Your training split for optimal muscle building shouldn’t be overlooked! Many individuals get so fixated on exercise selection, the weekly split almost gets forgotten about. Or they just stick to the basic “bro split” of chest on Mondays, back on Tuesdays etc.
For the natural lifter the “bro split” isn’t the most effective way to build muscle. So what I thought I’d do for you is list some of my favourite splits for muscle building for you to use and experiment with. Note, they also work great for fat loss and lean body mass retention in a calorie deficit.
As an added bonus I’ve also aimed to place them in order of someone’s training age. For those that don’t know, training age can be defined as the cumulative length of time you’ve been working out for. This is not to be confused with training experience. For example my training experience is eight years, but my training age is 12 months, because I took a long period off to fully rest and focus on other things. So the shorter your training age, the further up the top of the list you should start.
All of the splits outlined below have been based on four workouts per week. Whilst you could do more or less, I’ve found four to be a number that most can easily fit into their weekly schedules, plus it allows for sufficient frequency to stimulate gains.
Full Body x 4
Believe it or not, you can build a serious amount of muscle and foundational strength with a simple full body workout. Whilst you won’t be able to peacock your swollen, pumped biceps around the gym or leave the gym feeling like you’ve trashed a particular muscle group with this split, you’ll still be able to pack on the pounds.
Moving forward from the previous split, another great way to organise your full body workouts is to group them into alternating sessions of push muscles (quads, chest shoulders etc.) and pull muscles (hamstrings, back and biceps etc.). I use this split exclusively for the initial two week phase of The 12 Week Lean Muscle Project ebook to lay the foundations for the rest of the plan.
Quite possibly my favourite split ever! It’s a classic. The upper/lower split is great for promoting a balance between all muscle groups. Plus the frequency of each muscle group being worked every 2-3 days works really well.
Upper Push/Legs/Upper Pull/Legs
Much the same as the split above, however the upper days are grouped into pushing workouts and pulling workouts. This will allow you to bomb the upper body muscles with more volume. Pretty useful if you want to bring any lagging upper body muscles up to standard, or if you just want to look like a walking pizza.
Beginning the week with a power day could benefit many individuals working towards muscle building goals. When I say power day I’m referring to a session based around very heavy deadlifts, squats and presses, in the 2-6 rep range. The hormonal response you’ll experience will assist in creating the right environment for building lean mass. Plus it will also teach you to recruit your muscle fibres more efficiently, meaning you can hypertrophy more of them in the workouts to follow later in the week.
Chest & Back/Legs/Shoulders & Arms/Repeat
Now this muscle building split is interesting, and best saved for those with a training age of at least 12 months. You take a three day split, in this case – chest & back/legs/shoulders and simply begin the cycle again on your fourth day of training. The following week would then continue the cycle and begin with legs. The split allows you to increase the volume directed into each muscle group, yet because the turn around is quick you’ll end up training that muscle group again in 4-5 days. This takes full advantage of the effect of super compensation. In sports science theory this refers to the period after a workout during which the trained muscle has a higher performance capacity than it did prior to training. Wait too long (try 7 days like in your typical “bro split”) and you may just miss it.