The DC Training Push / Pull / Legs Split!


DC Training Push Pull Legs

DC Training is one of the most popular bodybuilding training programs in the world.

Many of the world’s top bodybuilders including IFBB pro David Henry have used DC Training to take their physiques to the next level.

If you want to get jacked and freaky strong then the DC Training push / pull / legs program is for you!

Introduction

  • Part 1: DC Training For Pre-Contest Bodybuilders
  • Part 2: DC Training For Highly Advanced Bodybuilders

In this comprehensive guide I will show you how to use the DC Training push / pull / legs program to build size and strength as fast as possible.

DC Training is a hardcore bodybuilding training program invented by Dante Trudel in the mid 1990’s. DC Training uses many high-intensity training techniques like rest-pause sets, extreme stretches and 20-rep breathing squats to shock your muscles into growth.

If you are new to DC Training then make sure you check out one of the following articles:

Here is the DC Training guru Dusty Hanshaw incline bench pressing 405 pounds for 9 reps:

What an incredible lift!

This is what DC Training is all about: lifting heavy weights with perfect form in the higher rep ranges. If you get stronger over time in the 6-20 rep range then you will grow. There is no other way!

Most DC trainees start out using a modified upper / lower split where they train their upper body on one day and their lower body on another day.

Dante Trudel calls this the “2-way split” because you are training your entire body over 2 separate training days.

The truth is you can also use the classic push / pull / legs split with DC Training. Many of the world’s top bodybuilders like David Henry, Dusty Hanshaw and Cedric McMillan used the DC Training push / pull / legs split to take their physiques to the next level.

The idea is simple: you have a “push” day where you train your chest / shoulders / triceps, a “pull” day where you train your back / biceps and a “legs” day where you train your lower body. Check it out:

The DC Training Push / Pull / Legs Split

  • Push Day: Chest / Shoulders / Triceps
  • Pull Day: Back / Biceps
  • Legs Day: Quads / Hamstrings / Calves

The push / pull / legs split is so effective because you minimize the overlap between different muscle groups.

You train all of the pressing muscles together so your chest, shoulders and triceps all recover at the same time.

Here is Stan Efferding talking about the classic push / pull / legs split: 

“Push, pull, legs is still a great way to grow. Chest, shoulders and triceps one day, back and biceps another and then legs.”

The push / pull / legs split works perfectly with DC Training because it maximizes your recovery from your workouts. This makes it much easier to “beat the logbook” every single workout and get stronger over time.

With DC Training you train each muscle group with 1 exercise and you perform 1-2 all-out sets to failure per exercise. The only exception is back where you have one exercise for “back width” and one exercise for “back thickness.”

Here is how Dante Trudel wants you to set up your DC Training workouts:

DC Training Push Day

  • Exercise #1: Chest, 1 rest-pause set —-> extreme stretch
  • Exercise #2: Delts, 1 rest-pause set —-> extreme stretch
  • Exercise #3: Triceps, 1 rest-pause set —-> extreme stretch

DC Training Pull Day

  • Exercise #1: Back Width, 1 rest-pause set —-> extreme stretch
  • Exercise #2: Back Thickness, 1-2 straight sets
  • Exercise #3: Biceps, 1 rest-pause set —-> extreme stretch
  • Exercise #4: Forearms, 1 straight set

DC Training Legs Day

  • Exercise #1: Calves, 1 straight set
  • Exercise #2: Hamstrings, 1 rest-pause set or 1-2 straight sets
  • Exercise #3: Quads, 2 straight sets —-> extreme stretches

On each training day you have straight sets, rest-pause sets and extreme stretches. Let’s start with rest-pause sets.

Rest-pause sets are a high-intensity training technique where you train to failure 3 times in a row on an exercise with 20-30 seconds rest between each attempt. 

Here is Dusty Hanshaw giving a perfect demonstration of a rest-pause set on the incline bench press:

As you can see Dusty performs 3 sets to failure with very short rest breaks in between each attempt. Your goal is to get as many reps as you can across all three attempts.

Dusty got 8 reps on his first attempt, 4 reps on his second attempt and 2 reps on his third attempt. Dusty would say he got 14 reps rest-paused.

