PHUL workout

PHUL Workout Program: Bigger Stronger Phuller Muscles

June 14, 2021

One of the newer workouts in the fitness world, PHUL deserves its time to shine. You may be thinking “what in the heck does PHUL stand for anyways?”, this acronym means Power Hypertrophy Upper Lower. If you’re looking for a workout routine to maximize muscle size gain and strength then look no further. We will cover all aspects of PHUL workouts in this article along with providing you with a sample PHUL workout regimen that you can get started on to take your training to new highs.

PHUL workout review

What is a PHUL workout?

The PHUL program, which stands for Power Hypertrophy Upper Lower, was created in 2013 by Brandon Campbell, a popular Youtuber and fitness expert. The idea behind the PHUL workout routine is simple, increase strength and maximize hypertrophy. In the PHUL workout method you will be focusing on the bigger compound lifts supplemented by some isolation exercises.

Every week will consist of four training days split into two power training days and two strength training days. This PHUL workout routine is an upper/lower split program (if you couldn’t tell by its name). Therefore, you will have two days of lower body exercises and two days of upper body exercises weekly. One of the main points of this workout is to train at a high intensity to keep your muscles in an anabolic state throughout the week.

To give you a clear idea, here's how the PHUL workout program looks:

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 & 7: Rest

What are Powerlifting workouts?

Powerlifting is when there is one intent of the lifter; get stronger. Powerlifters tend to focus on the big compound lifts such as bench press, deadlifts and squats. Aesthetics of the body is a somewhat foreign concept in powerlifting. Historically there hasn't been much concern for getting the chiseled six pack abs or beach muscles.

In powerlifting the main goal is to lift heavier weight. So, powerlifters stick to a few main exercises and if they’re not doing the core power lifts you will find them doing exercises that will improve their core lifts.

In powerlifting the rep range is generally smaller with sets varying depending on their lifting protocol. A common powerlifting protocol is 5x5 or 5 sets of 5 reps. However, powerlifting tends to have a set rand of 3-4 with a rep range from 1-5. The weights powerlifters are pushing should fall somewhere around 80-95% of their 1RM.

What are Hypertrophy workouts?

The technical meaning of hypertrophy is “the enlargement of an organ or tissue”. So, in this context we are speaking about muscle hypertrophy. Hypertrophy training is when you are lifting for one reason; to increase muscle size. The difference between strength training and hypertrophy training is that in strength training the goal is to increase the effectiveness of the neuromuscular system whereas in hypertrophy training the desired end result is to structurally change the muscle size, making them bigger.

There are three main aspects to muscle hypertrophy. First, is the total volume or the total amount of weight you’re lifting. This is summed up as the weight load times total sets times total reps. Second is metabolic stress, this is the accumulation of metabolites and cell swelling within the muscles during workouts. Last but not least, is mechanical tension which is when your muscles are contracting. You want to aim for more time under tension to see more growth.

Muscle growth in hypertrophy can be split into two forms, sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and myofibrillar hypertrophy. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is when the muscle volume increases without the strength gains. Myofibril hypertrophy is when the muscle size is increasing coupled with the chance of it becoming stronger.

What are Upper Body workouts?

As far back as the 1950’s, the Weider brothers of Canada promoted the new concept of splitting workouts based on body parts starting with the upper/lower body split. Before that most people had practiced full body weightlifting techniques. With the rise in popularity of bodybuilding the idea of workout splits stuck and is still considered the one of the preeminent lifting styles today. The upper body workout is exactly what is sounds like, on these days you will focus on exercises targeting the upper body including shoulders, back, chest, arms and core.

Related: 9 Best Upper Body Pushing Exercises

What are Lower Body workouts?

On lower body workout days you will focus on exercises that target muscles such as the glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves. Even though there might be fewer total muscles to workout compared with upper body days, the workouts should be just as physically taxing if not more so due to the size of the muscles you’re training.

