Fitness Fahrenheit

What Works Better Upper Lower Vs Push Pull Leg Split Explained

What Works Better? Upper Lower Vs Push Pull Leg Split Explained

When you enter your fitness journey, you come to a point where you are ready to take control. Gone are the days of using pre-written workouts or running to a coach for help, you finally know what you want from your workouts and are ready to write your own. 

This is where knowing what split what to do comes in clutch (see more about different splits here). Especially when it comes to training legs. There is a huge debate over what split is better. Upper Lower or Push Pull? 

In this article we explain the cons and benefits of each split, how they work and what you can gain from them. Learn to train your glutes, hamstrings, and quads like a pro with this all you need to know guide!

Let’s get started!

Upper Lower Split Explained

The Upper Lower split is one of the most popular workout splits among bodybuilders, powerlifters, and just regular weightlifters. 

Divided into four days of training, you are able to really target each muscle group individually to gain the most amount of growth. 

It is best to divide each type of session into “A” and “B” in almost all situations (with the exception of complete beginners). You would therefore experience “Upper Body (A)” and “Upper Body (B)” days. The same holds true for the lower body.

An Upper Lower body split makes full use of the three factors which make an excellent hypertrophy workout:

  1. Mechanical Tension
  2. Muscle Damage
  3. Metabolic Stress 

By dividing your exercises between your upper body and lower body muscles, you may maximize training frequency and volume distribution while ensuring that each session is as intense as possible.

To put it another way, the split enables you to divide the volume so that you have enough time to recuperate while simultaneously enabling you to activate each muscle group more frequently.

There is no day-to-day crossover in an upper/lower split that is conventional. However, other people might combine upper-focused days with a particular lower-body muscle group that might be lagging, and vice versa.

 It’s critical to customize any split in order to achieve your unique training objectives and goals.

Planning Your Upper Lower Split

There are various ways that you can plan your split depending on your schedule. 

For example:

  • Sunday- Rest Day 
  • Monday- Upper Body A
  • Tuesday Rest Day 
  • Wednesday- Lower Body A
  • Thursday- Upper Body B 
  • Friday- Rest Day 
  • Saturday- Lower Body B 

When planning your workout split it is important to include plenty of rest between working a particular muscle group. Especially when you are training in a progressive overload. 

Let’s take a look at the typical exercises you will complete within each workout:

Upper Body A

  • Bent Over Barbell Row 
  • Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
  • Dumbbell Lateral Raise 
  • Dumbbell Shrug 
  • Incline Dumbbell Curl 
  • Band Pushdown 

In this workout you can hit every muscle on the upper body. Through a series of compound and isolation movements, each muscle is worked thoroughly. 

Lower Body A

  • Back Squat 
  • Cable or Band Pull Throughs 
  • Standing Calf Raises 
  • Kneeling Band or Cable Crunches 

Upper Body B

  • Military Press
  • Dead Hang Weighted Pull Ups 
  • Dumbbell Floor Press
  • Face Pull
  • Hammer Curl 
  • EZ Curl Bar Rolling Tricep Extension 

Lower Body B

  • Romanian Deadlift
  • Dumbbell Lunge 
  • Seated Calf Raise 
  • Ab Circuit 

Benefits Of An Upper Lower Split

Numerous studies on training frequency have been conducted recently. Furthermore, evidence implies that increasing frequency provides advantages for strength and, to a lesser extent, for hypertrophy (muscle growth).

However, this advantage appears to be more pronounced in beginners as opposed to more experienced users.

Upper Lower splits allow each muscle group to be hit at just the right frequency. No muscle is missed and no muscle is overworked.

Whereas if someone was to complete four full body workouts a week, the muscles may be overworked, stunting their growth over gaining muscle. 

Beginners Will See Growth

As a beginner, it can be difficult to see instant growth. And an Upper Lower split is not a quick fix situation. 

An Upper Lower split allows beginners to learn the mind-muscle connection required to really work the muscles and hit failure. 

Once a beginner has mastered the ability to go to failure with their workouts they can begin to add more weights, increase their reps, and discover new exercises that gets them the best results. 

By allowing beginners to perform the same exercise twice a week, you can speed up your body’s neuromuscular adaptation process.

You can quickly improve technical skills when you are able to focus on a few fundamental activities. Form and technique are also crucial.

It is important that beginners select the correct exercises to ensure they are getting the most out of their workouts. Compound exercises such as Deadlifts and RDLs hit multiple muscle groups in one movement. 

More Recovery

As the workout is split over 4 days and no two muscle groups are being worked at the same time, each group is given the most amount of time to recover. 

As your upper body rests while your lower body works and vice versa, upper lower training is excellent for increasing strength increases as well as muscular mass gains (hypertrophy).

This allows for greater training and recovery. In this regard, it’s a productive method of training for the intermediate athlete hoping to keep making progress.

You also don’t have to worry about training legs for a while after an extremely brutal leg workout. Because you don’t need to completely exhaust every muscle group every time you work out in the gym.

