What's The Best Training Split For Building Muscle? Here's 6 Ways To Set Up Your Training For Maximum Gains
There's no "one-size-fits-all" training split. Because the best training split, depends on a number of factors.
Your schedule, goals, experience, and ability to recover are just a few things you need to consider. Having said that, there are logical ways to approach your training. And you'll discover 6 of the best training split solutions in this article.
So if you're scratching your head trying to figure out what to do in the gym, read on. By the end of this article, you'll know exactly what the best training split is for you.
And if you'd prefer to listen to the audio version of "The Best Training Split For Building Muscle: Your Top 6 Workout Solutions", click the play button below.
The Biggest Factor For Defining The Best Training Split
With so many workout programmes to choose from, it's hard to know which is right for you. Should you do full body workouts? Push, pull, legs? Or maybe resurrect the bro-split?
The answer is largely driven by one simple thing. Your schedule.
It might sound cliche, but the best training split is the one you can stick to.
Training muscles multiple times per week has been shown to maximise gains. So you might consider a 6 day training split as optimal. But if you can only train 3 times a week, it would be an illogical approach to your training.
So the best training split comes down to realism and logic. Start by defining how many times you can commit to training every week. Then use one of the training splits below to structure your workout programme.
The Best Training Split - 1 x Per Week
Training once a week is not ideal for building muscle. But something is better than nothing. And if you're a beginner, it might be enough to kickstart some 'newbie gains'. Although, increasing your training frequency is likely to be a necessity at some point.
In this situation, your training split is simple. A full body workout, prioritising compound lifts.
Ideally, you'll need over an hour to work-out so you can train each muscle group sufficiently. Choose exercises that give you the most bang for your buck. And that means ditching those 10 sets of biceps curls.
When you're short on time, movements such as the squat, deadlift, bench press, and shoulder press are your friends. Compound movements that work multiple muscles.
And to fit more into your workout, consider supersets and exercises that combine multiple movements. For example, a Landmine Lunge With Shoulder Press works both lower and upper body in one exercise.
Working out once a week is never going to be the best training split for building muscle. But don't let that be an excuse to abandon the gym altogether. Be smart with exercise selection and maximise your time in the gym.
The Best Training Split - 2 x Per Week
Much like training once a week, two workouts per week is unlikely to be optimal for maximising gains. But your workouts can still be effective.
A training split incorporating two full body workouts, and prioritising compound exercises, is the best way to structure your training. But you do have more scope for variety with a two day training split.
Create workouts with different exercises, targeting muscles in different ways. For example, the back exercises in one workout might focus on lats and mid/upper back in the other.
And if you want a free training programme set up this way, click here to download the Lean Life Kickstart Pack.
When training twice a week, focus on full body workouts and compound exercises. Vary exercise selection in each workout to target muscle groups in different ways.
The Best Training Split - 3 x Per Week
Arguably, training 3 days a week is the frequency with which you'll start to see a noticeable difference in your rate of progress. Added to that, you have more programming options when it comes to selecting the best training split.
Full Body Split
Providing you allow for adequate recovery, full body workouts remain an efficient and effective way to train. A full body training split is often best for beginners as repeating movement patterns multiple times per week helps accelerate skill-levels and exercise execution.
Whether your goal is building muscle, fat loss, or supporting performance in a specific sport, full body workouts are a great training solution. The Lean Life Kickstart Programme is ideal for those following a full body training split, three times a week. Download your free copy here.
Upper-lower training splits are a great progression if you want a different approach to full body training. They allow more recovery and potentially more training volume. Upper body and lower training splits are typically used when working out 4 times in a 7-day period. But by tagging on a full body day, they can be used in a 3 day a week split.
The great thing about a push, pull, legs training split is that it's straight-forward and easy to understand.
You push stuff, pull stuff, and move stuff with your legs. It's a way for you to get back-to-basics, move mass, and build muscle. Here's what a typical push, pull, legs programme might look like:
- PUSH - Chest, shoulders, and triceps (ie all your upper body pushing movements).
- PULL - Back and biceps (ie all your upper body pulling movements).
- LEGS - Quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves (ie a horrific leg day).
Then you keep rotating these workouts based on the training frequency that suits you.
Training 3 times a week gives you a lot of options when it comes to selecting the best training split. But don't be tempted to frequently change your approach. Pick the training split you enjoy and stick with it for a number of months.
The Best Training Split - 4 x Per Week
When training 4 times a week, you create even greater scope for adding variety to your training.
