The PHUL workout is deserving of the attention it is currently receiving. But “What the heck does PHUL stand for?“, you might be asking.
The PHUL workout stands for Power Hypertrophy Upper Lower. It is a well-known 4-day exercise program that combines strength and hypertrophy training.
In this post, I will go over every facet of PHUL workouts and give you an example PHUL workout schedule you can use to jump-start your training and how you can use it to achieve a new level in your physique.
– PHUL stands for Power/Hypertrophy/Upper/Lower
– It is a 4-day workout program that is a powerlifting, strength and muscle building hybrid
– It is most effective and suited for intermediate to advanced trainees as there is a powerlifting component which requires the technique of basic compound movements to be mastered first
– It works best for a trainee who enjoys more variety on their workout days, alternating between higher volumes and lower volumes with heavier weights
The PHUL workout routine can be an excellent tool for the people who like variety as well as an effective program; it trains the upper and lower body, works on both power and strength, as well as a dedicated hypertrophy (higher volume muscle building) day.
It ticks the boxes for a scientifically sound (1) training program to build muscle and strength for overall volume per body part, training frequency and intensity.
Let’s look deeper into the PHUL workout, who stands to benefit the most, and lay out all the information, so that you can decide for yourself if this is the program for you.
Power Hypertrophy Upper Lower (PHUL) Workout: What Is It?
Although “Powerbuilding” (powerlifting and bodybuilding together) isn’t something new, in 2013, Brandon Campbell, a well-known fitness Youtuber, popularized the PHUL program, which stands for Power Hypertrophy Upper Lower.
Simple strength-building and maximum hypertrophy are the goals of the PHUL workout program.
The system is designed to hit each muscle group twice per week, focusing on both the upper and lower body muscle groups.
The larger compound lifts will be the main focus of the PHUL training program, including some isolation workouts.
Four training days per week are divided into two days of power and two days of strength exercise. You will perform training for all the major muscle groups twice a week.
An example PHUL exercise program can look like this to give you a better idea:
- Day 1: Upper Body (Power) Day
- Day 2: Lower Body Workout (Power)
- Day 3: Rest Day
- Day 4: Upper Body (Hypertrophy) Day
- Day 5: Lower Body Workout (Hypertrophy)
- Day 6 & 7: Rest Day
In a typical PHUL workout routine, the lower body power workout works the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves
The upper power exercise targets the chest, back, shoulders, biceps, and triceps.
Exercises like squats and deadlifts will work your lower back because lower body workout day is when they are performed.
What Are Power Workouts?
When advanced lifters engage in powerlifting, their main goal is to become stronger.
Powerlifters often concentrate on compound exercises like bench presses, deadlifts, and squats.
In powerlifting, the idea of aesthetics of the physique is quite alien (but don’t worry, not with this workout). Getting the chiseled six-pack abs or beach muscles hasn’t historically been a big deal.
The fundamental objective of powerlifting is to lift more weight.
Powerlifters stick to a limited number of key exercises, and when they aren’t performing the core power lifts, you can find them performing activities that will enhance those lifts.
The rep range in powerlifting is often smaller, and the sets vary based on the lifting technique.
Despite having a set range of 3–4 and a rep range of 1–5, the typical powerlifting program is 5×5, or 5 sets of 5 repetitions.
Powerlifters are often pushing weights between 80 and 95 percent of their 1-RM.
How does this help us if we’re looking to build muscle? Well, powerlifting still builds muscle. You’ve no doubt seen many powerlifters who are huge.
While powerlifting builds muscle on its own, including an element of it in a program designed specifically to build muscle is wise.
Getting stronger in lower rep ranges can also carry over to lifting more weight, and therefore, adding volume to your higher rep ranges to build more muscle.
That’s where the PHUL workout comes into its own.
What Are Hypertrophy Workouts?
The definition of hypertrophy in medical terminology is “the expansion of an organ or tissue.”
