3 Most Effective Strength Workout Splits

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Last updated on September 5, 2022

People have been working out using split routines for years to target the different major muscle groups, such as the legs, biceps, shoulders and triceps, chest, the quads and hamstrings, and they have proved to be quite useful, particularly in strength training workouts. This training method means working out one group of muscles at one time instead of the full-body workout. Bodybuilding experts and athletes recommend this method of working out as it is efficient, more intensive and that one can focus on almost every muscle for every split.

Factors to Consider When Setting up a Split

Every person is different which means that they have different needs. Peoples objectives can vary from strength and conditioning, building muscles and strength training to focusing on particular parts of the body (for example biceps and triceps, chest and triceps or quads hamstrings ), to simply wanting to lose fat. Some factors that will affect the type of workout splits you should go with include depending if their goal is weight loss or muscle building:

The training experience

This will often dictate the intensity of each session.

As experienced athletes would say, beginners require less intensive training program. You shouldn’t jump straight on the bench press and do lots of reps using the chest using heavy weights during your first training sessions. Bench press does help in muscle building but it is never wise to over-do anything during a body workout. They are also more frequent than those of advanced lifters.

The goals of the workout

People hit the gym for different reasons. Some only want to lose weight whereas others want to focus on health and fitness. Others, especially men, want to build muscle mass, especially on the shoulders and chest areas. In that case, the workout will be more intensive than that of a person who just wants to stay in shape. Different groups of muscles should be targeted for different results.


Are you one of those busy people then your schedule determines how much you can commit to your workout plan. If you can hit it every day, then you are flexible enough to go with any plan. If you can only give it a few days, you don’t have that many options. You should be available for at least three days per week to see any significant results.

Health and wellness status


If you are in recovery from an injury or sickness, you will need to go easy on the splits you should not attempt total body training splits. If your last workout left you sore, then you will need to give your muscles some rest and ample time to recover before indulging them again.

Three Most Effective Workout Splits (for Strength Training)

Three of the most effective strength workout splits include:

Total body splits

This is a three-day routine that is most convenient for people with tight schedules. It works the entire body as a unit rather than single parts. Typically, training alternates with resting days. For instance, if one trains on Monday, they rest on Tuesday and train again on Wednesday and so on. The duration, however, will be longer per sessions than those of people training one or more days.


  • The main advantage of total splits is that delivers high frequencies of stimulation to the muscles. It also offers moderate volume on training which compliments many workout goals such as fat loss, hypertrophy, and strength building.
  • It also allows one to be flexible and creates time for recovery and rest.


  • Workouts sessions are typically very long (up to 90 minutes and not less than an hour) without including warm-up and stretching.
  • Due to less frequency of training, one will have to watch their diet to ward off any increases in body fat.
  • Few training days means that some training exercises and goals per cycle will have to be cut off.
  • The athlete only has a day to recover otherwise their schedule may be interrupted.

The push/pull training splits

In these workout splits, athletes train twice per week with increased frequency. They include pushing (squats and pressing with accessories) and pulling (deadlift and pulling with accessories). This routine can be spread evenly throughout the week or done with a 2-on, 1-off, 2-on, 2-off strategy.

Training frequency is also important training for three days in a row is not wise and the muscles will not be given enough time to recover. The exercise includes most of the exercises that are necessary for building strength.

This training is particularly suited for people who are trying to increase their frequency and volume, bridging from beginners to experienced athletes.


  • Most muscle groups can be trained just twice per week.
  • More time means that the athletes have a variety of exercises to choose from.
  • The routine creates enough time to include other skill-based movements.
  • It covers time spread out through the whole week which means that athletes can carry out high-intensity and volume workout with less fatigue.


  • Redundancy is common; consistency becomes difficult when sore muscles need to be engaged without enough recovery.
  • The push and pull routines can be hard on beginners.
  • There is less emphasis on the need for recovery compared to the three-day total body split.
  • Advanced athletes will require additional fatigue management and recovery plans in place.

