This 4 day split PHUL workout will not only help you build size and strength, but it will teach you how to train properly, build in progressions, complete more difficult exercises and become a general badass around the gym.
I always enjoy the weekend, especially Fridays. Next time you go to the gym on a Friday take a look around. The people you see are the real lifters doing their power days, working out rather than going out. It really is an awesome environment to be in if you have some substantial strength goals.
If you take the time to watch some of the most advanced and experienced lifters in the gym you will notice one thing – they are not doing anything fancy. The fundamentals of strength training are relatively simplistic. Consistent stress on the muscle provides consistent results.
You will never see a guy who has trained for strength for five years jump onto a Bosu ball to do some strange balance shoulder press movement – it doesn’t happen because it does not work.
The gold standard in strength training is what we call a P.H.U.L. workout.
The PHUL workout is not complicated in any sense – simplicity, consistency and overload yields results. If you’re caught up in the daily routine of scouring youtube and the web for new and challenging workouts but not finding any results it’s time to make a change to a PHUL workout split.
What is a PHUL workout?
A PHUL workout is a traditional style of workout developed for building strength and stimulating hypertrophy. P.H.U.L. stands for; power hypertrophy upper lower and focuses on the big lifts, compound movements, and some isolated accessory exercises.
The fundamental purpose of a PHUL workout split is to build strength over time.
“Is this program built for weight loss?”
Yes and no. Any strength based program combined with a balanced diet will put your body into a metabolic and hypertrophy state – burning calories and building muscle. This is not your silly weekend HIIT training session – this program is built for lifters who want to put on strength, muscle and lose weight the real way.
The most important benefit to doing a PHUL style workout routine is that this program will offer you the most effective way to put on true strength and set your body up for the future.
Strength training in general hits more muscles than any other style. This is because you don’t necessarily isolate the muscles, rather you integrate them into a movement.
For example; the PHUL workout is split into upper body exercises and lower body exercises rather than arms, chest like some bodybuilding programs.
The benefit of splitting your workout into upper and lower body movements means you can strengthen entire movements rather than muscles. The focus is on increasing your overhead press or increasing your front squat.
In the process of doing the movement, you strengthen and build muscle in your shoulders, triceps, quads, hamstrings, glutes etc. Since you train for a complete movement rather than a strict muscle making progressions is much easier – overload the tissue or make the movement more complex (well get to that in our progressions section).
If your goal is to build strength, lose weight and increase the amount of weight you can handle in the gym then the PHUL workout is for you.
PHUL Workout Overview
|Main Goal:||Build muscle, Build strength|
|Program Duration:||12 weeks, 6-week cycles|
|Days Per Week:||4 days/week|
|Time Per Workout:||90-120min|
|Equipment Required:||Barbell, Dumbbell, Machine|
|Author:||Gabriello Ianniruberto – Strength Expert, CSEP – CPT|
Sets and Reps
The sets and reps for any strength workout provide you with all the information you need to find the weight of each exercise. Exercises with low reps should be completed at higher weights – especially during your power days and hypertrophy workouts.
Exercises with higher reps can be done at lower weights with slower movement. The sets provide you with information about how hard you should be working each set.
If you only have three sets, you should be nearing complete failure every set, whereas exercises for 5 sets should be done at a more moderate intensity.
A failure is a tool that should not be abused. All sets should be completed until form breakdown occurs (your lift is sloppy or you sacrifice form). Failure should not be used during the PHUL workout.
This term represents the amount of time we have tension placed on the muscle. For a more detailed explanation please read our post on tempo training.
Ab work can be done at the end of a particular workout but keep in mind many of these exercises will already put a large amount of stress on the core.
Keep your dedicated core routines to less than 30-40min over the course of a week.
Rest between sets. Following each set you should time your rest. Each exercise has a different rest time – generally the more difficult the exercise, the longer the rest you are given.
PHUL Workout Plan and Schedule:
- Day 1: Upper Power
- Day 2: Lower Power
- Day 3: Off
- Day 4: Upper Hypertrophy
- Day 5: Lower Hypertrophy
- Day 6: Off
- Day 7: Off
|DAY 1: Upper Power Day|
|Neutral Grip Pulldown||8||3||3101||90|
|DAY 2: Lower Power Day|
|High Bar Back Squat||6||4||3111||90|
|Standing Calf Raise||8||3||21X0||60|
|Day 4: Upper Hypertrophy Day|
|Incline Bench Press||4||3||21X0||120|
|Bent Over Row||5||5||10X0||120|
|DB Overhead Press||4||3||20X0||120|
|Day 5: Lower Hypertrophy Day|
|Low Bar Back Squat||4||3||3111||120|
|Hex Bar Deadlift||4||3||11X1||120|
|Standing Calf Raise||8||3||21X0||60|
Workout Description and Purpose
Now that we can see a clear overview of the PHUL workout program lets break down why the program is structured in this way.
