Split training: Effective training method or not?

 Split training is a great way to add variety and structure to your workout. But what exactly is a training split and how can it be useful for your training program?



What is a split workout and which one is best for me?

Split training is simply a way of dividing your training sessions into different parts of the body. Workout splits are typically used in weightlifting, but can also be used in bodyweight training. There is no one size fits for the best training split. Your training split depends on your goals, your training age, your schedule, and how much time you plan to spend in the gym. In this post, we will introduce you to the most popular training splits so that you can decide which one is best for you.


Why is split training important?

Split training gives you a path to a specific goal. There's no NFL quarterback who doesn't watch an opposing team's movie or chat with his O-line before stepping on the field - the same concept applies to bodybuilders and strength athletes in general.


But the importance of split training goes beyond mental clarity - it has also been proven to produce better results. A survey of 127 bodybuilders who competed found that every one of them was doing a workout split.


This is because the importance of a training plan has been emphasized since the beginning of bodybuilding. Steve Reeves and Eugen Sandow developed their own training plans to shape a body that is considered by many to be the pinnacle of bodybuilding to this day.


They studied how their bodies responded to a different exercise and recovery times, figured out what worked best for them, and stuck with it.


So without a plan, your countless hours in the gym will come to nothing. When you develop a training plan, you can select specific muscles and use them to the full. Then you give them enough time to relax and prepare for the next training session.

This calculated approach allows you to exercise with maximum effort.


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How do you choose the best program?

When choosing a workout split, the first thing you should think about is what you want to achieve, but there are other things to keep in mind.


The amount of time you spend is an important factor. If you have a busy schedule, a six-day split may not be the best solution for you.


Your training experience is another important factor. Let's say you're a real beginner - then you should keep your training sessions light so as not to overload your muscles. A seasoned strength athlete, on the other hand, will likely need more stimuli to get the results they want, and so will likely look for a program that involves spending more days in the gym each week.


Finally, you should also pay attention to your weaknesses. What do you mean with that? If your weakness is an underdeveloped core, you should opt for training that is more aesthetic than strength-based. Some splits are better suited for this than others.


How workout splits are organized

Ultimately, your training split depends on what goal you are pursuing. For example, someone who trains to improve their athleticism will have a different split than someone who focuses solely on strength. There are three main training sessions, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

These are:

- Body part training splits
- A training split upper / lower body
- A training split for push, pull and legs

Body part training split

With a body part workout split, you train one to three body parts per training session, twice a week. This option is very popular with bodybuilders because body part splits allow you to train the muscles more often for more growth.

The main goal of a bodybuilder is to have a completely symmetrical physique with full muscle development. For this reason, most bodybuilders combine a larger muscle like the chest with a related smaller muscle like the triceps. Since both muscles work together in compound exercises like the bench press and push-ups, it makes sense to train them together. Other standard body part split pairings are the back and biceps, and the legs and shoulders. A training split for one body part could look like this.

Example of a body part workout split


  • Monday: chest and triceps
  • Tuesday: back and biceps
  • Wednesday: legs and shoulders
  • Thursday: break
  • Friday: chest and triceps
  • Saturday: back and biceps
  • Sunday: legs and shoulders

It usually takes around 48 hours of rest for the muscles to recover. If you look at the breakdown above, you'll find that each muscle group is given three days (or 72 hours) of rest. In some cases, a bodybuilder looking to make up for a weak spot can exercise that muscle three times a week by hanging it on a less strenuous day.

Benefits of a shared body part workout


- You concentrate on two muscles during the entire training session.
- Allows a full recovery.
- Less equipment is required during the training session.
- You are less tired because you do not use multiple muscles.



Disadvantages of a body part workout split


- If you miss a training session, it will take longer to catch up.
- You can get impatient while waiting for a particular training session.
- Some parts of the body may recover faster than others.

