The Ultimate Power Hypertrophy Upper Lower (P.H.U.L.) Workout

This 4 day split PHUL workout will not only help you build size and strength, but it will teach you how to train properly, build in progressions, complete more difficult exercises and become a general badass around the gym.

I always enjoy the weekend, especially Fridays. Next time you go to the gym on a Friday take a look around. The people you see are the real lifters, working out rather than going out. It really is an awesome environment to be in if you have some substantial strength goals.

If you take the time to watch some of the most advanced and experienced lifters in the gym you will notice one thing – they are not doing anything fancy. The fundamentals of strength are relatively simplistic. Consistent stress on the muscle provides consistent results.

You will never see a guy who has trained for strength for five years jump onto a Bosu ball to do some strange balance shoulder press movement – it doesn’t happen because it does not work.

The gold standard in strength training is what we call a P.H.U.L. workout. The workout is not complicated in any sense –  simplicity, consistency and overload yields results. If you’re caught up in the daily routine of scouring youtube and the web for new and challenging workouts but not finding any results it’s time to make a change to a PHUL workout split.

What is a PHUL workout?

A PHUL workout is a traditional style of workout developed for building strength and stimulating hypertrophy. P.H.U.L. stands for; power – hypertrophy – upper –  lower and focuses on the big lifts, compound movements, and some isolated accessory exercises.

The fundamental purpose of a PHUL workout split is to build strength over time.

“Is this program built for weight loss?”

Yes and no. Any strength based program combined with a balanced diet will put your body into a metabolic and hypertrophy state – burning calories and building muscle. This is not your silly weekend HIIT training session – this program is built for lifters who want to put on strength, muscle and lose weight the real way.

The most important benefit to doing a PHUL style workout is that this program will offer you the most effective way to put on true strength and set your body up for the future.

Strength training in general hits more muscles than any other style. This is because you don’t necessarily isolate the muscles, rather you integrate them into a movement.

Man preparing to do a deadlift exercise in the gym.

For example; the PHUL workout is split into upper body exercises and lower body exercises rather than arms, chest like some bodybuilding programs.

The benefit of splitting your workout into upper and lower body movements means you can strengthen entire movements rather than muscles. The focus is on increasing your overhead press or increasing your front squat.

In the process of doing the movement, you strengthen and build muscle in your shoulders, triceps, quads, hamstrings, glutes etc. Since you train for a complete movement rather than a strict muscle making progressions is much easier – overload the tissue or make the movement more complex (well get to that in our progressions section).

If your goal is to build strength, lose weight and increase the amount of weight you can handle in the gym then the PHUL workout is for you.

Workout Overview

Main Goal: Build muscle, Build strength
Workout Type: Split
Training Level: Intermediate
Program Duration: 12 weeks, 6-week cycles
Days Per Week: 4 days/week
Time Per Workout: 90-120min
Equipment Required: Barbell, Dumbbell, Machine
Target Gender: Male/Female
Author: Gabriello Ianniruberto – Strength Expert, CSEP – CPT

Workout Notes:

Sets and Reps

The sets and reps for any strength workout provide you with all the information you need to find the weight of each exercise. Exercises with low reps should be completed at higher weights – especially during the hypertrophy workouts.

Exercises with higher reps can be done at lower weights with slower movement. The sets provide you with information about how hard you should be working each set.

If you only have three sets, you should be nearing complete failure every set, whereas exercises for 5 sets should be done at a more moderate intensity.

Failure

A failure is a tool that should not be abused. All sets should be completed until form breakdown occurs (your lift is sloppy or you sacrifice form). Failure should not be used during this workout.

Tempo

This term represents the amount of time we have tension placed on the muscle. For a detailed explanation of tempo training read here.

Abdominals

Ab work can be done at the end of a particular workout but keep in mind many of these exercises will already put a large amount of stress on the core.

Keep your dedicated core routines to less than 30-40min over the course of a week.

RBS

Rest between sets. Following each set you should time your rest. Each exercise has a different rest time – generally the more difficult the exercise, the longer the rest you are given.

PHUL Schedule and Workout Plan:

  • Day 1: Upper Power
  • Day 2: Lower Power
  • Day 3: Off
  • Day 4: Upper Hypertrophy
  • Day 5: Lower Hypertrophy
  • Day 6: Off
  • Day 7: Off
DAY 1: Upper Power
Exercise REPS SETS TEMPO RBS
Overhead Press 8 3 21X0 90
Neutral Grip Pulldown 8 3 3101 90
Incline Bench 6 4 2010 90
Upright Row 8 3 2110 90
Dips 6 4 21X0 90
DAY 2: Lower Power
Exercise REPS SETS TEMPO RBS
High Bar Back Squat 6 4 3111 90
Deadlift 6 4 11X1 90
Bulgarian Lunge 8 3 2010 90
Quadriceps Extension 12 3 2110 60
Hamstring Curl 12 3 2110 60
Standing Calf Raise 8 3 21X0 60
Day 4: Upper Hypertrophy
Exercise REPS SETS TEMPO RBS
Incline Bench Press 4 3 21X0 120
Bent Over Row 5 5 10X0 120
DB Overhead Press 4 3 20X0 120
Standing Clean 6 4 2110 120
Dips 6 4 21X0 120
Day 5: Lower Hypertrophy
Exercise REPS SETS TEMPO RBS
Low Bar Back Squat 4 3 3111 120
Hex Bar Deadlift 4 3 11X1 120
Step Ups 8 3 2010 120
Quadriceps Extension 12 3 2110 120
Hamstring Curl 12 3 2110 120
Standing Calf Raise 8 3 21X0 60

Workout Description and Purpose

Now that we can see a clear overview of the workout program lets break down why the program is structured in this way.

