Setting Up Your Push Pull Legs Split
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
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
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