Peripheral Heart Action Training – Advanced Training Techniques to Destroy Plateaus

By Vince Del Monte, WBFF Pro Fitness Model, Certified Fitness Trainer and Nutritionist and author of No Nonsense Muscle Building.

None of the advanced training techniques that I’ve shared with you this month is easy. Some of them are downright grueling. In my last post, I explained Barbell Complexes, one of the most demanding workouts you can do, but also one of the most effective at tapping into the lactic energy system and maximizing its potential for helping you to burn fat and spur growth simultaneously.

This post, I’m going to share with you another technique that exploits this system but using different means. It’s called PHA or peripheral heart action training. You may have even heard it referred to as “death circuits” and that description is pretty accurate. This is not a beginner’s method by any means. Like barbell complexes, peripheral heart action training is for guys who are at the point where they need to make some pretty difficult demands on their bodies in order to keep getting results. This is another workout that guys tend to hate, but only for the few minutes it takes them to do it. If you’re ready to see serious fat loss results, you need to push through this one.

What is PHA?

Bob GajdaPeripheral heart action training has been around for decades. Dr. Arthur Steinhaus introduced it back in the forties and in the sixties, bodybuilding expert Bob Gajda made it popular here in the US and Canada. Serious bodybuilders have been using it for decades, but it’s not something you see every day in the neighborhood gym.

The goal of peripheral heart action training is to use constant compound movements to force the heart to pump blood to the extremities. Obviously, this has good implications for both fat burning and cardio health, but it’s not that simple. If it were, we’d just call it circuit training.

Instead, peripheral heart action training combines fairly heavy loads, alternating upper and lower body moves and very short rest periods into several (usually 4-6) repeated circuits. This puts a huge demand on your heart, which has to continuously work harder to get enough blood volume to your arms and legs.

Why is Peripheral Heart Action so Effective?

This combination accomplishes several things at once. Because of the fairly high load (50-70% RPM is fairly standard), the rest period after each set and the fact that upper body moves are alternated with lower body moves, you’re able to complete a very demanding mechanical workload. This allows for a very serious lactic acid buildup, which in turn stimulates greater release of HGH (human growth hormone). That human growth hormone level then promotes greater fatty acid lipolysis and oxidation.

In other words, peripheral heart action training delivers incredible metabolic benefits while still growing your strength.

Peripheral heart action training is one of the best ways I know to get completely shredded for a competition or photo shoot and at the same time, it’s not straight cardio or even straight high-intensity interval cardio. You’re still moving a respectable amount of weight during the workout.


How is it Done?

There are as many ways to do peripheral heart action training as there are guys doing it. It’s an incredibly flexible training method. The only keys are to use a heavy enough load, to alternate upper and lower body movements, to stay in motion as much as possible and to rest as little as possible.

You can use anywhere from 4-8 different exercises and you can increase the intensity level by increasing reps, increasing the number of exercises, adding more weight or increasing the total number of circuits.

One of the virtues of peripheral heart action training is that it might be incredibly demanding to do, but it’s very easy to keep it simple.

For instance, you might do something like this:

A1. Standing Barbell Good Morning – 8-10 reps – Rest 60 seconds

A2. Wide Grip Pull Up – 8-10 reps – Rest 60 seconds

A3. Leg Press – 20-25 reps – Rest 60 seconds

A4. Barbell Military Press – 10-12 reps – Rest 60 seconds

Repeat three times for a total of four circuits.

One thing I do strongly suggest is that you run through a workout once with a fairly light load before you decide how much weight to use and how many total sets you’re going to do. They don’t call these “death circuits” for nothing. If you’re doing it correctly, this workout will convince you that you’re dying.

Also, this is a great method to use during a cutting phase, during a planned deloading week or once a week or so as a replacement for regular cardio. This is not a day in, day out, long term training method. It’s not interchangeable with protocols that are focused more on hypertrophy and less on fat burning.

What to Do Next

While these workouts are fairly simple and straightforward to design and tweak, they’re not simple to do. It’s really helpful to have help from someone who’s used this method successfully in his own training. It’s also a really good idea to have a partner for this workout. Believe me, you’re going to want to quit in the middle of this one. Having someone pushing you onward can make a huge difference in the outcome.

I would also encourage you to check out our one-on-one personal training before registration closes. We use peripheral heart action and about 35 other advanced training techniques with our one-on-one clients, constantly changing the variables and upping the ante so that plateaus are a non-issue and results are dead on, week after week.

It’s not generally a program that I recommend for guys who aren’t yet at an intermediate level of lifting (with at least a year or so under their belts), although we’re certainly open to talking to you about your specific situation. However, if you’re willing to learn, willing to implement new methods and put in a lot of hard work, the results are dramatic.

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4 thoughts on “Peripheral Heart Action Training – Advanced Training Techniques to Destroy Plateaus

  1. why are there 60 second rests? that makes it sound like its really not as death-like as you say it is Vince.

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    • That’s exactly WHY it’s death, because you’re forced to work with heavier loads due to the rest period.

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  2. This is the only thing I do for cardio, I didn’t know it was called PHA.
    the more you know, i suppose (:

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  3. what if we could use this same method but in a street workout style like body weight exercises under fresh air cuz it’s more healthier than just going to the gym it kills the rootine & get’s more quality oxygene in your body but at the same time it get’s you lean

    so what do you thing about my aproach of the PHA circuits ?

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