PPL Part 1

The PPL (push, pull, legs) routine is, by far, my favorite lifting program. The flexibility that PPL offers makes it a fantastic program for novices and intermediate/ advanced lifters alike. Below I’ve outlined the basic structure of the program as well as a handful of variations that can be utilized to increase the intensity as you become a more seasoned lifter.

PPL breaks the body into three large muscle groups. Push days include the chest, shoulders and triceps. Pull days include the back and biceps. Leg days include the quads, hamstrings and calves. Here are some common exercises utilized on each day of the program:

Push - Bench press, shoulder press and triceps extensions

Pull - Bent-over rows, pull-ups and biceps curls

Legs - Squats, Romanian deadlifts and calf raises

The idea behind the program is that segmenting the body into muscle groups that perform movements together allows for maximum stress to be placed on those muscles in one session. Remember that stress is required for growth. Additionally, because those muscles aren’t worked on other days of the program, PPL allows for maximum rest before hitting a muscle group again. To illustrate the point, I’ve outlined a couple ways to organize a PPL program below, ranked from least to most taxing on the body.

Novice PPL*

·        Monday – Push

·        Tuesday – Off

·        Wednesday – Pull

·        Thursday – Off

·        Friday – Legs

Note that there is a full week of rest before you hit a muscle group again. This program is perfect for those who are relatively new to lifting and/or looking for a program that doesn’t force them into the gym more than 3 days a week. To advance it slightly, you could rotate through sessions every other day rather than following the days of the week and taking the weekends off as outlined above.

*While this routine is indeed a novice program, I believe that most novices lifting three days a week (or less) will benefit more from doing a basic full-body program than from segmenting the body the way a PPL routine does

Intermediate PPL

·        Monday – Push

·        Tuesday – Pull

·        Wednesday – Off

·        Thursday – Legs

·        Friday – Off

·        Saturday – Push

·        Sunday – Pull

·        Monday – Off

·        Tuesday – Legs

·        Wednesday – Off

Note that all three lifting days occur over a 5 day window – two days on, one day off, one day on, one day off, repeat. This gives a full 5 days before hitting a muscle group again. This is an ideal way for novice lifters to progress the intensity of the program while ensuring adequate recovery between sessions.

Intermediate/Advanced PPL

·        Monday – Push

·        Tuesday – Pull

·        Wednesday – Legs

·        Thursday – Off

·        Friday – Push

·        Saturday – Pull

·        Sunday – Legs

·        Monday – Off

Note that sessions are back to back to back with a day off afterwards. This yields four days off before hitting a muscle group again. At this point, diet and sleep start to become very important in ensuring proper muscle recovery. I’ve found this to be the PPL program that works best for intermediate to advanced lifters – the key being that diet and sleep are kept in check.

In my next entry, we’ll discuss the specifics of exercise selection in a well-designed PPL routine. If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to comment below or email me directly.

Nick Brennan

Founder & CEO

Unbeaten Fitness

Posted on March 11, 2015 .