Training Split Design

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Training Split Design

Your training split refers to how you split up your workouts throughout the week. In other words, a training split is simply your weekly lifting schedule – what muscle groups (or even whole body) to train on what days.

Splitting your routines gives you the opportunity to work more intensely on a specific muscle group within a workout because you have less area to cover (except during whole-body training when you work the entire body each session, so technically you’re not splitting anything up).

The training spit you use will influence factors such as the number of exercise you perform and the total number of sets you do per muscle group. But generally speaking, your training split does not have to influence the type of exercise you choose, the amount of weight used, the number of reps performed, or the amount of rest you allow between sets.

Types of Split Routines

Several types of popular training splits exist. The most common are:

  • whole-body training,
  • lower–upper splits,
  • push–pull routines, and
  • body part splits

These types of workouts are most popular among bodybuilders or individuals striving to maximize muscle hypertrophy. All four workout structures are effective for improving muscular fitness, and it appears that individual goals, time/frequency, and personal preferences often determines which type of workout will be used. The major differences between these structures are the magnitude of specialization observed during each workout (i.e., three to four exercises for a specific muscle group may be performed during a muscle group split routine workout as opposed to one to two exercises for a muscle group in a total-body workout) and the amount of recovery between workouts.

Whole-Body Training Split

During whole-body training, you work the entire body each session, so technically you’re not splitting anything up.

  • Day 1 – Full Body Workout
  • Day 2 – Off
  • Day 3 – Full Body Workout
  • Day 4 – Off
  • Day 5 – Full Body Workout
  • Day 6 – Off
  • Day 7 – Off

This is the routine most beginners start with, and it guarantees great results. You train the entire body during one workout, and then take a day off from training. Do this three times a week, with a day off between each workout. Because you will need to train up to 11 major muscle groups (chest, shoulders, back, quadriceps, hamstrings, biceps, triceps, forearms, trapezius, calves, and abdominals) in each workout, the number of exercises and sets you can do per muscle group is minimal.

Upper and Lower Body Training Split

In lower–upper splits you work half of the body in one session and the other half of the body in the next session. For example, you work legs one session and upper body the next.

  • Day 1 – Upper Body
  • Day 2 – Lower Body
  • Day 3 – Off
  • Day 4 – Upper Body
  • Day 5 – Lower Body
  • Day 6 – Off
  • Day 7 – Off

The advantage of upper- and lower-body training over whole-body training is that you can do more volume for each muscle group with upper- and lower-body training. Because you train fewer muscle groups each workout, you have the time to do more exercises and total sets for each muscle group. This means you can train each muscle group more intensely than with whole-body training. However, this means the muscles will require more rest on an upper- and lower-body training split.

Two-Day Training Split

The two-day training split is very similar to the upper- and lower-body training split. The minor difference is that some upper-body muscle groups are trained with the legs. This is because the upper body is composed of more muscle groups than the lower body. Many weightlifters use a scheme similar to the upper-and lower-body training split, but they train biceps and triceps with legs.

  • Day 1 – Chest, back, shoulders, trapezius, abdominals
  • Day 2 – Quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, biceps, triceps
  • Day 3 – Off
  • Day 4 – Chest, back, shoulders, trapezius, abdominals
  • Day 5 – Quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, biceps, triceps
  • Day 6 – Off
  • Day 7 – Off

Push & Pull Split Routine

Push–pull routines alternate between sessions that work the pushing muscles (quads, chest, shoulders, triceps) with sessions that work the pulling muscles (hamstrings, back, biceps).

  • Day 1 – Push (pushing exercise)
  • Day 2 – Pull (pulling exercises)
  • Day 3 – Off
  • Day 4 – Push (pushing exercises)
  • Day 5 – Pull (pulling exercises)
  • Day 6 – Off
  • Day 7 – Off

Three-Day Split (Push/Pull/Legs Split)

A three-day split entails training the entire body over the course of three workouts. If you want to train each muscle group once a week, you’ll have a total of three workouts per week; if you want to train each muscle group twice a week, it will mean six workout per week. One common way to divide up your training is to use the push-pull-legs split. One day you’ll work all of your major upper-body pushing muscle groups (chest, shoulders, triceps), another day you’ll work all your upper body pulling muscle groups (back and biceps) and the third day you’ll train your legs. The main benefit to training this way is that while you’re doing your pushing movements, your pulling muscles are recovering and vice versa.

