PPL Part 2

As I hit on in my last entry, PPL Part 1, the Push Pull Legs routine is my favorite lifting program. It offers incredible flexibility, allowing novice lifters to modify their routine as they mature and advanced lifters to get the frequency and intensity they’re after. Today I want to hit on two of the key ways that a PPL routine can be modified as lifters progress.

Set/Rep Variation

Quite a bit of research has shown that hitting a muscle two times a week yields better growth. Accordingly, many advanced lifters utilize a routine that runs through PPL twice in a given week with one off day. In order to train heavy for strength and train at a more moderate weight for hypertrophy (size), one can easily adjust the set and rep combinations they utilize for compound lifts as follows:

·        Monday (strength): Push Day 1 – 5 sets of 4-6 reps

·        Tuesday (strength): Pull Day 1 – 5 sets of 4-6 reps

·        Wednesday (strength): Legs Day 1 – 5 sets of 4-6 reps

·        Thursday (hypertrophy): Push Day 2 – 4 sets of 10-12 reps

·        Friday (hypertrophy): Pull Day 2 – 4 sets of 10-12 reps

·        Saturday (hypertrophy): Legs Day 2 – 4 sets of 10-12 reps

·        Sunday: Off

Programming like this allows lifters to realize the best of both worlds – strength and size gains. Less advanced lifters could utilize the same concept but add a rest day or two in to take the frequency and intensity down a notch.

The drawback here is that it’s difficult to pull enough exercise variation into the routine to make sure a well-developed physique is obtained. In order to combat this potential issue, we turn to the next way to modify a PPL routine.

Daily Routine Variation

As I mentioned above, one of the potential issues with PPL programs is that without proper exercise selection, some muscles can be easily neglected. Luckily, it’s very simple to combat this potential issue by developing two routines for each day – push, pull and legs. To illustrate, we’ll look at two push routines – one emphasizing the chest and one emphasizing the shoulders.

Push 1 (chest emphasis)

·        Incline Barbell Bench Press (compound chest)

·        Dumbbell Shoulder Press (compound shoulder)

·        Chest dips (compound chest)

·        Cable Flys (chest isolation)

·        Triceps Rope Pushdown (accessory isolation)

Push 2 (shoulder emphasis)*

·        Barbell Shoulder Press (compound shoulder)

·        Incline Dumbbell Press (compound chest)

·        Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raise (shoulder isolation)

·        Cable Lateral Raise (shoulder isolation)

·        Overhead Dumbbell Extension (accessory isolation)

Similarly, one could create two back routines – one focused on width, where vertical pulling movements (pull-ups and lat pulldowns) are emphasized, and one focused on thickness, where rowing movements are emphasized. Having more than one push, pull and leg day routine not only ensures you’ll hit every muscle, but it helps break up the monotony of going through the same exercise rotation every couple of days.

Implementing this could look like the following for a novice to intermediate lifter:

·        Monday: Push Routine 1

·        Tuesday: Pull Routine 1

·        Wednesday: Off

·        Thursday: Leg Routine 1

·        Friday: Off

·        Saturday: Push Routine 2

·        Sunday: Pull Routine 2

·        Monday: Off

·        Tuesday: Leg Routine 2

·        Wednesday: Off

Then repeat the 10 day cycle starting on Thursday

Covering program selection and exercise selection in one article would be too much, so I’m more than happy to help clarify anything that seems confusing. If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to comment below or email me directly.

Nick Brennan

Founder & CEO

Unbeaten Fitness

*Many people ask why I don’t include much direct front or rear delt isolation work. The front delts are worked heavily in all pressing movements, be it shoulder or chest, so there is no need to put extra emphasis there in my opinion. I focus on rear delts on pull days, because they’re not really involved in pushing movements.