The Optimum Workout Split


When planning a resistance training program your weekly workout split in conjunction with your exercise selection will have significant ramifications on your results, therefore it stands to reason that the optimum workout split is often a topic of discussion among gym goers. However, the answer isn't entirely clear cut, as the optimum workout split will vary depending on individual circumstances and goals. Below I have outlined the 3 weekly workout splits that I program for my clients as well as myself.

Total Body Split

Day
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Total Body
Rest
Total Body
Rest
Total Body
Rest
Rest

The Total Body Split involves training all major muscle groups of the body in every session. This split is most applicable for people that are training 3 times per week or less. If  you are relatively new to strength training (< 3 months experience) then I would recommend doing no more than three training sessions per week. Doing more than this when you are just starting out can lead to overuse injuries such as tendinitis. In the same way if you can only train a maximum of 3 times per week due to time constraints, then Total Body Training is your best bet because it allows you to hit every major muscle group multiple times each week. This is important if your goal is to build muscle because protein synthesis is only elevated for around 48 hours post session, so it's vital that muscle groups are stimulated more than once every 7 days. Alternatively if your main goal is to reduce your body fat then Total Body Training is the most appropriate due to the fact that you can perform more exercises in a single session, thereby allowing you to elevate your heart rate and oxygen consumption for a greater period of time and subsequently burn more calories.

Push / Pull Split

Week 1
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Lower Body Push
Rest
Upper Body Pull
Rest
Lower Body Pull
Rest
Upper Body Push
Week 2
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Lower Body Push
Rest
Upper Body Pull
Rest
Upper Body Push
Rest
Upper Body Pull
Week 3
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Lower Body Pull
Rest
Upper Body Push
Rest
Lower Body Push
Rest
Upper Body Pull
Week 4
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Lower Body Pull
Rest
Upper Body Push
Rest
Upper Body Pull
Rest
Upper Body Push

The Push Pull Split is most applicable for those that have a level of prior experience with resistance training (> 1 year) and is most useful for developing overall athleticism due to the focus on movement patterns as apposed to muscles. The key when it comes to programming for athletic development is to include exercises that have the greatest similarity to the given sport, or activity in question. Most athletic actions are underpinned by fundamental movement patterns; in the case of the lower body this would be extension of the knee and hip which predominantly utilise the quadriceps and glutes / hamstrings respectively. Lower body pushing movements e.g. back squats are knee extension dominant exercises, while pulling exercises such as dead lifts are hip extension dominant. It is therefore vital that any training program designed to improve athleticism has a balance of pushing and pulling movements. This example incorporates a 4 week cycle where each week focuses more on one particular movement pattern(s).

Specific Muscle Group Split

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Chest Compounds / Shoulder Isolations
Lower Body Compounds
Back Compounds / Triceps
Rest
Shoulder Compounds / Chest Isolations
Lower Body Isolations
Back Isolations / Bicep

The specific muscle group split should only be used by those with a significant background in resistance training (> 3 years), this is because it involves a very high weekly training volume and therefore a high tolerance to training is necessary to avoid injuries. This training split can be adapted to 5 sessions per week instead of 6, but regardless it involves each muscle group being trained to a high level of fatigue multiple times per week. However, despite this high training volume it is designed in such a way that the same muscles are never used on 2 consecutive days to allow sufficient recovery. This split is great for building muscle mass and it is the only training split where I program specific muscle isolation exercises. If you are training 4 times per week or less you are far better limiting yourself to compound exercises that use multiple muscles and joints. 

So there you have it, the perfect workout split depends on what your goals are and how many times per week you can (safely) train. You may have noticed that I didn't include any training for the abs / core muscles. This is is because you should be training your core in EVERY session regardless of your weekly workout split. If you have any questions please feel free to get in touch anytime. 

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