Training Splits, Explained.

Training splits provide you a framework to being to program your own training. At the end of the day, splits are just a way to organize your training, and ensure you’re getting the right amount of weekly volume for each muscle group while giving yourself enough time between workouts in order to recover.

As a side note, these weekly plans I’ve laid are just one option of how to run these splits, and are dependant on how many times you’d like to hit the gym.

Push / Pull / Legs

Also just called Push/Pull, this training split focuses on muscles that push one day, pull the next, and finally legs. On pull day, focus on back and biceps. For push day, focus on chest, shoulders, and triceps. For leg day, well, you get it.

Weekly Plan:

  • Monday: Push
  • Tuesday: Pull
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Push
  • Saturday: Pull
  • Sunday: Legs

Advantages:

  • Similar muscles groups are worked together, making for a shorter gym session. For example, the bench will work chest, shoulders, and triceps.
  • You have the option to add isolation work on any of these muscle groups for additional weekly volume.
  • You won’t run into any issues working opposing muscle groups (antagonist vs. agonist muscles) in the same set if you decide to superset.
  • There will be a minimum of overlap between workouts, so muscles will have a good amount of time to rest.

Disadvantages:

  • If you’re looking for higher volume, it’s difficult to have optimal weekly sets as you’re only hitting each muscle group twice per week. If you wanted to go high volume, you’d need to do ~10 sets per muscle group per workout.
  • It can be difficult with this split to have less than 6 and more than 3 weekly workouts. Combining push / pull with upper / lower can get you to 5 weekly workouts.
  • Recovery can be difficult with the 6 day per week option, so you need to be careful and optimize that sleep!

Upper / Lower

The upper / lower split is a fairly easy way to to program and is basically what it sounds like. On upper day, you work your back, chest, shoulders, triceps, and biceps. On lower day, you work your hamstrings, quads, glutes, and calves. This split can be used in a 2, 3, 4, or 6 day per week options.

Weekly Plan:

  • Monday: Upper
  • Tuesday: Lower
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Upper
  • Friday: Lower
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

Advantages:

  • I believe that the best use of this split is if you’re doing cross training with another exercise, especially if you’re doing any kind of cardio training. Because you’re only hitting the gym 4 times per week, you have a few extra days to do other things. This is even more true if you change the number of days.
  • There is absolutely no overlap day to day, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally hitting the same muscle group twice.

Disadvantages:

  • You have to be careful here on ensuring you have enough recovery time between workouts to prevent fatigue. If you find yourself not being able to lift as much as previously in the week consistently, you may need to reduce your volume.
  • There aren’t many disadvantages here, unless you just don’t like scheduling your workouts this way. There are quite a few options that all have their own pros/cons.

Bro Split(s)

This seems to be more of a category than an actual defined split, but they all are fairly similar. The concept is to work one muscle group each day.

Weekly Plan:

  • Monday: Chest
  • Tuesday: Back
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Thursday: Shoulders
  • Friday: Biceps / Triceps
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

Advantages:

  • If your goal is to do strictly isolation work, this is a great option for you.
  • If you have any muscle imbalances or weaknesses, this split allows you to focus on specific muscle groups one at a time.
  • You get two rest days!
  • Recovery time between workouts of similar muscle groups is huge.

Disadvantages:

  • It’s very difficult to accumulate enough weekly volume effectively
  • It takes a full week to work out the same muscle group twice
  • People will call you a bro

Total Body

To be honest, this is my favorite place to start as it gives you the most options. It’s exactly what you think, you just work your whole body (or parts of it) every workout.

Weekly Plan:

  • Monday: Total Body
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Total Body
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Total Body
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Total Body

Advantages:

  • You have a ton of options, and you’re free to program almost however you like.
  • You can focus on compound exercises on a specific day, and then avoid sore muscle groups the next workout.
  • You can program exactly as much volume as you like or need.

Disadvantages:

  • If you’re not familiar with programming, this is a difficult place to start.
  • It’s easy to overdue your training, especially for beginners.

Conclusion

This is the difficult part, as there isn’t a clear winner or loser. Landing on the pros and cons was even fairly difficult, as it depends on your unique goals and lifestyle. It’s really a personal decision, and as long as your getting results that you’re happy with, you’re doing great.

If you have any thoughts about any of these splits, I’d love to hear them. If you’d like me to dig in deeper and give examples of what each workout might look like, let me know. Comment below!

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