When starting training it can be difficult to know which training split is best for you and your goals. Basically, how many days you train and what you do on them days. A lot will depend on your experience and goals but there are some general rules which you can consider when deciding on the best training split for you. Goal might not be the only consideration, how much free time do you have? And how many days can you commit to training? These all require answering before you find the best training split for you.
Here is an overview of some of the basic training splits and which type of goals and lifestyles these work best with.
Full Body Training Split
Best for: Beginners, Intermediate strength athletes, females, and people limited time to train.
The full body training split is great for any goal if used correctly and especially for people with limited training time where full body training is the only way of getting all movements covered. Full body training can range from 2-4 days per week with both lower and upper body movements covered in one workout E.G Monday-Bench, Squat, Row Wednesday- Deadlift, Miliary press. I find that this approach is perfect for beginners and is usually the ideal approach for most womens physique goals. This is also the type of training split which athletes will use to get as much quality strength and conditioning work in as short a time as possible, meaning more actual 'sports skill' practice and performance. This type of training split works well in the 4-6 rep range to keep the volume moderate across the whole workout, making it ideal for strength gains.
If you are just starting out looking for the best training split for you or dont have 4-5 days to dedicate to training then a full body split will be great for you. Cover the full body in every session without having to live at the gym and still make progress across the board. Make sure to take some rest inbetween your sessions because full body training has more effect on your nervous system than only focusing on one body part.
Body Part Training Split
Best for: Bodybuilders, Athletes wanting to add muscle, someone looking to improve a certain body part.
The body part training split is where training sessions are body part specific meaning that there is an increased amount of training frequency required per week to hit the whole body. This is the typical approach employed by bodybuilders because the increased exercise variety, and localised volume is a great way of encouraging muscle to grow. E.G Monday-Chest, Tuesday-Legs, Wednesday-Back, Thursday-Shoulders, Friday-Arms, Saturday-Rest etc. As you can see this requires a lot more time spent in the gym which is why this approach is mostly applied by bodybuilders looking to maximise their muscular development over all else.
If you are an aspiring bodybuilder or just a regular person wanting to add some size then a 4-6 week phase using the body part training split can work wonders for your physique.
Upper/Lower Training Split
Best for: Intermediately experienced trainees, strength athletes wanting to gain size
The upper/lower training split is usually a nice progression away from full body training splits by making workouts a little more specific which can result in a hypertrophy (growth) effect on those interested in adding muscle. It also allows you to stack workouts on consecutive days which isn't advisable on a full body routine E.G Monday-Lower, Tuesday- Upper, Wednesday- Rest etc. You can also rotate your upper and lower workouts so that on one lower day you will squay heavy and the next you will deadlift heavy etc making it a flexible training split for the trainee with some experience.
If you are bored of the full body training split, have a little bit more time, or want to shock the body in to some growth then give the upper/lower body part training split a go for size. Note: This same arrangement can be used for the Push/Pull training split where you seperate workouts by the movement they create, E.G Monday- Pull (hamstrings, back, biceps Tuesday-Push (Quads, Chest, Triceps) etc which is another intermediate training strategy popular with people wanting to train for strength as well as size.
Agonist/Antagonist Training Split
Best for: People with flexible amounts of training time, those wanting intense short workouts, bodybuilders.
Agonist/Antagonist training involves using non-competing supersets to increase training intensity without effecting the strength/performance of the other muscle group. This is great for bodybuilders, people with flexible training schedules wanting to increase their training intensity, and those wanting to try something new. It should look something like this, Monday- Chest/Back, Tuesday-Legs/shoulders, Wednesday- Rest, Thursday-Biceps/Triceps etc. I find this sort of training split is best for those looking to add muscle but not wanting to be as specific as the body part training split as it allows for more work in less time meaning less days needed in the gym.
This training split can be used 3-5 times a week with great effect on size and strength for those willing to put in the work of working opposing muscle groups back to back. Another great tactic to employ for a 4-6 week phase as a kickstart to your physique.
Pick one and train
I hope this very quick and simple guide helps you decide on the best training split for you, if you are just starting out then I would recommend 8-12 weeks minimum utilising a full body training split to get as much full body movement practice as possible. This will serve you well should you choose to progress to a more specific training split, note that this is not always necessary! Full body training is more than enough to help most people reach their goals and unless you are a top level bodybuilder there isn't much you can't achieve on a full body split.
The important thing is to pick a training split that works for your lifestyle. No point writing up a body part split for yourself and not having time to train for a week, you should be using a full body split! Pick something you know you can stick to consistently and that will be the best programme for you. Manipulate what you do in that workout and you can target different goals, but first lets just pick one.