The PHAT workout program; all the cool kids are doing it (because it’s fat but spelled with PH…never mind). PHAT training stands for Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training and was designed by professional bodybuilder and powerlifter Dr. Layne Norton. The PHAT training is actually just a specific program that falls under a style of training known as Powerbuilding. A common cliche in the fitness community says bodybuilders are weak and powerlifters look like crap. Dr. Layne Norton decided to fix that problem by developing his PHAT program as a relatively new breed of training that combines the worlds of powerlifting and bodybuilding into one badass workout program.
Bodybuilding training has one goal; to build muscles as large as possible in an aesthetic manner. There are variants of this training style, but the main focus is always aesthetics first, with very little concern for anything else. This means that bodybuilding is mainly concerned with training for muscle hypertrophy or the enlargement of the muscle.
These three factors which contribute to the enlargement of the muscle:
Out of these three, the total volume is the primary driver that increases hypertrophy (study). While this can be attained through the entire rep scheme, it is commonly accepted that the best load to use is 75-80% 1RM with 8-12 reps. This will allow a lifter to get the most volume while still heavy enough to activate the type II muscle fibers.
Bodybuilders also use a much wider variety of exercises as well as incorporate much more isolation and single-joint movements. This is in an attempt to hit all of the muscles from every angle possible to get full development. Bodybuilding is also known for its use of “special sets”. These are sets with the attempt to cause as much fatigue as possible to the muscle.
Examples of these are:
Powerlifting is almost the complete opposite as bodybuilding as it’s main focus is to lift as much weight as possible, specifically in the 3 big movements:
Powerlifters have little concern with aesthetics for the actual sport and are really only concerned with their weight as they lift in weight classes. This means they will want to lift in the class that they perform best at. For some, this may be gaining weight and moving up a weight class, but it may mean wanting to lift in a lighter weight class for others. Regardless, their aesthetics have nothing to do with the sport as the lifters are judged by the total of their top lifts.
Powerlifting is much more specific than bodybuilding causing powerlifters to generally use a much smaller selection of exercises. They are either performing their main lifts or lifts that will improve their main lifts. Anything else is discarded as it won’t help them improve in their sport. Now that is powerlifting in its truest sense. There will always be a range in how individuals train, but this shows the dichotomy between bodybuilding.
Being that powerlifters are merely interested in strength (technically, powerlifters don’t perform “power” exercises. They perform strength movements), the loads and rep schemes are also drastically different. A powerlifters main goal is to improve the efficiency of their neuromuscular system. This is because their main focus is to improve their neuromuscular system (study), which basically results in the muscle you have working better together. To do this, they will generally work with loads of 85-95% 1RM using 1-5 reps and multiple sets of 3-6, if not more.
So why should you be interested in PHAT training? Well, PHAT training literally combines the best of both worlds. Bodybuilding is the best style for aesthetics, while powerlifting is the best for strength. PHAT training gives you both!
Although training for hypertrophy can look quite different from strength training, there is definitely some overlap. For example, oftentimes, bodybuilders will blow off training for strength because, in their mind, hypertrophy comes from using moderate weights with moderate reps. Training with heavy weights is pointless. This is not true. Hypertrophy is driven by total volume, and it doesn’t matter what load you are using; a rep with 75% 1RM or 95% 1RM both add to your volume. This was illustrated beautifully in a study in which a bodybuilding routine as compared to a powerlifting routine in terms of muscle hypertrophy. The catch is that the total volume was equated for. The study found the two routines produced similar muscle growth even though the bodybuilding routine used routine based off their 10RM and the powerlifters used a scheme based on their 3RM.
Now, bodybuilders should still use moderate weight with moderate reps for hypertrophy as they are able to produce more volume faster. However, if bodybuilders became stronger, their 1RM would go up, which means 80% of their 1RM would be heavier as well. This means they can use more weight when doing hypertrophy training which further adds to volume.
On the flip side, powerlifters would benefit from hypertrophy training as there is a positive relationship between the cross-sectional area of a muscle and strength. Basically, this means that a bigger muscle has more potential to be stronger.
One of the great training variables of PHAT training is that it allows you to train every body part twice a week (study on this training volume). This frequency is often thought of to be the optimum number of times to train a muscle as it allows an amount of quality volume.
Most guys are drawn to the gym after seeing huge bodybuilders and want to have “big, strong” muscles just like them”. The problem is that most new trainees follow typical bodybuilding programs and solely focus on the getting big part while neglecting the strength part. In reality, the vast majority of guys WANT to be doing a PHAT-style program as it is actually designed to give them the results they’re looking for.
