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The Complete Guide to the PHUL Program (2022)

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PHUL stands for power hypertrophy upper lower and refers to a training split created by Brandon Campbell––a training expert and Youtuber. The training approach mixes power and hypertrophy training elements to deliver a more balanced stimulus.

The PHUL routine borrows ideas from ‘power building’ programs, which aim to simultaneously build muscle and strength. Still, we could also argue that it is more of a bodybuilding program, depending on how you view it and apply the split in practice.

In short, PHUL is an approach where you train four or six days per week, mixing compound lifts like the bench press and squat with assistance and isolation activities like lat pulldowns and lateral raises. 

The 4-day version of the program is more popular. It applies to most trainees since four workouts are enough for most lifters to accumulate enough training volume and progress optimally. The objective is to have two power and two hypertrophy sessions each week, following a schedule similar to a 4-day upper/lower split.

For example, do upper and lower power sessions on Mondays and Tuesdays and follow up with upper and lower hypertrophy workouts on Thursdays and Fridays.

Effectiveness of the PHUL Workout Routine

The ​​PHUL workout routine is effective because it is based on solid training principles (which we’ll review next) and covers all the basics you need to optimize your results. PHUL is also a solid workout split because you train four times weekly and get enough recovery time.

What sets PHUL apart from most programs is that it blends powerlifting training with bodybuilding to deliver more balanced results. Instead of focusing on one or the other, PHUL utilizes heavy compound lifting and isolation movements. Doing so allows you to get stronger and produce overload while accumulating training volume for superior muscle growth (1). 

Man Barbell deadlift

PHUL is by no means special because many training programs blend compound and isolation lifts. But, a notable benefit of the approach is its dedicated training days for strength and muscle gain.

Aside from making your training varied and more engaging, the approach covers crucial details related to load management and progression, training to failure, exercise selection, etc. 

For example, the upper body power workout features heavy sets of 3 to 5 reps on the bench press and bent-over row. Heavy lifting is necessary for developing your neuromuscular capacity and promoting mechanical tension––factors that play a huge role in strength development (1, 2).

In contrast, the upper hypertrophy session includes a lot more work in the 8 to 12-repetition range, allowing you to accumulate more volume, cause more metabolic stress, and stimulate muscle growth (3). 

Both types of workouts promote muscle and strength gains, but their unique structures determine what adaptations you drive with each session.

Create and log your PHUL workouts with the Hevy workout tracker.

Hevy – Workout Tracker

Create your own PHUL workout with Hevy, and track your progress – for free

Principles of the Power Hypertrophy Upper Lower (PHUL) Plan

Intensity 

The central principle PHUL is based on is training with the correct intensity, which dictates how many reps you can do per set. For instance, a power workout includes high-intensity sets (using loads close to your 1RM) to promote greater strength adaptations (4).

In contrast, hypertrophy days consist of less intense sets, where the objective is to train with more manageable loads and do more reps.

Frequency

The second primary principle that determines PHUL’s effectiveness is frequency. Instead of following the standard recommendation of training each muscle group once weekly, PHUL has you train everything twice. According to research, muscle protein synthesis is only elevated for 24-36 hours post-training, and recovering longer doesn’t seem necessary (5).

Additionally, training muscles more frequently allows for better volume allocation, resulting in higher quality sets that promote greater adaptations (6). Plus, PHUL is designed to train your muscles in two ways: through high-rep and heavy sets. Dedicating entire sessions to both forms of stimulus can be a great way to make quicker overall progress.

Movements

PHUL is based on heavy compound exercises that train multiple muscle groups simultaneously and promote the necessary overload. The program includes assistance and isolation exercises, but the objective is to progress on the main lifts. Doing so is a great way to develop more strength in the long run and use the less demanding exercises to stimulate muscle hypertrophy. 

Goals of the PHUL Program

The PHUL program is based on fundamental training principles to promote strength and hypertrophy. Despite the relatively moderate frequency of four workouts per week, the program does an excellent job developing your raw power output and muscle mass. It does so through the masterful use of exercise selection, load progression, isolation exercises, and more. 

