LIFTING SMART SERIES: P.H.U.L. Most Frequently Asked Questions

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In todays post, we dive deeper into one of the most famous workout routines called PHUL (Power Hypertrophy Upper Lower) and answer most frequently asked questions regarding this workout.

Q: What is PHUL workout? 

A: PHUL stands for Power Hypertrophy Upper Lower. Its a 4 day workout that is focussed on building muscle and gaining strength at the same time. Another advantage of PHUL workout is that it is extremely customizable. This is a boon and a bust. Most novice lifters get attracted towards PHUL workout because they want to gain strength and muscle at the same time. PHUL is perfect for that but its not necessarily a beginners workout (more on that below). But before we answer any other questions, we highlighted how PHUL workout looks like. However, if you are interested in how PHUL compares to other workout routine, checkout out this post here.
PHUL routine is divided into upper and lower body workouts with each having hypertrophy and strength days. You can look at the workout below.

PHUL Workouts

PHUL Workouts

Upper Power

PHUL Lower Power Day





Upper Hypertophy

Lower Hypertrophy

Even thought the origin PHUL workouts list sets and reps in range format like 3-4 and 8-12 respectively, for ease of analysis we have taken the maximum sets and reps. 


Q: Is PHUL program for begineers?

A: I personally will put PHUL workout lies somewhere in-between intermediate-advance to advance. This is majorly because of the workout intensity. PHUL workouts are pretty heavy. Also they have a lot of exercises that can take sometime getting used to. For beginners, it gets overwhelming to learn to perform all compound and isolation movements correctly and progressively with increasing intensity.
If you are an absolute beginner who just starting bodybuilding/strength training, my recommendation is to start with starting strength workout. If you have been working out for more than 6 months and want something more advanced, take a look at Ivysaurus workout over here. We have done an extensive analysis between two workouts that you may find helpful.
If you believe that you are ready for more advance workout and are debating your options, then you can read our intermediate workout comparison post here. We compare and contrast PHUL and PHAT workout. After reading comparison post, you will get better understanding of which workout is the best for you.
However, if you have already decided to start your PHUL journey and have some questions, continue to read further.


Q: How many sets to perform? Program says 2-3 or 3-4 for different exercises?

A: The reason program specifies the range of 2-3 or 3-4 is really to give you the freedom to decide how much more you can take during that workout. How much can push yourself.
If your first set was easy, then go do all 4 sets. However, if you were struggling in sets 1-2, then stick with 3 sets for that day. Sometimes on power days, it gets really hard to get to 4 sets because exercise volume is very high. The goal here is to exhaust  muscle as much as possible during that exercise.
Personally, the best way I decide number of sets is based on how I am feeling that day during my workout and specifically during that particular exercise. However, I make the decision before I start that particular exercise and not during the exercise. For example, before I start bench press, I decide if I am going to do 3 sets or 4 but not during the exercise itself. I have tried making this decision during the exercise and almost always had stopped exercise on 3rd set. But if I decide to go for 4 sets, 95% of the time I am able to get to 4rth sets. There are still days when I miss the 4rth set but that usually means that my first 3 sets were brutal. 
So listen to your body and decide whats best for you on that day. 

Q: Which rep range to pick 3-5, 6-10, 8-12 or 10-15?

A: For strength days pick 3-4 or 6-10 range and for hypertrophy days pick 8-12 or 10-15. Now if we you are wondering why give the range of 6-10, 8-12 or 10-15 and not just specify 5, 8 or 12 reps? The rep range allows lifters to make progress when lifting weights at their own pace. Everyone progress at different rate.
PHUL reps range allows a good way to make progress. There are multiple ways to make progress. One way is to increase the volume. 


For example, lets say you can perform bench press for 185×4. Now should you go to 190×3 or 185×5? Both ways you can make progress, so which one should you choose? Here is where the rep range comes in handy. In PHUL workout, you have a range of  3-5 reps for bench press. In previous example, if you can perform 185×4, you should continue to lift 185 lbs until you can do it for 5 reps. Once you hit 5 reps, then you should increase weight. PHUL workout also specifies sets range 3-4. So ideally, you can start with 3 sets and reach 185×5. Then increase to 4 sets of 185×5. And only then increase the weight to 190 lbs.


Q: Should you go to failure on any/all set in PHUL workout?

A: In general, its a good idea to go to failure on exercises where the chance of getting hurt during re-racking weight is zero. When you go to failure on an exercise, re-racking weight is the riskiest part. As your muscle have already maxed out, you can’t expect yourself to rack the weight safely. Its better to put them on side and get out of the way. Thus exercises like dumbbell curls, crunches etc are good candidate for taking them to failure but bench press, squats are really bad candidate without a spotter. Same general principle applies to PHUL workout. PHUL routine says that stop when you feel like you have 1 more rep left. This is basically for safety. As most folks do not have a spotter, its safe to stop before you hit failure. 1 reps gives the perfect spot to properly exhaust muscle and re-rack the weight safely. 

Q: Can I change the order of workouts?

A: In general, yes you can change the workout order. However, as we have two upper body workout and two lower body workout, it is not a god idea to perform both upper body workouts back to back. Alternating workouts between upper and lower body works really well for PHUL workout. I personally perform PHUL workouts as following.

Q: Can I switch out an exercise from a workout?

A: Yes. Thats the beauty of PHUL workout. However, I would recommend not to change compound movements like squats, bench press etc unless you have a medical reason or an injury that stops you from performing those exercise.  

Q: How to progress on PHUL workout?

A: Progress on PHUL workout is similar to how you can make progress on any other routine. You can make progress either by increasing weight or slowing down reps tempo or reduce the rest time. It really depends on how you like to make progress. As stated above, you can use PHUL sets and reps range to make progress. You can also make progress either on strength or hypertrophy days. Just make sure you dont get overwhelmed. But that is just a guideline. You can and should make progress however you like and whenever you can. 

Q: Can I perform PHUL with sports?

A: Yes you can. PHUL is extremely customizable. However, it is important to understand that PHUL routine is intense. You may have to reduce the intensity or switch around few exercises to meet your needs. 

Q: How to deload on PHUL workout?

A: Deloading on PHUL is similar to other workouts. You can read our detailed post on deloading here.

Q: Can I cut on PHUL workout?

A: Yes. You can perform cutting or bulking on PHUL. However during cutting, your weight progress may be slower. This is due to lack of calories intake, the amount of energy available during workout is less. Keeping intensity high is hard but not impossible. But if your progress is slowing down, focus on maintaining your weights. 

Q: Can I do supersets on PHUL workout?

A: Yes, you can. However, PHUL workouts are intense and sometimes long. If you are having a hard day, the workout seems to never end. Doing supersets on those days are bad idea. Supersets are best done when you are high on energy. Also, you can do supersets when you may not have enough time to finish the workouts. But if your workout is already intense, adding supersets just reduces overall workout quality. Do supersets only to save time and always make sure you work opposite muscle group with correct form.

Q: Can I do cardio during PHUL workouts?

A: Yes. Infact any workout that you do, you should always do cardio. Now considering that PHUL workouts are longer, you may not have enough time to perform an hour long cardio. But you can always perform 20 minutes HIIT workout. HIIT workouts not only burn more fat than normal cardio, they are quick and explosive. To learn more about HIIT, you can read here.

Q: Any extra tips when starting out on PHUL program?

A: Here are few tips for performing a successful round of PHUL workout.
  • Start light
  • Stick to the program
  • Record your sets. You can use gyminutes to track your workouts.

If you have a question regarding PHUL workout, please leave that in comment below. We will try to answer is asap. 

Happy Lifting 🙂