What is a Workout Split and What is the Best One for Me?April 21, 2019
A workout split is a great way to add variety and structure to your training but what exactly is a workout split and how can it be used to benefit your exercise regime?
A workout split is simply a way of dividing your training sessions into different body regions. Workout splits are typically used in weight lifting but they can be used in bodyweight training too. There is no ‘one size fits all’ for the best workout split. Your training split depends on your goals, your training age, your schedule and how much time you want to be spending in the gym. This blog post explores the most popular workout splits so you can decide which one is best for you.
Full Body Training Split
Full body training involves training every major muscle group in a single workout.
Ideal for beginners, this workout split is great for those who are new to the gym and want to find their feet with all the different types of exercises available. The freedom of full body training is perfect for bodyweight training and introducing some weightlifting into your fitness routine, as well as improving your overall health.
However, it is difficult to train more than 3 or 4 times a week when full body training due to fatigue. An imbalance in training is also possible, as individuals are more likely to only perform their favourite exercises and neglect less-favoured muscle groups. Full body training is used as a starting point for many and when they feel comfortable, they can progress onto a new workout split to fit their goals.
Upper or Lower Workout Split
Upper lower training splits are best suited to those who want to progress from a full body split. An upper lower split divides the body into upper muscle groups (chest, shoulders, arms and back) and lower body muscle groups (glutes, legs and abs). Typically, this workout split performs 2 exercises per muscle group. For example, a lower body session could involve:
Glutes: glute bridges and hip thrusts.
Quadriceps: squats and lunges.
Hamstrings: hamstring curls and kettlebell swings.
One of the reasons this is a good workout split is that you are increasing the volume of work for each body part. This means you can hit a particular area from multiple angles while increasing the intensity in a session. This kind of workout split helps to build strength and size quickly whilst also allowing adequate time for muscles to recover. It’s ideal for people who wish to train 4 times per week as each split requires alternation of lower and upper body sessions.
However, this upper lower training split is limited as it can produce unbalanced training programmes. Upper body workouts generally take longer than lower body workouts as there are more muscle groups to target. Therefore individuals can find that their lower body progresses much faster than their upper body.
Body Part Split
The body part split is the typical ‘bodybuilders’ workout split. This workout split involves dividing the body into the muscle groups: arms (biceps and triceps), chest, shoulders, back and legs; therefore, it is thought of as the best 5-day split.
A typical training week may be comprised of 4-5 exercises, 3-4 sets, 8-15 reps.
The body part split requires key muscle groups being separated by 48 hours in order to avoid injury and aid recovery.
One of the benefits of this workout split is that it uses greater exercise variation in order to target individual muscle groups. It is great for ‘shocking’ muscles into growth due to the high-localised volume of exercises so you can typically see results faster.
However, the nature of the body part split requires heavy multi-joint lifts for the majority of exercises meaning that recovery can be hindered. Body part splits are also time-consuming and can be impractical for people with busy schedules as missing just one session can stop the flow of the programme. That’s why this workout split is best suited to experienced lifters, familiar with training 5/6 times a week.
So how do I choose the best split for me?
It can be overwhelming when deciding how to split your training throughout the week. However, there are 4 simple elements you must consider when choosing the right one for you:
Your Training Experience
If you are new to training, it is important to get to grips with the basics with a full body training split before progressing onto different workout splits like the ones mentioned in this post.
Are you trying to establish a baseline of fitness, maintain your shape, or pursue larger physical changes?
How much time a week can you commit to training? Are you looking to train 5 or 6 times for 1-2 hours or are you wanting to train 3 or 4 times a week for 30 to 45 minutes? This will determine what type of split you can commit to.
Rest and Recovery
Depending on your lifestyle, job and recovery abilities you may need more or fewer rest days throughout the week. Recovery days are just as important as gym days as they allow your muscles to grow and strengthen as well as allowing you to mentally recover in order to avoid burnout.
Hopefully this blog post has given you an insight and inspiration for your choosing the best workout split for your fitness routine. At Beckwith Health Club, our fully qualified personal trainers are always on hand to answer any questions you may have about your training split.