First, PHUL’s goal is to get you stronger, and the training method does so through the two strength sessions you have each week. These workouts include heavy sets on the bench press, barbell row, overhead press, squat, and deadlift. You also have relatively heavy sets on the incline press, lat pulldown, leg curl, and more.

man bent over barbell row

Heavy sets promote more mechanical tension, develop neuromuscular efficiency, build your skills in lifting heavy weights, and make you comfortable on more intense sets.

The second objective of PHUL is to promote muscle hypertrophy. Just as the plan includes two power sessions, it has two hypertrophy workouts that revolve around lighter loads and more repetitions.

As a result, trainees can do enough sets and reps to cause metabolic stress and further promote mechanical tension, both of which play a crucial role in the growth response (7). The two power sessions also contribute to hypertrophy because overload is necessary for muscle growth, and you get to increase the amount of work (volume) you’re doing per week.

Pros and Cons of PHUL

Pros

  • The most apparent benefit of PHUL is the pursuit of simultaneous hypertrophy and strength gain
  • The frequency of four workouts per week is excellent for intermediate-level lifters to build muscle and get stronger without having to live at the gym
  • Having two distinct power/strength workouts is an intelligent way for trainees to dedicate some of their time to heavy lifting without impairing muscle growth
  • The two hypertrophy sessions later in the week are easier to handle and give trainees a break from high-intensity work
  • Strength and hypertrophy training complement each other perfectly; strength workouts provide the necessary overload for muscle hypertrophy, and muscle growth increases one’s strength potential
  • The 6-day PHUL version is useful for more advanced lifters who need more training volume to keep making progress
  • PHUL allows you to train all the major muscle groups the recommended two times per week (6)

Cons

  • A disadvantage of PHUL is that you only have four workouts per week, which might not be enough for more advanced trainees to make optimal progress. You can also train six days per week, but that could be too much for some trainees to recover optimally, especially given that you have three intense strength sessions.
  • PHUL carries a disadvantage we see with the traditional upper/lower split: upper body workouts tend to be longer than lower sessions. The reason is that your upper body has more muscle groups that require a wider range of movements. In contrast, you can do as few as three movements to train all the major muscles in your lower body: the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.

Hypertrophy Vs. Power 

Putting together an adequate strength and hypertrophy program is challenging. Though it may all seem like traditional strength training, hypertrophy and strength gain depend on different training rules.

Hypertrophy refers to muscle growth: an increase in total muscle mass and cross-sectional area. In contrast, strength refers to your ability to exert force on external objects.

Power is similar to strength, but it measures how quickly you can exert force and is beneficial for activities where explosiveness matters a lot: Olympic weightlifting, contact sports, etc.

The optimal training plan for muscle growth isn’t the same as the best strength program, but a good workout method can help you progress toward both objectives. Building muscle comes down to:

  • Doing enough training volume (sets and reps) (1)
  • Training all the major muscle groups two to three times per week (6)
  • Training close enough to failure but leaving one to three reps in the tank (8)
  • Doing sets in various repetition ranges (e.g., 5 to 8, 8 to 15, 15 to 25, etc.)
  • Performing numerous exercises and training muscles from various angles

Developing strength is similar in some ways. For instance, doing enough volume and performing a variety of movements are beneficial. But, it also depends on:

  • Getting enough quality practice (reps) with relatively heavy loads (70-75+ percent of 1RM) (4, 9)
  • Performing the lifts you want to improve two to four times per week (10)
  • Varying the repetition ranges and loads slightly to avoid stagnation and keep your training more fun
  • Doing assistance exercises that aid your performance on the primary lifts
  • Not training to failure but pushing yourself hard enough to produce overload and mechanical tension
  • Increasing the amount of weight you’re lifting over time (progression)

PHUL comes close to being optimal for both goals, despite strength and muscle gain depending on different training approaches.

