Another training method that combines strength training with packing on sheer muscle mass is the PHAT workout. This stands for power hypertrophy adaptive training. Dr. Layne Norton created this type of workout to help combine strength and mass training for his use as a pro bodybuilder and powerlifter.
Dr. Norton believes that in order to achieve true progression you need to train for strength, not just size. His PHAT training method does just that.
It seems to work since he is a two-time USA powerlifting champion and an International Powerlifting Federation silver medalist. He is super brainy too, with his Ph.D. in nutritional sciences and a bachelors in biochemistry. Let’s investigate his adaptive training method and see how it works.
What is a PHAT workout?
This type of training involves combining days of workouts with low reps of heavy lifting (this is the power) and days of workouts with higher reps of lower weights (this is where the hypertrophy happens).
This type of training not only increases the sheer size of your muscles but also adds density and strength to the muscle. Layne Norton was looking for a science-based style of lifting that would be unique and effective. He tested this type of training on many of his clients and found it to be successful.
His way of thinking was that in order to see a continual progression, you need to break through your plateaus. The only way to break through a plateau of strength is by adding more muscle mass. Then when you have reached a plateau of building muscle mass, you need to increase the strength of that muscle and the cycle begins again. This type of training combines the two so that you never hit a plateau but you are always gaining mass and strength simultaneously.
A PHAT training week involves 5 days of training; 2 of power, 3 of hypertrophy. Each muscle group is targeted two times per week.
What are the benefits of PHAT training and why it works?
We’ve already touched on some of the benefits of a PHAT training regimen but there are more to speak of.
First of all, this type of training will help you to not just look big but actually be able to prove your strength behind all that muscle. Many bodybuilders train only for physique but that is where they fall short. Sure, they look intimidating, but they don’t actually have much to back it up.
On the other hand, powerlifters don’t always have large rippling muscles but they can sure squat a band of cheerleaders.
With PHAT training, you will be able to have the size and strength. According to a study done to find the prime number for how many reps and sets you should do for optimum muscle hypertrophy. That number was 10 or more sets per muscle each week was best, and you should increase that number to 20 within a few months. The PHAT training method allows you to get in at least 10 sets per muscle each week but usually much more. You will see growth guaranteed by using this method.
PHAT training will also help you to increase your raw strength through the power days of heavy lifting. Again, Dr. Norton used science to back up his methodology. A thorough study was done on the which type of training was best for building strength and yes, you guessed it, low rep, heaviest weight lifting was the lucky winner.
PHAT training will even utilize the best rest periods between sets for the proven goal. Of course, this will greatly depend on you following the recommended rest between sets in the regimen but every part of this training is curated for maximum potential down to the seconds.
The days of rest are also strategically placed for you to be able to rest and switch your mindset to the next block of training. For instance, you need a completely different thought process to lift heavy than to punch out higher reps. Having a day of rest after the first two days of power not only allows your body to recover but also your mind.
You will be able to start fresh and pumped for the next three days of hypertrophy training with a different thinking cap on of maximum reps, not maximum weight.
Also, the ability to train each muscle group twice a week is a great bonus in the weight lifting world. Most regimens can’t fit each group in twice a week. With the PHAT routine, each muscle group is trained once in hypertrophy and once in power. This has been proven to increase muscle mass and weight significantly.
Fundamentals of a PHAT program
For you to use the PHAT program for its intended purposes there are certain fundamentals to follow.
Power and hypertrophy
You will recognize that this weight lifting program involves two different approaches to lifting. In order to really benefit from the science behind this program, you need to do both types of lifting with dedication. You can’t favor one over the other or concentrate your efforts on one type.
For example, you can’t lift as heavy as possible on your power days and really dig down deep for that last rep but then take it easy on your hypertrophy days and hardly break a sweat. You need to give both days your all.
Your power days should be full of power. Each set should have minimal reps and the highest weight you can lift successfully for the set reps. You’ll notice the gains will increase throughout the weeks if you do that.
You’ll have one upper body power day and one lower body power day. You can choose to do the lower first or the upper. It’s not really important as long as you keep the same schedule when it comes to the hypertrophy days.
The hypertrophy days are three in all and you will hit every major muscle group in the body to completion. These days will involve a lot more moves and sets and reps.
Compound and accessory work
A good PHAT routine will include more than just one type of movement. Compound moves are essential on your power days. These moves are the squat, bench press, deadlift, etc. These are moves that will most mimic your everyday movements and involve more than one joint. This allows you to lift heavier due to the increased number of muscles and joints involved in the lifting.
A good hypertrophy day will have many isolation exercises to focus on one particular muscle. Before those high rep isolation reps, you want to do explosive versions of compound moves. This will require a lighter weight than maybe even your regular isolation hypertrophy weight.
