Separating your workouts into different body parts across several days can deliver unexpected gains.
Go to any gym around the world and you’ll see plenty of people following the same old-school bodybuilding training split. You know the one: chest day (Monday), back day, shoulder day, arm day, and maybe even a leg day.
There is nothing wrong with this style of training. It’s worked for countless bodybuilders over the years, and it can help you make great gains. The problem is that after a while, it can get a bit boring. If you get into a monotonous routine and do the same exercises week after week, it can be easy to go full autopilot and end up going through the motions without any real effort.
If you want to inject some life into your workouts, here are five different training splits you may want to consider trying. They are just as effective as the traditional bodybuilding split, and if you’ve never tried them before, they are an excellent way to get some variety in your workouts.
Push / Pull / Legs
This one breaks up your training into three separate days. Your push day is chest, shoulders and triceps. The pull day is back, biceps and traps, and the last day is everything lower body. You could throw some ab work in on your upper body days.
This training split works very well for those who don’t have a lot of time to spend at the gym and want to minimize the days they spend training, while still hitting all of the major muscle groups each week. You can spend only three days in the gym and still see fantastic results.
Upper / Lower
The upper/lower split is a good option for people who want to train muscle groups more than once per week. Sure, the old-school body-part split is fun, but destroying a muscle group and then giving it an entire week off may not be optimal for many lifters.
With an upper/lower split, each muscle group gets trained twice per week, as you do two upper body sessions and two lower body sessions. The workouts don’t have to be the same; you can do a heavy and a light upper body day in a given week or cycle the exercises. This one is very open-ended, and can easily be tailored to your specific training preferences.
Back & Triceps; Quads, Chest & Biceps; Hamstrings, Shoulders & Arms
Another body-part split, this one is a bit different from the traditional split. For example, following a classic training split, you would train triceps on your chest day. However, by the time you would get around to training your triceps, they would already be fried from all the pressing movements — a less-than-ideal time to train them. Your biceps, however, would be fresh, and you could hit them with 100 percent intensity and effort. This split gives the added benefit of stimulating your biceps and triceps twice per week.
The leg days are also broken down by muscle group. Quad and hamstring day could also be called knee-dominant and hip-dominant exercise day, if that makes it easier for you to visualize. Your quad-dominant leg day can include squat variations, leg press, leg extensions or walking lunges. Your hamstring day can focus on posterior chain exercises such as deadlift variations, glute bridges, hip thrusts, step-ups, and kettlebell swings.
Total Body Split
The total-body split is very effective for those new to weightlifting. When you’re first starting out, you want to train your muscles multiple times per week to get really good at the exercises and get your muscles used to frequent stimulation.
If you’re brand new to the gym, an all-out leg day could leave you limping around in pain for a week, which would interfere with the rest of your workouts. With a full-body split, you can only do one or two lower body exercises, which allows for a much quicker recovery time. With fewer exercises, you can train the muscle group two to three times per week.
When setting up a full-body workout, make sure it’s balanced. You want a horizontal push and pull, a vertical push and pull, a hip-dominant exercise, a quad-dominant exercise, and an abdominal exercise. A good example would be a workout consisting of a dumbbell chest press, chin-ups, seated shoulder press, bent-over rows, goblet squats, dumbbell deadlifts, and a plank variation.
Power & Hypertrophy Split
This is the most advanced training split on our list. If you want to train for both strength and size, this will be the perfect setup for you.
The first two sessions are upper and lower body days. You set this up powerlifting style — heavy sets of 3-5 reps focusing on big, compound movements and longer rest periods. You can also use explosive Olympic movements like the hang clean.
Your next two or three sessions are bodybuilding style: Shorter rest periods, 8-20 reps and more isolation movements to really focus on specific muscle groups. You can either have another upper and lower body day in this style or even do a push/pull/legs split for the second half of the week, for a total of five training days.
If you’re new to lifting, this one will be tough to recover from. However, if you’ve been at this for a few years, this tough training system may be just the change you need to keep progressing in the gym.
When your workouts get boring, there’s nothing wrong with changing them, as long as the new workouts you choose continue to bring you closer to your goals. The five splits above are very versatile, and you can use any exercises you want and make them fit into the structure. Pick a split that fits your schedule, plan out the exercises you’ll use and give it a try.