A Revisit with the PHA System
By: Dennis B. Weis
One of the most EFFECTIVE methods of weight training I have ever come across
which creates a 'dual' force of SUPER HEALTH and STRENGTH is the PHA (Peripheral
Heart Action) system that former Mr. America and Mr. Universe, Bob Gajda
promoted back in the mid 1960's. It was during this time that Mr. Gajda was
winning all of the top contests in competitive bodybuilding. Thus, it was
not unusual to see many Iron Man magazine articles relating in detail about
this seemingly successful training method.
We are fast approaching 2009, and very little has been said in many years
about this wonderful method of training. WHY? Because the PHA system represented
a radical change from the established training methods of the day and seems
to have followed on through up to the present time. Basically, most of the
training methods that most bodybuilders employ revolve around the PUMP SYSTEM.
The idea here is to pump blood into the muscle, causing the muscle to congest.
Now as you begin to really force the repetitions out within a particular
set, you will experience a burning sensation as the LACTIC ACID begins to
build up. Finally, the muscle will begin to cramp and as a result of these
pumping requirements, the muscle will finally reach the state of total exhaustion.
It is here that the muscle needs quite a rest before you can go on and perform
another set for that bodypart. It is this certain PUMPED feeling that a bodybuilder
AIMS for in a set because it gives him the feeling that he is actually growing
from the set. Is this mentioned system of pumping the most healthful and
result producing for lasting bodybuilding gains? NO! Let's observe the steps
that take place during a set where pumping is employed. Too much concentrated
exercise directed toward a certain muscle at one time will cause retention
or back up of the veinal blood supply within the muscle being exercised.
Good examples of TOO much CONCENTRATED EXERCISE are principles like Super
Sets, Tri Sets, and Giant Sets, etc. Continuing on, we find that the retention
of the veinal blood supply will dam the return blood supply to the heart,
causing the heart to strain abnormally. Right away there is going to be a
high build up of toxins, and lactic acids from this type of training procedure.
Now to compound this problem, we find that most bodybuilders using the above
mentioned pump system will take longer rest periods between sets than necessary
and this in turn SLOWS down circulation of the blood supply even further.
At this point, I should mention that it is not a wise practice to hold the
breath during heavy exertions. This practice will cause a rise in the overall
blood pressure. Cardiac intake and output may be reduced by as much as 30
percent. So when performing heavy movements such as squats, deadlifts, etc.,
in which it is difficult to breathe, take in short, quick gasps of air between
reps to build up a reservoir of oxygen in the blood. This is called hyper-ventilating.
Breathing in just before the lift and begin breathing out approximately two-thirds
(or near the sticking point of the lift) of the way through the movement.
This practice will relieve intrathoracic or abdominal pressures. EXHALE fully
when you reach the completed position. With lighter exercise movements, breathe
rhythmically to the temp of the exercise. During a curl, for example inhale
deeply prior to the start of the curl and exhale completely as the bar is
lowered. This type of breathing technique sets the respiratory and cardiovascular
system for the effort. Also, this deep breathing helps to remove all the
impure air and toxins from the system.
It would seem that from what has been mentioned thus far that a bodybuilder
who is conscious of health and strength factors would immediately drop such
a system as the one described above (which slows circulation of the blood
and causes an abnormal rise of blood pressure) and adapt to a more healthful
way of training. If you are serious about training for maximum results in
health and strength, hee then is the way you should approach your training.
THE IDEA IN TRAINING IS TO KEEP THE BLOOD CIRCULATING IN AND OUT OF THE MUSCLE
AT ALL TIMES WHILE MAINTAINING A PULSE RATE OF 160-190 BEATS PER MINUTE.
The PHA system is excellent for this purpose. As well, it will add to your
training endeavors a good measure of strength and muscle size. Let's set
up a system of PHA training. A big mistake most bodybuilders make when setting
up a program is that they will think of the 11 major muscle groups as a whole
without regard to the other muscles which make up that particular muscle
group. For example, many bodybuilders will perform endless sets of squats
or leg presses for the thighs and consider that as being sufficient for working
the total thigh region. This is not the right attitude. You must take into
consideration the quadriceps, thigh biceps, adductors (inner thighs), and
the vastus internus (side of thigh). All of these areas will require some
of your attention when planning out your training program from that muscle
group. At this point, I'll break down the remaining muscle groups in the
body so that you will have an idea of what we are talking about.
Back: traps, upper lats, lower lats, and spinae erectors.
