An effective workout split is the best way to build muscle, increase strength, loose fat, and improve overall health. The key is knowing exactly how to create a workout split that is best for you.
What Is A Workout Split?
A workout split is the technical term for a workout program that determines which muscle groups to work when. Without a proper workout split, you’ll likely over or under work specific muscle groups, leading to imbalances in strength and size. Hence, a balanced and effective workout split is necessary for proper muscle growth and strength.
How to Create a Workout Split
There isn’t one right way to create a workout split. In fact, there are various ways you can create an effective workout split. To create the best split for you and your body, keep these questions in mind:
- How many days will you workout? Your workout split is dependent on your schedule. Honestly consider your availability and commitment. Remember: one quality workout is better than 4 ineffective workouts.
- What is your workout experience? Are you a workout beginner or experienced athlete? In general, beginners will likely benefit more from a full body workout splits, while those with experience can benefit from isolating specific muscle groups on different days.
- What are your goals? Is your fitness goal to build more muscle (aka hypertrophy)? Improve strength? Or simply to live a healthier lifestyle? If you haven’t specified a goal, it’s important to do so. Once you know your goal, consider the different workout splits below.
Once you’ve narrowed down your commitment level, experience, and goals, you can start designing your workout split:
1. Pick Your Split- It’s best to design your workout split based on how many days you’ll workout per week. Here are some examples:
- 3 Day Split- A 3 day split is ideal for beginners, who can benefit from full body, functional exercises. Advanced athletes can also utilize full body training splits, while maintaining balance in their training. In a 3 day split, you’ll mostly focus on compound movements, which engage multiple muscle groups at once, including upper and lower body. Each workout should engage the following muscle groups:
- Legs: quads and calves or hamstrings and glutes
- Chest and triceps
- Back and biceps
- 4 Day Split– A 4 day training split includes 2 “push” days and 2 “pull” days. The push-pull split focuses on exercise movements (ie. pushing or pulling), which naturally engages specific muscle groups. In this split, you’ll separate upper body and lower body training days. Here’s an example:
- The Push Exercises
- Horizontal Pushes: Pushups, Bench Presses
- Vertical Pushes: Barbell overhead press, Dumbbell press, arnold press, landmine press
- Lower Body Pushes: all Squat variations
- The Pull Exercises
- Horizontal Pulls: Barbell Row, Cable Rows, Dumbbells Rows
- Vertical Pulls: pull-ups and lat pulldowns
- Lower Body Pulls: The Deadlift and all other hip hinge exercises
- The Push Exercises
- 5 Day Split- Based on my experience and education, I think 4 days of strength training is ideal. Sometimes, increasing to 5 training days can make it difficult to recover fully and quickly. However, there are situations when training 5 days per week is necessary, like in the case of professional athletes. Here is an example:
- Day 1: Legs (quads)
- Day 2: Back and biceps
- Day 3: Chest and triceps
- Day 4: Legs (hamstrings, glutes, calves)
- Day 5: Shoulders and abs
2. Add Cardio- Once you’ve designed your strength training split, you can add in cardio training. Two to three days of cardio per week, for 20-30 minutes, is optimal. You can utilize outdoor running trails, a peloton or treadmill, stairmaster, rower, elliptical, etc. And, don’t be afraid to change it up!
3. Add Core Exercises– Your core is the primary stabilizer of your body , so it’s important to not neglect it. Incorporate core exercises into your strength training warm up to activate your core muscles before you start lifting.
4. Change Your Split- If you perform the same exercises, week after week, your body will adapt. To prevent plateaus, change your workout split every 8-12 weeks and incorporate new exercises. It’s important to create new challenges for your muscles. Also, consider super-setting your exercises (performing two exercises back-to-back) as a form of progression.
The Best Exercises for Your Workout Split
Your workout split is only as good as the exercises you perform. This is a starting list of effective and safe exercises to try for each muscle group:
- Legs (Quad- Focused)
- Barbell back squats
- Front squats
- Leg extensions
- Bulgarian split squats (quad focused)
- Leg press
- Legs (Hamstring/ Glute- Focused)
- Hip thrusts
- Single leg deadlifts
- Romanian deadlifts
- Cable glute kickbacks
- Good mornings
- Stability ball or slider leg curls
- Lying leg curl machine
- Lat pull-down
- Seated row
- Dumbbell row
- Bent over barbell rows
- Incline DB row
- Renegade row
- Incline dumbbell press
- Flat bench dumbbell press
- Dumbbell/cable flyes
- Barbell curls
- Dumbbell curls (straight/wide/hammer)
- cable curls (facing away, single arm, rope curls, straight bar curls)
- Zottman curls
- Skull crushers
- Cable pushdowns
- Dumbbell/cable kickback
- Dumbbell tricep extension
- Lateral raises (dumbbell, cable)
- Anterior raises (dumbbell, cable)
- Dumbbell/barbell/ landmine shoulder press
- Upright row (dumbbell, BB)
- Arnold press
Creating a workout split is the best way to ensure you’re getting the most out of your workout. It’ll help prevent plateaus and burnouts, while fast tracking you to your fitness goals. For expert guidance on workouts splits and training programs, consider working with me, here.