Layne Norton is one of the most renowned names in the Health and Fitness Industry. With a vast wealth of knowledge spanning from bodybuilding, nutrition and power training as well as having a PHD qualification; you would have to be living under a rock to not know this name. One of Norton’s most acknowledged pieces of work was his PHAT workout training system which essentially overviewed and highlighted the importance of Power, Hypertrophy Adaptive Training. So what is this exactly? First and foremost;
Power: The amount of work performed per unit of time. In other words; the ability to exert a maximal force in as little time as possible.
Hypertrophy: The growth in of an organ or muscle tissue from an increase in the size of the cells.
The PHAT workout is particularly unique in the sense that it is the only proven training method that incorporates and combines powerlifting and bodybuilding together. Essentially what this does is it combines the low repetitions (heavy weight) of a powerlifter to gain strength for the athlete aspect as well as incorporating the high reps (moderate weight) of a bodybuilder to add sufficient hypertrophy to the physique of the athlete. This is all well and good, but like any gym fanatic, we want to know what exactly this is going to bring to our training, our physique and moreover our eventual results! Below are five further benefits that you can come to expect from adopting the PHAT method to your training;
Mass and Strength Relationship: Whilst this debate is up for discussion in the eyes of many; various research studies have concluded that the relationship between mass and strength is positively correlated. In other words; a big muscle is a strong muscle. What this means is that the development of hypertrophy will work hand in hand with the development of strength and power; as the muscles get bigger they will simultaneously get stronger also.
Training Frequency: As you can see if you look below at the training routine; each muscle is hit twice a week. Training frequency is key and essentially if you want a muscle to grow in terms of strength, size and power then you must be training it frequently in relation to your goals, ability and recovery rate. If you compare this to a typical bro split (Chest, Back, Legs, Rest, Shoulders, Arms, Rest); your back for example is not being touched for a whole 7 days! Whereas with the PHAT workout, it is trained on Monday and Thursday; allowing sufficient recovery time but also keeping and maintaining that regular training frequency previously mentioned.
Compound Movements: Incorporating compound heavy compound movements regularly throughout this plan such as bent over rows, squats, bench press and deadlifts is going to bring benefits to your training such as stimulated CNS system, increased Growth hormone/testosterone production as well as creating a time efficient workout in the sense you are targeting two or more muscles in one movement.
Power Training: To many of the gym regulars, they may be all to familiar with the hypertrophy aspect of training but the thought of power training may raise a few eyebrows and scratch a few heads. Why should I inoporate this into my holy, godsend current routine? Here are a few benefits that you may come to expect from the power aspect of training; improved reaction time, translation to athletic performance provided relevance and specificity is applied, enhanced fast twitch fibres and also higher calorie burn during a workout when applied.
Rest and Recovery: As you will be able to see in the upcoming passage, there is special attention to rest and recovery in the sense that Wednesday and Sunday are specifcally designed for. This incorporation of rest will lead to increased performance detriments, decreased cortisol levels, replenishment of muscle glycogen stores and more. Take note of this and don’t skip your rest days!
Now that we have cleared this and understood why the PHAT workout / training system is such an effective and efficient method of training, lets take a look at a typical training split for it;
Monday: Upper Body Power
- Pulling Power Movements (Rep Range of 3-5 Repetitions for 2-3 Sets): Bent Over Rows
- Pushing Power Movements (Rep Range of 3-5 Repetitions for 2-3 Sets): Flat Bench Press
- Accessory Pulling Movements (Rep Range of 8-10 Repetitions for 2-3 Sets): Wide Grip Pull Ups
- Accessory Pulling Movements (Rep Range of 8-10 Repetitions for 2-3 Sets): Lat Pulldowns
- Accessory Press Movements (Rep Range of 8-10 Repetitions for 2-3 Sets): Dumbbell Shoulder Press
- Accessory Press Movements (Rep Range of 8-10 Repetitions for 2-3 Sets): Dips
- Accessory Curling Movement (Rep Range of 6-10 Repetitions for 3 Sets): Barbell Curls
- Accesory Extension Movement (Rep Range of 6-10 Repetitions for 3 Sets): Tricep Rope Pushdowns
Tuesday: Lower Body Power
- Pulling Power Movements (Rep Range of 3-5 Repetitions for 2-3 Sets): Back Squats, Front Squats etc.