Strength Training works on 3-week cycles. The first two weeks are complete overload, you pack on the weight and the reps and train hard. The third week is a deloading week – this allows us to rest, recover and maintain tissue size.

This PHUL program is structured as a 4/day per week split. You will train the first two days of the week, rest, train another two days, followed by two days of rest. The days you spend resting on the weekend should not be spent sitting on a couch. If you have a foam roller get on it. If you can get into an ice bath and decrease the inflammation to your joints, do it.

Strength training isn’t just about what you do while you are in the gym. Focussing on recovery outside of the gym is completely essential and will enable you to progress faster without injury.

Science Behind PHUL Programs

As a traditional strength training regime, the focus for this program is on developing strength in specific movements and inducing hypertrophy (the increase in cell size).

Notice that in each workout you have some prime movements. These are incline bench, dips, back squats and a lunge/step up. In traditional strength circles exercises that fall under a push, pull, squat or lunge are known as prime movements. These exercises will serve as the basis to build strength and increase weight – think of them as your baseline exercises to monitor strength.

Inducing hypertrophy is done through two ways; high loads, or high tension. High loads is lifting with a large amount of weight – in this instance, you will be doing this in your hypertrophy workouts (notice the lower rep schemes). High tension is done through tempo training. Take some time to review this guide to tempo training. In many cases working with tempo enables the exerciser to lift heavy without running into injury. Tracking your tempo also provides consistency to the muscle – let us not forget our body is essentially a machine.

We use this method because it induces the greatest effect for muscle strength and size. Structuring your workout in this way will help to increase your 1RM in all of your prime movements, lose weight and feel great.

How Do I Warm Up For a PHUL Routine

The most important aspect to consider when addressing a warm-up is always the temperature of your muscle before you exercise. Of course, measuring your own temperature will be difficult but starting off on a low impact cardio machine such as a bike or elliptical will enable you to warm up without putting stress on the muscle.

Moving into your movements, keep things simple. If you are training bench and rows, bench and row. Start off with low reps at 60-70% of your max lift with high rest times. Don’t get into the habit of jumping into your max on the first lift – bad idea.

Training for strength is methodical, your goal is to consistently be increasing the weight without getting injured. Stay warm throughout your workout and stay on the program.

How to Progress With Your PHUL Workout

Progressing in strength can be done through set cycling. Take your first exercise for example.

Day 1: Lower Hypertrophy
Exercise REPS SETS TEMPO RBS
Overhead Press 8 3 21X0 90

After 1-2 weeks of performing this exercise with the same reps and sets progression will come with increasing the weight and cycling the set scheme. One of the most effective ways to do this is to change your workout to a 6×4 rather than a 8×3. Your workout would then look like this.

Day 1: Lower Hypertrophy
Exercise REPS SETS TEMPO RBS
Overhead Press 6 4 21X0 120

This does not increase the total rep count in any way. Notice you are still completing 24 total repetitions, yet it is broken down into four sets with more rest. Increase the weight for 1-2 weeks using this set scheme and then bounce back to an 8×3 pattern for the same weight the following cycle.

 

Final Tip

Strength training requires one last important aspect to consider. Your ego!

Do not in any way lift for ego. When you start to get stronger, lift heavier weights you’ll want to push yourself. Do so without your ego. Stay on the program and stay within the rep scheme – they are developed to make you stronger each week.

Summary and Conclusion

Training with a PHUL workout will not only make you stronger, but it will teach you how to train properly. Utilizing these strength methods will enable you to build in progressions, complete more difficult exercises and become a general badass around the gym.

THIS WILL TAKE TIME.

Be patient yet persistent. Go for your goals and use this guide as a template on which to build strength and power over the months.

Let us know how the workout program is going for you. Comment below if you have any questions, we’d be happy to help.

What next? You might also be interested to check out Layne Norton’s PHAT workout for size and strength.

The Ultimate Power Hypertrophy Upper Lower P.H.U.L. Workout Program – The Gold Standard In Strength

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4 thoughts on “The Ultimate Power Hypertrophy Upper Lower (P.H.U.L.) Workout

  1. Thanks for the great article. Couple of questions… The table in the article states this is a 12 week program, 6 week cycles… What does this mean exactly? The article also says to go near failure on each set, but not to failure. Based on this, it seems that doing the same weight 4×3 is not preferable, rather the same weight at sets of 6,6,5,3 is better, correct (again not failing on any of them)? And lastly, is there a deload week, if so what does it look like…. Maybe this ties back to the 6 week cycle question.

    • Eric, great to hear you’re interested in the PHUL workout. Let me try to answer your questions in order.

      Of course, you can switch your rep ranges if you’d like, yet hypertrophy will always work best at lower reps and higher weights. Completing a 4×3 with longer rest times means heavy weights – perfect for stimulating cell hypertrophy (our end goal in any strength setting).

      Most, if not all complete strength training programs work on 6-week overloads where 4/6 are traditional progressions, and 2 weeks are deloading. This is described in the section; workout description and purpose. This is then repeated with the above progression techniques conclude the 12 week total. Reevaluation is then necessary for progressive overload.

      General deloading can be done by completing less working sets and using higher rest times. You can decrease the weight but generally lowering the total number of working sets and increasing rest time will be sufficient enough to deload the muscles.

      Let us know if we should do a full article on deloading techniques or articles based solely on hypertrophy methods.

  2. Awesome post. I simply stumbled upon your site and the phul workout and wished to
    mention that the details going into your workouts are great. Keep them coming.

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