Today we are going to take a look at the PHAT workout.
A new philosophy that is gaining attention rapidly, it claims to help users achieve multiple goals in the fastest way possible.
However, you often find new “fad” workouts that make wild claims like these, without being able to back them up.
That’s why we are going to dig a little deeper.
We will look at what it is, what it claims to do, what it consists of, and what results you can realistically expect to achieve. That should give you all the information you need, to determine whether or not the PHAT workout is for you.
What Is The PHAT Workout?
The PHAT workout stands for power hypertrophy adaptive training.
The idea behind it is that it can be used to combine both bodybuilding and powerlifting into a single workout. In theory, this should not only help you improve in both areas, but the improvements in one will then help with the other.
It was developed by Dr Layne Norton, a physique coach with honours qualifications in biochemistry and nutritional sciences.
As both a professional powerlifter and bodybuilder himself, he has a vast amount of experience in both worlds, with a great understanding of how results are achieved.
PHAT Workout Goals
There are two primary goals of the PHAT workout which are made clear in the name of the routine.
It is designed to increase power while simultaneously promoting hypertrophy, allowing you to develop both size and strength at the same time.
The power side of the plan focuses solely on improving the strength of the user. It aims to ensure equal developments throughout the body, so you don’t end up with any imbalances.
This is ideal for anyone looking to compete in powerlifting competitions, as well as helping make daily tasks easier. It will also assist with increasing muscle mass as well.
While the two types of training have slightly different criteria, being able to lift heavier weights during your hypertrophy sessions will stimulate greater muscle growth without doing anything extra.
Hypertrophy relates purely to the increase in muscle mass of a user.
This is primarily something focused on by those competing in bodybuilding or whose sole interest is the development of their physique.
The PHAT workout again aims to provide equal developments throughout the body. This will help to avoid any body parts lagging behind and looking out of place.
The Difference Between Training For Power And Hypertrophy
Training for power primarily consists of performing compound exercises. You will use heavy weights and perform minimal reps in a set. The volume of your training comes from the percentage of your 1 rep max you are working at, with some lifters even pushing themselves to their absolute maximum.
Conversely, those training for size will use a combination of compound and isolation exercises. They will primarily use moderate weights and perform reps in the 8 to 10 per set range. The overall volume of exercises will also usually be much greater than those training for power.
Types Of Exercises With PHAT Workout
While the PHAT workout utilises a great number of different exercises, most are options that can provide benefits in both areas.
This means that even when you are focusing on either hypertrophy or power, you will still be making gains in the other area as well.
Bench press is one of a group of exercises known as “the big four”, which are considered the cornerstones of both bodybuilding and powerlifting.
It is the best chest exercise available and will offer great results for both power and hypertrophy.
Weighted dips are a calisthenic exercise that is another great option for the chest. Compared to bench press, it shifts a little more of the strain from the chest to the triceps and is better for hypertrophy than it is for power.
Being a calisthenic exercise, it will also help improve the control you have over the rest of your body.
Another of the “big 4”, squats are widely considered to be the best exercise available for legs.
They develop both strength and hypertrophy in the quads, hamstrings, and glutes, as well as improving stability by strengthening and promoting growth in the stabiliser muscles and connective tissues.
Leg curls are an isolation exercise that focuses solely on the hamstrings, although a small amount of glutes is also included. This is an exercise that is primarily designed for hypertrophy.
That said, it is also one of the best ways to strengthen the glutes. This means utilising them will assist your performance when squatting, making them beneficial to power training in the long run as well.
Leg extensions are another isolation exercise focused on hypertrophy. They offer the same benefits to your strength training as leg curls, only this time they are working the quadriceps.
Leg Press targets the same muscles as squats and can be used for both power and hypertrophy. The difference between the two is that you can use more weight on a leg press, as you don’t have to worry about balance.
While this means it can provide greater results for the main muscles in the legs, the development won’t be as well-rounded, as most of the stabiliser muscles are left out.
While it is hard to classify calf raises as either a compound or isolation exercise, it is probably the best exercise for working the calves.
This means it is your best option to develop them, regardless of whether you are training for power or hypertrophy.
