The Power Hypertrophy Upper Lower (PHUL) workout was created by fitness expert Brandon Campbell as a way to integrate the principles of bodybuilding and powerlifting, resulting in a 4 workout split that is systematic and easy to follow. This program was first introduced by Brandon Campbell, and is based around 4 major principles of lifting:
Frequency - Given research that shows muscle protein synthesis is elevated for typically around 48 hours after targeted training, returning to training the same muscle group soon after that 2-day window would yield maximal results. As such, PHUL does away with the typical split of working each muscle group only once each week, and designates 2 days for upper and lower body respectively.
Compounds - As is the case with many of the programs that we have curated here at Boostcamp, PHUL places emphasis on compound lifts. The reason is simple: compound movements engage a large ensemble of muscles, often across different muscle groups, giving you greater bang-per-buck in terms of quickly progressing. Without dispensing with the importance of isolation exercise in prevent imbalance and maximizing hypertrophy, anchoring a workout program on compound lifts is a efficient, challenging, and tried-and-tested approach.
Power - Half of the weekly program is dedicated to progressive overload, maximizing time under tension and the weight you are able to lift.
Hypertrophy - The other half of the weekly split are dedicated hypertrophy days, focusing on increasing rep range to maximize muscle growth
As you can see, PHUL is a balanced program that integrates compound lifts with more isolated exercises to incorporate elements of powerlifting and bodybuilding to give you a taste of each tradition and its respective benefits. If you have done some research on different workout programs, you may have come across other workout programs that combine powerlifting and bodybuilding principles to create an integrated workout routine. The PHUL falls under this camp, along with other programs such as Dr. Layne Norton’s Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training (PHAT) program, both of which can be found digitized and ready for your use on the Boostcamp app!
PHUL is an intermediate program that gets you to hit the gym 4 times a week - for intermediate lifters, if you are following the program properly by using the correct form and appropriate weight for your lift, your muscles will be well-stimulated for growth in mass and strength. Compared to the PHAT, which is a 6 day workout split, PHUL falls on the more accessible side of the so-called “Power Hypertrophy” school of workout programs. This makes PHUL an excellent choice for anything that has some preliminary experience with lifting, and would like to jumpstart their progress in both strength and mass.
PHUL is an excellent first “Power Hypertrophy” program for intermediate lifters to try out. This PHUL workout is an excellents step up for you if you are coming from something like the Greg Nuckols Beginner Program. The 4 day split can easily be completed in a monday- friday schedule, with a day of break between the power and hypertrophy days:
Monday: Upper body power day
Tuesday: Lower body power day
Wednesday: Rest day
Thursday: Upper body hypertrophy day
Friday: Lower body hypertrophy day
Saturday and Sunday: Rest days
This is a 12-week program that you can continue to cycle with as long as you are seeing consistent progress across cycles, and have not become bored with the routine. With some dedicated training, something more demanding that PHAT would be where you look to further elevate your workout progress.
Ready? Find a detailed guide below on how to use Boostcamp to best execute the PHAT workout!
Boostcamp download & onboarding
Customize your schedule
The Boostcamp PHUL workout is designed to help you perform the routine correctly while tracking your progress conveniently. Use the interface to select the 4 days of the week you will hit the gym:
The default and recommended timetable can be completed in the workdays of a single week, with Monday and Tuesday dedicated to power days, a rest day in the middle of the week on Wednesday, and ending the workweek with two hypertrophy days on Thursday and Friday respectively. Of course, feel free to customize your schedule based on your availability and lifestyle. If possible, we would recommend at least a day’s rest between power and hypertrophy portions of the routine, just so your muscles get some time for recovery and are primed for further growth.
Begin your journey, and reap the rewards
After this onboarding step, simply select the corresponding day and week you are working out and follow the listed exercises. Don’t forget to record your weight and reps after each set on the rightmost column of each row! Workout notes can be added to each day, and you may also customize by adding your own exercises using the “Add Exercise” function at the end of the list. Simply select “Complete Workout” when you are done, and all of your progress will be recorded and saved for your future reference.
Proper form is paramount to getting the most out of your workout, while minimizing your risk of injury. Click on each exercise for videos to help you maintain proper form and posture through each movement.
