Following on the heels of a full body training split and upper/lower split, the next logical progression for the program-thirsty lifter is the Push/Pull/Legs split, or PPL for short.
Many a classic bodybuilder physiques have been chiseled using the PPL approach because of its simplicity, and the fact that it just flat out delivers results over and over again. The main reason Push/Pull/Legs routines work so well and have stood the test of time, is that they train all the major muscle groups (chest, back, legs, shoulders), can fit any training goal (muscle gain, fat loss, etc.) or schedule (2 days / week, 3 days / week, etc.) and allow plenty of time for the muscles to recover. Perhaps best of all, PPL training programs are incredibly easy to understand.
What is Push/Pull/Legs?
At its core, Push/Pull/Legs training programs divide each workout session according to the primary function of your muscles:
- Push: Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps
- Pull: Back and Biceps
- Legs: Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes, and Calves
Each training day only focuses on one movement pattern. For example, Monday would be your Push day so all exercises would target your pushing muscles (chest, shoulders, and triceps). So, typical exercises you’d encounter would include:
- Barbell Bench Press
- Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press
- Dumbbell Incline Bench
- Shoulder Lateral Raises
The list can go on, but essentially on a Push day you’re doing any exercise that involves you pushing the weight away from you.
Same goes for your Pull day, all exercises will involve your pulling muscles where you are bringing a weight towards your body instead of away. These workouts involve pull ups, deadlifts, rows, pull downs, and curls. Basically, your “Pull” day is just like your Back and Biceps day on a traditional Bro Split.
Legs are pretty self explanatory -- you’re going to squat and lunge till your legs are weak and wobbly!
Traditional PPL Weekly Schedule
The classic 3-day Push/Pull/Legs split has you training every other day of the week. So, a typical week following a 3-day PPL split would be:
- Monday: Push
- Tuesday: Off
- Wednesday: Pull
- Thursday: Off
- Friday: Legs
- Saturday: Off
- Sunday: Off
Now, “off” days don’t mean you have to sit around the house eating bon-bons being completely useless. “Off” days refer to weight lifting. Don’t add any extra lifting days to this schedule, that’s part of the beauty of the classic 3-day PPL -- it gives your body plenty of time to rest and recover.
What you can do on your days off from weight training, is do cardio (steady-state or HIIT, your choice), some form of active recovery (yoga, hiking, stretching), or if you’re feeling really beat up, you can take a complete rest day one day per week, ideally.
PPL for Serious Mass Gains
A 3-day PPL split is a perfect training program when trying to put on some serious size. It involves lots of compound lifts, loads of time under tension for your muscles since similar muscles are involved in just about every exercise, and allows for ample recovery, which is a key factor when trying to make your muscles grow.
However, since you’re training each muscle group only one time per week, you’re going to have to attack each and every set of every exercise with relentless tenacity. Each training session will be comprised of almost all compound movements. You don’t have time to waste with silly isolation moves like the pec dec. Get in the gym, hit the iron hard and heavy, and watch the results come!
When to Increase Weight
To get big results from your Push/Pull/Legs split, you need to follow the principle of Progressive Overload. Each workout you should be striving for more weight or more reps in your exercises compared to the previous week’s training session.
When you can complete all reps for all sets at a given weight on an exercise, it’s time to increase the weight slightly. So, if an exercise prescribes 3 sets for 8-10 reps and you get 10 reps on all 3 sets, the next training session, you should increase your weight on the bar or pick a heavier dumbbell.
Training to Failure
You do not need to train to failure to get big results. Training to failure repeatedly on every set of every compound exercise will be incredibly taxing to your Central Nervous System (CNS) and will put you on the fast track to burnout and under-recovering.
Can you still push the envelope in your workouts without training to failure?!
Each set you’ll train up to the point of failure, meaning the point at which you can’t perform another complete rep with good form. Once your form goes south, or you feel that you might miss on a lift, kill the set and live to lift another day. You’ll still make tremendous gains following this approach, you’ll just save yourself a lot of unnecessary wear and tear!
The Best 3-Day Push Pull Legs Split
Now it’s time to put in the work so you can be on your way to getting the best results possible. Just remember, these workouts aren’t going to be easy. Each involves primarily compound lifts which provide the best, and biggest, bang for your training bucks.It’s time to get to training!
|Monday - Push|
|Flat Bench Press||3||6-8|
|Dumbbell Low-Incline Bench||3||8-12|
|Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Press||3||8-10|
|Standing Lateral Raises||3||15-20|
|Triceps Rope Pushdown||3||12-15|
|Tuesday - Pull|
|1-Arm Dumbbell Rows||3||12-15|
|Rear Delt Dumbbell Rows||3||15-20|
|Incline Dumbbell Curls||3||15-20|
|Dumbbell Reverse Lunges||3||10-12/leg|
|Lying Hamstring Curls||3||12-15|
|Seated Calf Raise||3||8-12|
|Toes Elevated Standing Calf Raise||3||15-20|
One of the biggest questions people have when starting a training program is how long should they rest in between sets. Hypertrophy is maximized when resting between 60-120 seconds.
So, for the first exercise of each training session, where you are working in the lower 6-8 rep range, aim for 90-120 seconds in between each set. For all other exercises try to stick to the 60-90 second rest interval.
Taking PPL to the Next Level
Sure, you can run PPL ad infinitum as a 3 day per week schedule for phenomenal results over the long term, but if you really want to get after it in the gym and accelerate your progress even further, you can try your hand at the dreaded 6-Day Push/Pull/Legs workout schedule.
There’s two ways you can structure your training following the 6-day PPL option. The first option is to run it PPL 6 days consecutively followed by a rest day, or train 3 days in a row, rest, another 3 days in a row, rest, etc.
Here’s what a typical week would look like following the 6-day PPL Split:
- Monday: Push
- Tuesday: Pull
- Wednesday: Legs
- Thursday: Push
- Friday: Pull
- Saturday: Legs
- Sunday: REST
- Monday: Push
- Tuesday: Pull
- Wednesday: Legs
- Thursday: Rest
- Friday: Push
- Saturday: Pull
- Sunday: Legs
The 6-day PPL split is not for the beginner or older lifter out there. Training 6 days consecutively is very, VERY taxing on the body, and should only be attempted by experienced lifters who are on top of their recovery, nutrition, and rest. However, if you are up to the task of the 6-day PPL Split, the gains you’ll make simply won’t be matched anywhere else!
Time for Big Results!
Push/Pull/Legs training is one of the oldest, simplest, and most effective training programs you can follow. It’s stood the test of time as an proven results-driven program. PPL training hits all of the major muscle groups with plenty of volume on the most important lifts giving you results few other training programs can match.
It’s not easy, but, if you’re looking for the best results possible or simply looking to switch up your current training routine for something fresh, Push/Pull/Legs delivers everything you’re looking for and more!