intermediate and advanced push pull legs split routine

4-5 Day Intermediate and Advanced Push/Pull/Legs Split Routine

This rotating 4-5 day intermediate and advanced push/pull/legs split routine will build muscle and strength efficiently for experienced lifters.

The workout sessions are divided by the type of motion used to perform exercises, into three categories:

  • Push workouts consist of upper body push movements.
  • Pull workouts consist of upper body pull movements.
  • Leg workouts consist of all lower body movements (lower body push and pull movements).

You'll often see push/pull/legs split routines done 3 days/week. However, these are only good for beginners with poor recovery (aka true hardgainers), or experienced lifters who want to maintain muscle and strength. This is because these types of splits entail low frequency training (hitting each muscle group 1x/week) and moderate to low volume.

Beginners tend to do best with high frequency, full body training. So if you're just starting out, try a full body workout routine for beginners like MYx8 or Rippetoe's Starting Strength Program. If you can't recover sufficiently, then consider a 3 day beginner push/pull/legs split.

Experienced weight lifters get the best results hitting each muscle group 1.5-2x/week with higher volume and/or intensity. As such, the push/pull/legs split routine on this page trains each muscle more frequently, and with higher volume, than the traditional 3 day version.

Intermediate & Advanced Push/Pull/Legs Split Routine – Template

The basic pattern of the workout schedule shown is: push/pull/off/legs/off/repeat. As such, you're training on a 5 day cycle (you hit each muscle once every 5 days).

And this is a rotating 5 day cycle. This means you won't workout on the same day each week. Also, you typically (80% of the time) have 4 workout sessions per week; though you occasionally (20% of the time), have 5 workout sessions per week.

MondayTuesdayWednes.ThursdayFridaySaturdaySunday
Week 1PushPullOffLegsOffPushPull
Week 2OffLegsOffPushPullOffLegs
Week 3OffPushPullOffLegsOffPush
Week 4PullOffLegsOffPushPullOff
Week 5LegsOffPushPullOffLegsOff

Note: I show 5 weeks, only because that is how long it takes before the schedule repeats itself on a 7-day week calendar. So, don't think that you're supposed to stop once you finish 5 weeks.

PushPullLegs
Bench Press
4 x 5
Deadlift
4 x 5
Squat
4 x 5
Barbell Overhead Press
3 x 5
(Weighted) Pull Up
3 x 5
Romanian Deadlift
3 x 5
Weighted Dip
3 x 6-8
Barbell Bent Over Row
3 x 6-8
Leg Press
3 x 6-8
Dumbbell Shoulder Press
3 x 8-12
Dumbbell One-Arm Row
3 x 8-12
Barbell Glute Bridge
4 x 8-12
Dumbbell Lateral Raise *
4 x 8-12
Barbell Curl
4 x 8-12
Leg Curl
3 x 12-15
Dumbbell Triceps Extension
4 x 8-12
Dumbbell Curl
4 x 8-12
Standing Calf Raise
3 x 5
Cable Triceps Extension
4 x 12-15
Dumbbell Rear Deltoid Raise
4 x 8-12
Calf Press
3 x 5
Weighted Leg Raise
2-3 x 12-15
Cable Face Pull
4 x 12-15
Seated Calf Raise
4 x 8-12
Weighted Crunch
2-3 x 8-12
Weighted Hyperextension
2-3 x 8-12
Weighted Leg Raise
2-3 x 12-15
* The dumbbell lateral raise technically involves a pulling motion. However, I've included it the push workout because it works the lateral head of the deltoid, which has a significant role in pressing motions. Also, the lateral raise requires some activation of the anterior deltoid (a pushing muscle).

Adjust volume accordingly. Intermediates may be better off doing 1 or 2 fewer sets on some exercises, while some advanced trainees may need to do 1 or 2 more sets on some exercises. Play it by ear.

If you lack the necessary equipment or can't perform a given exercise safely/effectively, you can use alternative exercises in place of the ones used in the template. However, they must work the same muscles and be able to provide a comparable stimulus (e.g. substitute rack pull for deadlift, split squat for leg press, or cable row for barbell row).

Warm Up

Perform this warm up routine before each training session. You should need about 3-5 warm up sets before the first lift on any given workout.

Do as many warm up sets as required for the remaining exercises; typically, no more than 3 warm up sets is needed, and sometimes no warm up sets are needed at all (especially for the isolation movements).

Rest Time Between Sets

Use the following as general guidelines for figuring out how long to rest between sets on this push/pull/legs split routine:

  • Rest 2-4 minutes between sets of 5 reps
  • Rest 2-3 minutes between sets of 6-8 reps.
  • Rest 1.5-2.5 minutes between sets of 8-12 reps.
  • Rest 1.5 minutes between sets of 12-15 reps.

Weight & Progression

Use the same weight for each set of a given exercise.

For heavy to moderately heavy loads (sets of 5, and sets of 6-8), use a weight that allows you to hit the target rep range for each set, and come within 1 rep of failure (or actually hit failure) on the final 1 or 2 sets of the exercise.

