Training Splits for Advanced Lifters
Hey Angels and Alphas,
In the last post, we discussed the most popular forms of the training split in the modern fitness community – the push/pull/legs, the upper/body split, and the full-body workout split.
Today, we’re diving even deeper into this topic.
I want to just give you a heads up and tell you that most of the splits we talk about today are also going to be really common to you. You’re going to see people doing them every day at the gym.
The problem here is that most of these people haven’t done their research when it comes to the pros and cons of each split. They could be making way better results in the gym and feeling way happier with their lifestyle if they made that little switch from blindly following trends to asking questions and making decisions.
I’m by no means saying that you can’t be a real pro if you’re just doing push/pull/legs all your life.
But what I do want to do is share my thoughts on some of the more peculiar workout splits out there, how to actually do them right, and how to transition into them correctly so you can use them to your maximum advantage.
Let’s pick up right where we left off…
4. The 4-Day Split
With the four-day split, you’re training fewer muscle groups every day, and you’re able to increase the volume and intensity at which you train them.
As you know, progressively exposing your muscles to higher intensity is one of the main factors contributing to long-term growth.
This split is usually done over the course of the entire week, meaning you get 3 days of rest. But some people prefer to do it 4 days on, 1 day off. That’s also fine, but I feel like it’s often not well thought-out.
In the 4-day split, the most efficient way to group what body parts you’re training is to pair a major muscle group with a secondary one. For most people, this means pairing chest and triceps and back and biceps.
As you’ve probably noticed, this structure is similar to what we see in the Push/Pull/Legs routine.
The difference here is that you’re always hitting your triceps after all your chest exercises so you can drain it entirely and reach peak intensity.
In this training split, you should always train the larger muscle group first, then follow up with the smaller one. The reason is obvious – if you train your triceps first, you’re not going to have the strength necessary to bench as much as you can later.
Your triceps assists all your chest movements, and training it first means impairing those movements, and limiting your ability to push heavy weights.
Keep in mind that, since the volume and intensity of your exercises are higher, rest days should be prioritized. That’s why I suggest sticking with the 4 days on, 3 days off when it comes to a 4-day split.
A great way to balance things out here is to turn one of your rest days into an active recovery day. You go out, do calisthenics, yoga, enjoy a hobby or sport, hike a mountain, you get the idea! This aid the natural recovery process, both physically and mentally.
Here’s an example of a tremendous 4-day split routine.
- Day 1: Legs
- Day 2: Shoulders
- Day 3: Rest
- Day 4: Back and biceps
- Day 5: Chest and triceps
- Days 6: Rest
- Day 7: Active Rest
Or, you can do a 4-day split while targeting specific muscle groups with higher volume!
- Day 1: Chest
- Day 2: Back
- Day 3: Legs
- Day 4: Arms and Shoulders
- Day 5: Rest
5. The 5-Day Split
This is an advanced training routine. Unfortunately, a lot of people pick this one to be their first. Especially the guys!
Separating your training into 5 different days allows you to emphasize each body part individually and fully control your weekly volume.
You don’t need to worry about your performing worse on chest movements if all you’re doing that day is focusing on your biceps!
With this split, you’re training each major muscle group in its own day, and if you’re doing it right, you’re giving them all the time they need to rest and recover.
With it, you can just get in the gym, crush your desired body part in an hour, and head out. Conveniently, you can save your weekend for your two weekly rest days, though I suggest always keeping an open mind and listening to your body. It will let you know if you need more, or less, rest.
Although this seems pretty straightforward, making this split work is actually harder than it sounds.
When you’re arranging this type of split, you have to be extra careful. If you’re doing shoulders on Monday, then chest on Tuesday, then triceps on Wednesday – we have a problem.
Inadequate recovery is the number one issue that can spring from this method of training, so we need to make sure we’re always leaving 48 hours of rest between major muscle groups.
This split can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. It all depends on how you decide to arrange your elements of training.
Here’s a sample of how the 5-day split looks in practice:
- Monday: Chest – 4 exercises, 4 sets, 6-12 reps
- Tuesday: Back – 4 exercises, 4 sets, 6-12 reps
- Wednesday: Shoulders – 4 exercises, 4 sets, 6-12 reps
- Thursday: Legs – 6 exercises, 3-4 sets, 6-12 reps
- Friday: Biceps and triceps – 3-4 exercises each, 3-4 sets, 6-15 reps
- Saturday: Rest
- Sunday: Rest
When it comes to ab training, do it one day on, one day off. Alternatively, you can train it every day if you’re not including a lot of heavy core work in your exercises.
6. The Intensive/Extensive Split
This training split is a little different from all the other ones on this list.
To show what I mean, the intensive/extensive split basically involves you doing different variations of training in different days. You alternate between intensive and extensive workouts. Intensive workouts are the ones you need more than 24 hours to recover from – heavy weight work, HIIT drills, or just too many sets on a particular muscle. Extensive workouts are the ones you need less than 24 hours to recover from.