PHUL workout progression

PHUL Workout Program

When embarking on a new workout program like PHUL it is important to track your progress over the duration of the program. There are many online workout trackers where you can denote the sets, reps and weights lifted. We recommend you keep a PHUL spreadsheet or notes on your phone to track your progress so you can clearly see if the program is working or if you are slacking and need to pick up the pace. 

MONDAY: UPPER POWER

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest

Barbell Bench Press

3-4

3-5

Up to 2 Mins

Incline DB Bench Press

3-4

6-10

Up to 1.5 Mins

Bent Over Row

3-4

3-5

Up to 2 Mins

Lat Pull Down

3-4

6-10

Up to 1.5 Mins

Overhead Press

3

5-8

Up to 2 Mins

EZ Bar Curl

2-3

6-10

Up to 1.5 Mins

Skullcrushers

2-3

6-10

Up to 1.5 Mins


TUESDAY: LOWER POWER

Exercises

Sets

Reps

Rest

Back Squat

3-4

3-5

Up to 2 Mins

Deadlift

3-4

3-5

Up to 2 Mins

Leg Press

4-5

10-15

Up to 1.5 Mins

Hamstring Curls

3-4

6-10

Up to 1.5 Mins

Barbell Calf Raises

4

12-15

Up to 1.5 Mins


WEDNESDAY: OFF DAY (Recovery)

THURSDAY: UPPER HYPERTROPHY

Exercises

Sets

Reps

Rest

Incline DB Press

4

12-15

Up to 1.5 Mins

Flat Bench DB Fly

3-4

8-12

Up to 1.5 Mins

Single Arm DB Row

3-4

10-15

Up to 1.5 Mins

Seated Cable Row

3-4

8-12

Up to 1.5 Mins

Single Arm Lateral Raise

3-4

12-15

Up to 1.5 Mins

Seated Incline Curl

3-4

8-12

Up to 1.5 Mins

Cable Tricep Extension

3-4

8-12

Up to 1.5 Mins


FRIDAY: LOWER HYPERTROPHY

Exercises

Sets

Reps

Rest

Front Squat

4

10-15

Up to 1.5 Mins

Barbell Lunge

4

12-15

Up to 1.5 Mins

RDLs

3-4

10-15

Up to 1.5 Mins

Leg Extension

4

12-15

Up to 1.5 Mins

Hamstring Curl

4

12-15

Up to 1.5 Mins

Seated Calf Raise

3-4

15

Up to 1.5 Mins

Calf Press

3-4

15

Up to 1.5 Mins


SATURDAY: OFF DAY (Recovery)

SUNDAY: OFF DAY (Recovery)

Note: Abs can be done daily at the end of your workout or you can mix in a dedicated day or two of ab work on your off days. Make sure you get a good 5-10 minute dynamic warm up in before the start to each workout session followed by a cool down or static stretching session of 5-10 minutes at the end of each workout.

PHUL workout routine

Tips to Maximize a Power Hypertrophy Upper Lower (PHUL) Routine for Gains

The PHUL program has proven to be effective in enhancing hypertrophy and strength gains but there are some common mistakes made which can hinder your progress.

  • Try to adhere to the training protocol as much as possible without changging any of the major compound lifts' sets or reps. You may substitute some of the isolation exercises if you don't have access to specific machines or equipment.
  • Begin the PHUL program on the lower end of the set and rep ranges in the first week to get a benchmark then make adjustments.
  • Make sure you are eating enough protein (at least 1 gram per lean lb of muscle).
  • Consider carb loading on your training days to fuel your intense workouts, especially on the power days.
  • It's important to get quality sleep so your muscles can recover, aim for 7-8 hours a night.
  • Use your OFF days for active recovery including mobility work, stretching and light cardio.
  • As always STAY HYDRATED!

