One of the simplest yet rewarding 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:

DaysPrimary ExerciseMain Assistance and Compound MassMass AssistanceMass
PushBench 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

PullDeadlift Variations

 

Olympic Lifts

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)

LegsSquat Variations

 

Olympic Lifts

Olympic Lifts

 

Split Squats

Hip Trusts

Good mornings

Stiff-leg 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


Here’s what an example program may look like:

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)

3 Day a Week vs 4 Days a Week


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

Day3 Days a Week4 Days a Week
MondayLegsLegs
TuesdayOffPush
WednesdayPullOff
ThursdayOffPull
FridayPushOff
SaturdayOffLegs
SundayOffOff
MondayLegsPush
TuesdayOffPull
WednesdayPullOff
ThursdayOffLegs
FridayPushOff
SaturdayOffPush
SundayOffOff

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.

If you’re an athlete looking for a more advanced program, be sure to check this product out.