PHUL vs PPL [Definitive Head-to-Head Comparison]

Both the PHUL and PPL workout programs can be extremely effective. However, they have different goals and are designed for different types of lifters. The PHUL program is a great way to build mass and strength simultaneously. This makes it ideal for lifters that are graduating from a beginner program to their first intermediate lifting program. The PPL program is an intense lifting plan that is best for advanced lifters looking to push muscle mass or strength gains to their limit. PPL requires a high degree of experience and dedication, but it gets great results.


What is the PHUL Workout Program?

The acronym PHUL stands for “Power/Hypertrophy Upper/Lower.” Still stumped? To make things simpler, PHUL is a type of Upper Body/Lower Body split program. Half the workouts in this program will be dedicated to upper body exercises while the other half will be lower body workouts. Typically, a PHUL program contains 4 weekly workouts. 2 are upper body workouts and 2 are lower body workouts.

  • PHUL consists of 4 weekly workouts.
  • 2 workouts will focus on the upper body.
  • 2 workouts will focus on the lower body.
  • 1 upper body workout and 1 lower body workout will be designed to increase strength.
  • The remaining 1 upper body and 1 lower body workout will be designed to increase muscle mass.

Here’s where the Power/Hypertrophy part comes in. The first 2 workouts of the week (1 upper and 1 lower) will be designed to increase power (muscular strength). This involves performing exercises at heavy weight for 3–5 reps. The final 2 workouts will be designed for hypertrophy (muscle size and tone). To promote this muscle growth, you will perform 8–12 reps of each exercise.

How Many Exercises are in a PHUL Workout?

Most PHUL workouts consist of 5–7 individual exercises. This rule is applicable to both upper body and lower body workouts. While some exercises will be compound movements, others will be accessory lifts.

  • 5–7 exercises per workout.
  • PHUL workouts take 90–110 minutes to complete

Expect a PHUL workout to take at least 90 minutes to complete. The PHUL plan has fewer weekly workouts than PPL, but each workout is longer. You may spend almost 2 hours in the gym each day on a PHUL program.

What is the Difference Between a Power Workout and a Hypertrophy Workout in PHUL?

A “Power” day on a PHUL plan consists of performing 2–4 sets of each workout. Most workouts, especially big “compound lifts,” like squats are performed for only 3–5 reps. This set and rep range allows you to move more weight, which is proven to be the most effective way to build strength.

  • Power workouts require you to complete 2–4 sets of each exercise for 3–5 reps.
  • Low sets and reps allows you to move heavier weight and build strength efficiently.
  • Hypertrophy workouts ask you to complete 3–4 sets of 8–12 reps.
  • Higher numbers of reps per-set encourage muscle mass increases.

A “Hypertrophy” workout on PHUL generally requires you to perform 3–4 sets of each exercise. In addition, each exercise is typically performed for 8–12 reps. Rather than optimizing strength gains, this type of workout drives the most muscle mass increases and helps tone your muscles. By combining both strength and mass workouts, PHUL aims to be the best of both worlds.

What is the PPL Workout?

PPL stands for “Push/Pull/Legs.” Each workout in the plan corresponds to one of these words. A Push workout targets the “pushing” muscles in your upper body by focusing on exercises that use the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Expect to do bench press, overhead press, and tricep extensions on Push days.

  • PPL stands for Push/Pull/Legs
  • A Push workout focuses on the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
  • Pull workouts target the back and biceps.
  • Leg workouts solely focus on lower body lifts.

Pull workouts work your back and biceps with pulling exercises. You’ll do pull-ups, rows, and bicep curls on a Pull day. Finally, leg workouts strictly focus on lower body exercises. Squats, deadlifts, and calf raises will be a part of leg days.

How Many Workouts Do You Do Each Week on PPL?

A typical PPL program requires you to perform 6 weekly workouts. This allows you to perform 2 of each workout type (Push, Pull, Legs). Working each muscle twice per week for a total of 10–15 sets is optimal for building mass or strength.

  • Most PPL plans require you to get in the gym 6 times per week.
  • You will perform 2 push workouts, 2 pull workouts, and 2 leg workouts each week.
  • A typical plan requires you to work out 6 days in a row, followed by 1 rest day. You will do Push, Pull, Legs, Push, Pull, Legs, and then rest on day 7.

On most PPL plans you will do Push, Pull, and Legs on subsequent days, repeat, then take 1 rest day. It’s a tough program that will push you to your limit.

How Many Exercises are in a PPL Workout?

Because there are typically only 4–5 exercises in each PPL workout, each workout routine will generally clock in at 90 minutes or shorter. This means you’ll spend less time in the gym for each workout than if you are on a PHUL plan.

Which is Better: PHUL or PPL?

Now that we know exactly what’s expected on both of these workout plans, we can examine them in-depth. What workout program will build bigger muscles? Which is better for strength? What is best for your skill level? We’ll answer all this and more.

Note: For the purposes of this comparison we will be comparing a 4-workout PHUL vs. a 6-workout PPL plan.

Best for Mass

If you want to max out your mass gains, PPL is the workout routine for you. By incorporating 2 weekly training sessions for each muscle group, you can target each muscle with 10–15 weekly sets. This is proven to put you in the range for muscle hypertrophy. Just remember to perform 3–5 sets of each exercise for 8–12 reps. You’ll put on mass more effectively with PPL than possibly any other workout plan.

  • PPL has a higher potential for building mass than PHUL.
  • You can work each muscle twice per week for the optimal number of sets by following a PPL plan.
  • Maximize PPL for mass by performing each exercise for 3–5 sets of 8–12 reps.
  • PHUL doesn’t excel in the mass department because half the workouts are designed to build strength, not muscle size.

