Choosing the most appropriate workout program according to your fitness goals can be a bit challenging. There are so many training variables to consider – like frequency, volume, rep schemes, etc. – that people often get confused.
That has left many fitness enthusiasts wondering – is there any program that combines the benefits of the most effective training methods? In this instance, there’s only one that comes to my mind – the PHAT workout plan.
PHAT stands for Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training. It is a workout program designed by the famous powerlifter and natural bodybuilder Layne Norton.
Norton is a two-time USA Powerlifting 93kg national champion and 2015 IPF (International Powerlifting Federation) silver medalist. He also has a Ph.D. in nutritional sciences with a thesis on muscle protein synthesis and a BS in biochemistry.
What is PHAT Workout and How It Works?
The PHAT is a powerbuilding program, as it uses a combination of powerlifting and bodybuilding principles in training. While powerlifters perform fewer reps with high weights, bodybuilders aim for muscle hypertrophy by performing more reps with less weights.
Layne Norton combined these two different types of training methodologies into one. The advantage of the PHAT workout is that instead of following a specific training regimen (hypertrophy/strength), you can perform workouts in both powerlifting and bodybuilding styles within the same training week.
In other words, Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training is an efficient 5-day workout program. It utilizes 2 of its workout days for strength training and the rest for hypertrophy training.
The concept of the PHAT program is very simple – you gain strength by lifting heavy weights, and then you maximize muscle size with hypertrophy training in the same week. With this method, you can train each muscle group twice weekly, which is optimal for efficient muscle growth .
Why PHAT Training?
When a powerlifter is training for strength, gaining muscle after hitting a training plateau becomes difficult. The same is the case for bodybuilders. All powerlifters and bodybuilders will eventually need to gain more strength to improve their muscle mass after a certain point.
- The PHAT program is designed in such a way that you will hit each muscle group twice per week, following both traditional strength training and bodybuilding rep schemes. This combination of high-rep and low-rep routines will help you maximize strength and muscle growth while still enabling enough recovery periods.
PHAT Workout Routine
Combining the benefits of powerlifting and bodybuilding into a single program can be very advantageous. Hypertrophy training is all about focusing on total training volume, metabolic stress, and mechanical tension to enlarge one’s muscles .
On the other hand, powerlifters are more concerned with improving their neuromuscular system to improve muscle strength and coordination .
By following the PHAT program, you will be getting the best of both worlds.
PHAT Workout Schedule
- Monday: Upper Power Day
- Tuesday: Lower Power Day
- Wednesday: Rest day
- Thursday: Back and Shoulder Hypertrophy
- Friday: Lower Body Hypertrophy
- Saturday: Chest and Arms Hypertrophy
- Sunday: Rest day
- The PHAT program is not for beginners. Novice lifters can try 3-day beginner programs or upper/lower splits to avoid risks of injuries.
- The PHAT program is very dynamic. Basically, it is not a fixed template, so you can modify it. If you don’t like one exercise, replace it with another. The point is to follow the exact sets and rep scheme. For example it is totally fine to replace bent over rows with any other compound exercise, but you still need to be doing a pulling movement in your workout.
- Abs workouts can be performed on rest days.
Warming Up for PHAT
Warming up before you begin the workout can prevent injuries. It also prepares you for intense training by pumping more blood to your muscles. Moreover, warm-up exercises loosen the stiffness of muscles and make them more flexible.
- Include warm-up sets before each heavy movement. It is always beneficial to warm up before every heavy exercise to get the blood flowing and prevent injuries.
