Phil Hernon's Training Program

Hey everyone,

I’m about to start training with Phil Hernon’s program- well, his old one anyway. I understand he does something a little different now, so I’m referring to the one where, for each muscle group, you do 3 sets to failure- one at 4-6 reps, one at 8-12, and one at 15-25. I know that’s even slightly different (I believe his went 5, 10 and 15 actually) but it’s a little better for me.

Anyway, especially from those who have experience (but anyone feel free to chime in) with this or anything VERY similar, here’s what I’d like opinions on- For each muscle group, should I use only 1 exercise each day and just lower the weight for each set, or should I use 3 (i.e.- chinups for 4-6 reps, wide lat pulldowns for 8-12, and an isolation movement, like straight arm lat pulldowns, for 15-25)

I’ve always been a mainly (like, 98%) compound movement guy, but I could see, especially for the light set, maybe an isolation exercise working well there, especially like incline flyes for my lagging upper chest, etc. Here’s the thing though- I use a DC style rotation of 3 workouts, so if I did 3 exercises each day, I’d actually have to use 9 different chest exercises total, which may not be a bad thing, as it would prolly be a LONG time before you hit a wall and had to drop one, hahaha.

Anyway, especially from you guys experienced with this type of training program, DC, Big Beyond Belief, etc, I’d like to get your opnions and a reason why. Thanks yall!


Well I don’t have much knowledge of Hernon’s routine, but if you were to use only one exercise, your volume would be significantly less, if I understand the routine correctly. Say you warm up and reach failure in the 4-6 rep range, all you have to do is drop weight to a range that will induce failure in the 8-12 range, and the same for the 15-25 rep range.

However, if you were to use three exercises, I can’t see how you would directly go from failing in exercise one at 4-6 after warming up directly into failure at 8-12 in exercise two WITHOUT some type of warm up or ramp. Do you get my gist? With each change in exercise, you are going to have to warm up or ramp up to the appropriate weight to induce failure, which will inherently lead to more volume than option one.

Is the routine focused on shorter more intense workouts or a more volume based approach (or what are you more comfortable with)? I feel like that is important to consider when determining which route to take.


Hey Mike check out the T-cell thread started by Modok… “bodyparts once weekly” or something similar. Him and I exchanged a few posts on there about Phil’s style and his experience with that sort of training, very good thread that I was just rereading the other day.

Personally I would just stick with 3 exercises total and rotate which one was in which rep range. I mean are there really 9 good hamstring moves?

I’ll post up a great thread from another board that some may recognize that is pretty much exactly the style I was talking about.

[quote]WELL LET ME FIRST STATE THAT PHIL IS GOING TO LOVE THIS ONE. i went this weekend to take those filler photos i told ya about last time. it has been a while since i had seen my buddy although we do not live far from one another (a couple of hours). years ago when i would make the trip to train with him on the weekends (before we both had kids) he did more of a high volume training routine. back then he was still going to school to get his degree in exercise phys. even then he was a complete genetic freak. extremely strong on all movements. thicker then shit.

i saw him when he won his state title and he was awesome. no one could even come close. then he sent me photos of his condition 3 weeks out from the jr nationals and i thought there is no one that could handle him. but, as you know things can change quickly. he ended up getting food poisoning that put him in the hospitol overnight from dehydration.

even while he was getting ready for the jr’s i never asked him about his training. the talk usually centerd around his work and his new baby ect. he decided not to purue a job in his degree but, took over his fathers biz which is doing very well. my wiofe sees him all the time since when i am working she will go down to see the new baby which she is godmother of. she would tell me how big he was getting and that it was almost “too much”. of course , there is never such a thing as “too much”. lol. so i picked up my camera and went to see him train.

i walked into the gym and of course, he is 20 minutes late. he is wearing cut off sweats and a baggy t shirt. his quads are beyond big. the best legs i have seen on a non pro his height. his only down fall is his calves. he tears the shit out of them but, it is a struggle. he is 5’6 and this day he weighs 239 and very lean. (i will post pics of him very soon. face blurred of course lol) his best upper body group is his delts and traps.

he tells me he is doing chest back shoulders today. WTF!!! i ask him howm many sets of each. he says three. i decided to wait and see what he was going to do and not ask a ton of questions just yet. he and his workout partner start doing pushup and light lat pulldowns just to get blood moving. after just a few minutes of this he heads to the incline bench. he claims he can do over 400 pounds for reps on it. his partner nodds in agreement.

he does a set with 225 pounds for 6 reps pausing at the chest each rep to get a stretch. he then goes to 315 and does the same. warmups are over. remember that this is free bar. he loads up for one big set. pounds is put on the bar 405. he unracks it and proceed to do 5 controlled reps to failure…i shit a brick. he then moves to the flex leverage upright bench press. he puts 4 45’s and a 25 a side. no warm up. he cranks out 8 good reps with it before failure. we then head over to the incline set low and he proceed to grab the 125’s dumbells.

