The 5 Benefits Of Push / Pull / Legs Splits!


push pull legs benefits

The push / pull / legs split is one of the most popular training splits in the world. Many of the world’s biggest and strongest athletes including Ronnie Coleman and Andy Bolton use this training split to build muscle mass and strength.

With the push / pull / legs split you train your entire body with three separate workouts. 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 quads / hamstrings / calves.

The push / pull / legs split has 5 big advantages over other training splits:

  • It reduces overlap between muscle groups
  • You can customize your training frequency
  • You can specialize on weak muscle groups / exercises
  • It works for size, strength and fat loss
  • It helps you keep your elbows healthy

It’s no wonder this split is used by some of the best bodybuilders and powerlifters in the world! It’s hard to think of another training split that has this much going for it. Now let’s take a closer look at each of these advantages.

Benefit #1: It Reduces Overlap Between Muscle Groups!

The push / pull / legs split is designed to eliminate overlap between different muscle groups. You never have to worry about sore triceps impacting your chest workout or sore hamstrings impacting your quadriceps workout. Just take a look at the following bodybuilding-style “bro-split”:

The Typical Bodybuilding “Bro-Split”

  • Monday: Chest
  • Tuesday: Back
  • Wednesday: Shoulders
  • Thursday: Arms
  • Friday: Legs
  • Saturday: Off
  • Sunday: Off

The problem with this training split is there is a TON of overlap between different muscle groups. This means that some muscles will receive too much stimulation during the week and other muscles will receive not enough stimulation.

Just look at your triceps. If you perform compound pressing exercises on your chest, shoulder and arm workouts then you are training journey triceps three times per week! They also have one or even zero rest days between workouts.

Most trainees have a hard time making any progress training this way because their muscles and central nervous system never have enough time to recover.

The push / pull / legs split eliminates this problem because similar muscle groups are all trained on the same training day. Just take a look at the 3 days per week version of this split:

The 3 Day Push / Pull / Legs Split

  • Monday: Chest / Shoulders / Triceps
  • Wednesday: Back / Biceps
  • Friday: Quads / Hamstrings / Calves

With the push / pull / legs split you train all of your compound pressing exercises like incline bench presses, overhead dumbbell presses and close grip bench presses all on the same training day. This means your triceps have a full week of rest in between workouts to fully recover.

Even if you train using a 6 day push / pull / legs split your triceps get more time to recover than they do with the typical bodybuilding “bro-split.” This extra recover time means faster size and strength gains.

Benefit #2: You Can Customize Your Training Frequency!

The push / pull / legs split is one of the most versatile training splits in the world! Most people don’t know this but there are actually three different versions of the push / pull / legs split:

The big difference between these splits is your overall training frequency per body part and the number of workouts you have to do per week. Let’s take a closer look at each of these options.

Option #1: The 3 Days Per Week Push / Pull / Legs Split

  • Monday: Pull
  • Wednesday: Push
  • Friday: Legs

The three days per week push / pull / legs split is one of the oldest and most effective training splits in the world. This option works great for beginners and extremely advanced bodybuilders / powerlifters.

Beginners like this split because it is extremely simple and allows for plenty of rest in between workouts. However, in my experience this split works best for advanced bodybuilders and powerlifters who are lifting a ton of weight in the gym.

Many of the best powerlifters in the world including Andy Bolton train using a 3 days per week push / pull / legs split. Andy Bolton was the first man to deadlift 1,000 pounds in competition in 2006. Andy found that as he got stronger he needed more and more rest in between workouts to recover.

The 3 days per week push / pull / legs split was perfect for him because he had at least 1 rest day after every workout and a full week of rest between workouts for each muscle group.

Here is what Andy Bolton’s weekly squat / deadlift workouts look like:

The Andy Bolton Squat / Deadlift Workout

  • A1: Back squat, 1 set of 2 reps @ 80% of your 1-rep max
  • B1: Speed back squat, 5 sets of 2 reps @ 55-70% of your 1-rep max
  • C1: Deadlift, 1 set of 2 reps @ 80% of your 1-rep max
  • D1: Speed deadlift, 5 sets of 2 reps @ 55-70% of your 1-rep max

After his heavy back squats and deadlifts Andy performed various lower body accessory exercises including leg presses, leg extensions, leg curls etc. This may not sound like a lot of volume but when you are strong enough to squat and deadlift over 1,000 pounds even a low-volume workout can take its toll on you!