In our case we want to expand our skeletal muscle tissue. The hypertrophy days involve more assistance exercises, lighter weights than power days, and higher reps.
You are performing hypertrophy training when you lift with the sole intent of enlarging your muscles.
Strength workouts and hypertrophy training have different objectives (but often with plenty of beneficial crossover).
The purpose of strength training is to increase the neuromuscular system’s performance.
Muscle hypertrophy training aims to alter muscle size, making them more aesthetically appealing.
Muscle hypertrophy primarily consists of three drivers:
- Volume : The overall volume or weight that you are lifting comes first. It is the weight load multiplied by the number of sets and reps.
- Metabolic Stress : This is the buildup of metabolites and cell swell during exercise within the muscles.
- Mechanical Stress : This is when your muscles contract. Last but certainly not least. You want to aim for more time under tension to stimulate muscle growth.
Sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar hypertrophy are the two types of muscle growth that occur during hypertrophy.
Your muscles are made up of little fibers called myofibrils, which are mostly made up of actin and myosin.
The rest of the stuff in the muscle is called sarcoplasm and it’s a mix of other things like proteins, glycogen, water and organelles.
When actual fibers grow and the muscle gets bigger, due to the amount of myofibrils inside them increasing, this is called “myofibrillar hypertrophy”.
When your muscles grow due to the other stuff increasing, (proteins, glycogen, water and organelles), that’s “sarcoplasmic hypertrophy”.
Honestly, this is good to know, but not really something you need to worry about or matters much.
What Are Upper Body Workouts?
The Weider brothers of Canada first popularized dividing exercises into body sections in the 1950s, starting with the upper/lower split.
Workout splits became more popular as bodybuilding gained prominence and are still regarded as one of the best strategies to achieve the volume required to build muscle today.
Though full body workouts can also be more than effective for this purpose.
The upper body power workout is exactly what it sounds like. You will have two days of upper body focus with upper body exercises per week.
One targeting power/strength and the other workout targeting muscle growth with increased training volume for the same muscles and body parts.
On these upper body days, you will concentrate on exercises targeting the upper body muscle groups, including the shoulders, back, chest, arms, and core (though some like to move this to lower body days which is also fine).
What Are Lower Body Workouts?
During lower body power days, you’ll concentrate on lower body and leg exercises that work the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves.
On your lower body hypertrophy days, you will be performing 7 exercises in our example. (See table below for the exercise selection, as well as the sets and reps)
Lower Body Hypertrophy exercises include front/back squats, barbell lunges, and more.
While there may be fewer overall muscles to work out than on upper body days, the workouts should still be physically difficult because the muscles you’re working out are larger.
NOTE: Studies (2) confirm that muscle protein synthesis/anabolic state of muscle remains elevated for up to 48 hours after training. Increasing by 50% after 4 hours, maxing out at 109% 24 hours after a heavy resistance training session and still increased by 14% after 36 hours.
PHUL Exercise Instructions
- Every significant muscle group will receive two workouts for four sessions per week.
- You’ll primarily perform compound exercises, with a few isolation exercises added toward the end of your workouts.
- Most workouts require 3–4 sets of 4-15 repetitions. On days for power, you’d perform lower to moderate reps; on days for hypertrophy workouts, you’d do moderate to high reps.
- Rest between sets: Take enough time to perform well for your next set! Estimated times: 1-2 minutes for isolated exercises, 2-3 minutes for compound lifts (up to 5 minutes if necessary).
- Failure: Try to avoid muscular failure in EVERY set. Aim to reach or be close to failure on your last set of each exercise. Leave 1-2 reps in the tank before this final set.
- Progression: When you are able to complete the desired sets for maximum reps, gradually increase your weight for your subsequent workout by about 1.25 kg – 2.5 kg (or 2.5-5 lb).
- Level: Intermediate to advanced.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Please be aware that Power Hypertrophy Upper Lower (PHUL) is not a beginner’s routine. The reason for this is that you must have mastered the basic compound exercises safely before attempted higher weights with lower reps.
