PHAT stands for Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training and is a workout methodology put together by Layne Norton, an accomplished and successful body builder.
Talk to ten people about body building and you’ll most likely get ten different answers on how to go about it: what workouts to do, what rep ranges to work in, what weights to work with, how many reps…. everyone has their own idea of what’s successful and there’s a kernel of truth on all of their advice.
One of the persistent broscience “truths’ that you consistently hear is that you don’t have to lift heavy to get big. While there’s certainly some truth here, this statement doesn’t take into account the fact that many of the greats — Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbo, Ronnie Coleman to name a few — lifted heavy weights.
There’s even the belief out there that you won’t get big from heavy weights. I’m sure you’ve probably heard high weight and low reps for strength and low eight high reps for size. Again, while there’s some truth to that statement, I’d like you do try an real world exercise.
Go find someone who can squats 400 pounds for reps, or who can dead lift 500 pounds. I can guarantee one thing you won’t see is skinny legs. Apply the same to bench. Find someone who can bench 350 pounds and take a look at their arms, chest and shoulders.
Are you still going to tell me heavy weights don’t build size?
Lifting heavy with lower reps (power training) and lifting lighter with high reps (body building training) can complement each other and help you make gains. And that’s what Layne Norton’s PHAT workout it all about: incorporating aspects of power training with hypertrophy training to realize the benefits of both.
Training with heavy weights will increase your capacity for muscle growth through strength gains. Increasing your strength also increases the amount of weight you’ll be able to lift when you train with a higher rep weights and that will increase your potential for growth.
A combination of heavy weights for low reps and light weight for high reps over the long term is going to result in more muscle by increasing your growth potential.
PHAT Routine Outline
There are dozens of different PHAT routines available, so let’s just take a look at the basis of PHAT.
- Each muscle gets worked 2x a week
- One power workout per week
- One hypertrophy workout per week
This is best accomplished using a 2 days on, 1 day off, 3 days on split for a total of 5 working days peer week with 2 rest days:
- Upper Body Power
- Lower Body Power
- Back and Shoulders Hypertrophy
- Lower Body Hypertrophy
- Chest and Arms Hypertrophy
On power days you’ll focus on big, compound movements with heavier weights like squats, deadlifts, box squats, bench press, barbell rows, and weighted chin-ups and pull-ups. Do only one power movement per muscle group. Aim for 3-5 reps and 3-5 sets on the compound movements. Take enough time to recover between sets.
Your goal for these workouts is to move heavy weight. You can do a few sets of assistance exercises smaller body parts like hamstrings, calves, shoulders, and arms, etc…
Example power upper body workouts:
- Bench press, military press, weighted chins, lateral raises (accessory)
- Incline press, overhead press, bent over rows, power shrug (accessory)
- Bench press, Arnold press, 1-arm rows, face pulls (accessory)
Example power lower body workouts:
- Squat, straight leg dead lifts, calf raises
- Dead lift, leg curl, calf press
- Leg press, leg curl, calf raise
The point of your power workout is to focus on compound movements with heavy weight, 3-5 sets, 3-5 reps per set, and plenty of rest between sets to recover.
Your goal here is not to go to failure, but to stop short 1-2 reps short of failure. This is to keep some “gas in the tank” for the next set. You can go to failure on the last set of an exercise.
Start your workout with the same exercise you used on your power day, using ~70% of the weight and focusing on speed during the concentric phases of the movement.
So if you did 3 sets of 5 squats with 250 pounds on your power day, then you want to do around 185 for 6 sets of 3 reps for your main exercise, with emphasis on moving the weight through the concentric phase of the lift as quickly as possible. You want to move the weight as explosively as possible. Keep rest short, no longer than 90 seconds between sets.
The goal here is to apply as much force to moving the lighter weight as you did to the heavier weight, the result being that the lighter weight will move faster.
After your speed sets, train the rest of your exercises in the rep range of 8-20 for 2-3 sets with rest periods of 1-2 minutes. Stop at 1-2 reps just short of failure on all but the last set. Aim for volume that is 2-3x times as much as on the power days.
Example Back and Shoulders Hypertrophy Workout
- Bent over rows (main), chins, seated cable row, dumbbell shrugs, dumbbell presses, front rows, lateral raises
Example Lower Body Hypertrophy Workout
- Squats (main), leg presses, straight leg dead lifts, goblet squats, leg curls, calf raises
Example Chest and Arms Hypertrophy Workout
- Bench press (main), incline dumbbell presses, dumbbell flies, bar curls, dumbbell concentration curls, triceps press down, dumbbell kick backs
I recommend running this routine for 6-12 weeks, then doing a deload. Keep a log and when you notice yourself stalling, do a deload for 1-3 weeks. How long you run your deload depends on how long it takes you to feel refreshed and focused.
For a deload, do your normal routine using 60-70% of the regular weight.
Example Full PHAT Routine
Warm up thorough before starting, sets are working sets only and don’t include warm ups. Use the same weight for all reps. It is permissible to go to failure on the last set. If you get more than 5 reps on teh last set, increase weight the next workout.
Day 1: Power Upper Body
- Bench Press, 5 sets of 5
- Seated Military Press, 4 sets of 6
- Weighted Chin-ups, 3 sets of 6-8
- Lateral Raises, 2 sets of 15-20
Day 2: Power Lower Body
- Squat, 4 sets of 5
- Straight Leg Dead Lifts, 4 sets of 6
- Calf Raises, 3 sets of 12 – 15
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Back and Shoulders Hypertrophy
- Bent over rows, 6 sets of 3 (speed sets)
- Chins, 3 sets of 10 – 15
- Seated Cable Row, 3 sets of 15 – 20
- Dumbbell Shrugs, 3 sets of 12 – 15
- Dumbbell Military Presses, 2 sets of 12 – 15
- Lateral Raises, 2 sets of 15 – 20
Day 5: Lower Body Hypertrophy
- Squats (main), 6 sets of 3 (speed sets)
- Leg Press, 3 sets of 8 – 10
- Straight Leg Dead Lifts, 3 sets of 10 – 12
- Goblet squats, 2 sets of 10 – 15
- Leg Curls, 2 sets, 15 – 10
- Calf Raises, 2 sets, 15 – 10
Day 6: Chest and Arms Hypertrophy
- Bench press (main), 6 sets of 3 (speed sets)
- Incline Dumbbell Press, 3 sets of 10 – 12
- Bar curl, 3 sets of 10 – 12
- Dumbbell Concentration Curls, 2 sets of 12 – 15
- Triceps Press Down, 2 sets of 12 – 15
- Dumbbell Kick backs, 1 set 15+
Day 7: Rest
You can add in abs at the end of each workout, 1 or 2 exercises for 1-2 sets each: leg raises, hanging leg raises, reverse crunches, cable crunches, etc….
Rest days are best for steady state cardio. You MIGHT have the energy to fit in some HIIT cardio on your workout days, but avoid HIIT or other cardio on leg days.Share!