How to split your training – SHATTER the stall in progress

Written by Tihomir Stefanov, M.S.(C), PT

| Published on

Fact Checked

Knowing how to split your training is one of the most important aspects when you get past the beginner stage.

In previous article, we’ve mentioned the fact that doing full-body workouts is good in almost all cases.

First and foremost, full body workouts are the perfect way to give yourself a kickstart as a beginner.

During the beginner’s phase, the goal is to lay down the fundamental improvements of physical properties like strength and strength endurance, but also focus on learning the correct execution of each exercise.

Now, even past the beginner stage, which can last up to a year or more, even then, full body workouts are effective, if you progressively overload on the exercises.

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However, after some time, odds are that full body workouts will be sub-optimal.

Of course, full body workouts always feel good, but sub-optimal stimulus might be hiding beneath the surface of a good pump.

Generally, when the goal is optimal muscular development in terms of looks and functionality, you have to target each muscle group under different angles.

And with full body workouts, we basically have a limited amount of sets/exercises per muscle group.

This is also partly why people tend to just go through the full body workouts.

How to split your workout

types of training splits

If you feel like full body workouts have become sub-optimal for you, then it would be time to change things up a bit.

The split training principle simply implies that you split the full body workouts into separate muscle groups on separate days.

With this type of training, the goal is to training 2-3 groups per workout and sometimes even 4 for the lower body.

Why do this?

Simply because this approach allows you to emphasize more on each muscle group.

After all, the attention that goes to each following muscle group in a full body workout, may decrease.

And if you have just 2 muscle groups to train in a given workout, the attention and hence the energy that will go into it will be greater.

Not only that, but the room for more exercises and sets allows you to hit each muscle group under a variety of angles, which ultimately means better overall development.

Supercompensation in training

training supercompensation

If you’ve followed up with us on this series of educational articles, you should know by now that when we’re talking about making optimal gains, there are two main factors – Stress and adaptation.

When we go into the gym and do a heavy workout, that is only the stimulus for what we are looking to achieve.

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When the workout ends, the body instantly starts recovering and adapting to the endured stress.

Of course, the organism is smart and it is looking to adapt in a way that would allow it to endure a bigger stress in the future.

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In that case, the future is the next workout, but what we’re trying to say is that the body’s survival mechanisms simply prepare it for more, and that’s what we call supercompensation.

Now, the muscles and its energy reserves are just a part of the whole picture.

It is worth noting here that the body is one whole system, which gets triggered during stress (workout).

That is to say that after a gym, it is not just the muscle tissue that recovers, but also the central nervous system, the endocrine system, etc.

Essentially, the supercompensation is expressed with increased muscle energy reserves, increased strength of the myofibrils (muscle fibers), increased hormonal levels, cardiovascular adaptation and anaerobic/aerobic capacity.

That is especially relevant for strength athletes, as bigger levels of intensity (weight used) engage and strain the central nervous system more.

A key point here is that the muscles are at the peak states of recovery right around the 72~96th hour after an intense workout.

Misc factors

The recovery time of course depends on a variety of factors, such as nutrition, sleeping habits and toxic habits.

Now, right at that sweet spot around the 72th hour, is the perfect time to train the muscles again.

If you go past that, to the 4th-5th day, the supercompensation may not be as prominent.

That may be due to the fact the body ‘thinks’ that the ‘danger’ (stress from the workout) has passed.

The split principle allows you to do just that – Train each muscle every ~96 hours, twice a week for each group.

Types of training splits

types of splits for the gym

Now, there are a variety of options when it comes to structuring your training split.

We will however, give you the ones that have been proven to work.

Upper/lower body training split

This split implies simplicity – On day one, we train the upper body.

That is essentially – Chest, back, shoulders, arms.

On the second day we follow up with a lower body workout, where we target the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes and lower back.

After that, on the third day we take a rest day, where the goal is to optimize recovery.

Note that rest day doesn’t mean going nuts on your eating regimen and sitting all day.

Accept your rest days as a time when you will do things to prepare yourself mentally and physically for the upcoming workouts.

Optimal recovery is just as important as the workout itself.

The upper/lower training split is perfect for people who are just past the beginner stage and are looking to diversify their training.

A part of the diversity is including exercises from more angles, as well as more sets and reps.

3 days on, 1 day off

With this split, we are looking to further separate the muscle groups into different days, training no more than 3 groups per workout for the upper body.

This approach allows for many benefits, such as a variety of exercises and an increased frequency of workouts.

There are many ways to split the training days into different muscle groups.

Then again, we have to acknowledge that there is no unified, optimal approach, due to the subjective nature of how the body responds.

Yes, there are general principles, but you have to figure out what works best for you.

Follow up with our next article on priority training, where we will explain how to split up your training in order to target lacking body parts.

Push/pull/legs split

This is one of the best training splits we have tried for ourselves and it is a quite interesting one.

Unlike the previous options, with this split we simply separate the muscle groups according to their functions.

On day one, the goal is to target all the pushing muscle groups – Chest, shoulders, triceps

On day two, we train the pulling groups, which are namely the Back, biceps and rear delts, as well as forearms.

Day three we have to smash the lower body – Quads, hams, calves, glutes, lower back.

Note that the legs have both pushing and pulling muscle groups.

Bottom line

After some time, full body workouts might turn out to be sub-optimal, simply because they don’t allow for optimal volume and exercise choice in the long term.

When it comes to increasing the progressive overload, workload volume is one of the biggest factors to consider.

Of course, the intensity has to be up to par as well, and must not be sacrificed to create “junk volume”.

In other words, the bigger volume of sets and exercises must still demand effort.

With the split training principle, you will be able to do more than 5 working sets per muscle group.

On top of that, when you increase the volume in a full body workout, it will just take forever to finish.

The more time goes by, the weaker your focus may become.

That is exactly why, targeting each muscle group separately or along with one or two other groups, may just be your next stepping stone to more gains.

P.S: Focusing on certain muscle groups is nice, but if you are looking to develop other physical properties, check out our article on Speed and agility training

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