Push/Pull/Legs Split: 3-5 Day Weight Training Workout Schedule

After the full body and upper/lower splits, the push/pull/legs split is one of the next most simple, popular and proven workout schedules around. It’s also one of the most intelligent and effective… assuming of course it’s actually done right.

There’s 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).

So, let’s now cover all of this and more…

What Is The Push/Pull/Legs Split?

The push/pull/legs split is a weight training schedule that revolves around splitting the body up into 3 groups: upper body pushing muscles, upper body pulling muscles and legs. Each group is then trained separately on its own workout day.

  • The “push” workout would train all of the upper body muscles that are involved in pushing exercises. This primarily includes Chest, Shoulders and Triceps.
  • The “pull” workout would train all of the upper body muscles that are involved in pulling exercises. This primarily includes Back and Biceps.
  • The “legs” workout would train the entire lower body. This primarily includes Quads, Hamstrings and Calves.

Beyond that, abs are probably most often trained with legs, but they can really be trained on any of the days just the same.

The main purpose and benefit of splitting the body up this way is that related muscle groups are trained together in the same workout. This is fantastic for preventing the type of overlap issues that are so common with other less intelligent (or just plain stupid) splits.

For example, compound chest exercises like the bench press will always train the shoulders and triceps indirectly. So if you trained chest one day, and shoulders and triceps on some other day, the potential for problems is instantly increased.

However, 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 almost idiot-proofs the overall structure of your routine. (The key word there is “almost,” as there will always be people dumb enough to screw up something that is borderline idiot-proof.)

As for how the workouts are scheduled over the course of a week, there’s a few different options. Let’s now take at look at the 2 most popular ones and see which is most ideal for you.

The Classic Push/Pull/Legs Split (7 Day Cycle)

  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

First up, we have what is often the only version of this split that most people even know exists.

The Good

As you can see, 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 version of this split you’ll ever see.

However, this also means that each muscle group is trained just once per week (or once every 7th day). And that right there is where this split starts to suck.

The Bad

If you’ve read my post about training each muscle group once per week, then you should already know that it is the least effective weight training frequency. Yes, it can still work if everything else is done right. It’s just NOT what works best for the majority of the population.

So, while this classic version of the push/pull/legs split is terrific in terms of convenience and easy scheduling, it’s crap in terms of training frequency per muscle group/exercise. And for that reason alone, I wouldn’t really recommend it to most people looking to build muscle, increase strength, or improve performance.

On the other hand, a once-per-week frequency like this is actually suitable if your primary goal is to mostly just maintain the amount of muscle and strength you currently have. For example, if your goal at the time is fat loss and you want to make sure you maintain all of your muscle/strength while that fat is lost. Or if you’re happy with your body and no longer wish to gain any more muscle or strength.

In these types of situations, this version of the push/pull/legs split can work just fine. But for pretty much anything else, this is the version I would be LEAST likely to recommend. The frequency just isn’t optimal for anything but “maintenance.”

Let’s see if we can fix that…

The Rotating Push/Pull/Legs Split (5 Day Cycle)

Week 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)

Week 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)

And now for my personal favorite version of the push/pull/legs split, which I tend to refer to as the “rotating” version.

The Good

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.

And that right there is the biggest difference between this version and the previous one. Whereas before it was 3 workouts being done over a 7 day cycle, we’re now doing 3 workouts over a 5 day cycle.

What’s the purpose of this adjustment, you ask? Simple… it increases the frequency from once per week (every 7th day) to about twice per week (every 5th day). Or, to look at it another way, each muscle group now gets trained 3 times every 2 weeks instead of 2 times every 2 weeks like before.

If you’ve read my post about training each muscle group about twice per week, then you already know that this is the most effective training frequency for virtually everyone who is past the beginners stage (meaning intermediate and advanced trainees).

And for that reason alone, this version of the push/pull/legs split is the one I am MOST likely to recommend to non-beginners who have a “looks” related goal in mind. It’s okay for “performance” related goals too, but I’d probably suggest something like upper/lower or full body instead in those cases.

