4 day phul workout for beginners

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Kevin Mangelschots

Today, I’ll be sharing a 4-day power, hypertrophy, upper, lower (PHUL) workout for novices. It is a great training program for those looking to increase strength and muscle mass.

Simply put, this means that the PHUL routine will have you perform 2 power days and 2 mass building days each week. Hypertrophy based training is a form of resistance training with the specific goal of increasing muscle mass.

In short, the training program is distributed as followed:

  • Monday: upper body strength.
  • Tuesday: lower body strength.
  • Thursday: upper body hypertrophy.
  • Friday: lower body hypertrophy.

The phul workout program

Day

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Day 1 – upper power

Bench press

Barbell rows

Lat pulldowns

Shoulder press

Sit ups

3

3

3

3

1

5

5

5

5

Day 2 – lower power

Squat

Deadlift

3

3

5

5

Rest

/

/

/

Day 4 – upper hypertrophy

Bench press

Barbell rows

Shoulder press

Lat pulldowns

Dips

Sit ups

5

5

5

3

3

1

10-12

10-12

10-12

10-12

10-12

Day 5 – lower hypertrophy

Squat

Deadlift

Lunges

Calf raises

5

5

3

3

10-12

10-12

10-12

10-12

Rest

/

/

/

Rest

/

/

/

The phul workout program explained

  • Strength and hypertrophy days

    Image of a man performing a back squat with a barbell.
    Image of a man performing a back squat with a barbell.

    The P.H.U.L. program combines both strength and hypertrophy elements to increase power and size.

    You’ll be performing two consecutive strength days. Then you’ll get a day off to recharge your batteries before you carry out your two hypertrophy days.

    This is the most popular way of programming a 4-day upper/lower body split program. It’s also possible to do upper strength followed by a rest day, lower strength day, rest, upper hypertrophy day, a rest day, and finally, a lower hypertrophy day.

    Thus, it’s a flexible system where you can program your workouts yourself. Not only that, but it’s not that big of a deal if you miss a workout compared to if you were to train your upper and lower body just once a week.

    The amount of sets and reps you perform will be lower on strength days since they’re more taxing on our neurological system, which makes them harder to recover from.

    Hypertrophy days will have more volume, aka more sets and reps while lowering the weights being lifted. This is necessary because in order to gain muscle, we’ll have to perform more overall volume in order to break down the muscle tissue before allowing it to recover.

    It has been proven that our muscles respond better to a higher amount of training volume in order to induce hypertrophy.

  • Exercise selection

     

    Image of a man grabbing two fixed dumbbells from a weight rack.

    The exercises you’ll be doing are mainly compound exercises. Hence, training a large variety of muscle groups at the same time. This way, you can lift heavier weights, which induces more strength and hypertrophy gains.

    The system is structured in a way where you’ll be alternating between two large muscle groups. For example: On upper body strength days, you’ll be bench pressing as your first exercise, which is mainly a chest and triceps exercise. For the next exercise, you’ll be executing barbell rows, which is mainly a back and biceps exercise.

    Hence, your muscle groups get some additional time to recover before you hit that same muscle group again with another exercise.

  • Starting weights

    Image of an adjustable dumbbell.

    Theoretically, you can start this workout program with any weight. There’s no minimum requirement for the amount of weight that you should lift. So both beginners and intermediate weight lifters can effectively perform this training routine.

    However, I think it’s much more suited for the intermediate trainee. Why? Because beginners can make more gains on a pure full body strength program or on a sole hypertrophy program, depending on what their specific goal is.

    This is due to the fact that working out with one particular goal in mind is more specific, and the weights being lifted aren’t that heavy when you’re just starting your lifting journey. That’ll allow your body to fully recover between every full body workout session, which isn’t possible anymore with advanced lifters.

  • How much weight should you add

     

    Image of multiple weight plates of different weight.

    How much weight you should add depends on your level of training.

    If you are a novice, you can most likely get away with adding around 1-2 kg on each exercise on strength days.

    When you are at a more intermediate training level, you might be looking to add 1 kg each week. Remember that slow progression is still better than no progression.

    As long as you keep adding weight to the bar over time, you’re good to go. Don’t add weight to the bar for the sake of adding weight each week, since technique is always a priority over lifting large weights.

    Lifting objects that are too heavy means your technique will decline, and will inevitably cause injuries over time.

  • Sets

     

    A chart indicating the appropriate amount of reps, sets, and rest time depending on what your training goals are.

    On upper body strength days, you’ll be performing at least 2 warm up sets for both your first chest and back muscle group. But you can do more warm up sets if you like, as many as you see fit. Just make sure not to pre-exhaust your muscles too much.

    Then you’ll be performing 3 working sets for every exercise except for sit-ups. For lower body strength days, you’ll carry out two warm up sets for the leg muscles, followed by three working sets.

    For upper strength day, this would look like the following: 2 warm up sets for bench press, 3 working sets for the bench press. Next, 2 warm up sets for barbell rows, followed by 3 working sets for barbell rows.

    From there, you can choose to do the prescribed 3 working sets for the other exercises as your muscles are already warmed up properly. However, if you prefer to do some warm up sets for every other exercise, then that’s perfectly fine too. Nevertheless, this will increase the time it takes to complete the workout.

    On hypertrophy days, we’ll be doing between 3-5 working sets. Again, perform at least 2 warm up sets for both your first chest and back muscle group exercise, or your leg muscles in order to get your body ready for the working sets which are, of course, heavier.

  • Repetitions

    On the strength days of our phul program, you’ll be doing 5 reps for each exercise. On hypertrophy days, you’ll be performing between 10–12 reps per exercise.

    The reason the reps are lower on strength days is because a lower amount of reps with heavier weights leads to more strength gains. The higher sum of reps with lighter weights on hypertrophy days causes more muscle growth because they’ll induce more microscopic muscle tears.

  • Rest

    Picture of a man on armchair resting on balcony, fall season during day.

    The phul routine allows for 3 rest days per week. This should be ample time for your body to recover between workouts.

    What you do on these rest days is up to you. You can choose to do nothing, but you can also opt to do a bit of cardio or other activities you enjoy. Use this time to clear your mind, and to revitalize your body. As long as you keep away from heavy lifting on these rest days, you’re good to go.

    As for the rest times between your working sets. For strength days, you should take between 3–5 minutes of rest. On hypertrophy days, 1–2 minutes should suffice to recover your energy reserves.

Conclusion

Image of a hand holding a card with the word “conclusions” written in blue.

In my opinion, this P.H.U.L. exercise program is a perfect fit for novices who are looking to gain strength along with some muscle mass.

It’s also a welcome change from carrying out the popular, yet sometimes boring full body workouts all the time.

Granted, it’s not as specific as a full body intermediate strength program solely focused on developing power, or a hypertrophy system that’s exclusively concentrated on developing muscle size.

Hence, if your goal is only centered on gaining strength or increasing muscle mass, you’ll be better off choosing an exclusive strength, or sole hypertrophy program.

Still, it’s a solid system overall that will definitely lead to great power and size gains while at the same time being very lenient in its programming, making it a favorite among many lifting enthusiasts.