The Phil Heath Training Program!


Phil Heath is one of the greatest bodybuilders in the 21st century. Phil won the Mr. Olympia competition an unbelievable 7 times in a row from 2011 – 2017. Only two bodybuilders in history have ever won more Mr. Olympia competitions: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronnie Coleman.

If you want to learn how to build muscle mass like Phil Heath then this article is for you!

Introduction

  • Part 1: Phil Heath’s Chest Workouts
  • Part 2: Phil Heath’s Leg Workouts
  • Part 3: Phil Heath’s Shoulder Workouts
  • Part 4: Phil Heath’s Back Workouts
  • Part 5: Phil Heath’s Arm Workouts

In this comprehensive guide I will teach you everything you need to know about how Phil Heath trained to become one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time.

Phil Heath trains using traditional high-volume bodybuilding workouts. He performs many different exercises per body part and always tries to get a huge pump in his muscles. In order to use his high-volume workouts Phil trains each muscle group once per week using a traditional bodybuilding bro-split.

Here is the training split that Phil uses in the offseason:

Phil Heath’s Offseason Training Split

  • Monday: Chest
  • Tuesday: Legs
  • Wednesday: Off
  • Thursday: Shoulders
  • Friday: Back
  • Saturday: Off
  • Sunday: Off

In the offseason Phil trains 4 days per week. He has a separate training day for chest, legs, shoulders and back. The only thing missing is an arm day!

The truth is Phil Heath’s arms grow so fast that he doesn’t need to train them in the offseason. It’s almost a waste of time for Phil! I’ve never heard of another bodybuilder besides Lee Priest who didn’t need to train his arms but Phil Heath is in a league of his own.

About 8-12 weeks out from his next bodybuilding competition Phil adds in a separate arm training day. For example:

Phil Heath’s Pre-Contest Training Split

  • Monday: Chest
  • Tuesday: Legs
  • Wednesday: Off
  • Thursday: Shoulders
  • Friday: Back
  • Saturday: Arms
  • Sunday: Off

Phil uses this bro-split to bring up his arms and bring his best possible physique to the bodybuilding stage. Phil is known for his high-volume training style. He trains one muscle group per day and performs 4-6 exercises per muscle group to really hit the muscle from all angles and to get a great pump.

Unlike other professional bodybuilders Phil Heath doesn’t train to get stronger in the gym. He grows so fast from relatively light weights that there is no need for him to train with progressive overload. This training style won’t work for most bodybuilders but for Phil it worked like magic.

I hope you found this overview of Phil Heath’s training program helpful. Now let’s take a closer look at the exact workouts Phil uses to become a world champion bodybuilder.

Part 1: Phil Heath’s Chest Workouts

Phil Heath’s chest was one of his lagging body parts for many years. It’s not that his chest was small – the real problem is that his shoulders and arms were so unbelievably large that they dwarfed the rest of his body! Eventually Phil figured out how to train his chest for size without bothering his joints and connective tissues.

Phil’s chest training philosophy revolves around 2 things:

  • Performing lots of dumbbell and hammer strength presses
  • Performing lots of chest isolation exercises

Phil Heath says that he completely stopped doing bench presses and incline bench presses. Every time he performs one of these movements he ends up tweaking his shoulders.

Phil found that he got a much better contraction focusing on dumbbell presses and various hammer strength machines. The bodybuilding coach John Meadows also came to a similar conclusion about the best chest exercises.

Phil is also a big fan of chest isolation exercises. He makes sure that he includes at least 2 fly movements every time he trains chest.

Here is one of Phil Heath’s go-to chest workouts. Check it out:

Phil Heath’s Chest Workout #1

  • A1: Hammer strength incline press, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B1: 30 degree incline dumbbell fly, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • C1: Flat dumbbell press, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D1: Cable crossover, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps

Here is a training video for this workout:

This is a perfect example of what Phil Heath’s typical chest workout looks like. He performs 4 exercises total for his chest: one hammer strength exercise, one dumbbell press and two chest isolation exercises. Every champion bodybuilder has to find the exercises that work best for their body and Phil is no exception.

Now let’s look at one of Phil Heath’s more complicated chest workouts. Check it out:

Phil Heath’s Chest Workout #2

  • A1: Flat DB fly, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B1: Flat dumbbell press, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • C1: Decline hammer strength press, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D1: Incline machine press, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E1: Cable crossover, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

For this workout Phil uses the pre-exhaust method. First he performs a chest isolation exercise to pre-fatigue his chest. Then he moves onto a number of compound chest exercises.

The benefit of the pre-exhaust method is it forces his chest to work even harder during all of his compound pressing movements.

