Back in the early 1960s, Chuck Coker wanted to improve training efficiency and maximize strength and muscle gains all while improving health and cardiovascular fitness. As a result, he created the multi-station exercise machine and the full-body Universal Workout. You’re bound to see his creation in most apartment and hotel gyms.

Essentially a form of circuit training, Chuck created his machine to alternate between upper and lower body exercises with minimal effort therefore allowing minimal rest between exercises. The minimal breaks meant that the trainee’s heart rate stayed elevated longer. The idea behind this form of training is to force blood from one region of the body (e.g. lower body) to the other (e.g. upper body) as you move from one exercise to the next.

Chuck referred to this form of training as Peripheral Heart Action Training and, depending on the number of repetitions performed for each exercise and load used, this style of training can improve strength, muscle size, and cardiovascular efficiency at the same time. Consider it strategic circuit training. There’s one stipulation: the intensity of the workout/circuit must be maintained at 80% of your max heart rate.

220 – your age x .80 = 80% max heart rate.

Since Chuck’s original intensions were to use machines for this type of circuit training, let’s take things up a notch by creating new parameters. If you’re pressed for time and can only spare a few hours per week to train, this is the program for you.

Kettelbell Swing

Peripheral Heart Action Training 2.0 Rules:

  • Perform 3 PHAT 2.0 workouts per week, alternating days (e.g. Monday, Wednesday, Friday)
  • Each workout will have 3 strategic circuits which will alternate upper and lower body exercises
  • For the multi joint exercises, use free weight exercises only (e.g. barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell, sandbag, etc.)
  • Keep the rest between exercises as short as possible and ensure your heart rate is elevated above 80% of your max heart rate throughout the entire circuit
  • Take 2-minutes in between circuits

Use this training template to structure your workouts:

Circuit A:

A1. Upper body compound exercise (push)
A2. Lower body compound exercise (anterior)
A3. Upper body compound exercise (pull)
A4. Lower body compound exercise (posterior)

Circuit B:

B1. Upper body isolation exercise
B2. Lower body isolation exercise
B3. Core Stability exercise
B4. Core exercise (force creation)
B5. Core Stability exercise

Dumbbell row

Sample Workout:

Circuit A:

A1. Barbell Bench Press: 16, 14, 12, 10, 8
A2. Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat: 16/leg, 14/leg, 12/leg, 10/leg, 8/leg
A3. Single Arm Bent Over Dumbbell Row: 16/side, 14/side, 12/side, 10/side, 8/side
A4. Kettlebell Swing: 16, 14, 12, 10, 8

Circuit B:

B1. Barbell Cheat Curl: 8, 8, 6, 6
B2. Barbell Romanian Deadlift: 8, 8, 6, 6
B3. Elbow Plank on Exercise Ball with Alternating Knees In/Out: 60-sec, 60-sec, 60-sec, 60-sec
B4. Angled Barbell Low to High Chop: 60-sec, 60-sec, 60-sec, 60-sec
B5. Suit Case and Front Racked Carry: 60-sec, 60-sec, 60-sec, 60-sec (switch sides every set)

Use the template above to create 2 more workouts. Avoid choosing the same exercises and stick to the same repetition scheme. It’s designed to keep you pushing from one set to the next. Plus it helps counting down as you get through the circuit. Balance this with clean eating and perform for at least 2 months before changing up programs. Cut down the intensity and volume in weeks 4 and 8 to allow your body to recovery and rebuild for the next phase.