Peripheral Heart Action Training: The All-in-One Workout

Blog Home Posted by on 25.Mar.2020 in Peripheral Heart Action

Maurice Williams | 25 Oct 2015

peripheral heart action training

As a personal fitness trainer, I get asked all the time the following question: “What is the best workout for me to do?” I always chuckle at this question! The biggest reason why I laugh is because there really is no “best” workout. One of the other reasons why I laugh is if there was a “best” workout, it would not necessarily mean that it would be your best workout because “best” is so relative. However, if I had to choose a best style of workout based upon purpose, time, ease of use and results, it would have to be the peripheral heart action system, better known as PHA.

What is the Peripheral Heart Action System (PHA)?

History says that PHA was developed by Dr. Arthur Steinhaus in the late 1940’s and really popularized by Bob Gadja in the 1960’s when he brought it to the bodybuilding world. PHA is simply a circuit workout where you alternate upper and lower body exercises (core exercises can be mixed in as well) throughout the circuit.  

This style of workout keeps blood circulating throughout the entire body the whole time you are exercising. This circuit, therefore, helps to prevent blood from localizing.

Why This Style of Workout?

peripheral heart action training

The purpose of PHA, as was mentioned early, is to prevent blood pooling. This allows you to go longer in your workout by preventing “the burn” feeling (by allowing the re-oxygenated blood to neutralize lactic acid and hydrogen ions) we all get when we do other styles of workouts. One of the other benefits of doing PHA is the cardio aspect that comes along with it. Since you are doing the exercises in circuit fashion, there is little to no rest between the exercises and this allows for a cardio type of workout while doing resistance training. If your clients are like mine, then do not like doing cardio! Lastly, PHA is a great workout for altering body composition, whether that is weight loss, muscle hypertrophy or muscular strength/power.


PHA workouts are typically short in duration. If you are doing five to six exercises for two to three sets with 8-20 repetitions, this will have an average workout complete in 30-45 minutes if you include the warm-up and cool down. Since most people today are busy and do not like working out for a long period of time, PHA gives them a great workout in a short amount of time (and they did not have to run on the treadmill at all, lol)!

peripheral heart action training

Ease of Use

peripheral heart action training

PHA workouts are also fairly simple to program design. Whether your client is working on stabilization, strength, or power, PHA can work. For example, if your client is in a stabilization phase of training, you simply select five to six exercises based upon their assessment that will help stabilize their body. This could look something like this:

PHA Stabilization: Ball Pushups>Sagittal Plane Lunge to Balance>Single-leg Cable Shoulder Extension>Ball Squats>Single leg DB Scaption>Prone Iso Abs (i.e. planks)

In the above example, you would perform 1-3 sets of 12-20 reps at a 4-2-1 tempo taking a 30-45 second rest between sets. Below is a sample PHA workout that NASM recommends:

peripheral heart action training


PHA brings phenomenal results to your clients. Whether their goal is weight loss, endurance, lean muscle mass or just overall general fitness, PHA allows for this. Just remember to make sure that when you design their program, that you select the appropriate acute variables and volume for their specific goals.

Final Thoughts

Although I still think there is no best workout, PHA is arguably the closest style of workout that is the “best” workout. Based upon purpose, time, ease of use and results, the peripheral heart action system is a winner and is here to stay!