Monday, May 12, 2008

Methods of Training for Improving Fitness - Part Three

Peripheral Heart Action or 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 legendary body builder and Mr. America/Mr. Universe title holder, Bob Gajda during the 1960’s. PHA was designed as an off-shoot of circuit training, with the intent being to prevent a build up of lactic acid - which is a waste product of intense muscular work or a volume of work performed for the same muscle group or area. The thought process behind PHA is this, because there is a lactic acid build-up, there are some limitations to stimulating a particular muscle or group of muscles so PHA was designed to circumvent this build up and allow for a greater volume of work to be performed in an efficient manner. PHA was adopted by many in the bodybuilding community during the 1960’s as a method of performing cardiovascular exercise to improve their health which gave the added benefit of reducing body fat while still developing strength and increasing muscle mass. Traditional PHA circuits are usually resistance type exercises (generally 4-6) that work the entire body. The key is to perform three to five “rounds” or cycles for a specific number of repetitions. Each series of exercises is arranged in such a way as to prevent blood from pooling in one specific muscle group or body area and this is accomplished generally by alternating upper and lower body exercises. The premise is to treat each muscle as a “tiny pump” used to shift blood flow from one area of the body to another, thus improving circulation and deriving a cardiovascular benefit. Another key point with PHA is that the resistance used and repetitions performed are well within one’s ability, therefore allowing for multiple rounds of exercises to be performed without the build up of lactic acid or muscular failure to occur.

Below is an example of one type of PHA workout:

Standing Overhead Press
Standing Calf Raise

As an example, each exercise would be performed for 10-12 repetitions (more or less reps if you like) with the trainee moving swiftly from one exercise to the next – resting only long enough to get to the next movement. It is very common with PHA for the resistance to be increased for each exercise after a round is completed. No sets are taken to muscular fatigue/failure and the last cycle should be challenging. This workout should last approximately 35-45 minutes - depending on your level of fitness and proximity of the exercises being used.

Of course, PHA can be very effective and convenient for the home user or less crowded gym facilities, but can be more difficult to get through in a busy commercial environment. For those situations, an alternative can be designed by using “mini cycles.” Mini cycles can consist of three movements that are close in proximity to each other and performed for three cycles. Once completed, another mini cycle of three different movements is then performed in the same fashion. A PHA workout with two mini cycles might look like this:

Standing Overhead press
Calf raise

With the second mini cycle being:


Like any other training method, PHA does not need to be performed solely with conventional equipment. There is absolutely no need to limit your options when it comes to exercise, unless of course you are performing exercises or activities that are contraindicating to your health.

The following PHA routine is based around using a sandbag as resistance.

Standing Overhead Press
Front Squat
Bent Over Row
Romanian Deadlift
Upright Row

Here is a workout using a single kettlebell or set of kettlebells. All of these exercises offer the option of using a single kettlebell at a time or both simultaneously.

Standing Overhead Press
Bicep Curl
Side Bend