PHAT Workout Plan
Rest between sets:
- Power days: 3-6 minutes
- Muscle hypertrophy days: 1-2 minutes
|Monday: Upper Power Day|
|1||Pulling power movement||Bent over or Pendlay rows||3||3-5|
|2||Assistance pulling movement||Weighted Pull ups||2||6-10|
|3||Auxiliary pulling movement||Rack chins||2||6-10|
|4||Pressing power movement||Flat dumbbell presses||3||3-5|
|5||Assistance pressing movement||Weighted dips||2||6-10|
|6||Assistance pressing movement||Seated dumbbell shoulder presses||3||6-10|
|7||Auxiliary curling movement||Cambered bar curls||3||6-10|
|8||Auxiliary extension movement||Skull crushers||3||6-10|
|Tuesday: Lower Power Day|
|1||Pressing Power Movement||Squats||3||3-5|
|2||Assistance pressing movement||Hack Squats||2||6-10|
|3||Assistance extension movement||Leg extensions||2||6-10|
|4||Assistance pulling movement||Stiff legged deadlifts||3||5-8|
|5||Assistance pulling/curling movement||Glute ham raises or lying leg curls||2||6-10|
|6||Auxiliary calf movement||Standing calf raise||3||6-10|
|7||Auxiliary calf movement||Seated calf raise||2||6-10|
|Wednesday: Rest Day|
|Thursday: Back and Shoulder Hypertrophy|
|1||Pulling power exercise |
|Bent over or Pendlay rows|
3-5 rep max)
|2||Hypertrophy pulling movement||Rack chins||3||8-12|
|3||Hypertrophy pulling movement||Seated cable row||3||8-12|
|4||Hypertrophy pulling movement||Dumbbell rows or shrugs bracing |
upper body against an incline bench
|5||Hypertrophy pulling movement||Close grip pull downs||2||15-20|
|6||Hypertrophy shoulder movement||Seated dumbbell presses||3||8-12|
|7||Hypertrophy shoulder movement||Upright rows||2||12-15|
|8||Hypertrophy shoulder movement||Side lateral raises with dumbbells |
|Friday: Lower Body Hypertrophy|
|1||Lower body power exercise|
(65-70% of normal
3-5 rep max)
|2||Hypertrophy pressing movement||Hack squats||3||8-12|
|3||Hypertrophy pressing movement||Leg presses||2||12-15|
|4||Hypertrophy extension movement||Leg extensions||3||15-20|
|5||Hypertrophy pulling movement||Romanian deadlifts||3||8-12|
|6||Hypertrophy curling movement||Lying leg curls||2||12-15|
|7||Hypertrophy curling movement||Seated leg curls||2||15-20|
|8||Hypertrophy calf movement||Donkey calf raises||4||10-15|
|9||Hypertrophy calf movement||Seated calf raises||3||15-20|
|Saturday: Chest and Arms Hypertrophy|
|1||Pressing power exercise |
|Flat dumbbell presses|
3-5 rep max)
|2||Hypertrophy pressing movement||Incline dumbbell presses||3||8-12|
|3||Hypertrophy pressing movement||Hammer strength chest press||3||12-15|
|4||Hypertrophy fly movement||Incline cable flyes||2||15-20|
|5||Hypertrophy curling exercise||Cambered bar preacher curls||3||8-12|
|6||Hypertrophy curling exercise||Dumbbell concentration curls||2||12-15|
|7||Hypertrophy curling exercise||Spider curls bracing |
upper body against
an incline bench
|8||Hypertrophy extension exercise||Seated tricep |
with cambered bar
|9||Hypertrophy extension exercise||Cable press downs with rope attachment||2||12-15|
|10||Hypertrophy extension exercise||Cable kickbacks||2||15-20|
|Sunday: Rest Day|
Science Behind the PHAT Workout Program
The scientific principles behind the PHAT workout program revolve around the concepts of progressive overload and training periodization.
By following this routine, you can gradually increase the intensity of your workouts to stimulate muscle growth and strength gains. You do this by including both heavy, low-rep powerlifting-style workouts and high-volume, moderate-reps bodybuilding-style workouts within the same training week.
The dual approach promotes the balanced development of strength and muscle size.
Training periodization refers to the technique of manipulating important training variables (like volume, intensity, frequency, etc.) to miximize progress and to prevent plateaus.
By combining these principles, you get immense benefits.
Why Separate Strength Training in PHAT Workout?
A research study found that high-intensity, low-volume weight training programs utilizing long rest intervals lead to greater 1RMs in the bench press and lean muscle gains compared to moderate-intensity, high-volume weight training programs with short rest intervals between working sets .
