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.

67 thoughts on “4-5 Day Intermediate and Advanced Push/Pull/Legs Split Routine”

  1. 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?

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

  2. 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?

    1. 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. 😀

  3. 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?

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

  4. 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?

    1. 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.

  5. 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!

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

      1. 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!

        1. 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

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

  8. 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!

    1. 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

  9. 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?

    1. 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

    1. 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

  10. Why is there only one exercise that is primarily targeting the chest? Can you still build a good chest with that few sets?

  11. There is an error in the spreadsheet. The volume is calculated reps x weight which is correct however in that formula the weight component is derived from adding each sets weight then multiplying it by the total reps.

  12. Ibraheem Patel

    Just a quick question. Split looks pretty sick, but with the bench press is that for flat bench every time or should I work my upper chest as well?

    1. Yeah–as shown, it’s just flat bench. If you want more upper chest focus, here are two possible modifications (choose one):

      • Swap incline bench press for overhead press (if you do this, I would recommend doing 3×8-10 instead of 3×5 since you’re already going heavy on flat bench right before this)
      • Alternate incline bench press with flat bench press every push day (keep it as 4×5). Keep the rest of the workout the same.

      Hope that helps.

      -Alex

  13. I’ve been running this program for a few months and I love it. The only difference for me is that I switched the days of the pull and legs days. It made me feel better rested. Good article and content I will keep with this probably indefinitely.

    1. That’s awesome to hear, dude!

      BTW, good job on listening to your body and making that slight tweak in the schedule to improve recovery. That’s the proper way to personalize a program template–i.e. identify an issue => make small, but strategic changes => test to validate it changes were successful (as opposed to changing the whole program around haphazardly, which is the tendency for many lifters).

      Keep up the good work,
      Alex

  14. Hi Alex!
    i really love this routine, but i just have one question…
    i’m from Denmark where all our weights is in Kg, is there a way to modify the spreadsheet to using kg instead of pounds?

    Thanks man!

    1. Hi Anders, I’m happy to hear you’re loving the routine!

      As for you question: It’s been a while since I created the spreadsheet…BUT I just opened it up to take a look–And from what I can see, there’s no need to change anything. It doesn’t look like anything in the spreadsheet depends on using a lbs as opposed to kgs. Just enter the kg lifted for each set under the weight column for each exercise. Volume will still be calculated properly, but it be with the understanding that it (volume) will be expressed in kg, since you’ll be entering weight as kg.

      Hope that makes sense! (In case it doesn’t–let me summarize: You don’t need to anything. Just use kgs instead of lbs in the weight column.)

      Best,
      Alex

  15. Thanks Alex….I copied your advanced 5 day ppl workout routine….thanks . If you could send me more info that would be helpful….maybe more templates…keep em comin

    1. Hi Sean, I hope you enjoy the routine! If you got any specific question, just ask them here in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer if/when I have time.

      As far as new routines/templates are concerned, you’ll get notified via my email newsletter if/when I publish a new routine (or any other article, tips, etc.). I just checked and you’re already subscribed, so just keep an eye out for future emails. For anyone else reading this who isn’t signed up, you can do so here: http://www.kingofthegym.com/myx8/

  16. Hello Alex. nice articles. can i do a leg push pull off leg push pull off? and how do i gradually increase the volume to increase my strength if i plateaued and could not add weight to the bar nor add a rep i hope the question is clear thanks!

    1. I wouldn’t recommend trying that unless you’re an advanced lifter with great nutrition who gets plenty of sleep each night, since that may be too much (or even just an unnecessarily high amount of) volume / frequency for many people. Still, if you really want to try, I can’t stop you…give it a shot, but really pay attention to how your body reacts.

      If strength is plateaued, then try reducing the weight you’re currently using by 10-20% and start increasing the weight by 5 lbs each week.

      Alternatively, you could cut the weight by an even greater percentage (e.g. 20-40%) and try increasing the number of reps (or doing speed work for fewer reps, but more sets; or doing pause work, etc. and adjusting the sets/reps accordingly) and then increase weight (or reps or sets) from there. It’ll take some fiddling around over plenty of weeks to get the hang of this if you’ve never really modified your own programming successfully in a similar way.