Full Body Split
Yes. A full body split is still possible with a 4 day training split. But there are important considerations you need to be aware of.
Recovery and training volume need to be managed effectively. Potentially training a muscle group 4 times in one week is intense. And if workouts aren't constructed and spaced out correctly, you'll struggle to recover and perform optimally.
However, on the plus side, if you get it right, the increased training frequency is likely to yield rapid progress.
Upper-Lower x 2
Managing the recovery and training volume associated with a 4-day full-body training split might seem complex. If this is the case, an upper-lower training split might be your best option. Structuring training in this way allows for optimal recovery, without too much thinking.
Adding variations to the upper and lower workouts is also great way to focus on specific aspects of your physique, if needed.
Here's two upper-lower training split variations.
- Upper Push: Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps.
- Lower Push: Quads and Calves.
- Upper Pull: Back, Traps, And Biceps.
- Lower Pull: Hamstrings and Glutes.
- Upper Vertical Push And Pull: All vertical pressing and pulling movements, including: shoulder presses, lat pulldown, etc.
- Lower: Mix of all muscles.
- Upper Horizontal Push And Pull: All horizontal pressing and pulling movements, including: chest presses, rows, etc.
- Lower: Mix of all muscles.
Training 4 times a week means less recovery and more training volume. Therefore, it's important to bear this in mind when selecting the best training split.
The Best Training Split - 5 x Per Week
Due to diminished recovery, training more than four times a week is likely to be too much volume for most beginners. So only consider 5 and 6 day training splits if you have more experience.
And it might seem strange, but as you increase training frequency, the number of logical ways to approach your training split reduces.
Combining Push-Pull-Legs and Upper-Lower training splits is a way to structure your workouts. This allows fo a huge degree of programming options within each session. And specific focus can be given to priority or lagging body parts, without compromising the overall programme. Movement patterns can also be repeated to improve exercise execution.
Of course, you could always adopt a bro-split (especially if you REALLY want an arm day). But it's very unlikely to be the most optimal way to train.
Even if you train frequently, there's no need to make your training split overly complicated. Programming the best exercises for you and your goals, combined with hard effort is still the recipe for maximum gains.
The Best Training Split - 6 x Per Week
To me, there's only one logical approach to a 6 day a week training split (unless there's a specific reason for deviation). And that's Push-Pull-Legs x 2.
Having two variations of Push, Pull, and Lower Body workouts allows for the greatest scope of exercise variation. For example, you can focus on upper pec in one push workout and mid-pec in the other. Lats in one back workout and mid/upper back in the other. Ultimately, you can include all the exercises needed for what is arguably the most complete training approach.
When training more frequently, use the additional sessions to challenge muscles in multiple ways. Take the time to consider appropriate exercise selection to maximise the amount of muscle you build.
Optimising a Push-Pull-Legs routine is something I discussed with Joe Bennett, The Hypertrophy Coach, in a previous episode of the podcast. And you can listen to that by pressing the play button below.
And you can watch the video version here.
The Bottom Line On The Best Training Split For Building Muscle?
There is no "one size fits all" training programme. Finding the best training split for you will depend on a number of factors. Resist the temptation to copy what you see online. A personalised training programme is undoubtedly your fastest route to the body you've been striving for.
Choosing the best training split for you will be driven by your schedule, training age, and ability to recover.
If you're a beginner, resist the temptation to train yourself into the ground with a 6 day split from the outset. You can make great (if not more) gains by moderating training volume and ensuring you train optimally for each workout.
Be realistic about what training split is truly best for you. The programme you can execute consistently, is likely to yield the greatest return. Being over-ambitious might seem like the right idea. But if you're constantly skipping workouts and not training certain muscle groups, you're doing yourself a disservice. And you might start to get disappointed with your progress.
So be sensible, logical, and methodical when deciding on your training split. And most of all, make sure you're having fun. Because the best training split on paper is pointless if you hate every moment you're in the gym.
What are your thoughts on the best training split for building muscle? Has this article made you rethink your approach to training? Which of the solutions do you think is the best training split for you? Let me know in the comments below, or drop me a message on Instagram (@iron_paradise_fitness).
Here's The Next Step In Achieving Your Fitness Goals
Deciding on the best training split for you is the first step in getting your workouts sorted. But what about the other pieces of the puzzle? Are you confident in managing all aspects of your training and nutrition? Can you keep yourself accountable to ensure you maintain consistency?
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