Unlocking Strength and Symmetry: Exploring the Push Pull Legs Routine

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

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The fitness community is dedicated to finding and optimizing the best ways to build muscle mass. One of the most respected training methods is the Push Pull Legs Routine for its ability to engage major muscle groups, suit different fitness goals, and remain flexible. 

But this workout split can turn off new and advanced lifters alike for its complexity and high amounts of volume.

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So, is the Push Pull Legs Split right for you? What are the benefits, downsides, and example training weeks? We cover everything you need to know in the article below. Read on for more information.

What Is a Push Pull Legs Split?

The Push Pull Legs Workout is a training split that separates training days into three distinct categories: push exercises, pull exercises, and leg exercises. 

This type of workout split offers a balanced approach, targeting major muscle groups with various movement patterns. 

Here’s a breakdown of each category:

  • Push Exercises: These exercises primarily target the muscles engaged in pushing exercises, like the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Examples of push exercises include bench presses, shoulder press, tricep dips, and push-ups.
  • Pull Exercises: These exercises focus on the muscles engaged in pulling exercises, like the back and biceps. Examples of pull exercises include pull-ups, rows, lat pulldowns, and bicep curls.
  • Leg Exercises: Leg exercises target the lower body muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. Examples of leg exercises include squats, deadlifts, lunges, leg presses, and calf raises.

The Push Pull Legs workout split allows you to dedicate one gym day to each muscle group, with adequate rest time between sessions. For example, with a three-day split, you may perform one category on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, mixing in abdominal exercises when you can. 

This type of workout program ensures you’re making strength gains for major muscle groups with plenty of time for rest and recovery

It’s popular among advanced and novice lifters, as it incorporates compound movements and isolation exercises and is flexible for many training goals. 

Who Should Use a Push Pull Leg Split?

PPL splits offer effective workout routines for all experience levels and physique goals. Whether you’re seeking maximum muscle gains or want to lose a bit of body weight, this type of split can work for you. That said, there are some caveats to be aware of. 

Novice Lifters

Those with zero training experience may have difficulty with a PPL split routine. 

This can be an advanced program, as it includes compound exercises, isolation movements, and more volume than a beginner may be used to. 

If you don’t have any weight training experience whatsoever, it may be best to do full-body training to learn the foundations. If you’re comfortable with a little bit of complexity, you can use the three-day split to manage your volume while you develop muscle strength and technique. 

Advanced Lifters

Advanced lifters can reap substantial benefits from the push-pull legs training week. 

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Advanced trainees typically have strong foundations, understanding compound moves, accessory movements, how much weight they can lift, and their weak points.

Split routines can provide you with adequate volume, targeting key muscles multiple days per week. The flexibility allows you to adjust the training program to fit your schedule and training goals, making it useful for breaking past plateaus. 

Experienced Lifters

Experienced lifters often use the push-pull legs training split for muscle growth, break through plateaus, and maintain muscle mass.

Most professional bodybuilders and lifters use a bro split, targeting a single muscle group each training session or a PPL split. The type of routine you select will depend highly on your training goals, preferences, and time constraints if you’re an experienced lifter.

The Benefits of Push Pull Legs

Regardless of your experience level, you may still wonder why people champion the push-pull leg split so much. There are several advantages to using this type of training program, including combining muscle groups, adequate rest time, and flexibility.

1. Combining Muscle Groups

PPL splits allow you to combine similar muscle groups on the same days, making it easy to think about training days and program your routine. 

For example, push workouts train the chest muscles, triceps, and shoulders. Many of the exercises, like the barbell bench press, target all three of these muscle groups. 

On the next day, you target the pull muscles, including the upper back muscles, biceps, and rear delts. The following leg workout engages the entire lower body with movements like barbell squats and hamstring curls. 

This makes it ultra-convenient and provides additional volume for individual muscles. 

2. Adequate Rest and Recovery Time

Push-pull legs training programs provide adequate recovery time between training sessions, even if you’re on a six-day split. Programs typically have dedicated rest days between each workout, allowing your muscles enough time to repair and grow.

There’s also minimal overlap between each session, so you’re not unintentionally targeting muscle groups. 

This makes the push-pull legs training routine excellent for dealing with muscle soreness, potential injury, or strain

3. Highly Customizable

What are your fitness goals? Do you want to lose 15 pounds of body fat, or do you want to build muscle size? How much time do you have to train?

The PPL routine allows you to customize your training schedule to answer any of these questions. You can adjust the exercise selection depending on your physique goals, like adding additional exercises for the shoulders.

You can also cut back on the workload if you don’t have enough time for a six or 5-day workout split. Regardless of your situation, PPL splits, just as bro splits, can be custom tailored to fit your goals, fitness level, time constraints, and preferences. 

