Push/Pull/Legs usually refers to a training split, where you have a push day, pull day, and leg day. Combination of these 3 types of exercises together, you got a full-body workout routine for 6 days in a week. We will talk about push/pull and leg days but also going to look at them from a scientific point of view
Push days usually include pushing movements. Horizontal and vertical targeting the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
Pull days usually involve vertical and horizontal pulling movements that are more back and biceps.
Leg days include quads, hamstrings, and glutes, and calves.
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Is push/pull/legs good for beginners?
Now, push/pull/legs are not a beginner split. It’s better suited for the intermediate to advanced athlete. And here’s why. If you exercise frequency, you’ll know that the scientific community right now generally suggests hitting a muscle group at least twice per week.
So, if we have a push day, pull day, and a leg day to get twice a week frequency for each muscle group, you need to be doing that cycle twice in a week. And in my opinion, I don’t think a beginner needs to be in the gym six days a week to have optimized progress.
So today we’re going to go through a full push/pull/legs sample program, I’ll explain everything step by step. Then we’ll talk a little bit about the setup in terms of how to implement this in your week.
We’ll go over some advantages and disadvantages of the push/pull/leg split. And lastly, we’ll come up with some possible solutions for the disadvantages, which will include giving you a modified push/pull/legs program. If that sounds good to you, Let’s begin.
6 Day workout plan overview
Alright, so here’s an overview of the plan for simplicity’s sake, we’re going to layout our push days here, pull days and then leg days, we’ll talk more about how to implement this in your week later.
Note that I have two push days, two pull days and two leg days which will fit into a six times per week program. Just you know what you're getting into.
These are the weekly volumes for each muscle group in terms of sets per week. So, we’ve got your eight main muscle groups here, quads, hamstrings, glutes, chest, backside delts, biceps, triceps, and calves. And on the right, you have the number of sets per week that you’re hitting.
6 Day workout sets
|Muscle Group||Sets Per Week|
So, this program that I’ll be showing you is set for an intermediate to advanced athlete. Of course, you’ll be tweaking your volumes to optimize progress as we talked about in the volume.
Push Day 1 Sets & Reps
So, starting with our push days, on day one, you’ve got bench press three by five to eight, then you’ve got dumbbell presses, and cable fly’s. Then you’ve got skull crushers for triceps, and then upright rows and dumbbell raises for your side delts.
Push Day 2 Sets & Reps
|Incline dumbbell bench||3*6-10|
On the second push day, you’ll be starting with a barbell overhead press. Now note that I like to start one of my push days with a horizontal push and the other one with a vertical push.
This is just because I like to give quite a bit of priority to my vertical pressing as well. And I find that if I do my vertical presses after horizontal presses, they take quite a hit in terms of how well I can perform on them.
So, this is a personal preference. If you want you could start both workouts with a horizontal press.
So, after that, we’ve got an incline dumbbell bench, then weighted dips, which I actually will count as chest and triceps volume. And moving on we’ve got triceps press downs, and then upper rows and cable raise again for the side delts.
Now I recommend doing about two-thirds of our volume in the six to 12 rep range and the rest outside of it. So, in terms of chest work, we get that outside the six to 12 rep range volume from our sets of five on bench and cable fly’s.
For triceps, you will be venturing outside that 612-rep range when you do press downs. And for side delts, you’ll be getting that higher rep work on day two. Note that where possible, I’ll try and split up my day. So, day one is slightly biased towards lower rep ranges and day two is a lighter, higher rep range day.
This is largely to break up the monotony but it also might have some role in terms of recovery or strength.
Pull Day 1 Sets & Reps
Now we’re going to move on to our pull days. So, on day one, you’ve got barbell rows, lat pulldowns, and then cable rows. For biceps, you’ve got barbell curl and preacher curl. And then you’ve got a triset of abs. In terms of that abs triset, what I mean is that you would string together three exercises with a short rest in between each.
So, say hanging leg raises. Then cable crunches and then standard crunches.
Pull Day 2 Sets & Reps
|1 arm dumbbell row||3*8-12|
On pull day number two, you’ve got weighted chin-ups to start and then one arm dumbbell rows, lat pulldowns. And then for biceps, you’ve got dumbbell curls and incline curls and then again abs.
Note that my pulleys follow a similar style to my push days where one day begins with a heavy horizontal pole and the other day begins with a heavy vertical poll.
And you’ll then see that I like to alternate between horizontal and vertical pulling movements.
I like the idea of switching up movement patterns so that I don’t get overly fatigued for one specific movement pattern within one workout. This is largely just my personal opinion, I find that say if you split up your workout so that one pull day was all horizontal pulling, and the other pole day was all vertical pulling, I feel that my performance would dip near the end of the workout.
Now briefly in terms of the back, we get our outside of six to 12 rep range volume from our lat pulldowns on day two sets of 12 to 15. And for biceps, so we get that on day two as well incline curls.
For ABS I give you quite a wide rep range because I realized that it’s not always easy to load the ABS heavily, but you can get a good hypertrophy stimulus even training in rep ranges up to 30 as long as you push the relative intensity quite hard, within a few reps shy of failure.
Legs Day 1 Sets & Reps
Now moving on to legs for day one, you start with squats, three sets of five to eight. Then you’ve got RDLs then leg presses, leg extensions, leg curls, and calf raise. For day two, we’ve got deadlifts.
