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PHAT: Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training

By Dr. Layne Norton

Experience
Advanced (3+ years)
Time
78 minutes/day | 5 days/week
Good for
Bodybuilding, Build Muscle, Gain Strength
Equipment
Barbell, Bodyweight, Cable, Dumbbell, EZ Bar, Glute Ham Developer (GHD), Machine, Other, Weight Plate
Statistics
Average Cardio Intensity
30%
Average Exertion
60%
Description
Source: www.simplyshredded.com

PHAT: Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training

  • Written by Dr. Layne Norton
  • PhD Nutritional Sciences
  • BS Biochemistry

There are some fundamental arguments in bodybuilding. I’m talking about the ones you see ALL THE TIME. How much protein should I take in? What kind of split should I use? How often should I workout? What’s the best rep range for growth? What’s the best volume for growth? Most people try to make these issues out to be black and white to solidify their stances and often fail to acknowledge that these issues are not black and white and there is a substantial gray area. Take the arguments regarding rep ranges for example. How often have you heard you should ONLY train in ‘X’ rep range because it is the best one for growth. Then two days later you see an article interviewing a 300 lb behemoth who trains in a different rep range but also looks insane, so who are you to believe? Recently, there has been a bit of negative bodybuilding press regarding lifting in lower rep ranges with heavier weights. Some researchers and bodybuilders would have you believe that low rep high weight training might be next to useless for bodybuilding. But I think powerlifters could teach bodybuilders a thing or two in some cases. Konstantin Konstantinovs, Brandon Cass, Shawn Frankl, Matt Krockzaleski, and Sam Byrd could easily be stage ready with a few months of dieting and do very well. Stan Efferding and Johnnie Jackson both hold world records in powerlifting and compete as IFBB professional bodybuilders. Many of the bodybuilders from the classic era built their base with powerlifting including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbo. Ronnie Coleman, arguably the greatest bodybuilder ever to live never competed in powerlifting but was no stranger to heavy weights. Part of what made his DVD “The Unbelievable so legendary and well… unbelievable was the workout footage of him deadlifting and squatting over 800 lbs and front squatting 600 lbs for reps!


Training Frequency

As a person who has competed in both powerlifting and bodybuilding I can tell you that the heavy movements absolutely made me a better bodybuilder. For the longest time my legs were a huge weak point. At my first show my thighs barely measured over 21”. They were absolutely pathetic and I heard about it from EVERYONE especially on the forums. I was called ‘chicken legs’ frequently and it was so frustrating. I was working them out really hard and following the advice of so called ‘bodybuilding experts’ making sure to train with maximum intensity 1x/week but getting plenty of rest to make sure I wasn’t ‘overtraining.’ I was told I did not need to squat or deadlift to get my legs to grow and that was fine by me because squats hurt and I would’ve rather not done them. After a few years of spinning my wheels (pun intended) a friend convinced me to take up a hybrid style routine where I did heavy work (squats, deadlifts, presses) mixed with lighter hypertrophy ‘pump’ work. Against everything I had read I started working out all my body parts 2x/week. This would go on to become the basic template for what would evolve into PHAT (Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training), a form of non-linear periodization training. Low and behold my legs grew more in 4 months than they had in the previous 4 years. At my following show they came in just over 24”, still very small by bodybuilding standards, but a significant improvement over recent years.


Heavy Iron

One basic concept that convinced me it was important to use heavy weights was that it just made sense to me when I tried to find skinny people who squatted or deadlifted super heavy weights. Come to find out it’s hard to have chicken legs and have a really good squat. I told myself “I am going to squat 500 lbs for reps because there is no way I’ll be able to do that with skinny legs.” I’m sure there are people out there who squat over 500 lbs for reps and do not have impressive leg development, but I certainly haven’t met them yet. So I set out on a quest to squat 500 lbs and deadlift over 600 lbs. Over time I adapted my routine to incorporate more and more pure powerlifting movements and what I found astonished me. I started using bands and chains to help get stronger and I did box squats, speed squats, deficit deadlifts, and rack pulls. All movements I had never even heard of when I started bodybuilding. The result? As we sit today my thighs measure over 28” at the largest part and in addition to that my back has grown immensely. I also own the current AAPF American raw squat and deadlift records at 568 and 700 lbs respectively in the 220 lb weight class. I recently squatted 525 lbs for a triple and 505 lbs for 5 reps. I placed top 5 in my first 4 natural pro shows including the IFPA Pro Natural World Championships and I won the heavyweight class at the IFPA International! At every show the judges commented on how drastically my legs and back had improved from when I won my pro card.


