The Science Behind the Most Effective Push Pull Legs Routine for Building Muscle

The Science Behind the Most Effective Push Pull Legs Routine for Building Muscle

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Introduction to the Most Effective Push Pull Legs Routine for Building Muscle

The push pull legs (PPL) split routine has become incredibly popular among recreational lifters and bodybuilders alike. This 3 day per week workout focuses on dividing training sessions by movement patterns – push, pull, and legs – to allow for optimal recovery and growth.

On push days, the focus is on exercises like bench press, shoulder press, and tricep extensions to train the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Pull days target back muscles like lats, rear delts, biceps, and forearms through moves like pull ups, rows, curls, and face pulls. Legs days hammer the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves with squats, deadlifts, lunges, and calf raises.

The main benefit of the push pull legs routine is that it allows you to train muscle groups more frequently by splitting up body parts. By training related muscle groups together in each workout, you also get the benefit of increased muscle activation and fatigue. This leads to more metabolic stress and muscle damage, which are key drivers of hypertrophy.

Additionally, separating push and pull movements allows for better recovery since you avoid training opposing muscle groups on back to back days. The increased frequency of 2-3 times per week has consistently been shown in research to be optimal for muscle growth compared to full body or body part split routines.

The PPL split is popular from beginners to advanced lifters looking to maximize time efficiency and muscle gains. It offers flexibility to tailor the workouts to your individual needs and goals. When programmed correctly, the push pull legs routine delivers outstanding results.

Understanding The Science Behind the Most Effective Push Pull Legs Routine for Building Muscle

The push pull legs split allows you to train all the major muscle groups across three focused workouts. By splitting up pushing, pulling, and leg exercises, you can maximise training volume and optimise recovery time.

Explanation of how the overlap of movements within the same workout benefits muscle growth

When you perform pushing exercises like bench press, your chest, shoulders and triceps are all being worked. Similarly, during a pull workout, your back and biceps are both engaged in exercises like rows and pull-ups. This overlap creates an accumulated fatigue across muscle groups, which signals greater growth and adaptation.

Discuss how the push pull legs split allows for optimal training volume and recovery time

The push pull legs routine spaces out muscle groups to allow them adequate recovery time. For example, after training chest on push day, those muscles get 48 hours of rest before being worked again. This makes it possible to handle higher training volumes without overtraining. Research shows splits with at least 48 hours between muscle groups are ideal for natural lifters.

Explore the scientific studies and real-life experiences that support the effectiveness of the PPL routine

Multiple studies demonstrate that training muscle groups twice per week, as the PPL split allows, is superior for building muscle than full body routines or bro splits. Real-world experience from countless athletes and bodybuilders also showcase the effectiveness of push pull legs programming for making consistent gains.

Adapting the Push Pull Legs Routine for Different Levels of Experience

The push pull legs routine is highly adaptable for lifters of all experience levels. Here are some tips for tailoring it to your needs:


For beginners new to weight training, it’s best to start with just 2 days per week – one push workout and one pull workout. Focus on mastering the basic compound lifts like bench press, overhead press, rows, and deadlifts using relatively lighter weights.

Once comfortable, add a third leg day. Stick to 2-3 exercises per muscle group and aim for 3 sets of 8-12 reps per exercise.

Intermediate Lifters

Intermediate lifters can increase to 3 days per week, following the standard push, pull, legs split. Add more isolation exercises like lateral raises, cable flies, and leg curls to target specific muscle groups.

Increase the number of sets per exercise to 3-4 and use a variety of rep ranges from 6-12 reps. This provides more overall volume to spur continued growth.

Advanced Lifters

Advanced lifters can further increase training frequency to 4, 5 or even 6 days per week. This provides greater training volume and frequency to force further adaptation.

An example advanced 6 day push pull legs routine would be:

  • Day 1: Push
  • Day 2: Pull
  • Day 3: Legs
  • Day 4: Push
  • Day 5: Pull
  • Day 6: Legs

Advanced lifters may also benefit from changing rep ranges more frequently, cycling between heavier and lighter days to maximize strength and hypertrophy.

4 or 5 Day Splits

The push pull legs split can also be adapted to 4 or 5 day splits, though the days will not follow a consistent rotation each week. This allows for added focus on certain muscle groups.

