PHA For Fat Loss - Peripheral Heart Action Training

Arnav Sarkar
Written By: Arnav Sarkar
July 4th, 2012
Updated: June 13th, 2020
Categories: Articles Fat Loss
104.3K Reads
Peripheral Heart Action training helps to turn your fat burning circuits into "super circuits" by reducing lactic acid build up and improving performance.

Fat Loss Circuit WorkoutIf the mention of the word fat loss training brings to your mind the word “circuit training”, then you are not alone. Countless magazines, best selling books, and websites have clearly stated that doing circuits is the ultimate way to burn fat. While I would like to argue that circuits are NOT the only way to lose fat, you can still lose fat with regular strength training and some sprinting.

The fact is that circuits do surely burn a lot calories, and compared to sitting on the bike at the gym, I would prefer that you do some circuits involving compound exercises instead. Now before you rush to your gym or workout space at home to do a circuit, hold on! All circuits are not made same, and some of them can actually slow down your rate of progress.

The problem lies in what exercises and the sequence you use in the workout. I am referring to circuits that use the same muscle group for all the exercises in the circuit, and the resultant lactic acid build up. For example, if your circuit looks like the following one, then you will build up too much lactic acid in the legs:

Now while the above circuit might appeal to the hardcore fanatics, in reality what will happen is that if you are using some decent weights, then midway through the circuit you will end up getting too tired to continue and the following rounds will be too tough to execute. Or you will have to use some really light weights. And please understand that even though circuits do not require you to lift your max weights, lifting very light weights will not do much to stoke your metabolism.

Ideally you need to lift about 50-70% of your one rep max (1RM) to really increase your calorie burn. So while a circuit like the one above could be a good finisher to your workout, it will not be ideal if you want it to be your entire 20-45 minute workout.

Peripheral Heart Action Training

Enter Peripheral Heart Action or PHA training. Developed by Dr. Arthur Steinhaus, and brought to the forefront of the muscle world by 1960's legendary bodybuilder Bob Gajda (who holds Mr. America and Mr. Universe titles), this style of training works muscle groups of different extremities to avoid too much lactic acid build up while still allowing you to train hard. In the PHA style training, you will perform a circuit of 5-6 exercises for about 4-5 rounds.

However, unlike regular circuits, in PHA training you will alternate between muscles of extremities. For example, you can start with an upper body exercise like the overhead press and follow that with an exercise for the lower body like the squat, and then go back again to an upper body exercise like the push ups, etc. This way your muscles will get some rest before another related muscle group is worked again.

Intense Workout

To be honest, I feel that PHA is the best way to go for anyone starting with circuit style training. With PHA you can perform a circuit and build your fitness and lose fat, without having to encounter too much muscular fatigue in one area, which they might not be able to handle in the initial stages. Even for advanced trainees, this style of training can work wonders.

So what about the rest periods? My suggestion is that when you begin, take a rest of about 30-45 seconds between exercises and 1-2 minutes between each PHA circuit. With time, work on cutting down the rest between exercises to zero.

When you can do that, you will need to increase the weight that you use or increase the number of reps for the bodyweight exercises. This will again require you to take a small break between each exercise, which you will reduce as you get fitter.

Here are two sample workouts that you can try.

Sample Workout - Option #1:

Sample Workout - Option #2 (dumbbells only):

Repeat the entire PHA circuit 5 times.

If you find that initially you cannot do the full 5 rounds, then you can start with 3 rounds and work your way up to 5 rounds. If you want you can use other exercises of your choice instead of the exercises that I have mentioned. However, do keep in mind to alternate between muscles of two different extremities to do a proper PHA circuit. Try PHA, you will love it!

Posted on: Sat, 07/19/2014 - 20:53

Me and my brother use preworkout before every workout. And then take whey protein after and only do ISO weight training. Would a creatine post workout supplement work better for circuit style training or should we stick to whey
proteins when doing circuits?

Posted on: Tue, 03/04/2014 - 19:18

What about substituting a cardio sprint, say 300m on the rower or treadmill, or maybe a plyometric exercise like box jumps for one of the weights exercises?

Posted on: Mon, 05/27/2013 - 10:15

4 mins on treadmill, start att 7mph, rise by 0.5mph every 30 secs

pull ups
DB press
Clean 7 jerk

Cycle - 3 mins; 15 sec work, 15 sec slow

lat pull down
clap press up
jumping knee raises

concept II - 3x60 sec work, 30 sec rest (aim for 300m per rep)

Seated row (although i do this with bodyweight - inverted on a machine bar with feet on a stool)
jumping lunges

20 min slow up hill walk

Matt Greenhalgh
Posted on: Thu, 01/03/2013 - 15:48

Hi, i want to incorperate this into my workout routine but do you suggest i work out with just the PHA workout circuits or should i do them twice a week and target a different muscle group each day?... in other words shall i just focus on doing this, as i want to loose some weight but build muscle? Cheers

Posted on: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 22:48

rest days and targeting a whole select muscle group always throws me off with total body workouts. as in for option 1, we've basically just got squats going on to target legs (and dead lifts kind of). so for the next day would i swap out that leg exercise for another? like calf raises and then the next swap out for lunges perhaps? i want my whole leg to get just as much attention that it would be getting if i were to do isolation training (ie, leg day, chest day, etc) but i want to give it enough time to rest the worked part as well. is this what i would need to do?

Arnav Sarkar
Posted on: Sat, 07/07/2012 - 13:13

Hi George. Benefits of isolation training in my opinion are highly exaggerated! I feel that most people, unless they are on the verge of competing onstage should stick to whole body training workouts or an upper-lower or push-pull split. While in theory trying to hit a muscle group from all angles by isolation training should give better results, what happens in reality is that for most natural trainees they cannot go as heavy with too many exercises done for a muscle group. On the other hand doing only 1-2 exercises for a bodypart allows a trainee to go much heavier, and get a far better anabolic response from the workout. And since only 1-2 exercises are done for the bodypart, you can train each muscle group more frequently, which equals to greater and more frequent growth or fat loss stimulus in the body.

Now I know that many professional bodybuilders are known to train a muscle group only once a week with 5-6 exercises, but it must be kept in mind that these guys follow such programs after sticking to basic workout routines for many years, and in some cases even decades before they try the once a week pro split. Hope that helps.

Posted on: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 19:38

I'm adding a PHA circuit to my 4 day split. My weekly workout now looks like this:

Monday: Cardio & Abs
Tuesday: Delts & Traps
Wednesday: Cardio & Abs
Thursday: Chest
Friday: PHA Circuit
Saturday: Triceps & Biceps
Sunday: Back & Legs

My PHA Circuit

1) Dumbbell Overhead Press
2) Dumbbell Squats
3) Dumbbell Row
4) Push Ups
5) Cable Crunches

Great Article!!!

Arnav Sarkar
Posted on: Sat, 07/07/2012 - 12:59

Hi John. Thanks, and glad to know that you liked the article.