Training Splits

Which Training Split Is Best?

The answer to that question will be different for everyone. It all comes down to time available to you. Once you know how many training sessions you can do consistently every single week you can then make a plan of action. Obviously training once is better than no training at all. But training every single day isn’t optimal either. There is a balance that needs to be struck in your training week. There are loads of training splits out there. You could do whole body workouts, upper-lower workouts, push-pull-legs or body part splits etc. What it comes down to is the amount of time you have to fit training in and also what your goal is. 3 or 4 sessions per week is probably best. 5 or more and you really would need to make them a lot smaller and less intense. Most people just don’t have that kind of time either.

Choosing A Split

Before we choose a training split we first must make sure that it takes the following points into consideration.

  • Does the split provide enough frequency for each muscle group?

Ideally you want to train each muscle group two or three times a week. Annihilating each muscle group like in a bodybuilding style format probably won’t work optimally for the majority of people.

  • Will one workout negatively impact the following workout?

If you trained your back on a Monday you would have also used the other pulling muscles in your arms, your biceps and forearms. To then try and train biceps on a Tuesday will mean you won’t have as much energy in the biceps and so you can’t train that muscle optimally. This is an example of negative impact.

  • Is there enough recovery time between workouts?

Generally speaking the three variables in training are frequency, intensity and volume. Normally you would have two higher and one lower. All three together are incredibly tough on your body and would hurt your powers of recovery. If you want to train often and intensely (lifting relatively very heavy loads) you need to lower the amount of volume in each session. Train often with lots of volume means you won’t lift as intensely. And training intensely with lots of volume means you’ll need to reduce training frequency. Depending on how you want to train you can gauge how much recovery is needed.

Before we look at the different splits let’s get one thing out of the way. If you can only train once or twice per week you should do whole body training. Don’t even think about doing a different split. When you can do three sessions or more you can look at something else. Let’s get into it.

Whole Body Workouts

If you have time for 3 sessions in the week whole body could be good for you. You could train Monday-Wednesday-Friday with the weekend off. Or you could do Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday. A typical session might include a lower body movement, an upper body pull and an upper body push. To fill it out you could do some core work or isolate arms or shoulders. Each session could vary the the exercises for each muscle group where you could have an A, B or C workout or you would switch between A and B from week to week. Every muscle group is trained frequently and you would adjust the intensity or volume without negatively affecting the following workout. A day rest between sessions as well as two consecutive rest days allow enough recovery.


If you have 4 training days you could use the upper/lower split to hit everything hard twice per week. It could look like this;

  • Monday – Upper 1
  • Tuesday – Lower 1
  • Wednesday – Rest
  • Thursday – Upper 2
  • Friday – Lower 2
  • Weekend – Rest

You can train with a higher intensity in each session as there will be very little, if any, negative impact on the following session. There’s only 2 sessions for each set of muscle groups so you can up the volume here also as there is enough recovery. If you aren’t a fan of training legs put abs or core work in here as well. that way you won’t have to spend the entire session on lower body muscles. And who doesn’t love training abs!?


This split is popular as it allows you to really focus on each session because they’re so different. You would have 3 training days or if you have a fourth you would just repeat the cycle. The problem I have with this split is that it only hits each muscle group once per week if training 3 times. Rather than making a possible fourth day the next workout in the cycle I would make it a whole body day. That allows you to work all body parts twice per week. I would set the week up like this;

  • Monday – Whole Body
  • Tuesday – Rest
  • Wednesday – Legs
  • Thursday – Rest
  • Friday – Push or Pull
  • Saturday – Opposite of Friday
  • Sunday – Rest

All 3 splits will work well, it really would come down to the effort you put into your training. What to do in each session, exercises to use, reps, sets etc is more complicated and depends on your goals. That’s what people pay me for! The main thing is finding a training routine that you enjoy and are motivated to do. If you hate your training routine you won’t stick to it. Find what you like and make progress!

Will A Party Ruin Your Fat Loss Progress?

You’re in the middle of a training plan. Motivation is high, your nutrition is dialed in and you can see progress in the mirror. Life is great. Then something comes up that might throw a spanner in the works! You’ve been invited to a birthday, work party or barbecue. And you know this is going to be a big one. You don’t want to be that person who passes on the birthday cake because you’re “on a diet”. Or the one who takes a small plate of salad at the barbecue. That co-worker of yours has been at the company for years, you have to celebrate with them before they leave the place! But what about your progress!? I’m here today to tell you why you should have no fear. You can enjoy the food on offer, have a great time and not fall off the wagon.

What The Science Says

Studies over the years have shown that the consumption of a massive amount of calories from a single meal or several meals over a very short period actually lead to very little fat gain. In one study the researchers fed the subjects a meal of bread, jam and fruit juice. 480 grams of carbs, 8 grams of fat and a tiny amount of protein coming to around 1900 calories in the single meal. They then tracked the subjects’ metabolic responses over 10 hours.

