Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Peripheral Heart Action (P.H.A.)

Peripheral Heart Action or better known as PHA is a “system” that was developed by Dr. Arthur Steinhaus and brought to the forefront of the muscle world by 1960’s legendary body builder and Mr. America/Mr. Universe title holder, Bob Gajda. The PHA method was specifically designed to keep the blood circulating throughout the whole body during the entire workout. The smaller muscles around the heart are worked on first before the larger muscles around the body's periphery. PHA sounds curiously similair to circuit traning or even GPP (General Physical Preparedness) but differs in that PHA’s emphasis is not in bringing a localized pump to the muscles. The approach is to choose exercises that will allow you to pump blood to extreme ends of the body so blood doesn’t localize and develop a lactic acid build up. This is where PHA differs in comparison to a circuit type training regimen. Herb April, a renown bodybuilder in his own right and a Gajda disciple had this to say in a correspondence with me regarding PHA traininig. “...Gajda always stressed that PHA was designed to "circumvent" the pump effect that bodybuilders are so beholden to." Bob did so because of long term health considerations as well as creating a training "atmosphere" that enabled one to progress "within" the workout without lactic acid buildup slowing one down or fatiguing one to the point where the workout became a survival "game." Done correctly, PHA training does indeed "circumvent" a massive pump in favor of enhanced circulation, and it does produce remarkable results despite that built in "pump circumvention."

A typical PHA workout has an individual using a handful of exercises that stress the upper and lower musculature, with the intention of alternating one exercise for the upper torso and one for the lower extremities or at least not in the same “area” as the previous movement. A “typical” PHA workout would emphasize using five to six movements for 5-6 “cycles”, with an increase of the weights for each cycle. For instance, here is an example of a PHA workout.

Standing Overhead Press
Standing Calf

Each exercise would be performed for 10-12 repetitions (more if you like) with the trainee moving swiftly from one exercise to the next – resting long enough to get to the next movement and increasing the resistance for each consecutive set. No sets are taken to fatigue/muscular failure and the last cycle should be challenging. This workout should last about 35-45 minutes, depending on your level of fitness and proximity of the exercises being used. For those of you who find 25-30 sets to be too much volume of work, an abbreviated version can be utilized. Again, using five to six select movements choose a weight that you can perform an all out set of ten reps with and use approximately 75-80% of that weight for three cycles. There is no “ramp up” and you can eliminate two of the cycles. Three “rounds” of six movements should take an individual 25-30 minutes or less to perform.

Of course, PHA can be very effective and convenient for the home user and the less crowded facilities but can be tough in a busy commercial environment. This is where mini cycles can be utilized. Take three movements that are close in proximity and perform three cycles then proceed to another three different movements for a second mini cycle. A mini cycle might look like this:

Standing dumbbell press
Calf raise
TRX Rows

With the second mini cycle being:

Bodyweight Squat
TRX Suspended Crunch

To employ PHA training (or any training for that matter) with conventional equipment only would be unnecessarily limiting your options. PHA can certainly go beyond the typical dumbbell and barbell and can be very effective when “odd” implements are incorporated. For example, a sand bag workout done in PHA fashion can easily be used. Here is a sample using only sand bags.
Standing Overhead Press
Front Squat
Bent Over Row
Romanian Deadlift
Upright Row

With an all dumbbell workout looking like the following:

Standing Overhead Press
Hammer Curl
Bench Press

The applications are endless. Variations with sled dragging, medicine balls, kettlebells, sprinting (running, bike, elliptical) and body weight applications are a fun mixture that can facilitate a fine workout that enables one to train their entire body in a single workout while achieving cardiovascular and strength benefits in a short period of time.
As this article is my own interpretation and may be found to some as a bastardization of the original, its intent is not to be disrespectful but to bring a different slant to a concept that may benefit many individuals and add a zest to ones training. - Fred Fornicola