With DC Training you usually want to shoot for 11-20 total reps on your rest-pause set. On some exercises like dumbbell presses and triceps extensions you may want to shoot for 20-30 total reps for safety reasons.

Straight sets are just regular sets that you perform to failure. For example for back thickness you might perform 1-2 sets of heavy barbell rows to failure in the 8-15 rep range. Straight sets are performed for exercises like squats and deadlifts for safety reasons.

Check out this video of Dusty Hanshaw doing smith machine rows with 4.5 plates per side for 15 reps:

If you are training this hard on your back thickness movements then 1-2 straight sets is enough. Trying to rest-pause your back thickness exercises will earn you a one-way ticket to the hospital!

For quadriceps you are going to perform 2 straight sets: one heavy set in the 4-8 rep range and a “widowmaker” set. The widowmaker is basically a 20-rep breathing squat.

You are going to perform 10 reps with your 10-rep max, then take short rest periods so you can continue busting out extra reps.

If you are using something like a squat or leg press then you would lock out your knees without re-racking the weight. Your goal with the widowmaker set is to complete 20 total reps with your 10-rep max. 

Here is the DC Training guru Justin Harris giving a perfect demonstration of a widowmaker set:

Finally we have extreme stretches. For most muscle groups you are going to perform an extreme stretch right after your 1-2 working sets to failure.

Here is Dusty Hanshaw demonstrating an extreme stretch for the chest:

Dusty Hanshaw Extreme Stretch

Dusty is holding the bottom position of a fly for 60-90 seconds. Extreme stretches are very effective for stimulating muscle growth.

Just make sure you perform them after your 1-2 working sets to failure when your muscle is pumped full of blood.

Here are some sample extreme stretches for each body part:

DC Training Extreme Stretches

I hope this all makes sense so far. Now let’s take another look at our DC Training chest / shoulders / triceps day. Check it out:

DC Training Push Day

  • Exercise #1: Chest, 1 rest-pause set —-> extreme stretch
  • Exercise #2: Delts, 1 rest-pause set —-> extreme stretch
  • Exercise #3: Triceps, 1 rest-pause set —-> extreme stretch

For the DC Training push day you perform 1 exercise for your chest, 1 for your shoulders and 1 for your triceps.

Here is Jason Wojo showing us how it’s done:

For each muscle group you perform 1 rest-pause set followed by an extreme stretch. The other training days are very similar. 

There are 3 different versions of the push / pull / legs split:

  • Option #1: The 3 days per week version
  • Option #2: The 4 days per week version
  • Option #3: The 6 days per week version

Each of these versions has their own advantages and disadvantages.

DC Training actually uses the 4 days per week version of the push / pull / legs split. This version is a little more complicated because you train each muscle group once every 5-6 days.

Here is what it looks like:

Week 1

  • Monday: Push Workout #1
  • Wednesday: Legs Workout #1
  • Friday: Pull Workout #1
  • Saturday: Push Workout #2

Week 2

  • Monday: Legs Workout #2
  • Wednesday: Pull Workout #2
  • Friday: Push Workout #3
  • Saturday: Legs Workout #3

Week 3

  • Monday: Pull Workout #3
  • Wednesday: Push Workout #1
  • Friday: Legs Workout #1
  • Saturday: Pull Workout #1

As you can see each body part is trained 4 times every 3 weeks or about once every 5-6 days.

With DC Training you actually rotate between 3 different workouts for each muscle group. For example you would rotate through three different exercises for chest.

You perform your favorite chest exercise on the first push workout, your 2nd favorite chest exercise on the second push workout and your 3rd favorite chest exercise on the third push workout. After that you repeat the cycle all over again.

Your goal is to hit a new record on each exercise when you train. You can do this by increasing the weight or getting more reps with the same weight.

Dante Trudel calls this “beating the logbook.”

Here is what beating the logbook looks like in the real world:

How To Beat The Logbook With Your Chest Exercises

  • Workout #1: Incline bench press, 225 pounds x 15 RP
  • Workout #2: Flat DB press, 90 pound DBs x 27 RP
  • Workout #3: Machine incline press, 200 pounds x 17 RP
  • Workout #4: Incline bench press, 225 pounds x 18 RP
  • Workout #5: Flat DB press, 95 pound DBs x 22 RP
  • Workout #6: Machine incline press, 210 pounds x 13 RP
  • Workout #7: Incline bench press, 235 pounds x 14 RP
  • Workout #8: Flat DB press, 95 pound DBs x 25 RP
  • Workout #9: Machine incline press, 210 pounds x 15 RP 

You just keep rotating through your 3 workouts and beating the logbook whenever possible.

