Peripheral heart action, Infinite_labs
Peripheral heart action, Infinite_labs

Peripheral Heart Action Training: Burn Fat and Keep the Muscle

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Peripheral Heart Action (PHA) Training: The Key to Burning Fat and Preserving Muscle

By:Noah Bryant

Reprinted from Muscle Media Magazine

Losing fat and increasing overall fitness are among the most common reasons people begin an exercise regimen. These goals sound easy enough to accomplish, but without hard work and a smart plan, that stubborn fat is not going to come off! There are lots of methods that can be used to accomplish these goals. But time is of the essence, so what’s the best and fastest way? Arguably, the most efficient way to burn fat and increase overall fitness (while maintaining muscle mass) is called Peripheral Heart Action (PHA) training. Like many training methods, PHA is a simple concept with a complicated sounding name. Think “hardcore” circuit training.

What is PHA?

The basic concept of PHA training is to alternate between exercises of the lower and upper body in a large, multiple exercise sequence. This forces the heart to work hard by having to “shunt” blood up and down the body to the different muscles you are working. It also allows the trainee to more easily avoid muscle fatigue.

The problem with a lot of circuit training workouts is the excess of lactic acid build up. The muscles fatigue before you get a chance to tax the cardiovascular system. So, while these circuits may increase local muscular endurance they lack the ability to increase overall conditioning and fitness. With PHA training this phenomenon is avoided altogether. Because you are alternating between different muscle groups, your muscles are getting sufficient rest between exercises. This allows you to train harder and longer! PHA training is not for the faint of heart or the ill conditioned, this is a very taxing method of training and should only be performed by individuals who are already considerably fit.

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With PHA training the goal is to keep your heart rate elevated at 80% of your max heart rate. The easiest way to do this is to wear a heart rate monitor and adjust your rest periods depending upon your heart rate.

With PHA training the goal is to keep your heart rate elevated at 80% of your max heart rate. The easiest way to do this is to wear a heart rate monitor and adjust your rest periods depending upon your heart rate. If you go above 80%, slow it down. If you exceed 80%, speed it up! If you don’t have access to a heart rate monitor, don’t worry! Use your body and its performance as your guide. Rest just as long as needed to complete the next lift without missing a rep. If you think there is no way you can perform a set, rest 30 seconds and then go for it. This is not an exact method, but it will get the job done.

Basic Guidelines For PHA Training

  • Alternate between upper body and lower body exercises. (ex. shoulder press followed by squats)
  • To get the most out of PHA training, choose compound, free weight exercises (ex. multi-joint movements like the bench press, squats, dips, deadlifts, pullups, etc.)
  • Start with 5 exercises per sequence; 2 upper body exercises, 2 lower body exercises, and a core exercise.
  • Perform the sequence 3-4 times before moving to the next sequence.
  • Start with 3-4 sequences per workout.
  • Do not rest between exercises!
  • Keep the rest to a minimum between sequences.
  • Monitor your heart rate and adjust your intensity depending upon your heart rate. You want to keep your heart rate at 80% of max.


Sample PHA Workout

Sequence 1

  • Overhead Press 10-12 reps
  • Front Squat 10-12 reps
  • Pullups 6-10 reps
  • GHR 5-10 reps
  • Russian Twists 10-20 reps

As you can see, we have two upper body exercises, two lower body exercises and one core movement. Do this sequence straight through without taking a rest between exercises. Depending on your heart rate, take little to no rest before doing this sequence again. Repeat this sequence a total of 3 times before moving on to sequence 2.

Sequence 2

  • Bench Press 10-12 reps
  • Straight Leg Deadlift 10-12 reps
  • Barbell Bicep Curl 12-15 reps
  • Split Squat 10-12 reps
  • Ab Wheel 6-10 reps

Perform sequence 2 three times while using your heart rate to dictate rest times. Remember, keep your heart rate at 80% of max. Once you’ve finished with this sequence, proceed to sequence 3.

Sequence 3

  • Pendlay Row 6-10 reps
  • Reverse Hyper 10-12 reps
  • Skull Crusher 10-15 reps
  • Step-Ups 10-12 reps
  • Crunches 20-40 reps

Repeat sequence 3 twice more for a total of 3 times through.

This might look like an easy workout, but believe me, it is brutal!

PHA training is one of the best ways to increase overall fitness, burn fat, and preserve muscle at the same time. It is also great for those who are short on time; you can easily do this workout during your lunch break!

Another benefit of PHA training is that you don’t need any special equipment. This method can be employed at nearly any gym in America. You just need a plan and a willingness to work hard.

Lombardi, G. (n.d.). Peripheral Heart Action Training. STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING JOURNAL Strength and Conditioning, 19-19.

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