PHAT vs PHUL Workout Programs: Which Routine Is More Effective?

PHAT vs PHUL Workout Programs_ Which Routine Is Most Effective for Weight Loss, Strength, and Muscle Gain

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Part of your fitness journey is finding the workout program that works best for you.

You need to stop and reconsider how you’re working out every now and then.

What’s good for a beginner falls off once you reach the intermediate level.

You may need to change up your program to a more advanced one in order to continue seeing gains.

Why?

Fitness is about adaptation. Once your body adapts to what you’re doing, you’ll need to advance your technique[1].

I’m not talking about “confusing your muscles” but rather constantly pushing the bar.

As you advance in skill, weight loss, and muscle gain, you’ll find yourself spending more and more time in the gym.

Eventually, you’ll focus on specific muscles on a certain day. There’s a reason the PPL split is so popular, especially for beginners.

The PHAT and PHUL programs are even more advanced than the PPL split. Both are focused on power and hypertrophy, in different ways.

Which one is better for you?

What is the PHAT Workout Program?

What is PHAT power hypertrophy adaptive training routinePHAT stands for Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training (Routine).

It was designed by Layne Norton, a famous bodybuilder and powerlifter[2].

The PHAT routine combines both bodybuilding and powerlifting to combine the two goals of hypertrophy (building muscle) and power, which focuses on strength.

The idea behind the PHAT workout program is that if you focus purely on strength or muscle size, eventually you’ll hit a plateau that you can only overcome by swapping goals.

The PHAT program works on both at once so you don’t have to swap to the other style once you hit a plateau!

What’s the difference between lifting for strength gain and lifting for muscle size?

Strength training focuses on high-weight, low-rep exercises.

Size training focuses on lower-weight, higher-volume exercises.

Both will make you more fit but higher loads maximize strength while higher volume maximizes muscle size growth[3].

How the PHAT Program Works

The PHAT routine is a 5-day workout with 2 rest days.

You target each muscle group twice each week.

2 days focus on power and 3 days focus on hypertrophy. The upper body day is split into two days so you can focus on pushing exercises one day and pulling exercises another day, increasing volume.

Here’s how a week of PHAT training looks:

Day 1Upper Body Strength
Day 2Lower Body Strength
Day 3Rest
Day 4Back and Shoulder Hypertrophy
Day 5Lower Body Hypertrophy
Day 6Chest and Arms Hypertrophy
Day 7Rest

What is the PHUL Workout Program?

The PHUL routine has similar goals to the PHAT routine, though it is a bit different.

PHUL stands for Power, Hypertrophy, Upper, Lower, which effectively describes how the program works.What is PHUL workout program power hypertrophy upper lower routine

How Does the PHUL Program Work?

The PHUL routine 4-day routine with 3 rest days.

You focus on your upper body twice a week and lower body twice a week. Each day is either a strength day or a muscle size day.

Here’s how a week of PHUL training looks:

Day 1Upper Body Strength
Day 2Lower Body Strength
Day 3Rest
Day 4Upper Body Hypertrophy
Day 5Lower Body Hypertrophy
Day 6Rest
Day 7Rest

You can read more about the PHUL routine, including which exercises to use on each day, in my article about the PHUL workout!

Which Program is Better?

If you compare the two charts then you’ll see that the PHAT and PHUL workout programs are very similar.

Indeed, there’s only one real difference:

PHAT slits the upper body volume day into two days while PHUL doesn’t differentiate between a pulling and a pushing day.

This small change has bigger effects than you might think.

Let’s look at specific cases to see which workout will be better for you.

Strength Training

  Winner: PHUL   

PHAT or PHUL for muscle gain weight loss load or volume better

If your goal is strength then the PHUL program will give you a slight edge.

There main reason for this is the extra rest day.

You don’t grow muscles in the gym. You stress out your muscles in the gym then grow them as you rest[4].

Full recuperation can take 72 hours!

The extra rest day in the PHUL workout will let your muscles recover longer, giving you more workout capacity when you hit the gym and letting that growth hormone work longer before stressing out the muscles again.

The PHAT routine is not bad for strength gain, mind you.

But there’s not as much rest, which makes the threat of overtraining higher, which inhibits your strength gains.

Muscle Gain

  Winner: PHAT   

PHAT has more high-volume work than PHUL.

Your upper body gets two days of high-rep exercises focused on hypertrophy.

This makes PHAT superior for people who want bigger muscles, faster!

Weight Loss

  Winner: PHAT   

Workout routine comparison differences between PHAT and PHUL exercisesThe same added volume which helps PHAT beat PHUL when it comes to muscle gain also means that PHAT will help you lose more fat!

The additional volume and especially the additional day of exercise means you’ll burn more calories with the PHAT routine.

This doesn’t mean you can celebrate with pizza more often.

Remember, what you eat has more of an effect on weight loss than how you work out!

Schedule Flexibility

  Winner: PHUL   

The PHAT routine takes up 5 days of your week.

Not only that, but the rest day in the middle means that you’ll have to visit the gym during the weekend.

The PHUL routine, on the other hand, only takes up 4 days and has 2 rest days in a row.

This is easier to fit into a schedule, especially when you have to work around a chem lab that starts at 7:40 am for some reason.

I swear, the people who schedule college course times are even more sadistic than the financial aid advisors.

Routine Longevity

  Winner: PHAT   

Both PHAT and PHUL routines are considered intermediate or advanced routines.

Better routine for beginners PHAT PHUL PPL split flexible schedule longest lasting

PHUL is more firmly intermediate while PHAT is a combination of intermediate and advanced.

Your potential for gains is stronger with the PHAT routine, which makes it a good choice for someone who wants to choose one routine and stick with it.

Consistency is key!

You may want to toss in some deload weeks to prevent overtraining, though!

For Beginners

  Winner: Neither   

Neither the PHAT and PHUL programs are for beginners.

If you’re new to working out then it’s often recommended to start with a full-body program.

If you want to split it up then try a beginner’s PPL split routine.

You’ll get more out of strength training than size training right now. Plus, your body is not yet adapted to exercise more often than not!

Conclusion

Both the PHAT and PHUL workout programs are split routines that alternate your focus between strength and hypertrophy.

This dual approach to lifting helps subvert training plateaus, letting you stick with one routine longer as you burn fat, grow muscle, and increase in strength.

PHAT splits the upper body hypertrophy day into two, which adds volume at the expense of a more demanding schedule.

For many of us, our schedule will determine which of these routines to use.

For the rest, you can choose PHAT if you want a bit more strength, and PHUL if you want a bit more size!

Resources

  1. https://www.verywellfit.com/fitness-term-adaptation-1230984
  2. https://www.biolayne.com/articles/training/phat-power-hypertrophy-adaptive-training/
  3. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2015/10000/Effects_of_Low__vs__High_Load_Resistance_Training.36.aspx
  4. https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/recuperation-and-muscular-growth.html