My Favorite Training Splits

I’ve been weight training since I was 13 years old…which means I’ve been at this for a LOOOONGGG time. It also means that I’ve experimented with many different styles of training and training splits. I’ve done bodybuilding workouts, CrossFit, and powerlifting.

If you aren’t familiar with what a training split is, it’s simply how you split up the way  you train your muscle groups throughout the week. The most common splits are the typical “bodybuilder” splits, where you train one or two muscle groups each day, usually training each muscle group once a week.

While this can be fine for “enhanced” bodybuilders, I’m not a huge fan of that type of split for the general population. For one thing, most people don’t have 6-7 days to commit to the gym, and for most people wanting to lose fat and gain some muscle tone, there is no reason to hit just one muscle group with a million different exercises.

Instead, I prefer training splits that hit multiple muscle groups in one workout and a higher frequency, meaning that you train each muscle group multiple times per week.

Here are the training splits that I use most often for myself and for my clients:

Full body (2-3 day split)
This is the split I recommend for people who only have 2-3 days a week to train and is what I use most for my clients. You are training every major muscle group in your body during every workout. To ensure that you’re training everything equally, you want to do a lower body movement, an upper body push, a lower body pull, and a core movement.

Upper body /Lower body/Full body(3 day split)
This is a another great option for someone who can only commit to 3 days in the gym. With this split, you get 2 days to focus a little more on specific muscle groups with a day devoted to just upper and just lower body, and then a full body workout later in the week so that you hit each muscle group 2 times a week.

Upper/lower/upper/lower (4 day split)
This is my favorite split and the one I use most for myself. It’s the perfect balance of working multiple muscle groups, but it’s also split up enough that you can isolate individual muscles if you want a more bodybuilding focus. I also think that it’s the perfect split for the goal of increasing strength and what many powerlifting programs utilize. It also allows for 3 days of rest and recovery, so that you don’t get overtrained or burnt out.

Upper push/lower/upper pull/lower (4 day split)
If you want to further split up your muscle groups you can divide your upper days into “push” and “pull” days. So on the first upper day you would do all the pushing movements, or if you want to think in terms of muscles, you’d be working the chest, shoulders, and triceps. On the pull day, you are working back, rear delts, and biceps. There are still two lower body days as well, and you could even split those days into a hamstring and glute focus the first leg day and a quad focus the second leg day. I switch to this split occasionally just for a change of pace, or if I want to focus a little more on hypertrophy.

Back & chest/Lower body /Back & shoulders/Lower body (4 day split)
Another way to split up the upper body workouts is by having a back and chest focus one day and then a back and shoulder focus the next. I like this split because you can pair movements into opposing muscle group supersets, which I love to incorporate into my workouts. It keeps the intensity high and the workout fast paced.  I also just really like to train back more than once a week, which you don’t get in the push/pull split. You could add arms to either or both days. As in the above example, you could also further split lower body days into glutes/hamstrings and quads.

Upper body heavy/Lower body heavy /Back & shoulders/Lower body hypertrophy/Chest & arms (5 day split)
For those who enjoy focusing on strength but also like to have more bodybuilding/hypertrophy work and more days in the gym, this is a good option. You have 2 days devoted to strength-a heavy upper body day and a heavy lower body day. This is when you would focus on the main lifts in the lower rep range. Then later in the week, you split up the muscle groups a bit more and focus on hypertrophy, with more isolation movements and higher reps. This is about as “bodybuilderish” a split I would recommend for most people who aren’t training for a bodybuilding or fitness competition. It’s something I would use for a month or two out of the year just for a change, but not something I would do year round for myself personally.

Hopefully this has given you some ideas for how to split up your workouts in the gym that you may not have thought of. Remember, there is no “perfect” training split. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to train. The most important thing when coming up with a split that works best for you is, first, what works with your schedule, and then, what you actually enjoy. You’re not going to be excited about going to the gym if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing. Like for me, I do NOT enjoy the typical one muscle group per day bodybuilding split, because it is just BORING to me. But other people may love it!

Also, there’s nothing wrong with sticking with the same training split if it’s what you enjoy, what works best for your schedule, and what gets you the best results. But it is a good idea to consider switching it up every now and then. Most of the time I stick with an upper/lower split, but occasionally I will do a push/legs/pull/legs split or even do full body workouts here and there. It’s okay to experiment with different training splits until you find something that works for you!

Tell me, what is your favorite training split? Do you utilize any listed here?

Three Exercise Only Workouts

Let’s face it, sometimes it’s hard to squeeze a workout in, especially around the busy holiday season. But the good thing is, you don’t need to spend hours in the gym to get an effective workout.

