PHUL vs PPL: Pros, Cons, & Which Is Better?

what are the differences between a PHUL and a PPL workout split

Two of the most popular training splits used to increase strength and hypertrophy are PHUL and PPL.  Over my 15 year training history, I’ve used both of these splits to see great results.  However, before you pick one over the other, you’ll need to consider the strengths and limitations of each split based on your current training goal.  

So, what are the differences between a PHUL and a PPL workout split? The PHUL split divides your workouts by upper and lower body with a focus on training each for both strength and size. The PPL split divides your workouts into a single lower body day, and two upper body days – one that pushes weight away from you and one that pulls weight toward you. 

At the end of this article, you’ll be able to decide whether PHUL or PPL is best for you.  Here’s what we’ll cover: 

  • What PHUL and PPL is, including example training splits
  • 3 differences between PHUL and PPL
  • Pros and cons of PHUL and PPL 
  • How to decide which training split you should do
  • Workout examples of each split

What Is A PHUL Split?

PHUL split breaks up your week of training across four main workouts – two for upper body, two for lower body

PHUL stands for Power, Hypertrophy, Upper, Lower.  

PHUL split breaks up your week of training across four main workouts – two for upper body, two for lower body. Two of those workouts (one for upper, one for lower) will specifically train your muscles for strength and power. The other two workouts (one for upper, one for lower) will train your muscles for size and growth. 

Commonly, the first two workouts will be your upper body power and your lower body power workouts, as these workouts tend to call for heavier weights and lower reps, and are generally more taxing. By hitting them at the beginning of the week when you are fresh, you are able to perform them more effectively and safely than if you were already fatigued. 

The two hypertrophy workouts follow on the back end of the week, calling for lighter weight and higher reps, which can still be done safely and effectively, even if you’re still a little sore or fatigued from earlier in the week. 

A common week on the PHUL split might look like this: 

Monday – Power Upper

Tuesday – Power Lower

Wednesday – Rest

Thursday – Hypertrophy Upper

Friday – Hypertrophy Lower

Saturday – Rest

Sunday – Rest

What Is A PPL Split?

a PPL split breaks up your week of training based on the function of the muscle, whether it pushes or whether it pulls in a specific exercise

PPL stands for Push, Pull, Lower. 

A PPL split breaks up your week of training based on the function of the muscle, whether it pushes or whether it pulls in a specific exercise. 

The PPL split is usually a six-days-a-week workout program that has you hit each group two times each. Usually the split looks something like this: 

Monday – Push

Tuesday – Pull

Wednesday – Lower

Thursday – Push

Friday – Pull

Saturday – Lower

Ssunday – Rest

Some lifters adapt the PPL split to fit a 3 day week if they don’t have the time to train 6 days per week.  In that case, the PPL split would look like this: 

Monday – Push

Tueady – Rest

Wednesday – Pull

Thursday – Rest

Friday – Lower

Saturday – Rest

Sunday – Rest

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to be analyzing the 6-day PPL split as that’s the truest form of the training split. 

By splitting up your muscle groups functionally by pushing and pulling motions, the lifter can effectively hit every muscle in their body twice a week. 

Any training goal can be overlaid onto this program. 

For example, a lifter wanting to get bigger and add muscle can follow the same PPL split as their friend who is training for strength and power. The difference will be in the target reps, total sets, exercise selection, and intensity of the workouts. 

Want to get advice on programming, technique, or competing? Speak with one of our coaches.

PHUL vs PPL: 3 Differences

main differences between PHUL vs PPL

There are 3 main differences between PHUL vs PPL: 

  • The sets, reps, and load are more flexible in the PPL split
  • The number of training days
  • The PPL split can include more specialized training

1.  The Sets, Reps, and Load Are More Flexible in the PPL Split

The PHUL program specifically dedicates two days a week to power and two days a week for hypertrophy. 

In the power workouts, the lifter will use lower rep ranges and heavier weights to adapt their muscles and nervous system to moving weight with greater strength and power. 