Of course you don’t have to deadlift 1,000 pounds to make progress with the 3 day push / pull / legs split. If you are throwing around some heavy slag iron in the gym and you feel like you need more rest between workouts to recover then this is one of the best training splits you can use.

Option #2: The 4 Days Per Week Push / Pull / Legs Split

Week 1:

  • Monday: Pull
  • Wednesday: Push
  • Friday: Legs
  • Saturday: Pull

Week 2:

  • Monday: Push
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Friday: Pull
  • Saturday: Push

Week 3:

  • Monday: Legs
  • Wednesday: Pull
  • Friday: Push
  • Saturday: Legs

The 4 days per week push / pull / legs split is one of the most underrated training splits in the world. Each muscle group is trained once every 5-6 days which is an awesome “middle-of-the-road” training frequency which works great for many people.

As you can see each muscle group is trained 4 times in 3 weeks. This means that whatever body parts you train on Monday are also trained on Saturday of the same week. In my experience this split works best for intermediate and advanced bodybuilders.

Dante Trudel often uses this split with his DC Training program and John Meadows sometimes uses this split with his Mountain Dog Training program.

Here is what a DC Training chest / shoulders / triceps workout might look like for an advanced bodybuilder using the 4 day push / pull / legs split. Check it out:

DC Push Workout

  • A1: 30 degree incline bench press, 1 x 11-20 RP**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Machine pec dec, 1 x 20, 2/1/1/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Hammer strength overhead press, 1 x 20-30 RP**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Seated machine lateral raise, 1 x 20****, 2/0/1/1, rest as needed
  • E1: Dead stop skull crusher, 1 x 20-30 RP**, 2/1/X/0, rest as needed
  • F1: Hammer strength machine dips, 1 x 20, 2/0/1/0, rest as needed

Here are some sample DC  training videos for this workout: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1, exercise D1, exercise E1, exercise F1.

For this workout you are performing 2 exercises per muscle group. The first exercise is performed for 1 rest-pause set to failure and the second exercise is performed with 1 straight set to failure. Dante Trudel recommends you perform an “extreme stretch” after training each muscle group to make the workout even more effective.

This type of workout works ridiculously well for advanced bodybuilders who want to build muscle while getting stronger in the gym. The 4 day push / pull / legs split lets you train with a slightly higher training frequency which is great for rapid strength gains.

Option #3: The 6 Days Per Week Push / Pull / Legs Split

  • Monday: Push
  • Tuesday: Pull
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Thursday: Push
  • Friday: Pull
  • Saturday: Legs
  • Sunday: Off

The 6 day push / pull / legs split is one of the most popular bodybuilding training splits in the world. Many fitness experts including Jeff Nippard have said that this is a great choice for anyone trying to build muscle. In fact this split was a favorite of Ronnie Coleman, the greatest bodybuilder of all time.

Ronnie used the 6 day push / pull / legs split to train each muscle group twice per week with lots of volume and incredibly heavy weights. It’s no wonder he became the Mr. Olympia champion 8 times in a row!

The big downside to the 6 day push / pull / legs split is that it can be very difficult to recover from. You need at least above-average recovery ability to grow training like this. It also a poor choice for powerlifters or anyone looking to build strength because there are so many back-to-back training days.

Benefit #3: You Can Specialize On Weak Muscle Groups / Exercises!

One of the biggest advantages of the push / pull / legs split is it lets you specialize on your weaker muscle groups or exercises! All you have to do is lower the training volume for your weaker body parts and raise it up for your stronger body parts.

Ronnie Coleman used this exact strategy to bring up his lagging shoulders. He usually performed 6 exercises for his weaker muscle groups such as his shoulders!

Here is one of his 2 weekly shoulder workouts that he performed on his “push” day:

The Ronnie Coleman Shoulder Workout

  • A1: Seated barbell military press, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B1: Standing DB lateral raise, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • C1: Barbell front raises, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D1: Rear delt pec dec, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E1: Bent-over DB rear delt raise, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • F1: Standing DB shrugs, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps

Talk about a lot of volume! Ronnie felt that it was absolutely essential to perform many different exercises to bring up his lagging shoulders. In order to recover from all this volume Ronnie did fewer exercises for his strong muscle groups such as his legs.