Example PHUL Workout Program
It’s crucial to monitor your development throughout a new exercise regimen like PHUL, as it is for every program otherwise it becomes difficult to measure progress.
You may log your workouts online using various tools that record the sets, reps, and weights. Alternatively, you can go old school and take a pen and a pad with you. Both work.
Note how you felt after each workout and exercise.
I personally keep a PHUL spreadsheet or notes on my phone. But if you find yourself getting distracted by your phone, grab a notepad.
Monday: Upper Body Workout – Power Day
|Barbell Bench Press||3-4||3-5||Up to 5|
|Incline DB Bench Press||3-4||6-10||Up to 3|
|Pendlay Rows||3-4||3-5||Up to 5|
|Lat Pull Down||3-4||6-10||Up to 3|
|Overhead Press||4||5-8||Up to 5|
|Skullcrushers||3-4||6-10||Up to 2|
|EZ Bar Curl/Straight Bar Curls||3-4||6-10||Up to 2|
Tuesday: Lower Body Workout – Power Day
|Deadlifts||3-4||3-5||Up to 5|
|Back Squat||3-4||3-5||Up to 5|
|Leg Press||4-5||10-15||Up to 5|
|Hamstring Curls||3-4||6-10||Up to 2|
|Barbell Calf Raises||4||12-15||Up to 2|
Wednesday: Off Day (Recovery)
Thursday: Upper (Hypertrophy)
|DB Shoulder Press||4||8-12||Up to 3|
|Single Arm DB Row||3-4||8-12||Up to 3|
|Seated Cable Row||3-4||12-15||Up to 2|
|Decline DB/Barbell Press||3-4||8-12||Up to 3|
|Flat Bench DB Fly||3-4||12-15||Up to 2|
|Lateral Raises (DB/Machine/Cables)||3-4||12-15||Up to 2|
|Seated Incline DB Curls||3-4||12-15||Up to 2|
|Cable Overhead Tricep Extensions||3-4||12-15||Up to 2|
Friday: Lower Body Hypertrophy
|Hack Squats/Front Squats||4||10-15||Up to 5|
|Split Squats||4||12-15||Up to 3|
|RDLs||3-4||10-15||Up to 3|
|Leg Extension||4||12-15||Up to 2|
|Hamstring Curl||4||12-15||Up to 2|
|Seated Calf Raise||4-5||15||Up to 2|
Saturday: Off Day (Recovery)
Sunday: Off Day (Recovery)
- You can do abs at the end of your workout 2-3x per week or throw in an ab training day on your off days.
- Rest periods are just guidelines. Take as long as you need in between sets to recover to perform your next set to the best of your ability.
- In this particular routine, we alternate exercise selection prioritybetween chest and shoulders on the upper body days. This is to even out your performance for both body parts (if you’re only hitting chest at the start of every workout, your shoulders may suffer from fatigue if it’s always at the back end of the routine).
What Is the PHUL Workout Routine?
Two upper-body and two lower-body workouts make up each of the four per-week training sessions in the PHUL program.
Two workouts emphasize power (and strength), and the other emphasizes muscular gain (hypertrophy).
So, what distinguishes a power workout from a hypertrophy workout?
During the power workouts, you’ll normally train with bigger weights and fewer reps. You’ll utilize relatively heavy weights and many reps throughout the hypertrophy sessions.
Half of the workouts will focus on strength gain, and the other will focus on muscle gain.
It’s not a bad idea to alternate between building muscle and strength. It adds a periodization component to your program, but most programs focus on one over the other as a priority.
This routine enables you to develop the two different attributes simultaneously.
- You can utilize heavier weights throughout your hypertrophy days as your strength increases.
- Your strength capacity will increase as a result of gaining muscle size.
How to Progress in the PHUL Workout Program?
Strength training is challenging. You’ll find with most programs, you’ll probably cease growing in both muscle size and strength, and hit a plateau.
Although there are exceptions to any rule, this is often the way it goes.
