Monday, October 19, 2015

What are the Best Workout Splits


First let’s define “splits”:  Splits are simply your planned training schedule. What exercises you plan to do on each of your workout days.

I’m no mathematician, but considering there are seven days in a week and 6 or 7 major muscle groups I come up with 98,280 possible splits. I have no idea if that is correct (probably not) and it really doesn’t matter but it serves to show that there are a “bunch” of possibilities!

For very advanced lifters and professionals the numbers of permutations are much larger. So let’s stick to beginner and intermediate.

There are no “best” splits. Different splits work for different people depending on experience, age, body type, goals, time availability and other factors. So let’s discuss the most popular/common splits.

First we need to impose some very important rules: 

1.       Any given workout should not exceed 60 to 75 minutes in length. Anything past that and the effectiveness of your workout becomes almost nonexistent. Your energy levels drop, your glycogen(what your body uses for fuel) is depleted, your concentration breaks down, your form gets sloppy and your muscles start to feed on themselves. If your workout runs longer than this your rest periods are likely too long or you are just wasting too much time.
2.       You need a minimum of 48 hours between workouts for any given muscle group to properly recover. Major muscle groups, particularly your legs, may need longer recovery. (Remember we’re talking about beginner and intermediate lifters)
3.        Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) needs to dissipate. In other words, don’t work out a muscle group if you are still experiencing severe soreness.
4.       Limit the number of sets you perform to the 21 to 31 range.
5.       Number of sets per exercise is normally 3 to 6 in order to get sufficient volume of work per muscle group

Let’s also define the typical muscle groups:

1.       Chest
2.       Back
3.       Legs
4.       Arms
5.       Shoulders
6.       Abs

Common splits and pros and cons

You’ll see the different split called different things but I’m going to be giving a description instead.
The examples show 5 days a week for workouts but all splits can be applied to 6 days if you have the time and are able to recover properly. Remember, your muscle and/or strength don’t grow during your workout…they grow during recovery if you give them adequate stimulus during the workouts.

Full body split- You work all muscle groups in the same workout. Not recommended for more than 3x per week with at least one day rest in between workouts.
A full body split is efficient if you have a schedule that will only accommodate 2 or 3 workouts a week. However, it’s difficult to get sufficient volume in your workout to be at maximum effectiveness.

One day per week for each body part or muscle group- The opposite extreme from the full body split.
For example:

Friday- Shoulders and Abs

I do use and recommend this split for absolute “newbies” for the first few weeks to allow the body to adjust, help eliminate the severe DOMS that is likely to occur and allow the neurological system to catch up. For some older people who may need more recovery time. And for “deload” weeks (a short break from heavy lifting or overtraining). It also allows you to get increased volume in your workout.
The cons over the long term are that if you don’t need the extra recovery time you may be leaving possible gains on the table.

Upper-Lower split- A Typical schedule would be;
Upper Body-Monday
Lower Body-Tuesday
Rest Day-Wednesday
Upper Body-Thursday
Lower Body-Friday
Rest Days-Saturday and Sunday
A good workable split with the only cons being the difficulty of working all upper body groups (chest, back, arms, shoulders) with sufficient volume.

Opposing body parts- Usually alternating two opposing body parts on the same day
Monday-Chest and back
Tuesday- Biceps and triceps
Wednesday –Flexible
Thursday-Quads and Hamstrings
Friday- Shoulders and abs and Calves
“Flexible” on Wednesday allows a day for cardio or to work on bringing up lagging muscle groups. Just alter the other days to allow adequate recovery before working those lagging muscle groups again. I also prefer to not schedule squats and dead lifts on the same day.

Push/ Pull- Alternate workouts between “pushing” and “pulling” exercises.
Pushing-bench press (in all its forms), shoulder/military press, tricep pushdowns, squats, leg press
Pulling-dead lift, pull ups, T-bar row, seated row, bicep curls, lat pull downs, bent over row

Supporting Muscle Groups-Working the supporting muscles in conjunction with the major muscle group.
As examples, the triceps support movement related to the chest and biceps support movement related to the back. You can’t push with your upper body without engaging the tricep and you can’t pull with the upper body without engaging the bicep.

So the split might look like this:
Monday-Chest, shoulders and triceps
Tuesday- Back and biceps, traps
Wednesday- Legs, abs
Thursday- Chest, shoulders and triceps
Friday- Back and biceps, traps
( I schedule squats and dead lifts on different days- Squats with legs and dead lifts with back)

The above is probably the most common split of all. You are getting sufficient volume and sufficient recovery time between the workouts of each muscle group. You have extra recovery time for legs (the largest muscle groups in the body (quads, hamstrings, glutes).

Ok. I described 6 forms of splits. That only leaves 98,274 more for you to explore.

SEND YOU QUESTIONS TO  If I don’t have an answer I’ll try to find someone who does.


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