I know some of you are thinking: “That’s impossible. You can’t just keep beating the logbook forever!”

A true DC Trainee like Justin Harris would say “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you… I’m too busy hack squatting 8.5 plates per side for 10 reps!!”

Ok, it’s true. Eventually you will “hit the wall” on one of your exercises and stop making progress. When that happens you just rotate that exercise out for a new one.

For example if you hit a plateau on the incline bench press then you swap that exercise out for another chest exercise and start “beating the logbook” all over again.

Of course you can’t just train all-out forever. Eventually you will need some time off from the gym.

DC Training uses a simple form of periodization called “blasting and cruising” to help you recover. You train all-out for 6-12 weeks at a time and then take it easy for 1-2 weeks. Check it out:

DC Training Blasting And Cruising

  • Blast Phase: 6-12 weeks of hard training
  • Cruise Phase: 1-2 weeks of taking it easy

During your cruise weeks you can perform extremely light workouts OR you can stay out of the gym completely. The choice is up to you. 

DC Training says that there are two types of people who should use the DC Training push / pull / legs split rather than the traditional 2-way split. Check it out:

Who Should Use The DC Training Push / Pull / Legs Split

  • Option #1: Bodybuilders in a dieting phase
  • Option #2: Extremely strong / advanced bodybuilders

If you are trying to lose body fat or an extremely advanced bodybuilder trying to take your physique to the next level then the DC push / pull / legs split might be perfect for you.

In the rest of this article I want to show you exactly how both types of bodybuilders should use this training split. 

Part 1: DC Training For Pre-Contest Bodybuilders

DC Training is designed to help you build as much muscle mass as possible in the shortest amount of time.

Most bodybuilders use DC Training in the offseason when they are eating lots of food and focused on building muscle mass.

DC Training can still be used in a dieting or pre-contest phase. However, you may have to modify your training to help you recover.

Here is the general DC Training gameplan during a long dieting phase:

DC Training Dieting Phase Gameplan

  • Phase #1: Start with the 2-way split
  • Phase #2: Switch to the push / pull / legs split
  • Phase #3: Switch to the bodybuilding bro split

Most DC Trainees use the 2-way split in their offseason.

The 2-way split is just a modified version of an upper body / lower body split. Here is how the body parts are organized:

The DC Training 2-Way Split

  • Upper Body Day: Chest / Shoulders / Triceps / Back Width / Back Thickness
  • Lower Body Day: Biceps / Forearms / Calves / Hamstrings / Quads

Here’s what a typical DC Training 2-way split workout would look like:

Dante Trudel says most bodybuilders will make faster progress with the 2-way split in the offseason.

When you switch to your dieting phase you should continue using the 2-way split for the first few weeks.

However, after about 1-2 months of dieting most bodybuilders find they cannot recover from the 2-way split anymore. They don’t have enough energy to complete their workouts and they have a hard time recovering.

After 1-2 months most bodybuilders switch to the DC Training push / pull / legs split. Here is how the workouts are organized:

The DC Training Push / Pull / Legs Split

  • Push Day: Chest / Shoulders / Triceps
  • Pull Day: Back Width / Back Thickness / Biceps / Forearms
  • Legs Day: Calves / Hamstrings / Quads

With the push / pull / legs split you are only performing 3-4 exercises per workout instead of the 5 exercises per workout with the 2-way split. This makes a HUGE difference in terms of you recovering from your workouts.

Many DC Trainees feel like a million dollars after making this switch 1-2 months into their dieting phase. They suddenly have enough energy to finish their workouts and they can recover from their workouts even though their calories are lower.

Here is what a DC Training “pull” workout might look like. Check it out:

The bodybuilder performs 1 rest-pause set on pull ups, 2 straight sets on deadlifts, 1 rest-pause set of bicep curls and 1 straight set of rope hammer curls.