Other professional bodybuilders such as Dorian Yates have used the pre-exhaust method with fantastic results. It is a great method to try if you are already an advanced bodybuilder and have a lagging muscle group to bring up.

Part 2: Phil Heath’s Leg Workouts

Phil Heath has a pair of perfectly sized legs. They compliment his upper body without throwing off his overall symmetry too much.

One of the interesting things about Phil Heath’s leg workouts is he almost always performs his hamstrings exercises first.

Sometimes workouts just performs his leg curls first in his leg routines while other workouts he performs ALL of his hamstrings exercises including stiff legged deadlifts before he performs any quadricep exercises. This is an interesting take on leg training by the 7 x Mr. Olympia champion.

Here is one of Phil Heath’s typical leg workouts. Check it out:

Phil Heath’s Leg Workout #1

  • A1: Unilateral lying leg curl, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B1: Seated leg curl, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • C1: Kneeling leg curl, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D1: Smith machine Romanian deadlift, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E1: Machine leg extension, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • F1: Vertical leg press, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • G1: 45 degree leg press, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • H1: Horizontal leg press, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • I1: Machine hack squat, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • J1: Seated calf raise, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

Talk about a high-volume leg workout! Phil performs 4-5 exercises each for his quadriceps and hamstrings. He even performs one set of seated calf raises at the end of his workout for good measure.

For this workout Phil performs all of his hamstrings exercises first in his routine before any quadriceps work. Phil believes this is a great way to specialize on the hamstrings.

This makes a lot of sense because the hamstrings are becoming more and more important for professional bodybuilders. They play an especially important role in the side chest pose where you can really see the hamstrings drop down towards the ground.

Here is one of Phil Heath’s more advanced leg workouts. Check it out:

Phil Heath’s Leg Workout #2

  • A1: Lying leg curl, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B1: Smith machine squats, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • C1: Seated leg curl, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D1: Vertical leg press, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E1: Romanian deadlift, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • F1: Walking barbell lunges, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • G1: Machine hack squat, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

For this workout Phil Heath does something crazy: he alternates back and forth between sets for his hamstrings and quadriceps! Never in my life have I seen a professional bodybuilder train this way.

Phil Heath says it is just like alternating between exercises for your biceps and triceps: it helps you manage the fatigue in your musicals and it gives you a great pump. This is definitely an interesting idea by Phil “the gift” Heath.

Part 3: Phil Heath’s Shoulder Workouts

Phil Heath’s shoulders were always one of his better muscle groups. Phil has narrow clavicles which should make his upper body look more narrow. However, Phil’s shoulders are so unbelievably massive that it really doesn’t matter. Phil’s shoulders are as wide as a movie screen!

Phil trains his shoulders with traditional bodybuilding-style workouts where you perform multiple exercises for all 3 shoulder heads. Here is one of Phil’s go-to shoulder workouts. Check it out:

Phil Heath’s Shoulder Workout #1

  • A1: Hammer strength overhead press, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B1: Standing dumbbell lateral raise, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • C1: Bent over rear delt dumbbell raise, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D1: 30 degree prone dumbbell front raise, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E1: Standing cable face pull, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

When you think about it this is a very typical bodybuilding-style shoulder workout. Phil performs one major overhead pressing exercise and then a bunch of isolation exercises to target all 3 heads of the shoulders.

Phil really isn’t concerned about how much weight he lifts on any of these exercises. All he cares about is getting a great pump and really feeling the target muscle work. As they say, you can’t argue with results!

Now let’s look at one of Phil’s higher volume shoulder workouts. Check it out:

Phil Heath’s Shoulder Workout #2

  • A1: Machine overhead press, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B1: Standing dumbbell lateral raise, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • C1: Machine rear delt raise, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D1: Machine lateral raise, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E1: Machine front raise, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • F1: Reverse pec dec, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

Once again Phil sticks to his normal shoulder training game plan: he performs one overhead pressing exercise followed by a bunch of isolation exercises to target all 3 heads of the deltoids.

Phil really doesn’t need to do anything fancy for his shoulders. They are just one of those body parts that grows no matter what he does!

Part 4: Phil Heath’s Back Workouts

Phil Heath’s back was his biggest weakness for many years. It was truly his “Achilles heel.” Many people believed that Phil would never bring up his back to match the rest of his body. Phil Heath proved everyone wrong and built up one of the greatest backs the bodybuilding world has ever seen.

Phil’s back is so massive that it rivals the backs of Dorian Yates and Ronnie Coleman in their prime.

So how did Phil transform his backside? The truth is Phil doesn’t have a secret exercise or routine. He just got to work on the basic bodybuilding exercises.

