PHUL stands for Power Hypertrophy Upper Lower and is a popular 4-day workout routine that combines training for strength and hypertrophy.
This guide will provide a complete outline of the PHUL workout program and links to exercise instructions.
This program is also available 100% free in StrengthLog. Following the program in the app lets you keep track of your weights and reps and gives you training statistics.
What Is the PHUL Workout Routine?
The PHUL workout routine has four workouts per week: two upper and two lower body workouts.
Of these, two workouts focus on strength (power) and two on muscle growth (hypertrophy).
- Day 1: Upper Body Power
- Day 2: Lower Body Power
- Day 3: Off
- Day 4: Upper Body Hypertrophy
- Day 5: Lower Body Hypertrophy
- Day 6: Off
- Day 7: Off
What’s the difference between power and hypertrophy workouts?
- In the power workouts, you’ll typically be training with heavier weights and fewer reps.
- In the hypertrophy workouts, you’ll use moderately heavy weights and a medium number of reps.
The PHUL program is basically a classic 4-day upper/lower split where you work each major muscle group twice per week, but with the twist that half of the workouts will emphasize strength gains, and the other will emphasize muscle gain.
This back-and-forth between strength and muscle growth is actually not a bad idea at all.
It introduces an element of periodization into your program, allowing you to develop two different qualities in tandem.
- The strength you gain will allow you to use heavier weights in your hypertrophy workouts,
- The muscle you gain will add to your strength capacity (there is a very strong correlation (~r=0.85) between muscle mass and strength.1 2)
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of the program, let’s quickly look over some of the fundamentals.
PHUL Workout Guidelines
- Frequency: Every major muscle group will be worked twice per week, for a total of four workouts per week.
- Exercise selection: You’ll do mostly compound exercises, with some isolation exercises towards the end of the workouts.
- Sets & reps: 3–4 sets of most exercises. Low-to-moderate reps on power days, moderate-to-high reps on hypertrophy days.
- Rest between sets: Long enough to improve upon your last workout! Ballpark figures: 2–3 minutes for compound lifts (but up to 5 minutes if necessary!), 1–2 minutes for isolation movements.
- Failure: Don’t go to failure in every set. Aim to reach or be close to failure at your last set of each exercise. You can go to failure more often in the isolation exercises than the compound exercises.
- Progression: When you reach the target reps, increase the weight by a small amount (~2.5 kg / 5 lb) for your next workout.
- Level: Intermediate to advanced.
PHUL is not a beginner’s routine.
If you’re a beginner, our beginner programs are more suitable for you:
Now, let’s take a look at the PHUL program.
PHUL Workout: 4-Day Routine
Here is the classic 4-day PHUL routine.
The suggested workout days (Day 1, Day 2, etc.) will give you proper rest before you work the same muscles again, but feel free to adapt them to your personal needs or schedule.
Click on the exercise name for instructions.
Day 1 – Upper Power
|Incline Dumbbell Press||3–4||6–10|
|Barbell Lying Tricep Extension||2–3||8–12|
Day 2 – Lower Power
|Bulgarian Split Squat||3–4||6–10|
|Standing Calf Raise||3–4||6–10|
Day 3 – Upper Hypertrophy
|Incline Bench Press||3–4||8–12|
|Seated Cable Row||3–4||8–12|
|Dumbbell Chest Fly||3–4||8–12|
|Dumbbell Lateral Raise||3–4||8–12|
Day 4 – Lower Hypertrophy
|Standing Calf Raise||3–4||8–12|
|Seated Calf Raise||3–4||8–12|
PHUL Workout: 3-Day Routine
You can easily adapt PHUL to a 3-day routine. Simply follow the same order of workouts, but do three in a week.
- Day 1: Upper Body Power
- Day 2: Off
- Day 3: Lower Body Power
- Day 4: Off
- Day 5: Upper Body Hypertrophy
- Day 6: Off
- Day 7: Off
- Day 8: Lower Body Hypertrophy
- Day 9: Off
- Day 10: Upper Body Power
- Day 11: Off
- Day 12: Lower Body Power
- Day 13: Off
- Day 14: Off
And so on, until you’re freakin’ huge.
In this routine, you’ll work your muscles every 4–5th day.
Which is, in fact, not a bad idea at all.
Something along the lines of 4–5 days is what we usually need in order to recover performance from a hard training session. It also means that you will work each muscle 1–2x/week, which is just as good for muscle growth as higher training frequencies, according to the latest research.3
If you prefer hard workouts where you go close to failure, a 3-day split like this might be a great fit for you.
PHUL Workout Progression
Strength training is tricky:
As soon as your workouts become easy, you’ve probably stopped growing and are just maintaining.
Yes, there are exceptions to this rule, but in general, this is your reality.
The trick is to make the workouts hard again.
What does that mean?
Once you can lift a given weight for the target number of reps, you increase the weight for the next workout.
The target number of reps is the rep range specified next to each exercise.
You decide if you should aim for the lower or higher end or somewhere in between. In the app, we’ve made these decisions for you, but you are of course free to change this as you please.
When you can complete all sets and reps with good form, you increase the weight by a small amount (often just by 2.5 kg / 5 lb) and work your way back up to your target number of reps again.
On the upper body power day, you should do 3–4 sets of 3–5 reps in the bench press. Let’s say you do 3 sets of 5 reps at 100 kg. In the next upper body power workout, you increase the weight to 102.5 kg, and can perhaps only do 3 sets of 3 reps. Stick with this weight and try to do more reps each workout, until you reach 3 x 5 and increase the weight to 105 kg. And so on.
