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PPL Vs Upper Lower: Which Should You Choose?

March 06, 2024

PPL Vs Upper Lower By Robor Fitness

The Upper Lower Vs. PPL debate is a hot topic in the fitness world. Are you torn between these two popular workout splits? You're not alone. Many gym enthusiasts, from beginners to seasoned athletes, find themselves at these crossroads.

The Upper Lower Split carves out specific days for upper and lower body workouts, promising a balanced approach to muscle development. On the flip side, the PPL (Push, Pull, Legs) Split categorizes exercises based on movement patterns, offering a unique angle to training. But which one is the ultimate champion for your fitness goals?

In this article, we'll unravel the mysteries of each routine. Whether you're aiming for muscle growth, strength, or overall fitness, understanding the nuances of these splits can be a game-changer. Let's embark on this journey to discover which training style reigns supreme for you.


Upper Lower Split

What is the Upper Lower Split?

The Upper Lower Split is as straightforward as it sounds. It's a workout regimen that alternates between upper and lower-body training sessions. This split is designed to efficiently target each muscle group twice weekly, striking a balance between exertion and recovery.

In a typical week, you'll find yourself in the gym for four days, dedicating two days each to upper and lower-body workouts. The beauty of this split lies in its simplicity and effectiveness, making it a popular choice for many gymgoers.

An example of how this might look in a weekly schedule:

  • Monday: Upper Body
  • Tuesday: Lower Body
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Upper Body
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Lower Body
  • Sunday: Rest

This schedule offers a rhythmic pattern of training and rest, ideal for those aiming to achieve comprehensive muscle development without overtraining.


Benefits of the Upper Lower Split

The Upper Lower Split isn't just a workout routine; it's a smart, strategic approach to fitness with numerous advantages. Let's explore why it's such a hit among gym enthusiasts:

Clean Split: Separating exercises into upper and lower body categories is straightforward. While some exercises like deadlifts and push presses work both areas, this split predominantly allows for a clear distinction, making your workouts more organized and focused.

Ideal Training-to-Rest Ratio: With four days of lifting and three days off weekly, this split hits the sweet spot for most people. It's not just about the time spent lifting weights but also about the flexibility it offers compared to more demanding 5 or 6-day splits.

Optimized Recovery: Overtraining is a distant concern with this routine. Being in the gym only four days a week makes it highly unlikely to overexert yourself, provided you properly manage your training intensity and recovery.

Twice-a-Week Muscle Targeting: Hitting every major muscle group twice per week ensures balanced muscle development and consistent progress. Research has shown that training a muscle group twice a week results in more muscle growth compared to once a week (1).

Manageable Workout Duration: While the workouts, especially for the upper body, can be intense with multiple movements, they are generally shorter than full-body workouts, making them more manageable and less time-consuming.

Flexibility for All Levels: Whether a beginner or an advanced athlete, this split is adaptable and effective throughout your lifting journey.

Ample Recovery Time: With 2-3 days between training the same body parts, your muscles get enough time to recover, allowing you to bring your best effort to each session.

Simplicity in Routine: It's a straightforward split – one day for the upper body, the next for the lower. This simplicity eliminates confusion and makes it easy to remember your workout schedule.

Suitable for Busy Lifestyles: For those with packed schedules, committing to four gym days a week is more feasible than daily workouts, making this split ideal for maintaining a consistent fitness routine.

Promotes a Balanced Physique: By equally focusing on upper and lower body workouts, this split fosters a harmonious development of your physique. It ensures that all muscle groups receive equal attention, preventing imbalances.

The Upper Lower Split offers a balanced, manageable, and effective fitness approach that fits various lifestyles and fitness levels.


Drawbacks of the Upper Lower Split

While the Upper Lower Split has advantages, it's essential to recognize its limitations. Here are some potential drawbacks:

Lack of Specialization: This split may not be ideal for those with specific training goals, like enhancing a weak muscle group or preparing for a particular sport. Its general approach doesn't cater to specialized training needs.

