Nobody gets into amazing shape by accident. It takes the proper planning and research to design the ideal workout split for your goals. I often see people doing routines from their favorite bodybuilders or just training what they “feel like” that day. To truly achieve your fitness goals, you need a well thought out plan. I will teach you about the many factors to consider when creating your own split and how you can tailor it to your goals to get results!
The first decision you have to make when designing your workout split is to precisely determine your fitness goal. Your split will vary slightly depending on the goal you have set for yourself. Since the two most popular goals are to either lose fat or gain muscle, we will work with those. If you want to lose fat, your regimen will likely have more emphasis on supersets and cardio workouts. You may even want to include a full body circuit workout at some point in the week for extra calorie burning. If your goal is to build muscle, on the other hand, the emphasis should be placed on exercising one body part per day so you can focus on maximal muscle growth and development.
No matter what your goal is, I do not recommend exercising any body part more than two times per week as that could lead to overtraining. There are, however, a couple exceptions. For instance, since the abdominals and calves are composed of different muscle fibers, these body parts can be trained more often. Overtraining is a debilitating condition that presents itself when one does not give their body adequate rest or nutrition following a series of intense training sessions. It can also occur if a body part is simply trained too often. The most prominent side effect is loss of muscle mass. Other side effects of overtraining include fatigue, loss of motivation, and sleeplessness among others. To prevent overtraining, implement at least two rest days per week, keep your workouts an hour or less, and be sure to have a balanced diet.
The next step is to decide the proper ordering of muscle groups. The following guidelines should help you decide where to place your workouts throughout the week. Since you have the most energy in the beginning of the week, I suggest training the largest body parts first. That means legs, back, and chest workouts should take priority over smaller muscle groups like the arms and deltoids. Another aspect you should keep in mind when designing your plan is weak body parts. The ideal physique has balance and proportion- meaning that your legs are proportionate with your upper body, and the left and right side are symmetrical. Everyone has a weaker muscle group, so if you are after a balanced physique you can increase the frequency of training that particular weak body part, or make it a priority and place it towards the beginning of the week. If, for example, your calves are your weakest body part- train them with your quads and hamstrings on legs day, but also train them towards the end of the week on arms day. Perhaps the most important thing to consider when deciding the order of the workouts is interference. When trained consecutively, certain muscle groups can interfere with each other, or overlap, therefore compromising your workout. For example, it would be detrimental to train your biceps the day after your back workout, and vice versa. This is because the pulling motion in most of the back exercises will tax your biceps. To make matters worse, it can cause overtraining because you would be hitting the same muscle two days in a row without giving time for proper rest. The split below is one that follows all the guidelines and has given me great results over the past several years.
Parker’s Workout Split*
DAY 1 Chest
DAY 2 Back
DAY 3 Legs
DAY 4 OFF
DAY 5 Delts
DAY 6 Arms
DAY 7 OFF
*Cardio and abs workouts are each performed three times per week.
Cardiovascular and abdominal workouts are part of any sound fitness regimen. The amount of cardio and abs workouts needed varies by individual and goals. As a baseline, cardio and abs workouts should each be performed three times per week. If you want to gain mass, you may want to cut back, and if you are trying to lose weight, you can increase the frequency. I have found success combining my cardio and abs workouts and doing them first thing in the morning. Since your glycogen stores are slightly depleted overnight, your body is more likely to use fat for energy first thing in the morning. Another reason to complete your cardio and abs workouts in the morning is that if you did them after your body part workout, you’d be in the gym for several hours. That can raise your cortisol levels, and in males, decrease testosterone. If your schedule doesn’t permit morning and night sessions, you can also complete the cardio and abs workouts together on off days during the week, or individually after a body part workout.
There is no single magic split, but with the information I have provided you with, you should be able to create your own split that will help you achieve your goals fast!