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

| October 15, 2014 by Truth Seeker |

Over the last year, Dr. Norton’s lifting routine P.H.A.T. (Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training) has gained a tremendous popularity in the natural lifting community. However, can a natural actually handle the amount of work that comes with a similar routine?

Image via: http://naturalbodybuildingradio.com/

Image via: http://naturalbodybuildingradio.com Dr. Layne Norton – the creator of P.H.A.T.

Combining Powerlifting and Bodybuilding

Since Dr. Layne Norton is a powerlifter/bodybuilder, his routine reflects the goals of both activities – big muscles and bent barbells. 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, the first day you do heavy power exercises whereas on the second day you do “hypertrophy” stuff with light weights.

While this plan 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. Variety is good, I guess, but the high number of exercises makes it hard to track progress. There are simply too many variables. It’s better to do a handful of exercises than to satisfy the bodybuilder in you at all costs. Quality over quantity.

Too Much Volume and Insane Frequency

I tried to calculate the sets per week in Norton’s P.H.A.T., but the calculator returned an error.

Joking aside, P.H.A.T. consists of 5 days, and each of them looks too much even for Ronnie Coleman.

When you’re natural, your recovery is not that fast. How are you supposed to recuperate 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.

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 are not always cheap. Moreover, lifting 5 days a week equals close to 8 hours of gym time. If you add the commute, 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?

High volume is not a problem, super high volume is. It eats your time, body and nervous system.

You can certainly hit each body part two times a week but in a more sensible fashion. For example, you can easily train your legs two times a week if each time you focus on a different part. The first day you can do quad dominant drills (e.g., squats and leg presses) while dedicating the next day to hamstring and glute exercises such as leg curls, Romanian deadlifts, Bulgarian split squats…etc. That way you are still training your lower body twice a week but without stressing the joints, the insertions and the muscles from the same angles.

Not recommended for beginners

P.H.A.T. is a routine that 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 every exercise 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?

Sure. You can remove some exercises and replace others 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

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

Squats – 8 sets of 3 reps with 65-70% of your 3-5 rep max
and/or (depending on recovery)
Leg presses – 2 sets of 12-15 reps

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

Day 5,6,7 – Rest

NOTE: The above program does not claim to be anything special. It’s just an example how you can modify P.H.A.T. There are many other options that can be much more effective for you

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8 comments

  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.

  3. nattynutter

    Yeah, natty commute times and responsibilities suck I suppose :).

    Though seriously the workouts take 45 – 60 minutes and the only demanding one is the leg hypertrophy day.

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