The third of the “big 4” exercises, the deadlift is considered by many to be the best exercise for overall power available.
This makes it essential for either type of training, as it will develop incredible increases in strength, while giving you the best base to build size throughout your body.
Despite working the almost entire body, the deadlift is particularly effective for developing the back, legs, traps, and biceps.
Rows are a great exercise for developing both size and strength in your back.
Some even believe the “big 4” should become the “big 5” so that rows can be included, such is their importance.
Weighted Pull Ups
Weighted pull-ups are a calisthenic exercise that targets the back.
Much like the difference between dips and bench press, pull ups are better for hypertrophy than power, switch some of the emphasis from your back to your arms, this time the biceps, and help develop better control over your body.
The last of the “big 4” exercises, the shoulder press is the best exercise for developing the shoulders.
A large, compound exercise, it is capable of developing both power and hypertrophy.
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Example PHAT Workout Plan
The PHAT workout plan follows a basic structure that, while small modifications can be made to it, should largely be followed as it is presented.
It is designed to be performed over the course of a 7-day cycle, with 5 training days and 2 rest days.
The general rules include not training the same body part two days in a row and performing the power days earlier in the week than the hypertrophy days.
That gives the muscles plenty of time to rest between sessions and ensures the days that will take the greatest toll on the muscles and nervous system are taken care of early.
That should leave you with a routine that looks roughly like this:
- Day 1 – Upper Body Power Training
- Day 2 – Lower Body Power Training
- Day 3 – Rest
- Day 4 – Backs & Shoulders Hypertrophy Training
- Day 5 – Lower Body Hypertrophy Training
- Day 6 – Chest & Arms Hypertrophy Training
- Day 7 – Rest
While this is the basic outline, there are a couple of changes that can be made. Days 1 and 2 can be swapped around, as can days 4 and 6.
You can also swap the first rest day to the end if needed, as some people find they benefit more from 2 consecutive days of rest.
Beyond these, no other changes should be made. In terms of the actual exercises you use, you have a reasonable amount of freedom.
You do, however, need to make sure that the power days consist primarily of large compound exercises, while the hypertrophy days can include more isolation options.
You also need to stick with the exercises you select for a while, as opposed to changing them all up every week.
Upper Body Training
The type of exercises in this section should make up almost all of your upper body power day, as well as form the base of both the back & shoulders and chest & arms hypertrophy days.
- Bench Press
- Dumbbell Press
- Incline and Decline versions of the previous two exercises
- Weighted Dips
- Close Grip Bench Press
- Barbell Rows
- T-Bar Rows
- Dumbbell Rows
- Weighted Pull Ups
- Barbell Shoulder Press
- Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Lower Body Training
We are going to break the exercises in the Lower Body Training section up into two different sub-categories.
The first group can be used in both of the lower body sessions, while the second group will be almost exclusively for use in the hypertrophy workouts.
- Hack Squats
- Leg Press
- Walking Lunges
- Seated Calf Raises
- Standing Calf Raises
- Donkey Calf Raises
- Toe Press
- Goblet Squats
- Front Squats
- Leg Extensions
- Leg Curls (Seated Or Lying)
- Stiff Leg Deadlift
- Hip Abduction
- Hip Adduction
- Hip Thrusts
- Single Leg Calf Raises
- Single Leg Toe Press
Back & Shoulders Training
The exercises found in this section should be combined with some of those from the Upper Body Training section to make up your back and shoulders hypertrophy day.
- Lat Pulldown
- Close Grip Pulldown
- Straight Arm Pulldown
- High Row
- Low Row
- Reverse Fly
- Bent Over Raises
- Lateral Raises
- Front Raises
- Arnold Presses
- Upright Row
- Barbell Shrugs
- Dumbbell Shrugs
- Farmers Walks
- Face Pulls
Chest & Arms Training
Similar to above, the exercises in this section should be combined with some from the Upper Body Training section to create your chest & arms hypertrophy day.