Here is one of Phil’s go-to back workouts. Check it out:

Phil Heath’s Back Workout #1

  • A1: Pull ups (wide / overhand grip), 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B1: Barbell bent over rows (supinated grip), 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • C1: One-arm dumbbell row, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D1: Seated cable row (v-handle), 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E1: Lat pulldown (spongey grips), 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

If you watch a lot of Phil Heath’s back training videos then you know that he LOVES to start his workouts with wide grip pull ups. Phil says that this workout really works the outer lats which is one of the most important muscle groups for increasing your V-taper.

The rest of his workout focuses on basic mass-building exercises like rows and pulldowns. Phil says that he never performs deadlifts in his routine – the risk just isn’t worth the reward for him.

Here is a slightly different back workout that Phil performed while leading up to a major bodybuilding competition. Check it out:

Phil Heath’s Back Workout #2

  • A1: Machine pulldown (medium / neutral grip), 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B1: Machine pulldown (medium / pronated grip), 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • C1: Machine pullover, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D1: Machine pulldown (wide / supinated grip), 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E1: Smith machine rack deadlift, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • F1: Machine row (neutral grip), 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

This workout was more geared towards increasing his back width. In other words he wanted to focus on making his back wider by training the lats and even the teres major.

Phil starts his workout off with 3 different types of pulldowns and even some old-school machine pullovers. The machine pullover was Dorian Yates favorite back width exercise. If you have access to the machine then I strongly recommend you give it a shot.

Finally Phil finishes his workout with some smith machine rack deadlifts and machine rows.

Part 5: Phil Heath’s Arm Workouts

When I think about Phil Heath I think about his enormous arms. Phil’s biceps and triceps are so big that he looks like an alien sent from another planet!

Phil’s arms grow so fast that he doesn’t even train them most of the year. He just waits until the last 2-3 months before his next bodybuilding competition and performs a few medium-effort workouts.

I don’t think it’s a great idea to copy Phil’s arm workouts but it’s still interesting to see how a Mr. Olympia winner trains his best body part.

Here is one of Phil’s go-to arm workouts. Check it out:

Phil Heath’s Arm Workout #1

  • A1: Standing barbell curl, 3-4 sets of 21 reps**
  • B1: Dumbbell concentration curl, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • C1: One-arm dumbbell hammer curl, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D1: Machine preacher curl, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E1: Machine pushdown (straight bar), 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • F1: 30 degree incline skull crusher (behind head), 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps****
  • G1: Hammer strength dips, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

For this workout Phil performs 4 exercises for his biceps and three for his triceps. One of Phil’s favorite bicep training techniques is “21’s.” Here is the exact training protocol:

  • Perform 7 reps in the bottom half of the range of motion
  • Perform 7 reps in the top half of the range of motion
  • Perform 7 full range of motion reps

21’s are an old-school bicep training technique that were popularized during the golden era of bodybuilding in the 1940s and 1950s. Sometimes the best training methods have been used for a long time!

Here is another one of Phil’s favorite pre-contest arm workouts. Check it out:

Phil Heath’s Arm Workout #2:

  • A1: Standing dumbbell curls (supinated grip), 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B1: Dumbbell concentration curl, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • C1: Standing dumbbell hammer curl, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D1: 30 degree incline dumbbell curl, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E1: Machine preacher curl, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • F1: Machine overhead extension, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • G1: Machine dips, 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps
  • H1: Cable pushdowns (pronated grip), 3-4 sets of 8-20 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

Once again Phil picks a handful of exercises for his biceps and triceps and goes to town on them. Phil isn’t concerned with how much weight he uses on these exercises. His arms grow so fast that the amount of weight on the bar is almost irrelevant!

Instead Phil just focuses on feeling the target muscle working and getting a great pump.

Conclusion

Phil Heath will go down as one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time. The legendary Ronnie Coleman said in an interview that Phil Heath is the only modern-day bodybuilder that could have given him a run for his money. Talk about a compliment!

I want to make this clear: if your goal is to build muscle as fast as possible then you should probably copy another bodybuilder’s training style. Phil Heath is on another planet in terms of bodybuilding talent. His arms could grow just from running a lemonade stand! However, it is fascinating to see how one of the all-time greats trains to better his physique.

Here is a great quote by Phil Heath on the importance of creating a positive vision for your life:

“Being Negative and Lazy is a disease that leads to pain, hardship, depression, poor health and failure. Be pro active, and give a damn to achieve success!”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen and I'm the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster then you've come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world. So grab a seat, kick back and relax. There's never been a better time to lift weights or to learn the art and science of strength training program design.

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