In this post, we will dissect and analyze two famous workouts namely PHAT and PHUL to determine which one is most effective when it comes to building muscle and gaining strength.
Before we dive in any further, let me explain why these two routines are similar enough for comparison. The primary reason is that both routines are mixed of strength training and hypertrophy (bodybuilding) type workout. This means that both workouts goal is to get you strong like powerlifter AND build muscle like bodybuilder, at the same time. This is a big claim and that’s why we are comparing them to find out which workout does this most effectively.
First, lets look at each workout individually and understand what they offer.
PHAT: Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training
PHAT routine is created by Dr. Layne Norton. Apart from having a PhD in nutritional science and BS in biochemistry, Dr Layne Norton is a Pro Natural bodybuilder. Not only that, Dr. Norton also holds AAPF Squat and Deadlift Records in 220 lb weight class . Now the last parts is whats important. If someone is a record holder in powerlifting and a pro bodybuilder, we can safely assume they know what they are talking about. Also, a routine like PHAT makes more sense to come from an individual who has done both (powerlifting and bodybuilding) at competition level and have gone through multiple cycles of workout themselves.
Basic principle of PHAT is that every muscle is worked 2 times per week. First 2 days focus on upper and lower body power days while the remaining 3 days are focussed on hypertrophy. Yes its a 5 day workout.
In this post, we will not discuss the philosophy behind PHAT. We assume that you are familiar with the workout and are interested in finding out if its effective. If you are interested in reading it in detail, then follow this link.
So here is how your week looks like on PHAT.
|DAY 1||UPPER BODY POWER DAY|
|DAY 2||LOWER BODY POWER DAY|
|DAY 4||BACK AND SHOULDER HYPERTROPHY DAY|
|DAY 5||LOWER BODY HYPERTROPHY DAY|
|DAY 6||CHEST AND ARMS HYPERTROPHY DAY|
Next lets look at each day individually and see what exercises are there. Here how the workout looks like when created in GYMINUTES workout creator tool.
It is important to note that in PHAT, each exercise has a rep range instead of fix number you see above. For Power Days, the power movements recommended rep range is 3-5, 5-8 or 6 – 10 depending upon the exercise. Similarly for hypertrophy days, range is between 12-15, 15 – 18 or 12 – 20. For comparison purpose, we have taken the maximum possible reps recommended for each exercise. Also there are many variations on PHAT routine but we are taking the one listed here. Next lets look at PHUL workout routine.
PHUL: Power Hypertrophy Upper Lower
PHUL workout is created by Brandon Campbell. He may not have same educational qualification (basically I couldn’t find out) as compared to Dr. Layne Norton but that doesn’t mean he is not knowledgable or doesn’t know what he is talking about. Mr Campbell is a powerlifter, a professional trainer and a Youtube celebrity. He is definitely known in fitness community.
The basic principle of PHUL routine is similar to PHAT i.e. strength and size. The workout is performed 4 days per week with 2 power days and 2 hypertrophy days. Both power and hypertrophy days are divided into upper and lower body. This is how your week will look like on PHUL.
|DAY 1||UPPER POWER|
|DAY 2||LOWER POWER|
|DAY 4||UPPER HYPERTROPHY|
|DAY 5||LOWER HYPERTROPHY|
However, I personally like the following schedule.
|DAY 1||UPPER POWER|
|DAY 3||LOWER POWER|
|DAY 5||UPPER HYPERTROPHY|
|DAY 6||LOWER HYPERTROPHY|
This way I get a break between each power day. In my personal experience, it has helped me better focus on power workouts.
Now lets look at each individual workout as created in GYMINTUES app.
Similar to PHAT, PHUL routine also has a recommended rep and set range of 3-5, 5-8 and 6-10 for reps and 2-3, 3-4 and 3-5 for sets. We have chosen the maximum sets and reps to comparison purpose. Now as we have all the info, lets compare.
