When it comes to lifting weights, there are two types of people; those who are looking to gain strength, and those who are looking to gain muscle. Aren’t the two groups looking for the same thing, you ask? Meh..kinda.
The first group would be called powerlifters and they like to lift heavy. Their main goal is to increase their strength.
The second group would be called bodybuilders and their main goal is to build sheer muscle mass without being too focused on improving their maximum lifting weight. Sure, both groups will get stronger and both groups will gain muscle, but you get the picture.
The beauty of a PHUL workout, which stands for power, hypertrophy, upper, lower, is that combines the two groups’ goals into one training method.
What is a PHUL workout?
A PHUL workout is a four-day training program that combines powerlifting and bodybuilding hitting both the upper and lower body twice a week.
In a PHUL workout program, you will have dedicated days that you will lift heavier weights with fewer reps in order to gain strength.
This will include one day for the upper body, doing compound lifts including the bench press, incline bench press, lat pulldowns, curls and rows at 80-90% your maximum lift for 3 to 5 sets of 5 reps.
The next power day will focus on the lower body. The same principle applies on this day with lower sets and reps at a higher lifting weight. Moves on this day will include squats, deadlifts, and leg curls. On your power days, your rest between sets should be longer.
There is always the option of switching the upper and lower body days if you want to start with the lower body. Some consider this a preferred way to train because the lower body muscles are bigger and need much more weight and focus to train effectively.
After these two workouts, you will take one day of rest, which is essential for muscle growth and strength and then you will get started on your hypertrophy, or increased muscle size, days.
These two days will include one upper and one lower body training day that focuses on higher sets and reps with a shorter rest between sets. They can include many of the same moves incorporated in the power days but usually, add in more isolation exercises to build muscle mass.
These two days are followed by two days of rest and then you start the week all over.
What are the benefits of PHUL training and why it works
The main benefit of PHUL training is the ability to simultaneously gain brute strength along with gaining sheer muscle mass.
Because it combines powerlifting with hypertrophy training, you get the best of both worlds… AND you get to train muscle groups twice a week which is reason alone for increased strength and muscle mass.
Most weight lifting programs lift each muscle group only once but studies show that increasing that number to at least twice a week improved muscle gains significantly.
Regular weight lifting program involves less work volume, sets, and reps and less variation. Besides the basic math, which anyone can do and see the benefits, the variation and keeping the body constantly challenged is where you can really see the benefit.
A study was done on men who followed two different programs. One had a constant loading zone on their muscles, the other varied the load. Can you guess which showed greater muscle gains? You’re right… the varied group gained more muscle.
The PHUL workout program is based around this principle. Work your muscles in as many ways as possible for the strongest, hardest, and biggest muscles possible.
Fundamentals of a PHUL program
In order to train correctly for the best-intended purpose of the PHUL program, there are certain fundamentals to follow.
Power and hypertrophy
In this program, you have two completely different approaches to weight lifting. To really see the effects of this program you have to take the best advantage of both mentalities.
The power days are meant to be just that. You should be really gritting out the last rep. Lift as heavy as your body possibly can and lift with power. This will give you the most strength gains and you’ll see the improvements throughout the weeks.
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 will include two days, one lower, one upper, of hypertrophy training involving more sets and more reps and more moves than the power days.
Compound and accessory work
The science behind this program is the mix of heavy compound lifting to failure with isolation exercises to add hypertrophy to the muscles. Without the schedule of two days of powerlifting followed by a set of two days of hypertrophy, a workout is not considered to meet these PHUL training qualifications of a strength and mass gain workout.
You can pick and choose which exercises you want to do on your hypertrophy days but the power days consist of essential compound moves for the highest total work while the hypertrophy days are more isolation work.
Sets, reps, tempo, weight selection, and failure
These power days will include certain set moves for 3 sets of 3-5 reps. The weight amount should be just enough to make your last rep of the last set very challenging. You should struggle to finish your last rep but never force out a rep with bad form.
When you perform your compound power moves like the squat and bench press, you should be doing your positive phase, or working phase, in a fast, explosive movement, and the negative phase, or the return to position phase, slowly.
When on your hypertrophy days, focus on finding a weight that you can successfully finish 3-4 sets of 10-20 reps depending on the move. Your last set of each move should be challenging enough to need a mental push through to the end. These isolation exercises don’t need to be done in overly slow speed but at a consistent speed with good form.
