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Push Pull Legs Routine: 3-6 Day Workout Split For Hardgainers

By Nick Ludlow / Dec 24, 2016

Attention All Hardgainers Looking To Add Mass!

If you’re a skinny guy who’s new to the weight room and wants to add slabs of high-quality muscle mass, then this article is for you.

Weightlifting is an incredible activity for build both the body and mind.

Unfortunately, those who have trouble gaining weight may only experience the latter.

Here at FitFrek we understand the frustration that comes with cramming your face with food and hitting the weight room only to see scale not budge.

Thankfully, there’s a cure.

The approach is not groundbreaking nor will it turn you in to a mass monster overnight, but it will add significant amounts of quality lean mass if you’re consistent, eat like a horse, and strive for progression.

This is what we mean what we say eat like a horse...

This article outlines an ideal warm-up for your weight training days, provides two sample routines following a push/pull/legs split, and offers several exercise swaps in case you don’t have the physical ability to or equipment for some of the exercises written in the sample routines.

The Proper Warm-Up

A poorly designed warm-up is almost as useless as no warm-up at all.

A proper warm-up can be the difference between setting a personal best in the gym and getting injured.

Your warm-up should accomplish the following three goals:

  • Increase your core body temperature and elevate your heart rate
  • Prime your central nervous system for high intensity physical activity
  • Activate the focus groups you plan to focus on during your workout.

You should NOT perform the same warm-up at the beginning of every workout.

Why spend 15 minutes warming up your lower body on push day?

A warm-up should focus on the muscle groups you plan to train that day as well as address any pain points.

The template below breaks down the warm-up in to three distinct pieces – cardiovascular activity, dynamic stretching, and central nervous system activation.

Moderate Intensity Cardiovascular Activity

After setting my mindset and choosing my music playlist for the workout, I perform 5 to 10 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular activity.

My all-time favorite movement is jump rope because it’s not only a full body warm-up that helps to develop the stubborn calf muscles and requires virtually no space, but it also increases coordination.

Prior to an upper body-focused workout, I perform movements engaging the arms and back like the rowing machine and elliptical trainer.

Row like Arnold, and you become like Arnold... Maybe...

On lower body days, I stick to incline walking on a treadmill or spinning on a stationary bike.

The goal of this activity is to increase your core body temperature and heart rate as well as lubricate your joints.

Dynamic Stretching 

Bending down and touching your toes is NOT acceptable during the dynamic stretching portion of your warm-up.​

During this portion, you should be performing movements that lengthen and loosen the target muscle groups.

For example, on my upper body days I may perform arm swings and shoulder circles.

On lower body days, I incorporate forward to backward and left to right leg swings as well as lunges with an upper body twist.

Perform each movement for two to three sets of 10 reps per arm, leg, or shoulder.

Central Nervous System Activation

Think explosive exercises.

At this point you’ve increased your heart rate and worked out some of the kinks from sitting at work or in class all day.

It’s time to prime our nervous system so that the proper muscles are contracting when we need them.

On upper body days, I incorporate three sets of five explosive repetitions using exercises like clap or plyometric pushups and med ball slams from overhead.

On lower body days, I stick with box jumps, kettlebell swings, and jump lunges.

After completing this portion of the warm-up your body should be at peak performance and ready for making gains.​

The Routine

The routine below offers a no-nonsense approach to building strength and quality lean mass using basic yet brutally effective exercises and techniques.

If you’re completely new to the weight room then perform Push Workout A, Pull Workout A, and Legs Workout A on three nonconsecutive days during the week.

For example, Monday/Wednesday/Friday or Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday.

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday 

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Week 1

Push

Off

Pull

Off

Legs

Off

Off

Week 2

Push

Off

Pull

Off

Legs

Off

Off

Week 3

Push

Off

Pull

Off

Legs

Off

Off

Week 4

Push

Off

Pull

Off

Legs

Off

Off

Week 5

Push

Off

Pull

Off

Legs

Off

Off

Once you’re comfortable with the A workouts you can begin alternating with B workouts every other week (e.g. A workouts on Week 1, B workouts on Week 2, A workouts on Week 3).

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday 

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Week 1

Push A

Off

Pull A

Off

Legs A

Off

Off

Week 2

Push B

Off

Pull B

Off

Legs B

Off

Off

Week 3

Push A

Off

Pull A

Off

Legs A

Off

Off

Week 4

Push B

Off

Pull B

Off

Legs B

Off

Off

Week 5

Push A

Off

Pull A

Off

Legs A

Off

Off

You can also perform both A and B workouts in the same week (e.g. Push A, Pull B, Legs A).

