This is a question a lot of people seem to ask.
Helder what training split should I do? One body part per day? Push, Pull, Legs? What do you recommend.
And my answer is always it depends! It depends on so many things but I will do my best to explain my thought process when setting up training plans.
First of all, the number one thing is personal enjoyment, what do you like to do? What fits in with your current day to day life? There is no point in me telling to train 6 days per week if that is something you can't do, due to other commitments in your life.
The whole point of setting up a training split is to produce results, whatever those results are is what you set yourself up to achieve. There is no point in following a training split from your favourite social media star as his or her split will not help you achieve your goals.
So what I am about to say may not fit with your goals, but it is an educated place for you to start from, and then from there you can build your own training split.
Training stimulus is what grows muscle, for body composition to change we have to grow muscle. Adequate stimulus is KEY for long term results.
What does that mean Helder?
Well let's say you go into the gym today and you train legs really hard, the next day you go into the gym and you are going to train back. If for example you did some heavy squats on leg day and then the next day you go in and do deadlifts, you won't be able to create adequate stimulus because you will still be pretty tired and beat up from the day before.
So it is key that when you set up a training split, you are able to train as hard as possible and produce the required stimulus to change your physique in each workout.
What else can affect training stimulus?
For example within your training session you will have an amount of exercises, it could be 3, 4, 5 or even 10. The way you set up those exercises and the sequence in which you do them can affect your ability to produce adequate stimulus. It is pretty common sense that you will be able to produce more stimulus in the first exercise then you will in the last exercise of the day.
Think about this when setting up your plan, what do you want to work on the most? Make that the priority at the beginning of the workout and the stuff that is not that much of a priority at the end of the workout.
Next thing to consider is recovery, which goes and in hand with the stuff I talked about above. Are you giving yourself adequate time to recover from your last session?
The goal should always be to create enough stimulus, get lots of rest, create more stimulus, get enough rest and so on... The more often you can do this the more chances you have of growing muscle.
Recovery means you need to focus on sleep, nutrition, reduce stress levels, drink plenty of water, minimise alcohol intake, don't over train, and create a plan that fits in with your lifestyle and goals so that it allows for enough recovery.
Form is the first thing we need to focus on, when starting any training plan, specially if you are a beginner but even if you have been training for a long time, I can almost guarantee your form needs attention. Your training form will allow you to build a better physique and most importantly it will help you reduce the risk of injury.
The key with form is to get the muscle we are working to produce more force, to change body composition we need to build muscle, building muscle is an adaptive process, whatever stimulus you are putting on your body must progress, so that your body adapts to those demands and grows bigger.
The goal with any given exercise is to have amazing form, and once that has been nailed we can then start focusing on load. The better the form, the heavier the load the more muscle you will grow.
So once you have the above in check, let's take a look at some training split options, in the order of beginner to more advanced.
The key with any training program is to progress, you can't just keep doing the same thing and expect the same results.
Total Body Training Split:
This is great for beginners, when someone is new to training the demands are not very high, this is because the first thing a new person needs to do is focus on perfecting the training form. When you first start training, any level of stimulus is going to create results so this stimulus doesn't need to be very high to start with.
If this is you, pick ONLY one exercise per body part, sequence the exercises from biggest movements to smaller movements, a good way to set this up is to train every other day, maybe 3 x per week to start with. Again the goal here is to learn and perfect the form.
Run this split as long as you need until you feel confident enough to move on. When you feel you got to a point where you have form nailed and load has started to go up, you can then progress to maybe half body sessions, meaning Upper/Lower.
Once you have started to use heavier loads, it is important to separate body parts, otherwise you will not be able to recover from previous sessions and create appropriate stimulus in the following sessions to actual grow more muscle.
This is where an upper/lower split would come in, you could for example train upper body on Monday, legs on Wednesday, upper body on Friday and legs again on Sunday, this way you would be able to increase volume as well as recover enough so that you can create adequate stimulus in each session.
You can also reduce the amount of exercises per session as now you are training less muscle groups and this would allow you to really focus on progressing those exercises with load and or reps, what we call progressive overload.
So the Upper/Lower Split is great to decrease the amount of exercises per session, which means you can push harder on those exercises, and it will allow you more time for recovery which is also KEY for long term results.
Do this as long as you need to until you feel you can't progress anymore, this is where you transition to my favourite split, which is pull, push, legs.
Push - Pull - Legs
This works really well if you can increase the amount of days you are training, for example, I run this 6 times per week with one day off, but for me my recovery here has to be on point, otherwise I could run into overtraining and this would be counterproductive towards my goals.
A push, pull, legs will allow you to work each body part twice in one week, again with this you can really focus on reducing the amount of exercises per session but with the maximum intent of pogressing those exercises with either load or reps.
For me as an example I love this split and I tend to run this most of the time, however if I am working with a bodybuilder and they have body parts which need more attention I will run this split in a modified manner.
If someone has smaller quads, we may add a specific day to just focus on quads, or if someone has smaller shoulders, we may have just a shoulder day, which runs alongside the push, pull, legs split, with the focus on recovery and stimulus of course. This means we may need to de-prioritize some of the stronger body parts in the push - pull - legs session so that we have enough recovery to focus on the weaker body parts on the modified days.
Think where you are in the above and plan your workout around these variables.