6 Training Splits to Help You Conquer Your Workout Plateau
Last Updated: Jan 31, 2017
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Realizing you're not losing weight or gaining muscle can drain your motivation. When your workout just isn't working anymore, it’s time for a change. But modifying just one of your exercises or simply switching the order isn't going to cut it. The solution? A new training strategy that will bring fresh motivation, more fat loss and new levels of performance. There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to working out, so read on to learn about six different training splits and decide which one is right for you.
TOTAL-BODY TRAINING SPLIT
Total-body training splits are maximally efficient and train the body as a whole. PROS: It's ideal for those short on time or who are new to weightlifting. The number of times you’ll target a muscle in a given workout and moderate training volume suits many goals and fitness levels. CONS: If you're looking to bulk up, it'll slow the increase of muscle size. Stronger lifters may struggle to recover from training just their legs three or more times a week. SAMPLE SCHEDULE: Monday/Wednesday/Friday: full-body workout; Tuesday/Thursday: off; Saturday/Sunday: off/conditioning
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BODY PART-SPECIFIC TRAINING SPLIT
Body-part splits are common among bodybuilding programs. In most cases, five or six training sessions target a different muscle group each day throughout the week. PROS: Body-part splits use greater exercise variation to target individual muscles. And the heavy load placed on a single muscle group at a time is great for muscle growth. CONS: Recovery time is limited and body-part splits aren't the best option for athletes, beginners or busy professionals. SAMPLE SCHEDULE: Monday: chest; Tuesday: back; Wednesday: shoulders; Thursday: legs; Friday: arms and abs; Saturday/Sunday: off
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UPPER/LOWER TRAINING SPLIT
Upper/lower training splits allow for full-body training with more recovery time than total-body splits. Workouts alternate between upper-body (chest, arms, back and shoulders) and lower-body (quads, hamstrings, calves and lower back). PROS: It allows greater training frequency than body-part splits and more recovery than total-body splits. CONS: Because upper-body workouts usually take much longer than most lower-body sessions, you’ll have unbalanced training times. Upper/lower training splits offer shorter recovery time between training sessions compared to body-part splits. SAMPLE SCHEDULE: Monday/Thursday: upper body; Tuesday/Friday: lower body; Wednesday: off/active recovery; Saturday/Sunday: off
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PUSH-PULL TRAINING SPLIT
Push-pull training splits break up training routines by movement pattern — pushing and pulling, hence the name. The movements on the back of the body (legs/hamstrings, back, biceps, lower back) are predominantly responsible for pulling actions, while the front of the body (chest, shoulders, triceps, legs/quads, abs) is responsible for pushing actions. PROS: Push-pull routines can combine with other training splits, such as an upper-lower push-pull routine. CONS: Push-pull splits are limited within athletic populations because they segregate the body by muscles that work together. Additionally, this type of split is probably too advanced for beginners, but it’s great for intermediates. SAMPLE SCHEDULE: Monday/Thursday: pull; Tuesday/Friday: push; Wednesday: off; Saturday/Sunday: off
Push & Pull Workouts
Also known as noncompeting supersets, these training splits work opposing muscle groups in the same session. For example, a dumbbell bench press and a chest-supported row or a biceps curl with a triceps extension. PROS: They're good for achieving training balance on opposing sides of the body. Noncompeting supersets are flexible, allowing for three to six days of training. CONS: The splits are difficult to integrate with movement skills, making them less than ideal for athletes. It’s also a bit advanced for beginners and tough to recover from for older lifters. SAMPLE SCHEDULE: Monday: chest/back; Tuesday: legs (shoulders optional); Wednesday: off; Thursday: chest/back; Friday: biceps/triceps; Saturday/Sunday: active recovery/off
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These splits combine major movers of an exercise with secondary movers in the same training day. For example, the back and biceps together or chest and triceps together. PROS: They offer flexible training frequency with three to six days of training per week and create time-efficient workouts. High training volume yields greater muscular damage in between workouts, a key factor in muscle growth. CONS: These training splits are too advanced for beginners and tough to recover from for older lifters. And organizing an effective workout schedule without formal education and practice may prove difficult. SAMPLE SCHEDULE: Monday: back/biceps; Tuesday: chest/triceps; Wednesday: legs (optional shoulders); Thursday: back/biceps; Friday: chest/triceps; Saturday/Sunday: off
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STEP #1: CONSIDER YOUR GOAL
To maximize your training split, your goals must be clear. Focusing on isolation isn’t ideal for athletes; you need to move the body as an integrated unit. If you’re aiming to lose as much fat as possible, you don’t need to spend time working your biceps. Make your goal as specific as possible, and then tailor your training split to help you reach it.
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STEP #2: TAKE YOUR SCHEDULE INTO ACCOUNT
Regardless of how busy you are, you still have 24 hours in a day like everyone else. The question isn’t whether you have the time, it’s whether you’ll make the time. If training two hours a day, five days a week isn’t ideal for you, pick a more efficient split. A workout is only as good as it’s execution. Determine what you’ll do, and then act on it.
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STEP #3: THINK ABOUT YOUR FITNESS LEVEL
How long you've been working out is important factor in training. Beginners jump on body-part splits and isolation workouts before they’re strong enough to reap the rewards of focused isolation. Older lifters find they can’t train as hard as often due to greater neural requirements, joint stress and recovery. Pick a training split that challenges you but doesn’t provide more than your body is able to recover from.
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STEP #4: FACTOR IN YOUR RECOVERY TIME
The body is an integrated system. Rather than simply looking at recovery based on how your muscles feel, take into account everyday stress, your nervous system, sleep quality and nutrition. The volume of your activity adds up by the end of the week. Sometimes circumstances and injuries make it so that you can’t train as hard or as heavy as you once could. Take into account all the little stressors for your training and adapt based on how your body feels.
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WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Have you ever used any of these training splits before in your workout regimen? How did they work for you? Did you see the results you wanted? Which one of these are you going to try next? Are there any splits we missed? How do you vary your workout? Let us know in the comments below!
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