Anabolic Effect

Now you may or may not ever deadlift 700 lbs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make drastic improvements in your physique by incorporating aspects of power training mixed with hypertrophy. Probably the most important thing heavy training can do is increase your overall capacity for muscular growth through significant strength gains. Training with lower reps and heavier weights is going to stimulate far greater increases in strength than training with light weights for higher reps. But how is that anabolic? I’m sure you are thinking “I am a bodybuilder; I don’t care how much I lift!” But by increasing your strength you will increase the amount of weight you will be able to lift when you train with a higher rep, ‘bodybuilding style’ training which will increase your potential for growth. For example, if one trained only straight high reps (15-20 reps) on an exercise you may end up plateauing at a squat of 300 lbs for 15 reps (not necessarily, just an example). If that same individual incorporated heavy training into their regiment however, perhaps they get strong enough that they can squat 400 lbs for 15 reps. Who do you think will have the greatest potential to increase their mass over the long haul? Most likely it will be the person using more weight if all other variables are equal because they will be able to create more overload and greater muscle damage, evoking a greater growth response. So while pure bodybuilding style training may give you more growth over the short term, a combination of heavy weights for low reps and light weight for high reps over the long term is going to provide more muscle by increasing your growth potential!


The Principles

There are several dozen forms of the PHAT program but the basic premise is the same. Each muscle gets worked 2x/week. The first 2 days of the week are split into upper and lower body power days. This is followed by a rest day. Then 3 days of traditional hypertrophy orientated bodybuilding training.


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Upper Body Power Day

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During the first 2 days of the week you will focus on big power movements for your upper and lower body like squats, front squats, deadlifts, deficit deadlifts, and box squats for lower body. Barbell and dumbbell presses and rows as well as weighted pullups for upper body. Your goal should be to stay in the 3-5 rep range for 3-5 working sets on the compound movements (only use one power movement for lower body, presses, and pulls/rows, i.e. don’t do squats and front squats in the same workout). Make sure you rest enough in between sets to completely recover and be ready for your next heavy set. If that means you need to take 5-6 minutes between sets then so be it. The purpose of these workouts is to move maximum weight! Save short rest periods for your hypertrophy days. On your power days you need to have a POWER mentality. Move the heavy ass weight at all costs! A good way to make consistent progress is to rotate your power movements every 2-3 weeks. A few sets of assistance exercises can be done for smaller body parts like hamstrings (though deadlifts and squat will involve significant hamstring recruitment), calves, shoulders, and arms.

Bent Over Barbell Row demonstrationPlay Bent Over Barbell Row demonstration
3 sets, 3 - 5 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
Weighted Pullup
2 sets, 6 - 10 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
Rack Chin demonstrationPlay Rack Chin demonstration
2 sets, 6 - 10 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
Dumbbell Bench Press demonstrationPlay Dumbbell Bench Press demonstration
3 sets, 3 - 5 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
Weighted Chest Dip demonstrationPlay Weighted Chest Dip demonstration
2 sets, 6 - 10 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press
3 sets, 6 - 10 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
EZ-Bar Curl demonstrationPlay EZ-Bar Curl demonstration
3 sets, 6 - 10 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
EZ-Bar Skullcrusher demonstrationPlay EZ-Bar Skullcrusher demonstration
3 sets, 6 - 10 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises

