Splitting is the way to go – take it from the pros. The following are a few tips to remember when you're changing your old routine into a new one:
- Evaluate your weak points. It makes sense to begin your weekly split routine with your weakest body part.
- Work big to small. Smaller body parts such as your shoulders, biceps and triceps function as support muscles for your basic muscles such as the bench press, squat, military press and so on. If you tire these muscles out you won't be able to grow your pecs, quads or lats effectively.
- Get plenty of rest – most bodybuilding pros sleep anywhere from 8 to 10 hours a night.
- Keep intensity levels high, regardless of your goal.
Take a minute to think about your present training strategy. It's not enough to just meander from one machine to the next, basing your exercises on whatever equipment offers a clear view of the hotties assembling in the cardio room if you want to get results. Consider it like this: you're going to the fitness center anyway, so you might as well get all the muscle-building results you can for your effort.
So, what's a split? It's simply a plan of attack for training your body so that all bases are covered. There are plenty of different ways to divide your workouts, but split training has precise rules:
- Do compound exercises before single-joint ones
- You can train long and you can train hard, but you can't do both at the same time
- Everything works, but nothing works forever
Rest is a very significant element of bodybuilding – at any level. Whatever training split you decide on, make sure you have rest days in between. Here's an example of a training split:
- Day 1: Quads
- Day 2: Shoulders and traps
- Day 3: Back, hamstrings and biceps
- Day 4: Chest and triceps
If you're trying to gain mass, you can do an upper body/lower body split. Stick to compound movements and try to keep the total sets per day no more than 20 – any more than that and you may not have the energy to do them with intensity.
The split below is perfect for intermediate level bodybuilders/athletes who have a good understanding of the fundamentals in the gym and would like a good mass building routine. It takes place over a four-day time period, with rest days run as follows:
- Day 1: Workout
- Day 2: Workout
- Day 3: Rest
- Day 4: Workout
- Day 5: Workout
- Day 6: Rest
- Day 7: Rest
Here's a good four-day split:
- D1: Back, traps
- D2: Chest, delts
- D3: Rest
- D4: Arms
- D5: Legs
- D6: Rest
- D7: Rest
Some beginners do well with a three-day, Monday, Wednesday, Friday split, an example of which would be:
Monday: chest, triceps, abs
Wednesday: legs, lower body, shoulders
Friday: back, biceps, abs
Another variation of the three-day split is training chest and biceps together on the first day, back and triceps on the second and shoulders and legs on the third day. The benefit of this split is that you will not fatigue an opposing body part while training another (by training chest the triceps get worked, but the biceps will still be relatively fresh after you have trained the chest).
Here are some factors that will variably affect how frequently you should train each body part and how best to split your routine:
- Red vs. white fiber proportions
- Tolerance to pain
- Degree of "psych"
- Amount of rest since last workout
- Perceived exertion
- Amount of eccentric stress
- Incentive level
- Strength to weight ratio
- Time of last meal
- Type of foods eaten at last meal
- Use of ergogonic techniques or substances
- Musculoskeletal leverage factors
- Motor unit recruitment capabilities
- Skill level at exercise being performed
- Equipment quality and design
- Environmental factors
- Size of muscle being exercised
- Various intra-and extra-cellular biochemical factors
- How close you are to your maximum potential in size and strength
With a split program each muscle group can be worked with greater frequency, more than just once a week as many high-volume programs force you to perform. In addition, more rest days can be implemented for greater recovery, as in the case of a two-day split workout performed four days a week. Those who are used to a program with multiple sets and/or many exercises are usually skeptical about performing so few sets.
Benefits of Whole-Body Routines vs. Split Routines
The first benefit of whole-body routines is the endocrine response. The second benefit is increased bone and joint strength. Muscular strength and functionality are other benefits. Split routines first came on the scene in the late 50's or early 60's, with the rationale that they allow the lifter to train the individual muscle groups with greater focus and intensity, thus developing greater size and strength in those muscles. There is one type of split routine that works for everyone – mesomorph and hard-gainer alike, and that is the upper/lower body split.
"The best program is the one that works best for you," is an axiom in strength training that will never change. The most successful strength routines have the following things in common:
- Full body strength
- Heavy training
- Explosive strength
The main benefits of a split training versus a full body program include:• Less time in the fitness center
- Less likelihood of overtraining
- Higher intensity levels
- Keener focus
- Increased energy
- Increased strength