Longer Workout Sessions: Since each session targets either all upper or all lower body muscles, workouts can be lengthier. You'll need more sets to ensure each muscle group receives enough volume for growth, potentially extending your gym time compared to other splits like PPL.

Variety and Enjoyment: Some gymgoers find the Upper Lower Split less enjoyable than other routines, such as PPL or bro splits. The enjoyment factor is subjective but crucial for long-term commitment to any workout regimen.

Potential for Imbalance: While the split is designed for balanced development, it can sometimes lead to neglect of smaller muscle groups. This is especially true if the focus shifts predominantly to major muscles, leaving the smaller, stabilizing muscles underworked.

It's essential to weigh these drawbacks against the benefits when choosing a workout split. No single routine is perfect for everyone, and personal preferences and goals significantly determine the best fit.


PPL Split

What is the PPL Split?

PPL, an acronym for Push, Pull, Legs, is a workout split that categorizes exercises based on their fundamental movements. This approach simplifies training into three distinct types:

Push Day: Focused on pushing movements, this session includes exercises targeting the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Think bench presses, overhead presses, and tricep dips.

Pull Day: Dedicated to pulling movements, this day involves exercises for the back and biceps, like pull-ups, rows, and bicep curls.

Legs Day: As the name suggests, this session zeroes in on the lower body, encompassing exercises for the quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes.

This split requires a six-day-a-week commitment, offering an intensive training schedule targeting each major muscle group twice weekly.

Here's how a typical PPL weekly routine might look:

  • Monday: Push (Chest, Triceps, Shoulders)
  • Tuesday: Pull (Back, Biceps)
  • Wednesday: Legs (Quads, Glutes, Hamstrings, Calves)
  • Thursday: Push
  • Friday: Pull
  • Saturday: Legs
  • Sunday: Rest

The PPL split is designed for those who prefer a more frequent and targeted approach to their gym sessions, allowing for focused intensity on specific muscle groups each day.


Benefits of the PPL Split

The Push, Pull, Legs (PPL) split isn't just a workout routine; it's a strategy packed with benefits for those looking to optimize their gym time. Here's why many fitness enthusiasts swear by it:

Greater Muscle Group Focus: The PPL split allows for more precise targeting of muscle groups. If you have a lagging area, you can easily increase the volume for that specific group, turning weaknesses into strengths.

Keeps Workouts Exciting: Many find the PPL split more engaging than other routines. The variety in daily focus keeps the excitement alive, making gym sessions something to look forward to.

Enhanced Calorie Burning: Ideal for those in a cutting phase, the PPL split's 6-day schedule means more frequent workouts, leading to higher calorie burn. This is crucial for creating a calorie deficit, an essential element in fat loss.

Flexibility in Exercise Selection: PPL allows mixing up exercises within each category (push, pull, legs). This variation combats workout monotony and allows for comprehensive development of each muscle group.

With its unique combination of specificity, excitement, and effectiveness, the PPL split caters well to those looking for a dynamic and comprehensive approach to fitness.


Drawbacks of the PPL Split

Here are some of the challenges associated with this training routine:

Increased Frequency of Gym Visits: The most apparent drawback of the PPL split is the commitment to six gym sessions per week. This can be a significant challenge for those with busy schedules or other obligations, making it less feasible compared to less frequent workout routines.

Potential for Insufficient Recovery: With only one rest day per week, the risk of inadequate recovery looms. It's vital to listen to your body and allow proper rest to prevent overtraining, which can hinder progress and lead to injury.

Potential for Overwhelming Workload: For beginners or those with limited training experience, the intensity and frequency of PPL can be overwhelming. It's a routine that might require a gradual build-up, especially for those not used to high-frequency training.