But for just building muscle and looking awesome? I think this split is great. That’s why it’s one of the split options used as part of my new Bodybuilding 2.0 routine.

The Bad

Now for the (potential) bad news. 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.

So some weeks you’ll be training on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Some weeks Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Other weeks Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. In the previous version, the workout days always remain fixed and constant (in the example shown, always Monday, Wednesday, Friday every week).

This lack of stability could obviously be a very big problem for many people from a scheduling standpoint. It’s absolutely fantastic in terms of 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.

And that means, unless you have a fairly flexible schedule, it’s going to be pretty hard to make work. But if you can, and it fits with your training preferences, experience level and goals… I definitely recommend it.

Push/Pull/Legs vs Push/Legs/Pull

One final note worth mentioning is that 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 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, which is nice. The downside is that the “push” and “pull” workouts are always done on back-to-back days. While this isn’t THAT big of a deal, it can still present some problems. For example, the shoulder girdle is used significantly in both workouts (as are the elbows), and this could be an issue for people with preexisting injuries or those who’d just like to prevent them. There’s also the next-day soreness factor. Doing back exercises like rows and pullups with any lingering tightness/soreness in any of those “pushing” muscles can be a little annoying or possibly even limit range of motion in really bad cases.
  • Push/Legs/Pull pretty much eliminates ALL of those potential issues (although holding the bar in place for squats could also be a little annoying if there’s some chest soreness). The main downside here is that the “legs” workout no longer has that nice rest day before it.

So yeah… there’s kinda some pros and cons either way, although the cons really aren’t that huge in the first place.

As for which I like best, I’m much more likely to use and recommend it be done as push/legs/pull instead of push/pull/legs. Again, both are equally effective, but this is my preferred way of doing it most of the time.

Need A Workout Routine That’s Already Proven To Work?

Now that you know the basics of this split, it’s possible that you’ll still have a few additional questions about how to put everything together as effectively as possible. In fact, you may just want an entire workout routine that’s already fully designed and proven to work best. Well, the solution has arrived.

It’s called Bodybuilding 2.0: The Enhanced Muscle Growth Program, and it’s a complete routine built around the push/pull/legs split that puts all of the workouts together for you and also includes 2 NEW highly effective versions of this split to fit any schedule.

You can get the full details of this routine in my brand new guide: The Best Workout Routines

Need a workout routine that's already proven to work? Get one: The Best Workout Routines

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198 Comments

  1. Andreas says

    What do you think about this schedule?

    monday Legs
    tuesday Push
    wednesday Off
    thursday Pull
    friday Off
    saturday legs
    sunday Off
    monday Push
    tuesday Pull
    wednesday Off
    thursday Legs
    friday Off
    saturday Push
    sunday Off

  2. Andreas says

    3 exercies for chest, 3 exercies for shoulders, 3 exercies for triceps. Is that to much exercies for a chest/shoulders/triceps day?

  3. Andreas says

    Right know im doing 2 exercies for chest, 2 exercies for shoulders, 2 exercies for triceps. Do you think that is to much also?

    • Andreas says

      Im also thinking about doing 3 exercies for chest and 2 for shoulders and 1 for triceps
      or 3 ecercies for chest, 3 for shoulders and 1 triceps

      So what of the routines would be best?
      Routine 1: 2 chest, 2 shoulders, 2 shoulders

      Routine 2: 3 chest, 3 shoulders, 1 triceps.

      Routine 3: 3 Chest, 2 shoulders, 1 triceps

      Thanks.

  4. Merlin says

    Trying to figure where to include lateral raises – one of my favs. Certainly a shoulder exercise, but also feels like a pull.

  5. says

    Hi,

    Again, great website! I had my wife read your section regarding women and muscle building, how all the myths out there are BS regarding women gettingn too bulky from training to build muscle. She absolutely gets it now, thank you! My question is this, in an attempt to maximize results and rest i have been doing the upper/lower workout (Monday/Tuesday, Thursday/Friday)one week and the pull/push/legs (Monday/Wednesday/Friday) the second week. I love this split and it basically gives me 3 upper body workouts and 3 lower body workouts with plenty of rest in a 14 day time period. Do you see any flaws in this thinking? I appreciate your time and your opinion, thanks!

