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The Ultimate Push Pull Legs Routine: How To Best Organize Your Workouts

There are a couple of different ways to follow a push pull legs strength training program to increase your strength and muscle mass. These routines are full of benefits and can help you reach your fitness goals.

But what does a push pull legs routine entail exactly? What are the best exercises for a push pull legs split? 

In this article, we will discuss the push pull legs split workout routine and provide you with ideas for how to structure push pull legs workouts that will include the best exercises for a successful push pull legs routine.

We will cover the following: 

  • What Is a Push Pull Legs Routine?
  • Benefits of Push Pull Legs Splits
  • What Muscles Are Involved In Push Pull Legs Workouts?
  • Sample Push Pull Legs Routine

Let’s dive in! 

A bench press.

What Is a Push Pull Legs Routine?

A push pull legs routine, or a push pull legs split or PPL workout split, is one of the most popular and long-standing approaches to body part split strength training routines.

With the PPL workout routine, you perform a “pull workout,” “push workout,” and “legs workout” every week. Thus the name push pull legs workout routine.

Beginners might just start with one of each of the push, pull, and legs workouts per week so that they are training three days per week.

Advanced athletes often bump up to doing a PPL strength routine five days per week, such that they perform two pull workouts, two push workouts, and one leg workout per week.

However, there are no rules regarding the number of days per week you need to train with a push pull legs workout split. If your primary focus is strengthening the lower body, you might train four days per week with two legs workouts.

Deadlift.

Benefits of Push Pull Legs Splits 

There are several benefits to the push pull legs routine, including the following:

#1: PPL Splits Help Ensure Equal Attention On Opposing Muscles

Performing push vs. pull split workouts helps ensure that you are dedicating an equal amount of time, energy, and training volume to opposing muscle groups, which can help prevent muscle imbalances.

Muscle imbalances can limit your functional strength, compromise your physique, and can increase the risk of injuries. 

Even with the best of intentions and trying to follow a carefully-created strength training workout routine, it’s not uncommon that total-body weightlifting training plans end up not being particularly well-balanced.

For example, if you tend to gravitate towards chest and shoulder exercises, your total-body workouts might include just one or two exercises that work each of the opposing muscles in the back but an abundance of exercises that target either the chest or shoulder muscles or both. 

Over time, the more biased your strength training routine is towards certain muscle groups or movements, the more likely it will be that you will develop significant muscle imbalances. 

Therefore, the push-pull split routine is a prudent approach for athletes who are not particularly inclined to do exercises for pulling muscles because it essentially forces an equal distribution of training volume on both functional groups of muscles of the body.

Split squat.

#2: Push/Pull/Legs Workout Splits Allow You to Train Each Muscle Group At Least Twice a Week

One of the primary benefits of the push pull legs routine is that doing this particular strength training split allows you to train the major muscles of your body twice a week with ample rest in between.

Studies suggest that it is best to have at least 48 hours of rest between targeting the same muscle groups, yet greater gains in strength and muscle size (hypertrophy) occur when muscle groups are worked at least twice per week.

Beginners who start with the PPL workout split can do one workout for the push, pull, legs muscle groups per week, while advanced weightlifters can double up and train up to six days per week, hitting each body part split and muscle group twice.

Indeed, studies suggest that a split body workout routine like the push/pull/legs workout split is more effective than either total-body workouts or isolated muscle workouts for hypertrophy (gains in muscle size).

A pull down.

#3: Push/Pull/Legs Workouts Can Improve Functional Performance

Another major benefit of a push pull legs workout split is that the push and pull workouts, particularly, train these muscle groups in a very functional manner rather than training muscles in isolation, as with Arnold splits.

Training muscles that work together for common movement patterns, such as pushing and pulling for the upper body, and squatting, hinging, and lunging for the lower body, can improve functional performance and functional strength.

What Muscles Are Involved In Push Pull Legs Workouts?

One of the keys to successful PPL workout splits is ensuring that you are targeting the right muscle groups for PPL workouts. 

While it is generally rather obvious which muscles you should target during the legs workout in a PPL split, differentiating the push vs pull workout muscles can be more challenging for beginners.

This is because push and pull workouts both target some of the same muscle groups, such as the core muscles, upper back muscles, and shoulders, but the target muscle groups with push pull workouts are different.

A step up.

Push Workouts

Muscles involved in push workouts include the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor in the chest, the deltoid and rotator cuff muscles in the shoulders, and the triceps along the back of the upper arm.

Pull Workouts

Muscles targeted in pull workouts include the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids, and erector spinae in the back; the biceps on the front of your upper arm; and the muscles in the forearms such as brachioradialis.

Although there can be some overlap in the muscular involvement with the pushing and pulling movements, these are the general muscle groups targeted by pushing workouts and pulling workouts, respectively.

Even on push or pull workout days, you might perform some exercises that work the legs and posterior chain muscles, but the focus will be on pulling muscles and pushing muscles in the upper body.

A hip thrust.

Legs Workouts

For the sake of being complete, the muscles worked on legs days in a PPL workout split are the glutes, muscles of the hips, quads, hamstrings, adductors, hip flexors, and calves.

The core muscles will also be trained, and some exercises in leg workouts in a push pull legs routine will involve upper-body muscles.

How to Follow a Push Pull Legs Workout Routine

The way that you structure your PPL workout routine will depend largely on your fitness and experience levels as well as the amount of time you have to devote to strength training.

Beginners can do the push pull legs workout routine training three days per week, one day for each of the three workouts. This will give plenty of rest in between each strength training workout.

Plus, if you are a busy individual with very limited availability in your weekly schedule to head to the gym, you can still do the PPL workout routine training three days per week. 

Bicep curls.

Advanced athletes may use the PPL workout split to train most days of the week and just alternate the workouts with each training day.

Because the muscle groups worked in the push pull legs workouts are different, theoretically, you do not need to wait 48 to 72 hours between workouts (though this is still ideal).

The benefit of this structure is that even though there is some amount of overlap between the push vs pull workout muscles, if you are training with very heavy weights, you can give your muscles 48 hours of rest in between workouts by doing your legs workout in between your push workout and pull workout.

This can help optimize recovery and support better increases in strength and hypertrophy.

Sample Push Pull Legs Routine

Below is a sample 3-day push, pull, legs strength training plan. 

Perform 2-3 sets for 8-12 reps using a load that is 65-85% of your 1RM for the exercise if your goal is hypertrophy and 3-5 sets with 3-6 reps with at least 85% of your 1RM if your goal is increasing strength.

Push WorkoutLegs WorkoutPull Workout
ExerciseExerciseExercise
Barbell Bench PressBarbell Back SquatsBarbell Rows or Row Machine
Seated Overhead PressBarbell DeadliftsPull-Ups Either On Assisted Machine Or Bodyweight
Incline Dumbbell Chest FlyBulgarian Split SquatsCable Reverse Fly
Dumbbell Chest FlyBarbell Hip ThrustsPull-Ups Either On Assisted Machine Or Bodyweight
Triceps Dips Either On Assisted Machine Or BodyweightSeated Calf RaisesCable Pull Downs
Cable Crossover or Pec DeckLateral LungesDumbbell Shrugs
Svend PressesStep-UpsDumbbell Curls

Curious to try a different strength training program than the push pull workout or compare weightlifting programs to find the best one for you? Check out our guide to the 5×5 strength training program here.

Pull up.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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