      Hope that helps, man.

      Best,
      Alex

  17. Hi! Sorry to leave a comment on an article posted quite some time ago, but I am having a lot of trouble on deciding how many sets I should be doing for each session. You see, there is another site I found that gets the sessions to around 12-15 sets, and when emailing that author about my personal push/pull/legs routine in which I did a ton more sets (interestingly, almost the same number as this article), they said that I should definitely turn it down.

    Personally, however, I don’t feel very sore or tired from these workouts. Yet, I do find consistent sites for workout plans only giving sets around a number of 12 (maybe 15). This is crucial since we are discussion a 10 set difference!

    Perhaps another underlying question would be how one can accurately tell if they are overtraining or not…

    Perhaps you’ll get what I’m trying to say here, and can respond in a more intelligible manner than I have.

    Thanks for you time!!!!

    1. Hi Devon, thanks for the question.

      Regarding total sets, there’s no hard and fast rule, or range, of what’s the correct amount. Especially considering that the number of sets is just one factor. There’s also things like load intensity (i.e. % of 1 rep max), reps per set, effort intensity, etc. So for example, 3 heavy sets of squats will take more out of you than 4 sets of rear delt raises. Most of the sets/volume in this workout consists or many of these exercises that won’t really impact you that much.

      So the basic answer to this question is this: As long as you’re progressing with this amount of volume, you’re fine.

      Furthermore, lots of people have had success with this specific routine.

      Hope that helps!

      Best,
      Alex

  18. Hey!

    I’ve been running through article after article on this routine and I love how refreshingly simple you make it. I’d like to think I am an intermediate lifter but haven’t been frequent for a while. I work an easy 14 hours a day. I now need to make sure I make this work for me. Couple of questions :

    a) Can I do a pplpprr routine? I dance and play football as well. I have a gym at work and we are closed sat and sun. I can definitely do a run on Saturdays.

    b) For a warm up, does a 1 run cut with planks,pulls ups and stretchinf cut it? Or am I over doing the warm up?

    I’m of a very average built and would like to get more cut and athletic. Definitely looking for more lean muscle conditioning and strength vs buffing up.

    Thanks so much for all your help and all that great articles!

    1. Wow! That sounds like a packed schedule.

      a) You could do PPLPPRR, but only if you’re able to recover. Is your work physical? If so, I would recommend just the 4 day version of this routine, fit into the 5 day work week–or possibly even just a basic 3 day PPL, at least to start…it’s up to you. Also, how intense is your football and dance sessions? If they’re intense as well, I might also say go with the 4 day version of this routine.

      b) That is WAY too much for a warm up. See my guide to warm up routines for better guidelines on that.

      Good luck!
      Alex

  19. Hi

    I’ve been going gym 3 months without a proper plan, been doing my own body part split and looking to swap to something like this.

    Do you think its suitable?

    1. If you have the basics down pretty good, then it can be okay for beginners. However, since you are still relatively new to lifting, I would recommend reducing the volume somewhat from what is shown (e.g. remove 1 set from all exercises that are shown as 4 or 5 sets). Good luck!

      1. hi Alex
        I don’t wanna use any Supplements
        now i wanna know , this routine is gonna work for me?
        please mention this question

  20. hey Alex
    can i do swaps instead of majors? I mean have swaps and alternative movements same effects properly?

    1. As long as the exercises changed work the same basic movements, you’ll still progress. However, I wouldn’t change anything unless you have a good reason (e.g. lack of equipment, some type of
      mobility restriction, etc.).

  21. Hey Alex, just found this site of yours while searching for a push pull legs routine and gotta say its pretty amazing. I’ve been going to the gym for 3 years now, been doing classic 2 muscle groups per day, then 1 muscle group per day 5 days 2 rest days. Hit a plateau long time ago but didnt wanna admit it. I rly like this routine and wanna try it, only thing that worries me is the chest. Idk how do you stand with it, i am really proud bout my chest usually do like 5/6 exercises for it and i am actually worried will they suffer in size this way. Any advice, should I add some chest exercices?