Chest: upper pecs, lower pecs, and rib cage.
Shoulders: anterior (front), lateral (side) posterior (rear) deltoids.
Biceps: upper (for peak), lower.
Forearms: flexors and extensors.
Triceps: outer head, inner head, long head.
Abdominals: rectus, lower and the obliques.
Neck: front and back.
>From this we conclude that approximately 28 exercises are necessary
to cover these various body-part areas. Pick out 28 movements that will benefit
these body-parts. Divide these exercises up into sequences. You will pick
approximately 6 exercises per sequence and 5 sequences. Now the six exercises
in a sequence are to be for different body-parts. For example, a sequence
might look like this:
1) Delts, 2) Thighs, 3) Waist, 4) Lats, 5) Biceps, 6) Calves.
Your second sequence might cover:
1) Delts, 2) Thighs (perform a different exercise than you did in the 1st
sequence), 3) Waist, 4) Chest, 5) Traps, 6) Calves.
The sets and reps requirements for the exercise in the sequences should
be as follows:
Beginner:2 sets of 10 reps
Novice: 3 sets of 10 reps
Intermediate: 5 sets of 10 reps
Advanced: 8-10 sets of 10 reps ABSOLUTE MAXIMUM!!!
Some points to remember about PHA training:
1) Using the illustration of the sequence above, perform one set of exercises
in No. 1, then go IMMEDIATELY to exercise No. 2 and so on till you have performed
one set of each movement in the particular cycle. Now go back to exercise
No. 1 and repeat the entire process for the number of sets required in the
sequence with regard to whether you are a beginner or advanced bodybuilder,
2) Do not proceed from one sequence till you have completed the required
sets and reps in the manner described.
3) Generally, it is best to emphasize the deltoids, waist and calves in
the various sequences. So here we begin with a delt movement first and about
the middle of the sequence, place a waist exercise and the latter or final
movement might be a calf exercise.
4) Many people will have quite a problem with labored breathing during these
almost continuous exercise patterns. Here a heavy movement should be followed
by a lighter movement. This will space your breathing out in a controlled
manner (without much panting). This way your poundage’s and style won't
suffer either. You'll still benefit from the continuous circulation movements.
If you still suffer from labored breathing, insert a lot of breathing pullover
type movements between some of the heavier exercises till it corrects itself.
5) Never work more than one exercise per body-part in the same sequence.
An example of this wrong method would be two biceps movements or even a biceps
and a direct triceps movement. This type of exercise selection would stop
our effort of the continuous circulation that we are striving for.
6) When you are into training the total body 4 to 6 days per week, be sure
that you place the intensity of the workout one day on the lower body while
working the upper body with less intensity (but still within the guidelines
of continuous circulation.) Reverse this method the following training day.
7) Arrange your exercise sequences so that you don't do all the POWER MOVEMENTS
(Bench press, squats, and deadlifts) on the same workout day.
Other items you should remember - Don't place two types of pressing movements
in the same sequence. In other words, if you are working the delts and chest
in the same sequence you might want to do some type of pressing for the chest
and stick to laterals for the delts. Then in your next sequence reverse the
procedure and perform pressing in its various forms for delts and work the
chest with some flyes or 'crusher' type movements. Most concentrated forearm
building exercises should be left till near the end of the UPPER BODY TRAINING
in the last two sequences. If your grip is fatigued, then you will lose maximum
efficiency, so remember this when setting up your program.
Warm-ups are IMPORTANT also. The first set of each exercise in a sequence
for the beginner should constitute the warm-up set. Use approximately 60
percent of your maximum for the required reps for this. Looking toward the
intermediate and advanced man as many as 2 to 3 sets MAY be necessary. For
this use 75 percent of maximum, but for only 1/2 the recommended reps before
going to maximum on the remaining two to seven sets as the case may be.
This system of PHA training is great because it promotes continuous circulation
of blood and all the while the new blood brings in oxygen and buffers (phosphates)
which help a great deal to neutralize the lactic acids and toxins. One thing
you won't experience with PHA training is that feeling of being PUMPED and
it is probably for this reason that the bodybuilder tends to avoid this most
beneficial way of training. REMEMBER to ATTACK each set as if it were the
last (after the warm-ups) one you were going to be performing for a particular
The idea behind this article was not to go into an explicitly calculated
PHA program, but to revisit this revolutionary training procedure as described
in detail by Iron Man magazine by its most successful example, Robert Steven