Two very common workout splits are the Push, Pull, Lower (PPL) and the Full Body splits.
While both of these splits are effective and widely used (I’ve built programs using each split for clients), there are some major differences between the two that you should consider when deciding how you want to arrange your training each week.
So what are the differences between the PPL vs Full Body split? The PPL split breaks your training into upper body muscles that “push” and “pull”, and your entire lower body. Each group (Push, Pull, & Lower) is typically trained twice each week. The Full Body split incorporates muscles from your entire body each time you train, with no requirement for how many days you train.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- What a Full Body and a PPL is, complete with examples
- The 3 main differences between Full Body and PPL splits
- Pros and cons of Full Body and PPL
- How to choose the right split for yourself
- Template workouts for each split
What Is The Full Body Split?
The Full Body Split trains muscles from head to toe in a single workout, each time you workout.
This definition doesn’t necessarily mean that you train every possible muscle from head to toe every time you workout. That would be nearly impossible. It simply means we aren’t focusing on one muscle or muscle group at a time, but rather trying to hit a bit of everything each time we train.
To accomplish this, full body workouts typically revolve around compound movements (exercises that require several muscles working together) rather than isolated movements (exercises that focus on a single muscle movement) to give you more bang for your buck.
For example, by performing squats, you work your upper back, lower back, core, quads, glutes, hips, and hamstrings in a single exercise, rather than performing isolated exercises to address each of those muscles.
One note about the full body split is that it doesn’t have a set number of days to train or rest.
This is one of its superior characteristics, as missing a day of training doesn’t upset your entire training schedule, as it would with a split that only has one day to train a certain muscle group.
Since you train the whole body each time you workout, you aren’t risking missing a full weeks’ worth of legs by skipping leg day, for example. You can work your full body for one workout a week, or you can do it for seven workouts in a week.
An example of a Full Body split that trains three times a week might look like this:
- Monday – Full Body
- Tuesday – Rest
- Wednesday – Full Body
- Thursday – Rest
- Friday – Full Body
- Saturday – Rest
- Sunday – Rest
As flexible as it sounds, since you are training your whole body each time you workout, you typically need more time to recover before training the same muscles again, which is why this is usually a 2-4x a week split to allow for rest in between.
What Is A PPL Split?
The PPL Split divides your muscle groups by their function – whether they push a load or pull a load, as well as by region (lower body being its own group whether you’re pulling with your hamstrings or pushing with your quads).
Workouts are typically done six times per week, allowing for two workouts of each muscle group (two for pushing, two for pulling, two for legs or lower body), though a lifter pressed for time could certainly follow a PPL split with only three workouts per week.
- Pushing movements include bench press, overhead press, dumbbell press, push ups, tricep extensions, etc.
- Pulling movements include deadlifts, rows, pullups, rear delt flys, lateral raises, front raises, and shrugs.
- Lower body workouts train each muscle of the legs, and include squats, lunges, leg press, hip thrusts, leg extension, leg curl, etc.
One example of a PPL split might look like the following:
- Monday – Push
- Tuesday – Pull
- Wednesday – Lower
- Thursday – Push
- Friday – Pull
- Saturday – Lower
- Sunday – Rest
Want to get advice on programming, technique, or competing? Speak with one of our coaches.
Full Body vs PPL: 3 Differences
There are three main differences between the Full Body and the PPL splits.
1. The Full Body Split Typically Serves Beginners Better
Because new lifters will see significant results with less input, the Full Body split generally serves them better than lifters who have trained for a while and require more input/stress on their muscles to make a change.
This isn’t to say that a beginner can’t make progress with the PPL split, but the science has shown that new lifters can adapt to changes exponentially faster than lifters who’ve been at it for years.
This means new lifters can train a little bit of everything a few days a week, keep showing up and working hard, and see progress over their entire body.
The PPL split becomes far more useful once that rate of adaptation drops off (you can read about that here).
It becomes necessary for intermediate lifters to start hitting their training with greater focus and intensity in order to get the message to the muscle that it needs to grow or get stronger.
