By Josh Bryant, MFS, CSCS, PES ProSource
Today, we're going back to the Land of the Tried and True, a time before sales-oriented hype and training flavors of the month. We're going to talk Peripheral Heart Action Training, a favorite cutting strategy of bodybuilders in the 1960s. We won't be talking pink dumbbells or the circuit training at your local Curves. In fact, the famous English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, would most likely describe PHA training as, "nasty, brutish and short."
Sitting down is easier than standing up, that's why most circuit training stations consist of machines where you sit. Believe me; this is not about results, safety or efficiency. Simply, this is the path of the least resistance, Unfortunately, it's also the path of the least results!
Burning calories may not be your only goal. But I don't think anyone would argue against the notion that a lot more calories are burned using compound movements with free weights while standing up to allow for free movement and force produced across multiple joints, requiring stability. This is harder and has a much higher metabolic cost during your workout and post-workout.
Let's take a look at a system that does what circuit training hopes to do when it grows up.
This system of bodybuilding circuit training was popularized by Bob Gajda, a Mr. Universe and Mr. America winner in the 1960s. The idea is to maximize circulation of blood through the body during the entire workout, which is done by attacking the smaller muscles around the heart first, then moving outward. This system is vigorous and requires continued, intense exercise for a prolonged period of time without any rest. Because of this, the poorly conditioned bodybuilder and the faint of heart will be sorely challenged by this training system.
The idea is to use primarily compound movements for efficiency. The goal is to "shunt" blood up and down the body; this is extremely taxing on the cardiovascular system, but the obvious benefits are a reduction in body fat and, of course, improved metabolic rate.
Because each sequential body part covered in each sequence is getting adequate rest between each circuit, strength will be conserved allowing close to maximal strength to be exhibited on the sequential bout. Even though your heart will likely beat at over 150 beats per minute throughout the entire workout, this does not give you a license to lower weights; if you have the intestinal fortitude, you should still be able to lift heavy on the rested body part.
Here is a PHA Circuit:
Overhead press: 8-10 reps
Leg raises: 10-15 reps
Pull-ups: 8-10 reps
Squats: 10-12 reps
Repeat this sequence three times.
Weighted dips: 8-10 reps
Bent over rows: 8-10 reps
Zercher squats: 6-8 reps
French press: 10-12 reps
Reverse curls: 10-12 reps
Repeat this sequence three times.
*Perform the exercises in sequence one for the required number of reps sequentially, and do not stop! Repeat the sequence twice more then move on to sequence two, performing it the same way you performed sequence one. Do not rest during a sequence and do not rest between sequences unless absolutely necessary! After all, long breaks defeats the purpose. Maintain your heart rate at 80 percent of your heart rate max; wear a monitor so you can adjust the pace accordingly. If you are in shape, you will not have to trade heavy weight for a slower pace or longer rest.
Your body is pretty smart, if you train the same way over and over your body will adapt pretty quickly.
With PHA training, to make progress, you have to continually overload. A variety of parameters can be manipulated to induce overload: increase the numbers of reps you have done with the same weight previously, increase the number of sequences, add weight on the bar, add chains, and increase frequency. The possibilities are endless.
You will need to use a variety of rep ranges and training weight intensities.
PHA training uses compound core exercises, so unlike machine circuit training, strength is your base regardless of endeavor, it is not the sacrificial lamb!
Free weight compound exercises are the most energy-demanding movements in the weight room.
this product! These are simply multi-joint movements that necessitate several different muscle groups to work together to the lift the weight; examples are pull-ups, overhead press, dips, squats, deadlifts and bench presses.
These movements burn more fuel because they involve more muscles and allow heavier weights to be used. Try a maximum intensity set of 20 deep squats, then do the same intensity with 20 cable bicep curls; it should be obvious that you expend a lot more energy with the squats.
Compound movements also help you produce more of the good hormones like testosterone and GH naturally, which facilitate muscle growth and fat loss. Whether bulking up or cutting down, compound movements are the "base" of your training.
Compound movements need to be the mainstay of PHA training. As long as you are in good shape, you still have to train heavy!
PHA training has fallen out of favor with many mainstream fitness authorities and celebrity personal trainers. Why? Because client retention would be miniscule for "general fitness" trainees with such a demanding methodology.
Before illegal anabolic drugs hijacked many sound training principles and systems, PHA training helped construct many championship-caliber, lean and muscular physiques. If you are looking for something new, want a challenge, and are pressed for time, give PHA training a shot.