    • says

      The main obvious flaw I see right away is that the frequency is inconsistent and sometimes sub-optimal. Sometimes you’re training your legs every 3rd day, sometimes every 7th day.

      • says

        Thanks for the response. I agree that the frequency is an issue. You have put together an awesome website with great information. I am not here trying to argue points with you, you clearly know what you are doing. I am just searching for the right balance that allows me to build muscle consistently without tearing myself up. I am 38 years old, 5’10″ and weigh 230 at around 12%. I have been training for the better part of 20 years, mostly powerlifting. I have been forced out of powerlifting due to injuries and really don’t have any idea how to put together a workout that will allow me to build muscle without regularly training to failure. I still want to squat, deadlift and bench. Any help is appreciated. My injuries are healed and I am clear to perform all lifts. My new goal is to compete in a masters BB show when i turn 40. Thanks

        • says

          For guys around 40 and over (especially those who are a bit beat up), I do think a slightly reduced frequency is ideal. So something like the 5 day version of push/pull/legs in this article or the 3 day version of upper/lower (which is usually my default recommendation in these cases) tend to work well.

  6. Redburn says

    Thanks for your help! I am starting the push/pull/legs 5 day split this week, makes sense. I will keep you posted with results. Thanks again, take care!

  7. Song says

    I think the most important is how I execute the best out of the 45mins of my time at the gym.

    Assuming i take 3mins for each set. Consist i do 3 Set 6 reps (Which is intensive/heavy). Which is equivalent to 15 Set. Basically it mean i do Each Set in 3mins (Included Rest time)

    If that day is Leg day. I have to focus my Quad, Hamstring & Calves.

    I will Choose this 5 Exercise.

    Barbell Squat * 3 Set / 6 rep
    Leg Press * 3 Set / 6 rep
    Seated Calf Raise 3 Set / 6 rep
    Smith Machine Calf Raise * 3 Set / 6 rep
    Barbell Walking Lunge * 3 Set / 6 rep

    Total is 15 Set, each set take 3mins, so that is total 45mins.

    Hey Jay, Please let me know if that is a good for the leg.

    Thank you! :)

  8. scott says

    I prefer Legs/Push/Pull/Off/Repeat. I do low-moderate volume and rotate rep ranges each second rotation in a descending linear pattern

    eg. 12-15, 9-11, 6-8, 3-5, return to 12-15.

    I have a slightly different group of exercises every second rotation.

    eg: 1=squat, leg press, leg ext, lying curl, stand calf
    2=front squat, lunge, leg ext, seated curl, seated calf

    Your thoughts?

    • says

      Look through the previous comments… I’ve covered that version of this split a few times.

      As for your exercise selection, I see a whole lot of quad work and very little hamstring/posterior chain work.

  9. Oscar says

    One quick question: Is it too much if i do 2 exercises each musclegroup on push days? So 2 chest, 2 shoulders, 2 triceps.. 3-4 sets each exercise?

  10. Danny says

    Hey,

    I bought your book and I find it really helpfull. I have one question about this split which I’m using right now. I find that my legs grow really good training them 1x per week. In terms of mass and strength my upperbody lacks behind. Would this be a good schedule?

    Mo Pull (4 days rest since previous training)
    Tu Legs (7 days rest since previous training)
    Th Push (5 days rest since previous training)
    Sa Pull (5 days rest since previous training)

    Mo Push (4 days rest since previous training)
    Tu Legs (7 days rest since previous training)
    Th Pull (5 days rest since previous training)
    Sa Push (5 days rest since previous training)
    etc.

  11. Kris says

    The push/pull/legs routine looks solid, but could you include what exercises/sets you recommend?
    I’ve always done a bro split with 12 sets per muscle group for about 4 years.