By breaking up your training into muscle groups and individual muscles, a lifter can get more of that kind of training done each week with adequate recovery far better than they’d be able to do while training the same muscle groups over their whole body every time they train.
Takeaway: If you are just getting started and want the most bang for your buck, you have the unique advantage of being able to show up day after day and trian your whole body to get results at a rate that intermediate lifters wish they still had. Training your whole body regularly can help you capitalize on this stage of your development.
2. The Full Body Split Offers Greater Time Flexibility
The Full Body workout allows for lifters to only train two or three times a week and still see progress, while the PPL split has clearer expectations on the need to train six times per week.
Let’s start with the science:
Research has proven that training your muscles twice per week is the sweet spot for getting a hypertrophic response (i.e. your muscles grow).
So in the case of the Full Body split, if you trained head to toe two times per week, you’re following this principle and on a great path to seeing your muscles grow and overall fitness improve.
That’s why we can confidently say if you train three or four times a week on the Full Body split and you miss a day, it’s not a big deal. You still trained every part of your body two or three other times that week.
In the case of a PPL split, your workout only includes a portion of your total body (pushing, pulling, or legs), so if you skip a leg day, you’ve missed half of your leg work for the whole week. If you only train PPL three days a week and you skip legs, then you missed a whole week of legs entirely.
Not only does the three day PPL split not train your muscles twice a week to hit the hypertrophy sweet spot, but missing a day takes you way out of the ballpark of training consistently to reach your goals.
Takeaway: If you are pressed for time each week, the Full Body split will allow you to train less frequently and still stimulate your muscles with the frequency that research has shown to best stimulate muscle growth.
3. The PPL Split Better Serves Growth and Strength Goals
The biggest difference between these two splits are the goals you are trying to achieve by applying them. The Full Body split will serve more general health and fitness in the long run, while the PPL split will better serve more specific strength and growth goals.
As we explained in our first point, the Full Body split is great for beginners and those pressed for time. But you can’t achieve greatness or big goals without putting significant focus on the areas you want to improve. General approaches won’t get you specific results.
By shifting to the PPL split, a lifter can spend an entire workout focused on just pushing movements. They can come back the next day and spend an entire workout focused on pulling movements, and a third day focused on legs while their upper body recovers.
Once you advance past the beginner gains stage, the only way you can keep growing is to increase the intensity and/or volume of your lifts consistently. While this can be sustained for a tme with the Full Body Split, the PPL is much better suited for this stage of growth.
Finally, whether you are a powerlifter focused on strength, or a bodybuilder focused on size and symmetry, the PPL is flexible enough that you can use it for either approach. It doesn’t care if you train your leg day for heavy squats and deadlifts, or with high reps of the leg press and leg extension machines.
Takeaway: Consider your goals, the stage of your lifting career, and decide if there’s still meat on the bones for you to train full body a few times a week, or if it makes more sense to split things up and hit those muscles harder each time you train them.
Full Body vs PPL: Pros & Cons
Full Body Pros
Full Body Workouts Meet the Need To Train Two or More Times per Week
Training a muscle two times a week is key when it comes to hypertrophy.
We cited the research earlier, but it bears repeating here as a benefit of this split. Since you’re training a little bit of everything a few times a week, the Full Body split has this requirement baked into its DNA (so long as you train more than once per week).
Full Body Workouts Are More Flexible on Your Time
The Full Body split is a fantastic option for lifters who have inconsistent schedules or busy schedules all around.
It’s always fun to fantasize about what it would be like to have no other care in the world than training and reaching our fitness goals. But for most of us, we have social lives, families, jobs, hobbies, and commitments that keep that from being a reality.
If that reality for you makes training consistently a tall order to fill, the Full Body split is a great way to make sure you’re covering your bases each time you train, even if it’s not the same day or time of day when you get those opportunities.
Assuming you can show up three or four times a week, you don’t have to sweat it when circumstances change and you can’t make your Monday workout – you’ve got Wed, Fri, and Sat to train as well.
Full Body Cons
Its Benefits Don’t Last Forever
As we established with the rate of adaptation, the early gains you see will slow down over time, making this split more difficult to see results.