Here is one of Ronnie’s weekly leg workouts:

The Ronnie Coleman Leg Workout

  • A1: Back squat, 3-5 sets of 5-15 reps
  • B1: 45 degree leg press, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • C1: Leg extension, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D1: Kneeling leg curl, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E1: Stiff-legged deadlift, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps

As you can see Ronnie only performs 5 total exercises for his quads and hamstrings. If your shoulders lag behind the rest of your body then you may want to follow Ronnie’s lead and increase the volume on your “push” and “pull” days and lower the volume on your “pull” day.

Many world-class powerlifters have used a similar strategy to boost their strength on the squat, bench press and deadlift.

The bench press specialist Vincent Dizenzo loves the 3 day per week push / pull / legs split because he can easily increase his training volume on his “push” day and lower his training volume on his other two training days.

Here is one of Vincent Dizenzo’s bench press days when he was working with the powerlifting coach Josh Bryant:

The Vincent Dizenzo Bench Press Workout

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 1 x 2**, 1/1/X/1, 4 minutes rest
  • B1: Bottom position overcoming isometric, 2 x 1, 6 second hold, 2 minutes rest
  • B2: Speed bench press (competition grip), 2 x 3***, 1/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: Top position overcoming isometric, 2 x 1, 6 second hold, 2 minutes rest
  • C2: Speed bench press (competition grip), 2 x 3***, 1/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • D1: Bench press against chains, 1 x 6****, 1/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • E1: Dead bench (competition grip), 3 x 1*****, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Standing band flyes, 2 x 15, 1/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • G1: Flat DB triceps extension against bands, 4 x 10, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • H1: Rope cable pushdown, 3 x 15, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • I1: Band scap retractions, 3 x 12, 1/0/1/1, 60 seconds rest
  • J1: Standing band pull aparts, 4 x 12, 1/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest

**Performed at 88% of his projected 1-rep max

***Performed at 76% of his projected 1-rep max

****Performed at 62% of his projected 1-rep max

****Performed at 80% of his projected 1-rep max

You can click right here to watch the training video for Vincent’s bench press workout.

Talk about a high-volume bench press workout! Vincent performs 12 total exercises for his chest, shoulders and triceps. Vincent was specializing in the bench press at the time and wanted to put 100% of his focus into improving this lift.

The 3 day push / pull / legs split was perfect for him because he could increase his training volume on his push day and lower his training volume on his other two days.

The bottom line is the 3 day push / pull / legs split makes it very easy for you to specialize on your weaker muscle groups. If you want to “bomb and blitz” a muscle with a lot of volume or if you want to specialize in the squat, bench press or deadlift then this training split is for you!

Benefit #4: It Works For Size, Strength And Fat Loss!

The push / pull / legs split is perfect for any training goal! It can be used to train for size, strength or fat loss. You just have to make sure you pick the right version of the push / pull / legs split for your goals.

Push / Pull / Legs For Building Muscle!

If your goal is to build as much muscle mass as possible then you have to give the 4 day push / pull / legs routine a shot. One of the things that I like most about this split is you train each muscle group once every 5 days or so. This is right in between the high-frequency and low-frequency training approaches that almost everyone else uses.

When you train muscles once every 5 days you can really hammer them with a lot of volume while still avoiding the “trap” of training each muscle only once a week. IFBB pro John Meadows really likes this split and sometimes uses it with his bodybuilding clients.

Here is a “pull” workout that John designed for a client using the 4 day push / pull / legs split. Check it out:

Mountain Dog Pull Workout

  • A1: Machine chest supported row (medium / neutral grip), 4 x 8**, 1/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • B1: Single-arm lat pulldown (supinating grip), 3 x 10, 1/0/X/1, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: Rack deadlift (knee height), 3 x 5****, 1/0/1/0, 2 minutes rest
  • D1: Band-assisted pull up (medium grip), 3 x 12******, 1/0/1/0, 2 minutes rest
  • E1: Lying DB pullover, 3 x 15, 1/0/1/0, 2 minutes rest
  • F1: 45 degree back extension (holding barbell with snatch grip), 3 x 12-15, 1/0/1/1, 2 minutes rest
  • G1: Preacher DB curl (supinated grip), 3 x 15-20, 1/0/1/0, 1 minute rest
  • H1: Bicep extreme stretch, 1 x 60 seconds, 1 minute rest
  • I1: Seated DB curl (hammer grip), 3 x 12-15, 1/0/1/0, 1 minute rest
  • J1: Bent-over rear delt DB fly, 3 x 20, 1/0/1/0, 1 minute rest

**Perform a single drop set. Perform 8-10 reps, drop the weight, perform 8-10 reps, then perform a static stretch in the bottom position x 10 seconds w/ manual overpressure.

