How To Use Split Training

As you progress on your fitness journey a very common and effective training method you may wish to employ is split training.  Initially, most training should start off as whole body workouts.  In fact, some people can become quite advanced by remaining with whole body training and there are many benefits in staying with it.  But for most people, as they continue to try and progress by adding more volume to their workouts, they will ultimately hit a wall.  The increased number of sets and exercises needed to add volume and keep improving leads to longer and longer training sessions.  Due to this, the energy that’s needed to complete these workouts isn’t always there.  The later part of the workout and whatever is being trained towards its conclusion is not attached as enthusiastically or effectively as the beginning portion and results can easily suffer.  Split training offers an easy and effect way to progress through higher levels of training by allowing you to keep working harder and still get results.

The basic split training progression is to go from three training days a week, in which the entire body is trained each workout, to four training days a week where only half the body is worked during one session.  In whole body training, typically one exercise is used for each body part.  Split training allows the use of two of more movements  and this added volume is key to challenging the body to improve.  Each body part gets trained harder but has sufficient time to rest and allow for full recovery and growth.


A typical split breakdown is as follows:

2 Day Split: Train 4 Days a Week -2 exercises pre body-part, 3-4 sets each exercise

Monday and Thursday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps

Tuesday and Friday (or Saturday): Legs, Back, Biceps

This is a great standard spit for adding more size and strength as it allows for heavy training and plenty of recovery time.


A slightly more advanced split for when you want to add even more volume is a 3 day split:

3 Day Split: Train 4-5 Days a Week in Rotation (3 exercises per body-part, 3-5 sets per exercise) 

Day 1: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps

Day 2: Legs

Day 3: Back and Biceps


Beyond this, splits can be tailored to focus on what your body really needs or what you want to emphasize.  They can include designated power or strength days in conjunction with normal body development training.  They can include metabolic or conditioning workouts for calorie burning and cardio improvement.  They can even include plyometric or agility training workouts for improved athletic performance.


An advanced body development split may look something like this:

5 Day Split: Train 5 Days A Week in Sequence (3-4 exercises per body-part, 4-5 sets per exercise)

Monday: Chest, Calves, Cardio

Tuesday: Back, Biceps, Abs

Wednesday: Shoulders, Triceps, Cardio

Thursday: Rest

Friday: Quads, Abs/Core, Calves,

Saturday: Hamstrings, Glutes, Cardio


Split training allows you to give more time and attention to each area of your body, or different aspects of fitness you wish to focus on.  It is highly adjustable and keeps your body adapting due to the unlimited variety.  It is not something you need to start doing on day one of your fitness career.  Also, just because you are splitting your training does not mean that you can train indefinitely without rest.  The entire central nervous system can become taxed due to hard training so still allow yourself proper rest each week (at least 2 days unless you’re in a peaking period, then 1 may suffice over a short period of time).

In oder to keep progressing you have to ask more and more from your body.  But the harder you train, the longer it takes to recover.  Split training is a perfect way to progress into the more advanced levels of training.  If you find your workouts getting too long and taxing, or you need the ability to focus more specifically on certain things, split training may be an ideal option for you.

Photo: Terry Goodlad      Model: Ashley Shoultz

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