These study findings also back the previous research studies in resistance-trained individuals showing lower rep schemes-higher weights programs are the best way to boost strength and power while producing a similar magnitude of muscle hypertrophy.
Why Separate Muscle Hypertrophy in the PHAT Program?
A recent study concluded that 10+ sets per muscle per week seem to be an effective starting training volume for those with hypertrophic-oriented goals .
This study also recommends increasing from 10 sets per muscle per week to 20 sets per muscle per week over a period of several months to maximize muscle hypertrophy and eliminate the chance for overtraining.
It is also important to remember when a certain training volume is achieved, there will be no further muscle gains. This may explain why some studies reported similar muscle hypertrophy results independently of the total number of sets of weight training.
Fundamentals of the PHAT Program
The PHAT program is based on the following fundamental training principles:
The first two days of the PHAT program are used for strength training.
During these ‘power days’, you will train heavy compound exercises, aiming for 3-5 working sets of 3-5 reps.
Core compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, military presses, barbell rows, bench presses, etc., are performed during this period.
Since the focus of power day training is on absolute strength gain, the rest time between sets is a little longer than hypertrophy days.
- On power days, you can rest anywhere from 3-6 minutes.
The goal is to lift as much weight as possible. Make sure you are getting enough rest between working sets to completely recover before the next heavy movement.
You may also include a few sets of assistance exercises to boost the effectiveness of power days. These exercises are useful in targeting smaller muscle groups like hamstrings, calves, and shoulders.
- Supplementary exercises include leg curls, leg extensions, glute ham raises, Bulgarian lunges, standing calf raises, and seated calf raises for legs.
- For upper body, dumbbell fly, dumbbell presses, barbell curls, dumbbell curls, lateral raises, front raises, skull crushers, cable push down, etc., can be performed.
After taking a rest, you will train to pack more muscle. Day 4, day 5, and day 6 are hypertrophy days.
- On hypertrophy days, training reps will be higher, and rest time between sets will be shorter, which is vital for a good pump.
Hypertrophy style training is very important to induce adaptive stress on muscles 2-3 times each week for boosting overall muscle growth. It is also helpful in isolating small muscle groups.
Start hypertrophy training by doing some explosive speed work (6-8 sets of 3 reps) with 65-70% of your 3-5 rep max. Perform the same heavy exercises that you performed earlier during power days.
Speed work should be explosive. So, make sure the weight that you chose is light to move it with ease.
You can also use chains/bands to improve the explosiveness of your movements.
Traditional Bodybuilder Style Training
After completing explosive speed work, you can train like a traditional bodybuilder.
- The goal of this training set up is to incorporate higher volume, so pick a weight approximately 50-75% of your 3-5 rep max.
- Rest interval in hypertrophy training is shorter than that of power training. So, you can rest anywhere from 1-2 minutes between sets.
- After the speed work, pick a weight of around 50-70% of your 3-5 rep max and do 3-4 sets of 12-20 reps.
In a traditional 5-day split workout routine, you will train each body part once a week. But in the PHAT program, there are 2 power days and 3 hypertrophy days. Because of this style of training, you will train each body part 2x/week.
A research study compared the muscle growth and strength gain of experienced athletes training with three sets once per week vs. one set three times per week for 12 weeks. The study results show that muscle growth is 62% higher for the high-frequency group .
High frequency training keeps anabolic effect throughout the week which increases muscle protein synthesis to help you build more muscle.
How To Use Train To Failure In PHAT Workout?
Make sure that you are not training to muscle failure in each set. For the first 2-4 weeks, never train to failure.
This will help you maintain your maximum power output throughout the workout and prevent neural fatigue and burnout.
Once you have adapted to the PHAT workout program you can use training to muscle failure in the last 1-2 sets of your power exercises and accessory exercises.
A research study demonstrated that sets taken near, but not to failure are almost as effective as training to failure in inducing muscle growth .
Also, they do not burn out your nervous system to the point where it reduces your strength and performance.