Legs Day 2 Sets & Reps
First of all, then leg presses, lunges which account for hamstring and glute development, and then more leg extensions, leg curls, and calf raises. Note that in general, I tend to organize my workout in terms of decreasing exercise difficulty.
So, I’ll start with my heaviest compound free weight movement. And then later on in the workout, I’ll move on to more compound machine movements.
And lastly, isolation work or small muscle groups.
So quickly looking at individual muscle groups for quads, we get some high-intensity work on the squat and we’ve got our low-intensity high rep work on lighting essentials on day two. For glutes and hams. deadlifts will give us our heavy sets of five.
Note that for an advanced athlete, if you’re trending towards really high volumes, deadlifts might not be the best idea because of the amount of fatigue they generate, which can interfere with your other work.
If you find yourself having difficulty recovering on a high-volume program like 20 sets per week, consider swapping out deadlifts for another hip hinge movement. And again, we’ve got our high rep work for leg curls.
The heavy free weight movements tend to lend themselves better to the lower rep ranges, and isolation work works better for higher rep ranges.
So, there you have it, I’ve written the number of sets per workout below each workout so you can get a sense of how long each session is going to be. Note that in a push/pull/legs program, push days tend to be the longest because you just have more muscle groups to hit over that day.
Push Pull & Legs Split
Okay, now that you’ve seen the program, let’s talk about how to implement this through the week. push pull legs are well suited for six days per week. The way I like to lay it out is I should like to go legs push and pull.
The main reason is to take advantage of this one rest day here. Obviously, on the first day of the week, you’re going to be the most well recovered and it makes sense to put your highest priority train session or the most difficult at that time when you’re most rested.
6 day routine for Push/Pull/Legs
For most people that usually ends up being your heavy leg day. So, I would put that first. You also need to think about ordering when you place to pull these next leg days because your back does get fatigued when you do heavy leg type movements or deadlifts.
Now in general, when I have to put a pull day next to a leg day, prefer to have the pull day first because your back is a relatively smaller muscle group than your legs, and train your back probably won’t affect your leg date that much the day after.
But if you have a big leg day and followed with a back day, the next day, you're back training will probably suffer.
Advantages & Disadvantages
In terms of advantages – push pull legs are nicely structured four to six days per week program, and it can accommodate quite a high level of volume.
Disadvantages – push pull legs to give you a relatively low frequency. And a lot of people find that smaller muscle groups like the biceps, triceps, side delts, and calves benefit from being trained more frequently.
Also, if you find that you need very high volumes to progress, say more than 20 sets per week. Having these massive sessions where you do more than 10 sets of a muscle group in one workout can lead to a lot of fatigue in your later sets and unproductive training.
The scientific community right now is generally suggesting that you shouldn't be going more than 10 to 12 sets of a muscle group within one workout.
So, as an example, let’s say you want to end up going to three sets per week for your back. If you were to split those up over two workouts, you’d be doing 15 sets of back in one workout and your last three to five sets are probably going to be a poor quality Since you’re so fatigued from all those sets prior.
In that case, you might be better off splitting up your back training over three days where you do 10 sets each.
Another downside is that your biceps triceps and delts may be fatigued by your main compound movements that happen earlier. Another downside is that your biceps triceps and delts might be fatigued from your training earlier in that workout in your push workout.
You have to hit your chest, your shoulders, and by the time you get to the triceps at the end. They might already be very fatigued from doing those horizontal and vertical pushing movements.
This is a very similar reasoning to the previous point. And again, you might benefit from splitting up some of the volumes from these muscle groups onto other days.
Possible solutions of Push/Pull/Legs
So, what are some practical ways in which we can address these disadvantages of the push/pull/leg split, that’s what we’re going to talk about now.
Alright, so here are our modified push/pull/legs, this program is similar to the one before it all the total weekly volumes are the same. But basically, what I did is I took some of our side delt volumes from our push days and put them onto the end of our pull days.
Then we took half of our bicep work from the end of pull days and swapped it with half of our calf work from leg days. What that results in is now our delts are being trained four days per week, our biceps are being trained four days per week, and our calves are being trained four days per week.
Furthermore, to address some of the issues we talked about earlier, our long push days are now shortened a little bit, so that the days are more even across, you’ve got some days where you can train your side delts and your biceps when they’re fresh, and not in a pre-fatigued state at the end of a long push day or pull day.
And we’re able to hit our small muscle groups with a high frequency, which might accommodate higher volumes if you decide to ratchet up the numbers as an advanced athlete.
Now as you can see, you can fix a lot of issues by manipulating the frequency and volume of individual muscle groups independently. This is a concept I want you guys to think about as we move forward. Because as a more advanced athlete, you want to be seeing each muscle group as having its separate training program.
What ends up happening is that you’ll end up moving towards a custom split, where there’s not necessarily a structured date as a push day or an upper-body day, but rather each day contains individual muscle groups that are trained on their own schedule, which is the most flexible for allowing for individual needs and optimizing progress overall muscle groups.
Daniel Amankwah is a fitness expert for 4EvaFit Lifestyle, personal fitness coach, personal trainer, blogger, and a motivational speaker living in Acton, Massachusetts. His affection for a healthy lifestyle has penetrated through the noise in the health, fitness industry and empowers people to create sustainable prescriptions for lasting health, happiness, and confidence.
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