If you are past the beginner’s stage and want to gain muscle, one of the best body part splits you can use to accomplish this is the push/pull/legs split routine. The push/pull/legs split is one of the simplest, most enduring and popular workout routines there is. And it’s also extremely effective; assuming of course that it’s done right.

So in this blog post I’ll explain what a push/pull/legs split involves and why it’s an effective way to train. And I’ll also give you a sample workout routine that you can get started with in the gym. The push/pull/legs split is a very simple training method in which you split your body into three parts. And each part is then trained on its own separate day.

In the “push” workout you train all the upper body pushing muscles, i.e. the chest, shoulders and triceps. In the “pull” workout you train all the upper body pulling muscles, i.e. the back and biceps.

And in the “legs” workout you train the entire lower body, i.e. the quads, hamstrings, calves and abdominals. These three workouts are then alternated over however many weekly training sessions you choose to do.

So for instance if you can only make it to the gym three days per week, you would simply do each workout on its own set day once each week, e.g. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. However this is not the best way to do it as it means that each body part is only being trained once per week, and as I’ve said previously this is not optimal for muscle growth (though it’s fine for a maintenance program).

So a better way would be to train four days per week, alternating the workouts over your four training sessions. It doesn’t matter which days you choose as long as you never do more than two days in a row.

Related article: 8 Powerful Muscle Building Gym Training Splits

Another method is the rotating five day cycle, where each workout is done over a five day period. So this means you would train 2 on, 1 off, 1 on, 1 off and then repeat. This is probably the best way to do it as it means that each body part is trained once every 5 days – and this is about ideal for the more experienced trainee. But it does mean that your training days are constantly changing so you need a fairly flexible schedule for this to work.

Why Use A Push/Pull/Legs Split?

The push/pull/legs split is probably the most efficient workout split there is because all related muscle groups are trained together in the same workout.

This means that you get the maximum overlap of movements within the same workout, and the muscle groups being trained get an overall benefit from this overlap.

For example when you train chest with say bench press, you are also hitting your anterior deltoids and triceps hard. And when you train shoulders you are again involving your triceps. So it makes sense to work these all together in the same workout for maximum synergy and effectiveness.

Similarly when you train your back your biceps are heavily involved, so it again makes sense to train these immediately afterwards so that they can derive the maximum benefit from the additional stimulation.

It also means you will have minimum overlap of movements between workouts, and this will facilitate better recovery than most other body part splits.

Who Should Use A Push/Pull/Legs Split?

The push/pull/legs split is ideal for both the intermediate and advanced trainee.

More specifically though, if you are just starting out or have not had much in the way of results from your efforts so far, you’ll almost certainly do best with a full body workout routine, training three days per week. Stick with this for at least six months – more if you are still progressing well.

Once you hit the intermediate stage however you’ll probably find you’ll do better with an upper/lower split routine training three or four days per week. And this is in fact one of the best ways to train for the vast majority of the population.

Related article: 2 Push/Pull Workout Plans – Create a Full Balanced Body With These Workouts

But at any time past the beginner stage you may find the push/pull/legs split suits you better. Or you may wish to alternate upper/lower splits with a push/pull/legs split in order to derive all the benefits that each has to offer.

Either way the push/pull/legs split is an extremely effective method of training that is certain to give you exceptional results if you apply yourself to it diligently.

The push/pull plan also allows you to introduce micro-cycles in your training. That is, one push day you may focus on heavier, strength-style training while the second may involve higher-rep, hypertrophy-focused lifts.

This push/pull workout allows you to hit the major upper body muscles hard on days one and two before targeting your legs and core on day three.

Splitting your sessions based on the different movements prevents the muscle groups from being over trained, which can lead to injury. But because you’ll be exclusively training specific muscles, you’ll be able to hit the gym more. It’s the best way to build more muscle and burn more fat.”

Rest for no more than 60 seconds between each set. Do the exercises in each set in one go with no rests.

Day 1: Pull

1. Pull-up

Sets 4 Reps 6

How to:

  • Grasp a pull-up bar with an overhand grip so your palms are facing away from you and your hands are shoulder-width apart.
  • Contract your upper back muscles to help pull your chest towards the bar.
  • Lower under control.

Related article: 9 Essential Strength Benchmarks To Reap Strength And Ultimate Size

2. Bent-over row

Sets 3 Reps 8

How to:

  • Holding a barbell with an overhand grip just outside your legs, bend your knees slightly and hinge forwards from the hips, keeping your back slightly concave and your shoulder blades back throughout.
  • Pull the weight up to your lower chest, then slowly return to the start.

3. Barbell curl

Sets 3 Reps 10

How to:

  • Hold a barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing forwards.
  • Keeping your chest up and elbows close to your sides, curl the bar up until it’s level with the top of your chest.
  • Lower under control.

Related article: Build Monster Legs & Glutes With This Workout!