Even while you’re following the Full Body split, you should be progressing your program each week – increasing the weight, the sets, the reps, decreasing the rest time in between sets when appropriate, and changing which exercises you do to hit the muscles. That’s the key to any program working beyond the initial shock to your system of starting to train at all.
But eventually, this progression will top out, requiring longer workouts, or more work than you can get done in the time you have to make progress.
This is where other splits come in that break up your days, so you can spend the same amount of time in the gym as you did before, but this time focusing the full 60 minutes on a portion of your body, not trying to cram all of it in there.
If you don’t make those changes, the Full Body program will simply become a maintenance routine to keep you on your plateau, or even allow for regression in some ways.
It Trains Your Muscles With Focus
As we established in the downsides of the Full Body split, intermediate lifters (or anyone past their beginner gains) have to introduce a great stimulus to their muscles to make a change, but for strength and for size.
The PPL split is structured in such a way that a lifter can take a full workout to put the necessary stimulus on their muscles and nervous system to get their desired outcomes.
Follow the program correctly and train each muscle group twice per week, and you’ll be able to train with way more volume than someone on the Full Body split trying to reach the same outcomes.
The PPL Split Can Be Applied to Strength and Hypertrophy Alike
Whatever your goals are – to get bigger, get stronger, both, or just be overall healthier – the PPL split can be applied universally for any of these goals.
All the PPL split dictates is what muscle groups you train and that you do it 3-6 times per week. Outside of that, it’s up to you what dynamics you apply to your training.
For example, your Push day could easily revolve around a powerlifting style workout. You start with heavy sets of bench press, move on to some variation, like close grip bench press, or standing overhead press. Then move on to isolated movements like skull crushers and dips to finish things off.
At a later stage in your journey, you want to add size to your chest and arms, so your Push day revolves more around doing 6-8 different exercises for higher reps, like seated chest press, the pec deck machine, cable flys, dumbbell kick backs, and French presses.
Maybe you find yourself disinterested in specific bodybuilding or powerlifting goals, so your Push day is more focused on short rest between sets, keeping your heart rate up, and getting a good sweat for 60 minutes straight as you perform a combination bench press, push ups, dips, and overhead press.
No matter your goals, the PPL split is flexible enough to adjust along with you.
The PPL Split Is Less Flexible Than the Full Body
Because you’ve only got 1-2 days a week to train each muscle group in the PPL split, missing one of them is a big deal. Suddenly you missed your 2x+ training sessions per week sweet spot that we’ve talked about.
The PPL split is better suited for lifters committed to their goals and making sure their schedule allows them to hit each workout each week.
It Requires Some Knowledge of How Muscles Work
This is a minor downside, but it can be overwhelming for someone new to walk into a gym, look around, and know which machines are used for pushing and which are used for pulling, let alone all the things you can do with dumbbells, barbells, and cables, whether you’re standing, sitting, or lying on a bench.
If you don’t have a working knowledge of these things, it can be overwhelming to try to figure out what to include in your push day, your pull day, and your leg day (though that one should be the easiest to throw something together on your own).
If you’ve got someone to show you the ropes or write your program for you, it’s no big deal. But if you’re going it alone, this one could be tough if you’re not familiar with resistance training in the first place.
Should You Do A Full Body or a PPL Split?
Only you can decide what’s going to be best for you, but I can certainly give you my recommendation based on all the information we’ve provided here.
Do A Full Body Split If
You Care More About Total Fitness Rather Than Just Muscle Growth
I see the Full Body split is a great program for those who aren’t too specific about wanting to get big or strong and simply want to stay active and make sure their bases are covered by training a bit of everything.
As well, it’s a great start for beginners (even if their goals are very focused on growth or strength), but also a great lifetime program for anyone that just wants to be consistent.
Do A PPL Split If
You’ve Trained Long Enough To Graduate From Beginner Gains
You can get strong, get big, or get healthy with the PPL split, depending on how you train during each of the workouts.
So no matter what your goals, it really becomes a tool to help you keep making progress in any of those areas once it becomes too hard to do so by training your whole body each time you workout.
