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Maximizing Hypertrophy: Comparing Upper Lower and Push Pull Legs (PPL) Training

A tattooed man demonstrating gym exercises for push and pull workout routines.
Read Time: 11 minutes

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If you’re looking to build muscle and achieve the best possible results in the gym, you’ve probably stumbled upon the terms “Upper Lower” and “Push Pull Legs” (PPL) training. These two popular workout splits are often debated in the fitness community, each having its own benefits and drawbacks. So, which one is the best for maximizing hypertrophy? In this article, we’ll explore the differences between Upper Lower and Push Pull Legs training and help you decide which method is right for you. By the end, you’ll have all the information you need to make an informed decision and get the most out of your workouts.

Understanding Upper Lower Training

Upper Lower training is a type of workout split that divides the body into two main muscle groups – the upper body and the lower body. This means you’ll typically have one day dedicated to training your upper body (chest, back, shoulders, and arms) and another day for your lower body (legs, glutes, and calves). This approach provides ample recovery time between sessions for each muscle group, allowing for optimal muscle growth and strength gains.

Pros of Upper Lower Training:

  1. Balanced muscle development: By dedicating equal attention to the upper and lower body, you can achieve a well-rounded physique with balanced muscle development.
  2. Adequate recovery time: This split allows enough rest between workouts, ensuring your muscles have time to recover and grow.
  3. Flexibility: Upper Lower training can be easily adapted to fit your schedule and personal preferences, making it a great option for people with varying levels of commitment and available time.

Cons of Upper Lower Training:

  1. Limited training frequency: With only two weekly workouts for each muscle group, some individuals may not see optimal results in hypertrophy and strength gains.
  2. Potential for undertraining: Due to the lower training frequency, there is a risk of not adequately stimulating your muscles for maximum growth.

Understanding Push Pull Legs (PPL) Training

Push Pull Legs training is another popular workout split, which divides the body into three distinct muscle groups: push, pull, and leg. In this method, you’ll have one day dedicated to training your push muscles (chest, shoulders, and triceps), another day for your pull muscles (back and biceps), and a final day for your legs (quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves).

Pros of Push Pull Legs Training:

  1. Increased training frequency: PPL allows for more frequent training of each muscle group, which can lead to better hypertrophy and strength gains.
  2. Focus on muscle function: By grouping muscles based on their function, this split promotes a more targeted and effective approach to training.
  3. Customizable: Like Upper Lower training, PPL can easily adapt to suit your needs and preferences.

Cons of Push Pull Legs Training:

  1. Longer workouts: Due to the increased number of exercises per session, PPL workouts can be lengthy, which may not be ideal for those with limited time.
  2. Recovery: The higher training frequency may not provide adequate recovery time for some individuals, which could hinder muscle growth and increase the risk of injury.

Which Method is Best for Maximizing Hypertrophy?

The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Upper Lower and Push Pull Legs training have their merits, and the best choice for you will depend on your personal goals, preferences, and available time.

Upper Lower training might be the better option for you if you’re a beginner or have limited time to dedicate to the gym. This split offers a balanced approach to muscle development, with ample recovery time between sessions. Additionally, Upper Lower workouts tend to be shorter in duration, making them more manageable for those with busy schedules.

On the other hand, if you’re an intermediate or advanced lifter looking to maximize hypertrophy and strength gains, Push Pull Legs training may be more suitable. The increased training frequency offered by PPL allows for more opportunities to stimulate muscle growth while focusing on muscle function and promotes a targeted and effective approach to training.

Ultimately, choosing a workout split that aligns with your goals, preferences, and lifestyle is important. Whichever method you choose, prioritize consistency, progressive overload, and proper nutrition to ensure the best possible results.

Tips for Maximizing Hypertrophy Regardless of Your Chosen Split

Whether you decide on Upper Lower or Push Pull Legs training, a few key principles can help you maximize hypertrophy and get the best results possible. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Progressive overload: To achieve continuous muscle growth, it’s essential to consistently challenge your muscles with heavier weights, increased volume, or more challenging exercises. Aim to increase your workload gradually, allowing your body to adapt and grow.
  2. Adequate recovery: Giving your muscles enough time to recover between workouts is crucial for hypertrophy. Be mindful of your training frequency, and allow sufficient rest days to promote muscle repair and growth.
  3. Proper nutrition: Consuming a well-balanced diet that provides adequate proteincarbohydrates, and healthy fats is essential for supporting muscle growth. Aim for a daily caloric surplus to fuel your workouts and promote hypertrophy.
  4. Sleep and stress management: Getting quality sleep and managing stress effectively can significantly impact your muscle growth and overall progress. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night and incorporate stress-reducing techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises.
  5. Variety in training: While consistency is key, incorporating variety into your workouts can help prevent plateaus and keep your muscles challenged. Rotate exercises, change rep schemes, and consider implementing drop setssupersets, or rest-pause sets to keep your workouts fresh and engaging.
  6. Patience and persistence: Building muscle takes time and dedication. Stay committed to your training program, and be patient with your progress. Remember that consistency and effort will ultimately lead to results.
  7. Monitor your progress: Regularly track your performance in the gym and changes in your body composition. This will help you identify areas for improvement, make necessary adjustments to your program, and stay motivated on your journey toward maximizing hypertrophy.

By following these principles and adhering to a well-structured workout split, such as Upper Lower or Push Pull Legs training, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your muscle growth goals. Stay committed, listen to your body, and be prepared to put in the work to reap the rewards.