Lower Body Power Day

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During the first 2 days of the week you will focus on big power movements for your upper and lower body like squats, front squats, deadlifts, deficit deadlifts, and box squats for lower body. Barbell and dumbbell presses and rows as well as weighted pullups for upper body. Your goal should be to stay in the 3-5 rep range for 3-5 working sets on the compound movements (only use one power movement for lower body, presses, and pulls/rows, i.e. don’t do squats and front squats in the same workout). Make sure you rest enough in between sets to completely recover and be ready for your next heavy set. If that means you need to take 5-6 minutes between sets then so be it. The purpose of these workouts is to move maximum weight! Save short rest periods for your hypertrophy days. On your power days you need to have a POWER mentality. Move the heavy ass weight at all costs! A good way to make consistent progress is to rotate your power movements every 2-3 weeks. A few sets of assistance exercises can be done for smaller body parts like hamstrings (though deadlifts and squat will involve significant hamstring recruitment), calves, shoulders, and arms.

Barbell Squat demonstrationPlay Barbell Squat demonstration
3 sets, 3 - 5 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
Barbell Hack Squat demonstrationPlay Barbell Hack Squat demonstration
2 sets, 6 - 10 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
Leg Extensions demonstrationPlay Leg Extensions demonstration
2 sets, 6 - 10 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift demonstrationPlay Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift demonstration
3 sets, 5 - 8 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
Glute-Ham Raise (hands behind neck)
2 sets, 6 - 10 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
Standing Calf Raises demonstrationPlay Standing Calf Raises demonstration
3 sets, 6 - 10 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
Seated Calf Raise Machine
2 sets, 6 - 10 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises

Back and Shoulders Hypertrophy Day

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On your hypertrophy days you should do some speed work (6-8 sets of 3 reps) with 65-70% of your 3-5 rep max to start your workout with the power exercise you used earlier in the week. For example if you did squats for 3 sets of 3-5 reps with 300 lbs earlier in the week. Then you would do 6 sets of 3 reps on squats with 195-210 lbs with an emphasis placed on moving the weight through the concentric phase of the lift as quickly as possible. Do not go too heavy on your speed sets; if you cannot move the weight explosively then it is too heavy! Rest no longer than 90 seconds in between each of the speed sets. This builds explosiveness and speed and may stimulate growth as well. Even though you are using less weight, you should still be applying maximum force to it. To elaborate on this point, you can apply the same force to 250 lbs that you apply to 400 lbs, 250 lbs will just move faster, and that is the point you want your body to be explosive. If you have access to chains or bands they can be VERY helpful in building your explosiveness. If you choose to use them however you may want to lower the weight you are using to compensate for the increased loading at the top end of the movement.

Pendlay Row demonstrationPlay Pendlay Row demonstration
6 sets, 3 reps, (rest 60s)
6 sets of 3 reps with 65-70% of normal 3-5 rep max
Show Alternative Exercises
Rack Chin demonstrationPlay Rack Chin demonstration
3 sets, 8 - 12 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
Cable Row to Neck
3 sets, 8 - 12 reps, (rest 60s)
Seated cable row
Show Alternative Exercises
Incline Bench Two Arm Dumbbell Row - Pronated Grip demonstrationPlay Incline Bench Two Arm Dumbbell Row - Pronated Grip demonstration
2 sets, 12 - 15 reps, (rest 60s)
Dumbbell rows or shrugs bracing upper body against an incline bench
Show Alternative Exercises
Lever Close Grip Pulldown (plate-loaded) demonstrationPlay Lever Close Grip Pulldown (plate-loaded) demonstration
2 sets, 15 - 20 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press
3 sets, 8 - 12 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
Upright Barbell Row
2 sets, 12 - 15 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
Dumbbell Lateral Raise
3 sets, 12 - 20 reps, (rest 60s)
Side lateral raises with dumbbells
Show Alternative Exercises

Lower Body Hypertrophy Day

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On your hypertrophy days you should do some speed work (6-8 sets of 3 reps) with 65-70% of your 3-5 rep max to start your workout with the power exercise you used earlier in the week. For example if you did squats for 3 sets of 3-5 reps with 300 lbs earlier in the week. Then you would do 6 sets of 3 reps on squats with 195-210 lbs with an emphasis placed on moving the weight through the concentric phase of the lift as quickly as possible. Do not go too heavy on your speed sets; if you cannot move the weight explosively then it is too heavy! Rest no longer than 90 seconds in between each of the speed sets. This builds explosiveness and speed and may stimulate growth as well. Even though you are using less weight, you should still be applying maximum force to it. To elaborate on this point, you can apply the same force to 250 lbs that you apply to 400 lbs, 250 lbs will just move faster, and that is the point you want your body to be explosive. If you have access to chains or bands they can be VERY helpful in building your explosiveness. If you choose to use them however you may want to lower the weight you are using to compensate for the increased loading at the top end of the movement.

