Push/Pull/Legs Split Workout

Is simplicity the secret to success with building strength and size? A lot of people argue it is. If we can eliminate complication and confusion from our workouts then in theory they should be easier to follow and get right. We all have our own preferences though, so it isn’t just enough to say what you are doing is wrong, and that something else is right. That being said, adding variety to your workouts is generally a good thing and should be encouraged. 

The push/pull/legs split is a classic workout routine for bodybuilding. Essentially it turns your workout into a three day routine, comprising of a day for push movements, a day for pull movements and a day for legs.

  • Push – These are movements that specifically focus on you chest, shoulders and triceps by using exercises that include bench press, shoulder press and dips.
  • Pull – In contrast these focus on pulling movements that target your back and biceps. They include exercises such as dead lifts, chin-ups and bicep curls.
  • Legs – As the name suggests, the third day is used to focus on the lower half of your body. This is when you would use exercises including squats, lunges and leg press.

Generally each day has a ‘main’ exercise that is used to specifically build strength. Usually these would be the bench press, dead lifts and squats. Then supplementary, or assistant, exercises are used to help encourage hypertrophy. This hopefully then allows you to use the routine to effectively increase both strength and size.

The routine is done either once or twice in one week. People who use it once will train on every other day, leaving the days in between for rest and recovery. However some people choose to complete the routine in three consecutive days, rest, and then repeat for the final three days in the week. It’s completely up to you which you prefer to do.

Let’s take a look at the benefits of the push/pull/legs split workout routine:

  • It pays necessary attention to rest where other routines have been guilty of leading to overtraining
  • Specifying an area of the body to train, rather than specific exercises, means there can be a lot of variety in what you do, particularly in the exercises you choose to supplement your bench press, dead lifts and squats
  • Not specifying a particular day for an exercise makes the routine flexible, meaning that if you are forced to miss a day in the gym, you don’t need to wait a week to train that part of the body
  • You design your own workout routine and can therefore focus it on the areas you want to improve in, e.g. use the push day to focus on your chest more than your shoulders if you feel that is where you need to develop

The fact that you can custom build your own plan is magnificent, and you can incorporate most exercises somewhere. What I would say is that you should try to stick with compound exercises and use isolated movements rarely, maybe only for your arms and calves.

If you are just starting out at the gym you might not feel confident enough to try something like this, that is fine. In all honesty I probably wouldn’t expect a beginner to use a push/pull/legs split. But once you have enough experience to know which exercises are helping which part of your body, don’t be afraid to experiment. It is the the variation in our training that often sparks the best results.

Just remember to work within your capabilities, but don’t allow that to stop you pushing yourself to the limit. Finding that balance between the two will help you massively, I guarantee it.

Ollie Lawrence
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