PHUL vs Stronglifts
PHUL is better suited for intermediates who want to take a middle of the road approach between muscle and strength. Stronglifts is one of the best choices for beginners who want to take a middle of the road approach between the two.
What is your why
Before we go into the details of PHUL and Stronglifts I would like to ask you a couple of questions
- Why do you compare PHUL and Stronglifts?
- Why do you want to get stronger?
- Why do you want to put on mass?
- What happens if you do?
- What happens if you don't?
These kinds of questions seem trivial at first. Once you take a closer look you will see that they are detrimental for your long-term success. To ensure that you stay committed long-term you need incentives which can pull you through the hard times. You will get injured, distracted and lose faith. In those situations, you need a deep inner calling to keep plugging away at your goals. Most people approach their life goals like this:
- What do I want?
- How do I get it?
- Why do I want it?
This is the underlying reason why so many New Years resolutions fail. Once people do not get what they want by February they give up. If you want to be different and make your target attack your goals in this fashion:
- Why do I want something?
- How do I get it?
- What do I need to do to get?
Structuring your goal setting like this will always connect what you have to do and how you do it to your core values. This makes it a lot easier to succeed. If you are not convinced yet, look up Simon Sinek's TED talk on the golden circle. He makes a very compelling case telling the story of the Wright Brothers.
You will squat every session while all other exercises will be rotated. You will use an empty bar as the starting point except for the deadlift and the row. Except for the deadlift, it is the goal to complete five sets for five repetitions on each exercise. The deadlift is programmed in with 1x5 repetitions.
If you succeed to get 5x5 done for a particular exercise you go up in weight. If you fail more than three times you deload. The free Stronglifts 5x5 app does a great job of tracking your progress. If you want to know more about the results you can expect, read my Stronglifts review.
The biggest advantages of Stronglifts 5x5 are its simplicity and effectiveness. You will get feedback about your performance in each session. The rewards are plenty at the beginning which is especially good to keep beginners motivated. The results are traceable and clear.
The biggest disadvantages of Stronglifts 5x5 are its lack of specificity and marketing. Especially in terms of muscle gains, the results are overstated on the website. If you are mainly in for the gains, do some proper research on dieting and master your kitchen skills. Stronglifts alone won't get you far on this path.
PHUL stands for Power Hypertrophy upper lower. This program lines itself up with others that try to combine the benefits of strength training with bodybuilding. You will find similar approaches to Layne Norton's repertoire. You will train four days a week on PHUL and use the following exercises:
- Barbell Bench press
- Incline Dumbbell bench press
- Bent over row
- Lat Pulldown
- Overhead press
- Barbell curl
- Barbell squat
- Barbell deadlift
- Leg press
- Leg Curl
- Calf raise
- Incline Barbell bench press
- Flat bench Dumbbell Flye
- Seated cable row
- One Arm Dumbbell row
- Dumbbell lateral raise
- Seated Incline Dumbbell Curl
- Cable tricep extension
- Barbell front squat
- Barbell Lunge
- Leg extension
- Seated calf raise
- Calf press
Two days will be power related will the other two days will be hypertrophy related. On the power days, you will start with a barbell exercise for 3-4 sets with 3-5 reps followed by accessory work. On the hypertrophy days, you will be performing 8-12 repetitions for 3-4 sets. You can read up on all the details of the PHUL routine in this muscle and strength article.
The biggest advantages of PHUL are that you have a split routine and also address hypertrophy. This leads you down a more balanced path which professional bodybuilders and sometimes powerlifters take.
The biggest disadvantages of PHUL are that you have to learn a lot of movements, invest four days a week and the unclear instructions. PHUL leaves a lot of room for interpretation which is not necessarily ideal for beginners. If you are more experienced this should not be a problem.
Should you do Phul or Stronglifts?
It all depends on your goals and background. The more experienced and versatile you are and want to be the more you can lean into PHUL. The less experienced and versatile you are the more you should lean towards Stronglifts.
Beginners who mainly want to get strong take a good road with Stronglifts. The instructions are simple and the effects are good. If you are a football or rugby player with access to a strength coach, also look into starting strength. If you are on your own stick with Stronglifts.
Beginners who are more into muscle building than strength training should ditch and PHUL altogether. Go with the Shortcut to size program or German Volume Training. The main thing about beginners is that you should start to ramp up your training volume. Go two times a week, then three, four, five. Avoid to go six times a week in your summer break and then drop everything altogether when you are back to work.
Intermediate athletes who want to go up a weight class should go with German Volume training and a diet to match. Go for a 30 - 90-day cycle until you have gained the weight you want. Creatine and whey protein can help, but only as an addition to a lot of chicken and broccoli. Don't bother with Stronglifts when you are already a beast. It is a beginner program and will not get you the gains you need in a short period of time.
Intermediate athletes who want to get stronger can go with Wendler 531 or the Juggernaut method. These programs have been designed by former athletes with sportsmen and -women in mind who have a busy schedule. If you have never looked at a barbell start with Wendler 531. If you have already a few cycles under your belt, go with Juggernaut.
Professional athletes should always go with their coach. You don't need to scrape the internet for information. The only thing I would mention is that instead of wasting time, use your free time to ask your trainers questions about what THEY see as your strength and weaknesses and what you can do to remedy them. They will give you a program and you just have to execute. That is what you are being paid for.
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