Training at the gym seems simple, right? Turn up regularly, lift heavy weights with good form, sleep and eat enough to recover and do this again and again (and again) for years on end. This formula is pretty much the way to reach your goals. BUT there are some other variables which can greatly help you progress quicker and safer. Today we are talking about one of the more important ones and that is the Training Split or in other words, how should you split up your training throughout a week in order to best recover and get the results you are after.

For simplicity today I will be writing briefly about common and generally recommended training splits for four different gym goers: bodybuilders, powerlifters, athletes, and general population. I will assume we are talking about drug free athletes in all of these scenarios.

  1. Bodybuilders. So often we see bodybuilders training what is known as the “five day split” which is usually something like “Monday – chest, Tuesday – back, Wednesday – legs, Thursday – shoulders and abs, Friday – arms” (or some other variation of this split). As you can see typically this would mean each muscle group is only trained once per week with quite a high amount of volume on that day. In our experience this is NOT ideal for gaining mass for most aspiring bodybuilders. Much more typically we would recommend either a push (chest, shoulders, triceps), pull (upper back, traps, biceps), lower (quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes) split focusing much more on compound movements and simple progressions to add the most mass. Another common setup is simply Upper (chest, back, traps, arms, shoulders) and lower body (quads, hamstrings, lower back, glutes). this kind of split again focuses heavily on compound movements (barbell and dumbbell pressing and rowing, body weight movements, squats, deadlifts, etc) and would simply alternate between days. A good sample program would be:Monday – Lower body – squats, deadlifts, lunges, hip thrusts, etc.
    Tuesday – upper body (push focus) – bench press, overhead press, dips, tricep skullcrushers etc, some rows and upper back work
    Wednesday – OFF
    Thursday – lower body – squats, deadlifts, lunges, hip thrusts, etc
    Friday – upper body (pull focus) – rows, pullups, bicep curls, etc, add some pushing work in here.
    Weekend – OFF
  2. Powerlifters. Powerlifters need to be technically VERY proficient at only THREE lifts. The barbell back squat, bench press and deadlift. Hence we usually structure their program as either full body days (practicing each of these lifts or close variations with a high frequency) or upper/lower body split. Typically we take a Daily undulating periodisation style approach to programming for powerlifters hitting each lift 2-4 times per week and adjusting sets/reps/weight from sessions to session. A very simple example would be to have a heavy, low rep squat day on Monday followed by light speed squats (focusing on acceleration and technique) on Wednesday and some moderate weight high volume sets of squats on a Friday. A somewhat similar approach would be used for the bench press and deadlift.Monday – Heavy squats, light deadlifts, quadricep assistance movements
    Tuesday – Moderate bench press, upper body assistance lifts
    Wednesday – light squats
    Thursday – Heavy bench press, upper body pulling movements,
    Friday – Heavy deadlifts, medium squats, posterior chain (hamstring, glutes, back) assistance movements
    Weekend – light bench press and core, arms and conditioning work.
  3. Athletes. Training for an in-season athlete must be balanced enough so as to not over-train them and detract from their sport/competition specific practice/training sessions. Typically we look at a full body approach without ever accumulating a very high amount of volume/stress. Multiple shorter sessions per week is recommended, while still staying away from training too close to game-day. Exercise selection typically will also differ to the bodybuilder or powerlifter in order to best get results with the lowest chance of impacting the athlete’s recovery abilities.
  4. General Population. The standard gym goer – someone who wants to move, look and feel better everyday without spending their whole lift in the gym. A full body split is typically again used with a greater emphasis placed on full range of movement and quality of movement. Specificity is not a large factor and typically we look at an effective program also being “fun” for the client here. Adherence is much more likely if the client enjoys their time in the gym.

So there are some simple ideas regarding training splits for most of you, as always I strongly believe that consulting an experienced professional is one of the best investments ANY gym goer can make to help them achieve their goals. Feedback or questions feel free to send us an email at chris@strongfastfit.com.au and I will be happy to help.