COMPARING: SETS AND REPS
The first thing with workouts routines is to compare how many sets and reps they have. This is crucial for many reasons but most importantly, it gives insight on what the workout demands. Thus, helping your mind to focus on the upcoming task. First lets compare the overall routine stats.
Quickly plotting the numbers above in a chart, we can see that PHUL is definitely less on the total reps and sets.
In fact, the total numbers of reps and sets performed in PHAT routine is 47.5% and 23% more respectively. And this is just in 1 week. If you plan to run each cycle for 3 months, then the amount of volume that you would have done on PHAT way high. Just to drive the point on the number of reps in PHAT, I plotted the reps performed in both workouts over 12 weeks cycle (3 months).
WOW.. I knew that PHAT was heavy on reps but this charts gives a whole new prospective. The interesting point is 6 weeks mark. The number of reps you would have performed on PHAT in 6 weeks is equivalent of the total number of reps you would do on PHUL in 12 weeks. This is crazy. This means that you can finish 2 cycles of PHUL and would have done same number of reps as PHAT.
But you may argue that they have different exercise and this is not an apple to apple comparison. And I agree with you. But that said, if both workouts fall in category of strength and size, then a difference of 10% is acceptable but not 47%.
Does this mean that PHAT is more of a hypertrophy based workouts vs PHUL?
Based on above number and charts, it does look like it. Here are a couple of reasons why I believe PHAT is more of a bodybuilding style workout as compared of PHUL.
- This post by Dr. Layne Norton mentions that he came up with this routine while he was preparing for a bodybuilding competitions. He was not satisfied with his legs development. Here is a text from the post “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.” . It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Dr. Norton was looking to pack and increase the size, specially on legs. Thats why there is a specifically “LOWER BODY HYPERTROPHY DAY” in PHAT. And as legs got their own day, the overall reps on chest, back, arms and shoulders also went up.
- PHAT is a 5 day workout with 3 days to hypertrophy versus 4 days of PHUL. Obviously, an extra workout day adds more reps. Based on data logged by our users in GYMINUTES app, the average number of reps performed per workout are somewhere between 30 – 50. But even if we add that to PHUL, it’s still not going to push it anywhere close to PHAT routine.
- And lastly, the number of different exercises that you do in PHAT vs PHUL varies greatly. In next section, we compare workouts. Pay close attention to “Total Exercises” per workout. PHAT has 41 (9+8+10+7+7) different exercises vs 25 (6+5+7+7) of PHUL. Again different exercises stimulate different muscles and looking at the exercises that makes PHAT routine, we can see that Dr. Layne Norton was focused on maximizing muscle stimulation from multiple exercises.
Thus we can safely make an assumption that PHAT is more Hypertrophy centric workout when compared to PHUL.
COMPARING: WORKOUTS AND WORKOUT TIME
In this section, we look into each workout that make up the routines.
Both workout consist of strength days (power days) and hypertrophy days. Lets look at each individually.
Both workouts have 2 power days dividing both into upper and lower part. Lets compare each.
- Upper Power Day: PHAT upper power day consist of 7 exercises for 19 sets and 60 reps Vs PHUL upper power day of 7 exercises, 21 sets for 58 reps. They are pretty similar to each other.
- Lower Power Day: For PHAT its 7 exercises, 18 sets and 63 reps and PHUL its 5 exercises for 17 sets and 45 reps. The reason is hypertrophy. PHAT lower power day have 2 calf exercises where as PHUL doesn’t have those. See below.
This is what separates PHAT from PHUL. The way PHAT hypertrophy days divides muscle into groups, make it more of a hypertrophy/bodybuilding type workout. PHUL on the other hand keeps hypertrophy to upper and lower body. Next, lets compare the workout time of each routine.