And this makes it easier for your muscles to recuperate.

More Focus To One Area

An Upper Lower split also allows for more focus on a particular area. For example, on your Upper body A workout you may focus on the chest, and then focus on the back muscles on your Upper Body B workout. 

With this focus, you will be able to see tremendous improvement in your muscle growth and in your overall strength. This form of training combined with the proper nutrition and rest will allow your body to grow in endurance and strength. 

Whether you are aiming to lose fat or are growing muscle, an Upper Lower split can help you get there. 

Cons Of An Upper Lower Split

While there are many excellent benefits to working out with an Upper Lower split, there are also various cons to be considered. 

Scheduling 

While an upper lower split allows you to give focus to one area at a time, if you have a hectic schedule where going to the gym at least 4 times a week is not possible, you may not see the benefits you want. 

While each muscle group is offered focus and the ability to recover through an upper lower split, it also requires consistency. Training each muscle group less than twice a week will not allow growth or progress. 

If you do have a rather busy schedule outside of the gym then it is going to take quite some planning to ensure each muscle group is given the attention it needs.

If you feel that you cannot commit to 4 sessions a week then you may want to consider another form of training. 

Advanced Lifters May Need More

For advanced lifters who need a large training volume, frequent, and heavy training, an alternative split may be required. This is another case when Upper/Lower splits may not be the optimal plan.

If you feel that you are ready to take your training to the next level, then you may need more from your gym sessions. An Upper Lower split is great for those wanting to perfect technique and build strength from a starting position. 

Those looking to go professional with their weight lifting may feel restricted by this type of training.

You may need to train upwards of five times a week to see any real progress which does not allow for the proper recovery time required when training in an Upper Lower split. 

Full body workouts and split-style training can both be useful methods for achieving results. When compared to full-body exercises, splits frequently provide more frequent training, better recovery, and higher volume per muscle group in each session.

However, over the course of a week, full-body exercises might offer a good training stimulus in a more time-effective way. It depends on the details of your objectives, your schedule, and the kind of exercise you find enjoyable.

Push Pull Leg Split Explained

One day is devoted to pushing exercises (chest, shoulders, and triceps), one day to pulling exercises (back, biceps), and one day to leg workouts in a push pull legs split (also known as PPL) (quads, hamstrings, calves).

One of the traditional bodybuilding exercises that has been practiced for a very long time is the PPL split. It serves as evidence of its efficiency.

In contrast to an upper lower split, which is quite simple, the PPL has numerous variations. For instance, you could decide to go to the gym three days a week by going to each session once a week.

Alternatively, you can opt to complete a rotational PPL, which requires you to visit the gym 4-5 days each week. The traditional three-day-on, one-day-off routine can also be repeated, putting you in the gym a whopping 5–6 days per week.

It is never recommended for anyone to train 6 or even 5 days a week, the rotational 3 day Push Pull Legs Split may work better to ensure you get the results you are looking for. 

Planning A Push Pull Leg Split

A Push Pull Leg split works on a weekly basis, meaning you have to work over a certain number of weeks just to complete the split. Whereas, an Upper Lower Split can be completed over just one week. 

For Example:

Week 1 

  • Sunday- Push A
  • Monday- Pull A
  • Tuesday- Rest Day 
  • Wednesday- Legs A 
  • Thursday- Rest Day 
  • Friday- Push B 
  • Saturday- Pull B 

Week 2 

  • Sunday- Rest Day 
  • Monday-Legs B 
  • Tuesday-Rest Day 
  • Wednesday- Push A 
  • Thursday- Pull A 
  • Friday – Rest Day 
  • Saturday- Legs A 

Week 3 

  • Sunday- Rest Day 
  • Monday- Push B 
  • Tuesday- Pull B 
  • Wednesday- Rest Day 
  • Thursday- Leg B
  • Friday- Rest Day 
  • Saturday- Push A 

As you can see, a Push Pull Leg split works over the course of multiple weeks. Allowing your body to rest and recover after an intense workout.  And as you are working out more regularly, you can incorporate more compound and insulating movements. 

Let’s take a look at the types of exercises you may perform as part of your Push Pull Leg Split: 

Push A- Chest, Shoulder And Triceps

  • Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 
  • Band Pullover 
  • Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press 
  • Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raise 
  • Overhead Dumbbell Extension 

Pull A- Back And Biceps 

  • Barbell Curl 
  • Seated Bent Over Fly 
  • Seated Cable Row 
  • Dead Hang Weighted Pull Up 

Legs A

  • Back Squat
  • Cable Pull Through (Band may also be used)
  • Standing Calf Raise 
  • Cable Crunches 

Push B- Chest, Shoulder, And Triceps

  • Military Press 
  • Band Push Down 
  • Dumbbell Floor Fly 
  • Dumbbell Floor Press
  • Band Front Raise 

Pull B – Back And Biceps

Legs B

  • RDL (Romanian Deadlift)
  • Dumbbell lunge
  • Seated calf raise
  • Ab circuit

As we can see, there are more variations in the exercises here than in the upper-lower split, but fewer exercises are performed every workout. The structure of an A day vs. B day could alter, just like in the upper lower split.