he gets them into position and nails 13 good reps. he then says chest is over. he rested only a few minutes between sets. next was lats. one warmup of hammer front lat pulldown and he was set. he puts 4 45s and a 25 on each side and gets 5 good ones and a cheat one at the end. we then head over to the dumbell rack and he grabs a 165 pound dumbell and starts doing one arm rows. he gets 9. after catching his breath he goes to the low pulley row and puts the whole stack on.

it is hard to tell how much weight it is because it is a old machine and the poundages are worn off the plates. anyway he did the whole stack and hit failure at 11 reps. next was shoulders. he started at the rear delt pec dek. it was a icarian model. he 190lbs for 7 good reps. he then moved to the dumbell rack for side laterals. he grabbed the 65’s and nailed 10 good reps plus some partials. last was hammer shoulder press. 3 plates and a 10 each side for 13 reps.

then shrugs. he loaded up the hammer standing shrug and did about 11 to 12 reps. last was two sets of abs done weighted on the leg raise. 42 minutes had past.

now for the logic behind it. he states that he only goes by research that proves how muscle grows. he does not want to get involved in anedotol evidence. (can you tell he has a degree lol) he told me the next day was arms and legs. then he would repeat the first days workout. the only difference the second chest, back and delt workout would have is he would reverse the order of the exercises and that would give the first days heavy exercise a break by having it do 11 to 15 reps instead of 5 to 7 reps.

this would be repeated until he felt he needed a break for a day. he came to this workout after weighing all evidence of how a muscle grows and responds. he says that he rarely gets to sore from this workout but, that soreness is not a indicator of a muscle readiness to be worked again. even if a muscle has slight soreness to it, it does not mean you cant train it. he says that if you are very sore two days later then you have done much to much volume.

he went into detail here so i will give you the short version. he says that muscular growth occurs within 36 hours of stimulous. that is when protein synthesis is at its highest. he is basing this on many studies that he researched when he was going to the university. he tried to explain that muscle growth was not hard to come by. all that was needed was a disruption of muscle fiber that required it to respond to certain stimuli. doing too much volume was the reason for the long breaks between sessions that is seen by most bodybuilders.

he believes that if it takes that long to recover (which he claims is mainly nerve recovery then muscle fiber recovery) then you are wasteing a hugh amount of time. you are giving the muscle the stimulous to go one step forward then waiting to long and making it go back to its original state. he believes that a muscle is going to start degenerating in about 48 to 72 hours.
based on this he says that bodybuilders need to cut volume back greatly so that they can take advantage of this time span.

he believes that one should find out how much volume they can get away with while still being able to train the muscle in 48 hours. also, he states that the other reason for the low volume is to not tax the central nervous system which takes more time to regenerate that muscular tissue. when he feels he needs a break he will take a extra day off. the varying of the reps scheme he says is essential to take advantage of different tut schemes and is needed to have optimal growth. he switches the exercises rep schemes so to avoid injury in any certain plane of motion and to give that joint a break.

now if this seems strangly similar to phils training routine, i noticed it to. i brought up phil’s routine to him and how it worked (as best i could anyway) i told hime that it was a little to strange that you had the same reasonings. he first said " you talked to phil hernon ???" what happened to that guy"??? after explaining phils life story and his new addiction to penis pumps he said "isnt that wild… we do have similar training styles.

he must have weighed all the evidence and did alot of studying on the logistics of muscle growth" while he was talking i was thinking about how the penis pump might work for me… i snapped out of it and asked more questions while he sucked down a protein shake. i brought up past champions that did not use his system and they had great muscular growth. i then played devils advocate and said that maybe this workout only worked for phil and him because of their great genetics… “look idiot, it is based on science pure and simple. not a fucking weider principal. weider set bodybuilding science back 40 years. most, if not all past champs got there by superior genetics and their bodies ability to assimulate drugs well. not because any real thought went into their program”. after the sting of the idiot comment wore off i asked about drugs.

he stated that drugs are not an excuse to up volume. find what works naturally and then exploit it even more through proper drug use. he said that the reason why some people do not respond well to drugs is that they do not properly understand why they work. he said “it all comes down to protein intake. steroids up protein synthesis big time. hell, you can even grow a little not training if you take gear and have a huge amount of protein in your system. now add just enough stimulous to disrupt cells and fiber and there you have it. now hit that muscle often as possible and you will get bigger. much bigger”

when i asked what gear he prefered he said, " you can not beat fina. high androgen, highly anabolic, no water retention, no estrogen related problems… can not beat it." i asked about test and he felt that test should be the basis for all courses but, he liked the results he got from fina based courses too. the day we were together he said he was on a course of 100 mgs of fina eod, 100 prop eod, eq at 500 mgs a week. he will be on that for 6 weeks then switch to 4 sust amps a week(spread out every other day) 100 mgs prop eod, 30 mgs of dbol a day.

