One of the most difficult things about working out is the commitment necessary to find the time to work out at all. Spending an hour or more in the gym simply isn’t practical for many people, and working out every other day makes it difficult to get into a routine. An approach that separates work on your upper body and lower body into distinct sessions will reduce the amount of time you spend in the gym each day while allowing you to maintain a simple four-day routine each week.
Do the Splits
The core of a split routine is dividing up the major muscle groups of your body in such a way that you can give more attention to a single group during each workout rather than trying to do a full-body workout each session. While you can organize a split routine in numerous ways, one of the most common and easiest to arrange is a simple upper-body/lower-body split. The one tricky aspect to this type of split is that some lower-body exercises incorporate muscles in the back, shoulders, core and arms, and these exercises should be avoided to prevent over-training those upper-body muscles on lower-body workout days.
Upper-body workouts should focus around a mix of compound and isolation exercises for the major muscles groups in that region. Bench presses and chest flyes are ideal for the chest, while cable draws and push-ups provide supplemental engagement. For the arms, use biceps curls -- both seated and standing -- along with bent-over rows and triceps kickbacks. For the shoulders, perform military presses, overhead presses and lateral raises. For the lats and traps, do shrugs, rows and pull-downs.
The lower body is slightly less complex than the upper body, and many of the exercises will engage all of the major muscle groups in each repetition. Avoid certain compound exercises -- such as the power clean, the clean and jerk, or the snatch -- as these all engage upper body muscles as well. Focus on leg presses, deadlifts and squats, then round out the lower body session with leg extensions, leg curls and calf raises.
Rest and Recover
The most important factor in organizing a split routine is getting your recovery time planned correctly. With a full-body routine, this is simple: You don’t lift the day after a workout. With a split routine, you could hit the gym the next day. As long as you avoid engaging muscles you worked out the previous day, you’ll be fine. Also, schedule a full rest day in the middle of the week, between your first lower-body workout and your second upper-body workout. Follow your last workout day of the week with two complete days away from weight training of any kind.