PPL Once a Week: Enough Muscle Growth or Missing the Mark?

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You can certainly do PPL once a week, although this isn’t the best option for optimal muscle growth. If you only have 3 days a week to train you will be better off doing a full body workout. PPL is typically best done 6 days a week, as this allows you to hit each muscle group twice per week.

PPL Will Always Be Best Twice a Week

A Muscular Man Performing Dumbbell Bicep Curls in the Gym

If I’m being brutally honest, there are both advantages and disadvantages to training PPL just once a week.

As a beginner in the gym you’ll generally want to only be training 3 days a week anyway.

And realistically, this is all you should be doing for at least your first 2-3 months of training.

If you think about it, you are literally going from doing no exercise to doing something.

However, as your body, mind, and muscles aren’t used to the stresses and strains of lifting weights, it makes a lot of sense to have more rest and recovery days than workout days.

That being said, from a personal perspective, I would always say that PPL should be performed twice a week, so for 6 days a week.

But, as I’ve just mentioned, as a beginner you definitely shouldn’t be training 6 days a week.

In truth, you’ll actually be doing more harm than good by trying to train this much as a beginner.

So, in my mind, as an intermediate or advanced lifter you should be aiming to hit each muscle group more often.

Therefore, a 6-day PPL is the way forward.

But, as a beginner, there are definitely better options for training just 3 days a week.

The Best 3-Day Workout Split

Personally, I believe that if you only have 3 days a week to train, then you’d be better off with a full-body workout.

And this is regardless of whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced lifter.

In fact, even the great Arnold Schwarzenegger started out full-body workouts.

So, you obviously don’t need me to tell you that if it’s good enough for Arnie, it’s definitely good enough for the rest of us.

“Don’t underestimate the power of full body workouts! They can be incredibly effective for building functional strength, burning calories, and keeping your workouts interesting. Plus, they’re a great way to stay active even when you have a busy schedule.”

Jamie Eason, Fitness Model and Trainer

There are of course a number of ways to perform three full-body workouts a week.

Obviously, the right option for you is a workout routine that suits your training goals.

However, as I’ve mentioned, optimal muscle-building typically occurs if you can hit the muscle groups twice a week.

This is actually perfectly feasible by performing a full-body workout three times a week.

In effect, you could actually end up performing push/pull/legs each and every workout.

But, of course, it would make sense to change the exercises up a little for variation, as well as hitting the muscles from a number of angles.

I would also say that your main focus should be compound exercises if you’re only training three times a week.

So, as much as we all love arm training, pumping up bicep curls and tricep pushdowns multiple times a week will not produce the best size and strength goals.

Therefore, you would be better off perhaps focusing on five basic exercises each workout.

So, this would probably look something like:

  • Quad-focused exercise, e.g Barbell back squat.
  • Glute and hamstring-focused exercise, e.g. Romanian deadlift
  • Push-focused exercise with horizontal torso, e.g. Bench press
  • Pull-focused exercise with a vertical torso, e.g. Pull ups
  • Core-focused exercise, e.g. planks

On your next workout you would change your exercise selection.

Plus, you would change your push/pull torso position, e.g. vertical torso push – overhead press, horizontal torso pull – bent-over row.

Consider the Bro-Split

Okay, this does kinda go against what I’ve said.

Plus, I’m not particularly a fan of the bro-split.

This is mainly because you WON’T be hitting each muscle group more than once a week.

However, I know for a fact that many people will swear by the bro-split and will categorically state this is when they achieved their best gains.

So, I guess it’s a case of, “each to their own”.

“The bro split can be effective for building muscle, especially for beginners. However, it’s crucial to ensure proper exercise selection, progressive overload, and adequate recovery to avoid plateaus and injuries.”

Menno Henselmans, Strength & Conditioning Coach

Just because I’m not a fan, this doesn’t mean that it won’t work for you.

You must remember that we are all different to each other, and therefore our body’s typically react differently to training stimulus.

That being said, you could actually perform the bro-split, while keeping your workouts shorter than a traditional PPL split.

However, this also means that you’ll be training 5 days a week, as opposed to three.

So, this obviously comes down to how much time you have available to train on a weekly basis.

Something else I often try to do is to aim to perform a certain number of sets per muscle group on a weekly basis.

I still maintain that hitting the muscle groups twice a week is best for hypertrophy, but you obviously don’t have this option with the bro-split.

That being said, my aim is to hit the largest muscle groups with 10-12 sets and the smaller muscle groups with 6-8 sets.

Furthermore, as you’re performing a bro-split, you don’t need to solely focus on purely compound exercises.

So, as an example my shoulder day may look as follows:

  • Military Press – 4 sets of 5 reps
  • Arnold Press – 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Lateral Raise – 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Rear Delt Flye – 2 sets of 15 reps

So, even though you’re only hitting your shoulders once a week, you’ll definitely be getting a decent amount of volume.

Plus, you also get to hit each training protocol, i.e. strength, hypertrophy, and muscular endurance, in the same workout.

Key Learning Points

  • Yes, you can do Push/Pull/Legs once a week.
  • However, PPL is best suited to a 6-day workout split.
  • Performing 3 full body workouts, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Golden Six” workout, would be better if you only have 3 days a week to train.
  • If you can train more often than 3 days a week, but don’t wish to train for 6, consider the bro-split.

Next, check out what I have to say about PPL potentially being better than an upper/lower body split.

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