Even if you are dieting this type of low-volume workout is easy to recover from.

Some DC trainees find they can finish their dieting phase using this training split. However, some find that even this split is too much to recover from when their calories get too low.

If you are 3-5 months into your diet and you are struggling to recover from the DC Training push / pull / legs split then you can switch to a bodybuilding bro split. Check it out:

The DC Training Bodybuilding Bro Split

  • Day 1: Chest
  • Day 2: Biceps / Forearms
  • Day 3: Calves / Hamstrings / Quads
  • Day 4: Off
  • Day 5: Shoulders / Triceps
  • Day 6: Back Width / Back Thickness
  • Day 7: Off

This is Dante Trudel’s favorite version of the bodybuilding bro split. With this split you only have to perform 1-3 exercises per muscle group.

For example on your chest day you would perform 1 rest-pause set on your main exercise, then perform a chest extreme stretch and that’s it! The whole workout might take you 20 minutes to complete.

When you are low on calories these shorter workouts are very helpful. These short workouts also make it easier to squeeze your cardio in.

You are already in the gym so you can easily perform your 20-60 minutes of cardio right after your workouts without worrying about being able to recover.

After you are done with your dieting phase you can switch back to the regular DC Training push / pull / legs split or even the 2-way split.

The bodybuilding bro split is more of a last-resort to help you finish your dieting phase.

Part 2: DC Training For Highly Advanced Bodybuilders

DC Training is designed to help advanced bodybuilders build muscle mass as fast as possible.

Dante Trudel says about 90% of DC Trainees will make faster progress with the 2-way split. However, if you are an extremely advanced bodybuilder then you may want to use the DC Training push / pull / legs split year round.

Dante says this split works best for very advanced bodybuilders who need more time to recover between workouts and for bodybuilders who need to bring up their weaker muscle groups.

Here is a great video of Jason Wojo performing a “push” workout on the push / pull / legs split:

Jason Wojo is lifting 5 and a half plates on the incline hammer strength machine press!

Jason is unbelievably strong and a perfect example of someone who should be on the DC push / pull / legs split instead of the 2-way split.

If you are incline bench pressing at least 200-300 pounds for reps and squatting / deadlift at least 400-500 pounds for reps then you are a perfect candidate for the DC Training push / pull / legs split.

Your first option is to perform the push / pull / legs split with 1 exercise per body part.

This is identical to how you would use the push / pull / legs split during a dieting phase. For example:

DC Training Push Day

  • Exercise #1: Chest, 1 rest-pause set —-> extreme stretch
  • Exercise #2: Delts, 1 rest-pause set —-> extreme stretch
  • Exercise #3: Triceps, 1 rest-pause set —-> extreme stretch

DC Training Pull Day

  • Exercise #1: Back Width, 1 rest-pause set —-> extreme stretch
  • Exercise #2: Back Thickness, 1-2 straight sets
  • Exercise #3: Biceps, 1 rest-pause set —-> extreme stretch
  • Exercise #4: Forearms, 1 straight set

DC Training Legs Day

  • Exercise #1: Calves, 1 straight set
  • Exercise #2: Hamstrings, 1 rest-pause set or 1-2 straight sets
  • Exercise #3: Quads, 2 straight sets —-> extreme stretches

This is a great choice if you are extremely strong and you just cannot recover from the longer workouts on the 2-way split anymore.

However, the DC Training push / pull / legs split can also be used to bring up lagging muscle groups. Check it out:

The DC Training Lagging Muscle Group Protocol

  • Step #1: Perform your main exercise for 1 rest-pause set or 1-2 straight sets
  • Step #2: Perform a DC Training widowmaker exercise for 1 set of 10-30 reps
  • Step #3: Perform a DC Training extreme stretch for 60-90 seconds

The big difference here is you are performing an extra exercise for your lagging muscle groups.

First you perform your main exercise for 1 rest-pause set or 1-2 straight sets.

Then you perform a second exercise for 1 straight set of 10-30 reps. Dante Trudel calls this a “widowmaker” exercise but it is different from the widowmaker set you perform for quads. More on this in a minute.

Finally you finish with the extreme stretch for that muscle group.

