The Best Training Split – What Works for You

This has to be one of the most controversial topics when you talk to someone who works out.

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First, for anyone who is wondering a training split is how you split up your workouts throughout the week. Some people split it by muscle groups, some by upper body and lower body, and even some that do full body workouts every other day.

I will touch base on some more common splits and let you decide what works best for you. Remember, in the end all that matters is what is working for you. If you are seeing positive results how can someone tell you that you aren’t doing it correctly?

Full Body

Typically with a full body workout split you would workout every other day with an off day between and then take weekends off or have an active recovery day. This split is great for people with really busy schedules that only have time to workout 2 to 3 days per week. Depending on the amount of work done, muscle tissue can repair itself in as little as 24 hours so increasing the training frequency and decreasing the volume is a good way to provide additional stimulus to the muscle.

Since you are only doing one exercise per muscle group in the full body workout it is best to perform compound exercises that target all the major muscle groups; legs, chest, back, glutes, and then work in a shoulder exercise. Your other muscles; biceps, triceps, calves and abs, get a work out from these compound movements so they only need an isolation exercise every other workout.

  • Upper body compound pull
  • Upper body compound push
  • Lower body compound
  • Shoulder exercise
  • Isolation exercise for 2 of the following, biceps, triceps, calves, abs

An example could be:

Monday, Wednesday, Friday

  • Lat pulldowns
  • Bench press
  • Lunges
  • Military press
  • Bicep curls or standing calf raise
  • Tricep french press or hanging leg raise

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday Off

Sunday Active Recovery Day

Upper Body / Lower Body

There are a couple of ways an upper body / lower body training split can work. Either you have one workout for upper body and one for lower body and you alternate back and forth with off days between, or you can have two workouts for each and cycle through them and mix up your off days.

Both of these work great for a 4 times per week schedule and can be changed to suit your needs. I like this split when it contains strength days and metabolic stress days. On the strength days you would perform compound exercises with a weight that would have you fail in 5-6 reps. Then on the metabolic stress days you perform different compound exercises with a weight that would have you fail in the 10-15 rep range.

This is just an example, feel free to change out any of the exercises or only have two workouts that you alternate between.

Monday Upper Body Strength

Complete 4 sets of 4-6 reps for each

  • Bench press
  • Bent over row
  • Military press
  • Weighted chin-up

Tuesday Lower Body Strength

Complete 4 sets of 4-6 reps for each

  • Bulgarian split squat
  • Deadlift
  • Glute/Ham developer
  • Hack squat

Wednesday Off

Thursday Upper Body Hypertrophy

Complete 3 sets of 8-12 reps for each

  • DB bench press
  • DB bent over row
  • DB standing military press
  • Lat pulldown
  • Bicep curl
  • Tricep pushdown

Friday Lower Body Hypertrophy

Complete 3 sets of 8-12 reps for each

  • Front Squat
  • Romanian deadlift
  • Swiss ball hamstring curl
  • Walking lunges
  • Calf raises

Saturday Off

Sunday Active Recovery Day

Push / Pull Split

Lots of people enjoy the push / pull split. Its similar to the last two splits in that it offers the chance for a high frequency of training each muscle group since every muscle group is covered in only two workouts. You could do back-to-back days with one day off and then back-to-back days again.

The push day would consist of exercises that are dedicated to pushing and pressing movements.(i.e. quads, chest, triceps and shoulders). While the pulling day would consist of training the muscles dedicated to pulling movements (i.e. hamstrings, back and biceps).

I won’t give an exact example since you already have lots of exercises for the muscle groups, your week could be laid out like this:

Monday and Thursday – Push Day

Tuesday and Friday – Pull Day

Wednesday and Saturday – Off

Sunday – Active Rest Day

Bodybuilder “Bro” Split

This style of workout split is normally reserved for the more experienced lifters that have realized some pretty good gains and are now looking to maximize them, typically the body builder types. However, it is more old school and worked for guys like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronnie Coleman but as you’ll read later science has since proven it may not be the best workout split to maximize hypertrophy. Affectionately named the “Bro” split because of all the bro’s in the gym that will tell you this is the best and only way to get big.

Now that isn’t true in the sense that it isn’t the only way, these will all work in their own way.

In this style of plan each muscle group will be worked one time per week. Each day will consist of compound movements and then isolation moves to achieve the biggest “pump” possible.

The scientific term for a muscle pump is “hyperemia,” which means the increase of blood flow to the muscle being worked out. Hyperemia saturates the muscles with oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood.

There’s a running joke all over North America and maybe Europe that Monday is chest day. So here we go:

Monday: Chest

Tuesday: Back

Wednesday: Legs

Thursday: Shoulders

Friday: Arms

Saturday: Active Recovery Day

Sunday: Rest

2 Times Per Week Split

This is very similar to the “bro” split except you workout more than one muscle group per day so that each muscle is covered twice per week. Science has shown that muscles will grow for up to three days post training, then there is a plateau and subsequent decline in rates of muscle protein synthesis. So if someone is trying to maximize hypertrophy and we know muscles don’t require a full week to recover, training a muscle group every three days is better than the once per week split.

It is unclear at this time if training a muscle group more than two times per week is beneficial, personally I like to keep it at twice but only because that is what works for me.

You could adapt one of the earlier workout splits to a 6-day per week schedule to cover every muscle group twice or you could use a more traditional one like this:

Monday: Chest and Triceps

Tuesday: Back and Biceps

Wednesday: Legs and Shoulders

Thursday: Chest and Triceps

Friday: Back and Biceps

Saturday: Legs and Shoulders

Sunday: Active Recovery Day

Clear as Mud?

It can seem a little daunting picking the best workout split. Everyone has their own opinion about what works best and I’m sure some of them will be happy to tell you why. Also, everyone has different genetics, different body types and different goals. So just remember the best split is the one that works for you and you can fully commit to!

The first three are usually the best workout splits for beginners to start with, this isn’t saying they are only for beginners though. I have known a lot of veterans that got good gains from all of these.

What is your favorite work out split?

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2 thoughts on “The Best Training Split – What Works for You”

  1. I’m not a weight lifter but I do have some exercise routines that I switch up every other day. I use my bands for upper body and do squats one day and I have a rebounder I use on the other days. I’ve been trying to get more exercise in lately. I have osteoporosis and I understand that exercise and especially weight-bearing exercise is one of the best things for that. 🙂 I might look around your reviews of smaller weight sets that might help as well. Thanks for this great article.

  2. Hello and thanks so much for sharing. What confuse so many people I believe is how to split up their workout program to get the most out of it. Because of not knowing what to do can lead to not only to a workout that is not good but to injury. Thanks so much on speaking on this topic that makes how to workout more affective and safe your workout guide is really informative and will help alot.


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