Sample Workouts 

4 Day Split 

man full front squat barbell
Day 1 (Strength Upper Body Workout)Day 2 (Strength Lower Body Workout)
Bench Press (Barbell)
3-4 sets of 3 to 5 reps
Incline Bench Press (Dumbbell)
3-4 sets of 5 to 8 reps
Bent Over Row (Barbell)
3-4 sets of 5 to 8 reps
Lat Pulldown (Cable)
3-4 sets of 6 to 10 reps
Overhead Press (Barbell)
3 sets of 5 to 8 reps
Bicep Curl (Barbell)
3 sets of 6 to 10 reps
Skullcrusher (Barbell)
3 sets of 6 to 10 reps
Squat (Barbell)
3-4 sets of 3 to 5 reps
Deadlift (Barbell)
3-4 sets of 3 to 5 reps
Leg Press (Machine)
3-4 sets of 6 to 10 reps
Lying Leg Curl (Machine)
3 sets of 10 to 15 reps
Seated Calf Raise
3 sets of 6 to 10 reps
Day 3 (Hypertrophy Upper Body Workout)Day 4 (Hypertrophy Lower Body Workout)
Incline Bench Press (Barbell)
4 sets of 8 to 12 reps
Dumbbell Row
4 sets of 8 to 12 reps
Chest Fly (Dumbbell)
4 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Seated Cable Row
4 sets of 10 to 12 reps
Lateral Raise (Dumbbell)
4 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Seated Incline Curl (Dumbbell)
4 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Triceps Rope Pushdown
4 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Front Squat
4 sets of 8 to 12 reps
Seated Leg Curl (Machine)
4 sets of 10 to 12 reps
Lunge (Barbell)
4 sets of 8 to 12 reps (per leg)
Leg Extension (Machine)
4 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Standing Calf Raise (Machine)
4 sets of 12 to 15 reps

Modifications

One modification you can make is to reduce the number of sets you do per exercise because the above program is demanding and might lead to recovery issues. For instance, you can begin with a couple of sets per exercise and gradually increase to three or four.

Another modification is to swap some of the exercises. For instance, the fourth workout includes barbell lunges, but you can instead do Bulgarian split squats, dumbbell lunges, or another single-leg exercise. Also, workout 2 features squats and deadlifts, which can be incredibly demanding.

You can swap barbell deadlifts for Romanian dumbbell deadlifts and do more reps per set. These modifications are sometimes necessary if you don’t have the equipment for a particular exercise or want to change things to avoid boredom.

The third modification you can make is to your weekly training schedule. PHUL has you train on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, but you can train:

Monday-Wednesday-Friday-Saturday
Monday-Tuesday-Friday-Saturday
Tuesday-Wednesday-Friday-Saturday
Monday-Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday

Another thing you can modify about the program is the repetition range on some movements. For example, workout 1 has you perform heavy lat pulldowns, but you can use a lighter weight and do reps in the 10 to 15 range if you find that your technique suffers. 

Increasing the intensity comes down to using heavier loads, whereas decreasing it requires lighter weights in higher repetition ranges.

Schedule 

Monday – Upper (Strength)
Tuesday – Lower (Strength)
Wednesday – Off
Thursday – Upper (Hypertrophy)
Friday – Lower (Hypertrophy)
Saturday – Off
Sunday – Off

