Peripheral Heart Action Training – Use PHA Circuits To Burn Fat


Circuits are often found to be great in burning fat and getting better conditioned. There is however, one problem with circuits that use the same muscles for the entire circuit. That problem is, of course, a burning lactic acid build up. This will often slow down the trainees and will make them fatigued. Look at the following circuit and you will get the idea:

  • Squats: 10 reps
  • Leg extensions: 10 reps
  • Lunges: 8 reps
  • Squat jumps: 10 reps

The above mentioned circuit might be a great idea to build some serious conditioning for the legs, but will be very hard to keep up for most trainees who are not very advanced.

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 do a circuit of 5-6 exercises and do it for 4-5 rounds. 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.

I feel that PHA is the best way to go for anyone starting with circuit style training. This way they can do a circuit and build their 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? I will suggest that when you begin, take a rest of about 30 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 exercises, which you will reduce as you get fitter.

Here are two sample workouts that you can try.

Sample Workout – Option #1:

  • Barbell squats: 10 reps
  • Pulldowns: 10 reps
  • Push ups: 10 reps
  • Romanian deadlift: 8-10 reps
  • Incline board leg raises: 10-12 reps

Sample Workout – Option #2 (dumbbells only):

  • Overhead press: 10 reps
  • Squat: 10 reps
  • Row: 8 reps (each hand)
  • Crunch: 10 reps
  • Swings: 12 reps
  • 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 initially and work your way up to 5 rounds. You can use other exercises of your choice instead of the exercises that I have mentioned, if you like. However, keep in mind to alternate between muscles of two different extremities to do a proper PHA circuit. Try PHA, you will love it and will surely benefit from it.

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About Author

Arnav Sarkar

Arnav is a strength and fitness instructor based in India. He has completed his gym instructor certification from the American Council on Exercise (ACE). See my profile page for more information!

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