During the hypertrophy workouts, they’ll use lighter weights for a higher number of reps to stimulate muscle growth. 

In the PPL split, there is no specific instruction for the dynamics of the workouts. You simply train the push muscles twice a week, the pull muscles twice a week, and lower body twice a week with whatever dynamics serve your preferences and goals. 

Therefore, if you want to spend an entire 4-weeks in a strength block using PPL, then you can use lower reps and higher weights for each of the workouts.  

2. The Number of Training Days

The PHUL split is commonly a four-days-a-week program, while the PPL can be 3-6 days per week, depending on whether the lifter wants to train each muscle group once or twice per week. 

It’s important to note that each program still has the lifter hit each muscle group twice per week, which is an important factor in strength training, as it has been clinically proven to improve the rate of muscle growth

So whichever split you go with, you can feel confident that each will rely on proven methods of muscle growth in their own way. 

However, some people don’t want to train 6 days per week, which would exclude them from training on the PPL split.  

3. The PPL Split Can Include More Flexible Training

The final difference is how flexible (or not) the split can be applied to your goals. 

For example, the PPL split does not have specific rules or requirements for how you program the training variables (sets, reps, and load). 

So a lifter with goals in bodybuilding and a lifter with goals in powerlifting could each follow a PPL split, apply the dynamics that apply to the goals they are training for, and each see the results they are looking for. 

The PHUL split, however, may not offer as much flexibility to change the dynamics with the times and seasons of your training and goals, as there will always be a guideline to train half your workouts for power and half your workout for hypertrophy. 

The way I see it, the PPL split can include specialized training goals, whereas the PHUL split is more for the generalist who wants to be “good at everything”.  

PHUL vs PPL: Pros & Cons

pros and cons of PHUL vs PPL

PHUL Pros

PHUL Allows You To Train for Both Strength & Hypertrophy at the Same Time

This program does a fantastic job of breaking down all the muscles and muscle groups you could exercise and focuses on what really matters – upper and lower, training once for power and once for size. 

Especially for lifters who are just getting started, or trying to get back into it after a long break; for lifters who are overwhelmed by all the variables of training; for those who don’t know what area to focus on, the PHUL split really does give you a nice spread of everything without being overwhelming or ineffective. 

I especially like introducing the differences between training for power and hypertrophy, as this is a commonly misunderstood, misapplied area of lifting. 

By understanding the goals of the workout (either for power or for size) and then seeing the target rep ranges and weight selections, the lifter begins to understand how those variables affect their goals and results, and can start to think critically about how they are training and how to overcome the various hurdles they’ll face ahead. 

It Trains Muscles Twice per Week

We established earlier that training muscles twice a week has been proven in studies to accelerate the growth of muscles. Given this data, it’s hard to not praise a program that has twice-a-week training frequency baked into it. 

While not every lifter will have the time or resources to train as effectively as the science dictates, the PHUL split hits the important variables, while still keeping it to a four-day split, making it manageable for most folks, even if they’re on a tight schedule with other commitments. 

PHUL Cons

It Lacks Flexibility

Since the program already dictates that you have two power workouts and two hypertrophy workouts, you can’t really change it up much from there and still call it a PHUL program. 

For example, if a lifter wanted to shift their focus to really building muscle and lay off the strength elements for a while, you pretty much remove the PH elements from the PHUL program and you just have an upper/lower split that repeats twice a week. 

While there is certainly evidence and understanding that each dynamic complements the other (training muscles for strength improves hypertrophy, and training for hypertrophy improves strength), there are times it makes sense to focus on one more than the other, and this program makes it difficult to make those adjustments. 

It Only Trains Four Days per Week

This may or may not matter to you, but you’re only training four days a week with this program. 

If you are the type of lifter who enjoys training often, and the one rest day you’re supposed to take leaves you bored out of your mind, this probably isn’t the split for you. 