Upper / lower training split

In the case of an upper / lower body split, the training is divided into days with a focus on the upper body and days with a focus on the lower body. This breakdown is great for beginners, people on tight schedules, and those looking to get stronger. He's forcing the lifter to prioritize the basics and remove the fat from their program.

If you are working out more muscles per workout, you have to be picky about the exercises. An upper body workout targets not only the chest and triceps but also the biceps, shoulders and back. Instead of doing four to five chest exercises, only do one or two movements per body part or you risk fatigue and injury.

That's why we recommend focusing on compound movements, that is, exercises that involve more than one muscle. Isolation exercises (or exercises for a single joint) such as: B. Curls, chest lifts, and side lifts should be scrutinized first.

That's not to say that these exercises are useless, but they offer less value for your money. An upper body day can include the bench press, barbell row, military press, and pull-ups. If you train hard enough, you won't be able to spend a lot of energy on the smaller muscles.

One benefit of breaking up into upper and lower muscles is that you spend less time in the gym. You condense your workload into four shorter, if more concentrated, units per week. Don't worry about your strength level either. You can also get strong, if not stronger, with less exercise.

Bodybuilders might shy away from this split, however, because the volume is lower, meaning you are doing fewer reps per week. With the body part split, there is more room for additional exercises - not so much with this split.

Example of a division of the upper / lower body training


  • Monday: upper body
  • Tuesday: lower body
  • Wednesday: break
  • Thursday: upper body
  • Friday: lower body
  • Saturday and Sunday: break

Benefits of upper / lower body training


- You're less in the gym.
- You continue to train each muscle twice a week.
- You can work on increasing the most important lifts.


Disadvantages of split training for the upper and lower body


- There is less volume per workout.

Push, pull, legs split training

This workout split is similar to the upper / lower split. The main difference is that in a PPL split, upper body workout is divided into two categories: pulling and pushing. This split is common in the powerlifting community because it allows them to base their program on the “big three” - bench press (push), deadlift (pull), and squat (legs).

In addition, the training frequency is very scalable. Busy lifters can exercise vigorously (that is, with more exercises for more sets and reps) three times a week. People who want to go to the gym more often can decrease the volume per session and do each workout twice a week. You can also train four times a week and add an extra session of pushing, pulling, or legs (depending on what you need to work on).

If you choose the six days of training per week option, you should carefully choose your training intensity and exercises. During the first three workouts, you can prefer the “big three” and lift heavier weights (these are your strength training sessions). The last three workouts can be done at high volume to strengthen the smaller muscles like the biceps, shoulders, and triceps (these are your hypertrophy workouts).

Six days of training is a lot, so don't overdo it. Let's say you are a powerlifter or strength athlete. In this case, you can use training sessions three to six to focus on alternatives to the "big three", e.g. B. the squat, the deficit deadlift and the floor press.

Example of a breakdown of training into pushing, pulling and legs


  • Monday: push (heavy bench press)
  • Tuesday: Pull (Heavy Deadlift)
  • Wednesday: legs (heavy squat)
  • Thursday: break
  • Friday: Press (high volume or alternatively bench press)
  • Saturday: Pull (high volume or alternatively deadlift)
  • Sunday: legs (high volume or alternatively squats)

The aforementioned studies have all found that push/pull/legs are a viable option for muscle growth and strength gains. You work each muscle twice a week, giving the muscles enough time between workouts to recover and prepare for the next workout.

Benefits of push, pull, legs


- The focus is on training specific muscles.
- Sufficient recovery time.

Disadvantages of push, push, legs


- Less scope for changes to fix vulnerabilities.
- More time in the gym.
- More equipment is needed.

As an alternative, as a beginner you can also use the following split training:

  • Monday: chest, arms
  • Tuesday: break
  • Wednesday: back, shoulders
  • Thursday: break
  • Friday: legs
  • Saturday: break
  • Sunday: break

This training week can also consist of 4-5 exercises, 3-4 sets and 8-15 repetitions.


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