The Push Pull Leg split allows for more customization. You may want to switch your focused muscle groups for a different day or switch the complete order of the exercises to suit your needs.

You also have the freedom to add in or take away certain exercises depending on your preferences. 

Benefits Of Push Pull Leg Split

A Push Pull Leg split has many benefits. With the ability to see tremendous growth in your strength and in your workouts, it can be an excellent way to progress in the gym. 

Focus On Each Muscle Group

Depending on the week, you will work each muscle group once or twice a week in a PPL.

You may execute a wide range of workouts with this type of split, which is great for bodybuilding since it enables you to develop every part of your physique in proportion.

You can work each muscle area a little bit more completely because only a few muscle groups are the focus of each session. You can completely exhaust each muscle group because of the increased exercises.

In general, more training volume per muscle group will result in more hypertrophy.

Designing your split around particular muscle areas is perhaps a better idea for a bodybuilder. It enables you to efficiently change volume for particular muscle groups as required.

Everything Is Simple

The daily simplicity is another benefit. Legs, push, and pull just make things so much easier. You are fully aware of the muscles you should work out that day.

Additionally, there are only 4-5 exercises each day, making it possible for you to enter and exit the gym very quickly.

The split itself is enjoyable to perform. While not spending hours at the gym, you get the variety of exercising a muscle area with a variety of exercises. Additionally, if you enjoy exercising five days per week, you’ll find this split thrilling.

Recovery Time

As you are working each muscle over the course of at least 2 weeks, your body has more time to recover. 

For example, once you complete workout Push A, you have at least 3 days to recover before completing another workout focused on that muscle group. Perfect if you are looking to push your mind and body to the limit with every workout. 

You can relax during your workouts knowing that no matter how hard you push yourself in the gym, your body is going to have the time to recover. Making sure you are ready to go from strength to strength! 

Supports Growth, Strength, And Fat Loss

A Push Pull Leg split works for a range of goals. However, you have to ensure that every element of the split works for you and your goals. 

You must do the 4 day push/pull/legs workout if your objective is to gain as much muscle mass as you can.

A Push Pull Leg split is right in the sweet spot between high and low frequency training. 

You can truly pound muscles with a lot of volume when you train them once every five days while avoiding the “trap” of working each muscle only once a week.

You will see muscle growth and even experience fat loss while working on a Push Pull Leg split as your fat turns into muscle. 

Who Should Not Use A Push Pull Leg Split?

By now, it should be obvious that a push, pull, legs workout split has a lot of advantages. Importantly, though, it doesn’t imply that the training program is a one-size-fits-all approach.

Instead, people who want to train with the PPL split should first determine what their schedule, access to equipment, and level of fitness permit.

Even three days a week might be too little. In that case, you might want to perform PPL in a full-body workout so that it will be the best possible training for you, but anyone can do it.

Don’t do it if you don’t have the time. PPL is intended for individuals who can attend three to six sessions each week.

The scheduling is one of the biggest cons of a Push Pull Legs split. It can take quite a bit of planning to ensure everything goes to plan.

You must plan your workouts at least two weeks in advance to ensure that every muscle group is being worked and has time to rest. 

Another con of a Push Pull Leg split is that you may not be able to focus on your weaknesses in the way that you would like. With only 4-5 exercises in each workout, there isn’t much room for targeting those weaker muscles. 

An illustration. The majority of the split is focused on the upper body if your legs are weak. The two days of upper body training are essential for general growth, but only dedicating one day to your sluggish legs can cause problems.

To give your weak points the attention they demand, the split would need to be modified.

So, What Should You Do? Upper Lower or Push Pull Legs Split

From the detailed comparison above, you can see that both workout splits come with their own benefits and cons. It all depends on you. 

If you are short on time throughout the week then you may benefit from a Push Pull Leg split rather than an Upper Lower split. 

However, if you are looking to grow your knowledge in the gym then an Upper Lower split will allow you to focus on perfecting your technique and work on strengthening that mind muscle connection. 

Both workout regimes allow for optimal recovery time. However, the Push Pull Leg split allows for at least 3-5 days between training each muscle group.

Meaning you never have to worry about DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) from ruining your next workout. 

Both workout splits require dedication and effort to ensure that they work and provide you with the best results. 

Final Thoughts

Whether you want to work to see fat loss or muscle growth, both an Upper Lower split and a Push Pull Split will give you results. 

Both require a lot of dedication in order to work. Although, it is also important to remember that mistakes can happen and missing a workout on either plan will not cause you to leave all of your progress at the door. 

It is time for you to discover what works for you and your training. Once you perfect the planning of your preferred split you can begin to see results and truly progress in your training!