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!