By Nicole
 

The training split. It’s a fundamental part of every workout program. It tells you what to train and when to train it. I’ll break down some very effective training splits so you can use them to change things up and keep things fresh.

 
FULL BODY
This is the standard “beginner’s” split where you train the entire body three times a week on non-consecutive days. It’s a good break in for those not used to going to the gym regularly because it gives you a day off in between workouts, with a bonus day off before you start the next week of workouts so that you don’t feel overwhelmed.

Example:
Day 1: Full body
Day 2: Off
Day 3: Full body
Day 4: Off
Day 5: Full body
Day 6: Off
Day 7: Off

Because you’re covering every muscle group, you’ll be limited to one exercise per body part for around 3-4 sets each. This split isn’t tailored for high volume or for specializing on specific body parts. It’s really about learning how to do the exercises correctly and conditioning your muscles and nervous system to the regular stress of weight training. Although this split is great for beginners, it can also be a good change of pace for experienced trainers who are doing less intense workouts as an active rest period in between their regular splits.

 
UPPER BODY / LOWER BODY
As you progress in your training, eventually you’ll reach a point where you need more sets and exercises to stimulate your muscles. Of course you can’t do this when you’re training the whole body in one workout. You need to split up your body parts to allow for more volume. The next level up would be to train upper body in one workout and lower body in another.

There are a few ways you can schedule the workouts. You can alternate days like this, doing 2 exercises for each body part, 3 sets of 10-12 reps for each:
Day 1: Upper body
Day 2: Off
Day 3: Lower body
Day 4: Off
Day 5: Upper body
Day 6: Off
Day 7: Off
Then the following week, you start with a lower body workout. This means you train your upper body twice one week and your lower body twice the following week.

Or you can do this. Again 2 exercises, 3 sets of 10-12 reps each:
Day 1: Upper body
Day 2: Lower body
Day 3: Off
Day 4: Upper body
Day 5: Lower body
Day 6: Off
Day 7: Off

 
PUSH / PULL / LEGS
Although splitting your upper and lower body into two separate workouts lets you do more volume than a full body workout, it’s still a bit limiting if you want to focus more attention on your upper body muscles. The simple fix to this dilemma is the push/pull/legs split. You group the pushing muscles (chest, shoulders, and triceps) into one workout, the pulling muscles (back and biceps) into one workout, and legs, quads, hamstrings, and calves, into one workout, giving each workout its own day.

The beauty of this split is that you can do more exercises and sets for each muscle because you’re doing fewer body parts per workout. It also groups muscles that overlap each other. For instance, shoulders and triceps are involved in presses for chest, biceps are involved in rows and pulldowns for back, etc.

Here’s an example that hits each muscle once per week. Do 3 exercises, 3-4 sets each for 8-12 reps.
Day 1: Push
Day 2: Off
Day 3: Legs
Day 4: Off
Day 5: Pull
Day 6: Off
Day 7: Off

Here’s an example that hits each muscle twice per week. Do 3 exercises, 3-4 sets each for 8-12 reps.
Day 1: Push
Day 2: Pull
Day 3: Legs
Day 4: Push
Day 5: Pull
Day 6: Legs

 
BODY PART SPECIFIC
The advantage to this split is that since you are only training one body part you can do a lot more volume and/or intensity techniques to really blast it – without having to do two more body parts afterwards and being at the gym for a couple of hours. There are several ways to schedule your body parts.

You can train 7 days, which is a strict one body part per day. However, even for advanced lifters, not having any rest days in between can take its toll. That’s why I recommend a 5 or 6 day split.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you schedule your workouts:
Don’t do a triceps workout the day before a chest workout as chest pressing movements involve the triceps.
Don’t do a biceps workout before a back workout as back movements involve the biceps.
Keep at least a day in between chest and shoulder workouts to avoid overlap.

Here’s an example of a 5 day split:
Day 1: Shoulders
Day 2: Legs
Day 3: Off
Day 4: Chest
Day 5: Back
Day 6: Biceps & triceps
Day 7: Off

And a 6 day split:
Day 1: Quads
Day 2: Chest
Day 3: Back
Day 4: Hamstrings
Day 5: Shoulders
Day 6: Biceps & triceps

So there you have four different ways to split up your workouts. There are lots of variations you can make with each one. The big take away is that all training splits are ways to group body parts together for maximum stimulation and optimal recovery time to allow muscles to grow. Your experience level, goals (building muscle, strength training, performance), and your schedule (work, school, family, etc) are all factors in determining which split to follow.

 

Looking for more awesome training and nutrition information? Join NicoleWilkins.com for hundreds of workouts, training and nutrition tips, healthy recipes and more to help you transform your body and reach your fitness goals!

Become a Member Today! 

ABOUT NICOLE

One of the biggest names in the fitness industry, Nicole Wilkins is a world-record holding four-time Figure Olympia Champion and 2012 IFPA Personal Trainer of the Year. Nicole earned her BA in Wellness, Health Promotion and Injury Prevention at Oakland University. The owner and founder of nPower Nutrition, Nicole has helped thousands of people start living a healthier lifestyle and reach their fitness goals.

See Nicole’s Bio!