Deloading in the PHAT Program
Deloading is the pre-planned workout period designated to recovery. It is achieved by a reduction in training intensity and volume. Doing so prevents the risk of injury before another intense weight training period.
- A typical deloading phase lasts for 1-3 weeks. Our recommendation is to plan a deload week every 6 to 12 weeks.
- The deloading period in the PHAT program consists of training with 60-70% of your normal weights for 1-3 weeks.
How to Incorporate Cardio into the PHAT Routine?
In the beginning, limit your cardio workout to 1x/week. After you get adapted to the program, you can incorporate more cardio into your workout regimen.
We recommend that you include 1-2 days of high-intensity cardio workouts per week. You can perform sled dragging, car pushes, sprinting with a sprint parachute, elliptical intervals, HIIT spinning workouts, rowing, etc., to get some cardiovascular benefits.
If you find your muscles are overly sore, you can follow moderate, slow-intensity cardio sessions to pump more blood to muscles or perhaps you can skip cardio for that week.
How to Incorporate Deadlifts into PHAT Program?
Dr. Norton recommends putting deadlifts on lower power days. But the probability of overtraining and burnout is higher if you do heavy conventional deadlifts and squats, both on the same day, along with all the other higher-intensity accessory exercises.
He recommends switching between the two exercises after a few weeks of training.
- It is better to avoid doing both squats and deadlifts on the same day.
- Switch between squats and deadlifts every 2-3 weeks on your lower power days.
- On a squat day, do RDLs or stiff leg deadlifts.
- On a deadlift day, do hack squats or front squats.
The PHAT workout program is very intense as the training volume is high. So you will have to push all your past experienced limits. For the first few weeks, muscle soreness will be higher, you may feel tired for the whole day.
After 4-6 weeks of training, your body will adapt to the increased frequency and volume. If you feel yourself taking it too extreme, take a rest for a day or two.
PHAT Workout Spreadsheet
Looking to elevate the quality of your workouts? Switching to the PHAT program will help you achieve that.
You can get the most effective PHAT template organized into an excel sheet for reference to use at the gym.
Download our ultimate pre-planned 5-day workout program by downloading the Spreadsheet file using the button given below.
PHAT Workout PDF
The PHAT workout routine is an extensive one. Following the plan diligently will ensure that you get the best results.
You can get the PHAT workout program PDF for free on our website. The file is available in PDF format and can easily be printed if you want to carry the template with you at the gym.
Download our comprehensive Layne Norton PHAT program PDF by clicking on the button below.
While others debate the effectiveness of powerlifting and bodybuilding training styles, you can get the best of both world by adopting the PHAT workout program.
To help you out, we have prepared the ultimate guide and training plan for your reference.
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- Figueiredo, V. C., De Salles, B. F., & Trajano, G. S. (2017). Volume for muscle hypertrophy and health outcomes: the most effective variable in resistance training. Sports Medicine, 48(3), 499–505. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-017-0793-0
- Europe PMC. (n.d.). Europe PMC. https://europepmc.org/article/med/8744256
- Mangine, G. T., Hoffman, J. R., Gonzalez, A. M., Townsend, J. R., Wells, A. J., Jajtner, A. R., Beyer, K. S., Boone, C. H., Miramonti, A. A., Wang, R., LaMonica, M. B., Fukuda, D. H., Ratamess, N. A., & Stout, J. R. (2015). The effect of training volume and intensity on improvements in muscular strength and size in resistance-trained men. Physiological Reports, 3(8), e12472. https://doi.org/10.14814/phy2.12472
- Schöenfeld, B. J., & Grgić, J. (2018). Evidence-Based Guidelines for Resistance Training volume to maximize muscle hypertrophy. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 40(4), 107–112. https://doi.org/10.1519/ssc.0000000000000363
- Thomas, M. H. (2016). Increasing lean mass and strength: A comparison of high frequency strength training to lower frequency strength training. PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4836564/
- Willardson, J. M. (2007). The application of training to failure in periodized Multiple-Set Resistance Exercise programs. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 21(2), 628. https://doi.org/10.1519/r-20426.1