There’s a lot of debate in the fitness industry on which training split is best to follow. I’m sure you’ve heard fitness professionals claim “I gained 8lbs of muscle in just 12 weeks” following a specific split. But the honest truth is that there are certain factors to keep in mind when choosing what split you should follow. As an online trainer/coach who customizes training program for his clients, I would say that people shouldn’t adjust their availability and goals for a specific split, the split should adapt to the person’s availability and goals. What do I mean by that? Well we all should know some basic facts about strength training. One is that stimulating a muscle twice a week is most optimal and in certain cases three times a week would be better. And two after training a muscle group, you will be able to train that same muscle after 48 hours of rest and recovery.
When the question of what is the best training split follow comes about I asked two very specific questions. What are your goals? What is your availability to be able to go the gym? If your goal isn’t to look like a body builder, you shouldn’t follow a split that requires intense workouts for 5, 6 or even 7 days a week. Training splits should be very specific to you, the person that will be benefiting the stimulus of training. Everyone is at different levels of their fitness journey therefore the level of experience will determine the split they can or should be following. For example, a person who never step foot in the gym can start out on a 4 day split most likely upper, lower, rest, upper, lower, rest & rest. 9 out of 10 when I speak to clients who are new to the gym even if they tell me they are able to train everyday, I always advise the risk of not being able to recovery from session to session. Starting small not only helps you assess a training split that can be maintained, it also give you a lot of room to increase the days you train in the future when plateaus arise.
Personally I’m a huge fan of the Push, Pull, Legs split. Not because its some kind of magical split, but because it fits my schedule and allows me to get a solid training session without spending hours in the gym. Push, Pull, Legs combines muscle groups that work together in most exercises. If you asked someone what are pull ups good for? I’m pretty sure most people will respond by saying “its a back exercise”. But what most people don’t realize is that the biceps play a role in the pull up as a secondary muscle group. So pull ups can be included in your pull session days along other back, traps and biceps exercises. This is the main benefit of the Push, Pull, Legs split. Primary and secondary muscle groups are able to stimulated through single movements which reduces the amount of exercises you will need to do each training session which reduce the amount of time you spend in the gym.
Full body splits can be for anyone no matter the fitness level, they can be extremely beneficial from someone who is overweight and brand spanking new to the gym. Why? Well first of all you won’t be able to train full body 7 days a week due to recovery therefore limiting the amount of days you go to the gym. Secondly full body splits consist exercises that give you the most bang for your buck also known as the compound lifts or exercises that maximize the most amount of tension on the muscles. These exercises will exert the most energy and stimulate multiple muscle groups at once, causing your body to burn the most calories as oppose to perform isolation movements such as a cable fly for your chest. If programmed correctly, each muscle group can still be trained twice per week for the most optimal results.
If you’re looking for a new training split to follow next time you visit your local gym remember to identify what goals you are trying to reach which is the most important factor. With the internet and rise of social media, there are thousands of training splits you can follow but that doesn’t always mean they will compliment your goals. You have to be realistic as well. If a Mr. Olympia that you admire is following a training split but you yourself are natural and aren’t taking any steroids to further enhance your progress, that split won’t work for you. Once you identify your goals, assess the days you can commit to going to the gym. Don’t set yourself for failure by following a split you can’t fully commit to. Instead find days and times in the week where you know for sure you can attend the gym no matter what then build your split around that. If you always have the time to get your training sessions done, eventually you’ll see the results that you’ve been working so hard to achieve.