Cathe Live: PHA Barbell

I do love PHA workouts and Cathe creates some pretty awesome ones. #299 PHA Barbell uses only a barbell for all of the exercises. Which is pretty cool but also has its drawbacks, at least the way Cathe delivered the workout. Before I go any further, here is the PHA definition I add to all PHA workouts I review. PHA stands for Peripheral Heart Action. What this means in training terms is you alternate between upper and lower body resistance exercises, allowing as little rest as possible between each movement. The lack of rest and recovery keeps your heart rate up for cardiovascular and fat burning benefits, while switching between upper and lower body exercises maximizes blood flow to all parts of the body and reduces build up of lactic acid. What this generally translates to, when done properly, is a total body metabolic strength workout with a high calorie burn.

Just like all of Cathe’s PHA workouts, this is very metabolic. It is also total body. She does a very good job hitting all muscle groups nicely. The back gets 2 exercises, which pleased me. What I didn’t like so much about this workout is it is primarily high rep. I was hoping for some heavy lifting, like some of the other live workouts Cathe has been creating recently. But the heaviest weight used by Cathe is 40 pounds. The weight Cathe uses for most of the exercises is appropriate for the amount of reps done, so that isn’t the criticism. I was just hoping for more of a hypertrophy strength workout rather than an endurance strength workout. But with that little gripe out of the way, I did find this to be an excellent total body workout if endurance is what you are looking for. This is a workout that you will definitely have to play with to get the right weights. In the breakdown below you will see I make notes for myself on what I should lift when I return to this workout.

A few more notes before we get to the break down. There are 2 circuits and each circuit is repeated. However, even though the exercises in the circuit are repeated, sometimes you do a different amount of reps and sometimes she adds tempo changes when you repeat it. The first time through Circuit #1 Cathe misses an exercise so you do 2 upper body exercises in a row–you don’t skip the lower body exercise, it is just done out of order and screws up the PHA effect. But it only happens the first time through that circuit and with one exercise. Finally, as usual, my left shoulder is one of my limiting factors. So I had to substitute a dumbbell for one exercise (pullovers) and I may substitute dumbbells during the forward lunges. I found doing forward lunges with a barbell on my shoulders awkward. I have no problem with stationary or reverse lunges but for some reason, with the barbell on my shoulders, I found it harder to keep my weight in my heels during the lunge. And that leads to another issue with using a barbell for lower body exercises. For squats, I felt like I could definitely have lifted heavier weight. I used to be able to get a 55 pound barbell on my shoulders (lifting from the ground, over my head and placing on my shoulders)–impossible for me now because of my shoulder, so if I want to lift heavier I will have to start using my squat rack to get the barbell on my shoulders.

Oh! And one more thing–weighed hip thrusts! OMG–my favorite part of this workout. I am so thrilled Cathe included them! It brought back memories of Xtrain‘s 100 Rep Hip Thrusts which I used to do all of the time. I used to tack it onto every lower body workout I did that clocked in at 50 minutes or less. I haven’t returned to the 100 Rep Hip Thrusts in years but doing the weighted hip thrusts in this workout made me want to start tacking those back onto the end of my lower body workouts again. They really are the perfect finisher to a lower body workout.

PHA Barbell is 57:30 minutes; 7 minute warm up and 2 minute stretch. Equipment: full step at 10 inches (3 risers), a fitness mat, a barbell with plates and a barbell pad. In the future I will also have my squat rack ready to use. Cathe is working with 25-40 pounds on her barbell. She starts with her barbell at 30 pounds for the warm up. At the end of the warm up you will do a set of squats with the barbell on your shoulders. She adds more plates for first exercise. I used the same weight as Cathe unless otherwise noted below. Cathe gives a few modification suggestions for some of the exercises.

Circuit #1:

  1. Squats (BB is 35#; in the future I will lift 50#)
  2. Bicep curls (Cathe’s BB is 35#; mine was 30#)
  3. Wide stance deadlifts (Cathe’s BB is 40#; mine was 60# and in the future I will lift 70#)
  4. Bench press (Cathe’s BB is 35# for first circuit and 40# second circuit; mine was 30# for both)
  5. Wide pile squats (holding BB in front of chest) (BB is 35#; in the future I will lift 40/45#)
  6. Underhand grip dead row (hinge forward in deadlift, do 3 rows then stand; changes to deadlift with single row) (when you repeat this exercise the second time through the circuit you use an overhand grip)(Cathe’s BB is 35#; mine was 45# and in the future I will lift 50#)
  7. Close grip bench press (Cathe’s BB is 35#; mine was 30#)
  8. Stiff leg deadlifts (Cathe’s BB is 40#; mine was 60# and in the future I will lift 70#)
  9. Repeat #1-8 (this time #7 & #8 are swapped)

Circuit #2:

  1. Hip thrust (drape mat mat across step so that when you sit on floor with step behind you, you are sitting on the mat and the mat is also protecting your back against the step (see picture associated with this post), place BB on hips, knees are bent, feet on floor and back against mat covered step, from this position, raise and lower hips) (BB is 40#)
  2. Weighted tricep dips off step (BB is 40#)
  3. Stationary lunges (BB is 25#)
  4. Pullovers (Cathe’s BB is 25#; I used one 25# DB)
  5. Alternating front lunges (BB is 25#; in the future I will use 15# DBs)
  6. Clean and press (BB is 25#)
  7. Hip thrust but this time lay mat on floor beside step, place BB on step, lay on mat and bring BB to hips, place heels on step and do hip thrusts (BB is 40#)
  8. Repeat #2-6

3 thoughts on “Cathe Live: PHA Barbell

    1. I just read that in her newsletter. It also said they are required to have “200 square feet of space for every individual in a group fitness class”–maybe because of this she will continue to do Cathe only live workouts? Or have you heard/read that she is going to start having groups of people with her again during her live workouts? I love the Cathe only Lives so I will be disappointed when they go away.


      1. She said in her latest Live that maybe next Live there will be people with her. She said she wanted to give people time to get used to working out with a mask on. It sounded like she would be wearing one as well which, to me, might make it hard to understand her. Also, I think group classes are limited to 30 minutes. I am really hoping she keeps it to just her for all of those reasons.

        Liked by 1 person

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