A 5 day example could be: Legs, Push, Pull, Legs, Push. The 4 day: Legs, Push, Pull, Legs.

The flexibility of push pull legs makes it easy to tailor to your goals as you progress!

Who Should Use the Push Pull Legs Split?

The push-pull-legs (PPL) split is a highly effective workout routine that can benefit a wide range of individuals. Here is an examination of who can gain from using the PPL split:

Beginner Lifters

Beginners new to strength training can make great progress on a PPL program. The split allows them to train each muscle group twice per week, which is optimal for beginners looking to gain strength and size. However, true beginners should focus on learning proper form on basic compound lifts before taking on the volume of a 6-day PPL split.

Intermediate Lifters

Intermediate lifters are often the biggest beneficiaries of the PPL routine. They have enough training experience to handle the volume and can continue building muscle with the higher frequency of training. The periodization inherent in the split also helps them push past plateaus.

Advanced Lifters

Advanced lifters can also gain from PPL training, although they may prefer a 4-day upper/lower split to allow for more recovery time. Advanced lifters on a PPL routine should periodize their training and aim for progressive overload to continue making gains.


Athletes across various sports like the PPL split because it builds overall strength and size efficiently. They can tailor the exercises to their sport’s needs. The split also allows them to recover from high-intensity sport-specific training.


Women can also benefit enormously from the PPL split. The volume per session won’t be too much, and they can make great progress training each muscle group twice per week. Some may prefer an upper/lower split, but many find success with the classic PPL routine.


Bodybuilders use the PPL split to gain maximum muscle size and aesthetic development. The focused muscle group work allows them to bring up weak points. The higher training frequency also leads to greater hypertrophy.

In summary, the PPL split can work for a wide range of fitness levels and goals. The key is managing volume and recovery appropriately as an individual progresses.

Pros and Cons of a Push Pull Legs Split

The push pull legs split has several advantages that make it an effective routine for building muscle. One of the biggest pros is that it allows you to perform compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench press, and rows in every workout. Compound movements activate multiple muscle groups at once, leading to greater overall muscle stimulation. The push pull legs split also provides enough volume on isolation exercises like bicep curls or tricep extensions to fully fatigue individual muscles.

Additionally, training muscle groups like chest and back or quads and hamstrings on separate days allows each to receive focused attention. This helps avoid overtraining and leads to better recovery. The split also has built-in recovery days between sessions for the same muscle groups. This aids muscle protein synthesis and growth.

However, the push pull legs routine also comes with some potential drawbacks. The main one is that it can be time consuming, with each workout lasting 60-90 minutes. This may not work with busy schedules. It’s also very demanding on the body, requiring careful management of recovery and nutrition. Smaller muscle groups like biceps may benefit from more frequency than once every 3 days.

There are ways to mitigate the cons of this split. For time, supersets can condense the workout. For recovery, deloads every 4-6 weeks are useful. Isolation exercises can be added for smaller muscle groups. Overall, the pros seem to outweigh the cons for most looking to optimize muscle growth.

Conclusion: The Most Effective Push Pull Legs Routine for Building Muscle

The push pull legs routine has proven to be one of the most effective training splits for building muscle. By grouping exercises by movement patterns, it allows for optimal recovery between working the same muscles again. The push day targets the chest, shoulders and triceps. The pull day works the back, biceps and rear delts. Finally, the leg day trains the quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves.

This split is popular among bodybuilders and powerlifters because it balances training volume and frequency for each muscle group. Research shows that hitting a muscle group twice per week, as is done with the push pull legs routine, is ideal for muscle growth. The 48 hours of rest between training the same muscles also prevents overtraining.

The flexibility of the push pull legs routine is another one of its major advantages. It can be adapted for beginners, intermediates and advanced lifters by adjusting volume, intensity and frequency. Extra days can also be added to turn it into a 4 or 5 day split. The PPL routine works well for both muscle building and fat loss goals.

While no program is perfect, the pros of the push pull legs split seem to outweigh any potential drawbacks for most people. It allows for both heavy compound lifts and targeted isolation exercises in each workout. The only caution is that leg days may get overly long for some advanced lifters. But this can be managed by reducing volume or splitting into two leg sessions.

In summary, the push pull legs split should be considered by anyone looking to optimise their training for gaining strength and size. It is backed by science and real-world results. With some personal customisation, it can work for almost any fitness level or goal.

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