Strength Training works on 3-week cycles. The first two weeks are complete overload, you pack on the weight and the reps and train hard. The third week is a deloading week – this allows us to rest, recover and maintain tissue size.
This PHUL program is structured as a 4/day per week split. You will train the first two days of the week, rest, train another two days, followed by two days of rest. The days you spend resting on the weekend should not be spent sitting on a couch. If you have a foam roller get on it. If you can get into an ice bath and decrease the inflammation to your joints, do it.
Strength training isn’t just about what you do while you are in the gym. Focussing on recovery outside of the gym is completely essential and will enable you to progress faster without injury.
Science Behind PHUL Programs
As a traditional strength training regime, the focus for PHUL program is on developing strength in specific movements and inducing hypertrophy (the increase in cell size).
Notice that in each workout you have some prime movements. These are incline bench, dips, back squats and a lunge/step up. In traditional strength circles exercises that fall under a push, pull, squat or lunge are known as prime movements. These exercises will serve as the basis to build strength and increase weight – think of them as your baseline exercises to monitor strength.
Inducing hypertrophy is done through two ways; high loads, or high tension.
High loads is lifting with a large amount of weight – in this instance, you will be doing this in your hypertrophy days workouts (notice the lower rep schemes).
High tension is done through tempo training. Take some time to review our guide to tempo training or watch this quick video guide by Charles Poliquin.
In many cases working with tempo enables the exerciser to lift heavy without running into injury. Tracking your tempo also provides consistency to the muscle – let us not forget our body is essentially a machine.
We use this method because it induces the greatest effect for muscle strength and size. Structuring your PHUL workout in this way will help to increase your 1RM in all of your prime movements, lose weight and feel great.
How Do I Warm Up For a PHUL Routine
The most important aspect to consider when addressing a warm-up is always the temperature of your muscle before you exercise. Of course, measuring your own temperature will be difficult but starting off on a low impact cardio machine such as a bike or elliptical will enable you to warm up without putting stress on the muscle.
Moving into your movements, keep things simple. If you are training bench and rows, bench and row. Start off with low reps at 60-70% of your max lift with high rest times. Don’t get into the habit of jumping into your max on the first lift – bad idea.
Training for strength is methodical, your goal is to consistently be increasing the weight without getting injured. Stay warm throughout your workout and stay on the program.
How to Progress With Your PHUL Workout
Progressing in strength can be done through set cycling. Take your first exercise for example.
|Lower Hypertrophy Days|
After 1-2 weeks of performing this exercise (your PHUL workout routine) with the same reps and sets progression will come with increasing the weight and cycling the set scheme. One of the most effective ways to do this is to change your workout to a 6×4 rather than a 8×3. Your workout would then look like this.
|Lower Hypertrophy Days|
This does not increase the total rep count in any way. Notice you are still completing 24 total repetitions, yet it is broken down into four sets with more rest. Increase the weight for 1-2 weeks using this set scheme and then bounce back to an 8×3 pattern for the same weight the following cycle.
Final Tip For This Routine
Strength training requires one last important aspect to consider. Your ego!
Do not in any way lift for ego. When you start to get stronger, lift heavier weights you’ll want to push yourself. Do so without your ego. Stay on the program and stay within the rep scheme – they are developed to make you stronger each week.
Summary and Conclusion
Training with a PHUL workout will not only make you stronger, but it will teach you how to train properly. Utilising these strength methods will enable you to build in progressions, complete more difficult exercises and become a general badass around the gym.
THIS WILL TAKE TIME.
Be patient yet persistent. Go for your goals and use this guide as a template on which to build strength and power over the months.
Let us know how the PHUL workout program is going for you. Also feel free to comment below if you have any questions, we’d be happy to help.
What next? You might also be interested to check out Layne Norton’s PHAT workout for size and strength.
CSEP – CPT, Expert in Exercise Physiology
Gabriello is a writer and strength expert best known for his science-based and practical approach to Exercise Physiology, Nutrition and Strength. After serving in a directors position for The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology Gabriello moved towards writing to help more people understand the importance of living a healthy life. Gabriello’s writings have been published in several languages on some of the largest health and fitness websites helping people learn, grow and understand the complex components of optimizing human performance in a simplistic way.
Gabriello also takes on specialized, high-performance athletes who are in need of strength, mobility and conditioning programming to optimize their fitness through his Earned Fitness program.