Peripheral Heart Action (PHA) – Training Program

By Micky McKay Dip PT – Personal Trainer

As a personal trainer I meet various types of trainers at variable levels of fitness. One major concern I have is newcomers to training being given totally the wrong training program to suit their present needs.

Time and time again I see total newcomers to the gym – some very overweight and totally unconditioned – being given split routines! Then, if that’s not bad enough, being told to run after it on a treadmill: a heart attack waiting to happen! These types of people are just not ready for this type of training. Remember the heart is a muscle; if not used on a regular basis it will weaken and if overloaded it cannot take the strain being stressed upon it and fatalities can and do happen.

So, after initial consultation with the new client and a clearance from their GP, if need be, the best program to give an unconditioned client is a Peripheral Heart Action Program (PHA). The purpose of this program is to delay the rapid onset of lactic acid by rotating the exercise workload around the body, thus limiting the stress placed upon the heart while working out. This routine would be followed for around eight weeks, with two full days rest between training days of which light cardio on a stationary bike can be followed.

A PHA could look like the below working out on Mondays and Thursdays:

  • 30-50% of 1 rep power max
  • 1-2 sets per exercise
  • 12 reps per set
  1. Warm up: stationary bike – to raise core body temperature
  2. Bicep curl machine – smaller upper body muscle
  3. Seated leg curls – larger lower body muscle
  4. Dumbbell lateral raise – larger upper body muscle
  5. Vertical chest press machine – major upper body muscle
  6. Leg extensions – major lower body muscle
  7. Lat pulldowns to front – major upper body muscle
  8. Tricep pushdowns – smaller upper body muscle
  9. Standing calf raise – small lower body muscle
  10. Sit-ups / hip flexion – abdominal training
  11. Cool down: stationary bike – to include light stretching afterwards

So this is how a PHA program should look and be followed. The largest major muscle groups are located in the middle of the program where the main workload is, where the heart’s prepared to work at its peak intensity.

PHA can also be used for fitter, regular trainers looking for a change to their regular training. This should be done in a circuit type style, again, delaying the rapid onset of lactic acid. I have found this very helpful for boxers and kickboxers who like their training to be a little more dynamic than doing one set then resting then doing another. Exercises for this fitter type of client would be changed accordingly.

So, don’t get caught in the ‘one cap fits all’ brigade. Clients have different goals and different levels of fitness; let us fitness experts determine what bracket they fall into before you do more harm than good.

Micky McKay can be contacted at
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