If you feel like your progress has slowed, consider making the switch to the PPL (or some of the other splits we’ve looked at) so you can put the necessary stimulus on your body to make it change the way you want it to.
Full Body Example
Here’s an example of what a Full Body workout could look like for a week:
Monday – Full Body Workout
- Front Squats – 3×8
- Pull-ups – 3×10
- Barbell Overhead Press – 3×10
- Bench Press – 3×8
- EZ Bar Biceps Curls – 3×12
- Dips – 3×12
- Planks – 4 rounds
- Leg Curl Machine – 3×8
Wednesday – Full Body Workout
- Barbell Deadlifts – 3×8
- Underhand Barbell rows – 3×10
- DB Overhead Press – 3×8
- Chest Press Machine – 3×10
- Barbell Cable Curls – 3×10
- DB French Press – 3×10
- Sit Ups – 3xAMRAP
- Calf Raises – 3×15
Friday – Full Body Workout
- Leg Press Machine – 3×10
- Incline Bench Press – 3×8
- Close grip Incline bench press – 3×10
- Standing BB curls – 3×10
- Lat Pull Downs – 3×10
- Hanging Leg Raises – 3×12-15
- Lying Hamstring Curls – 3×10
PPL Split Example
Check out this sample of a week of PPL workouts:
Monday – Push
- Flat Bench Press – 4 sets of 10
- BB Overhead Press – 4 sets of 10
- Incline Chest Press Machine – 4 sets of 10
- DB Seated Overhead Press – 4 sets of 10
- Tricep Pushdowns – 4 sets of 12
- Overhead Tricep Cable Extension – 4 sets of 12
Tuesday – Pull
Underhand Barbell Row – 4 sets of 10
- Seal Row – 4 sets of 10
- Lat Pulldown or Alternative – 4 sets of 10
- Standing Cable Curl – 4 sets of 12
- Alternating DB Curl – 4 sets of 8
- DB Shrugs – 4 sets of 10
Wednesday – Legs
- Front Squats – 4 sets of 10
- Lunges in place – 4 sets of 10
- Leg Press – 4 sets of 10, 8, 6, 4
- Leg extensions – 3 sets of AMRAP
- Barbell Deadlift – 4 sets of 8
- Stiff leg deadlift – 4 sets of 10
- Single leg hamstring curl – 3 sets of AMRAP
Thursday – Push
- Incline Bench Press – 4 sets of 10
- DB Overhead Press – 4 sets of 8
- Single Arm Skull Crushers – 4 sets of 12
- Landmine Press – 4 sets of 10
- Seated Arnold Press – 4 sets of 12
- Dips – 4 sets of AMRAP
Friday – Pull
- Single Arm DB Row – 4 sets of 10
- Standing BB Curls – 4 sets of 12
- Underhand Tricep Pulldown – 4 sets of 10
- Rope Pulldown – 4 sets of 12
- DB Lateral Raise – 4 sets of 8
- Plate Front Raise – 4 sets of 12
Saturday – Legs
- Leg Press – 4 sets of 10
- Squats – 4 sets of 8
- Sumo Deadlift – 4 sets of 8
- Bulgarian Split Squats – 4 sets of 10
- Goblet Squats – 4 sets of 10
- Sled Pushes – 4 laps (down and back)
Check Out Our Other Training Split Articles
- Bro Split vs PPL: Pros, Cons, & Which Is Better?
- PHUL vs PPL: Pros, Cons, & Which Is Better?
- Texas Method vs 531: Differences, Pros, Cons
- Texas Method vs Madcow: Differences, Pros, Cons
- Full Body vs Bro Split: Differences, Pros, Cons
- Bro Split vs PPL: Pros, Cons, & Which Is Better?
- Push Pull Legs vs Upper Lower: Pros, Cons, & Which Is better?
- Upper Lower vs Full Body: Pros, Cons, & Which Is Better?
About The Author
Adam Gardner is a proud resident of Utah, where he lives with his wife and two kids. He has been competing in powerlifting since 2016 in both the USPA and the APF. For the past three years, he and his wife, Merrili, have coached beginning lifters to learn the fundamentals of powerlifting and compete in their first powerlifting competitions.