For moderately heavy to lighter loads (sets of 8-12, and sets of 12-15), use a weight that allows you to reach the target rep range for each set, and come within 2-3 reps of failure on the last 1 or 2 sets of the exercise. If you fail, it should only be on the last set.

Increase the weight for each exercise as often as possible, such that you can still hit the target rep range for each lift. As an intermediate or advanced lifter, you may be stuck at the same weight for 2-3 weeks on some lifts. This is to be expected, since progress is harder to come by for experienced lifters.

And lastly, it should go without saying, but you shouldn't use bad form just so you can add some weight to the bar.

About the Author Alex

Hey! My name is Alex, and I'm the owner and author of King of the Gym. I started this website back in late 2009 during college, and it has been my pet project ever since. My goal is to help you learn proper weight training and nutrition principles so that you can get strong and build the physique of your dreams!

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Leave a Comment:

28 comments
Anil says October 12, 2015

Nice articles!

Reply
    Alex says February 8, 2016

    Thanks, Anil. There’s plenty more to come. Be sure sign up for my newsletter to get notified whenever I release a new one. You can sign up on this page.

    Reply
Eddie Tieman says February 8, 2016

Hi Alex. I really like this split routine. I’ve done splits in the past with a bit more variation between the 2 push/pull days per week. I was just curious to know, on push days it seems that the chest is only isolated with bench. There are many deltoid exercises. Would you suggest switching it up from one push/pull routine to the next, namely by substituting one shoulder press exercise with say, pec dec flys?

Reply
    Alex says February 8, 2016

    Hi Eddie, I’m glad you like the routine! If your chest is a weak point relative to your shoulders, then that sounds like a perfectly reasonable modification. Give it a shot and let me know how it works for you.

    Reply
Xabier says April 1, 2016

Hello, how many exercises are performed per session?

Regards, and thank you very much.

Reply
    Alex says April 1, 2016

    Hi Xabier,

    If you take a look at the table above, you’ll see that there are 9 exercises per session. Most exercises call for 3 or 4 sets, with the ab work and lower back work calling for just 2-3 sets per exercise.

    Reply
jon says April 16, 2016

How many minutes does each of those workouts take approximately? I read that you should keep workout lengths to 45min – 1hr or you start to become catabolic because of cortisol and/or risk overtraining. What are your thoughts?

Reply
    Alex says May 9, 2016

    The amount of time it takes varies by person. The main factor is how much rest you need per set. I’d guess that most people will finish these workout in 60-90 minutes.

    The whole 45 min. to 1 hour maximum for workout duration is an old myth. You can safely ignore it. 😀

    Reply
Michael says April 27, 2016

Would you recommend this routine for cutting? And when you say to increase weight, do you mean increase the weight each set or each week?

Reply
    Alex says May 9, 2016

    This routine as-is, is decent for cutting. Personally, I prefer hitting lower reps with heavier weights on the big 3 lifts for cutting. This heavier work helps you to maintain strength, which is the best way to also preserve muscle while in a caloric deficit.

    You could modify this routine pretty easily to accomplish this…

    For bench, deadlift and squat, drop the reps down to 3 reps per set and increase the intensity (i.e. use heavier weight) for each set. Keep the number of sets the same, at least initially (you can add a set if you feel you need more volume on these big lifts, or you can reduce it by a set if you feel it’s too much).

    As for the other lifts, some people will be fine with the amount of volume per workout, since you have a full week to recover before hitting the same lift.

    However, others (especially those who are deep into their cut) may find that it’s just too much volume per workout. In this case, you can simply cut the volume on these latter exercises by 1-2 sets.

    Reply
kukubau says May 5, 2016

Hi, I’d like to add Bent-Arm Barbell Pullovers to my pull day. What do you think?

Reply
    Alex says May 9, 2016

    As long as it doesn’t seem to negatively impact your other lifts in that workout or interfere with your overall recovery, then give it a shot. I’d just recommend adding it in somewhere after the first 3 exercises, since they are kind of the main lifts of the pull day.

    Reply
Thomas says May 13, 2016

Do you need the rest the day before and after the leg workout? or is it possible to do like a pull/push/legs/pull/push/rest/rest?

Reply
    Alex says May 14, 2016

    Hi Thomas, that seems perfectly reasonable, so long as you’re able to recover sufficiently and continue progressing despite 5 consecutive workouts. Go for it and let me know how it works for you.

    Reply
Phucci says May 17, 2016

Alex this is a great! I’m in love with this routine. My question is will I get more gains if I do Push – Pull – off – Leg – Push – off – Pull – Leg – off – repeat? Much appreciated!

Reply
Muhammed says June 28, 2016

Hey, I wonder about something in your program progression on excel. When I put numbers in weight, is it in lbs or kgs?

Reply
    Alex says July 3, 2016

    Hey Muhammed, good question. The Excel program templates are in pounds.

    Reply
      Andrew says August 31, 2016

      Alex, I am just about to embark on this journey thanks to you and your plan and Excel spreadsheet. But a question for you, is it possible to change the excel dropdown on the first tab to include the workouts I am modifying or replacing with alternatives? Where is the list coming from? hopefully not a locked or hidden location!

