, that’s a mouthful.)
Challenges aren’t “new” by Athlean-X standards. But AX2 cranks up the X-Treme factor by assigning them once a week instead of every month.
These sobering, grit-testing workouts will put your progress to the test. For example, XT-400 requires you to perform 100 reps of four exercises as quickly as possible (timed).
Your score or time will determine whether you’re at a Basix, Solid, Pro, Elite, Xtreme, and Beat the Boss!! level and where you fall on the official leaderboard.
(Note: Some of the challenges are ridiculously confusing and require you to watch a 10+-minute video to explain how it works.)
AX2 Meal Plan
The AX2 Meal Plan is actually the now-infamous X-Factor Meal Plan, which makes its appearance in a handful of Athlean-X programs.
Yep, it’s that plan that kicks off with pumpkin spice oatmeal, scrambled eggs, and salsa. It’s also X-Tremely (whoops) similar if not identical to AX1’s plan.
While following AX2, you’ll eat six times per day:
For each of the three core meals per day, you’ll also have an option to replace the standard meal with either a Size Swap or a Shred Swap. Shred Swaps are for the fellas hoping to cut down on their body fat, while Size Swaps are for all the hard gainers out there.
Here’s a look at how many swaps Cavaliere recommends per day based on your goals:
|Number of Swaps||Size Swaps(How much muscle mass do you want to gain?)||Shred Swaps (What’s your current body fat percentage?)|
|1 Daily Swap||5+ pounds of lean mass||<14% body fat|
|2 Daily Swaps||6–15 pounds of lean mass||15–29% body fat|
|3 Daily Swaps||15+ pounds of lean mass||30%+ body fat|
What makes it a “swap” is adding or subtracting starchy carbs and fats. A Shred Swap may remove almond slices and a baked sweet potato from lunch, while the Size Swap could add potatoes and honey-roasted pork chops (yep, with apple sauce).
A few other points worth mentioning: the meal plan is color-coded, each day delivers a different combination of meals, you’re free to substitute meals with others in the plan, you’ll typically eat every 2 ½–3 hours, and there’s no mention of calories, macros, and serving sizes (ruh-roh).
Athlean-X’s AX2 Pros
- If you’re a serial routine-quitter, there’s more than enough variety in AX2 to keep you on your toes and from becoming bored. (Unless you’re that dude that called AX2 “boring.”)
- There’s little research to support supersets, drop sets, or any other non-conventional training styles being better than the traditional set-rep structure. But this systematic review from 2019 concluded that training variety could provide your muscles just the stimulus they need to adapt and overcome plateaus.
- Aside from the handful of commenters dubbing it “too easy,” many agree that AX2 is quite challenging. Between the strength, endurance, speed, and power-based exercises, you’ll target your muscles in ways you never expected.
- The X-Factor Meal Plan is customizable to your unique physique goals, whether you want to add size, burn fat, or do both.
- AX2 has far less conditioning work than AX1 — most often once a week.
- It doesn’t repeat the same ol’ exercises over (and over and over) again. Cavaliere leans on his biomechanical and physical therapy knowledge to choose exercises that target easily forgotten muscles and movements. Prepare to be sore in places you never thought possible!
- If you’ve been “meh” about training in the past, the variety in AX2 could help you discover your new favorite training style.
- Unlike other Athlean-X programs, you can access the entire program from day one. Cavaliere doesn’t block months two and three to hold you “accountable.”
- There’s no refund policy. Although we understand why, given it’s a digital program, you have to be damn sure you’re ready to spend $70+ on this bad boy.
- Yeah, there’s no consistency. Jeff Cavaliere and Athlean-X have a reputation for being a bit “different.” But doing something completely new every day could feel a bit random and make tracking your progress difficult.
- AX2 is best in a home gym or a legit gym during dead hours. Otherwise, if you don’t set off the Lunk Alarm, you’ll likely earn a reputation as an equipment hog.
- OK, completing AX1 first isn’t an actual requirement. But since there’s so much carryover between the two programs, trying AX2 on a whim could leave you clueless.
- Many Athlean-X nuts feel slighted that AX2 falls short of AX1’s craze. If you’re spending close to $100 on a program and still quit, that says something about the program, huh.
- Are we really charging users an extra $20 for lifetime access vs. 120-day access?
- Not only is there minimal (if any) barbell training, but some of the exercises are downright odd. Hopping up two stairs at a time sounds like a recipe for disaster.
Wrapping Up This Athlean-X AX2 Review
Athlean-X programs are usually pretty decent. But AX2 is one of the most random, least-liked, and disappointing programs in the entire franchise.
If you’re still on your AX1 high and hoping AX2 will bring the same energy, you’ll likely feel disappointed. But if training variety, limited conditioning, and challenging exercises are your top three concerns, AX2 is a real hit.