A note on RPE - if you are coming from a program like 5/3/1 for beginners, the term RPE may be new to you. There is no onboarding step for PHUL that asks for your 1-rep max (1RM) for different lifts, as you may have done during onboarding for some other programs. RPE stands for the rate of perceived exertion, which is a subjective measurement of the intensity of physical activity. Much like how a doctor may ask you to rate your pain on a scale during a visit, RPE measurements are a self-assessment of your level of exertion. For the purposes of PHUL, make sure you are choosing appropriate weights to hit the required RPE level of each rep. This will take some trial and error to get right, but make sure to pay careful attention to how challenging a certain weight is for you within a rep range. There is much more to say on this topic, so we encourage you to reference this guide to understanding RPE.
Properly preparing your body for the physical intensity of the workout is extremely important in order to get the most of our work exercise and reduce the risk of injury. Prior to beginning the workout of the day, make sure you do some lighter sets to prime your body and mind for the exercise, lowering the chances of pre-exhausting your muscles. We recommend the use of a reverse pyramid warmup scheme, with lower weights and higher reps to start and then gradually increasing weights and while lowering the rep count.
Always start with light weights as warmups. Your primary goals with these sets are to warm up and practice good form, not burn out. Do not go to failure on warm-ups.
Your other goal with warmup sets is to slowly work up to a weight that starts to feel difficult, which will be your first working set (i.e. your recorded set) within the rep range targets.
Your goal is RPE 8-9 for every working set, which means stopping 1-2 reps before failure on every set. Working to failure, which includes degradation in form, is not advised for beginners due to chance of injury.
If the set is 3x3-5 (meaning 3 sets of 3-5 reps per set), warm up to a 1st working set that you can do for 3-5 reps. Do the same for the following 2 sets.
EXAMPLE: if the exercise is flat barbell bench of 3x3-5, and from prior experience, you roughly know that you can do 135 lbs for a few reps. So you might do:
Warmups: 45x8, 95x5, 115x3
Working sets: 135x5, 135x4, 135x3 (you stopped at 3 reps because you feel like you might miss the 4th rep)
How long should I rest between sets?
Adequate rest is important to perform each lift with the optimal energy level, but having too much of a gap is also not ideal
Use 1-3 minutes as a general rule, varying based on what RPE level you are lifiting at
Take as long as you need to recover for full strength, especially on power days where you seek to maximize the weight you lift
When should I switch to a different program?
If after 6-12 weeks, you are still seeing gains, keep doing the program. Don’t fix what ain’t broke!
If you have been stalling for 2-3 weeks, that does not mean it is time to switch the program yet.
First, assess what the stalling could be due to:
Nutrition: are you steadily gaining bodyweight? (i.e., 0.3-1 lbs bodyweight per week). If not, you could be not eating enough calories to fuel your recovery. Make sure you’re getting adequate protein and carbs to fuel your training.
Sleep: are you getting 8+ hours of quality sleep? For demanding training like PHUL, getting great sleep is critical.
Form: are you doing the exercise correctly? Could your form be better, which would help you increase weights? Post your video to Reddit r/boostcamp to get feedback from the community.
Stress: are you stressed from work or life? if so, that could affect your recovery. Your body does not differentiate between training stress and work stress, so make sure you find ways to alleviate it (meditation, walks, fam time).
Deload: have you taken a deload every ~4 weeks? If not, go 50% of your normal weights for a week and let your muscles, joints, and mind recovery so you can come back even stronger. 1 step back, 10 steps forward.
Lastly, are you just going too heavy? Don’t ego lift. Lighten the weight by 10% and push it slowly backup.
Once you’ve tried all of the above (and don’t try to fix everything at once; start with 1-2 of the biggest hurdles), then consider switching to a different program.
What program should I do after PHUL?
nSuns 5/3/1 - one of the most popular programs ever made, with 4-6 day program variations available on Boostcamp.
GZCLP - the modern alternative to 5x5 and Starting Strength. Made by world-class coach and Marine veterine Cody Lefever (GZCL).
Candito 6-week Strength Program - a fun 6 week strength peaking program by champion powerlifter Jonnie Candito.
Should I do cardio while doing PHUL?
Cardio is not prescribed in PHUL, so do at your discretion
Doing cardio is beneficial for increasing your work capacity (and general health), so doing some cardio on the 3 rest days a week is recommended if you are up for it.
Cardio should aid your training, not detract from it. This means that you shouldn’t go too hard or too often. Use your own judgement
What lifestyle considerations should I take into account?
Consume a meal with plenty of protein and carbohydrates a few hours prior to training, and ensure that you have a high-protein meal within hours after your PHUL workout to kickstart recovery and growth. Make sure you get sufficient sleep to help with muscle recovery, which is especially important if you want to see progress on an intense routine such as the PHUL workout split.