      Reply
        Alex says September 12, 2016

        Hi Andrew, sorry for the late response. Hopefully you figured it out already, but if not I’ve got the answer for you.

        You should be able to just “unhide” the ‘Exercises’ worksheet. You do this by right clicking on any tab, then selecting “Unhide” from the menu…

        …For a visual explanation, please see these 3 screenshots. Let me know if you have any issues. Enjoy the routine!

        Best,
        Alex

        Reply
          Andrew says September 20, 2016

          Alex,

          Thanks for the explanation. I did figure it out shortly after, but appreciate anyways.

          Reply
Jake Martin says July 30, 2016

This is pure gold. Week 1 Pull Day was one of the roughest workouts I have had in a while. Good stuff.

Reply
    Alex says August 2, 2016

    That’s great to hear, Jake! Enjoy the rest of program.

    Reply
Cassandra says September 27, 2016

Alex, would you ever recommend super-setting any of these exercises or is the rest time in between sets and exercises more important? I’m unsure of the benefits of super-setting (I’m googling next, ha) but would appreciate any advice you could give on this. I’ll be alternating heavy and light days but mainly focusing on lower weight, higher reps for fat loss. Thanks!

Reply
    Alex says September 29, 2016

    Hi Cassandra,

    The main benefits of supersetting are:

    • Saving time (this is the only reason I ever do supersets)
    • Increasing heart rate / improving metabolic conditioning

    However, you shouldn’t do any supersets that involve any of the main/heavier lifts in your routine. You want to conserve as much energy an focus for these as possible.

    You also shouldn’t do any supersets with lifts that require significant energy expenditure even if they aren’t your main lifts. This goes doubly if the lift involves significant lower back involvement e.g. Romanian deadlifts, since you don’t want to put even more fatigue on the muscles protecting your spine when it’s under load and the muscles are already fatigued from the exercise itself.

    Another point to make, in case you didn’t already know: Supersets should only be with two lifts that train two different muscle groups (ideally, two opposing muscle groups). Basically, you don’t want to do one set of, let’s say bench press, followed immediately by a set of dips. The bench press would fatigue your chest right before jumping into a set of dips–and obviously you be significantly weaker on dips than you would have been otherwise.

    A few examples of exercise pairs (not specific to this routine) that would well with supersetting (assuming they aren’t also your main lifts) are:

    • Lat pulldowns/shoulder press
    • Rows/Bench
    • leg curls/leg extension

    I looked over the routine, and there aren’t really any ideal exercise pairs. And I wouldn’t advise changing the exercise order around to try to make things work…

    …The only exercise pairs I can see working okay in the routine are:

    • Dumbbell Lateral Raise/Dumbbell Triceps Extension
    • Cable Triceps Extension/Weighted Leg Raise
    • Cable Face Pull/Weighted Hyperextension
    • Seated Calf Raise/Weighted Leg Raise

    Hope that helps! Let me know how it goes for you.

    Happy lifting,
    Alex

    Reply
James says October 9, 2016

Hi Alex!
Can I change/add exercises to the Ab work, or was this program built as is for a reason, and the Abs will be worked sufficiently?

Reply
    Alex says October 16, 2016

    Hey James,

    For most people, this routine will be good enough for improving ab strength/conditioning sufficiently (i.e. enough so that they’re not a weak link during squat and deadlift).

    However, if you feel you need more ab work–or prefer different exercises, it should be fine, at least under these conditions:

    1.) Don’t add so much work that it interferes with your performance on your workout (i.e. as long as you can still recover).

    2.) Keep a good amount of lower ab work (e.g. weight leg raises), since the lower abs are often weak in general and certainly under-trained compared to the rest of the abs. Also, training the lower abs can help improve/maintain good posture.

    Let me know if you have any other questions.

    Best,
    Alex

    Reply
Ariel says October 11, 2016

Is it possible to do PPLRPPL instead of PPRLRPP and still bench press, squat, and Deadlift for strength twice a week?

Reply
    Alex says October 16, 2016

    Good question, Ariel. Yes, it is possible… but would require some modifications. Here are my recommendation would be:

    1.) Only consider modifying the routine to 6 days per week if you’re experienced enough to handle the increased frequency and volume (i.e. at least a strong intermediate), and if you’re comfortable enough with programming to make the needed changes to volume/intensity (as I’ll expand on in point 2).

    2.) For the second set of PPL in the week, go lighter on the main lifts. This could mean going much lighter and doing speed work (good idea for deadlifts especially; also works with bench or squat). Or use hypertrophy rep ranges (better suited for bench and squat than deadlift in my opinion). For the remaining lifts on each workout in the second PPL of the week, rep ranges can stay as is. However, you may want to cut volume by reducing sets or removing certain exercises. If you know weak points you want to work on, you can replace some of the existing accessory exercises with ones that will target these weak points.

    Hope that helps. Good luck on the routine!

    All the best,
    Alex

    Reply
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