    1. You won’t lose any chest size on this routine, as there’s sufficient volume. You may actually increase strength on pressing movements, by bringing up your upper/mid back strength and size (even though it’s opposing musculature, it can help bring up the chest, especially if your back is lagging somewhat relative to your chest).

  22. Hi alex

    i have just down loaded your excel work out log and im not sure what the volume column is for? could you please clarify.

    thanks.

    1. That’s just to show you how much training volume for all sets of an exercise (sum of all reps x sum of all weights) you perform for each lift. It’s automatically calculated, so it’s not something you should be editing in the spreadsheet. It’s just a progress tracking metric.

    1. 20-30 minutes, moderate pace (i.e. jogging pace) should be fine for most. If you’re out of shape cardio-wise, then start with just 10 minutes and increase.

      Start with 2-3 days per week. Then a day if/as needed as you get deeper into your cut.

  23. Hi, I really like this routine and want to give it a try, my only concern is that the workouts are the same each time? i.e every push work out is the same each repetition. Doesn’t doing workouts like that not benefit after a while as your body gets use to it?

    1. There’s plenty of variety within each workout to hit main muscles from different angles, and much more importantly, with enough volume. You’ll have plenty of variability to get many months of progress out of this routine as long as your diet and sleep are also on point.

      After that time, you can switch to a new routine (or you can play around with the sets/rep ranges and swapping some exercises out for similar exercises–I only recommend this if you have a basic idea of programming).

  24. Sorry to kind of repeat this question, but wouldn’t lowering the volume on one day while increasing intensity yield better results if youre advanced? And my other question is why would I leave more in the tank on easier lighter weights rather than going to complete failure and then some to really shred the muscle fibers?

    1. Great questions, Michael.

      To answer your first one — It depends: if you’re going more for strength/powerlifting as an advanced lifter, then that is generally better…specifically for the big lifts. However, this isn’t a powerlifting-specific program. It’s more of power/hypertrophy routine. Hence, why I included 5 reps (within the low-medium range) for the bigger lifts, and generally moderate-higher reps (i.e. 8-15) for the accessory/isolation work. That being said, you can certainly modify the routine if you know what you’re doing to include heavy singles/doubles/triples with significantly higher load intensity for the main lifts…

      …Then, optionally, you could reduce the sets of the accessory/isolation work if you feel the that heavier main work really taxed you, though I’d keep those reps the same range — OR, you could keep the accessory/isolation work volume the same if you can handle it.

      Regarding your question about leaving more in the tank on the lighter sets — In my view, that’s the better strategy so that you are able to have enough energy and strength left so that you’re still capable of lifting the heavier loads once you do eventually work your way up to the top sets. If you fatigue yourself on light sets, you’ll be weaker than you would be otherwise. Thus, you’d have to pick significantly lighter weights for those more important top sets.

  25. Hey Alex, I keep trying to get the PPL routine emailed to me, but it never comes through. Can you send it my way? Thanks!

    1. There’s also 3 sets of dips on push day, which is going to hit the chest hard. You also have to consider that your chest — particularly the upper chest — will get a decent amount of indirect work from overhead presses. Overall, that’s sufficient work for most people, especially considering it’s every 5 days and not every 7 days.

  26. Hello. It is late but I wondered am I supposed to Warm-Up each day and do 9 exercises ON The SAME day? Logically I would split it in half to balance the exercises throughout the week, but did you mean we gotta do 9 exercises a day?

    1. Yes, this routine is meant to have a warm up each workout session with 9 exercises per day. I understand that’s on the higher end in terms of number of movements, but that’s part of the reason why this is an intermediate/advanced routine; not a beginner routine.

      The workouts can take a fair amount of time — depending on how many warmup sets you need for the main lifts, as well how much rest time you need between sets and exercises.

      If you find the workouts are taking too long, you can reduce volume by 1-2 sets on some of the exercises (ideally, you would do this on the less important exercises e.g. on the isolation movements that train body parts that are already strong points for you).

      Hope that helps. Enjoy the routine!

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