This goes for every exercise.
- You did 3 sets x 15 reps on tricep pushdowns? Increase the weight.
- Reached 3 sets x 12 reps on dumbbell rows? Increase the weight.
Regularly increasing the weights (or number of reps) is also known as progressive overload, and it is crucial for building muscle and strength over the long term.
Just remember to keep your form clean, and only increase the weight if you can do all reps with good technique.
PHUL Workout Results: What Can You Expect?
PHUL is a comprehensive training program with a fairly high training volume, that is likely to yield robust gains in strength and muscle size.
Your challenge is going to be to keep your effort and intensity high throughout the long workouts.
But if you do, you can expect to gain muscle over pretty much your entire body.
PHUL is not a specialized powerlifting program, but I believe you can see nice results in the big three (squat, bench, and deadlift) lifts as well if you make an effort to continuously improve your reps and weights in these exercises.
And I definitely think PHUL will lay a great foundation for future powerlifting prowess.
You’ll be working most of your major muscles in a variety of directions and angles, which will build you a suit of muscle. If and when you choose to specialize more in powerlifting, the muscle you’ve built will likely serve you well.
Follow the PHUL Workout Routine in StrengthLog!
Want to give the PHUL workout routine a go?
The best way to follow it is in StrengthLog (100% free!). That way, you can keep track of what you lifted last time, and make sure you keep progressing in weights and reps. We offer all new users a free 14-day trial of premium, which you can activate in the app.
Download StrengthLog for free with the buttons below:
PHUL Workout FAQ
Let’s address some of the most common questions about PHUL.
- What does PHUL stand for?
- Should I do the 3-day or 4-day version?
- Is PHUL a good routine for beginners?
- Is PHUL a good split?
- Is PHUL good for strength?
- Is PHUL good for hypertrophy?
- How long does a PHUL workout take?
- What about ab training?
- Is PHUL a good workout program for cutting or bulking?
What does PHUL stand for?
PHUL stands for Power Hypertrophy Upper Lower, which signifies how you will be splitting your workouts. You will do two upper body and two lower body workouts. One of each will have a power (or strength) focus, and the other a hypertrophy focus.
Should I do the 3-day or 4-day version?
You choose! Or: keep it fleeting. Extend or contract your number of rest days depending on your schedule and how recovered you feel.
Since you’re doing the same workouts in the same order, you can add extra rest days without messing up the schedule. There is nothing magical about a seven-day training week.
Exercise isn’t an exact science; there’s an art to it, and you should listen to your body. By keeping it flexible, you can adapt quickly when you have a night of rough sleep, or want to give an aching body part an extra day of rest.
Is PHUL a good routine for beginners?
No, the volume in PHUL is too high for a beginner. A beginner would be better off with one of our beginner training programs:
For a complete list of our training programs, click here.
Is PHUL a good split?
Sure! Splitting your training into upper body days and lower body days like in PHUL is a time-tested classic. Focusing more on strength and power in one of the workouts and hypertrophy in the other offers a degree of periodization, which can make your training more effective and simultaneously keep it fun and engaging.
The one drawback is that it makes for fairly long and hard workouts, where it will be challenging to keep your energy up towards the end.
Is PHUL good for strength?
Yes. While not a specialized strength program like our powerlifting programs, PHUL still works all your biggest and strongest muscle groups in compound movements at different angles, which is a great recipe for strength. You will also get to practice lifting heavier weights in the three to five rep range during the strength days (power workouts), which will hone your strength further.
Is PHUL good for hypertrophy?
Yes. PHUL covers almost all your major muscle groups with a good exercise selection and plenty of volume in a rep range that is good for muscle growth.
How long does a PHUL workout take?
This will depend a lot on how long you rest between sets. If you keep your rest intervals short, you can probably knock out some of the workouts in 45–60 minutes. But when the weights start to get heavier and you need to extend your rest periods in order to improve upon your last workout, you’re probably looking at 60–90 minutes at least.
What about ab training?
PHUL doesn’t include any direct ab training in the default program. While your ab muscles get some indirect training in many of the compound movements, this will not be enough for optimal growth in these muscles.
If you want to add direct ab training, I suggest you add it to the end of the workouts. Use any good ab exercise that you like.
Is PHUL a good workout program for cutting or bulking?
As a rule of thumb, your training shouldn’t change very much depending on whether you’re bulking or cutting. If your goal is to build or maintain muscle, you should still train for muscle growth. If your goal is to gain or maintain strength, you should still train for strength.
With that said; when you are cutting, you will have less energy available for training and recovery, and might therefore have to decrease your training volume slightly compared to what you’re used to.
PHUL is a moderate-to-high training volume program with pretty long and hard workouts, and might therefore be a little better suited for training in a caloric balance or surplus (bulking).
Can PHUL work while cutting? Absolutely. It depends on what training volumes you are used to, and how aggressive your cut is. If you want to follow the general program but find that the workouts are a little too strenuous when you’re cutting, you could try to simply remove some of the exercises, or reduce the number of sets.
For more information on cutting, check out our guide:
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Thanks for reading, buddy!
- J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2013 Aug;53(4):409-14. Relationship between lifting performance and skeletal muscle mass in elite powerlifters.
- Eur J Appl Physiol. 2002 Feb;86(4):327-36. The role of FFM accumulation and skeletal muscle architecture in powerlifting performance.
- How many times per week should a muscle be trained to maximize muscle hypertrophy? A systematic review and meta-analysis of studies examining the effects of resistance training frequency. J Sports Sci. 2019 Jun;37(11):1286-1295.