The Role of Cardio in Maximizing Hypertrophy

While resistance training is the primary focus for hypertrophy, incorporating cardio into your routine can also benefit muscle growth and overall fitness. Here’s how to effectively include cardiovascular exercise in your Upper Lower or Push Pull Legs training program:

  1. Cardio for recovery: Light to moderate-intensity cardio, such as brisk walking or cycling, can be performed on rest days or after resistance training sessions. This type of cardio helps promote blood flow and nutrient delivery to your muscles, facilitating recovery and reducing muscle soreness.
  2. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): HIIT involves alternating between short bursts of high-intensity exercise and rest or low-intensity activity periods. This type of cardio can be particularly effective for maximizing hypertrophy, as it helps improve cardiovascular fitness and promotes muscle growth. However, it’s essential to keep HIIT sessions relatively short (20-30 minutes) and allow adequate recovery between sessions to prevent overtraining.
  3. Timing your cardio: To avoid interference with your resistance training, schedule your cardio sessions at least a few hours apart from your weightlifting workouts. Alternatively, you can perform cardio on separate days from your resistance training to ensure that your muscles are fresh and ready for both types of exercise.
  4. Balancing cardio and resistance training: While including cardio in your fitness routine is essential, be mindful not to overdo it. Excessive cardio can hinder muscle growth and recovery, so balancing cardio and resistance training that supports your hypertrophy goals is crucial.

By strategically incorporating cardio into your Upper Lower or Push Pull Legs training program, you can maximize hypertrophy while improving your overall fitness and cardiovascular health.

The Importance of Mobility and Flexibility in Hypertrophy Training

In addition to resistance training and cardio, it’s essential to prioritize mobility and flexibility exercises to support muscle growth and prevent injury. Here’s why these components are crucial for maximizing hypertrophy:

  1. Enhanced muscle function: Good mobility and flexibility allow your muscles to work through their full range of motion, improving the effectiveness of your resistance training exercises and promoting optimal muscle development.
  2. Injury prevention: Incorporating regular mobility and flexibility exercises into your routine can help maintain joint health and reduce the risk of injury, allowing you to continue progressing in your hypertrophy training.
  3. Improved posture and alignment: Poor mobility and flexibility can lead to imbalances and compensations in your movements, negatively impacting your muscle growth and overall performance. Addressing these issues can optimize your posture and alignment, enhancing your hypertrophy results.

Some effective mobility and flexibility exercises to include in your Upper Lower or Push Pull Legs training program are dynamic stretches, yoga, foam rolling, and targeted mobility drills for specific joints and muscle groups.

The Role of Supplementation in Hypertrophy Training

While a well-balanced diet should provide most of the nutrients necessary for maximizing hypertrophy, certain supplements can also support your Upper Lower or Push Pull Legs training program. Here are some popular supplements that may help enhance your muscle growth and overall performance:

  1. Protein powder: Consuming adequate protein is crucial for muscle repair and growth. If you struggle to meet your daily protein needs through whole foods alone, protein powders such as whey, casein, or plant-based options can be a convenient and effective supplement.
  2. Creatine: Creatine is a well-researched supplement that improves strength, power, and muscle mass. By supplementing with creatine, you may experience enhanced performance during your resistance training sessions, leading to increased hypertrophy.
  3. Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs): BCAAs, particularly leucine, stimulate muscle protein synthesis. While BCAAs can be obtained through a balanced diet, supplementing with BCAAs may provide additional support for muscle recovery and growth, especially for those following a plant-based diet or with limited protein intake.
  4. Beta-Alanine: This non-essential amino acid has been shown to enhance muscular endurance and reduce fatigue during high-intensity exercise. By supplementing with beta-alanine, you may be able to perform more reps and sets during your workouts, potentially leading to greater hypertrophy gains.
  5. Pre-workout supplements: Pre-workout supplements often contain caffeine, beta-alanine, and citrulline malate, which may help improve focus, energy, and endurance during your training sessions. This can lead to more productive workouts and better hypertrophy results.

It’s important to remember that supplements should not replace a balanced diet but rather act as an addition to support your training and nutrition goals. Always consult a healthcare professional before introducing new supplements to your regimen. Be sure to prioritize whole foods and proper nutrition as the foundation of your hypertrophy training.


An approach to hypertrophy training that includes a well-structured workout split (such as Upper Lower or Push Pull Legs), proper nutrition, adequate recovery, cardio, mobility and flexibility exercises, and supplementation when necessary can help you maximize your muscle growth potential and achieve your fitness goals. Stay committed, consistent, and patient in your pursuit of hypertrophy, and you’ll be well on your way to creating your ideal physique.


1. Can I combine Upper Lower and Push Pull Legs training for better results?

It’s possible to create a hybrid workout split incorporating Upper Lower and Push Pull Legs training elements. However, ensuring that your hybrid split allows for adequate recovery time between sessions and doesn’t lead to overtraining is essential. Consulting with a fitness professional or personal trainer can help you design an effective hybrid program tailored to your needs and goals.

2. How many times per week should I train each muscle group?

Research suggests that training each muscle group at least twice weekly is optimal for muscle growth and strength gains. Upper Lower and Push Pull Legs splits can be adapted to meet this recommendation. However, individual recovery abilities and other factors can influence the ideal training frequency, so listening to your body and adjusting your program is essential.

3. Can I achieve hypertrophy with other types of workout splits?

Yes, many other workout splits are available, such as full-body workouts, bro splits, and more. The key to maximizing hypertrophy is to ensure that you’re consistently training with progressive overload, allowing for adequate recovery, and consuming a proper diet to support muscle growth.


Schoenfeld, B. J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J. W. (2016). Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine, 46(11), 1689-1697. Link

Editor’s note: The content on Base Strength is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t take the place of advice and/or supervision from a medical professional. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. Speak with your physician if you have any concerns. Please also see our disclaimers.

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