There are many different types of training plans, one of which is the classic push-pull-legs construction. This article is about improving the 3-day push-pull-legs schedule with an example and a free schedule at the bottom of this article!
With a 3-day schedule, all muscle groups are covered once a week. In a double push-pull-legs schedule, where you repeat 6 days, all muscle groups are addressed twice. Training a muscle group twice a week is very likely more effective than once a week, according to science. The purpose of the 3-day schedule is actually to see how you can still do all muscle groups twice.
HOW CAN YOU TRAIN ALL MUSCLE GROUPS TWICE WITH A 3-DAY PUSH-PULL-LEGS SCHEDULE?
Imagine doing all push exercises (for example bench press) on Monday, pull exercises (for example pull down) on Wednesday and legs (for example squatting) on Friday. After Monday is over, you have to wait a whole week before you can bench press again. After a workout, your protein building factory works 24 to 72 hours faster than normal. However, if you always have to wait 168 hours between the same training, you actually miss a lot of muscle growth potential. The easiest thing to do about this is to train each muscle group at least twice a week. Something that is of course not possible with the classic push, pull and legs construction. With this build-up, as is hopefully now clear, you train each muscle group only once a week.
Yes, you can also achieve success with this. However, you could probably build (much) more muscle mass in the same time frame if you did all the muscle groups once more .
A LOOSE LEGS DAY, ISN’T THAT A BIT TOO MUCH?
On a push day you probably do chest, triceps and push movements of shoulders and on the pull day back, biceps and pull movements of shoulders. Suppose you do 8 exercises a day, then you can distribute this well. In fact, you may be doing too many sets for some muscle groups. If you also do 8 exercises on the legs day (even if you only do 6) then your volume is very likely much too high. Volume refers to the number of effective sets per muscle group per workout. Each muscle group has an optimal number of sets where they receive the right amount of growth stimuli. A set less or a set more than this point is slightly less effective. That optimal point differs per muscle group.
As an example you do 6 exercises for legs of 4 sets. This is a total of 24 sets. Current science has found the optimal number of sets per muscle group to be 6-10 sets. In fact, some research even at 10 sets per week, regardless of your training frequency. So if you train 2 times they would recommend doing 5 sets per workout. Personally, I think 6-10 sets per muscle group per workout is something future studies will find harder evidence for. Yes, there are also studies with volumes of 24 sets or more that are successful, but most athletes who train 3 times a week are not in those study groups. In short, on the leg day you probably turn a volume that is too high.
PUSH-LEGS, PULL-LEGS AND PUSH-PULL
In summary, you have now read two reasons why a classic push-pull legs schedule can be more effective. In a classic schedule you train the muscle groups only once and your training volume per muscle group (especially legs) is too high. To get much more out of your schedule, it is better to upgrade the schedule to, for example:
- Push and legs
- Pull and legs
- Push and pull
In this way you train all muscle groups twice a week in one fell swoop. An additional advantage of this combination is that you can do logical supersets. Supersets are relatively inconvenient on a loose pull day. You don’t do a pull up and then a bicep curl that quickly. Which can be great for your biceps by the way. However, you will find yourself in the next set of pull ups and therefore have less potential muscle growth in your back muscles.
A combination of squats and pull ups, and leg press and biceps curl is much more efficient. These exercise combinations do not get in each other’s way. With the leg press you do not train your biceps and with the biceps curl you do not train your legs. You can ‘gain a lot of time’ this way, so you could even do extra sets in a workout. Instead of 6 to 8 total sets, you can go to 8-10 sets in the same time frame. This is not necessary, but it is possible.
As you can see, this way you can do all muscle groups twice a week and distribute your volume much better.
EXAMPLE PUSH-PULL-LEGS SCHEME 2.0
For example, instead of your push day looking like this:
- Bench press
- Incline dumbbell press
- Cable flyes
- Barbell shoulder press
- Cable front raise
- One arm overhead triceps extension
- Push down
During the push-pull day in your schedule (day 3) you put a little more emphasis on the shoulders and you distribute the stimuli nicely. In this way, your classic push-pull-legs schedule becomes a lot more effective. And let’s be honest: probably more fun as you don’t have to do leg exercises for one day?