Dante Trudel says that you should ONLY perform widwomaker sets for muscles that are lagging behind the rest of your body. If you try to perform a widowmaker set for every single exercise then you will quickly overtrain.

When Dusty Hanshaw first started with DC Training his arms and back lagged behind the rest of his body. Dante Trudel told Dusty to use widowmaker exercises for his back width, biceps and triceps.

Here is what Dusty’s new chest / shoulder / tricep workout looked like:

Dusty Hanshaw’s Push Day

  • Exercise #1: Chest
  • Exercise #2: Shoulders
  • Exercise #3: Triceps
  • Exercise #4: Triceps Widowmaker

Dusty kept most of his chest / shoulders / triceps workout the same. The only thing he changed is he added a widowmaker exercise after his main triceps movement.

The widowmaker is different from your main exercise. You are going to perform 1 straight set to failure in the 10-30 rep range. The other difference is you are going to perform the same widowmaker exercise every single workout.

Here is how Dusty organized his triceps workouts:

Push Day #1

  • Exercise #1: Dead stop skull crushers, 1 x 11-20 rest-paused
  • Exercise #2: Hammer strength dips, 1 x 10-30 straight set
  • Exercise #3: Triceps extreme stretch, 1 x 60-90 seconds

Push Day #2

  • Exercise #1: Smith machine close grip bench press, 1 x 11-20 rest-paused
  • Exercise #2: Hammer strength dips, 1 x 10-30 straight set
  • Exercise #3: Triceps extreme stretch, 1 x 60-90 seconds

Push Day #3

  • Exercise #1: Smith machine reverse grip bench press, 1 x 11-20 rest-paused
  • Exercise #2: Hammer strength dips, 1 x 10-30 straight set
  • Exercise #3: Triceps extreme stretch, 1 x 60-90 seconds

Dusty rotated through three different primary triceps exercises.

This is very normal DC Training stuff. However, after his primary triceps exercise he performed his widowmaker set. Picking the right widowmaker exercise is very important.

Here are Dante’s thoughts on the subject:

“In my opinion it has always been about putting yourself into a successful mechanical position…that is the beginning, the solution and the end to this bodybuilding puzzle.

And then when you are in that proper mechanical position….you get incredibly strong at that movement for reps over time and THAT IS WHAT CREATES INCREDIBLY LARGE MUSCLE MASS.”

Dusty used the hammer strength dip as his widowmaker exercise and he performed it for 1 straight set of 10-30 reps every single workout. Finally he finished with his triceps extreme stretch. 

Here is Dusty Hanshaw giving a perfect demonstration of the hammer strength dip widowmaker for triceps:

Dante Trudel uses the widowmaker exercise to bring up lagging muscle groups. He says that something magical happens when you beat the logbook every single workout over months and months of time on that 1 key exercise per body part.

Dante says that picking the right widowmaker exercise is absolutely critical. There are three rules you must follow:

The DC Training Lagging Body Part Widowmaker Criteria

  • Rule #1: The Deep Weighted Stretch
  • Rule #2: The Power Groove
  • Rule #3: Progressive Overload

Dante says that the best widowmaker exercises put the target muscle group in a deep loaded stretch at some point during the movement.

For example the hammer strength dip puts the triceps in a deep stretch in the bottom part of the exercise.

Here is Dante discussing why this is so important:

“I am a huge believer in the weighted deep eccentric phase of a rep when it comes to these lagging body part widowmakers.

I have been at this for a very long time now and I’ve been able to see the distinct difference of doing an exercise for a short range of motion during these widowmakers compared to a deep (under load) range of motion.”

The second rule is the widowmaker exercise must put you into a “power groove” position. This means you don’t have about balancing the weight and you can just grind, grind, grind out those reps while keeping tension on the target muscle.

For example the hammer strength dip puts you into a great power groove position. You just lock yourself into the machine and grind out those reps without worrying about stabilizing the weight.

Just look at Dusty performing his lateral raise widowmaker set:

What puts you into a power groove position: dumbbell lateral raises or machine lateral raises? Machine lateral raises! You just grind, grind, grind out those reps without worrying about your technique breaking down.

Finally you must pick an exercise where you can get stronger over time.

