Physical Culture

Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training and Taking The Red Pill

“You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.” – Morpheus

Morpheus

In The Matrix, which everyone has seen (and if you haven’t, what the eff?), Neo was asked repeatedly to confront the possibility that every single one of his preconceived notions about his life needed to be questioned.  Beliefs he held to be axiomatic were in fact entirely mutable and malleable.  But it all began with a simple choice.  Red or Blue Pill.  Choose the Blue Pill, and fade blissfully back into ignorance, embracing the lie.  Choose the Red Pill, however, and you are faced with the burden of saying goodbye to your comfort zone, approaching reality like an infant,  a blank slate.

At the risk of being horribly melodramatic, my recent NPC Physique Contest confronted me with a similar Red vs. Blue Pill choice.  I was by far the least advanced person backstage.  I listened to the commentary podcast afterwards and I was described as “obviously just starting out.”  Here’s the thing…I have a fitness blog.  Scroll through the pages of this blog to see how long fitness has been a very large part of my life.  Just starting out??  Why am I not where I should be, given my devotion to training and nutrition?

Obviously at some point I went astray.  What got me from overweight to skinny guy with a decent six-pack might not be what will get me from skinny guy to NPC Physique Competitor.  That isn’t to say that what I’ve been doing is invalid entirely, but it seems to be no longer valid for me.  To quote Greg Everett, “It might be a rung on the ladder, it just might not be the rung that you’re on.”  So I’ve taken the Red Pill and decided to revisit EVERY single preconceived notion about my training and nutrition that I’ve clung stubbornly to.  I’ll dig into the Nutrition side of things in depth in a future post, but for now, lets talk training FREQUENCY and VOLUME.

Enter Dr. Layne Norton and his PHAT (Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training) system.

most-muscular-Layne-Norton

Follow this guy’s stuff. He’s a straight-shooter. He’ll lead you to gains.

I’ve been a fan of Layne Norton’s no-nonsense approach to fitness and nutrition for a long time, and I’ve been aware of his system for quite a while now, but as always I let those preconceived notions and arrogance get in the way.  This time around, I resolved to take the programming out of my own hands and just trust in the system.  Here is a copy and paste of the PHAT program word-for-word as presented in the PHAT Simply Shredded article.

Day 1: Upper Body Power Day

  • Pulling Power Movement: Bent over or Pendlay rows
    3 sets of 3-5 reps
  • Assistance Pulling movement: Weighted Pull ups
    2 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Auxiliary Pulling movement: Rack chins
    2 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Pressing Power Movement: Flat dumbbell presses
    3 sets of 3-5 reps
  • Assistance pressing movement: Weighted dips
    2 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Assistance pressing movement: Seated dumbbell shoulder presses
    3 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Auxiliary curling movement: Cambered bar curls
    3 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Auxiliary extension movement: Skull crushers
    3 sets of 6-10 reps

Day 2: Lower Body Power Day

  • Pressing Power Movement: Squats
    3 sets of 3-5 reps
  • Assistance pressing movement: Hack Squats
    2 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Assistance extension movement: Leg extensions
    2 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Assistance pulling movement: Stiff legged deadlifts
    3 sets of 5-8 reps
  • Assistance pulling/curling movement: Glute ham raises or lying leg curls
    2 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Auxiliary calf movement: Standing calf raise
    3 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Auxiliary calf movement: Seated calf raise
    2 sets of 6-10 reps

Day 3: Rest

Day 4: Back and Shoulders Hypertrophy Day

  • Pulling Power Exercise speed work: Bent over or Pendlay rows
    6 sets of 3 reps with 65-70% of normal 3-5 rep max
  • Hypertrophy pulling movement: Rack chins
    3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Hypertrophy pulling movement: Seated cable row
    3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Hypertrophy pulling movement: Dumbbell rows or shrugs bracing upper body against an incline bench
    2 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Hypertrophy pulling movement: Close grip pulldowns
    2 sets of 15-20 reps
  • Hypertrophy shoulder movement: Seated dumbbell presses
    3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Hypertrophy shoulder movement: Upright rows
    2 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Hypertrophy shoulder movement: Side lateral raises with dumbbells or cables
    3 sets of 12-20 reps