The majority of the carbs were converted to glycogen (what our muscles and liver store and use as fuel). The rest of the carbs were burned up and just 2 grams were converted to fat. However, in the 10 hour period after the meal they burned 17 grams of fat so there was no actual fat gain from that one meal. So no need to worry about fat gain from one meal.

But what about several meals like this over a week?

A study done at the University of Colorado involved 16 people who were fed 50% over their daily maintenance calories for two weeks. Each subject gained about 0.2 pounds of fat a day. Another study at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center involved 29 men who were fed 40% more than their daily maintenance calories for 8 weeks. They each gained about 0.2 pounds of fat a day. This would show that there’s a limit to fat gain per day.

But another study, this one conducted at Loughborough University, took 15 normal weight individuals and fed them 78% more calories than needed for maintenance over the course of a single day and the average “weight gain” was 1.76 pounds. That’s an awful lot more than just 0.2 pounds of fat. This just shows that fat gain and weight gain are two different things. Just like fat loss and weight loss are completely different also.

Know The Difference

You see you can gain weight if you go bananas at an event like the ones I mentioned. But hardly any of that weight is actually fat, especially if it’s a one off or limited to a few hefty meals on a one week holiday for example. The weight you gain from a big meal or a week holiday of excess (as the case often is) will be lost in a couple days. Let me explain.

The first thing to note is carb intake. As the first study above showed, much of your carbs will be stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen. For each gram of stored carbohydrate you normally get 3 grams of water with it. This is why you see rapid weight loss on very low or zero carb diets. When you stop eating carbs, your body uses up more glycogen and for every gram of glycogen used up you also lose the 3 grams of water. Guess what happens when you eat more carbs again? You put back on the water weight!

Secondly most large meals would have a higher amount of sodium in them. This sodium makes your body retain water as well. Added to the extra water held in the glycogen and you could have a few pounds of fluid hanging around. That’s why it can be quite frustrating if you weigh yourself every day and see fluctuations all over the place. A lot of the time its not fat that is being gained or lost every day but the amount of fluid that’s in your system and muscles.

Take Home Message

Don’t be anxious about events like these throwing you off your game. If you use the habits I’ve mentioned previously like eating slowly and eating until 80% full you’re less likely to overeat but can still enjoy the foods at these events. Another tip is to do a workout on the day of these things. If your muscles use up glycogen while training then you “make a hole” for the carbs you’ll have at the event to go into. The food should replenish your glycogen stores and offset some of the possible weight gain. Know that that weight gain isn’t all fat, just up to 0.2 pounds of it. Most likely you’ll be back to your previous weight within a couple days.


KJ Acheson, et al. Glycogen synthesis versus lipogenesis after a 500 gram carbohydrate meal in man,” Metabolism, 1982, Dec 31 (12):1234-40.

TJ Horton, et al. “Fat and carbohydrate overfeeding in humans: different effects on energy storage,” Clin Nutr. 1995 Jul;62(1):19-29

Darcy Johannsen, et al. “Effect of 8 Weeks of Overfeeding on Ectopic Fat Deposition and Insulin Sensitivity: Testing the ‘Adipose Tissue Expandability’ Hypothesis,” Diabetes Care, 2014, oct; 37(10):2789-2797.

Jim Schwarz, et al. “Short-term alterations in carbohydrate energy intake in humans. Striking effects on hepatic glucose production, de novo lipogenesis, lipolysis, and whole-body fuel selection,” J Clin Invest 1995, Dec;96(6):2735-43.

Francis Mason, et al. “Effectiveness of a brief behavioural intervention to prevent weight gain over the Christmas holiday period: randomised controlled tria,” BMJ, 10 December, 2018.

The Thermic Effect Of Food

What Is The Thermic Effect Of Food?

The Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) is the amount of calories your body burns while processing foods. However, not all foods have the same TEF. Protein has the highest TEF where 20-30% of the calories from lean sources of protein are burned just to process it. Carbohydrates are next with 5-15%. Fats have the worst TEF where the range is 0-5%.

Why Is The TEF Important?

This is crucially important in your fat loss efforts because you now know what foods to eat more of. Even if you’re already in decent shape and you’re looking to get leaner you can use this information. Quality of food really does matter instead of just filling up your diet with worse food choices. When you eat more protein you’ll hold on to more muscle and burn more calories. Protein also helps make you feel fuller for longer. The same can be said for quality carbohydrates. This means a diet made up of quality proteins, carbs and mostly healthy fats will allow you to stay in a caloric deficit a lot easier. Junk foods usually contain a high sugar/high fat combination which makes them calorically dense but they don’t fill you up. You can eat lots of them and they’ve such a low TEF that not many calories are burned processing them.

If you’ve tried to lose fat or get leaner in the past it might pay to look at your food choices. Eating a little more protein if you hadn’t been already, or decreasing fat intake might mean the difference in a couple hundred calories per day. That may be all you need to move things in the right direction without changing much else!