PHAT Workout Time *:
Avg. Workout time is roughly 50 minutes/workout (54 + 46+ 55+ 50 + 48)/5
PHUL Workout Time *:
Avg. Workout time is roughly 50 minutes/workout (45 + 42 + 60 + 52)/4
* The workout time is calculated based on following numbers
- The rest time for all compound heavy movements between each set is 120 seconds.
- The rest time for all isolation and hypertrophy style exercise is set to 45 seconds.
- The rest time between each exercise is taken as 90 seconds.
So workout time is pretty similar and is between 45 – 60 minutes except that you are in gym 4 days on PHUL vs 5 on PHAT. We will discuss this more in our closing remarks.
COMPARING: OVERALL MUSCLE DISTRIBUTION
Now we look at over all muscle stimulation. This is why we are doing these workouts, correct.
The reason we have 2 different cards for muscle distribution is because we want to first analyze how a workout stimulates big muscle group like legs overall. And then we inspect each muscles that make up the big muscle group to make sure all minor muscles are getting properly stimulated as well.
Looking at 1st card on both workouts, we can see that they pretty muscle cover all muscle groups evenly. PHUL is little heavy on chest but lacks on arms. This is definitely acceptable as PHUL is not focussing on each muscle individually but upper body as a whole.
Looking at 2nd card confirms that both workouts cover every muscle pretty evenly. The surprising thing is that even though PHUL has less number of exercises, sets and reps, the muscle coverage is very similar to that of PHAT. This is significantly important. This means whether you do PHAT or PHUL, the muscle coverage you get at end of each week is the same.
However, there is still 1 major muscle missing. None of the workouts mention any exercises for abs and leaves it up to individual to figure it out. Here is our recommendation on abs workout.
Perform 50 crunched, 50 side oblique each side and 50 handing leg raise on either rest day or hypertrophy days.
COMPARING: SEGMENTED MUSCLE DISTRIBUTION
Even though above observation confirms that muscle stimulation in pretty same in both workouts, for sake of being thorough, lets look at muscle distribution from upper-to-lower body and front-to-back.
Guess what. They are pretty much the same.
After analyzing both workouts in detail, here are few things I can say for sure:
- Both PHAT and PHUL are not beginner programs. In fact, these are one of the worst programs for beginners. If you are a beginner and you start one of these programs, I can guarantee that you will quit lifting in a month. These programs are too complex and overwhelming for beginners. Instead of focussing on mixed workout (strength + size) like these, beginners should focus on building strength first. Start with a 3 times per week strength training workout like Starting Strength or StrongLift. To find out which is the best strength training workout for beginners, checkout our previous post where we compared Starting Strength with StrongLift and also explored a new strength training workout for beginners.
- Both PHAT and PHUL are equally effective but will get you different results. Yes I know you were not expecting that. If you goal is to get strong, then choose PHUL. If your goal is to get an aesthetic physique or build muscle, then choose PHAT.
- PHAT is a successor of PHUL. If you are an intermediate to advance lifter and wondering which program you should do first, then I would recommend that you start with PHUL unless you have time to lift 5 days per week. It also makes sense as PHUL will help you gain strength and then PHAT will help you build more muscle.
Wether you decide to do PHAT or PHUL, the most effective program for you is the one which you can do CONSISTENTLY. This means if you can dedicate 5 days per week with your full focus on lifting heavy and getting strong, then do PHAT. If you can only dedicate 4 days at max, then do PHUL.
As we saw, both PHUL and PHAT have same muscle coverage over a week, it makes more sense to start a program that you can stick with each workout week after week.
If you have any more questions regarding PHAT or PHUL, please leave a comment below. Also leave a comment if you have a suggestion for improvement.
ABOUT GYMINUTES APP
The above 2 workouts were created on GYMINUTES app which is available to download for iPhones free of charge. The above charts are screenshot taken from the workout analysis tool inside GYMINUTES ios app. Android is coming soon. If you like to know more about the app, please visit www.gyminutesapp.com
If you have any questions, please email us at gyminutes at. gmail.com or leave a comment below.
Appendix and Links