Information on how to run faster, lift stronger and think deeper

Stronglifts or PPL

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Apr 24, 2019 9:30:00 AM

Stronglifts or PPL

Stronglifts or PPL

To compare Stronglifts and PPL is apples and oranges. While Stronglifts is a program PPL is a training method. If you find a Push, pull, legs program to do be aware that they often are biased towards bodybuilding rather than functional fitness. 

Get the free 80 page Stronglifts 5x5 ebook

What is your why 

Before we go into the details of Stronglifts and Push, Pull and Legs let me ask you a couple of questions. We will get to why this is important. 


  • Why do you compare Stronglifts and PPL? 
  • Why do you want to get stronger?
  • Why do you want to build muscle
  • Why is your current body not good enough? 
  • What happens when you achieve your goal?
  • What happens if you don’t 


Take the time to answer these questions on a piece of paper. Think and write the answers down. Compare your notes with you love and the ones you hate. This will help you to learn about yourself and your surroundings. Most people do their research and goal setting based on this template: 


  • What do I want? 
  • How do I get it? 
  • Why do I want it?


While this is the easier thought pattern it is the less likely to get you to success. Most people know what they want. Fewer think in detail about how to get there. Almost none ask deeply why they want that particular thing. 


If you reverse the order of these questions and how you think and communicate it becomes a lot more powerful:


  • Why do You want something? 
  • How do You get it? 
  • What do You need to do to get it? 


With this approach, you are way more likely to develop the drive and dedication that it takes to overcome bumps in the road. If you are not convinced by now look up Simon Sinek's TED talk on the golden circle. He makes a very compelling case telling the story of the Wright brothers. 




Stronglifts is one of the most popular beginner programs for strength and muscle development. You will train three times a week. The exercises you will do are:



You will squat each session. All other exercises will be rotated. The aim is to complete five sets of five repetitions for each exercise except the deadlift. The deadlift is programmed in with 1x5 per week. All exercises start from an empty barbell except the row and deadlift. 


When you complete the 5x5 complex you go up in weight for the exercise. If you fail more than three times in a row you deload 10% and start over. The free Stronglifts 5x5 app is a great way to track your progress. If you want more details on the program read my extensive Stronglifts review. 


The biggest advantages of Stronglifts are its simplicity and effectiveness. You will get daily feedback on how well you have done. The program is rewarding and gets you hooked on lifting fast. If you stick to it you will get results. Overall a simple program that almost does what it says on the tin. 


The biggest disadvantages of Stronglifts are its lack of specificity and marketing. If you are very small and light or big and strong Stronglifts might not be for you. The first group will overtrain while the second will undertrain. Also, take the statements about muscle growth on the Stronglifts website with a grain of salt. Unless you supplement testosterone, you are brimming with natural testosterone or have some genetical mutation it is very unlikely that you make the massive gains described. You will make gains just don’t expect to look like hulk after a year. 




PPL stands for push pull legs. Rather than it being a program like Stronglifts, it is a training principle which can be applied to many programs. Some also refer to PPL routines as split routines.


With push, pull, legs you divide exercises into three groups which are 


  1. Chest, Shoulder, and triceps 
  2. Back and biceps 
  3. Legs 


These are trained on three different days. This is a very classic approach to training which isolates certain areas of the body per session. This has gotten less popular over the last few years with the rise of functional fitness. CrossFit would be the antithesis to PPL.


The biggest advantage of push, pull, legs is that you are focusing on one part of your bids at a moment. This means More focus and less complexity of movement for each session. Bodybuilders see good results on this split.


The biggest point against push, pull, legs is that they are not functional. This means that isolating muscles in a machine is not how our bodies move. Again bodybuilders are often referred to. While their physiques look strong they often lack the strength or endurance their physique would suggest. 


Should you do Stronglifts or PPL


It completely depends on your goals. This is why the first exercise is so important. Figure out why you want something and it will become a lot easier to pick the right program. 


That being said comparing PPL and Stronglifts is a case of oranges and apples. You could even turn Stronglifts into a PPL program if you shuffled the specific exercises around a bit. 


The decision between Stronglifts and PPL is more about whether you are mainly interested in looks or performance. If your main goal is to look better veer towards PPL programs. Shortcut to size is a good one to start with. If you want performance go with functional programs with a focus on compound movements like Stronglifts


Further reading 




Topics: Lift stronger, Stronglifts 5x5, Fitness, Strength, Powerlifting, Bodybuilding, Strongman