On power days you should rest a for about 3 minutes between sets. On the hypertrophy day,s your rest between sets should be about 90 seconds. However, it is always better to rest a little more than not enough if necessary to complete the next set or just lower the weight. Science has proven that this is the best way to pack on muscle size.
For this program, you should have four training days and three rest days. No muscle group should be trained twice in the same three days. For example, if you do your power lower body day on Monday, you can’t train the lower body in hypertrophy until Thursday.
You can choose to follow a Monday/Tuesday power, Wednesday rest, Thursday/Friday hypertrophy, weekend rest schedule or you can switch two of the work days to the weekend if this fits your schedule best.
This schedule would look like this: Monday/Tuesday rest, Wednesday/Thursday power, Friday rest, Saturday/Sunday hypertrophy.
You can even switch up the rest days like this: Monday upper power, Tuesday rest, Wednesday lower power, Thursday rest, Friday/Saturday hypertrophy upper/lower, Sunday rest.
If your schedule allows for training 5 days a week, consider checking out the PHAT workout too.
When to do abs and cardio?
Your ab workout can be added to your lower body days. All you need is five to ten minutes of intense ab training twice a week to see muscle definition. Abs are made in the kitchen more than the gym.
I advise adding a 20-minute HIIT cardio program twice a week to this PHUL program if you’re trying to cut down on fat and get those chiseled abs. They are short but do the trick and it will help you keep your time for the longer lifting sessions you will be doing.
Is a PHUL program right for me?
An important thing to remember is that the PHUL program is intense and isn’t recommended for beginners.
The program is for intermediate to advanced athletes who are looking to make progress in their strength and gain muscle mass.
Because this workout consists of so many different moves that require learning to do with proper form, it isn’t best to use if you are still working on this aspect of lifting. If you don’t have the form down and are lifting heavy and intensely, you could end up with an injury.
Of course, deciding whether the PHUL program is a good fit for you, you need to examine your schedule as well. While training each muscle group twice a week is very beneficial, not everyone can afford the time the program requires.
If you are ready to improve your physique and you’ve been lifting for 6 months or more, this program could be right for you.
Sample PHUL 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: Upper body hypertrophy
- Day 5: Lower body hypertrophy
- Day 6: Rest
- Day 7: Rest
Day 1: Upper body power
|Barbell Bench Press||3-4||3-5|
|Incline Dumbbell Bench Press||3-4||6-10|
|Lat Pull Down||3-4||6-10|
Day 2: Lower body power
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Upper body hypertrophy
|Incline Barbell Bench Press||3-4||8-12|
|Seated Cable Row||3-4||8-12|
|One Arm Dumbbell Row||3-4||8-12|
|Cable Lateral Raise||3-4||8-12|
|One Arm Preacher Curl||3-4||8-12|
|Cable Tricep Extension||3-4||8-12|
Day 5: Lower body hypertrophy
|Seated Calf Raise||3-4||15-20|
Days 6-7: Rest
If you feel like you need a bit more time to recover after your Power days, you may do something like this instead:
- Day 1: Upper body power
- Day 2: Rest
- Day 3: Lower body power
- Day 4: Rest
- Day 5: Upper body hypertrophy
- Day 6: Lower body hypertrophy
- Day 7: Rest
These are sample PHUL routines so feel free to adjust them to suit your own specific needs for the best results. Don’t forget to focus on doing compound lifts on power days and isolation moves on hypertrophy days.
How to progress in your PHUL workouts and when to increase weights?
Progress in a PHUL training should be slow and consistent. You won’t see increased muscle size without the constant need for body adaptation. This requires attention to your reps and sets. You should write them down or keep track using an app to make sure you are getting improved results each week.
On power days you will be adding weight little by little and lowering sets. When you can do the desired reps for all of your sets, increase the weight.
Same on hypertrophy days, you should be adding weight when you can successfully complete a full set. For example, if you start with 4 sets of 12-15 reps on a certain move and find that each set you can easily finish 15 reps, you should be adding weight.
When to take a break or deload?
Just like any intense lifting program that you embark on, you should give your body a rest, or deload.
The PHUL workout program is a 12-week progressive program involving heavy lifting. As with many other programs, you should take a deloading week when you finish allowing your body to recover.
This deloading week is not meant to be a total break, just a lessening of the intensity. You should still be lifting to maintain muscle mass at a lighter pace and weight. Lifting about 50% of your usual weights is a good way to maintain your lifts while letting your body recover.