Barbell Squat demonstrationPlay Barbell Squat demonstration
6 sets, 3 reps, (rest 60s)
6 sets of 3 reps with 65-70% of normal 3-5 rep max
Show Alternative Exercises
Barbell Hack Squat demonstrationPlay Barbell Hack Squat demonstration
3 sets, 8 - 12 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
45 Degree Leg Press demonstrationPlay 45 Degree Leg Press demonstration
2 sets, 12 - 15 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
Leg Extensions demonstrationPlay Leg Extensions demonstration
3 sets, 15 - 20 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
Romanian Deadlift demonstrationPlay Romanian Deadlift demonstration
3 sets, 8 - 12 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
Lying Leg Curls demonstrationPlay Lying Leg Curls demonstration
2 sets, 12 - 15 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
Seated Leg Curl demonstrationPlay Seated Leg Curl demonstration
2 sets, 15 - 20 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
Donkey Calf Raise demonstrationPlay Donkey Calf Raise demonstration
4 sets, 10 - 15 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
Seated Calf Raise Machine
3 sets, 15 - 20 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises

Chest and Arms Hypertrophy Day

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On your hypertrophy days you should do some speed work (6-8 sets of 3 reps) with 65-70% of your 3-5 rep max to start your workout with the power exercise you used earlier in the week. For example if you did squats for 3 sets of 3-5 reps with 300 lbs earlier in the week. Then you would do 6 sets of 3 reps on squats with 195-210 lbs with an emphasis placed on moving the weight through the concentric phase of the lift as quickly as possible. Do not go too heavy on your speed sets; if you cannot move the weight explosively then it is too heavy! Rest no longer than 90 seconds in between each of the speed sets. This builds explosiveness and speed and may stimulate growth as well. Even though you are using less weight, you should still be applying maximum force to it. To elaborate on this point, you can apply the same force to 250 lbs that you apply to 400 lbs, 250 lbs will just move faster, and that is the point you want your body to be explosive. If you have access to chains or bands they can be VERY helpful in building your explosiveness. If you choose to use them however you may want to lower the weight you are using to compensate for the increased loading at the top end of the movement.

Dumbbell Bench Press demonstrationPlay Dumbbell Bench Press demonstration
6 sets, 3 reps, (rest 60s)
6 sets of 3 reps with 65-70% of normal 3-5 rep max
Show Alternative Exercises
Incline Dumbbell Press
3 sets, 8 - 12 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
Hammer Strength Bench Press demonstrationPlay Hammer Strength Bench Press demonstration
3 sets, 12 - 15 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
Incline Cable Flye
2 sets, 15 - 20 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
EZ-Bar Preacher Curl demonstrationPlay EZ-Bar Preacher Curl demonstration
3 sets, 8 - 12 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
One-Arm Dumbbell Concentration Curl demonstrationPlay One-Arm Dumbbell Concentration Curl demonstration
2 sets, 12 - 15 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
Spider Curl demonstrationPlay Spider Curl demonstration
2 sets, 15 - 20 reps, (rest 60s)
Spider curls bracing upper body against an incline bench
Show Alternative Exercises
Seated EZ Bar French Press demonstrationPlay Seated EZ Bar French Press demonstration
3 sets, 8 - 12 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises
Low Cable Seated Overhead Triceps Extension
2 sets, 12 - 15 reps, (rest 60s)
Cable pressdowns with rope attachment
Show Alternative Exercises
Cable Tricep Kickback demonstrationPlay Cable Tricep Kickback demonstration
2 sets, 15 - 20 reps, (rest 60s)
Show Alternative Exercises

Date Created: 9/10/2019, UTC


Last Updated: 9/12/2020, UTC

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