Upper and Lower Body Push and Pull Training Split

Upper and lower body splits are an improvement on the total body splits. It offers more training volume and intensity as well as more recovery. The lower body is alternated with the upper day four times a week in a week’s training split. Athletes who have had an intensive training foundation will find this split friendly as it requires a boundless deal of perseverance as well as recovery.

For proper recovery, athletes are advised to avoid lifting for more than three days consecutively. Each day focuses on a specific group of muscles.

Upper Lower Splits Advantages

  • The athlete is presented with a lot of freedom to choose and customize his exercises to meet his goals and needs.
  • A high volume of training leads to maximized muscle growth.
  • Athletes can spend less time training in the gym.

Upper Lower Splits Disadvantages

  • Too much training with little or no recovery.
  • Recovery relies heavily on sleep, nutrition, and stress management.
  • They ate unbalanced with the upper-body sections being emphasized more than the lower body.

It may be brutal for those who lack enough mental strength.

How Many Workouts Per Week?

The question of what type of training method you choose will have a lot to do with how many times per week you want to train. Obviously the more you split your body up, the more days it will take to train the whole body. So, how many times per week should you train each muscle group?

Back in the 70s when Arnold was the reigning king of bodybuilding, most bodybuilders trained each body-part multiple times per week. Their workouts were marathon sessions that would last as long as three hours. Some body-parts, such as quads, shoulders and triceps, could be trained as many as three times per week.

From a modern perspective, we tend to think that those guys back in the 70s were over training with an outdated training method. In a recent survey it was found that 61% of trainers worked out each body-part just once per week, with 31% training each body part more than once per week. So, what does the science say?

A recent meta-analysis of twenty studies showed that training each body part twice per week resulted in more muscle growth than a training split where you train each body-part just once per week. In fact, guys who trained twice per week showed a 3.1 percent greater muscle growth than those who had weekly workouts for each body part. That may not sound like much but it could result in an extra couple of pounds of solid muscle on the body each week. That would make a dramatic difference to your physique.

From this meta-study it seems clear that training a body part twice per week is better in terms of muscle growth than training each muscle group with weekly workouts. But what about training each muscle three times per week?

The research indicates that hitting each body part three times per week is too much because it prevents your body from fully recovering from each workout. One effect of this will be that your third workout of the week for a muscle group will not be as effective as a result of the cumulative fatigue that has built up over the course of the week. On top of that, you will not be able to adequately repair and rebuild your muscle tissue between workouts.

Be sure to leave yourself a minimum of 48 hours before working a body part again. So, if you are training your whole body each workout then you are best to train just twice per week, with a couple of days between workouts. On a push-pull split, you can work out two days in a row but make sure that you are working different body parts. Then have a day off before starting again. So, you could do your pull workout on Monday and your push workout on Tuesday. Then have Wednesday off. Repeat the sequence on Thursday and Friday. Follow this same pattern with your upper lower splits.


To Conclude the Benefits of Workout Splits for Strength Training

  • One can direct various exercise to a particular set of muscles.
  • There is a reduced possibility of overtraining as splits typically take 40–90 minutes.
  • People doing splits are usually more motivated than those doing whole body workouts because of the short duration compared to the latter’s hours of exertion.
  • The body has more time to recover compared to when one is doing full body training.

It allows one to add some variety into their workout routine

We hope you can take a training tip or more to incorporate in your workout routines. We mentioned isolation exercises, which is training one muscle group and joint at a time for example:

  • Lat pulldown
  • Barbell curl
  • Hammer curls
  • Uprights rows
  • Calf raise
  • Seated dumbbell,
  • Dumbbell flye
  • Dumbbell bench press

In addition to compound exercises, which work multiple muscles groups at the same time (chest shoulders, quads hamstrings):

  • Military presses
  • Deadlifts
  • Squats

The decision will depend on your fitness goals and ask a fitness coach where needed.

Joe Martin is a NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) Certified Nutrition Coach (NASM-CNC) and Certified Personal Trainer (NASM-PST) with over 15 years’ experience in personal training and nutrition. Joe was also a former New York Giants Football Player and has his own fitness website Jerseyjoefitness.com

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