****Flare your lats hard during the entire set to recruit your lats more. Forget about your normal rack pull weights! Perform a triple drop set on the last set. Perform 5 reps, drop the weight, perform 5 reps, drop the weight, perform 5 reps, drop the weight, perform 5 reps, done!

******Perform 12 reps to failure with a narrow grip, then widen your grip and perform half-reps to failure, then perform an iso-hold half-way up with the wide grip.

You can click right here for the training video for this workout.

Talk about a high-volume workout! This workout includes 6 exercises for back, 3 exercises for biceps and 1 exercise for rear delts.

Don’t worry, the workout goes by much faster than you would think. After you are done training your back you can immediately transition into your bicep exercises with very little warm up. Your biceps are already warmed up from all the heavy back work you did.

Push / Pull / Legs For Strength: The Lilliebridge Method

The push / pull / legs split isn’t just for size gains. It also works great for powerlifters who want to get as strong as possible. In my experience the Lilliebridge Method works AWESOME when paired together with the push / pull / legs split.

The Lilliebridge Method was invented by Eric Lilliebridge, one of the greatest powerlifters of all time. The basic idea is to go heavy on the squat, bench press or deadlift once every 2 weeks. For example:

Week 1: 

  • Heavy Bench Press
  • Heavy Squat

Week 2:

  • Light Bench Press
  • Heavy Deadlift

Here is what your weekly training schedule might look like using the Lilliebridge Method and a 3 day push / pull / legs split:

Lilliebridge Method Training Split

  • Monday: Bench Press Day
  • Wednesday: Squat / Deadlift Day
  • Friday: Back / Biceps Day

And here is what a heavy bench press workout might look like on the Lilliebridge Method. This workout was performed by Stan Efferding as he trained for his 606 pound competition bench press. Check it out:

Stan Efferding Bench Press Day

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 2 sets of 3 reps
  • B1: Incline dumbbell press, 2 sets of 6-10 reps
  • C1: Dips, 2 sets of 6-10 reps

That’s it! Stan kept his bench press workouts nice and simple when using the Lilliebridge Method. He just performed a couple of heavy sets on the bench press and then a couple of heavy sets on 2 major assistance exercises.

This type of program works extremely well for advanced powerlifters who need a ton of rest between their workouts because of how strong they are.

Push / Pull / Legs For Fat Loss: The Stan Efferding Bodybuilding Program

IFBB pro Stan Efferding used the 6 day push / pull / legs split to help him lose body fat while preparing for his bodybuilding competitions. This 6-day split is great for fat loss because you have so many workouts during the week where you can stimulate fat loss hormones like HGH.

Stan Efferding took things one step further and performed twice a day, six days per week using a slightly modified push / pull / legs split. Check it out:

  • Monday
    • AM: Chest
    • PM: Shoulders
  • Tuesday
    • AM: Back
    • PM: Biceps / Triceps
  • Wednesday
    • AM: Quads
    • PM: Hamstrings
  • Thursday
    • AM: Chest
    • PM: Shoulders
  • Friday
    • AM: Back
    • PM: Biceps / Triceps
  • Saturday
    • AM: Quads
    • PM: Hamstrings
  • Sunday
    • AM: Off
    • PM: Off

This split is almost exactly like the traditional 6-day push / pull / legs split. The major difference is Stan trains triceps together on his back / biceps day. Stan likes to split his workouts into AM and PM workouts because it gives him twice as many chances to create a muscle growth and fat loss stimulus.

The average trainee could never recover from this twice per day, six days per week training schedule but then again Stan Efferding probably isn’t human!