he takes no anti e’s right now since he has had gyno surgery a few years back. they removed all mammary glands and ducts. so he has not had to worry about that lately. he stays on for 16 weeks at a time then takes 6 weeks off. during that time his training is cut back slightly. he trains two on and one off those days to add a little in recup and to give his mind a bit of a break. but, the training is basically the same.

while i am at it, the leg/arm routine he gave me goes like this. 1 set leg press (one leg at a time) 5 to 8 reps, one set leg ext (one leg at a time) 9 to 11 reps, one set squat for 12 to 15 reps, standing leg curl one set 5 to 8 reps, stiff legged deads one set 10 to 12 reps. arms: hammer preacher curl 1 set 5 to 7 reps, hammer dumbell curls one set 8 to 10 reps, cable curl one set 12 to 15 reps. lying dumbell ext one set 5 to 8 reps, pushdowns one set 8 to 10 reps, one arm overhead ext one set 12 to 15.

so to recap the boys theorys:

  1. train a muscle often.
  2. keep protein at very high levels to add in the needed synthesis
  3. train just enough volume per bodypart so that you stimulate a little growth but are able to train it again two days lately.
  4. train with low enough volume so that you do not excessively tax the cns. (which takes much longer to recover than muscle damage)
  5. remember that gear is an aid to better protein assimulation. which leads to gains. if they have nothing to work with (protein and stimulus) then they are worthless.
  6. you can train a muscle when it is sore. soreness is not an indicator of recovery.

whether you agree with him or not, it makes since when he talks about it. but, he really believes what he says and believes that he has science on his side. so , believe it is worth a try… got nothing to lose and maybe some tissue to gain…if not you will always have the knowledge it brought ya…[/quote]

I kept the part about the gear in there so you could see that it was a slight factor in what he does. 2 on 1 off or EOD with a protocol like that would be much better for those with mortal recovery ability. 3 on 1 off is perfect if you split the body 3 ways(which Phil does now with his guys).

Bumping this for Stuntcock.

Note to self… if you’d like to stop a thread dead in it’s tracks just post a wall of text and ask people to read it lol

[quote]Scott M wrote:
Note to self… if you’d like to stop a thread dead in it’s tracks just post a wall of text and ask people to read it lol[/quote]

I read it :slight_smile: good stuff.

Edit: I might actually put shoulders with chest/tri’s now so I can drop to a 3 way split and up the frequency.

[quote]Scott M wrote:
Note to self… if you’d like to stop a thread dead in it’s tracks just post a wall of text and ask people to read it lol[/quote]

I’ve read it before, and I read it again. I think it’s a great philosophy.

looks very interesting and seems logical. I think i’ll give it a shot once i give BBB a run through. I seem to be responding well to this higher frequency of training. Does anyone have any comments regarding deloads/backing off in either this program or BBB???

BBB doesn’t have deload, cruise or time off. It’s shifts from short rest intervals, higher ramping sets to longer rest periods, lower sets.


Week 1 is 3 sets 120 seconds rest, week 2 is 4 sets with 90 seconds rest and week 3 is 5 sets with 90 seconds rest. Then week 4-6 is 180 seconds rest with 3 sets. Once you’ve completed 6 weeks, you move on to the next 6 weeks and then the final 6 weeks for 18 total. No rest or deloading, which is what kicked my ass as well as the caloric needs are very high for recovery. You are doing full body workouts on day 3 and 4, it gets rough, I ran 11 weeks and had to call it quits.

I’m liking the ideas of Phil and may look at putting something together for my next start up here on Monday. I just took this week as a deload and only trained 2 days out of the last 7.

I’m very interested in getting more info on this training style. So I hope others can chime in.

Hey Braunbeck, sorry i didn’t quite make it clear, i do undersrand BBB, i meant to say would it benefit from a deload?

For me “YES”, I’m good for about 7-9 weeks max! It’s weird, I’ll plug along and then my recovery goes to shit, I’m like a bear with a chapped ass (mean, irritable) and I start getting strains/tears throughout my body. The first round with BBB was 5 weeks and I popped something in my upper quad, then I restarted it and popped some old scar tissue same leg, but in the groin. I also did damage to my good shoulder (right one) a week prior, it was just to much for to long, plus at my size I was told to consume 20-23 cals per pound that’s like 7,000 calories per day, I was getting 4 to 4,500 daily and it worked for a while, but I just couldn’t keep the recovery going.

If you are eating plenty and following the workout it will provide good results, I added size and strength throughout.

I just need a change, rest and restart with something I can control on a 6 week run. It’s either Phil’s theory or back to DC.