What Split Do Most Bodybuilders Use?
Most bodybuilders rely on the PPL split to achieve a proportionate body and build muscle. The PPL, or the push/pull/legs routine in bodybuilding, is a training method where you split your body into three parts to train each muscle group separately.
Gaining muscle mass in all the major muscle groups is an important goal in bodybuilding, and training with the PPL routine is very popular among bodybuilders.
Below is everything about PPL and why it is so effective for building muscle mass.
PPL and its effectiveness in bodybuilding
As mentioned above, PPL is nothing but a training routine that most bodybuilders implement to achieve their ideal body. The PPL split is divided into three parts:
Push: This involves training where you focus on muscles that you can work on using the pushing motion. The push workout focus on upper body muscles such as the chest, triceps, and shoulders.
Some of the main exercise moves in the push routine are bench presses, side lateral raises, incline dumbbell presses, overhead tricep extensions, and shoulder presses. Push exercises are usually reserved for the first day of the workout routine.
Pull: True to its name, pull workouts focus on pulling exercises to target mainly the biceps and the back and are performed on the second day of the training schedule. Popular exercises on the pull days include barbell curls, pull-ups, hammer curls bent over rows, and barbell shrugs, among others.
Legs: The leg days follow the pull days, where you aim to hit all the major muscles in the lower body – the hamstrings, quads, calves, and abdominals. Squats, leg curls and presses, Romanian deadlifts, and calf raises are popular exercises for leg days.
According to one NCBI study, the PPL splits are more effective at increasing muscle strength and hypertrophy. Of the sixty-seven subjects in the study, 35 individuals who did the split routine twice a week gained maximal strength and increased thickness in the elbow flexor and extensor as well as in the quadriceps femoris muscle than those who did a full body workout four times a week.
The study on split versus a full body workout concluded that resistance training two to four times a week could result in significant neuromuscular adaptation.
Among the reasons why the PPL split routine is so effective in bodybuilding is because it trains every major muscle group in the body. Most bodybuilders aim to achieve a proportionate-looking body, and the push/pull/leg split ensures that no muscle group is left out.
PPL splits routine is also performed on alternate days, meaning that you get the maximum overlap of movements necessary for gaining muscle mass and strength and conditioning. In addition, the alternate training days between push, pull, and leg also means that there is minimal overlap between the workouts.
For the uninitiated, the minimum overlap of muscle/body movements between the workout sessions helps faster recovery and reduces the risk of injury.
Note: It is not recommended to do either of the push, pull, or leg routines twice in a row. Since the training routine is comprehensive, sufficient muscle rest should be part of the training.
The push/pull/leg split is a recommended training routine for intermediate and advanced bodybuilders. Despite its simple outlook, the PPL split is an enduring routine that is not very suitable for a beginner, especially without professional guidance (1).
Apart from the PPL, bodybuilders also train using other types of splits such as the 3-1-3 split, full body splits, upper/lower body splits, upper/lower body splits, and Arnold split.
Most of the split routines in bodybuilding are familiar among trainers in bodybuilding gyms. However, the Arnold split is not as common in most training circles, so the next sections explore this bodybuilding routine.
What is an Arnold split?
The Arnold split in bodybuilding is a training routine introduced and popularized by Arnold Schwarzenegger during his heyday as the world champion. It is a high-frequency, high-volume training routine suited for veteran lifters and trainers with at least three years of bodybuilding experience.
In this bodybuilding split, the muscle breakdown is chest and back on the first day, shoulders and arms on the second day, and legs on the third day. The Arnold split requires you to train six days at the gym to target each muscle group twice a week.
In addition to the gym time commitment, the Arnold split also has top-class nutrition requirements and a recovery period.
The Arnold split has several advantages, including the ability to work out opposing or antagonistic muscles within the same workout and balanced training. This training routine in bodybuilding also allows ample muscle recovery between workouts.
This bodybuilding routine is famous for its ability to develop the arm muscles, the deltoids, and the pectorals, which are also called show muscles, for competitions and shows.
However, the six-day workout routine is not ideal for everyone and can take up all your time. In addition, the rigors of the Arnold split can be too hard on the body and not sustainable unless you are training for competitive purposes.
The duration and the demands of the Arnold split also have the potential to cause fatigue and overtraining, especially if you are doing it for the long term.
How do you structure the Arnold split?
The Arnold split only has one day of rest, and the goal is to work for each muscle group twice a week, so structuring the routine is not difficult.
A typical structure for the Arnold split can look like this:
- Monday – Chest/Back
- Tuesday – Shoulders/Arms
- Wednesday – Legs
- Thursday – Rest
- And repeat the routine on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
Alternatively, you can take a rest on Sunday and repeat the structure throughout the week.
Is Arnold split better than PPL?
The Arnold split can deliver even better results if you are training for an upcoming competition or an event. Bodybuilders that follow Arnold’s split gain impressive muscle mass, especially in the upper body, making them a good exhibition for competitions.
So for short-term training and competitions, the Arnold splits can deliver better results than PPL.
However, the PPL delivers better results if you’re looking for long-term muscle mass maintenance with a proportionate-looking body.