Risk of Imbalance: If not carefully planned, the PPL split can lead to imbalances, particularly if disproportionate emphasis is placed on particular movements or muscle groups. This risk necessitates careful programming and a balanced approach to push, pull, and leg exercises.

In summary, while the PPL split offers an excellent structure for focused and frequent training, it demands a significant time commitment and careful attention to recovery and balance. These factors should be carefully considered when choosing a workout routine that fits your lifestyle and fitness goals.


Upper Lower Vs. PPL Compared

When deciding between the upper-lower and PPL (Push, Pull, Legs) splits, it's essential to understand how they stack up against each other in various aspects of training. These differences can significantly impact your workout routine, progress, and overall fitness experience.


Training Frequency


One of the most notable differences between these two popular training splits is the frequency of gym visits required.

Upper Lower Split: This split typically involves four days of training per week. The design is such that it covers the entire skeletal musculature twice a week, offering a balanced approach to muscle stimulation and recovery. It's a manageable schedule for most people, providing a good balance between gym time and rest days.

PPL Split: In contrast, the PPL split demands a higher frequency with up to six days in the gym each week. This increased frequency ensures that every muscle group is adequately stimulated within the week. While this can be more effective for muscle growth and conditioning, it requires a greater time commitment. It may challenge those with busy schedules or limited recovery capacity.

The choice between these splits often boils down to personal preferences, goals, and lifestyle considerations. Whether you prefer the more balanced approach of the Upper Lower split or the intensive, frequent training of the PPL split, both offer unique benefits and challenges.


Muscle Group Focus

When comparing upper-lower and PPL splits, the way each approach targets muscle groups is a crucial distinction.

Upper Lower Split: In this split, each workout session is dedicated to either the upper or lower body. Consequently, the volume dedicated to each specific muscle group can be somewhat limited. This is due to the need to cover all relevant muscle groups in one session, which might not allow for as much targeted work on individual muscles.

PPL Split: The PPL structure divides the upper body workouts into push and pull sessions. This arrangement allows for more overall volume for the upper body within a week. It offers the opportunity to dedicate more attention and volume to specific muscle groups. For example, suppose you feel that your shoulders are a lagging area…

In that case, the PPL split enables you to focus more on shoulder exercises, potentially during both push days, to enhance their development. This targeted approach is a significant advantage for those looking to address specific muscle imbalances or to emphasize certain areas of their physique.

The PPL split generally allows for a more detailed and focused approach to individual muscle groups, especially for the upper body, compared to the broader scope of the Upper Lower split.


Workout Duration

Clock going quickly

The length of workout sessions is another critical factor when comparing the upper-lower Lower and PPL splits, impacting your gym routine and overall lifestyle.

Upper Lower Split: This split requires you to cover the entire upper or lower body in a single session. Due to the comprehensive nature of these workouts, covering all major muscle groups in one go, sessions tend to be longer. It's common for an Upper Lower workout to last around 1 hour and 15 minutes, as it necessitates a broader range of exercises to ensure each muscle group is adequately worked.

PPL Split: In contrast, the PPL routine divides the body's muscle groups more finely across six days. Each session in the PPL split, whether push, pull, or legs, targets only a specific set of muscles. This narrower focus naturally leads to shorter workout durations. When on a PPL split, completing a session in about 45 minutes is often possible. This shorter duration can be more manageable for those with tight schedules or who prefer quicker, more intense workouts.

While the PPL split demands more frequent gym visits, each session is generally shorter, catering to those who prefer to spread their workouts throughout the week. On the other hand, the Upper Lower split, with fewer but longer sessions, suits those who prefer a more consolidated gym schedule.


Target Audience

Audience written on whiteboard

The suitability of the Upper, Lower, and PPL splits can vary greatly depending on the experience level of the lifter. Understanding who benefits most from each split can help you make a more informed choice for your training regimen.

