Setting Up Your Push Pull Legs Split

March 15, 2017

What You are getting yourself in for

 

Word Count - 2800 Words

Reading time - 10 - 15 Mins

Topic - Push Pull Legs

 

 

 


 

What is a Push Pull Legs Split?

 

Push pull legs is a training set up that splits your training into 3 seperate sessions, allowing a focus on Chest Shoulders Triceps (Push), followed by Back & Biceps (Pull) and finished by Lower Body (Legs).

Who should be using a Push Pull Legs Split?

 

I’ve discussed in previous blog posts who should be using Upper Lower Splits, and this transfers nicely to Push Pull Legs.

 

  • People who have EXHAUSTED the Upper Lower Split.

  • People who have generally been training for 2+ Years solidly.

  • People who have had experience logging and programming their upper lower training.

  • People who perhaps want to focus more on individual bodyparts.

  • People who have more TIME available in the gym or more days free to train (at least 5).

 

Why the Push Pull Legs split?

 

 

As we progress & become more advanced trainee’s, our ability to recover, or our ‘Maximal Recoverable Training Volume’ will increase, therefore to force an adaptation (and get bigger) we will have to either continue to push up our lifts, or situate an approach that allows for more training volume to be accrued.

It’s VERY important that you have maximised your time on an upper lower or full body split prior to this, because if you have not, you will quickly burn-out and regress on a push pull legs split, especially if you plan to train more than 4 times per week.

Push Pull Legs allows for training volume to be increased, with sessions split up into separate body-parts we have the potential to ‘fit more’ into one session, therefore for the advanced trainee, it allows for more opportunities for exercise variation and progression.

How to know when you have reached the ‘upper limit’ or exhausted the Upper Lower Split…

 

  • Your exercises are starting to stall and you are NOT under-recovered or overreached.

  • You have made significant progress, but have started to see less visible muscular progression in the mirror.

  • You’ve LEARNT the basic moves, mastered them and form is perfect, yet still lifts are stalling a bit.

  • Soreness and fatigue indicators are actually heading down, and your sessions are becoming perhaps slightly LONGER to manage the new loads you are shifting.

  • Bare in mind, it could take up to 1 - 2 years for you to maximise your progression on an upper lower split and for the need of a Push Pull Legs to come in.

Split Set Up And Frequency 

 

 

I like to set up Push Pull Legs splits with at least 2 variations of sessions to allow for exercise rotations and optimal progression across the board, if we stick to the same moves each session, it’s likely we may see them stall sooner and therefore we will potentially have to come off the gas.

In terms of frequency I have some ideas to share with you..

 

Set up A - Weaker Body Parts - (Chest Shoulders Tri’s)

Mon - Push

Tues - Legs

Wed - Pull

Thurs - Push

Fri - Legs

Sat - Full Upper

Sun - Off

Set up B - Weaker Body Parts - (Back & Biceps)

 

Mon - Pull

Tues - Legs

Wed - Push

Thurs - Pull

Fri - Legs

Sat - Full Upper

Sun - Off

 

Set up C - Weaker Body Parts - (Legs)

 

Mon - Legs

Tues - Push

Wed - Pull

Thurs - Legs

Fri - Push

Sat - Legs

Sun - Off  

 

Set Up D - Not Working on a 7 Day Split.

 

Day 1 - Pull A

Day 2 - Push A

Day 3 - Legs A

Day 4 - Off

Day 5 - Pull B

Day 6 - Push B

Day 7 - Legs B

Day 8 - Off
 

What you have to think about with your split set up.

 

You have to think primarily about maximising recovery. So we will have to think about….

 

  • Lower Back Loading

  • CNS Fatigue

  • Upper Back Fatigue

  • Deficit or Surplus?

 

If we manage these primary variables we can therefore set up a split that allows for optimal progression, or retention of strength during a dieting phase.

We have to also consider individual variability in recovery, if you find you cannot recover from the sessions laid out, you potentially have to look at reducing frequency, taking more rest days, or reducing the intra-session volume, it’s very easy to get greedy with push pull legs and start to add in far too many exercises and far too much training volume, you will overreach and regress with this kind of approach.

 


Your Intensity & Training Volume

 

 

This is something that will take time to get right. Off the bat you will not be able to set up the ‘perfect’ push pull legs split with the perfect amount of training volume, however, I do recommend highly that you start with a lower volume approach and slowly work to build that up over an 8 week mesocycle, what you don’t want is to start with something that you simply can’t recover from as you will need to de-load or ‘cruise’ far quicker than you initially thought.


Push Pull Legs is still a fairly high frequency approach, so you HAVE to allow enough time for recovery in between sessions and you have to nail your variables, being sleep, hydration, food intake etc, you’ll still not be able to use the same amount of training volume that you would on a single body part split, if you did a whole chest workout before delts, you’d have fried your capability to progress on your shoulder movements, so taking into account that you still have to train multiple body parts per day is absolutely integral.  