Here is the exact quadricep workout that Stan used while training with Flex Wheeler for his bodybuilding competitions. Check it out:

Stan Efferding’s Bodybuilding Quad Workout

  • A1: Single-leg leg extension, 2 x 20, 1/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Leg press, 2 x 20, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Machine hack squat, 2 x 20, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Walking DB lunge, 2 x 20, 1/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest

You can click right here for the training video for this workout.

As you can see Stan performs 2 hard sets to failure on 4 major quad exercises. Stan found through trial and error that his legs responded best to sets of 20 reps for growth. This is definitely something worth trying if your legs are a lagging muscle group.

The bottom line is the push / pull / legs split is extremely versatile. It can be used for any training goal including building muscle, building strength and losing body fat. You just have to pick the right training schedule for your goal.

Benefit #5: It Helps You Keep Your Elbows Healthy!

Many advanced bodybuilders and powerlifters can’t train their upper body hard because their elbows are too beat up. If you perform a lot of heavy skull crushers or standing barbell curls then you probably already know what they mean.

One of the most underrated advantages of the push / pull / legs split is that it keeps your elbows nice and healthy! By the time you get to your biceps or triceps exercises your arms should be warmed up and slightly fatigued. This makes heavy arm exercises like skull crushers much safer to perform.

Let’s take a look at how some of the world’s best bodybuilders use the push / pull / legs split to keep their arms healthy.

Here is a chest / shoulder / triceps workout that Dorian Yates coached a young bodybuilder through. Check it out:

Dorian Yates “Push” Workout

  • A1: Decline bench press, 1 set of 6-8 reps**
  • B1: Incline hammer strength press, 1 set of 6-8 reps****
  • C1: 30 degree incline DB fly, 1 set of 8-10 reps****
  • D1: Seated DB front raise, 1 set of 6-8 reps****
  • E1: Seated DB lateral raise, 1 set of 6-8 reps****
  • F1: Standing unilateral cable lateral raise, 1 set of 6-8 reps****
  • G1: Standing cable pushdown (pronated grip), 1 set of 6-8 reps****
  • H1: Lying ez-bar extension (to forehead), 1 set of 6-8 reps****

**Perform a double drop set. Perform 6-8 reps just shy of failure, drop the weight, perform as many reps as possible, drop the weight, perform as many reps as possible, done!

****Train to failure, then perform 1-3 extra forced reps with the help of a training partner.

You can click right here for the training video for this workout.

By the time Dorian got to his triceps exercises his triceps were already pre-fatigued and full of blood from all the compound chest and shoulder exercises.

By the end of the workout you barely even need to perform any warm up sets for the triceps. You can perform 1 light warm up set and jump into your heaviest set to failure.

Ronnie Coleman was also a big fan of the push / pull / legs split and he never suffered any elbow problems. Here is one of his favorite back / bicep workouts that he performed throughout his career. Check it out:

Ronnie Coleman “Pull” Workout

  • A1: Lat pulldown (wide / overhand grip), 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B1: Behind the neck lat pulldown (wide / overhand grip), 3-5 sets of x 8-20 reps
  • C1: Seated cable row (v-handle), 3-5 sets of x 8-20 reps
  • D1: Lying DB pullovers, 3-5 sets of x 8-20 reps
  • E1: Machine preacher curls, 3-5 sets of x 8-20 reps
  • F1: Standing alternating DB curls (supinating grip), 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • G1: Standing cable ez-bar curl, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps

You can click right here to watch Ronnie perform his back exercises or click right here to watch Ronnie perform his biceps exercises.

Ronnie performs 4 heavy back exercises before he even thinks about training biceps. This means his biceps were plenty warmed up and hardly at risk of being injured. Ronnie’s biceps were one of his best body parts so it looks like his push / pull / legs split worked like a charm.

Conclusion

push pull legs benefits

The push / pull / legs split is one of the most efficient and effective training splits in the world. It is also one of the most versatile training splits. You can train anywhere from 3-6 days per week depending on your recovery ability and your goals.

If you are lost about what training split to use then I highly recommend you give one of the push / pull / legs splits a shot. It works for many of the world’s best bodybuilders, strongmen and powerlifters and it will work for you too!

“Always look to learn. Learning something new is a great feeling. The feeling of progress.”

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

Dr. Mike Jansen

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT 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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