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Updated On: October 03, 2023
A workout split is simply a way to organize your weekly workout schedule by separating the muscle groups or body parts that you are training into different days. It can also simply be a way you organize and distribute your exercises throughout a given period, usually a week.
It's a structured approach to training that focuses on targeting specific muscle groups or fitness goals on different days. By dividing your workouts into different days or sessions, you can effectively manage training intensity, optimize recovery, and work towards balanced muscle development.
The benefit of using a workout split is that you can mitigate fatigue and optimize recovery. Basically, you can work certain muscle groups while others recover OR train with volume that promotes quicker recovery.
This is obviously important if you want to workout many days a week with proper intensity and volume, especially 7 days.
Splits also allow you to increase the volume of work (reps, sets, exercises) for each muscle group and will generally offer more variety in your training. Depending on your split, the volume per workout will differ, as will the frequency of how many times a week you hit your muscles.
What's more, splits make it easier to organize your routine in a way that ensures each muscle and body part is getting adequate stimulus (and from all angles and movement patterns) each week.
Overall, the main reason training splits make sense is because they help you stay organized and on track (much better to stick to a plan than to do random workouts) and most importantly they make managing fatigue levels easier, which optimizes recovery, AND they allow for more versatility in terms of exercise selection, volume, frequency and intensity.
There are many workout splits, each catering to different training objectives and preferences. However, the most common workout splits that you'll want to consider for your training program are:
Some splits optimize frequency (how frequent you hit each muscle group), some splits optimize volume (amount of sets/reps done for each muscle group), and some splits try to find a good balance between the two.
Here’s what the above split aim to optimize:
For beginners to intermediate lifters, studies show hitting each muscle group twice a week is best for hypertrophy, even if the total weekly volume is a little less. This is why a full body or upper lower split makes sense for most people.
In terms of volume, it is also a very important aspect of building muscle and strength. As your muscles get bigger and stronger, they will need more volume to become overloaded and thus continue to grow.
As such, generally speaking, full body workouts or upper lower splits are best for beginners, as well as some intermediate lifters or more advanced athletes who are simply trying to maintain muscle, gain strength, or cut fat.
Splits like the push pull leg split or body part split are better for those who are big and strong already and need more volume for hypertrophy (although a push pull leg split can go either way due to its versatility).
So, basically, any routine can be good for intermediate and advanced athletes, but we recommend beginners to use a split that doesn’t sacrifice frequency as frequency is important for streamlining results.
Protein synthesis, which is a process for building muscle levels off within 48 hours, so if you wait too much longer than that to hit the muscle group again, you are essentially slowing down your efforts.
Besides the way you organize your workout routine (the split), you need to consider how many days a week you’ll be working out. This is arguably the most important factor as it will help you determine how to best organize your routine.
1 day per week is simply not enough (but it's surely better than nothing), and we believe 2 days is almost in that same boat, but can work for some people.
Most people will fit into the 3, 4, 5 or 6 days per week category.
Notice how we didn’t say anything about 7 days...most people should NOT train 7 days per week, unless you follow this guide.
With 2-6 workout days per week, you can choose from the various splits mention above.
Weekly Training Days
Best Workout Split
Upper Lower OR Push Pull OR Full Body
Push Pull Legs (PPL) OR Full Body
Upper Lower OR Push Pull OR Body Part Split
Body Part Split (Bro Split) OR PPL alternating weekly
PPL (two sessions of each) OR Body Part Split
As you can see, most of these splits are very flexible so you can adjust them to any number of workouts per week. It all depends on your goals and fitness level for what is right for you.
For example, if you want to train 5 days a week, and want to do a PPL split, then you'd have to rotate/alternate workouts weekly:
...and so on.
So, when choosing a workout routine, you need to consider how many days per week you can/should workout, and then figure out a split to make your weekly workout routine.
The most effective workout split depends on your goals, fitness level, and preferences. Generally, balanced splits like Upper Lower or Push Pull Legs (PPL) are popular for overall strength and muscle development. It's essential to choose a split that aligns with your schedule and allows adequate recovery.
Bro splits, which involve targeting individual muscle groups on different days, can be effective for muscle isolation and hypertrophy (muscle growth). However, they may not be the most efficient approach for overall strength and functional fitness. A well-designed program should focus on compound movements as well.
Both PPL and Bro splits have their merits. PPL offers more frequency and balanced muscle targeting, making it effective for many individuals. Bro splits can also be effective for muscle growth but may lack frequency in hitting each muscle group.
Both Upper/Lower and PPL splits can be effective. Upper/Lower provides balanced muscle targeting and may suit those who prefer more frequent full-body training. PPL allows higher frequency for individual muscle groups. Choose based on your goals and preferences.
Full body workouts are efficient for overall strength and fitness, targeting multiple major muscle groups in each session. Splits offer more targeted muscle isolation and can be effective for bodybuilding. The choice depends on your goals, time availability, and recovery capacity.
Related: Full Body vs Splits
Many natural bodybuilders use a variety of splits, often focusing on compound movements and balanced muscle targeting. Popular choices include Upper/Lower, Push/Pull/Legs (PPL), or variations of these splits to optimize muscle growth and recovery. Remember, individual preferences and responses can vary, so experimentation is key.
In conclusion, understanding workout splits is an essential aspect of crafting an effective and well-rounded fitness routine. As we've explored throughout this article, the choice of workout split depends on a multitude of factors, including your fitness goals, training experience, time commitment, and personal preferences.
Whether you opt for a traditional approach like the Full Body or Upper/Lower splits, or embrace the more modern Push/Pull/Legs (PPL) routine, the key lies in finding the right balance between muscle targeting, frequency, and recovery. It's also crucial to periodically reassess and adjust your workout split as your fitness journey evolves.
Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to workout splits. What works best for one person may not be ideal for another. The beauty of fitness lies in its adaptability and the endless possibilities for tailoring your routine to suit your unique needs.
Ultimately, the effectiveness of any workout split lies not only in the exercises and rep ranges but also in your commitment, consistency, and willingness to challenge yourself. So, armed with the knowledge of different workout splits, take the next step on your fitness journey with confidence, and continue to push yourself toward your goals. Here's to a stronger, fitter, and healthier you!
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February 20, 2024
February 20, 2024
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