The right training split for you can be the difference of being consistent and falling off the rails. So, what is a training split? It is how you would split your training throughout the week based on how many days you are training. A split can be based on muscle groups like chest day and back day, or can be movement based. There are many factors that can determine your optimal training split. You need to think about your activity level outside of the gym, days you can consistently train, work schedule, sleep schedule, family and social commitments, and more. Let’s break some of these down and help you find the best training split.
HOW MANY DAYS CAN YOU CONSISTENTLY TRAIN?
I think the biggest factor is how often you are able to train during the week. Be honest with yourself as you think about how often you can train. In the beginning, you might be overwhelmed with motivation so the first month you can do 5 days/week. What happens when that motivation goes away? Think about your work schedule, family and social commitments. Let’s start at the bottom, and work our way up with the different training options.
For many people, they can only commit to 2x/week for training in the gym. With this frequency, there aren’t many options, you can either do full body both those days or an upper and lower body split. For the best bang for your buck, I would highly recommend doing the full body option. You are able to hit each muscle group twice a week which studies show is best for muscle and strength gains. You can see great results with this model when you stay consistent. The other days are great to add walking, low intense cardio, hiking, mobility, and more. Really anything that keeps you moving but is not stressful on the body, it’s more recuperative.
Using myself as an example, I can consistently train 3x/week. This is due to my work schedule and my family. I have a 7 month old and a 3 year old, so I have to work around their schedule as well. Knowing this, I can create a plan for 3 days/ week that will help me reach my goals. You have a few options for a 3 day a week split:
- Full Body 3x/ week
- Upper/Lower/ Full Body
There are pros and cons for each of these three options, but in reality, it depends on what you like and what feels best for you. I did the full body 3x/ week and saw good results but didn’t really care for it. Currently I am doing the second option, and liking it so much more. I just like how I feel both mentally and physically, which is a big driving force on your consistency. Consistency is king, and if you are not consistent with your training, results will not come.
How about those who have some more time and can train 4-5x a week? When you have this availability, you can experiment more with how you want to split your training. I say experiment, because you need to try different splits to find what feels best for you. I think it is fun to get out of my comfort zone and play with different training splits. Here are couple splits for you to play with for a 4 days/week split:
- Push/Pull/Legs/Full Body
- Upper/Lower/Upper/Lower/Full Body
The splits that you see are not the only ones, depending on your goal you can mix it up even more. For example, if your goal is more leg development, you could do a 4 day split that looks like this: Lower/Upper/Lower/Full Body. This way you hit your legs 3x that week and still be able to hit your upper body 2x in a week. You would have to play with the intensity and volume, but that is one example how you can customize your training based on your goals.
I wouldn’t recommend resistance training more than 5x/ week, and this is due to a couple of reasons. One of them is lack of recovery time, your recovery is just as important as your training day. This topic can be discussed further in a separate blog post, but in short, the adaptations from training happen during recovery. The second reason I would not recommend training more than 5x/week is the ability to stay consistent. Think about it, it is much easier to be consistent with your training when you have to commit to 3 days compared to 6 days. With a 6 day training split, you miss one day, your whole week gets out of order. With a 3 day split, you have more days to shuffle around and stay on track.
There is no perfect training split, what matters is what will help you be consistent. The split you choose should reflect everything I mentioned above about your lifestyle and so on. Consistency is king to reaching your goals. You can have a perfect program just for you, but if you only train 50% of the time you will not see change. Remember, have FUN with it! If you don’t like it, the harder it will be to be consistent.