In my decade-long experience as a fitness coach, countless people have asked me which workout split is the most effective.
Essentially, the best workout split depends on your fitness level and what you intend to achieve, so there’s no one-size-fits-all approach here.
To dig into this a bit further, I’ve combined what I know from my experience and what I’ve learned from consulting a physical therapist who doubles up as a bodybuilder.
Here are some of the best workout splits.
- The full body split, the upper-lower, push-pull leg workout, and body part splits are among the most common workout splits.
- Studies show that training a muscle group twice a week is the most effective for muscle building.
- Experience, schedule, weaknesses, rest, and recovery are among the things you should consider before selecting a workout program.
Best Workout Splits
Below are four of the most common body workout splits:
1. Full Body Split
It involves training the entire body, including all major muscles in the upper and lower body, in each training session.
In the full body split, the target is not every single muscle but rather multiple muscles through a compilation of compound movements. This way, you hit major muscle groups every session.
For instance, a typical full-body session may include compound exercises such as bench press workouts, squats, pull-ups, and an overhead press.
These types of workouts are best for people with a busy schedule who are available on a 2,3, or 4-day basis with rest days between the sessions.
Here’s a quick example:
- Day 1: Full body (squats, shoulder press, bench press, rows)
- Day 2: Rest and recovery
- Day 3: Rest and recovery
- Day 4: Full body (deadlifts, overhead press, incline press, pull-ups, planks)
- Day 5-7: Rest and recovery
- Day 1: Full body workout (squats, overhead press, dips, rows)
- Day 2: Rest and recovery
- Day 3: Full body workout (pull-ups, bench press, split squats, planks)
- Day 4: Rest and recovery
- Day 5: Full body workout (deadlifts, pushups, overhead press, hanging leg raises)
- Day 6-7: Rest and recovery
A full-body routine is great for improving strength and athleticism. I always put my new clients on this workout routine to allow them to get familiar with the equipment and to enable them to exercise every body part with moderation.
2. Upper-Lower Split
This workout routine involves dividing workouts into upper-body training days and lower-body days. In the former, you train your major upper region muscles, while in the latter, your lower region muscles.
Upper body muscle groups include:
Lower body muscles:
The upper-lower workout split is flexible and can be done 2-6 days a week. However, the most common is 4 days.
Here’s what a typical 4-day upper-lower split looks like:
- Day 1: Upper body workout
- Day 2: Lower body
- Day 3: Rest
- Day 4: Upper body
- Day 5: Lower body
- Day 6 & 7: Rest
The upper-lower split allows you to maximize volume and is the perfect middle ground between the full body and body part splits.
Like full-body splits, the upper-lower also allows you to focus on big compound movements while enabling you to throw in some accessory workouts that target smaller muscle groups like the calves, triceps, and biceps.
Also, according to studies, a training frequency of two times a week promotes superior hypertrophy (muscle growth) than just once a week . This makes the upper-lower body routine the most ideal if your goal is to build muscle.
3. Push, Pull, Legs Split (PPL)
The PPL split allows you to train for push days, pull days, and leg days.
Push days involve upper-body pushing muscles, which include your shoulders, chest, and triceps.
Pull days are upper-body pulling muscles which consist of the back muscles, abs, biceps, and forearms.
Leg days consist of the regular lower body muscles, glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves.
Here’s what a typical workout looks like:
- Day 1: Push (Shoulders, chest, and triceps)
- Day 2: Pull (Biceps, back, forearms, and abs)
- Day 3: Legs
- Day 4: Shoulders, chest, and triceps
- Day 5: Biceps, back, forearms, and abs
- Day 6: Legs
- Day 7: Rest
The Push Pull Legs, also an effective Chris Bumstead workout routine, gives you ample recovery time between training muscles while allowing you to train a muscle at least twice a week which, as we've seen, is good for muscle hypertrophy.
How to Choose the Right One
When choosing a workout split, you need to consider what you intend to accomplish, your experience, availability, weaknesses, and recovery/rest needs.
Let's examine these factors more in-depth.
If you’re building muscle, your training program split will probably be different from someone else who is trying to lose fat.
Others who are establishing a foundation for fitness to improve strength or athleticism may have to choose a different split altogether.
“The number one thing to keep in mind when picking a workout split is what you’re looking to accomplish.”
- Ben Pollack, Ph.D., Professional Powerlifter
Related: Weekend Workout Routine
Another big factor is experience. A beginner will likely need a training program that involves lighter workouts to avoid overstressing their muscles.
On the flip side, an experienced lifter will be looking to add training frequency, training intensity, and volume.
His training program will likely differ from that of a beginner.
Your schedule stresses the need to determine the number of days you can commit to the gym.
That said, a six-day workout routine won’t be appropriate if you have a busy schedule.
If you’re only available thrice per week, then your plan should reflect this and should be designed in such a way that you hit all major muscles within the three days.
This way, the workout plan will be effective even for the experienced lifter.
I recommend full-body workouts as more ideal when you’re available for two or three days a week.
I strongly advise my clients against training sore muscles. It’s crucial in terms of muscle hypertrophy to allow ample rest days for the recovery of muscles.
The best way to ensure this is to devise a robust plan that allows it.
Sometimes factors such as your experience, lifestyle, and age determine the amount of rest you need.
See, beginners and older people may need more recovery time between workouts.
The same goes for people who have trouble getting enough sleep.
If you have a weakness, you may need to emphasize a workout that allows you to improve on the same.
For instance, if leg day is a problem, you may want to ensure that you’re doing legs when you’re fresh or choose a split that allows you to hit legs twice a week or an entire session on the lower body workout alone.
Why Are They Important?
Workout splits are important because they give you a clear path toward your workout goals.
They enable you to train specific muscle groups while letting others you have already trained to recover.
While you can still train without a plan, sticking to a workout split enables you to get the best results in a balanced manner by not overtraining or undertraining some muscles.
Moreover, studies show that competitive bodybuilders employ these methods .
Personally, I like to think of it as a calculated approach that allows you to train with maximum effort and avoid burnout.
But as it goes with exercise, proper nutrition, and enough sleep are also important for maximum gain.
Which Split Is Best for Fat Loss?
The best split workouts for fat loss are full-body, push-pull legs, and upper-lower splits.
They are compound workouts that enable ample calorie burning, and since all splits promote hypertrophy, they also help burn fat at rest and which makes them great for weight loss.
Which Split Is Best for Beginners?
The best split for beginners is the full-body workout split. It allows them to exercise major body parts with moderation while enabling them to be familiar with the equipment.
Add a Supplement to Your Workout Split for Maximum Gains
Whether you choose a full body, a push/pull split, or an upper-lower workout split, you still need to combine it with enough rest, sleep, and proper nutrition for maximum gains.
I also advise my clients to take a pre-workout supplement for the ultimate energy and nutrient nourishment to keep them focused and to improve their performance.
We’ve carefully vetted multiple supplements and gathered enough client feedback on the same, and the products on these lists showed the most significant improvements in performance.
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