Training Splits 101

By: Alex Michaels

Following a training split based on your goals can make your time at the gym way more efficient and can amplify your results in the gym.  

A Few Things to Consider

GOALS

  • Whatever training split you choose will be dependent upon your specific goals. Training for a physique show, a powerlifting competition, weight loss, or to simply feel your best will determine what kind of exercises, sets, reps, and weight you will use during your workouts.  

SCHEDULE

  • Depending on your schedule, you may only be able to spend two or three days in the gym each week; however, that can certainly be enough time to benefit you just as much as training five or six days per week. Think about how many hours per week you can dedicate to the gym.  Morning, midday, and evening workouts should be considered as well.

FITNESS LEVEL

  • If you are a beginner who is just starting out it’s important to take time learning form and technique.  You may only complete a few exercises and sets during your first few training sessions. If you’re more advanced, you may be able to complete more exercises, reps, sets, etc. in a training session, but that all varies depending on your goals.

RECOVERY TIME

  • Proper recovery time between training sessions is imperative to avoid injury and allow the muscles to repair and rebuild.  In other words, this is when our muscles make gains and our bodies create change! Allowing at least one to two days rest in between muscle groups is ideal.  For larger muscle groups like legs, it is common to leave a few extra days. Depending on your training experience, you may need more or less time in between workouts while your body recovers and muscle soreness subsides.

SLEEP

  • Sleep is so important for our bodies to properly rest and repair our tissues.  In order to get the results you want with your fitness program, you must get adequate sleep each night.  Try to stay on a consistent sleep schedule. Even one or two late nights can throw off your sleep for days.

NUTRITION

  • Nutrition plays a major role in fitness goals whether it be muscle gain, fat loss, or weight maintenance.  Find out what your macronutrient and calorie needs are for your specific goals and do your best to hit those targets.

TRAINING SPLIT EXAMPLES:

Full Body Split - 3 Days Week

A full body, 3 day split is ideal if you do not have a ton of hours to spend in the gym each week. It allows you to hit all of the major muscle groups for a total of 6-8 exercises in less than an hour. Typically you would work on hypertrophy and endurance since you will train these muscle groups again in a short amount of time.

This type of training split is perfect for beginners because it’s great for establishing a base level of strength, it aids in fat loss due to the metabolic adaptations, and it is beneficial for overall health and quality of life.  

A Monday, Wednesday, Friday split is an example, but really any days work as long as you have a rest day in between.  

Lower, Upper, Full Body - 3 Days Week

A lower, upper, full body split is great if you only have three days to dedicate to the gym, but you want to really focus on the lower and upper body individually.  A greater focus on strength and hypertrophy can be a goal on the individual upper and lower days. Then, the third full body day could be geared more towards hypertrophy and endurance training using accessory exercises.  An example split could look like the following:

Sunday - Rest

Monday - Lower

Tuesday - Rest

Wednesday - Upper

Thursday - Rest

Friday - Full Body

Saturday - Rest

Upper, Lower - 4 Days Week

The upper, lower split requires four days a week in the gym and may take up to an hour or a little longer depending on how much volume you perform.  

An advantage of only doing one half of the body at once is you can do more than one exercise for each muscle group.  This is beneficial, especially if you are really trying to strengthen and grow certain muscle groups or improve on a specific exercise.

A disadvantage could be that trying to hit all of the muscle groups in the upper body at once can be very taxing, especially if you are keeping the reps lower and weight heavy.  An example split looks like the following:

Sunday - Rest

Monday - Lower

Tuesday - Upper

Wednesday - Rest

Thursday - Lower

Friday - Upper

Saturday - Rest

Body Part Split - 5 Days a Week

The body part split is an example of a bodybuilding style of training.  Each training session focuses on a single muscle group one time per week.  This allows you to perform several different exercises for the muscle group and utilize multiple angles.  The increased volume on each individual muscle group results in greater muscle hypertrophy.

This style of training is usually centered around appearance and is not necessarily practical for performance training.  It also requires more time spent in the gym and if you miss a day it can throw off your training schedule. An example split looks like the following:

Sunday - Rest

Monday - Chest

Tuesday - Back

Wednesday - Legs

Thursday - Shoulders

Friday - Biceps/Triceps/Abs

Saturday - Rest