When it comes to getting physical and aesthetic results in weightlifting; workout splits are vital for the most efficient outcomes. If you want sustainable results, you absolutely must be strategically splitting your workouts.
Why weightlifters need workout splits
The primary purpose of a workout split is to allow your muscles sufficient recovery time between workouts.
Recovery is necessary in weightlifting because when you lift you create tiny little tears in the muscle. It is during your rest periods (mostly when you’re actually sleeping) that your muscles repair themselves. Those tears you create in the gym are knitted back together, making the muscle a little bigger each time.
If you continue to lift/tear the same muscle repeatedly without allowing it time to recover, you will eventually fatigue which could result in injury. Be that an overuse injury that comes on over time, or an acute injury such as a large muscle tear. Neither is desirable, so pay attention to how you’re training.
Weightlifting isn’t about going hard in every workout – it’s about going smart.
By training a different muscle group with each workout, you are able to train every day without overworking a single muscle group.
Below are some workout split examples.
Beginner workout splits
In a slight contradiction to what has been explained above; an absolute beginner who has zero background in weightlifting can start with general full body workouts.
This is acceptable at this stage because your primary objective should be to wake your muscles up and get them used to training. Also, an absolute beginner is unlikely to train daily, so the recovery period is still achieved.
As another side note; a more experienced lifter who cannot train daily for other reasons, will still benefit from full body workouts on the days they can train.
Back to a beginner workout split…
Upper/lower body split
The upper/lower body split is a nice and simple approach to breaking down your workouts. It’s straight forward and ideal for beginners.
For example; you can train your upper body on day 1 – your lower body on day 2 – a cardio workout on day 3, back to upper body on day 4 and so on.
Intermediate to advanced workout splits
Muscle group rotation
Muscle group rotation is simply breaking your workouts down by muscle groups.
There are some common workout splits that lifters follow, but ultimately, if you know which muscles you’re working with each exercise – you can break your workouts down however you prefer.
Below are some typical examples...
…or you might consider…
Back & chest
Shoulders, biceps & triceps
Abs, calves & cardio
…another common split…
Advanced workout splits
Power & Hypertrophy Upper & Lower Split
This method is an upper/lower body split, based on key compound moves as well as some accessory exercises for the primary purpose of building strength and size.
In short, you will split power (strength) workouts (high volume low rep), with hypertrophy (muscle growth) workouts (low volume – high rep).
Your split would look something like this:
Day 1: Upper body power
Day 2: Lower body power
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Upper body hypertrophy
Day 5: Lower body hypertrophy
For the powerlifter, workouts are generally broken down by key move:
Day 1: Squat
Day 2: Deadlift
Day 3: Bench
Workout splits concluded
How you split your workouts will depend heavily on your own goals and personal preferences. But the bottom line is; provided you’re not working the same muscle groups day in and day out, you’re good to go. Just be sure not to forget any muscle groups!