The Disadvantages of Push Pull Legs

Just like any exercise program, there are pros and cons to PPL routines. Some of the disadvantages are circumstantial and can be adjusted to suit your fitness goals. Here are a few drawbacks to keep in mind when deciding if this type of training program is right for you. 

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Three-Day Split May Not Have Enough Volume

One of the drawbacks of using three-day splits is that you may miss out on adequate training volume. You’re only targeting each muscle group once every week, which may not be a problem for beginners—but intermediate lifters may notice slower progress.

Advanced lifters may need to include more sets which can lead to longer gym sessions, more muscle soreness, and fatigue

These may not be a big issue on their own, but you’re probably selecting a three-day split to save time, so long periods at the gym may not be ideal.

Six-Day Splits Can Be Demanding

6-day push-pull leg routines can be challenging, regardless of your experience level. 6-Day PPL routines can sap your energy reserves, as you’re performing several exercises in each session two times per week. 

You will need adequate rest time, healthy diet plans, and ways to manage metabolic stress. That said, the additional volume will recruit more muscle fibers, leading to more size, strength, and progress. 

Push Pull Leg Split For Beginners

Our Beginner Push Pull Leg Split assumes you’re training three days per week, but you can repeat the workouts if you want a six-day routine. You might train on the following days: 

  • Monday: Push Workout
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Pull Workout
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Leg Workout

Of course, you can train Tues/Thurs/Sat or adjust the routine to fit your schedule. You can also swap out some of the exercises to suit your fitness goals or fitness level. 

Workout 1: Push Day

Workout 1 will train the push muscles, including the chest, shoulders, and triceps. 

  • Barbell Bench Press 3 x 8-12 reps. 
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3 x 8-12 reps.
  • Cable Lateral Raise 3 x 12-15 reps.
  • Cable Tricep Pushdown 3 x 12-15 reps. 
  • Cable Chest Fly 3 x 12-15 reps. 

Workout 2: Pull Day

Workout 2 is our pull-day workout, targeting the back and biceps.

  • Deadlift 3 x 3-5 reps.
  • Pull-Ups 3 x 6-8 reps.
  • Lat Pulldown 3 x 8-12 reps.
  • Barbell Rows 3 x 8–12 reps.
  • Bicep Hammer Curls 3 x 8–12 reps. 

Workout 3: Leg Day

Last but not least is leg day. This day will target the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. 

  • Barbell Squat 3 x 6-8 reps.
  • Single Leg Press 3 x 8-12 reps.
  • Seated Leg Curls 3 x 8-12 reps.
  • Seated Calf Raise 3 x 8-12 reps.
  • Glute Ham Raise 3 x 8-12 reps

Push Pull Leg Split For Intermediate Lifters

Our Intermediate Push Pull Leg Split assumes you’re training six days per week and adds two movements to each day. You might take one day off after completing all six training sessions or take a day off in the middle of the week, depending on your preferences. 

Workout 1: Push Day

  • Barbell Bench Press 3 x 8-12 reps. 
  • Incline Barbell Bench Press 3 x 8-12 reps.
  • Cable Chest Fly 3 x 12-15 reps. 
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3 x 8-12 reps.
  • Cable Lateral Raise 3 x 12-15 reps.
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  • Cable Tricep Pushdown 3 x 12-15 reps. 
  • Lying Tricep Skullcrushers 3 x 8-12 reps.

Workout 2: Pull Day

  • Deadlift 3 x 3-5 reps.
  • Pull-Ups 3 x 6-8 reps.
  • Lat Pulldown 3 x 8-12 reps.
  • Barbell Rows 3 x 8-12 reps.
  • Chest Supported Machine Row 3 x 8-12 reps.
  • Bicep Hammer Curls 3 x 8-12 reps. 
  • Preacher Curls 3 x 8-12 reps.

Workout 3: Leg Day

  • Barbell Squat 3 x 6-8 reps.
  • Single Leg Press 3 x 8-12 reps.
  • Seated Leg Curls 3 x 8-12 reps.
  • Seated Calf Raise 3 x 8-12 reps.
  • Glute Ham Raise 3 x 8-12 reps
  • Barbell Hip Thrust 3 x 8-12 reps.
  • Lunges 3 x 12-15 reps.

How to Progress

We laid out the different exercises you can use each training day to ensure you’re hitting all of the major muscle groups—but how do you continue to progress and build strength ?

The primary ways to create progressive overload and develop strength include the following:

  • Changing the weights
  • Changing the number of sets
  • Changing the speed
  • Changing the range of motion

Essentially, unless you continue to use heavier weights or complete more sets, your progress will start to halt. The exact methods you use for progress will depend on your fitness goals, time constraints, and fitness level. 

Increase Weight

One way you can progress with a PPL routine is to use heavier weights over the course of your training. If you’re an advanced lifter, you can incrementally increase weight based on your one rep max.