  12. Shazza says

    Just wanted to say a big thank you for your website – Found it last night and it is very helpful! Keep up the great work! Shazza, Brisbane QLD Australia.

  13. Andreas says

    Monday
    Machine incline press- 4×12-15
    Machine flat bench press- 4×12-15
    Incline Cable Crossover- 4 x12-15
    Pec Dec Fly- 4×12-15
    Cable pushdown- 4×12-15
    Rope French press- 4×12-15

    Wednesday
    Leg press- 4×12-15
    Hack squat-4 x12-15
    Leg extension- 4×12-15
    Leg curl-4×12-15
    Standing calf raise- 4×20
    Seated calf raise- 4×20

    Friday
    Front pulldowns- 4×12-15
    Behind the neck pulldowns- 4×12-15
    Pullover machine- 4×12-15
    Seated cable row- 4×12-15
    Cable curl- 4×12-15
    Machine preacher curl- 4×12-15

    would this be a good push/pull/routine?

  14. Tsugg says

    Is this an alright split to do?
    Monday- Push( chest, tris and shoulders
    Tuesday- Pull ( back and bis)
    Wednesday- Legs
    Thursday- push
    Friday- Pull

    Then the weekend off? or is there not enough rest in between?

  15. Colton Tinsmon says

    My current split is as follows:
    Day 1- Push
    Day 2- Pull
    Day 3- off
    Day 4- Push
    Day 5- Pull
    Day 6- Legs
    Day 7- off
    Repeat

    I give myself almost a full week off between legs, I don’t know if its DOMS or if I’m not eating enough but my legs take forever to recover. Aside from bench press, squats, and deadlifts I don’t always repeat the same movements in the prospective workouts, I just kinda do what ever feels good.

    • says

      If you feel like you need a week before training legs again, there’s a good chance it’s because you’re just doing too much leg work in that one workout (or possibly going too hard: e.g. lots of sets to failure, etc.).

      As for your split, the major thing I don’t like about 4 total push/pull workouts per week is that it means it’s 4 elbow and shoulder intensive workouts per week. Some people may do alright with it, but for others, their joints/tendons might not respond as well.

  16. Chris says

    I have been doing the intermediate upper/lower split from a different page of this site, but I have also seen a routine that seems like it could better fit my needs, and it is loosely based on push/pull/legs. It runs something like this:

    Monday:push
    Tuesday:pull
    Wednesday:rest
    Thursday:legs
    Friday:optional-work what you are lacking on or what you think needs more attention
    Saturday:rest
    Sunday:rest

    Thoughts? I’m in the military and I figured I would use the optional day for endurance based workouts, and specific task based workouts. Also if you wouldn’t recommend this then how might I tweak the upper/lower four day split found here(http://www.aworkoutroutine.com/the-muscle-building-workout-routine/) to better fit those goals? Putting on size is also still a priority, as it would make forced marches a bit easier so Ive been struggling to find an even medium. Thanks for your feedback and your time.

    • says

      The split you laid out would only train everything once per week. This is fine if you only want to maintain muscle/strength, but for increasing it, a twice per week frequency is ideal.

      A better option might be the 3 day upper/lower split, using that 4th training day for endurance work.

  17. Geoff says

    Hey man,
    I think I am pretty close to your pull/legs/push exercise, let me know what you think…

    Monday-Pull (back, biceps)
    Tuesday-Legs (legs, shoulders, abs)
    Wednesday- Push (chest, tricep)
    Thursday- off (light cardio, abs)
    Friday- Pull (back, biceps)
    Saturday-Legs (legs, shoulders, abs)
    Sunday- Push (chest, tricep)
    and so on….

    I know I through shoulders in with legs, is that okay?
    Also, I may throw extra break days in there randomly based on my schedule.

    Thanks for any feedback man!