Once you’ve mastered all six workouts and have been training for about six months you can begin increasing the number of workouts to four, five, or even six times per week.

Nader's thoughts:

Now, what Nick suggested here was a fairly convenient schedule for most of you.

But if you are determined and have the flexibility with scheduling, then I recommend trying this "rotating" push pull legs:

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday 

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Week 1

Push A

Pull A

Off

Legs A

Off

Push B

Pull B

Week 2

Off

Legs B

Off

Push A

Pull A

Off

Legs A

Week 3

Push A

Pull A

Off

Legs A

Off

Push B

Pull B

Week 4

Off

Legs B

Off

Push A

Pull A

Off

Legs A

Week 5

Push A

Pull A

Off

Legs A

Off

Push B

Pull B

It does not matter which workout you do, but I put A/B in case you need something to start with.

You can even switch around the types of workout (push pull and legs) to anything you prefer.

This can be used by any level of trainee...

Listen to your body here and dial back the weight used or volume if you begin to feel beat up.

Eventually you’ll have the work capacity perform A and B workouts all within the same week!

You’ll notice that this routine is higher volume than many other beginner programs.

Start slow, program conservatively, ease in to the volume, and EAT BIG.

You’re not going to gain the mass you want until you’re eating 500 to 1,000 extra calories per day ABOVE your daily calorie needs.

If you feel like you’re eating like a horse but can’t seem to add mass, then keep a food journal and weigh your portions for a week.

Chances are you’re overestimating your caloric intake.

It's time to get cooking...

Some of my favorite tricks to increase my calorie consumption include fatty cuts of beef, weight gainer shakes, and tablespoons of peanut butter.

One of my favorite techniques is the AMRAP set which stands for ‘As Many Repetitions as Possible’.

Don’t go to complete failure where you fall flat on your face or risk injury.

Push yourself to the point where you performed all reps using good form and attempting one more rep would lead to form breakdown.

Push Workout A

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest Period

Notes

Barbell Bench Press

3

5,8,10

120-150s

Focus on pulling the bar apart.

Seated Dumbell Overhead Press

3

6,8,10

60-75s

Dumbbells should come down to ear level or lower.

Close Grip Bench Press

3

8,10,12

60-75s

Keep your elbows tucked throughout the movement.

Seated Dumbell Lateral Raise

3

15,20,25

45-60s

Go slow and hold at the top for one second before lowering.

Seated Chest Fly Machine

3

20

45-60s

Keep your elbows in-line with your wrists and shoulders.

Seated EZ-Bar Overhead Tricep Extension

3

10,12,15

45-60s

Keep your elbows tucked throughout the movement.

Push-ups

3

AMRAP

60s

Chest should almost but not quite touch the ground at the bottom of each rep.

Pull Workout A

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest Period

Notes

Barbell Deadlift

3

6

120-150s

Flex your lats and use mixed grip or straps on your heaviest sets.

Lat Pulldown

3

10,12,15

60-75s

Retract your shoulder blades and hold the bottom for at least one second.

Chest Supported Low Incline Dumbbell Row

3

12

60-75s

Perform one hand at a time or alternating.

Dumbbell Reverse Flies

3

15

45-60s

Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top as hard as possible for at least one second.

Trap Bar Shrug

3

12

45-60s

Strap up and hold at the top for one to three seconds.

Barbell Curl

1

50

45-60s

Start light and perform all 50 reps without setting down the barbell. Progress by hit more than 50 reps or performing all reps in fewer sets.

Dumbbell Farmer’s Walks

3

40 to 50 yards

60s

Take small steps and keep your chest up.

Leg Workout A

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest Period

Notes

Barbell Back Squat

3

5,8,10

120-150s

Ensure your knees remain in-line with your toes throughout the entire movement.

Barbell Stiff-Legged Deadlift

3

8,10,12

60-75s

Use straps and descend only until you feel a nice stretch in the hamstrings.

Single Leg Press

3

12-15 per leg

60-75s

Perform all repetitions with one leg before moving to the next leg.

Lying Leg Curls

3

15

45-60s

When you can perform more than 15 reps per set then hold a weight plate behind your head.

Seated Leg Extensions

1

50

45-60s

Start light and perform all 50 reps without allowing the weight stack to rest at the bottom.

Progress by hitting more than 50 reps or performing all reps in fewer sets.

Standing Calf Raise

3

15

45-60s

Hold the top position for one to three seconds.

Decline Sit-up

3

AMRAP

60s

When you can perform more than 15 reps per set then hold a weight plate behind your head.

