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

By Nick Ludlow
Last Updated December 9, 2019
13 Comments

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

Performing shoulder dislocations with bands help with mobility and it's a great way to get warmed up.

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.

Sometimes a pre workout will help you warm up much quicker. Take a look at PreSeries Bulk, one of our favorite pre workouts (use coupon code FITFREK for savings!). 

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 push ups 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 primed for 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 Perio Notes
Barbell Bench Press 3 10,8,​5 120-150s Focus on pulling the bar apart.
Seated Dumbell Overhead Press 3 10,8,​6 60-75s Dumbbells should come down to ear level or lower.
Close Grip Bench Press 3 12,10,​8 60-75s Keep your elbows tucked throughout the movement.
Seated Dumbell Lateral Raise 3 25,20,​15 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 1​5,12,1​0 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 Perio 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 10 45-60s Start light and perform all 10 reps without setting down the barbell. Progress by hit more than 10 reps or increasing weight while decreasing reps.
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 Perio 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 15 45-60s Start light and perform all 15 reps without allowing the weight stack to rest at the bottom. Progress by increasing weight and decreasing reps.
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 Perio 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 Perio 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 Perio 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 20 45-60s Start light and perform all 20 reps without allowing the weight stack to rest at the bottom. Progress by increasing weight and decreasing reps.
Seated Calf Raise 3 1​5 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 Sets
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.

Right click, save as, and download the excel sheet for this program….

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

Check out the natural anabolic compound called Laxogenin if you're looking for a natural edge without resorting to steroids or prohormones. 

If you need some motivation or ideas for full workouts, check out the videos below…

13 thoughts on “Push Pull Legs For Hardgainers Routine: 3-6 Day Workout Split”

    • It depends. If you can increase the weight without sacrificing form then do it. You’ll most likely decrease weight.

      Remember, this doesn’t include your warm up sets. You don’t need to include warm up sets after your first exercise of your workout though.

      Reply
      • P.S. it looks like I’ll be adjusting the reps. It makes more sense to start with 10 reps, then drop down to 8, then 5. Right? So you can do it either way, but personally, I would start with higher reps then drop the reps down and increase weight.

        Reply
  1. Hey why is the leg extensions 1 set of 50 reps? Shouldn’t it be spread out into like 3 or so sets? I feel like doing 50 reps in one go is just used for endurance of the muscle and not really the building part.

    Reply
    • Excellent question Nob.

      Performing that many reps after a hard squat workout will help with recovery, hence why the reps *were* so high.

      I’ve adjusted the program and decreased reps.

      You don’t need to break any records by going ultra-heavy on leg extensions.

      Machines just aren’t as effective as free weight exercises when it comes to building size and strength.

      They’ll help strengthen that mind to muscle connection though.

      How are you liking this program otherwise? I would love feedback.

      Thanks 🙂
      Nader

      Reply
  2. Can I just use that push pull legs example on the article and if I can should I do all 6 exercises in one day and just move on with the other days exercises with pull & legs

    Reply
  3. Hey Nader, I’m going to be starting this program tomorrow as a hard gainer. I’ve already gained some muscle but I feel like I haven’t maximised the newbie gains at all as I’m still skinny (although eating alot) I’ve been doing a 2 day split til now for like 4-5 months with a lot of isolation exercises and that’s why I’m thinking of switching to your plan(do you think it’s a good idea?).
    Additionally I have some questions as to why is the kettle bell swing necessary as I heard it’s a large calorie burning exercise.
    And secondly, I did not quite understand the barbell static hold exercise as I see on the internet many different examples of it, could you link me to the exercise? And how long should I hold the barbell.
    Lastly, thank you for this amazing article and well decorated program. The moment I saw it I knew it’s what I need as a hard gainer.

    Reply
    • Hey Lior, thanks for the kind words.

      Of course I think it’s a good idea to switch from isolation exercises to a program like this.

      Isolation exercises with only 2x per week frequency won’t get you far as you’ve realized.

      You don’t need to do the kettle bell swings, while yes it is a calorie burning exercise but so are squats, bench press and deadlifts.

      Those exercises are compound lifts and will provide the bulk of your gains, but if you don’t eat enough especially on those heavy days, you’ll likely be losing more than gaining.

      I recommend going with 3 times per week with this push pull program, with a focus on compound lifts and only using isolation exercises as “finishers”.

      I’m actually not sure about the static holds, you don’t need to do those. I need to ask Nick but I’ll likely make some adjustments to this program.

      Does that help?

      Reply

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