While it’s a noted benefit that it still trains each muscle group twice per week, there’s still more than can be done in a week on other splits, leaving many lifters wanting for more, or not getting the results they want as quickly as they want. 

PPL Pros

It Trains Your Muscles Twice per Week

This program has a similar benefit to the PHUL program in that it follows the science and trains your muscle groups twice per week. 

I can’t stress enough how important this factor is to accelerating muscle growth and strength adaptations, so it’s a major plus that both of these programs incorporate this kind of frequency. 

The added benefit of the PPL twice-a-week split is that there are three workouts (push, pull, lower) that get broken up across the week, instead of just two (upper/lower), which means you can do more in a week on this split in some ways.

It Offers Flexibility in Your Training Goal

The PPL split is flexible in terms of dynamics, so you can apply it to any stage of your training.

Want to focus only on hypertrophy? Great, you can do that with a PPL split. 

Want to break up your powerlifting training differently than before? You can totally do that with a PPL split. 

What if you like the idea of balancing both strength and size, the way the PHUL program does?  You can do the PPL split and do half your workouts for power and half your workouts for hypertrophy. Boom, you just made a hybrid program. 

PPL Cons

It Can Become Repetitive

Just because you are training every muscle in your body twice a week doesn’t mean it’s always interesting or effective. 

One of the things we can take from the PHUL split and apply to the PPL split is to think of each workout as being a little different. If you do the same thing every time, it can get really repetitive and, frankly, ineffective. 

Try to be sure and hit different push exercises in your two push workouts, and so on with pull and lower workouts. Try training for different goals (strength and size, short rest, endurance, etc) each workout to avoid falling into complacency and boredom with the split. 

It Doesn’t Guide Your Intensity

My biggest warning with this split is that you can feel so confident that you are training every muscle in your body, training them twice a week, that you forget to pay attention to the needed intensity to get results. 

Because the PPL split only dictates the breakdown of the muscle groups, we are left with our own mind to decide what level of intensity to apply. Because intensity or dynamics are not stated in the PPL split, many lifters may not pay attention to it and think they are getting results just by going through the motions. 

Pay attention to your intensity, consider the goals you are training for, and apply the right dynamics to get there, or else the PPL split will be no better than any other. 

Should You Do A PHUL Split or PPL Split?

should you do a PHUL split or PPL split

Even after looking at all the pros and cons, you may still wonder which program is right for you. While I can’t prescribe the perfect split to each person, I’ll share with you two types of people I think should do each split. Hopefully that helps you decide what fits you best!

Do A PHUL Split If

It Doesn’t Guide Your Intensity

Because the PHUL split calls for hypertrophy and strength training in the same workout, it offers great balance. 

If you are not dead focused on bodybuilding, and you don’t care to really compete in powerlifting, you just want to be stronger, look better, and feel healthy, the PHUL program gives you the best of each world, without pushing your limits in any one direction. 

You can follow the split for months or years, continually increasing weight as you adapt to it, and you’ll see great results. 

You Don’t Want To Change Your Program Every Few Months

Continuing from that point above, you can run the PHUL split for months or years without changing anything more than the weights you use for your exercises. 

If you are the type of lifter who just likes to set it and forget it, show up, put in the work, and see the results comes, the PHUL split is a great way to go. 

Do A PPL Split If

Your Goals Change From Time to Time

I personally find myself adding and removing goals from my horizons as time goes on, so I need flexibility to make those changes when necessary. The PPL split is great for this type of personality, because of its flexibility. 

I shared this example previously, but you can keep the same PPL split whether you are training for size or strength. You just need to change the weight selection and the dynamics of your reps, and you’re golden. 

If you like the PPL split, but you want to change your focus from time to time, the PPL split is a great way to limit the number of variables you change. Then you can focus on the variables that matter, instead of wondering if the problem or benefit is coming from a new split, or just the change in dynamics. 

You Like To Influence Your Program Yourself

If you like to put your own spin on things, add your own twist, or just shoot from the hip occasionally, the PPL split offers a lot of flexibility. 

