If you are past the beginner’s stage and want to gain muscle, one of the best gym workout plans you can use to accomplish this is the push/pull/legs split routine.
The PPL 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.
In this article, you’ll discover in details what this gym workout plan is all about, plus I'll give you a sample workout routine that you can get started within the gym.

gym workout plan

Push Pull Legs Gym Workout Plan

What Is The Push/Pull/Legs Split Routine?

The push/pull/legs split ( PPL) are one of the most simple and proven workout schedules around. It’s also one of the most intelligent and effective.

There are a few different versions of it that can work well, and a few different ways to structure it over the course of the week (some of which are definitely more or less ideal for certain goals and situations than others).
The push/pull/legs split is a weight training schedule that splits the body up into 3 groups:
  • Upper body pushing muscles.
  • Upper body pulling muscles.
  • Legs.
Each group is trained separately on its own workout day.

Push Workout:

Train all of the upper body muscles that are involved in pushing exercises.

Pull Workout

Train all of the upper body muscles that are involved in pulling exercises.

Legs Workout:

Train the entire lower body.

The main purpose of splitting the body up this way is that related muscle groups are trained together in the same workout.
By pairing up all of the muscle groups that get trained indirectly during exercises for other muscle groups, the push/pull/legs split greatly lessens that potential and the overall structure of your routine.
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.
Another method is the rotating five-day cycle, where this gym workout plan 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 gym workout plan 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 to get an overall benefit from this overlap.
For example, when you train chest with the 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 afterward so that they can derive the maximum benefit from the additional stimulation.
It also means you will have a 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?

This gym workout plan is ideal for both the intermediate and advanced people.
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.
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.

Push Pull Legs Gym Workout Plan


The Classic Push/Pull/Legs Split:

  1. Monday: Push (Chest, Shoulders, Triceps)
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Pull (Back, Biceps)
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Legs (Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, Abs)
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

push pull legs

There are 3 total weight training workouts per week done in an every-other-day format with 2 days off at the end.
This makes this by far the most convenient and easy-to-schedule gym workout plan.
This also means that each muscle group is trained just once per week (or once every 7th day).
This is where this split starts to become not so good.
That it is the least effective weight training frequency. It can still work if everything else is done right.
It’s just not what works best for the majority of the population.
While this classic version of the push/pull/legs split is terrific in terms of convenience and easy scheduling, it’s not good in terms of training frequency per muscle group/exercise. 
I wouldn’t really recommend it if you are looking to build muscle, increase strength or improve performance.
A once-per-week frequency like this is actually suitable if your primary goal is to mostly just maintaining muscle and strength you currently have.


The Rotating Gym Workout Plan:

Gym Workout Plan #1:

  1. Monday: Push (Chest, Shoulders, Triceps)
  2. Tuesday: Pull (Back, Biceps)
  3. Wednesday: off
  4. Thursday: Legs (Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, Abs)
  5. Friday: off
  6. Saturday: Push (Chest, Shoulders, Triceps)
  7. Sunday: Pull (Back, Biceps)

Push Pull Legs Routine

Gym Workout Plan #2:

  1. Monday: off
  2. Tuesday: Legs (Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, Abs)
  3. Wednesday: off
  4. Thursday: Push (Chest, Shoulders, Triceps)
  5. Friday: Pull (Back, Biceps)
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: Legs (Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, Abs)

As you can see, it’s either 4 or 5 total weight training workouts per week (it varies due to the “rotating” aspect of it…
But it ends up being 4 days per week the majority of the time) using a 2 on/1 off/1 on/1 off format that repeats every 6th day.
This increases the frequency from once per week (every 7th day) to about twice per week (every 5th day).
This is the most effective training frequency for virtually everyone who is intermediate and advanced trainees.

For just building muscle and looking awesome, I think this split is great. That’s why it’s one of the split options I use within my own training.
The fact that this split is done over a rotating 5-day cycle means the days you do and do not work out on, will constantly change from one week to the next.
This lack of stability could be a very big problem for many people from a scheduling standpoint.
It’s allowing us to reach that optimal training frequency we want to reach, but what it has in training frequency, it lacks in convenience and ease of scheduling.

Push/Pull/Legs vs Push/Legs/Pull

This split can also be done with the workouts in a slightly different arrangement.
Specifically as push/legs/pull instead of push/pull/legs.
Both versions are equally effective, and this modification is mostly only relevant when using my preferred rotating 5-day-cycle version.
However, there are a couple of small differences and reasons for making this change.

  • Push/Pull/Legs:
This gym workout plan ensures that the “legs” workout (which is typically the hardest/most physically and mentally demanding workout of the week) ends up always having a rest day before and after it. The downside is that the “push” and “pull” workouts are always done on back-to-back days.

Push Pull Legs Split

  • Push/Legs/Pull:
Pretty much eliminates ALL potential issues. The main downside here is that the “legs” workout no longer has that nice rest day before it.

The push pull legs split has stood the test of time – it’s an effective gym workout plan to build muscle and get stronger while still giving your body sufficient recovery time.
What’s more, you can adjust the routine based on the number of days you have available to train, with the 4-day and 5-day splits being more effective as far as muscle growth is concerned.