As you most likely have run an upper lower split for a while, you will know how to train with decent intensities, taking work sets close to fail yet allowing yourself the ability to complete or accrued decent training volumes by leaving some sets with reps in the tank.

 

From an intensity point of view, I highly recommend that you only look to take your final sets close to failure, as the CNS fatigue and the impact on the rest of your session/sets/week will be very high with taking every work set close to fail, progression can still be made on this approach and you will still train at a high intensity, you will just only take the final work sets close to the point of failure, to allow you to actually gather training volume… for example..

 

Bench Press -

 

Set 1 - 10 reps (fail)

Set 2 - 8 Reps (fail)

Set 3 - 6 Reps (fail)

Total reps - 24 Reps

 

Set 1 - 8 Reps

Set 2 - 8 Reps

Set 3 - 9 Reps (Fail)

Total Reps - 25 Reps

 

Not only have you got 1 more rep in the tank with the second approach, you’ve also avoided injury, which is a huge variable that we need to look to control.
 

In terms of total session volume, this is something that you will need to assess upon starting the split, so I have set up 3 separate levels for you to try, one thing you MUST note is your fatigue markers, if your fatigue starts to take away from your other sessions, you NEED to back off and move down a level.

Much like the Upper Lower Split, we will undulate rep ranges, but we will also rotate movements to allow for session variety and various ladders for progression.

 

 


 

STRUCTURE & SPLIT OPTI

 

"CAN I MOVE UP A LEVEL??"

 

  • Have I tried the lower volume?

  • Am I recovered from session to session?

  • Am I progressing?

  • Am I nailing my sleep, hydration, stress levels and food?


If you can answer YES to all of the above, you can probably move up a level!

 

Level 1 - Lowest Volume Tier - Appropriate for younger trainees or individuals that have less time or have a lower max recoverable volume.

Push A  

 

Incline Chest Compound - 3 Sets - 4 - 6 Reps

Barbell Overhead Press - 2 Sets - 8 - 10 Reps

Flat DB Flye - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Dip - 2 Sets - 6 - 10 Reps

Lateral Raise - 3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Tricep Accessory - 3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

 

Pull A

 

Chest Supported Row - 3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Wide Grip Pulldown - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Seated Row - 2 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Rear Delt Flye - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Bicep Accessory - 3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

 

Legs A 

 

Squat Variation - 3 Sets - 4 - 6 Reps

Leg Press Variation - 3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Split Squat - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Leg Curl - 3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Leg Ext - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Calf Accessory - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Push B  

 

Seated Shoulder Compound - 3 Sets - 4 - 6 Reps

Flat or Decline Chest Compound - 3 Sets - 6 - 8  Reps

Cable Inc Flye - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Upright Row  - 2 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Lateral Raise - 3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Tricep Accessory - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

 

Pull B

 

Barbell Bent Over Row - 3 Sets - 6 - 10 Reps

Underhand Grip Pulldown - 2 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

T-Bar Row - 2 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Rear Delt Flye - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Bicep Accessory - 3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

 

Legs B 

 

Hack Squat or Back Supp Squat Variation - 3 Sets - 8 - 10 Reps

Leg Press Variation - 3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps  

Stiff Leg Deadlift - 3 Sets - 6 - 10 Reps

Lunge - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Leg Ext - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Calf Accessory - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps  

Throughout the week we are being careful to manage lower back loading enough to maximise each and every session, this is the lowest volume I’d recommend someone to start on and we can ramp it up from here, the second level will include some more CNS taxing moves and overall more weekly volume, only move to the second level once you know you can handle the first level volume.

 

Level 2 - For people who need more volume than level 1 and have run a 6 week block of level 1 (or something similar) already.


Push A  

 

Incline Chest Compound - 4 Sets - 4 - 6 Reps

Barbell Overhead Press - 4 Sets - 8 - 10 Reps

Flat Chest Compound  3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Dip or Flye - 2 Sets - 6 - 10 Reps

Lateral Raise - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Tricep Accessory - 3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Tricep Accessory 2 - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

 

Pull A

 

Chest Supported Row - 4 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Wide Grip Pulldown - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Seated Row - 2 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Rear Delt Flye - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Trap Accessory - 3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Bicep Accessory - 3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Bicep Accessory 2 - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

 

Legs A 

 

Squat Variation - 4 Sets - 4 - 6 Reps

Leg Press Variation - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Stiff Leg Deadlift (BB or DB) - 3 Sets - 6 - 10 Reps

Split Squat - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Leg Curl - 2 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Leg Ext - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Calf Accessory - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Push B  

 

Seated Shoulder Compound - 4 Sets - 4 - 6 Reps

Flat or Decline Chest Compound - 3 Sets - 6 - 8  Reps

Incline Chest Compound - 2 Sets - 8 -12 Reps

Cable Inc Flye - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Upright Row  - 2 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Lateral Raise - 3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Tricep Accessory - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Overhead Tricep Accessory 2 - 2 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

 

Pull B

 