Not only is it flexible in the terms explained above about changing dynamics for strength versus size, but you can change your exercise selection, rest cadence, etc. 

The PHUL still offers much of that flexibility, but the PPL offers even more that you can influence and personalize to fit you overall, as well as day to day. 

PHUL Example

Here’s an example of what a PHUL workout could look like: 

Monday – Upper Power

  • Bench Press – 5 sets of 3
  • Close Grip Bench Press – 5 sets of 5
  • BB Overhead Press – 5 sets of 5
  • Bent over BB Row – 4 sets of 6-8
  • Lat Pull Down – 4 sets of 6-8

Tuesday – Lower Power

  • Squat – 5 sets of 3
  • Front Squat – 5 sets of 5
  • Deadlift – 5 sets of 3
  • Stiff Leg Deadlift – 4 sets of 6-8
  • Seated Leg Extensions – 4 sets of 6-8
  • Seated Hamstring Curls – 4 sets of 6-8

Thursday  – Upper Hypertrophy

  • DB Bench Press – 4 sets of 10-12
  • DB Incline Flyes – 4 sets of 10-12
  • Skull Crushers – 4 sets of 10-12
  • Tricep Pressdown – 4 sets of 10-12
  • DB Lateral Raise – 4 sets of 10-12
  • Plate Front Raise – 4 sets of 10-12
  • Single arm DB Row – 4 sets of 10-12
  • Face Pulls – 4 sets of 10-12

Friday – Lower Hypertrophy

  • Leg Press – 4 sets of 10 – 12
  • Single Leg Press – 4 sets of 10-12
  • Walking Lunges – 4 laps of 12
  • Good Mornings – 4 sets of 10-12
  • DB Deadlifts – 4 sets of 10-12
  • Lying Hamstring Curls – 4 sets of 10-12
  • Calf Raises – 4 sets of 12-15

PPL Example

Here’s an example of what a PPL workout might look like for a week: 

Monday – Push

  • Bench Press – 4 sets of 10
  • DB Overhead Press – 4 sets of 10
  • Chest Press Machine – 4 sets of 10
  • Arnold Press – 4 sets of 10
  • Tricep Cable Pushdown – 4 sets of 12
  • Overhead Tricep Cable Extension – 4 sets of 12

Tuesday – Pull

  • Bent over BB Row – 4 sets of 10
  • Chest Supported DB Row – 4 sets of 10
  • Lat Pulldown or Alternative – 4 sets of 10
  • Standing BB Curl – 4 sets of 12
  • Alternating DB Curl – 4 sets of 8
  • BB Shrugs – 4 sets of 10

Wednesday – Legs

  • Squats – 4 sets of 10
  • Barbell Lunges in place – 4 sets of 10
  • Leg Press – 4 sets of 10, 8, 6, 4
  • Leg extensions – 3 sets of AMRAP
  • Deadlift – 4 sets of 8
  • Stiff leg deadlift – 4 sets of 10
  • Lying hamstring curl – 3 sets of AMRAP

Thursday  – Push

  • Incline Bench Press – 4 sets of 10
  • BB Overhead Press – 4 sets of 8
  • BB Skull Crushers – 4 sets of 12
  • Landmine Press – 4 sets of 10
  • Arnold Press – 4 sets of 12
  • Dips – 4 sets of AMRAP

Friday – Pull

  • Single arm DB Row – 4 sets of 10
  • Cable 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
  • DB Front Raise – 4 sets of 12

Saturday – Legs

  • Leg Press – 4 sets of 10
  • Front Squats – 4 sets of 8
  • Sumo Deadlift – 4 sets of 8
  • Goblet Squats – 4 sets of 10
  • DB Split Squats – 4 sets of 10
  • Walking Lunges – 4 laps (down and back, 12 steps per leg)

Check Out Our Other Training Split Articles


About The Author

Adam Gardner

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.