March 06, 2024 2 min read

By Shane Robert

Training is very simple on paper: Lift a weight as many times as you can until you can’t. Do that a few more times, rest, and repeat a little heavier or for more reps the next time. In practice, it starts to get a little more confusing. 

How often should you lift per week? 
How often should you train a muscle group per week? 
How do you plan training to prevent overlap? 

These are all questions that lead to the concept of Training Splits. A training split is simply the distribution of movement in a weekly training block (microcycle). There are countless ways that lifters have set up their splits over the decades. I am often asked by newer lifters what the “best” training split is and, as is so often the case with this whole training and nutrition world, it really depends. 

When reading the last 150 years of training literature, you see that certain trends come and go every 10-30 years. With many lifters' entire careers falling into that time bracket, it’s easy to understand that what they advocated for may simply have been what was popular in their time or what they had access to. For example, many training programs from the pre-WW2 era were 3 days per week. While we can make an argument that this is the best way to train, the truth is thatthey did it because gyms were segregated by sex – three days were reserved for men only, three for women only and one day for god. It would not do much good to write a five-day-per-week program that your pupils had no hope of completing.  

Before we get further into the minutiae, please realize that there is no “best” training split and we can only say, perhaps, a certain split is “best for [blank] situation.” I am hesitant, even then, to say that something is best. After all, as the old saying goes, the worst program applied with 100% effort is going to be more effective than the perfect program applied with 50% effort. In discussing the more common training splits, I am not necessarily advocating for or against anything. Rather, my goal is to inform you about the different options and discuss the pros and cons of each, which I assure you they all have. 

In the coming weeks, I will have entries about:

​​Full Body

  • Upper/Lower
  • Push/Pull
  • Push/Pull/Legs
  • Body Part/Bro Split
  • High Volume/High Frequency
  • Failure/HIT
  • High Frequency/High Intensity 
  • Heavy/Light
  • Heavy/Light/Medium
  • Full Body 

Let me say again that this list is by no means comprehensive. It is my attempt to shed light on the more common ways of setting up a training split. While it is easy to focus on differences, I find that most programs fall into one of these categories if you take the 10,000-foot view. 

As the great Dan Johns says, “Everything works. Nothing works forever.” Sometimes all it takes is a slight change to reignite progress and hopefully, by the end of this series, you’ll know the right change to make. 

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