The Best Splits For Building Muscle

How do you split your training sessions? This has to be one of the most frequently debated topics in the muscle building community. Part of the reason this is such a controversial subject is that there are so many options to choose from. A lot of people automatically go for the so-called “bro split”. This structure is where muscle groups are isolated and trained once per week.

For example:

Monday - Chest 

Tuesday - Back 

Wednesday - Legs 

Thursday - Rest 

Friday - Shoulders 

Saturday - Arms 

Sunday - Rest 

While a split like this can be effective for some people, it’s not ideal for everyone. Training a muscle just once a week ignores the fact that muscle groups actually recover in anywhere between 72-96 hours. Therefore, training them once a week may not provide the best stimulus for growth. This is especially true for beginner, and intermediate-level exercisers. People in this category may not train to their “max” and cause the type of muscle damage necessary to warrant an entire week between workouts for the same body part.

So, to that end, here are some alternative splits that may be more effective for muscle gain than the traditional “bro split”.

 
 
 
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1. Full body workouts

Right up until 1940s / 1950s full body workouts were the preferred method of training for bodybuilders. Nowadays, full body workouts are often thought as being most effective for beginners. Realistically, full body workouts can be incredibly effective for all fitness levels.

Instead of doing all your sets for a particular muscle group in a single training session, full body workouts allow you to split those sets over several workouts. This allows you to potentially train more intensely. A perfect example is legs day. Your workout may include variations of squats, leg presses and lunges. For many, after performing all of these exercises consecutively your performance may be exhausted.

However, if you changed your split and spread those same exercises over three separate training days, you may be able to give each exercise maximum effort. You could do this using heavier weights, and increasing rep range.

For a full body workout to be effective, you should focus on compound exercises, and use a variety of movements to work your muscles from a variety of angles. For example:


 

Monday

Wednesday

Friday

1

Squats

Deadlifts

Leg press

2

Leg curls

Leg extensions

Romanian deadlift

3

Barbell bench press

Incline dumbbell bench press

Dumbbell bench press

4

Cable row

Chest supported row

One arm dumbbell row

5

Dumbbell shoulder press

Shoulder press machine

Dumbbell shoulder press

6

Pull-ups

Lat pulldown

Chin-ups

7

Triceps pushdowns

Close grip bench press

EZ bar skull crushers

8

Biceps cable curls

Dumbbell biceps curls

EZ bar biceps curls

9

Stability ball crunches

Cable woodchops

Abs wheel rollouts

 

2. Upper / lower body split

Depending on your fitness level, full body workouts can also be limiting. As your weights, technique and effort increase, it can become too taxing to work every muscle group three-times a week. You might also feel like you need a little more training volume and variety to maintain your progress.

Upper body/lower body splits are a great solution. They allow you to train your main muscles groups twice per week, and also allow you to include move volume and variation in your workouts. For example:


 

Upper body

Lower body

Upper body

Lower body

1

Bench press

Squats

Barbell shoulder press

Deadlifts

2

Bent over row

Leg curls

Chin-ups

Leg extensions

3

Cable crossover

Bulgarian split squats

Lateral raises

Romanian deadlifts

4

Cable rows

Hip thrusts

Last pulldowns

Lunges

5

Dumbbell pullovers

Seated calf raises

Cuban press

Standing calf raises

6

Barbell skull crushers

Cable crunch

Triceps pushdowns

Abs roll outs

7

Barbell curls

Dumbbell side bends

Dumbbell curls

Cable woodchops


3. Push/pull split

Most exercises can be classified as a push or a pull. With this in mind, this training split involves a “pushing” day, and a “pulling” day. Each workout is repeated twice. A total of four sessions per week.

In this split of training you will perform a lot of similar exercises in each session, which can also be a disadvantage in the training style. Doing a lot of similar exercises back-to-back can lead to accumulated fatigue, especially in smaller muscle groups. For example:


 

Push

Pull

Rest a day and repeat the workouts using different exercises or, at least, a different set and rep scheme.

1

Squats

Deadlifts

2

Leg extensions

Leg curls

3

Calf raises

Back extensions

4

Bench press

Chin-ups

5

Dumbbell flys

Cable rows

6

Shoulder press

Upright rows

7

Lateral raises

Reverse flys

8

Barbell skull crushers

Barbell biceps curls

9

Triceps pushdowns

Dumbbells biceps curls


So, which split should you choose? The answer is all of them! For the sake of variety and progress, follow each one for 6-8 weeks. Then, when you have completed all three, start back at the beginning but change your exercises and rep/set scheme.

After a few cycles of these programs you may well feel you are ready for a classic “bro split”, but don’t be surprised if you end up returning to these more effective split routines afterwards.


 

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