Trust me, no matter how busy you are, I’m certain that most anyone can find time to get in a 15-30 minute workout a few times a week. You can make it happen. And if you choose the right movements and watch what you eat, you can most definitely get results with short but intense workouts.

The key to short workouts is to stick to basic, compound lifts that will work multiple muscle groups. And if you have to choose between lifting weights and cardio…always choose the weights! Each of these workouts are set up so that they are working every muscle in your body. There is a lower body movement, an upper body push, and an upper body pull.

Make sure to get in a full body warm-up and then a few warm-up sets of each movement before you get to your working weight. When choosing what weight to use, it should be challenging, but keep the reps 1-2 short of failure. This is not the time to max out on a lift, but you don’t want it to be easy either.

 

Workout 1

As many rounds as possible in 20 minutes:

Barbell or dumbell push press x8

Dumbbell chest supported row x8

Goblet single leg reverse lunge x8/leg

Workout 2

As many rounds as possible in 15 minutes:

Barbell deadlift x5

Pushups x10

Band pull-aparts x15


Workout 3

4 rounds, rest as needed:

Barbell front or back squat x6-8

Dumbbell chest press x6-8

Pullups(or inverted row) x4-6

 

Bonus: 3 exercise “finisher”:

Ball slams x10

Kettlebell swings x12

Squat jumps x15

3 rounds as fast as possible

Next time you’re short on time, give one of these workouts a try!

Why I’m Not a Fan of Meal Plans

Being on a “diet” or a meal plan is easy. You eat what foods you’re told to eat, and you don’t eat foods you’re not “allowed” to eat.

The problem is, you don’t ever learn how to eat when you AREN’T on a diet or meal plan. When it comes to dieting and nutrition, so many people end up with the “all or nothing” mentality of either eating super “clean” or eating like crap; there is no in-between. And those are the people who are always “on again, off again”, never able to get results and actually keep them. 

See, extremes are easy. Finding balance and moderation to eat well consistently is actually the hard part, but it’s what brings
long term success.
 

Now, I’m not saying that following a meal plan or a diet is EASY, what I’m saying is what’s actually harder is being able to know how to eat when you’re NOT on a meal plan or diet. What’s harder is finding balance and consistency with a nutrition style that is sustainable for you.

Yes, a strict meal plan will get you results. But are you able to maintain those results when you’re no longer following the meal plan? When you’re tired of eating the same foods over and over again? When you give in and eat something that’s not “allowed” on your plan? If you gain back all the weight you lost afterwards, did it really work?

As you all probably know, I’m a big fan of flexible eating. Does it work for everyone? No, maybe not. But the main reason I’m a fan is because it changes your mindset. The thing with most meal plans and diets is that there are certain foods you “can’t” have. And what usually happens when you “can’t” have something, is that it’s all you want. So as soon as you are off your plan, you have no self-control over those once forbidden foods and end up bingeing or going on a “free-for-all” and eating everything you couldn’t have while on your meal plan.

I don’t meticulously track macros, but I do practice flexible eating in the sense that I don’t restrict any foods from my diet. It has been a lifesaver for me. Now, some people may look at me and just think, “Oh, she has good genetics”. What they probably don’t realize is I am actually very structured with my meals and that I don’t just eat whatever I want all the time. So when I say that I include things like pizza, donuts, brownies and ice cream in my diet, it DOESN’T mean that I’m eating those things every day. It’s just that I know that I CAN have those foods if I want them, and I do include them in my diet in moderation.

Having no foods off limits and knowing that there are no foods that are inherently “bad” or “fattening” makes ALL the difference. That mindset is the reason I am able to sustain this lifestyle and stay lean year round without “falling off the wagon”, or being on and off of a meal plan or diet all time time. I have found a healthy form of balance and moderation that works for ME, and that will look different for everyone.

 I know it’s still hard for some people to accept the fact that you can actually include some “junk” foods into your diet and still get results, even when fat loss is your goal. Some people will never accept that anything besides super strict “clean” eating can work for weight management and/or fat loss goals. But it IS possible and it DOES work for so many people.

No,flexible eating is not an excuse to eat junk all the time, as many people mistakenly believe. Most people who follow flexible dieting or IIFYM actually do eat lots of veggies, lean proteins, healthy carbs, etc., but they just know that they can fit treats into their diet here and there without it negatively affecting their physique goals. Eating flexibly is all about having a healthy relationship with food. It’s about being able to eat foods you enjoy in moderation so that it’s not just a short term fix but something that you can continue with forever.