Posted by Derek Charlebois on

The original PR-BUILDING PROGRAM consisted of a 4-Day Upper Body/Lower Body split with muscle groups/movement patterns being trained every 3-4 days. In this article, I will outline a lower frequency variation of that setup in the form of Push/Pull/Legs split. This is the current training schedule I am personally using. If you haven’t checked out the PR-BUILDING PROGRAM yet, go do so now as that article contains information and terms that will be applied here.


A Push/Pull/Legs split consists of three workouts:

  1. Push = Chest/Shoulder/Tricep movements
  2. Pull = Back/Biceps movements (could also include Deadlifts depending on your goals/needs)
  3. Legs = Quadricep/Hamstring/Calf movements


If training 4 days per week, each workout (muscle group/movement pattern) is trained every 5-6 days. This decreased frequency is beneficial if your joints and connective tissue get beat up with a 4-day Upper Body/Lower Body split. This especially applies if your lower back can’t handle that frequency.

Schedule flexibility is another benefit of this split. If the number of days you can train changes every week, you can adjust this setup to fit your schedule without getting off track.

By the end of the 3 weeks, you were still able to complete all 12 of the workouts even though you only trained 3 days the second week.

Before I get into the full programs, please note that the 3 workouts can be performed in any order desired:

  • Push/Pull/Legs
  • Push/Legs/Pull
  • Pull/Push/Legs
  • Pull/Legs/Push
  • Legs/Push/Pull
  • Legs/Pull/Push


Training Program Option 1

In option #1, squats and deadlifts will be performed on the same day. This is a great setup for someone with lower back issues as it isolates the lower back intensive exercises to one day. This program is very similar to what I am currently following.

Training Program Option 2

In option #2, deadlifts will be performed on the Pull day.  

This option is good if you find your deadlift performance suffers after squats or you simply want to focus more on deadlifts.

Repetitions in Reserve (RIR) 

RIR = the number of repetitions shy of failure.

  • 0 = 0 repetitions shy of failure; concentric failure hit.
  • 1 = 1 repetition shy of failure; could complete 1 more repetition.
  • 2 = 2 repetitions shy of failure; could complete 2 more repetitions.


Key Notes

  • The RIR listed is for your first work set.
  • The goal is to use the same weight for all of the sets listed.
  • Only the last set is taken to failure
  • Failure = cannot complete another rep on your own


If an exercise is to be performed for 3 sets of 12 reps with a RIR of 2, for your first working set, you should use a weight that allows you to complete 12 reps with 2 reps left in the tank (2 reps shy of failure). Theoretically, this would lead to failure being hit on rep 12 of the third set (that may or may not always be the case). In order to maximize performance (i.e. the number of reps you can complete of all the sets), we are only trying to take the LAST set for each exercise to failure. Therefore, if you can perform more than the target number of reps on your final set, you can complete more reps to take that set to failure.


Continuing with the above example, if you complete 12 reps in set 1 and could have completed more than 2 more reps, the weight was too light, and the set does not count towards your work sets. You should increase the weight. If you complete 12 reps and the set was taken to failure, the set does indeed count towards your work sets, but you should decrease the weight for the next set to ensure you can complete 12 reps.


Note if you estimate your RIR incorrectly and complete more/less than your target reps on a specific set, that isn’t too big of a deal. An example would be if you completed 12 reps in set #1 and thought you could have completed 2 more reps but on set #2 you were only able complete 10 reps with the same weight. You are still training intensely so all is good. The target reps and RIR are there to give you structure and progression, but don’t stress on hitting these parameters PERFECTLY.


Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

RPE is similar to RIR but based more on how you FEEL than the actual number of repetitions you can perform. RPE is a rating system based on the subjective measure of your strength/performance at a given time (i.e. specific set/workout). You decide how hard a set feels and assign it a rating on a scale of 1-10; the higher the number, the higher the perceived exertion. Using the RPE scale allows you to auto-regulate your training intensity (weight lifted) based on your immediate performance.



  • 10 = AN ALL-OUT MAX ATTEMPT! Could not lift any heavier and could not complete any more reps.
  • 9.5 = Close to an all-out max attempt/set but could probably lift a little heavier.
  • 9 = Close to an all-out max attempt/set but could lift a little heavier and/or complete another rep.
  • 8 = a relatively challenging weight/set but could definitely lift heavier and/or complete more reps with the weight.
  • 7 = sufficiently heavy, but not overly challenging.


Repeating the Program

This program can be repeated as many times as desired. When repeating the program, your goal is to lift 5-10 lbs heavier than you did the previous time. For example, if you were able to hit the following on bench press during week 1:

Set 1 @ 7 RPE = 225 X 6

Set 2 @ 8 RPE = 245 X 6

Set 3 @ 9 RPE = 265 X 6


Your goal for week 1 (round 2) could be:

Set 1 @ 7 RPE = 235 X 6

Set 2 @ 8 RPE = 255 X 6

Set 3 @ 9 RPE = 275 X 6


Apply this concept to all exercises where possible. Consistent, gradual increases in weight lifted and reps completed leads to long-term progress and gains.

Before you leave, don't forget to get your nutrition in order with our PR-BUILDING MACROS article. 

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