4. Cable row

Sets 2 Reps 12

How to:

  • Sit with your feet against the supports, bending your legs slightly.
  • Grasp the handle, using the attachment so your palms are facing, retract your shoulder blades and sit upright.
  • Without leaning back, pull the handle towards your lower chest.

5. Lat pull-down

Sets 1 Reps 20

How to:

  • Sit in the seat with your knees firmly under the support.
  • Grab the wide bar with hands double shoulder-width apart, palms facing forwards, retract your shoulder blades and sit upright.
  • Without leaning back, pull the handle down in front of your face until it’s level with your chin.

Day 2: Push

1. Bench press

Sets 4 Reps 6

How to:

  • Lie on a flat bench holding a barbell with an overhand grip, hands just wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Drive your feet hard into the floor and press the weight straight up powerfully, then lower slowly to the start position.

Related article: How Much Can You Lift – How To Calculate Your One-Rep Max (1RM)?

2. Decline bench press

Sets 3 Reps 8

How to:

  • Lie on a bench set at a slight decline, holding barbell with an overhand grip, hands just wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Press the weight straight up powerfully, then lower slowly to the start position.

3.Incline bench press

Sets 3 Reps 10

How to:

  • Lie on a bench set at a 45° angle holding a bar with an overhand grip, hands just wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Drive your feet hard into the floor and press the weight straight up powerfully, then lower slowly to the start position.

4.Overhead press

Sets 2 Reps 12

How to:

  • With your feet shoulder-width apart, hold a barbell level with the top of your chest, hands just wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Keep your core and glutes braced so your hips don’t tilt forwards and press the bar straight overhead, driving your head forwards as you straighten your arms to engage your upper back.
  • Lower back to the start.

5.Clap press-up

Sets 1 Reps 15

How to:

  • Get into the top of a press-up position with your hands directly under your shoulders.
  • Bend your arms to lower your chest almost to the floor, then drive up explosively to bring your hands off the ground and clap in front of your chest.
  • Quickly put your hands back out to brace your fall and continue into the next rep.
  • If you’re struggling, pause briefly between each rep.

Related article: 10 Best Chest Exercises For Building Muscle

Day 3: Legs And Abs

1. Deadlift

Sets 4 Reps 6

How to:

  • Hold a barbell with hands shoulder-width apart and your arms straight, hips low and chest up so your back is straight.
  • Keeping your core tight throughout, drive down through your heels and pull the bar up your legs, pushing your hips forwards to stand tall.
  • Bend forwards, hinging at your hips until the bar is below your knees, then bend your legs to lower it to the floor.

2. Dumbbell squat

Sets 3 Reps 8

How to:

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand by your sides and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Keeping your knees wide apart and weight on your heels throughout, bend your legs to lower until your thighs are at least parallel with the floor.
  • Then drive back up to standing.

3. Good morning

Sets 3 Reps 10

How to:

  • Stand holding a barbell on the back of your shoulders, not your neck.
  • Slowly bend forwards, hinging at the hips, keeping your legs and back straight.
  • Bend until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, then rise back to the start.

Related article: Create Abs Of Steel With These Five Core Burning Exercises

4. Jump lunge

Sets 2 Time 1min

How to:

  • Start in a forwards lunge position with your hands in a sprinter’s stance for balance.
  • Jump off the ground by driving up with your front leg.
  • Swap your legs over in mid-air so you land with the other leg forwards.
  • Keep alternating for one minute.

5. Hanging leg raise

Sets 1 Reps 20

How to:

  • Jump up to grip a pull-up bar with your hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing forwards.
  • Tense your core to stop your body swaying and raise your legs together until they’re at least parallel with the floor.
  • Use your core to lower your legs under control.

Day 4: Rest

Rest day. Then repeat the workouts over the following days.

A Sample Push/Pull/Legs Split Routine

Here’s a great sample workout plan that is well structured and properly balanced; and it’s sure to give you exceptional results…

Workout 1 – Push

Bench Press 3 X 5 – 7
Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3 X 6 – 8
Incline Dumbbell Press 3 X 8 – 10
Side Lateral Raises 2 X 10 – 12
Triceps Press downs 2 X 8 – 10
Overhead Triceps Extension 2 X 8 – 10

Related article: Build Your Upper Body With Close-Grip Pull-Ups

Workout 2 – Pull

Bent-over Row 3 X 5 – 7
Pull Ups 3 X 6 – 8
Barbell Shrugs 3 X 8 – 10
Face Pulls 2 X 10 – 12
Barbell Curl 2 X 8 – 10
Dumbbell Hammer Curl 2 X 8 – 10

Workout 3 – Legs/Abs

Squats 3 X 6 – 8
Romanian Deadlifts 2 X 8 – 10
Leg Press 2 X 10 – 12
Leg Curl 2 X 10 – 12
Calf Raise 4 X 8 – 10
Hanging Leg Raise 2 X 10 – 15

The sets listed are your work sets. Always warm up properly first in order to prepare your body for the heavier work, and to help prevent injury. However another advantage of this split routine is that fewer warm-up sets are required as training each exercise/body part warms you up for the next.