Ah yes, the classic PPL split. Push, Pull and Legs. Or, if you’re a bit adventurous like I am, Pull, Legs, Push (followed by a rest day).
When done with the proper discipline, the PPL split is a fool proof and effective lifting routine.
The split can also be tailored to your individual goals, allowing you to focus on your strengths and improve your weaknesses.
I personally like to start the routine with a pull day instead of the push day as I mentioned above. The reason for this is that I like to hit my back when it’s fresh and ready to go.
So listen up bro: stop craving huge pecs. Hitting your back is what actually gives you the symmetry and size that you desire.
A big chest is cool, but a developed back goes much farther in the long run. Start your PPL splits with a muscle building back workout and you’ll thank me later for it.
And, you don’t even need to deadlift hundreds of pounds like all those strong boys (who always end up injured in the long-run from this type of training).
Part of the Lean Warrior Philosophy is to develop a strong, athletic physique. You can’t do that if you’re lifting heavy and setting yourself up for injury.
You can still build a great physique with lighter weights and body weight training. A combination of these two styles of training is what I prefer and coach all my clients. It works wonders.
Anyway, let’s dive into the details of the PPL split and why it’s extremely popular.
What is The PPL Split?
Essentially, this split divides your muscle groups into three main functions: the muscles that push, those that pull, and your legs.
Each workout day involves the training of one of these three groups. While one group works, the other two are resting and waiting for their time to shine.
Push Day: This day is dedicated to your chest, shoulders, and triceps. These are the main ‘pushing’ muscles of your body.
Pull Day: This day is the contrast to the pushing muscles (and a more important day in my personal opinion).
The main muscles you’re hitting this day work your back and biceps. These exercises include pull-ups, chin-ups, various rows, pulldowns and so on for the back.
Barbell bicep curls, incline dumbbell curls and hammer curls are more than enough for the biceps when you’ve hit the back right before.
Imagine the weight being pulled toward you, rather than pushed away.
As I pointed out earlier in the article, I prefer to start my week off with a pull day followed by the leg day. Pull, leg, push is how I schedule my PPL splits.
Leg Day: While your legs can both push and pull, this is a third separate workout simply to rest your upper body while training your lower body.
In my opinion, it’s best to put the leg day between your push and pull days. This allows your upper body to rest 48 hours before hitting it again with the weights.
Quads and calves primarily push, like in squats and calf-raises. Your hamstrings often pull during deadlifts and leg curls.
Squats and lunges are another essential leg exercise that can be performed in various ways. Refer to my fat burning leg workout for ideas.
Ab and Core Training: It’s important that you don’t neglect the core. Your abs need to be training just like the rest of your body.
Abs and core are most often trained on leg days, but you will be perfectly fine training them on whatever day feels best for you.
Just remember that your core should be engaged in every exercise. It helps your strength and stability and prevents injury.
Better yet, keeping your core engaged during all your lifts helps supplement the gruesome work you put in to getting that six-pack.
You must make sure you’re eating the correct amount of calories that gives you the deficit needed to lose body fat for your abs to show.
Why Do the PPL Split?
The reason to split your days in this way is to train the muscles with the same functions at the same time. While one muscle group is being worked, the other groups rest.
Take for instance push workouts. Notice that during bench presses, not only is your chest hard at work, but so are your triceps and shoulders.
Working the same group at the same time means they can rest and recover together. You wouldn’t want to work your triceps one day and then hope to have a productive chest workout the next. You’ll find it quite difficult to have a strong chest day with sore triceps.
By pairing muscles of the same function together for the same day, they help each other out. You will be lifting heavier weight and higher reps. You’ll be fresh and ready to go.
From personal experience, I used to try pairing back and chest together at times. And, I would recommend a chest and back day to certain individuals.
But for the vast majority of lifters, you’re best off separating your pushing workouts from your pulling workouts.
Recovery is extremely important when you’re trying to get stronger and build size. Taking 2-3 days off between muscle groups is best for natural lifters (especially if you’re in the leaning down phase).
I used to workout to the point where I would be working through the soreness and fatigue. I would hit the gym 5-6 days per week.
While your body may get used to this style of training, it was always a matter of time before I would plateau and fail to make strength gains.
If you want to hit the gym 5-6 days per week, the PPL split will allow enough recovery for each group on their respective rest days.
Your back can rest while benching and squatting, your chest can rest during pull-ups and rows, and your legs can recover inbetween.
Scheduling the Best PPL Split for Your Lifestyle
There are various ways to implement the PPL split. I’ll list two below that are more than enough for the Warrior physique that you desire.
The key is that you pick a routine that makes the most sense for your lifestyle.
Don’t pick the 5-6 day split just because your favorite Instagram “celebrity” recommend it. He’s most likely on drugs and likes making money off of the programs he’s selling to you.
As a natural lifter, the goal is INTENSITY and rest. Hit your muscles hard, then give them several days of rest.
3-Day Per Week Split:
- Monday: Pulling Muscles (Back and Biceps)
- Tuesday: Rest day / Abs
- Wednesday: Leg Day (Lowerbody muscles)
- Thursday: Rest day / Interval Training
- Friday: Push (Shoulders, Chest, Triceps)
- Saturday: Rest / Abs
- Sunday: Rest / Interval Training
This is the most flexible and convenient version of the split. It is also what I recommend for those who have a busy life.
And, it’s good enough to build muscle and get you lean (as long as you keep the intensity high).
You start the week off with a Pull day. Hit the back and biceps with around 18 sets total. You only need a max of 6 sets for the biceps on this day.
After taking the next day off, hit the legs. As I’ve stated in other articles, legs burn the most calories of any muscle group.
If you haven’t worked your legs out for some time, go easy on them. They will be extremely sore if you give them an intense workout for the first time in weeks.
You’ll finish off this week with a Push day on Friday. You will hit the shoulders, chest, and triceps in that order.
The reason for this order is simply because most people have under-developed shoulders. It’s best to hit them first when your body is fresh and ready to go.
However, feel free to sawp chest with shoulders if you want. It’s completely up to you in this regard.
If you’ve been around the fitness world for long enough, you’ll often hear that you need to hit your muscle groups at least two times per week.
While this may be true to some extent, you can get away with once per week as long as you’re hitting your muscles with proper intensity.
You want to beat up the muscles. If you’re not breaking a sweat, you’re not going hard enough.
Remember that the goal is to build the Warrior physique. The best way to do this is to train like a Warrior who’s preparing his or her body for battle.
This isn’t your typical gym bro workout. Forget about reps and rest times and adding 5 pounds to the bar.
Do enough reps so that it hurts to do another. Throw some rest-pause sets in there. Add a super set or two into the mix.
Change things up however you want. As long as your muscles are blasted by the end of the workout, your body will respond in the correct way: more strength, more stamina, more muscle growth. Just like a Warrior.
Here’s another variation of the PPL split if you want to get in the gym more often:
5-Day PPL Cycle
1) Monday: Pull (Back, Biceps)
2) Tuesday: Legs (Quads, Hamstrings, Claves, Abs)
3) Wednesday: Push (Shoulders, Chest, Triceps)
4) Thursday: Off
5) Friday: Pull (Back, Biceps)
6) Saturday: Legs (Quads, Hamstrings, Claves, Abs)
7) Sunday: Push (Chest, Shoulders, Triceps)
1) Monday: Off
2) Tuesday: Pull (Back, Biceps)
3) Wednesday: Legs (Quads, Hamstrings, Claves, Abs)
4) Thursday: Push (Chest, Shoulders, Triceps)
5) Friday: Off
6) Saturday: Off
7) Sunday: Off
The 5 day PPL split is great because it gives each muscle group five days of rest before they’re ready to rock-n-roll again.
This cycle is perfect if you have the lifestyle that supports it. As long as your training and diet is correct, you’ll hit your goals quickly.
I’m sure you noticed the 3 straight off days on Week 2. Yes, this is intentional. Why?
As a natural lifter who’s goal is to get strong and lean, rest is the most vital ingredient to this goal.
Taking 3 days off in a row after 2 weeks of intense lifting is going to do wonders for your strength gains and recovery.
You’ll be both mentally and physically prepared to step back into the gym for your next Pull day. I guarantee that all of your strength numbers will go up from this amount of recovery.
In fact, I have noticed significant gains in strength when I take an entire week off from the gym. I come back stronger than ever when I do this.
Again, if you are a busy student, spend long hours at work, or have an unpredictable schedule, this cycle may be hard to stick by.
The good news is, there are options. The 3-day cycle is still great for maintaining lean mass and giving your body shape.
The 5-day cycle is a bit hectic and more geared towards those serious about body building. As long as you’re lifting with enough intensity, you don’t need to be in the gym 5 days per week. It’s personal preference at this point.
Mix Up The PPL Split To Your Liking
While I have been dragging on about the PPL split, feel free to adjust the days as you wish. Create your own workout schedule from what you’ve learned so far.
Perhaps you want to hit your legs 3 times per week. That’s perfectly fine. I know girls who prefer hitting their legs on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Monday will be a strength day with heavy weights and low reps. Wednesday is more geared towards light weights and reps in the 12-15 range. And Friday is a bodyweight day with some HIIT sprints, stair climbing or treadmill incline power walking.
Obviously, you can schedule and organize the muscle groups in any order you wish, but I highly recommend that you give your muscles enough time to recover.
If you squat heavy on a Monday, don’t squat heavy again on a Wednesday. Stick to lighter weight exercises like leg curls or dumbbell lunges.
It’s important that you keep your body’s overall health in mind. Because I want you to break a sweat, you will need to embrace the rest days.
While your muscles may be able to lift weights 6 days per week, your joints and tendons will take a beating. This is often overlooked and it leads to long-term injury.
Therefore, the rest days are designed to give not just your muscles enough time to recover and rebuild, but your joints and tendons some much-needed love.
Final Thoughts On The PPL Split
Like anything in life, there are always pros and cons. Workout cycles and patterns can be crafted in infinite ways.
What’s most important is that you’re consistently hitting your muscles hard enough. You want your body to feel the need to respond through growth.
This is why I like to change things up. As a Warrior, you need to disrupt your body from the typical lifting routines of 4 sets with 10 reps.
Yes, you can build muscle with those routines. However, I’m not training you to be a body builder; I’m training you to be a Lean Warrior.
The best way to do that is to consistently change your style of training. Have a strength day. Then, have a bodyweight day. Follow that up with a day of super sets or rest-pause training. Mix them all together on another day.
As long as your muscles are fatigued and in need of recovery, you will give your muscles the hypertrophy they need to build.
What’s your experience with the PPL split? How do you like to train?