In comparison, the PHUL doesn’t stack up against PPL when it comes to building muscle mass. The reason is that half your workouts are geared for power. With only 2 mass-focused workouts per week, you simply won’t give your muscles enough high-rep work to maximize your potential for muscular growth. You’ll still pack on muscle mass with PHUL, just not as effective as you will by following a PPL plan.

Winner: PPL

Best for Power

If PPL is the best for gaining muscle mass then PHUL has to be better for strength training, right? Not so fast. By switching your PPL program so that you perform 3–5 sets of 3–5 reps for each exercise, you turn the PPL plan into a strength-building powerhouse.

  • PPL plans can be better optimized for strength than PHUL.
  • Perform 3–5 sets of 3–5 reps of each exercise to turn PPL into a powerlifting plan.
  • PHUL focuses only half the workouts on strength, making it less effective than a PPL program designed for strength building.

The PPL plan is extremely flexible. By reducing sets and reps, you can optimize it to increase power, dramatically increasing your max deadlift, bench, and squat. The PHUL plan, on the other hand, is a middle road that will build some strength, but it doesn’t allow you to concentrate solely on this aspect of your fitness.

Winner: PPL

Best for Your Skill Level

If the PPL is better for both strength and mass training than PHUL, you may be wondering why anyone would pick PHUL. Here’s one of the best reasons—experience level. If you are a beginner lifter who’s mastered a total-body workout program, such as Starting Strength or Stronglifts, jumping to a PPL is a bit like going from running a mile to running a marathon.

  • PPL is a very advanced and taxing program for the experienced lifter only.
  • PHUL is the ideal intermediate program between total-body workouts and split programs.
  • Avoid jumping from a Starting Strength program straight to PPL.
  • If you’ve just finished a beginner weightlifting program, PHUL is the best choice.
  • PHUL will train you for the leap to PPL.

The PHUL provides what we believe is the ideal stepping stone between beginner weightlifting plans and advanced lifting programs. Beginner plans are focused on building the strength you need to effectively begin hypertrophy training. Odds are, you haven’t hit your strength ceiling yet. PHUL acts as a bridge, building strength and muscle mass, increasing workout frequency, and preparing you for an advanced program like PPL.

Winner: PHUL for intermediate lifters, PPL only for advanced lifters.

Best for Losing Weight

If you want to burn weight in the gym, frequency, as well as increased sets and reps, are the key. This makes PPL the winner in the weight loss category. Simply put, you’re more likely to burn more calories following a PPL plan that gets you in the gym 6 times per week than you will following a PHUL plan with only 4 workouts.

  • The PPL program helps you lose more weight than PHUL.
  • 6 weekly PPL workouts contributes to more total calories burned than 4 weekly PHUL workouts.
  • Focusing a PPL workout on hypertrophy maximizes calories burned.
  • “Power” workouts on a PHUL plan burn fewer calories than hypertrophy workouts.

More workouts per week aren’t the only reason PPL is better than PHUL for fat-burning. By maximizing a PPL program for hypertrophy, you’ll burn more calories. Performing exercises at high reps burns additional calories. You’ll burn fewer calories on PHUL Power days than Hypertrophy days. So, PHUL workouts aren’t quite as likely to help you lose weight.

Winner: PPL

Best for Building a Balanced Physique

If you want to focus on lagging muscles, PPL is perhaps the best workout routine you can follow. This is especially true of upper body muscles. Since you have 4 upper-body workouts per week to target individual muscles on a PPL plan, you can really dial in on weak points. Are your shoulders the first to fatigue on push days? Simply incorporate a few more shoulder exercises to correct this.

  • PPL programs allow you to target lagging muscles.
  • Both PPL and PHUL are good for building lower body strength and musculature.
  • PHUL plans struggle to focus on specific upper body muscles.

Some lifters find the upper body workouts on a PHUL program are a little crowded. Since you’re supposed to tackle both push and pull muscles in each upper body workout, it can be hard to do more than one exercise for each specific muscle. This can make it difficult to home in on a particular muscle that needs more development.

Winner: PPL

Best for Your Schedule

The PHUL program is far more schedule-friendly than a PPL. Let’s face it, how many of us can dedicate 6 days per week every week to weight training sessions? Combine PPL’s schedule demands with the lack of rest days and it’s easy to see why many find it hard to stick to this training program long-term.

  • PHUL only requires 4 weekly workouts, making it far more schedule-friendly.
  • PPL requires 6 workouts per week, making it extremely difficult to stick to.
  • It’s better to fully follow a PHUL plan than skip days on a PPL

PHUL programs offer more flexibility. With 3 weekly rest days, you can fit well-rounded physical fitness into your schedule along with work, school, family, and getting a good night’s sleep. You’ll get far more benefit from following a PHUL plan to the letter than frequently skipping workouts on a PPL plan.

Winner: PHUL

PHUL or PPL? The Best Choice for You

Both the PHUL and PPL plan will get great results, but the choice really comes down to your goals, your experience level, and your schedule. The final verdict on the right training program for you is:

Choose PHUL If You:

  • Have followed a beginner program for at least 3 months and are ready to move up.
  • Can only dedicate 4 days per-week to the gym.
  • Want a balanced workout program that will build muscle mass and power equally.

Choose PPL If You:

  • Are a very advanced lifter that has completed a starter program, as well as 6–9 months of a PHUL, Upper/Lower split, or similar program.
  • Can stick to a 6-weekly-workout program.
  • Want to maximize your muscle mass OR strength gains.

This simple breakdown will guide your choice. Remember, make the right choice for you. The best workout program is one that fits your experience level and schedule, not always the one engineered to pack on the most muscle.

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