  18. John says

    Hello,
    Are the week 3 and the week 4 looking like this?
    Week 3
    1. Monday: off
    2. Tuesday: Push (Chest, Shoulders, Triceps)
    3. Wednesday: Pull (Back, Biceps)
    4. Thursday: off
    5. Friday: Legs (Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, Abs)
    6. Saturday: off
    7. Sunday: Push (Chest, Shoulders, Triceps)
    Week 4
    1. Monday: Pull (Back, Biceps)
    2. Tuesday: off
    3. Wednesday: Legs (Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, Abs)
    4. Thursday: off
    5. Friday: Push (Chest, Shoulders, Triceps)
    6. Saturday: Pull (Back, Biceps)
    7. Sunday: off
    Thank you!

  19. Stefan says

    Hi jay,

    Great article (again ;))! I don’t know if you answer questions like this but I can always ask :)

    I’ve been working out with your upper/lower split template for a long time now, and I decided that I’ll try the push/pull/legs split now. I do have a bit of an issue with working out the amount of reps per workout I should use.
    In the upper/lower split I trained 4 days a week with a maximum of 60 reps per workout for the bigger muscles (as you recommend). However, in the push/pull/legs split the frequency is a bit lower (about twice per week or every five days), so I’m kinda having doubts about how many reps I should use. I was thinking about 3 exercises per big muscle group: 3×8 + 3×10 + 2×12 = 78 reps per workout. For the smaller muscle groups: 2×10 + 2×12 = 44 reps per workout.
    Would that seem ok to you? Or would the normal 60 reps per workout do just fine?

    Thanks in advance!

    Best regards, Stefan

  20. Sara says

    Hi Jay,

    I read most of your pages on weight lifting and I’m pretty sure I am a beginner because I have been lifting weights for arms for five months and doing pilates for abs and lower body. I usually work out 6 days a week, an our each day and doing legs one day, abs another, and arms another. I have definitely noticed myself toning up and building some muscle, but I really want to gain more muscle. Will your beginner workout work well for me?
    Thanks! Sara

  21. Nicolai says

    It’s ok do Pull/Push/legs/pull/push then rest two days and repeat?
    I don’t work with machines, only compounds with weights most of my workout is bodyweight.

  22. Jesse Ballard says

    This info was very helpful, as I’m trying to move from being a beginner who lifts weights for exercise..to an intermediate who strength trains with a calculated plan. I’ve noticed in these comments that a lot of these people are doing legs only once a week, instead of every at the same frequency as push/pull. Is this really a commonly BEST thing…or are all these people just working their legs out too hard on the one day?

    Also, from information I found from a blogger on you tube, I’ve been doing all my weight training exercises for the last 3 months as 3 sets of 10 reps…but I do the reps very slowly. Generally, 2-3 seconds in the difficult direction…and 3-4 seconds in the releasing direction. I want to know is that what I should be doing?? Does that have any effect on your recommended repetitions-per-week schedule? According to your sets&reps recommendations on a linked page, I AM getting that part correct to fit my goals…but I don’t know if doing each rep so slowly (which therefor also means I’m sometimes using a slightly lower weight than I could otherwise be using) is already factored in to those recommendations or not. Can you help me with that question?

  23. Eric Brewer says

    I would like to incorporate the dead lift into my workout using this split. My only question is would it fit better on push day, being that it is fairly shoulder intensive or pull day since it seems to be more of a pulling motion (along the same principle as doing rear delts on pull day)?

  24. Stephen says

    Great article.

    I’m trying to figure out how to do this when I can’t workout at weekends, and yet have same muscle group more than once a week.

    To keep similar amount of rest days and similar amount of days between same group, all I can think of is -

    Mo – Push
    Tu -Pull
    We -Legs
    Th
    Fr -Push
    Sa
    Su
    Mo -Pull
    Tu – Push
    We – Legs
    Th
    Fri – Pull
    Sa
    Su

    Repeat

    So that the exercise I’m doing twice in a week is at the beginning and end.
    It means Legs once a week, but with amount of walking and running I do, they already feel over-used.

  25. chrissy b says

    Fantastic site. Love the no bullshit approach. ive been on a once a week per bodypart routine for a year. switching to upper lower split as of tomorrow after reading this.
    You are very patient with some of your replys. lol . Even im screaming ‘just read the other f***ing posts!
    Thanks

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