  • Day 1 – Push (chest, shoulders, triceps)
  • Day 2 – Pull (back, biceps)
  • Day 3 – Legs (quads, hamstrings, calves) and abs
  • Day 4 – Off
  • Day 5 – Repeat Day 1 (optional)
  • Day 6 – Repeat Day 2 (optional)
  • Day 7 – Repeat Day 3 (optional)

Dividing the body into three separate workouts allows you to further increase the volume that is typically used in whole-body training and upper- and lower-body training splits. This type of split allows you to give each muscle group three to seven days of rest between workouts.

Body Part Splits (Body-Part Training)

Body part splits focus on one or two body parts each session, for example, chest and triceps, back and biceps, legs, or shoulders and traps. The combinations are almost endless.

Many bodybuilders use a split routine system. Bodybuilders perform many exercises for the same body part to encourage hypertrophy. Because this is a time-consuming process, not all parts of the body can be exercised in a single training session. Solving this predicament has led to training various body parts on alternate days—or a split routine.

This system helps minimize the time spent per session, but it means training almost every day.

You can develop variations of a split routine system so that training sessions take place four or five days per week. Even though training sessions are still quite frequent, this allows sufficient recovery of muscle groups between training sessions because body parts are not trained on successive days. The split routine system allows you to maintain a higher intensity of training for a particular muscle group.

Now while the full body and upper/lower splits have other slightly modified versions of what is essentially the same thing, there are actually dozens of different types of body part splits that vary significantly from one to the next in terms of everything from the schedule, to the number of days per week, to the body part pairings, to the training frequency.

a) Four-Day Training Split

With your four-day split, you train your entire body over the course of four days. Because you’re spreading your training more thinly (training fewer muscle groups each workout), this split is ideal for training each muscle group once a week with high volume and intensity.

Example 1:

  • Day 1 – Chest, triceps, abdominals
  • Day 2 – Quadriceps, hamstrings, calves
  • Day 3 – Off
  • Day 4 – Shoulders, trapezius, abdominals
  • Day 5 – Back, biceps, forearm
  • Day 6 – Off
  • Day 7 – Off

Example 2:

  • Day 1 – Chest, biceps, forearms
  • Day 2 – Off
  • Day 3 – Back, triceps, and abs
  • Day 4 – Off
  • Day 5 – Legs
  • Day 6 – Shoulders, trapezius
  • Day 7 – Off

Example 3:

  • Day 1 – Chest and triceps
  • Day 2 – Off
  • Day 3 – Back, biceps, and forearms
  • Day 4 – Off
  • Day 5 – Legs and abs
  • Day 6 – Off
  • Day 7 – Shoulders and traps

Example 4:

  • Day 1 – Chest
  • Day 2 – Off
  • Day 3 – Back and abs
  • Day 4 – Off
  • Day 5 – Legs, shoulders, and trapezius
  • Day 6 – Off
  • Day 7 – Biceps, triceps, and forearms

b) Five-Day Training Split

Training the entire body over the course of five days allows you to train only one muscle group in most workouts. As with the four-day split, the combinations of muscle pairings and choices of which days to train each muscle group are virtually limitless.

Example 1:

  • Day 1 – Shoulders
  • Day 2 – Arms (Biceps and Triceps)
  • Day 3 – Legs
  • Day 4 – Back
  • Day 5 – Chest and Abs
  • Day 6 – Off
  • Day 7 – Off

Of course you can adjust the actual workout and rest days according to your own schedule. The one I’ve shown above works great of you’re a Monday through Friday kind of a guy and want the weekends off.

Example 2:

  • Day 1 – Chest
  • Day 2 – Back
  • Day 3 – Legs and Abs
  • Day 4 – Off
  • Day 5 – Shoulders
  • Day 6 – Arms (Biceps, Triceps, and Forearms)
  • Day 7 – Off

When you take the rest day is not critical because you could essentially take any two days off during the week.

c) Twice-a-Day Training Split

This is a demanding split that offers several advantages for only the most advanced bodybuilders. As the name implies, the twice-a-day training split involves training at two separate times a day. Most bodybuilders who train twice a day train one muscle group earlier in the day and one muscle group later in the day. The break between the two training sessions usually is at least six hours.

Bodybuilders tend to stick to body part splits. Powerlifters tend to stick to lower–upper splits. Olympic lifters and strongmen tend to stick to whole-body training. People who perform solely bodyweight training are drawn toward whole-body training and they develop amazing physiques, as do gymnasts.

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