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If you have ever wondered what the pros and cons of a PPL split are, then you’ve come to the right place. In this video, I am going to break down the benefits and drawbacks of one of today’s most popular workout splits – push, pull, legs. The PPL split is nothing new but has gained recent popularity in the training community.
One of the first pros of PPL is the flexibility of focus. This means that you can follow the split regardless if your training focus is strength, hypertrophy, general fitness, or athletic training. You can alter the scheduling and the workouts themselves to reflect your specific goals.
The next pro of the PPL split is something called functional efficiency. In comparison to a bodybuilding bro split, where you are trying to isolate specific muscles, you are using synergistic muscle groups to work together. While you might try to take the forearms out of the curl to really hit the biceps, in contrast, you would use your biceps, forearms, and lats to perform a weighted chin-up making sure that all of these muscles worked together.
Due to the compound nature of the exercises that you would likely be choosing in a PPL split, you are providing a great opportunity for overload. With progressive overload, you are afforded an opportunity to build greater strength and in relation, muscle.
The first con of push pull legs is the order that it is generally scheduled – with pull coming the day before legs. Based on compound exercise selection (where I prefer to have deadlifts on pull day with squats on leg day), I generally don’t like having pull and legs back to back. An easy fix to that problem, however, is to swap push and pull days so that the split now become pull push legs, allowing for more recovery between those days and movements.
The next con occurs if you decide to follow a 6-day synchronous split where you might find yourself running into this problem regardless. A quick fix comes from the flexibility of the workouts where you can alter the nature of the compound movement on the second pull day. The upside to following this synchronous PPL split is the predictability of the schedule.
If you were to follow an asynchronous version of this PPL split, you don’t have to worry about doubling up on the pull and leg days which means that you wouldn’t have to worry about manipulating volume or exercise selection. The downside, however, is that there is an ever rotating off-day, which means that your schedule would need to be more fluid than it might be right now.
Another pro of the push pull legs split is built in recovery factor. Not only by changing the pull and push day order, but in a given 6-day schedule allows for 2-3 days between repeating training sessions. This means soreness would not be a major factor. The workouts themselves are also flexible enough to avoid movements that might be hindered by any lingering soreness.
A 3-day PPL split lends itself to additional conditioning which lends itself well to those looking towards general fitness or even skill work for athletes. In a traditional M/W/F split, Tuesday and Thursday would be relegated to conditioning work for heart health and even assisted fat burning. In a M/Th/F split, an athlete’s SAQ and skill work would be placed on Tuesday and Friday.
These options mean that you can focus on more than just building muscle and strength, but those extra workouts are scheduled in such a way that they don’t interfere with each other, another pro of push pull legs.
What are some of the general cons that people happen to consider when it comes to PPL? Well, first off, some might say that there are only 3 training days in a given week. Well, we’ve proven that wrong with the 6-day synchronous and asynchronous splits.
Another objection might be that there are 2 upper body days and 1 lower body day. I like to look at it, again, through the lens of motor patterns. And if you follow my recommendation of deadlift on pull day… you are getting significant lower body activation,
Some say that with a PPL split it is harder to incorporate intensity techniques, but I will argue that it’s not, simply because you are afforded a good rest opportunity between each repeating workout.
Lastly, doing PPL means that if you want to add weak point training, your workouts are going to take longer. While this is true, I feel that the extra work you might need would make the length of the workout negligible overall.
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