Upper Lower Split: This split is often considered ideal for intermediate lifters. It balances workout volume and recovery, providing a solid foundation for consistent muscle growth and strength gains. The four-workout-a-week structure is typically sufficient to stimulate growth for those not yet at an advanced stage in their lifting journey.

PPL Split: On the other hand, the PPL split is frequently recommended for more advanced lifters, those who have been training for several years. The reason lies in the need for increased volume to continue making gains. Advanced lifters often find that their bodies have adapted to the stress of training, requiring more stimulus to achieve further growth.

With its higher volume and frequency, the six-day PPL split caters to this need by providing a more intense regimen. This allows for continued progress even when the body has become accustomed to regular training.

While the Upper Lower split offers a balanced approach suitable for those in the middle stages of their lifting career, the PPL split caters to the heightened needs of advanced lifters looking for more volume to sustain muscle growth and development.


Workout Volume

Workout volume, defined as the number of sets performed per muscle group per week, is a critical factor in muscle growth and development. Understanding how the Upper Lower and PPL splits accommodate this can guide your training decisions.

Upper Lower Split: With this split, you typically train each muscle group twice a week. Given the recommendation to perform 10-20 sets per week for each muscle group to optimize muscle building, the Upper Lower split allows for an even distribution of these sets across the workouts.

For instance, you might perform 5-10 sets per muscle group in each session, totaling the recommended weekly volume. This split ensures a balanced approach, providing enough stimulus for growth without overwhelming the muscles.

PPL Split: With its higher frequency, the PPL split allows for a more concentrated volume per muscle group in each session. Since you're focusing on fewer muscle groups per workout, you can dedicate more sets to each, potentially leading to a higher overall weekly volume.

This can be particularly beneficial for advanced lifters who need more volume to continue progressing. For example, you could do more sets for each muscle group on each push, pull, and leg day, easily reaching or exceeding the 10-20 sets per week benchmark.

In conclusion, while both splits can effectively meet the recommended weekly volume for muscle growth, the PPL split offers the flexibility to incorporate more volume per session, making it suitable for those who require a higher workload for continued progression.


The Final Say: Who Wins?

When it comes to the showdown between the Upper Lower and PPL splits, the truth is, there's no clear-cut winner. The effectiveness of each routine largely depends on individual circumstances and goals. Both are incredibly effective in their own right, tailored to different needs and preferences.

For Beginners: The Upper Lower split is likely more suitable if you're relatively new to lifting. A four-day gym routine is ample for those starting, offering enough stimulus for growth without overwhelming your body or schedule.

For Experienced Lifters: Those training longer might find the additional volume and frequency of the PPL split more beneficial. This split can provide the necessary stimulus for continued muscle development and progression.

Time Constraints: Your available time also plays a crucial role. The Upper Lower split becomes a practical choice if your schedule only allows for four days in the gym. It's about adapting to your lifestyle and maximizing your gym time.

From personal experience, I've found merit in both routines over the years, with a slight preference for the Upper Lower split. However, this is subjective, and another person might favor the PPL split. Ultimately, the key to progress lies in consistency and adherence to your chosen plan, coupled with progressive overload. It's about finding and sticking to what works best for you over time.

The Upper, Lower, and PPL splits are effective pathways to achieving fitness goals. Your choice should align with your experience level, personal preferences, and lifestyle requirements. You can commit to the best plan consistently and with enthusiasm.



  1. Schoenfeld BJ, Ogborn D, Krieger JW. Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med. 2016 Nov;46(11):1689-1697. doi: 10.1007/s40279-016-0543-8. PMID: 27102172.

Thomas D
Thomas D


Thomas is a dedicated fitness enthusiast with over 12 years of experience in the gym. As a level 2 qualified gym instructor, he combines his passion for working out and nutrition to help others achieve their fitness goals. Thomas stays up to date with the latest fitness research and follows the work of top experts in the field. With a balance of textbook knowledge and real-life experience, he provides practical guidance to help others reach their full potential.

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