Layne Norton’s P.H.A.T. Routine – Is It Good For True Natties? Can you handle such high volume naturally?

Over the last year or so the routine composed by Dr. Layne Norton under the name of P.H.A.T. (Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training) have gained tremendous popularity among the natural bodybuilders willing to add slabs of muscle mass to their frames naturally. What concerns us, however, is whether similar routine can actually be handled by someone who is not using steroids.

Image via:

Image via: {Dr. Layne Norton – the creator of P.H.A.T.}

Combining Powerlifting and Bodybuilding

Since Dr. Layne Norton is a powerlifter/bodybuilder it makes sense that his routine will reflect the goals of both sides – the one of the sexy muscle and the one of the bent barbell. In order to achieve the perfect hybrid routine Norton’s P.H.A.T. combines power days with hypertrophy days. The main structure looks like this:

Day 1: Upper Body Power
Day 2: Lower Body Power
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Back and Shoulders Hypertrophy
Day 5: Lower Body Hypertrophy
Day 6: Chest and Arms Hypertrophy
Day 7: Rest

In a nutshell you are training your upper and lower body one time with heavy sets and another day of the week you do ‘hypertrophy’ stuff with light weights. While it sounds pretty cool on paper the routine has major drawbacks for true natural bodybuilders.

Too Many Exercises

Norton’s P.H.A.T. consists of over 30 exercises. While we are not against variety when you have so many exercise in your routine tracking progress becomes extremely hard. There are just too many variables. It’s like having 30 dogs in one small house and taking care of them all by yourself (remember you’re natural!). At one point it becomes a pain to effectively look after all of them. On the other hand if you have just a few dogs, you can focus on their progress much more effectively.

It’s better to do a handful of exercises and make sure that you actually progress instead of satisfying the ego needs of the bodybuilder in you. A person that went from 1 pull-up to 20 pull-ups would see more progress and growth as a natural than somebody who does 5 or more exercises for the back.

Too Much Volume and Insane Frequency

We were just calculating how many sets you’re doing per week on Norton’s P.H.A.T. routine, but the calculator was unable to return such massive number. Joking aside, P.H.A.T. consists of 5 days a week training and each day looks like something even Ronnie Coleman would consider ‘too much’.

When you’re natural, your recovery is not that fast. How are you supposed to recover from your heavy power day when just a few days later you are doing 7 exercises for legs and a total of 25 sets? Unless you are truly dedicated to training and living a comfortable lifestyle you won’t be able to handle that torture for more than a few weeks.

Related article: Creating A Bodybuilding Split For Natural Bodybuilders

Too Expensive

Norton’s P.H.A.T. routine wants you to get sweaty in the gym five days a week and this ‘pleasure’ costs money and time. Gym memberships ain’t that cheap and being in the gym for over an hour 5 days a week equals close to 10 hours of gym time a week. If you add the travel time, showering and eating, it adds up to a lot. For some that may be fine, but not everybody can dedicate so much time to the pursuit of muscle.

Why isn’t high volume good for naturals?

Nobody is trying to say that high volume isn’t good for naturals. What isn’t good for naturals is super high volume that you cannot efficiently recover from in the given time. There is no doubt that after a a month or two on that program most naturals will feel mentally drained from training five days a week and doing over 20 sets each day.

You can certainly train each body part two times a week but in a more sensible fashion. For example, you can be training your legs two times a week, if each time you focus on a different part. The first day you do quad dominant drills such as squats and leg presses while on the next day you do hamstring and glute dominant exercises such as leg curls, Romanian deadlifts, Bulgarian split squats…etc. That way you are still training your lower body but you don’t over-stress the same joints, insertions and muscles as if you were to repeat the same movements. Of course, this is just one example. There are many ways to achieve results.

Not recommended for beginners

There is no doubt that P.H.A.T. is a routine beginners should stay away from. If you are just starting out, you first need to learn all basic movements instead of getting lost in the gym in an attempt to do all the exercises listed in the original P.H.A.T. program. If you try to swim in the deep, you will only make it harder for yourself to learn.

Can I use P.H.A.T.’s principles to make my own routine?

Of course, you can. You can remove some of the exercises and switch others with those which you prefer more while keeping the principles the same – power day and hypertrophy days. A simplistic P.H.A.T. routine could look like that:

Day 1: Lower body power day {start the week with the hardest muscle group to train}

Squat – 3 sets of 3-5 reps;
Leg press – 3 sets of 6-10 reps;
Still Leg Deadlifts – 3 sets of 6-10 reps;

Day 2: Upper body power day + Hypertrophy work

Bench press – 3 sets of 3-5 reps; {power movement}
Dips – 3 sets of 10-12; {hypertrophy movement}
Barbell row – 3 sets of 5 reps; {power movement}
Pull-ups – 3 sets of 8-10; {hypertrophy movement}

Day 3: Rest

Day 4: Lower body hypertrophy day + ARMS {optional}

Squats – 6 sets of 3 reps with 65-70% of normal 3-5 rep max;
Leg presses – 2 sets of 12-15 reps;

If you are built for the squat (long torso, short legs), you will be able to handle both, but if your back gets too tired from your first day of squatting, you can skip squats all together and stick to leg presses on your hypertrophy day. If you are only doing leg presses increase the sets to 4.

Dumbbell curls – 4 sets of 10-12;
Triceps exercise of choice – 4 sets of 10-12;

Day 5,6,7 – Rest;

If you are advanced, you can remove the arm work on the leg day and do a separate arm and chest hypertrophy day as required by the original routine.

NOTE: The above routine does not claim to be anything special. It’s just an example of how you can modify P.H.A.T. There are many other options which can be much more effective for you. does not believe in miracle routines. After you learn the basic exercises and achieve some level of strength you will do best, if you elaborate your own routine
based on your goals and mechanics.


  1. Andreew

    As the post says above, suck it up and do PHAT. If your a beginner don’t bother. If your recovery isn’t on point, lower the volume/intensity/freq. Natties can do it, I’m proof it works. Stop being brain washed into thinking hard work doesn’t pay off. Learn periodization, work ethic, and read, also quit being a pussy.

  2. LJP

    Interesting point of view.. I’m a female, formerly nationally ranked NPC and I used PHAT to put on some nice mass in two months – that’s between shows – completely natural. I went from 97lbs out of a show to 102lbs next show… I think, as you mentioned, PHAT is not for beginners and therefore a dedicated athlete will place emphasis on getting to the gym, and spending the time and money on training… as well as know how to adapt the schedule/frequency/intensity of the program for their own body, needs and goals while still maintaining the principle and benefit of PHAT training.

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      I stopped reading when you said you are a female who put “nice mass” in two months. No one can do that naturally.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *