Push/Pull/Legs Split – Strength, Size and Athleticism

One of the simplest yet profitable routines out there is the “Push/Pull/Legs” split. It is an easy template mould which harnesses all the required criteria for a balanced strength  and hypertrophy program, perfect for beginner and intermediate lifters.

The split is based upon grouping exercises into three categories:

  • Push: Upper-body movements that push away from the centre of the body e.g. bench press
  • Pull: Upper-body movements that move resistance towards the centre of the body e.g. dumbbell rows
  • Legs: Any movement which targets the muscles of the legs

 

Sets and Repetitions


As a general rule of thumb a single session should consist of 4-6 movements (exercises) and 16-24 sets. Here are the ideal sets and repetition ranges you should perform for each exercise:

  1. Primary Exercise: focus upon strength = 3-5 Repetitions x 3-6 Sets
  2. Main Assistance: aimed towards improving strength in the primary exercise, again, focused on strength and athletic development with a little muscle building = 5-8 Repetitions x 4-6 Sets.
  3. Compound Mass: aimed to improve upon strength and muscle weaknesses = 6-8 Repetitions x 3-5 Sets.
  4. Mass Assistance: directed towards gaining muscle mass and strength = 8-12 Repetitions x 3-5 Sets.
  5. Mass: solely focused on muscle development and conditioning = 10-15 Repetitions x 3 Sets.
  6. Mass: solely focused on muscle development and conditioning = 10-15 Repetitions x 3 Sets.

As you can see we begin with strength and athletic development exercises that focus on low repetitions and heavy weight which are used to develop strength. These require the most amount of energy and technique; therefore they must be performed at the start of the session. We slowly fade into mass building parameters, focusing on slightly higher repetitions.

Exercise Selection


Exercise selection is easy – on pull day you do pulling exercises, on push day you do pushing exercises, on leg day you do leg exercises. You begin with compound movements and slowly move onto isolation movements.  Here are some exercises you could use:

Days Primary Exercise Main Assistance and Compound Mass Mass Assistance Mass
Push Bench Press

Overhead Press

Push Press

Overhead   Press

Bench   Press (and any variation e.g. close grip)

Dips

Dumbbell Bench Press

Incline Press

Push ups

Dumbbell Overhead press (single or double)

Push Press

Floor Press

Push   ups

Dips

Cable fly’s

Fly’s

Skull crushers

Pec Deck

Triceps Pushdown

Triceps Extension

Push ups

Cable fly’s

Fly’s

Dips

Lateral raises

Pull Deadlift                     Olympic Lifts

Rack-pulls

Olympic Lifts             Rows (any type)

Chin ups

Pull ups

Shrugs

Rack-pulls

Pulldowns

Chin ups                 Pull ups

Shrugs

Row variation   (lighter)

Pulldowns

Straight arm   pushdown

Face pulls

Band-pull aparts

Scarecrows                 Band-pull aparts

Face pulls

Curls (any arm work)

Legs Squat               Olympic Lifts

Deadlift

Olympic Lifts             Bulgarian Split Squats

Hip Trusts

Good mornings

Stiff-legged deadlifts

Lunges

Step ups

Leg Press

Hack Squats

Glute-ham Raise

Box Squats

Glute-ham raises       Pull-through

Swiss ball leg curl

Reverse   hyperextensions

Lunges

Step ups

Hip trusts

Leg press

 

Sled drags                 Leg extensions

Leg curls

Glute-ham raises

Swiss ball leg curl

Abdominal work

Pulling It All Together


Why didn’t I just hand you a readymade template for you to follow? I decided to lay out the structure for a reason. Too many trainers hand out generic programs that do not meet the needs of individuals. By giving you the opportunity to pick your own exercises, repetitions, sets and training days you have the chance to make an individually moulded program that will be focused towards your own goals, take responsibility. A personalized program will always out perform a generic one.

I will lay out a ready to go program, but this is only for beginners and people who want to see what the finished product looks like. If you know what your goal is and have a basic knowledge in training, channel your program towards attaining your goal. Pick exercises that strengthen your weak areas and train how you want to train! Here we go:

Push:

  1. Primary Exercises: Bench Press (3-5 Repetitions x 3-6 Sets)
  2. Main Assistance: Dumbbell Incline Bench Press (5-8 Repetitions x 4-6 Sets)
  3. Compound Mass: Dips (6-8 Repetitions x 3-5 Sets)
  4. Mass Assistance: Push-ups (8-12 Repetitions x 3-5 Sets)
  5. Mass: Triceps Extensions ( 10-15 Repetitions x 3 Sets)
  6. Mass: Triceps Pushdowns (10-15 Repetitions x 3 Sets)

Pull:

  1. Primary Exercise: Deadlift (3-5 Repetitions x 3-6 Sets)
  2. Main Assistance: Dumbbell Rows (5-8 Repetitions x 4-6 Sets)
  3. Compound Mass: Chin ups (6-8 Repetitions x 3-5 Sets)
  4. Mass Assistance: Face Pulls (8-12 Repetitions x 3-5 Sets)
  5. Mass: Barbell Curls (10-15 Repetitions x 3 Sets)
  6. Mass: Hammer Curls (10-15 Repetitions x 3 Sets)

Legs:

  1. Primary Exercise: Squat (3-5 Repetitions x 3-6 Sets)
  2. Main Assistance: Stiff-legged Deadlifts (5-8 Repetitions x 4-6 Sets)
  3. Compound Mass: Bulgarian Split Squats (6-8 Repetitions x 3-5 Sets)
  4. Mass Assistance: Leg Press (8-12 Repetitions x 3-5 Sets)
  5. Mass: Glute-ham Raises (10-15 Repetitions x 3 Sets)
  6. Mass: Weighted Abdominal Rollouts (10-15 Repetitions x 3 Sets)

Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic program but it will never outdo a personalized program.

3 Day a Week vs 4 Days a Week


Push/Pull/Legs can be split into a three or four day a week program:

Day 3 Days a Week 4 Days a Week
Monday Legs Legs
Tuesday Off Push
Wednesday Pull Off
Thursday Off Pull
Friday Push Off
Saturday Off Legs
Sunday Off Off
Monday Legs Push
Tuesday Off Pull
Wednesday Pull Off
Thursday Off Legs
Friday Push Off
Saturday Off Push
Sunday Off Off

 

Both have their benefits, if your goal is purely strength and size based or you’re going through a bulking phase, you may find the four day a week to be beneficial. However, I personally prefer the 3 day a week program as it gives athletes plenty of time to work on skills needed in their sport, as well as sprinting and other conditioning sessions, while still gaining great amounts of strength and size.

In conclusion, this is a fantastic program for people looking to gain strength and mass. I regularly use this style of program with rugby players and other contact athletes who need to gain muscle mass, while still developing athleticism.

Good luck everyone.

Delt Distraction Series: Upper-body Warm-up

Deltoid Distraction Series moves the shoulder through multiple planes of motion, preparing the entire upper-body by taking the shoulder through all its functions.

This warm-up was made for myself – I often neglected upper-body warm-ups due to limited time.

I wanted something quick and simple. That doesn’t require 14 pieces of equipment.

The delt distraction series takes 2minutes, ticks all the boxes and just requires a dowel/pvc/broomstick. Thank me later.

  1. Anterior Shoulder Pushes x 10/side: Use the dowel to push the arm away from you, creating a distraction in the shoulder that mobilises the biceps and pectorals.
  2. Posterior Shoulder Twists x 10/side: One hand facing towards the ground, the other pointed towards the sky. Rotate the upward facing palm around to mobilise the back of the shoulder blade.
  3. Internal/External Rotation Slides x 10/side: Keeping the elbows as far back as possible the entire time, slide the dowel up and down to work the shoulder through internal and external rotation.
  4. Thoracic Twists x 10/side: Mobilises the thoracic spine, so the shoulder blade can glide freely across the rib-cage.
  5. Shoulder Dislocations x 10: Classic exercises for taking the shoulders through a large ROM, use a closer grip as you progress.