- 4 Jul 2011
Originally Written by CowPimp (from IronMagazine)
As a follow up to my post on full body routines, I figured I would also write something about split routines that I could link up to when people are asking questions about how to improve their routine, or designing one from scratch. I am directing this post toward natural trainees. I am also directing these routines toward bodybuilders. There are a few guidelines I think most people should adhere to when designing a split routine:
- Don't train more than 2 consecutive days without taking a day off.
- Try to keep the lifting portion of your workout to an hour or less.
- Take a week off every 3 months or so, or implemented planned deloading phases
- A general rule of thumb is to perform 2-4 sets of each exercise, although I suggest consulting my guide to designing routines for more information on this topic.
- Do at least one freeweight movement for push movements, pull movements, and leg exercises. Do more if at all possible.
- In general, you should workout larger muscles first. As well, perform heavier compound movements first.
- Rep range should primarily hang in the 6-12 range. However, going higher or lower on occasion is certainly a good idea. If you also value strength, then journey into the 3-6 range more frequently. Conversely, if you also value endurance, then go in the 15+ range more frequently.
- Try to balance your pressing and pulling movements. Also, try to balance your quad-dominant and hamstring-dominant lower body exercises.
2 day split examples:
Upper - Lower
Quads, Chest, Anterior & Lateral Delts, Triceps, Abs - Hamstrings, Back, Posterior Delts, Biceps, Abs
3 day split examples:
Week A: Upper - Lower - Upper / Week B: Lower - Upper - Lower
(Push - Pull - Legs) Chest, Anterior & Lateral Delts, Triceps - Back, Posterior Delts, Biceps - Legs, Calves, Abs
Chest, Posterior Delts, Biceps - Back, Anterior & Lateral Delts, Triceps - Legs, Calves, Abs
4 day split examples:
Lower - Upper - Lower - Upper
Chest - Back - Legs - Delts, Arms, Abs
Week A: Push - Pull - Legs - Push / Week B: Pull - Legs - Push - Pull / Week C: Legs - Push - Pull - Legs
As you can see, there is a wide variety of viable splits, and it should be no problem to find one that fits your schedule. As long as you follow the general guidelines I laid out, or something close to them that affords you full recovery, then you can cram muscle groups together virtually however you please. The split doesn't even have to be based around a calendar week if you don't want to do it that way.
Here is a template to help you decide what exercises to choose for each bodypart:
Pick 2+ quad-dominant movements.
Examples: Back squats, front squats, zercher squats, split squats, leg press, hack squats, leg extensions, etc.
Pick 2+ hamstring-dominant movements.
Examples: Deadlifts, stiff-legged deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, good mornings, glute ham raises, leg curls, etc.
Pick 1+ calf movements.
Examples: Standing calf raises, one-legged DB calf raises, donkey calf raises, seated calf raises, etc.
(Note: If you only choose one movement, make sure it is one where your legs are straight so both heads are fully activated)
Pick 2+ horizontal pull movements.
Examples: Bent rows, Yates' rows, one-arm DB rows, cable rows, etc.
Pick 2+ vertical pull movements.
Examples: Pullups, chinups, pulldowns, etc.
Pick 2+ lower back movements.
Examples: Hyperextensions, reverse hyperextensions, seated good mornings, etc.
(Optional) Pick 1+ upper/mid trap movements. Examples: Shrugs, machine shrugs, rack deadlifts, etc.
Pick 2+ horizontal push movements.
Examples: Bench press, decline press, incline press (< 45 degrees), dips, etc.
(Optional) Pick 1+ isolation movements.
Examples: Flys, decline flys, cable crossovers, etc.
Pick 2+ vertical push movements.
Examples: Military press, DB press, Arnold press, incline press (45+ degrees), etc.
Pick 1+ posterior delt/external rotation movements.
Examples: Face pulls, external rotations, cuban presses, etc.
(Optional) Pick 1+ lateral delt movements.
Examples: Upright rows, lateral raises, cable lateral raises, etc.
Pick 1+ tricep movements.
Examples: Dips, CG bench press, overhead DB extensions, skullcrushers, Tate presses, etc.
Pick 1+ bicep movements.
Examples: CG chinups, curls, hammer curls, incline DB curls, etc.
(Optional) Pick 1+ forearm movements.
Examples: Static holds, gorilla hangs, wrist curls, etc.
Pick 1+ top-bottom movements.
Examples: Situps, crunches, cable crunches, etc.
Pick 1+ bottom-top movements.
Examples: Hanging leg raises, captain's chair, reverse crunches, etc.
(Optional) Pick 1+ oblique movements.
Examples: Side bends, alternating situps, bicycle crunches, etc.
Once again, these are general guidelines. You may customize these routines however you please. If you have bodyparts that are weaker and/or smaller, then you can add some additional work at the expense of your strong points to insure balance. If your body has exceptional recovery abilities, then you may be able to get away with some additional volume. If your body has poor recovery ability, then you may need to use an even lower volume. If you know your body responds well to higher repetitions, then stick in this range primarily. The list goes on, but you get the idea.
Although I highly recommend performing a full body routine as a beginner, you can still build a strong base to insure you have a balanced physique and injury free training career with a split routine.
There are a few suggestions I would like to offer. Start with compound freeweight movements only. You can get to more isolation and machine movements as you learn your strong and weak points, but begin by building your physique as a whole so these idiosyncrasies emerge. Furthermore, all the freeweight movements will give your core additional training, which becomes exponentially more important as you progress to heavier weights.
As stolen from my full body post... Work in the 12-15 rep range until you develop your stabilizer muscles and intermuscular coordination skills to the point where you can handle heavier weights. Focus heavily on form. Do a lot of research and watch videos of professionals performing various exercises.
Starting out with the right technique will mean developing proper motor patterns right from the start, which is a Hell of a lot easier than correcting them later.