Push Legs Pull Routine With Flexible Scheduling

Choosing your training split is the starting point of designing your workout program. There are all sorts of body-part combinations you could make as you divide up your muscles. Training smart, however, requires that you follow some basic principles.

Many splits ignore those principles and, as a result, put you on the back foot before you even select your exercises. One of the best routines, which is actually based on simple principles, is the push/legs/pull routine. In this article, we’ll go in-depth on push/legs/pull routine to discover the what, why and how of this awesome training split.

What is a push/legs/pull workout routine?

The push/legs/pull routine is a training split that divides the 8 major training muscles of the body into three separate areas. These divisions are based on the direction of training of those muscle groups; pushing, legs and pulling, which is a combination of the two.

Here’s how the muscles are divided on a push/legs/pull program:

  • Push day – Chest, shoulders, and triceps.
  • Legs leg – Quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.
  • Pull day – Back and biceps.

With this routine, you train your pushing muscles on one day, your legs on the next and your pulling muscles on the third workout day of the cycle.

There are variations of the PLP program that allow you to train each body part both once and twice per week but more on that later.

Push/Pull/Legs vs Push/Legs/Pull

There are a couple of options as to how you order your workouts. While the conventional PPL routine order is push/pull/legs, you can also insert your leg training between your two upper body workouts. So, what’s the difference?

On a PPL routine, legs come at the end of the training cycle. If you are only training each body part once per week, this will give you two full days of recovery after your leg workout before hitting the gym again. If you are working your quads with sufficient intensity, then you’ll need every one of those 48 hours to rest and recover.

One PLP routine provides you with at least two days to recover between working upper body muscles. This will ensure that you are completely fresh when working those body parts.

Another option is to go for an LPP (legs/push/pull) sequence where you do your leg training first. This allows you to hit your hardest workout first. For some people, this is a psychological advantage. Getting legs in and done on Monday means that you don’t have it hanging over your head all week long!

What are the benefits of a push/legs/pull routine and why it works?

Bodybuilder concentration bicep curls

Prevents pre-exhaustion

The major benefit of the push/legs/pull program is that it prevents you from the pre-exhaustion and overtraining that is a part of many other training splits. That’s because the pushing exercises don’t recruit the legs or pulling muscles to help complete the movement. As an example, the bench press doesn’t involve the hamstrings or biceps.

The benefit here is that when you come in for your leg workout, the muscle soreness that you feel in your chest will not detract from your leg training. What’s more, your legs will be completely fresh for the coming workout so you could get the most out of it.

Active recovery

An associated benefit of push/pull training is that, when you are pushing your antagonistic, or opposite, muscle group is being stretched. So, when you are pushing your chest on the bench press, your lat muscles will be stretched. This active loaded stretching will assist in active recovery if you have tried that muscle group the day before.

Warm-up

Whenever you train your chest, you are also using your shoulders and triceps as secondary muscles to assist in the movement. This provides an excellent warmup to those muscle groups, which are going to be worked in the same session. In fact, the front delts get so much work from your bench-pressing work, that you could cut out any shoulder pressing work altogether and focus on your side delts to create shoulder width.

Priority training

Push/Legs/Pull is an ideal program if you need to focus on bringing up a weak muscle group. If for instance, you want to focus on working your shoulders, you could do a single pressing movement for 3 heavy sets (either barbell or dumbbell) and then do four or five exercises for the shoulders, hitting all three heads and then finishing with a single triceps movement, such as close grip bench press for 3 heavy sets.

Leg intensity

The fact that you are training legs by themselves on a PLP or PPL workout allows you to go all out on your leg training. If you’ve ever trained your legs to the max, then you know how hard it is to give even 75% of your max to another body-part afterward. When done properly, leg training will wipe you out. With PPL, you can fry your quads, hammies, and calves and then head for the door!

Flexibility

Because it involves only a 3-day split, PPL is flexible enough to fit in with virtually any training regimen. If you want to train each body part once per week, you can do that by simply using a day on / day off protocol. But, if you want to step it up to twice a week per body-part, you can do that also.

Is a push/legs/pull program right for me?

The PLP is an effective program to build mass. It works best when paired with compound exercises that work all of the pushing or pulling muscles. Because you are working more than two body-parts on two of your three workouts, you need to limit your exercise selection to the big moves that provide the most bang for the buck.

Due to these reasons, PLP is best suited for intermediate bodybuilders. Advanced bodybuilders will probably want to split their body parts up a little further so as to work no more than two body parts per workout. This will allow them to incorporate a broader range of exercises to allow them to carve the detail into the mass that they have already built.

Sample Push/Pull/Legs Routines

So, what does a PPL routine actually look like?

Let’s have a look at a couple of sample routines, based on both a 3-day and a 6-day training split.