The only caveat is that the lifter needs to have a good base of training underneath them. A brand new beginner should not jump straight into PHAT training as the volume is very demanding and some of the bigger compound movements take some time to learn the movements properly. Jumping into this type of workout program too soon is a recipe for injury. Further, a beginner should increase strength and hypertrophy fine using the same rep scheme rather than worrying about training different variables separately.
The PHAT workout routine was programmed specifically 5 days a week. Unlike similar power building templates, which may have you work strength and hypertrophy on the same day, PHAT has two days dedicated to powerlifting and 3 days dedicated to hypertrophy training. The basic routine will look like this
This is the program! DO NOT ALTER IT!
The PHAT workout delivers a specific layout and was built with a purpose. What this means is you should run it as is. Do not try to alter anything or try to swap days around. If you can’t dedicate 5 days a week to training, this may not be for you. On the other hand, don’t go in the gym the 6th day for “accessory work”. The only allowance you have is you could do some core work on your rest days if you would like. If 5 days does not work for you, there are plenty of other great training programs out there to fit your need.
The only thing that you can personalize is the exercises. Perhaps you don’t have the skill or mobility for a certain exercise, or maybe you know that you respond better to one over the other. You can then swap them out, but they need to use the same movement pattern such as a bent-over row and Pendlay row or leg press and hack squat.
When choosing exercises, do not try to conflate the different training days. The easiest way is to think of the power days and hypertrophy days distinct from one another.
On your power days, your main lifts are going to be your core movements. This is going to include your big compound lifts (and their variations) including:
The accessory lifts for your power day are still going to consist mainly of compound movements. The idea of these is that they will be able to increase the load you can use for your main lifts.
Rest Intervals To Use
For these days, you want to rest as long as you need to hit your reps. Ideally, this will be in the 2-3 minute range, but if it takes longer, than that’s ok.
You will start your workouts performing 6-8 sets of 3 reps performing speed work with the main exercises from your power day on your hypertrophy days. To do this, you will use 65-70% of your normal 3-5RM. The purpose of these movements is to increase your explosiveness and rate of force production. The weight needs to be light to do this, so don’t try to be macho and add weight; lighter is better than heavier. This is also a great time to attach resistance bands to the barbell to increase your power production.
The rest of your session will look very much like a typical bodybuilder program. This will include performing a lot of volume and more isolation exercises
Rest Intervals To Use
For your hypertrophy training, your rest intervals between sets are much shorter. These should be about 2 minutes for the exercises at the beginning of the session, and you can go down to 1 minute towards the end of the session.
There are a lot of training programs that follow the general idea of PHAT but aren’t actually PHAT training. Here is the original PHAT training program developed by Dr. Layne Norton exactly as he wrote it. We will then go over way to alter it if you would like.
Day 1- Upper Body Power Training
Bentover Row: 3 X 3-5
Weighted Pull-ups: 2 X 6-10
Rack Chins: 2 X 6-10
Flat Dumbbell Press: 3 X 3-5
Weighted Dips: 2 X 6-10
Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 3 X 6-10
Cambered Bar Curls: 3 X 6-10
Skull Crushers: 3 X 6-10
Day 2- Lower Body Power Training
Squats: 3 X 3-5
Hack Squats: 2 X 6-10
Leg Extensions: 2 X 6-10
Stiff-Legged Deadlifts: 3 X 5-8
Glute Ham Raises: 2 X 6-10
Standing Calf Raise: 3 X 6-10
Seated Calf Raise: 2 X 6-10
Day 3- Rest
Day 4- Back And Shoulders Hypertrophy
Bentover Row: 6 X 3 65-70% of 3-5 RM
Rack Chins: 3 X 8-12
Seated Cable Row: 3 X 8-12
Dumbbell Rows: 2 X 12-15
Close Grip Pull Downs: 2 X 15-20
Seated Dumbbell Press 3 X 8-12
Upright Rows: 2 X 12-15
Side Lateral Raises: 3 X 12-20
Day 5- Leg Hypertrophy Day
Squats: 6 X 3 65-70% of 3-5 RM
Hack Squats: 3 X 8-12
Leg Presses: 2 X 12-15
Leg Extensions: 3 X 15-20
Romanian Deadlifts: 3 X 8-12
Lying Leg Curls: 2 X 12-15
Seated Leg Curls: 2 X 15-20
Donkey Calf Raises: 4 X 10-15
Seated Calf Raises: 3 X 15-20
Day 6- Chest And Arms Hypertrophy
Flat Dumbbell Press: 6 X 3 with 65-70% of 3-5RM
Incline Dumbbell Press: 3 X 8-12
Hammer Strength Chest Press: 3 X 12-15
Incline Cable Flyes: 2 X 15-20
Cambered Bar Preacher Curls: 3 X 8-12
Dumbbell Concentration Curls: 2 X 12-15
Spider Curls: 2 X 15-20
Seated Tricep Extension With Cambered Bar: 3 X 8-12
Cable Press Downs With Rope: 2 X 12-15
Cable Kickbacks: 2 X 15-20
Day 7- Rest
You can definitely just run the program above as it was written. However, perhaps you have limited access to equipment, or maybe you like the general concept but prefer other exercises. In this case, PHAT is relatively easy to personalize AS LONG as you remember to keep the same general outline.