- Assistance Pressing Movements (Rep Range of 6-10 for 2-3 Sets): Hack Squats or Leg Press
- Assistance Extension Movements (Rep Range of 6-10 for 2-3 Sets): Quad Extensions
- Assistance Pulling Movements (Rep Range of 5-8 for 3 Sets): Hamstring Curls
- Assistance Pulling Movements: (Rep Range of 5-8 for 3 Sets): RDL’s
- Assistance Calf Movements (Rep Range of 6-10 for 3 Sets): Standing Calf Raise Machine or Dumbbell Calf Raises
- Assistance Calf Movements (Rep Range of 6-10 for 2 Sets): Seated Calf Raises or Seated Weight Plate Calf Raises
Thursday: Back and Shoulders Hypertrophy
- Pulling Power Speed Exercise (6 Sets of 3 Explosive Reps): Bent Over Rows
- Pulling Movement (3 Sets of 8-12 Reps): Barbell Rack Chins
- Pulling Movement (3 Sets of 8-12 Reps): Seated Cable Row
- Pulling Movement (3 Sets of 12-15 Reps): Shrugs
- Pulling Movement (2 Sets of 15-20 Reps): Close Grip Pulldowns
- Shoulder Movement (3 Sets of 8-12 Reps): Dumbbell Shoulder Press
- Shoulder Movement (2 Sets of 12-15 Reps): Barbell or Cable Upright Rows
- Shoulder Movement (3 Sets of 12-20 Reps): Dumbbell or Cable Lateral Raises
Friday: Lower Body Hypertrophy
- Lower Body Power Speed Exercise (6 Sets of 3 Explosive Reps): Back Squats
- Pressing Movement (3 Sets of 8-12 Reps): Hack Squats
- Pressing Movement (2 Sets of 12-15 Reps): Leg Presses
- Extension Movement (3 Sets of 15-20 Reps): Leg Extensions
- Pulling Movement (3 Sets of 8-12 Reps): Leg Curls
- Pulling Movement (2 Sets of 15-20 Reps): Nordics
- Calf Movement (4 Sets of 10-15 Reps): Leg Press calf raises
- Calf Movement (3 Sets of 15-20 Reps): Seated Calf Raises
Saturday: Chest and Arms Hypertrophy
- Pressing Power Speed Exercise (6 Sets of 3 Explosive Reps): Flat Dumbbell Bench Press
- Pressing Movement (3 Sets of 8-12 Reps): Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
- Fly Movement (2 Sets of 15-20 Reps): Incline Cable Flies
- Curling Movement (3 Sets of 8-12 Reps): Preacher Curls
- Curling Movement (2 Sets of 12-15 Reps): Dumbbell or Cable Concentration Curls
- Curling Movement (2 Sets of 15-20 Reps): Barbell Spider Curls
- Extension Exercise (3 Sets of 8-12 Reps): Tricep Extensions
- Extension Exercise (2 sets of 12-15 Reps): Cable Bar Tricep Pushdowns
- Extension Exercise (2 Sets of 15-20 Reps): Cable Tricep Kickbacks
Considerations for Those Contemplating Doing The Plank
PHAT Workout Percentages
Exercises such as the power speed exercises will require you to know the percentage of your 1 repetition maximum (1RM calculator). Exercises such as power speed exercises are recommended to be performed at 60-70% 1RM. For example, if your 1RM was 100KG on the Back Squats, then you would perform these speed reps at 60-70KG for 3 Reps. To calculate your 1RM’s; commit a session where you are adequately rested and perform with a spotter throughout to safely and efficiently achieve these Repetition Maximums.
For many of the assistance movements, they can be varied in order to prevent boredom and break plateaus; two essential considerations for any training program. Boredom will not lead to enjoyment and enjoyment can result in optimal performance. Plateaus prevent progress and unless they are adhered to; the performer will not advance with their training.
Progressions and Regressions
If you struggle with some of the exercises; don’t randomly plug away at them until you can do them, strategically select a regression (simplified alternative) that will do two things for your training plan; build confidence and enhance kinaesthetic feel. For example; if you are struggling to do wide grip pull ups; perform machine assisted pull ups. If you are struggling to do barbell bent over rows; perform lighter rows or rows on the smith machine until you are able to do them. Opposing this is the progression method; if you are finding an exercise too simple and you have become complacent with your training, progressively overload!
This is whereby each session you are making the exercise more difficult whether it be via more sets, reps, less rest time, exercise advancements etc. However, as this plan is strictly set in terms of reps and sets then I would suggest progressively overload by the following techniques; apply a heavier resistance, less rest time, make the exercise difficult by adding bands or other equipment, apply longer range of motions etc. All of these methods will progressively overload the body and in turn; push your body further physiologically overtime.
Whilst this workout is extremely well renowned and widely applied globally; it wasn’t designed specifically for you. For this reason and this reason alone; customise if needed! For example; there may be exercises that don’t suit your injury history or current niggles/pains, you may want to work around it! Also, there is no abdominal/oblique work, so if this is a target area for your training or something you are looking to develop; incorporate them in at some point. But a word of warning would be to not include them on a rest day; they are rest days for a reason and trust me, you will need them! If needed, add them onto one of the workouts during the week. To conclude; always personalise if needed and design it towards what you need and require, whilst maintaining the main principals of this program.
Whether you’re looking to build strength, power or size or to simply change up your training routine; Layne Norton’s PHAT workout is an effective way to do so which has been tried, tested and proven by many around the globe. Not to mention that it is designed by one of the most reputable names in the industry; you cannot go wrong. However, as previously mentioned in the considerations section; personalised if needed and always stay specific to your particular goals!