3-day split

  • Day 1: Push
  • Day 2: Rest
  • Day 3: Legs
  • Day 4: Rest
  • Day 5: Pull
  • Day 6: Rest
  • Day 7: Rest

Push – Chest, shoulders, triceps

ExerciseSetsReps
Flat Barbell Bench Press 48/8/6/6
Decline Dumbbell Press36/6/6
Dips3amrap
Cable Side Lateral Raise312/12/12
Upright Row312/12/12
Overhead Triceps Extension312/10/8
Reverse Dipsamrap

Legs – Quads, hamstrings, calves

ExerciseSetsReps
Squats48/8/6/6
Front Squats212/12
Lunges310/10/10
Leg Curls312/10/8
Stiff Leg Deadlift210/8
Standing Calf Raise215/15
Seated Calf Raise215/15

Pull – Back, traps, biceps

ExerciseSetsReps
Deadlift48/8/6/6
Pull Ups3amrap
Bent Over Row38/8/8
Face Pulls312/12/12
Shrugs212/12/12
Barbell Curls310/8/6
Close Grip Chins2amrap

6-day split

  • Day 1: Push 1
  • Day 2: Legs 1
  • Day 3: Pull 1
  • Day 4: Push 2
  • Day 5: Legs 2
  • Day 6: Pull 2
  • Day 7: Rest

Push 1 – chest, shoulders, triceps

ExerciseSetsReps
Flat Dumbbell Bench Press 48/8/6/6
Incline Dumbbell Press36/6/6
Dips3amrap
Dumbbell Shoulder Press312/12/12
Upright Row312/12/12
Overhead Triceps Extension312/10/8
Reverse Dipsamrap

Legs 1 – Quads, hamstrings, calves

ExerciseSetsReps
Squats48/8/6/6
Hack Squats28/6
Farmer’s Walk310/10/10
Leg Curls312/10/8
Stiff Leg Deadlift210/8
Standing Calf Raise215/15
Seated Calf Raise215/15

Pull 1 – back, traps, biceps

ExerciseSetsReps
Deadlift48/8/6/6
Lat Pulldowns3amrap
One Arm Row38/8/8
Face Pulls312/12/12
Shrugs212/12/12
Body Drag Curls310/8/6
Preacher Curls28/6

Push 2 – Chest, shoulders, triceps

ExerciseSetsReps
Smith Machine Neck Press 415/15/12/12
Incline Fly312/12/12
Cable Crossover215/15
Overhead Barbell Press312/12/12
Dumbbell Side Laterals315/15/15
Triceps Pushdown315/15/12
Close Grip Bench Press2amrap

Legs 2 – Quads, hamstrings, calves

ExerciseSetsReps
Front Squats415/15/15
Hack Squats28/6
Farmer’s Walk310/10/10
Leg Curls312/10/8
Stiff Leg Deadlift210/8
Standing Calf Raise215/15
Seated Calf Raise215/15

Pull 2 – Back, traps, biceps

ExerciseSetsReps
Pull Ups50 total
Seated Row312/12/12
Rack Pull210/10
Reverse Fly312/12/12
Face Pull215/15
Seated D/B Curl315/12/10
Cable Curl212/12

How does training 3 days a week compare to training 6 days a week?

3-Day Split

The 3-day split is the most convenient program to follow. It only requires training 3 times per week on alternate days. This could be Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. You can even workout on 2 consecutive days with a longer break between the third one such as Monday, Tuesday and Friday. This makes this program easy to schedule and to fit into pretty much any lifestyle.

The major disadvantage of the 3-day split is that there is not enough training frequency to allow for maximum strength and muscle improvement. Training each body part once per week is beneficial for beginners and those who are wanting to maintain their current muscle and strength levels. However, if you are an intermediate or advanced trainer wanting to make gains, you will want to train each body part twice per week.

6-Day Split

The 6-day split is not as convenient as the 3-day version. It requires committing to working out six days per week. That leaves no room for versatility to meet emergencies when you can’t get to the gym.

The major advantage of the 6-day split is that it allows you to train each body part twice per week. This is the optimum training frequency for natural muscle and strength gains. It allows you to vary your training load and rep range between the two workouts for each body-part each week similar to the PHUL workout but with more versatility. For example, you can go heavy with low reps on the first workout and lighter with higher reps on the second workout of the week. This allows you to work both fast twitch and low twitch muscle fibers over the course of the week for maximum strength and muscle development.

How to progress in the PPL routine and when to increase weights?

The success of this program depends on progressively increasing the intensity of the workout. The main way to do this is obviously to add weight to the bar. Set the goal to increase the poundage every workout on your first exercise, which is your heavy compound move. Adding just 1.25 pounds to each side of the bar will provide the needed stress force adaptive muscle breakdown. On the other exercises, you should be aiming to increase the weight every second workout. To help stay focused and get the most out of this routine, don’t forget to maintain proper nutrition and take necessary supplements.

When to take a break or deload

The sample routines provided above are to be done for a period of 8 to 12 weeks. At the end of that time take a full 7-day break from training. From there you should move into a different 8 to 12-week program in order to provide the variety and muscle confusion that your body needs to continue making progress.

Change up your training split and exercises, perhaps going to a 3-day full body or 4-day training split, hitting 2 body parts per workout. Follow that program for 8 to 12 weeks, take a week off and then go back into another PPL program.

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