Benefits of a PHUL Workout Split

  • Shorter Workout Length: If you are training on the shorter rep range of some PHUL workouts you might only have 20 sets in one workout session. With 20 sets on low rep range you won’t shouldn’t be in the gym for more than an hour and a half including a short dynamic warm up and cool down stretch.
  • Build Power & Strength: Many workout routines have one focus at a time, for example; training for power, for endurance, to lose weight, to cut, to bulk or for strength. In PHUL you’re able to have a two-pronged approach by training for power/strength and increasing muscle size.
  • Gives Adequate Rest: With PHUL you will be able to train your major muscle groups twice a week without over training. Your body will have enough time to recover between workouts while still being able to push it to the limits during each workout.
  • Variety: The PHUL method is comprised of compound movements and isolation exercises. With this combination of exercises, you shouldn’t get bored with your workouts.

Related: Why you Should Train Each Muscle Twice a Week

Pitfalls of PHUL

Most reviews you find of the PHUL workout are favorable with some impressive before and after transformations. Nonetheless, some people complain on bodybuilding forums or Reddit powerlifting threads about having to do squats and deadlifts during the same power workout session. This has some merit to it as both big exercises put quite a toll on your posterior chain, more specifically the lumbar erector muscles. However, with proper form and feasible weight selection these combined exercises can lead to great outcomes in muscle size and strength gain.

Is PHUL Good for Building Muscle?

Yes, the PHUL workout method is good for building muscle. This training methodology will stimulate your muscles to grow by performing the big compound lifts as well as some isolation exercises. The two days of hypertrophy training will boost your muscle building potential. This coupled with training all the major muscle groups twice a week will encourage a constant release of protein into the body resulting in sustained muscle growth. As research indicates intense training sessions can cause the release of protein in your body for up to 48 hours post workout.

Related: How To Gain Muscle Mass

How Long Should I Run PHUL?

A PHUL workout program should last a minimum of 6 weeks but you can run this PHUL program for 12 weeks or longer. As with most training programs you should see slow but steady gains. Although, don't get discouraged if you don't see improvements within the first month, PHUL is a serious weightlifting protocol that requires your utmost effort for the duration of the program if you want to see the best results.

what is a PHUL workout

Can I do PHUL Workouts at Home?

PHUL workouts can be done at home depending on the equipment you have at your disposal. If you have the bigger equipment to do the compound lifts such as deadlifts, barbell bench press and squats then you should be able to pull off a PHUL workout at home. Most of the other exercises that ask for a cable machine or dumbbells can be performed with resistance bands.

Is PHUL Good for Beginners?

The PHUL method is more catered for intermediate to advanced lifters. Most beginner weightlifting programs are centered around full body workouts until all the fundamentals are learned and the body is ready to take on heavier targeted weights.

However, if a beginner to weightlifting has the basics down in terms of technique and form in the major lifts such as bench press, squat, deadlift and overhead press then they can give the PHUL workout routine a try.

PHUL VS PHAT, which is better?

Both PHUL and PHAT are training modalities that use splits to focus on power/strength and hypertrophy training. The similarities of these two programs lie in the desired results which are to overcome lifting plateaus all while growing muscle and increasing strength.

The main differences in these programs is that PHAT programs split the upper body hypertrophy day into two days which allows for more volume.  A drawback of PHAT is that it adds an extra day of lifting bringing the weekly workout total to five days. If you have a tight or busy schedule then the PHAT method may be out of the question.

Overall, you should choose the workout program that fits your schedule and end goals. PHAT might result in better gains and more fat lost due to more total volume but PHUL is a great choice for someone who wants to increase muscle size and strength while still getting two rest days in a row every week.

PHUL vs PHAT

Conclusion

There's a simple reason why the PHUL workout program is gaining in popularity; it's effective. This workout routine seems like it's here to stay for the long run. If you're looking to spice up your workout or you've hit a plateau in your training then you should give PHUL a try. One last thing, if you do take on the challenge of a PHUL workout program you must supply your body with the fuel it needs to grow. Therefore, eat enough protein and carbs to help sustain these brutal workouts while giving you the sustenance to grow those muscles.

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