Push Workout B

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest Period

Notes

Standing Barbell Overhead Press

3

6,8,10

120-150s

Brace your abdominals throughout the movement and use a false grip (thumbs on the same sides as your fingers) if you experience wrist pain.

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

3

10-12

60-75s

Allow the weights to descend slowly and press up and inwards explosively.

Parallel Bar Dips

3

AMRAP

60-75s

Perform only the lowering (negative) portion if you are unable to complete more than 5+ full repetitions.

Cable Chest Press

3

12

45-60s

Hold the bottom stretched position and top flexed position for one second.

Standing Cable Lateral Raises

3

12, 15, 20

45-60s

Perform one arm at a time or both simultaneously depending on equipment availability.

Kneeling Rope Tricep Pushdowns

3

10

45-60s

Perform one arm at a time or both simultaneously depending on equipment availability.

Kneeling Landmine Press

3

15

60s

Place a barbell in the corner of a room and add 10 to 25 lbs on the end facing you.

Kneel and grasp the barbell in the palm of your hands so that it’s slightly above your chest and press upwards.

Pull Workout B

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest Period

Notes

Trap Bar Deadlift

3

6

120-150s

This movement incorporates more quadriceps and places less stress on the lower back.

Barbell Overhand Row

3

10,12,15

60-75s

Use straps and pull the bar towards your lower chest.

Pull-ups

3

12

60-75s

Perform only the lowering (negative) portion if you are unable to complete more than 5+ full repetitions.

Reverse Fly Machine

3

15

45-60s

Hold the bottom stretched position and top flexed position for one second.

Chest Supported Incline Shrugs

3

12

45-60s

Perform one arm at a time or both simultaneously depending on equipment availability.

Dumbbell Incline Curls

3

12

45-60s

Perform one arm at a time or both simultaneously depending on equipment availability.

Barbell Static Holds

3

1

60s

Place a barbell in the corner of a room and add 10 to 25 lbs on the end facing you.

Kneel and grasp the barbell in the palm of your hands so that it’s slightly above your chest and press upwards.

Leg Workout B

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest Period

Notes

Barbell Front Squat

3

6

120-150s

Take an Olympic clean grip to improve wrist flexibility.

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

3

12

60-75s

Use straps and descend only until you feel a nice stretch in the hamstrings

Dumbbell Reverse Lunges

3

12-15 per leg

60-75s

Ensure your torso and chest stay upright throughout the movement.

The wider the step the more the glutes are emphasized over the quadriceps.

Seated Single-Leg Leg Extensions

3

20

45-60s

Perform all repetitions with one leg before moving to the next leg.

Kettlebell Swings

1

50

45-60s

Start light and perform all 50 reps without allowing the weight stack to rest at the bottom.

Progress by hitting more than 50 reps or performing all reps in fewer sets.

Seated Calf Raise

3

15

45-60s

Hold the top position for one to three seconds.

Rope Cable Crunches

3

20

60s

Breathe out prior to performing each rep to improve abdominal muscle contraction.

Exercise Swaps

Are you physically unable to perform some of the exercises above due to pain or injury?

Does your gym not have the proper equipment?

Not a problem!

Below is a list of acceptable exercise swaps for the machine-based exercises:

Exercise

Alternatives

Single Leg Press

Forward or reverse barbell, dumbbell, or Smith Machine lunges.

Chest Fly Machine

Flat or incline dumbbell flies or neutral grip dumbbell press.

Single Leg Press

Forward or reverse barbell, dumbbell, or Smith Machine lunges.

Lat Pulldown

Dumbbell pullovers or pull-up negative reps (lowering only).

Trap Bar Shrug

Dumbbell shrug, barbell shrug, or high pulls.

Lying Leg Curls

Hamstring curls with feet on an exercise ball or barbell Romanian deadlifts (slight knee bend).

Seated Leg Extensions

Narrow stance squat, single leg (pistol) squat, or step ups.

Cable Chest Press

Neutral grip dumbbell press, dips with a forward lean to emphasis the chest.

Cable Lateral Raise

Dumbbell lateral raise or dumbbell/barbell upright rows.

Rope Pushdowns

Diamond pushups, reverse grip bench press, or dumbbell overhead triceps extension.

Reverse Fly Machine

Band pull aparts, chest supported dumbbell reverse flies, or wide grip barbell rows to the clavicles.

If you have any questions, comments, or feedback on the routine please let me know in the comments below!

Nick Ludlow is a full-time Road Warrior who enjoys bodybuilding, powerlifting, and everything in between.

Having overcome an eating disorder in the past, setting a state record in the deadlift, and losing over 100+ pounds of fat Nick has experimented with numerous nutrition and weightlifting approaches.

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