The key is to make the exercises continuously challenging.
Why does that matter? You raise the weight for the following workout once you can lift a specific weight for the desired reps.
The rep range listed next to each exercise is the desired number of reps. You choose to aim for the lower, higher, or middle range.
Once you can perform all sets and reps with the proper technique, you gradually increase the weight (often by 2.5 kg or 5 lb) and work your way back up to your desired number of reps.
This is known as the “double progression” periodization model.
There are various models for progression like the undulating progression model and linear progression model but let’s focus on the double method.
Example of What that Progression Would Look Like:
You should perform 3–4 sets of 3-5 bench press reps on upper body power days.
Consider performing 3 sets of 5 repetitions at 100 kg. Stick with this weight and attempt to accomplish more reps each workout until you achieve 3 x 5.
Then increase the weight to 105 kg in the next upper body power workout, even if you can only perform 3 sets of 3 repetitions.
It holds for all exercises.
- You performed 15 reps of tricep pushdowns in three sets. Put on more weight.
- Have you completed three sets of 12 repetitions of dumbbell rows? Put on more weight and work your way back up from the lower end of the rep range (8 reps in this case).
Progressive overload, which involves gradually increasing the training volume or the weights (or reps), is essential for long-term strength and muscle growth, but it has to be done in a calculated manner to avoid injuries.
Remember to maintain proper form and only raise the weight if you can complete all the reps.
Over 12 weeks, you’ll gradually increase weight while lowering the number of sets using the “power” exercises (squat and bench press).
The double progression method, which entails adding weight to the bar only when you can complete a specific amount of reps, is what you’ll utilize for everything else.
To avoid staying the same size as you are currently, you must give your muscles a reason to grow, as cliche as it sounds.
Benefits of a PHUL Workout Split
- Shorter Workout Length: You may only complete 15-20 sets (and not many overall reps) in one workout session on some days with PHUL training programs with lower sets and shorter rep ranges. Though this would likely be increased by increased rest times.
- Build Power & Strength: Many training programs have one primary goal at a time, such as training for power, endurance, weight loss, cutting, bulking, or strength. In PHUL workouts, you can train for power/strength and muscle growth simultaneously using a two-pronged strategy. It can help you build muscle faster.
- Gives Adequate Rest: Using PHUL, you can work on each muscle group twice a week without overtraining (in practice, this rarely happens). You do this while still only working out 4 x per week. This workout covers your entire body, twice, while giving your body adequate time to recover in between sessions.
- Variety: The compound movements and isolation movements used in the PHUL approach provide a variety of exercise selection. You likely won’t grow tired of this routine with this variety of exercises.
Tips and Tricks When Doing the PHUL Workout
Although the PHUL program successfully boasts hypertrophy and strength development, certain faults can impede your progress.
- You may substitute some isolation exercises if you don’t have access to specific machines or equipment. Try to follow the training program as closely as possible without changing any of the major muscles compound lifts’ sets or reps.
- Start the PHUL program in the first week at the lower end of the set and rep ranges to establish a baseline before making changes.
- Consume enough protein (start with at least 0.8-1 gram per lean lb of muscle mass).
- Consider carb loading (by this, I don’t mean 1000 grams like a marathon runner!) on your high volume training days to fuel your strenuous exercises, especially on the upper and lower body power day.
- To help your muscles recuperate, it’s crucial to get enough sleep. Aim for 7-8 hours each night.
- Utilize your “OFF” days for active recoveries, such as mobility exercises, stretches, and low intensity bouts of cardio.
- Stay hydrated, as always.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Now let’s look at the most often asked queries regarding the PHUL workout:
Who Invented the PHUL Workout?
The PHUL program has been around for a while but was coined in 2013 by fitness expert Brandon Campbell and is intended to stimulate maximal muscle and strength gains throughout your whole body.
Is PHUL Workout Good for Beginners?
No. Power and strength days aren’t to be walked straight into.
