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

Reblogged from: 

BY · OCTOBER 13, 2013

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 full-proof program – balanced time spent on each individual body part/movement and consistent overall training volume. It is also one of the best programs for optimal recovery, which puts it right up there.

The split is based on the idea that your body is essentially split into three parts, in terms of “movements”:

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

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As I have said in the past, if your goal is to be athletic, or athletic and aesthetic you should train movements not muscles (http://jt9797.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/movements-not-muscles-program-included/). I favour this split over any other mainstream program for that very reason. By splitting the program up this way it allows the individual to strengthen the basic human movements required for almost all athletic activities, while also delving into the muscle building side of things. It is perfect for athletes who are looking to gain mass, especially in the off season.

Sets and Repetitions

You cannot rely on the movements alone to develop performance and muscle mass simultaneously. To build both athleticism and muscle you must tamper with the sets and repetitions ranges, as well as the exercises (we’ll look into this later). 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 on strength/ athletic development = 3-5 Repetitions x 3-6 Sets
  2. Main Assistance: aimed towards improving 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   PressOverhead   PressPush   Press Overhead   PressBench   Press (and any variation e.g. close grip)DipsDumbbell   Bench Press

Incline   Press

Push   ups

Dumbbell   Overhead press (single or double)

Push   Press

Floor   Press

Push   upsDipsCable   fly’sFly’s

Skull   crushers

Pec   Deck

Triceps   PushdownTriceps   ExtensionPush   upsCable   fly’s

Fly’s

Dips

Lateral   raises

Pull DeadliftOlympic LiftsRack-pulls Olympic LiftsRows (any type)Chin upsPull ups

Shrugs

Rack-pulls

Pulldowns

Chin upsPull upsShrugsRow variation   (lighter)

Pulldowns

Straight arm   pushdown

Face pulls

Band-pull aparts

ScarecrowsBand-pull apartsFace pullsCurls (any arm work)
Legs SquatOlympic   LiftsDeadlift Olympic   LiftsBulgarian   Split SquatsHip   TrustsGood   mornings

Stiff-legged   deadlifts

Lunges

Step   ups

Leg   Press

Hack   Squats

Glute-ham

Raise

Box   Squats

Glute-ham   raisesPull-throughSwiss   ball leg curlReverse   hyperextensions

Lunges

Step   ups

Hip   trusts

Leg   press

 

Sled   dragsLeg   extensionsLeg   curlsGlute-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.

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