Which exercise is better for progressive overload: tricep kickbacks with the pink dumbbells or hammer strength dips? Hammer strength dips, of course!

With the hammer strength dips you can double, triple or quadruple your strength over many months of time.

If you can use a novel exercise that you have not used before then that is even better. Check it out:

“Now if that person had a weak bodypart I would probably get pretty unique with his training…and find weird exercises that put him into mechanical positions that he hasn’t done before.”

Dante Trudel likes his trainees to start out performing the widowmaker exercise for 1 set of 30 reps to failure. Once they get the hang of the exercise they start increasing the weight over time.

Your goal is to slowly let your reps drop over 6-12 months until you finally hit failure in the 8-10 rep range. At that time you swap the widowmaker exercise out for a new one and repeat the whole process.

Here is what your progress might look like on the lateral raise machine for shoulders:

Machine Lateral Raise Progression

  • Workout #1: 40 pounds x 30 reps
  • Workout #2: 45 pounds x 32 reps
  • Workout #3: 50 pounds x 32 reps
  • Workout #4: 55 pounds x 31 reps
  • Workout #5: 60 pounds x 29 reps
  • Workout #6: 65 pounds x 26 reps 
  • Workout #7: 65 pounds x 29 reps 
  • Workout #8: 70 pounds x 29 reps
  • Workout #9: 75 pounds x 26 reps
  • Workout #10: 80 pounds x 26 reps
  • Workout #11: 85 pounds x 24 reps
  • Workout #12: 85 pounds x 26 reps
  • Workout #13: 90 pounds x 25 reps
  • Workout #14: 95 pounds x 24 reps
  • Workout #15: 100 pounds x 23 reps

And so on. You just keep increasing the weight and you slowly let your reps fall down over time.

There will be times where you want to use the same weight and get more reps. However, most of the time you want to increase the weight and try to get the same number of reps.

Dante Trudel says that the widowmaker exercises are customized for the individual.

I don’t know which widowmaker exercises will work best for you as I don’t know you. However, I can show you some of Dusty Hanshaw’s favorite widowmaker exercises. Check it out:

Dusty Hanshaw’s Favorite Widowmaker Exercises

If you are new to the DC Training push / pull / legs split then I highly recommend you start out with these movements for your widowmaker exercises. Dante found through trial and error that these exercises tend to work well for most trainees.

If you want to pick your own lagging body part widowmaker exercise then you must ask yourself these three questions:

The 3 DC Training Widowmaker Exercise Questions

  • Question #1: Does this exercise put my muscle in a deep loaded stretch?
  • Question #2: Does this exercise put me into a power groove position?
  • Question #3: Can I beat the logbook over months and months of time?

If you answered “Hell Yes!” to all three questions then go ahead and use your exercise as the lagging body part widowmaker exercise.

But if you pick pursed-lip dumbbell kickbacks with the pink dumbbells then Dante Trudel is going to hunt you down and call you a candy-ass Nancy boy. You’ve been warned! 

Conclusion

DC Training Push Pull Legs

DC Training is an incredible bodybuilding training program. It blends together the principles of progressive overload, higher-frequency workouts and high-intensity training techniques to help you build muscle mass as fast as possible.

If you are an extremely advanced bodybuilder or about to start a dieting phase then you may want to try the DC Training push / pull / legs split. It is a great way to continue making progress if you cannot handle the longer workouts on the DC Training 2-way split.

If you are at all interested in the DC Training push / pull / legs split then make sure you check out my article on Dusty Hanshaw:

The Dusty Hanshaw DC Training Program!

I show you step-by-step how Dusty Hanshaw organized his own DC Training push / pull / legs split with widowmaker exercises for lagging body parts.

Trust me, you won’t find this information anywhere else on the internet.

I hope you found this information helpful. Here is one more quote by Dante Trudel to pump you up even more:

“Bodybuilding is about extremes–using weights you haven’t used previously, taking in large amounts of food to build greater muscle mass and GETTING THE CARDIO DONE to keep you relatively lean.

Get your act together and think this all out or quit your complaining and dreaming and take up tennis.”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen and I'm the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster then you've come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world. So grab a seat, kick back and relax. There's never been a better time to lift weights or to learn the art and science of strength training program design.

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