The Best Workout for Body Recomposition

At Ultimate Performance our training philosophy is constantly being refined to produce the best possible results for our clients.

From years of experimentation, what we’ve found is that the best workout for body recomposition is one that draws influence from two similar systems:

‘Peripheral Heart Action’ (PHA) and ‘German Body Composition’ (GBC).

Developed by Dr Arthur Steinhaus in the 1940s and brought into the forefront of bodybuilding by Bob Gadja (a former Mr America/Universe in the 1960s), the PHA method is designed to keep blood circulating throughout the whole body during the course of the workout.

On a similar note, GBC was popularised by Charles Poliquin in the 1990s after reading the pioneering research by Romanian exercise scientist (who defected to West Germany during the Cold War), Hala Rambie. The research uncovered that by raising levels of blood lactate, fat loss could be accelerated. More lactate corresponds to a greater release of growth hormone, which tells your body to build muscle and burn body fat, the essence of body recomposition!

The best way to keep blood circulating around the body and raise whole-body lactate levels is to pair upper and lower-body exercises for 8-15 reps with short, 30-60 second rest intervals.

Every new client at U.P will use the GBC/PHA method for at least the first 3 weeks of his or her transformation.

What are the benefits?

Besides the elevation of lactate and growth hormone, this initial phase of alternating upper and lower-body exercises comes with other advantages.

1. Avoids localised fatigue

For new trainees, especially beginners, this is an important benefit. While lactate generation is key, we don’t want lactate to build locally. Pairing exercises of the same muscle group, i.e. agonist supersets / tri-sets / giant sets will typically lead to technique breakdown and drastic reductions in loading, two problems beginners need to avoid.

To give a real-life example, pairing incline bench presses and squats is a good choice. Pairing incline bench presses and flat dumbbell presses would be a poor one.

2. EPOC (Exercise Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption)

EPOC essentially refers to the ‘afterburn’ effect of training, which can help you burn more calories long after you’ve left the gym. A well-executed GBC/ PHA session will likely elevate your EPOC for up to 48 hours after.

3. Increased work capacity

If you’ve never trained before, or you’ve not been taking things too seriously, GBC/PHA will bring up your work capacity like nothing else.

The key is to be strict with your rest intervals. During these phases, you want to stick to 30-60 second breaks between sets, no longer. At first, it’ll be very tempting to rest longer, but it’s important you stick with it to build the initial work capacity.

4. High frequency

To learn new movement patterns quicker, build strength and add muscle, a high frequency of training is essential.

GBC/PHA will have you training muscle groups anywhere from 2 to 4 times per week, so it’s no surprise when after 3 to 4 weeks, clients are already a lot stronger, more athletic with vastly improved body composition.


5. Create a baseline

The beauty of GBC/PHA is that it’s not only limited to beginner clients. No matter your training age, this will hurt! We like to use this initial phase to take every client back to the basics, and create a strong baseline to build from.

6. Better than typical aerobics

Traditional cardio will focus purely on fat/weight loss, often compromising muscle tissue and strength. By using our method with a focus on progressive overload, you’ll not only lose body fat, but build muscle too.

What are the rules?

  • Train 3 times per week
  • Focus on compound, multi-joint movements. Squats and deadlifts are in, wrist curls and kickbacks are out!
  • Strict rest intervals of 30-60 seconds
  • Keep reps in the 8-15 rep bracket
  • Alternate between upper- and lower-body, or opposing movements.

Try this Sample Programme

Here’s a template of how to adopt this approach, filled with example exercises. We’ve included an ‘A’ and a ‘B’ workout, which you’ll rotate between with a rest after each day.

This would work very well as a phase 1 for a new trainee. After this, the direction your programming takes will depend on training age, body fat, gender and work capacity.

If you’re unsure what any of the terminology is, please refer to our UP glossary of fitness terms.

UP Workout A

UP Workout B

Common Mistakes

1. Insufficient rest

 A common problem we see when performing these types of workouts is actually resting too little.

Whilst it sounds good in theory to give yourself only 10 seconds rest, what you’ll find is your loads will take a sharp downturn, and the training intensity will actually drop off.

The lesson here is to never sacrifice quality at the expense of quantity.

2. Improper pairing of exercises

This isn’t referring to the agonist supersets/tri-sets/giant sets we discussed earlier. Instead, it’s about disregarding the integrity of the lower back.

For example, when pairing a lower body push with an upper body pull, a poor pairing would be back squats with bent over rows, as both exercises require a great deal of stability and strength in the lower back. A better option would be to use a supported row or pulldown variation where the lower back isn’t stressed.

Female training

3. Isolation moves

This method of training is all about selecting exercises which provide the greatest ‘bang for your buck’.

Whilst you can certainly get lean doing only isolation exercises, you’ll miss out on a host of benefits, ranging from improved movement capabilities, more muscle mass built and greater levels of EPOC.

4. No tracking of workouts

Even though we’re in a ‘fat loss phase’, never just think of training as a time to burn calories. This is the only time we can stimulate muscle-building pathways, so it’s essential progressive overload is in place with proper tracking of workouts.

It’s commonly said that there’s no perfect training programme. However, for our specific clientele going through one of our 12-week transformations, we’ve found no better way to kick-start the process than this system described here.

Find out more

Learn how you can achieve your body transformation goals with the experts at Ultimate Performance.