Day 5: Lower Body Hypertrophy Day

  • Lower Body Power Exercise speed work: Squats
    6 sets of 3 reps with 65-70% of normal 3-5 rep max
  • Hypertrophy pressing movement: Hack squats
    3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Hypertrophy pressing movement: Leg presses
    2 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Hypertrophy extension movement: Leg extensions
    3 sets of 15-20 reps
  • Hypertrophy pulling movement: Romanian deadlifts
    3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Hypertrophy curling movement: Lying leg curls
    2 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Hypertrophy curling movement: Seated leg curls
    2 sets of 15-20 reps
  • Hypertrophy calf movement: Donkey calf raises
    4 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Hypertrophy calf movement: Seated calf raises
    3 sets of 15-20 reps

Day 6: Chest and Arms Hypertrophy Day

  • Pressing Power Exercise speed work: Flat dumbbell presses
    6 sets of 3 reps with 65-70% of normal 3-5 rep max
  • Hypertrophy pressing movement: Incline dumbbell presses
    3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Hypertrophy pressing movement: Hammer strength chest press
    3 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Hypertrophy fly movement: Incline cable flyes
    2 sets of 15-20 reps
  • Hypertrophy curling exercise: Cambered bar preacher curls
    3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Hypertrophy curling exercise: Dumbbell concentration curls
    2 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Hypertrophy curling exercise: Spider curls bracing upper body against an incline bench
    2 sets of 15-20 reps
  • Hypertrophy extension exercise: Seated tricep extension with cambered bar
    3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Hypertrophy extension exercise: Cable pressdowns with rope attachment
    2 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Hypertrophy extension exercise: Cable kickbacks
    2 sets of 15-20 reps

Day 7: Rest

One thing you’ll pick up from this right away is that each muscle is worked twice per week.  For a while, I was a fairly zealous HIT Jedi, so this is a huge departure for me.  In addition, you can see there’s a ton of volume here, which I’ve flirted with in the past but never fully committed to.

The frequency appears scary at first.  Magazines and mainstream ideas of fitness dictate that you can only work a muscle once per week, or you’ll overtrain.  And yes, the first week or two the frequency does feel excessive.  But then your body adapts…and isn’t that the point?  We put ourselves through these challenges in the gym to tell our body it must adapt.  This is just one more adaption the body is capable of making.  This also allows us to stimulate muscle gain more often in a given week.

Also, for a while now I’ve slipped into what Martin Berkhan refers to as “F*ckarounditis.”  Under the idea that my body needed variety (which may well be true), I was guilty of not tracking performance markers and changing exercises too often.  The PHAT system has me doing big barbell lifts for heavy weight each week, and holds me accountable for steadily putting more weight on the bar.  The system is essentially Undulating Periodization, in which I work a different aspect of strength on each day.  Its amazing the synergy that exists between the Strength and the Hypertrophy days.  I can really tell that the work I do on the one day translates to helping me push further on the other day.  I’ve been on this program for roughly a month, but I honestly feel as though I’m already improving.  I can’t wait to see where I am in three months, six months, and beyond.

Transformation

Here’s a little pictorial representation of my fitness journey.  Sadly my ONLY overweight picture is one of me messing around wearing a luchador mask…so therefore I’m doomed to doing all future progress photos wearing a damned mask.  The good news is luchador masks are awesome.  Anyway, the top left picture is from way back circa 2008.  However, the top right pic is only from roughly 4 months ago.  I think I’ve come a long way in that short time!  I feel as though taking this Red Pill has given me the opportunity to experience a second bout of “newbie gains.”  We shall have to see…

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