For example, you can start your Power Upper Body Day with barbell bench press instead of doing the dumbbell presses later on in the session. Or, if your chin-ups are lacking, you can start with those instead.
Still, you should only begin to alter movements if you are more advanced and have a good idea of what you need in your training and what your body responds well to. If not, run the program as-is for at least a month, and you can identify your strengths and weaknesses.
What About Deadlifts?
The original program only has Romanian deadlift. However, many people really enjoy performing the traditional deadlift; and they should because it’s a great exercise. In this case, you have a few options:
Week 1: Power Lower Body Day- Squats, Hypertrophy Lower Body Day- Deadlift
Week 2: Power Lower Body Day- Deadlifts, Hypertrophy Lower Body Day- Squats
If you would like to, feel free to use some special sets during the hypertrophy sets. If you want to train to failure, save that for only 1 or 2 exercises at the end of the session. If you train to failure correctly, it should cause enough fatigue so that you won’t be able to train with as much intensity for the rest of the session. You can use forced reps or drop sets for this. You can also combine some exercises for either compound (work the same muscle) or supersets (work an agonist/antagonist pair of muscles)
Your first week of PHAT training will be more of a test week unless you know what all of your lifts will be. Simply run the program and work up to a weight that will be suitable for you to use. This is more important for your main lifts but you should still get an idea of what to use on all of your lifts
After your first week, you will simply use progressive overload to progress with your lifts. The general rule for progressive overload is to add 5lbs to your upper body movements and 10lbs to your lower body movements. This is very broad and will vary depending on your level with each lift. Regardless, the main point is to add a little bit of weight every week IF you hit all of your assigned reps.
There really is no limit to how long you run PHAT training. You could theoretically run it for the rest of your life if you wanted. One thing to consider is going to be throwing in some deload weeks if you are consistent and hit all your sessions.
A deload week is quite simple, and just as you do the same exact schedule but using anywhere from 50-60% of the weight you usually use. For PHAT training, you could also cut down to 3 days a weeks and do the main exercises for upper pulling, upper pushing, and legs. This can give your muscles a break AND give you some extra time of from the gym. This will recharge you so that you can come back hard and fresh the next week.
There is no guide for the perfect amount of weeks to train before a deload, but it will usually run somewhere every 3-4 weeks. That would look like 3-4 weeks of hard training followed by a nice deload week. Newer trainees will be able to get away training for longer period of times with out needing to do a deload as the weights they use will not be as taxing on the body. You will just need to monitor your body but remember, don’t wait until you feel too sluggish; this is already too late.
As mentioned, if you enjoy this training style, you can continue it for as long as you like. You’ll just need to make some adjustments. The best way to continue your growth is to alter your movements, especially your main power movements, with similar movements that use the same biomechanics.
For example, we can look at how this would for your Upper Body Power Day.
Day 1- Upper Body Power Training (exercises)
The best way to do this is to change your exercises after every deload week. This would mean you do 1 group of exercises for 4 week —> 1 week of deload —> New group of exercises for 4 weeks, and so on.
The other way to do it is to slightly alter the rep scheme following the same duration. The original plan has a range of reps for the majority of these lifts. You can train the bottom range for 4 weeks, have a deload, then train the higher range. Again, we can see how this works with Upper Body Power Training.
Day 1- Upper Body Power Training (rep scheme)
Or….any combination of the above but the idea should be pretty clear
Time To Train For Strength AND Muscle Mass!
Now you have the blueprint to train for what you really want and no longer have to miss out. This is an awesome program that will definitely give growth on both fronts if you are new to it. Further, you will get to learn the flip-side of your usual style training and form some respect to what the “other guys do” and there’s never anything wrong with that!
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