Barbell Bent Over Row - 4 Sets - 6 - 10 Reps

Underhand Grip Pulldown - 3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

T-Bar Row - 3  Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Rear Delt Flye - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Bicep Accessory - 3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Bicep Accessory 2 - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

 

Legs B 

 

Hack Squat or Back Supp Squat Variation - 3 Sets - 8 - 10 Reps

Leg Press Variation - 4 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps  

Stiff Leg Deadlift - 3 Sets - 6 - 10 Reps

Hip Thrust or Lunge - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Leg Ext - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Calf Accessory - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps  

 

So level 2 volume is slightly higher, with the introduction of some more compound movements, namely on push days with the addition of a second chest compound move, you’ll find that you will have to bare more attention to rotating the moves that you do, so in Push A you might do a Incline DB Press, whereas in Push B it would be sensible to do a Incline Machine Press or Smith Machine Press.

Level 3 - Highest Tier - For people that respond very well to high volume and have good levels of recovery ability.

 

Push A  

 

Incline Chest Compound - 4 Sets - 4 - 6 Reps

Barbell Overhead Press - 4 Sets - 8 - 10 Reps

Flat Chest Compound  4 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Dip or Flye - 3 Sets - 6 - 10 Reps

Lateral Raise 1 - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Lateral Raise 2 - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Tricep Accessory - 3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Tricep Accessory 2 - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

 

Pull A

 

Chest Supported Row - 4 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Wide Grip Pulldown - 4 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Seated Row - 3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Rear Delt Flye - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Trap Accessory - 3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Bicep Accessory - 3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Bicep Accessory 2 - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

 

Legs A 

 

Squat Variation - 5 Sets - 4 - 6 Reps

Leg Press Variation - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Stiff Leg Deadlift (BB or DB) - 4 Sets - 6 - 10 Reps

Split Squat - 4 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Leg Curl - 3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Leg Ext - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Calf Accessory - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Push B  

 

Seated Shoulder Compound - 4 Sets - 4 - 6 Reps

Flat or Decline Chest Compound - 4 Sets - 6 - 8  Reps

Incline Chest Compound - 3 Sets - 8 -12 Reps

Cable Inc Flye - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Upright Row or Front Raise  - 3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Lateral Raise - 4 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Tricep Accessory - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Overhead Tricep Accessory 2 - 3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

 

Pull B

 

Barbell Bent Over Row - 4 Sets - 6 - 10 Reps

Underhand Grip Pulldown - 4 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

T-Bar Row - 4  Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Rear Delt Flye - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Bicep Accessory - 3 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

Bicep Accessory 2 - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps
Trap Accessory - 2 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps

 

Legs B 

 

Hack Squat or Back Supp Squat Variation - 4 Sets - 8 - 10 Reps

Smith Squat Close Stance - 4 Sets - 8 - 12 Reps  

Stiff Leg Deadlift (Different to A, change to BB over DB etc) - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Hip Thrust or Lunge - 4 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Leg Ext - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

GHR - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps

Calf Accessory - 3 Sets - 10 - 15 Reps  

 

In the CRAZY situation that you still feel you can add more volume (totally recovered and progressing week in week out) then you can probably add more to this split but you may well find that you respond better from actually reverting to an upper lower split where you can hit body parts more frequently, however your sessions will be very long.

Remember that intensity is very important and you must take your final sets fairly close to momentary muscular failure, I also recommend that your accessory moves are taken more often closer to fail than your compounds, taking compounds regularly to failure will tap into a big recovery demand, so use this wisely, don’t be stupid.

 

Another thing to note is the non-inclusion of a Deadlift in this split set up. We have prioritised the stiff leg variant and the low back loading of a a Deadlift in this set up is very hard to manage, I recommend that if you want to situate a Deadlift, you either rotate it in one of your Lower Body Sessions OR you manage your low back and glutes fatigue well enough to put it on a pull day, but this is a WHOLE other topic for discussion.

 

 

 

 

When to back off..

 

 

After speaking to Dr Scott Stevenson on my podcast I love the idea of BLASTING and CRUISING as opposed to the word ‘deload’ - so by blasting we would keep progressing, adding weight to the bar or progressing up in reps, however you can’t blast forever.

 

When you feel -

 

  • Lifts are taking a bit of a hit.

  • Your appetite drops a little.

  • Your sleep perhaps is getting a bit worse.

  • Your soreness and fatigue is getting much higher.

  • You may become more irritable.
     

Use these markers ^^ to gauge when you ‘cruise’ or deload - in my opinion I like to remove 1 set off each and every single exercise to reduce training volume, alongside this I would advocate not taking any sets close to failure, this will allow not only for muscular recovery but also CNS, Joint, Tendon and ligament recovery so that we don’t run into injury or illness.

And that’s it!

 

I hope this helps some people & provides them with an idea of how I would set up a push pull legs split generically, obviously when programming for individuals, preference and other variables will come into play, but for you guys, this will be a good start.

Any questions on this topic, or any other topics, shoot me an email at - aj@madebymorriscoaching.com

Thanks guys!  

 



 

 

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