Hevy – Workout Tracker

Create your own PHUL workout with Hevy, and track your progress – for free

6 Day Split  

man incline bench press barbell half lifted
Day 1 (Hypertrophy Upper Body Workout)Day 2 (Hypertrophy Lower Body Workout)Day 3 (Strength Upper Body Workout)
Incline Bench Press (Barbell)
4 sets of 8 to 12 reps
Dumbbell Row
4 sets of 8 to 12 reps
Chest Fly (Dumbbell)
4 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Seated Cable Row
4 sets of 10 to 12 reps
Lateral Raise (Dumbbell)
4 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Front Squat
4 sets of 8 to 12 reps
Romanian Deadlift (Dumbbell)
4 sets of 10 to 12 reps
Leg Extension (Machine)
4 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Standing Calf Raise (Machine)
4 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Bench Press (Barbell)
3-4 sets of 3 to 5 reps
Incline Bench Press (Dumbbell)
3-4 sets of 5 to 8 reps
Bent Over Row (Barbell)
3-4 sets of 5 to 8 reps
Bicep Curl (Barbell)
3 sets of 6 to 10 reps
Skullcrusher (Barbell)
3 sets of 6 to 10 reps
Day 4 (Strength Lower Body Workout)Day 5 (Hypertrophy Upper Body Workout)Day 6 (Hypertrophy Lower Body Workout)
Squat (Barbell)
3-4 sets of 3 to 5 reps
Deadlift (Barbell)
3-4 sets of 3 to 5 reps
Lying Leg Curl (Machine)
3 sets of 10 to 15 reps
Seated Calf Raise
3 sets of 6 to 10 reps
Overhead Press (Barbell)
4 sets of 5 to 8 reps
Lat Pulldown (Cable)
4 sets of 6 to 10 reps
Seated Incline Curl (Dumbbell)
3-4 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Triceps Rope Pushdown
3-4 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Goblet Squat
4 sets of 8 to 12 reps
Seated Leg Curl (Machine)
4 sets of 10 to 12 reps
Leg Press (Machine)
4 sets of 6 to 10 reps
Lunge (Dumbbell)
3-4 sets of 8 to 12 reps (per leg)

Modifications 

Like the 4-day version, you can modify your exercise selection, how many sets you do, and more. The only difference is that you must train six days per week, so there isn’t any flexibility for moving workouts around.

Schedule 

Monday – Hypertrophy Upper Body Workout
Tuesday – Hypertrophy Lower Body Workout
Wednesday – Strength Upper Body Workout
Thursday – Strength Lower Body Workout
Friday – Hypertrophy Upper Body Workout
Saturday – Hypertrophy Lower Body Workout
Sunday – Off

PPL Vs. PHUL

PPL stands for push/pull/legs and is one of today’s most popular training splits. The PPL method splits your training into three distinct workouts where you do push, pull, or leg exercises. Push workouts involve the chest, shoulders, and triceps; pull sessions are dedicated to training your back and biceps; leg workouts develop all the muscle groups below the hips. 

Push/pull/legs is an intuitive and effective split because it pairs muscle groups that work together on various activities. For instance, your chest, shoulders, and triceps work on the bench press and other exercises, so it makes sense to train them in the same workout (11). Similarly, your back and biceps work during pull-ups, bent-over rows, and more (12). 

A notable benefit of the PPL split is that it offers fantastic flexibility. You can pick from various training frequencies, do countless combinations of movements, and make progress for a long time. For instance, beginners can start with the 3-day version of the split, and advanced individuals can do a 6-day PPL version.  

The PPL split is also similar to PHUL in some ways. First, training more frequently would allow you to work each muscle group as recommended twice per week (6).

Second, you can apply some PHUL principles to a PPL split. For instance, you can dedicate some of your workouts to weight training to strengthen, and other sessions can include more sets and reps to promote muscle hypertrophy. 

PHUL is a more advanced split that can work well for experienced people. Applying it can be challenging because you must learn to listen to your body and manage your fatigue from session to session.

PPL is better suited for people new to training because the workouts aren’t as demanding, and there are fewer rules to remember as you train.

Final Thoughts

PHUL stands for power hypertrophy upper lower and refers to a semi-advanced training split designed by Brandon Campbell. Unlike many training approaches, PHUL attempts to tackle strength and hypertrophy in a balanced manner. Instead of dedicating blocks to one or the other, you combine the principles behind both types of adaptations. Try the Hevy app to track your PHUL workout progress.

Hevy – Workout Tracker

Create your own PHUL workout with Hevy, and track your progress – for free

An obvious example is that PHUL features strength-focused sessions where you lift heavy weights, but each week also includes hypertrophy workouts. 

As a whole, PHUL is a good training approach for people with training experience. Brandon has tested the split extensively before releasing it into the world, and many people have used it successfully. 

Of course, PHUL is not perfect and comes with some drawbacks. Namely, you could struggle to recover well between some of your workouts. It can also be challenging to do squats and deadlifts on the same day because the two movements train many of the same muscles. 

 The good news is that PHUL is flexible, and you can modify it to fit your needs, desires, and available training equipment.

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