Sets, reps, tempo, weight selection, and failure
Your power days will consist of low sets and reps. Most will aim for 2-3 sets of 4-6 reps. This means each set will include a lot of struggling. This is the best way to improve your physical strength.
The way you lift in these power days can also help you to increase your strength. For compound movements, your power comes during the return phase of the move. For example, in a squat, you would slowly lower into the squatting position and push back up to the standing position with power and more speed.
The tempo of the isolation moves done during your hypertrophy days aren’t as important. Just keeping a good rhythm with the correct form with consistency will go a long way. These hypertrophy days will have many more sets and reps to really burn your muscles. Aim for 6-8 sets of 10-20 reps.
When it comes to rest, especially on your power days, more is better. Of course, you don’t want to completely cool off, but you need to give your muscles time to replenish their stores so that you can complete another grueling set. Hypertrophy sets need less rest in between but still enough to recover well while keeping your heart rate slightly elevated. Science has proven that this is the best way to pack on muscle size.
For this program, you should have five training days and two rest days. The two power days are back to back. One day will be dedicated to your upper body and the other for the lower.
Then you have one day of rest. Make sure you use it wisely.
After your rest day, you begin the three hypertrophy days. One day will be for back and shoulders, one for the lower body, and one for arms and chest.
There is no set order to which you need to do these days, that’s up to you. You wouldn’t want to do lower body hypertrophy first if you did lower body power last. Make sure to give your muscles as much time to recover as possible.
If working out 5 days a week is not possible for you, you may look into the PHUL workout that has similar principles but requires a commitment of only a 4-days a week.
When to do abs and cardio?
Your ab workout can be done one two nonconsecutive days during the week. You don’t need a lot as many of your compound moves will engage the abs. A 10-minute ab workout is all you need. If you are really wanting to see a defined six-pack, make sure you are eating clean and on target.
Because the PHAT program is intense and five days a week, you don’t need to worry about adding too much cardio. I suggest having one day of intense cardio per week, especially in the beginning. If you feel the need to add more later, you can do that, but you need to avoid overtraining.
Is a PHAT program right for me?
According to legend, even though this training regimen seems top of the line, only the most advanced can dare try it, it was actually created by Dr. Norton himself for his clients to utilize no matter what level of physical fitness they display.
So, to answer the question is a PHAT program right for you, all you need to do is ask yourself if you have four days of 90 minutes dedicated to working out and do you want to see results from that time. Do you want those results to not only be seen by outsiders but felt by you?
If you answered yes to both those questions, then heck yeah, PHAT training is for you!
Legally I must disclaim that you should always check with your doctor to make sure that you are cleared for takeoff.
Sample PHAT routine
If you’re excited to try this program out, here is a sample PHUL routine for you to get started on.
- Day 1: Upper body power
- Day 2: Lower body power
- Day 3: Rest
- Day 4: Back and shoulders hypertrophy
- Day 5: Lower body hypertrophy
- Day 6: Check and arms hypertrophy
- Day 7: Rest
Day 1: Upper body power
|Barbell Bench Press||3-4||5|
|Incline Dumbbell Bench Press||3-4||6-8|
|Bent Over Row||3-4||5|
|Lat Pull Down||3-4||6-8|
Day 2: Lower body power
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Back and shoulders hypertrophy
|Bent Over Row||3-4||8-10|
|Weighted Pull Up||3-4||8-10|
|Seated Cable Row||3-4||10-12|
|Close Grip Pulldown||3||10-12|
|Seated DB Press||3||10-12|
|Lateral DB raise||3||12-15|
Day 5: Lower body hypertrophy
|Seated leg curl||2||12-15|
Day 6: Chest and arms hypertrophy
|Flat Dumbbell Press||3-4||8-10|
|Incline Dumbbell Bench Press||3-4||8-10|
|Incline Cable Fly||2||12-15|
|DB Concentration Curls||2||12-15|
Day 7: Rest
How to progress in your PHAT workouts and when to increase weights?
As mentioned before, the PHAT workout is all about progression. In order to do this properly, you should be logging your lifts and continually trying to beat your best. When things seem to be too easy, it’s time to increase your weights or reps, or both.
Keep in mind there’s no need to try and add 10 extra pounds to your lifts each workout (it just won’t work). By adding just a bit of weight to your lifts each week, you’ll be continuously progressing which is what we need.
Look at it this way – at just 2.5 lbs of extra weight each week, you’ll increase your max by at least 25 lbs after 10 weeks!
When to take a break or deload?
In any intense workout program, there should be a scheduled time for recovery. This is called a deload.
A normal PHAT workout program lasts about 12 weeks depending on how advanced you are. Following this hard work, your body needs a week or two of less intense physical activity.
This deloading phase includes a little over half of your normal lifting range when you finished your PHAT progression.
The rules of deloading are different for each individual. Do what feels right for you to get the rest you need before jumping into intense workouts all over again.