Monday, May 16, 2016

Why I'm Not a Fan of Upper/Lower Splits


An oversimplified definition of an upper/lower split simply means working muscles or muscle groups below the waist one day and muscles or muscle groups above the waist the next day.

Keep in mind that this is a personal opinion. Millions of people swear by them including pros and coaches and other trainers. So, before you drop an upper/lower split or shy away from an upper/lower program, see if my reasoning and experience with upper/lower splits  fits your situation. You may find they work great for you.

My issues with upper/lower splits fall into two categories; physiological and psychological


The muscles of the lower body are, as a whole, the largest in the human body (quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves) and some(like the calves) are some of the hardest to train. And all need to be trained heavy and hard to see progress. Blasting you lower body correctly for 60 to 75 minutes in a single workout consumes a lot of energy. It also takes a heavy toll on your central nervous system and your endocrine system. The larger muscles of the leg normally take longer to recover anyway.

Do you feel totally recovered the next day for your upper body workout? If not, you’re short changing half of your workouts. Do you have the energy to give your upper body the intensity you need to? Or are you still dragging a little from the lower body workout?


How’s your mental state on leg day? Are you dreading it? Do excuses come a little too easy on leg day? How often do you find an excuse to skip it? Everyone has a life outside the gym. But does life seem to get in the way more often on leg day? Funny how it seems to work out that way, isn’t it?

When was the last time you skipped “Arm Day”?

I’m not trying to talk you out of using an upper/lower split program. An upper/lower split can be extremely effective for some people. I simply want you to pay attention to the signs I’ve found indicating an upper/lower split may not be the most effective split for you.

Here are a couple of ideas if you recognize any of the symptoms I mentioned:

  • Try to work in an extra day of rest after your lower body workout. (active rest)
  • As an alternative, split up you lower body day into two workouts. You’ll probably find you can actually get in more volume this way and still not burn out your CNS. (Central Nervous System)
  • Pair up you leg workouts with another body part you really enjoy. (arms, for example) You’ll probably find you’ll be less likely to skip “leg days”.

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