For lifters who are intermediate to advanced, the PHUL approach is more suitable.
For most novice weightlifting regimens, I’d focus on full-body exercises until the body is prepared to handle larger targeted weights and all the foundations have been mastered.
If a beginner weightlifter has mastered the basics and form for the main lifts—bench press, squat, deadlift, and overhead press—they can then give the PHUL routine a shot.
Is PHUL Workout Good for Weight Loss?
The PHUL workout routine isn’t intended to be specifically for weight loss.
But if you follow the program, just as any strength training program, you will see enhanced fat burning and muscle retention.
So yes, the PHUL workout is beneficial for a fat loss phase, as are many resistance training programs.
A big mistake lifters sometimes make is changing their lifting routine during a cutting phase (more reps with lighter weights and less rest for mythical “muscle tone”. Don’t do it).
However, this workout method is intended first and foremost for building muscle.
Can I Adjust and Customize the PHUL Workout?
While, I’d recommend you stick with it as is to start with, you’re likely an intermediate or advanced lifter.
So, you probably know your strengths and weak points by now. As long as it makes sense and isn’t too wildly removed from the original routine, then go ahead and make these following adjustments if needed:
- More volume (added sets for weak points or for an overreaching phase)
- Exercise selection (replace an exercise for something similar)
- Exercise order (if you have a weak back, for example, you may want this at the start of your workout when you’re fresh)
- Super-setting opposing muscle groups (chest/back, bis/tris, quads/hams)
Things you probably shouldn’t mess with:
- Going beyond the 15 rep range
- Adding extra exercises (the exception potentially being arm exercises if they’re a glaring weak point)
What Does “Sets X Reps” Mean?
The first number indicates the number of sets. The second number is the total number of reps.
What Do You Do on Upper Body Hypertrophy Day?
The term “hypertrophy” refers to a growth in size. This upper body workout is all about the gains!
Though that’s not to say your power days won’t help with this goal. Look at building muscle as a function of overall volume (total sets x reps x weight)
On upper body hypertrophy days, pick weights that will push you but allow you to keep your technique and finish the prescribed reps.
What Are Three Lower Body Strengthening Exercises?
Exercises for the lower body include lunges, squats, deadlifts, calf raises and others.
These compound lifts build the foundations of your lower body muscles including quads, hamstrings and calves.
Leg exercises balance out your training program by assisting in the balanced development of muscle, stability, and strength in your lower body.
Can You Explain “Powerbuilding”?
Powerbuilding is a hybrid of powerlifting and bodybuilding, at the same time. The PHUL workout falls into this powerbuilding category.
The aim is to achieve both the goals of strength/power and muscle size in one training block or periodization phase.
We explain it in this video:
The PHUL routine is becoming more and more well-liked for one clear reason: IT WORKS.
But as with all the best workout splits, the most effective one for you is the one that fits your schedule and one that you can stay consistent with.
However, the PHUL workout certainly ticks all of the boxes for being a scientifically sound program for building muscle naturally. Volume, frequency and intensity.
If the variety and flexibility of the workout hasn’t swayed you already, the PHUL workout results you can achieve speak for themselves.
Give PHUL a try if you want to mix up your workout routine or want one that better fits your schedule, lifestyle and personality, BUT only if you have reached a plateau in your current training program. Never flip flop for the sake of it!
Finally, if you decide to take on the challenge of a PHUL program, you must provide your body with the nutrition and recovery it requires to develop. No training program can mask this.
Eat enough protein and carbohydrates to help you get through these demanding workouts and give your muscles the fuel they need to thrive.
(1) J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2015 Mar;55(3):164-78. Epub 2014 Jul 7. Recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: resistance and cardiovascular training E R Helms 1, P J Fitschen, A A Aragon, J Cronin, B J Schoenfeld
(2) Can J Appl Physiol. 1995 Dec;20(4):480-6. doi: 10.1139/h95-038.
The time course for elevated muscle protein synthesis following heavy resistance exercise