- Dumbbell Fly
- Cable Fly
- Incline and decline variations of the previous two exercises
- Close Grip Pullovers
- Barbell Curls
- Dumbbell Curls
- Preacher Curls
- Concentration Curls
- Cable Curls
- Forearm Curls
- Skull Crushers
- Tricep Press
- Overhead Extensions
- Dumbbell Kickbacks
It is worth noting that, where possible, try to use exercises from the Upper Body Training section that you haven’t already used in your power day during your chest & arms and back & shoulders training.
That way you will use the greatest range of exercises, which can help to improve results by increasing the stimuli that the will muscles face.
It is important to include the 2 rest days each week while following the PHAT routine, as the workouts place an incredible amount of strain on both the muscles and the central nervous system.
While some people will consider training on these days to try and maximise their results, you are much more likely to achieve the opposite. Not enough rest can lead to reduced performance when you do train, limited results from your sessions, and even a significantly increased chance of injury.
That last point should be the real deal breaker, as any injury likely means an extended period out of the gym. This will cost you more than you could ever hope to have achieved by adding in an extra day or two per week.
If you absolutely must be active on rest days, make sure the activities you participate in are low intensity. Something like a walk or a gentle bit of sport with some friends is fine and can even be beneficial, as it avoids you being sedentary. However, anything more strenuous will likely have detrimental results and should be avoided at all costs.
PHAT Workout Effectiveness And Benefits
The PHAT workout can be incredibly beneficial if used correctly.
Combining two styles of training that have numerous overlaps anyway, it can lead to advanced results in both power and hypertrophy, making it effective even if you only really care about one or the other.
This makes it a great way to completely overhaul both the performance and appearance of your body.
- Improves both strength and size
- Maximises the use of your time
- Can offer secondary benefits even for those who only have a single goal
- Straightforward and easy to follow
- Sufficient rest days
PHAT Workout Potential Drawbacks And Risks
The main drawback of the PHAT workout is that the incredible amount of stress it places on your body opens up greater potential for injury.
Even if you avoid injury, less conditioned users could end up suffering from exhaustion due to the intensity of the sessions. There is also no cardiovascular work involved in the routine. This means that while you may be improving your size and strength, things like your stamina and the health of your heart will be taking a back seat.
It also means it will have its limitations for those hoping to shed some fat as well.
- Increased chance of injury or exhaustion
- No cardio or anything to benefit heart health
- Very little freedom to adapt the structure
- 5 days training per week may be too much for some
- Strictness of the rest days could cause conflicts with other hobbies or activities in your life
The PHAT workout is a great option for those who want to achieve maximum results in their body, whether that be power, hypertrophy, or a combination of the two.
The harmonising effect of the plan can stimulate better gains in both areas than you may achieve training for either on its own. While the volume and the intensity of the workouts will be off-putting for some, you can’t expect to achieve results without putting in the hard work.
This sort of dedication is going to be required in order to develop your physique, no matter which plan you decide to follow. The lack of cardio and the inability to add it in on a rest day will also deter others. However, there is nothing that says you can’t add it as an extra on one of your training days.
At the end of the day, the PHAT workout is not for the faint hearted. It has its negatives but is still one of the best options available for those who want to make their body as good as it could possibly be, in terms of both size and strength.
Alternative Options To The PHAT Workout
While the PHAT workout is incredibly effective, it isn’t the only option out there. Those looking for workouts that can help them achieve more than one goal do have a few alternatives they can explore.
For example, those who like the sound of the PHAT workout but feel there is something about it that just isn’t right for them should take a look at the PHUL workout instead.
Designed with almost identical goals in mind, yet utilising a slightly different approach, it is the perfect alternative to the PHAT workout for simultaneously developing size and strength.
If you are looking for something a little different, you also have options like the Emom workout to consider. Emom is another routine that features multiple goals, only this time it focuses on increasing muscle mass and losing weight. This makes it ideal for those purely focused on obtaining a toned physique.
So, even if the PHAT workout isn’t right for you, just be aware there is probably another routine offering multiple benefits out there that will be.
Dr. Ahmed Zayed holds a bachelor’s degree in medicine from Alexandria university and is a practicing plastic surgeon. He’s our expert on all things nutrition, medicine, rehabilitation, and flexibility. Dr.Ahmed has been a medical content writer for more than 11 years and his work reached top publications such as the HuffingtonPost