If you don’t know your maximum strength, you can simply add weight to the bar each time you train.

For example, you might add 5–10 pounds to your compound lifts each training session. Or you might add 1.25–2.5 pound weights to your isolation exercises. This way, you’re constantly challenging the muscles and developing more strength.

Increase the Volume

Another way to progress and stimulate muscle activation is to increase the number of sets you complete each session. Here’s what it might look like:

  • Week 1: 3 x 8
  • Week 2: 4 x 8
  • Week 3: 5 x 8

On the fourth week, you can return to three sets but increase the weight to match your new strength gains and repeat the process. You might increase the weight by 5–10 pounds or more, depending on your fitness levels. 

Rest Intervals

Obviously, you can’t complete every workout without stopping for a break, so how often should you rest between sets or take dedicated rest days? 

Rest Between Sets

The time you take to rest between sets can dramatically impact your training session and how much weight you can lift. The length of rest periods will also depend on your training goals and the exercise.

  • Compound Lifts: Heavy compound movements require more rest than isolation exercises. For movements like the deadlift, squat, and bench press, it’s best to take 1.5–3 minutes between each set. 
  • Isolation Exercises: Accessory movements with lighter weights don’t require as much rest. For exercises like the lateral raise or bicep curl, 60 seconds should be enough time between each set. 
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Remember, there’s plenty of flexibility for PPL sets. If you need a little bit more time between sets, don’t stress out. Several factors can impact how much time you need, like your diet, how much you sleep, stress levels, and more. 

Rest Days

Dedicated rest days are critical, regardless of the training program you’re using. You need to give your muscles time to repair, recover, and grow. Overtraining can increase the risk of injury and halt your progress, as your muscles don’t have enough time to repair.

  • 3-Day Split: You can take a rest day between each training session, like Mon/Wed/Fri, with two dedicated days off. Or you can train three days in a row with four days off. 
  • 6-Day Split: You can take a rest day in the middle of the week before repeating the training schedule. Alternatively, you can take a single rest day at the end of the training schedule.

It’s best to aim for 7–9 hours of sleep each night for adequate recovery time and energy to tackle the day. You can also incorporate low-impact stretching routines, hot baths, or ice plunges, depending on your fitness goals. 

Training Tips to Keep In Mind

Jumping into a new workout routine can be daunting, regardless of your training experience. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and doubt your ability to execute correctly. Here are a few tips you can use to ensure you get the most out of your push-pull leg workout routine. 

Make It Work for You

One of the main advantages of the push-pull leg routine is that there’s plenty of flexibility and variety. You can adjust the types of exercises, the volume, the training days, and other factors to suit your circumstances. 

For instance, you might use the cable machine for certain exercises to place less stress on your joints. Or you might use dumbbell exercises over barbell movements if you’re trying to address muscle imbalances.

Maybe you prefer a 5-day workout split over a three-day or six-day routine. Regardless, you can adjust the training program to suit your needs, goals, and circumstances. 

Eat Enough Protein

Building strength requires protein, regardless if you’re training the lower or upper body. It doesn’t matter if you’re following a full-body training regimen or a calisthenics routine—your body needs protein to repair and grow muscle mass. 

You can use online calculators to determine how many grams of protein you need each day to meet your goals. Otherwise, the general recommendation is 1–1.5 grams per pound of body weight

The protein source is also important. Following a diet resembling a dirty bulk can lead to nutrition deficiencies, fat gain, less energy, and other issues if you aren’t careful. 

Instead, eat high-quality lean meats, like tilapia, chicken breast, ground turkey, or lean beef.

Don’t Forget to Warm Up and Cool Down

It’s critical to warm up before each training session, especially if you’re new to the gym or a training regimen. 

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Warming up prepares your muscles for the exercise by increasing flexibility and blood flow. This can reduce the chance of injury, strain, or soreness.

Cooling off is also important. Performing a few stretches after each session may seem like a hassle, but it can reduce the chance of soreness the next day. It can help prevent muscle or joint strains, ensuring you can hit the gym without any issues.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are Push Pull Leg Routines Effective?

Yes! Push Pull Leg routines are incredibly effective for nearly all fitness levels and training goals. These routines engage all major muscle groups and can be customized to suit your needs. However, PPL splits might be a bit difficult for complete beginners, as there’s a lot to learn and training volume.

Is Push Pull Legs Twice a Week Too Much?

Performing two PPL splits each week, or six days a week, can be a lot of volume. It may not be too much if you have enough time to hit the gym, rest and recover, and eat a healthy diet. That said, training six days a week can be a lot for beginners and novice lifters. 

What Is the Bro Split?

The “Bro Split” is a straightforward training routine that works for each major muscle group once per week on separate days. This means you would have a day dedicated to biceps, legs, and so on. This routine emphasizes high amounts of volume to increase muscle hypertrophy and muscle growth.

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About

Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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