Like doing a heavy/explosive training day, followed by a day of higher volume day, low-weight exercise.
There isn’t any set rule of days per week on this split, but the usual is either 3 or 4. (Even though technically, you should be able to do extensive workouts every day, since they take less than 24 hours to recover from.)
This split is a truly advanced program that gives athletes the ability to strategize correctly when it comes to taking the next step in their professional journey.
While some days an athlete might want to focus on their coordination and stability, on other days they might emphasize movement skills such as acceleration and endurance.
Or to give another example, some bodybuilders often alternate between strength and hypertrophy days to get the best and shape possible.
This way, you’re adding a few more dimensions to your fitness progression.
On top of that, you’re aiding your recovery.
Because even though the stress you accumulate during workouts is limited by the intensity at which you work out, you still have to deload this accumulated volume to give your body a chance to recover and adapt completely.
The bad thing about these splits is that they’re, most of the time, extremely complicated to design for professional athletes!
You need a true expert in your specific sport to do this correctly. Someone who knows the ins and outs of training and biomechanics.
Workouts on this regimen are often longer than usual, especially on the days where you’re aiming for high-intensity or endurance.
Here’s an example of the Intensive/Extensive in action:
- Monday: Coordination and balance.
- Tuesday: Speed and footwork, compound push exercises.
- Wednesday: Rest
- Thursday: Coordination and balance.
- Friday: Speed and footwork, compound pull exercises.
- Saturday: Rest
- Sunday: Active Recovery
All workouts include different exercises.
7. The Primary-Secondary Mover Splits
This split uses old-school terms such as primary mover and secondary mover to describe the muscles you use during exercise.
This split gives you two options:
Either work your major body parts with a smaller body part that synergizes with them.
Or work your major body parts with a part that opposes them.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of each one!
7.1. Primary Mover + Synergist Split
This split aims to combine the major movers of exercises with their secondary movers in the same movement, exercise, and training day.
A great example of this would be the usual chest/triceps, back/biceps.
This split lets you have extreme flexibility when it comes to your training frequency.
Because of the synergistic aspect here, the split puts a lot of emphasis on supersets and drop sets, resulting in really time-efficient workouts.
But the bad part? It’s too advanced for beginners, and sometimes even the advanced lifters find it challenging to recover from it.
As with every split, the secret to doing it right lies within your training frequency.
If you’re using the synergistic approach, a typical workout week will look like this:
- Monday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps – 1 exercise each, 3-4 sets, 6-12 reps
- Tuesday: Back, Biceps, Rear Deltoids – 1 exercise each, 3-4 sets, 6-12 reps
- Wednesday: Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, Glutes – 1 exercise each, 3-4 sets, 6-12 reps
- Thursday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps – 1 exercise each, 3-4 sets, 6-12 reps
- Friday: Back, Biceps, Rear Deltoids – 1 exercise each, 3-4 sets, 6-12 reps
- Saturday: Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, Glutes – 1 exercise each, 3-4 sets, 6-12 reps
- Sunday: Rest
*Every exercise ends with a superset or drop-set!
7.1. Primary Mover + Opposing Split
As you can probably guess by the name, this split takes the above one and flips the switch on it!
It allows you to work opposing muscle groups together in one day.
For example, have you tried crushing chest and back on the same day? Talk about shocking your body…
This split encourages non-competing supersets – they’re great when it comes to managing your training volume and achieving long-term muscle balance on the opposing sides of your body. A few studies have linked this way of training to improved performance and metabolic stress-related hypertrophy.
Just like its opposing brother, this split also allows you to be flexible with your workouts, giving you the option to go for 3, 4, 5, or 6 days of training a week.
The heavy emphasis on supersets here allows you to maximize your training volume quickly, and always give each body part just enough rest before you shock it again.
The only bad thing when it comes to this split is that most athletes find it uncomfortable incorporating these body part opposing supersets in their workouts… but once they start, they’re in for a treat!
Here’s what your typical workout week would look like with the opposing supersets split:
- Day 1: Chest/Back – 2 exercises each, 3 sets, 6-12 reps, opposing superset after every exercise
- Day 2: Biceps/Triceps – 2 exercises each, 3 sets, 6-12 reps, opposing superset after every exercise
- Day 3: Shoulders/Legs – 2 exercises for shoulders, 4 for legs, 3 sets each, 6-12 reps, opposing superset after every exercise.
- Day 4: Rest
- Day 5: Rest or Re-start.
So many training splits… but which one is right for you?
To conclude part two of our journey in the world of training splits, I have to say this…
I’m not here to tell you what to do! I’m just here to give you all the information so you can make the right decision for yourself.
I’ve tried as much as possible to give my non-biased opinion as a professional who has tried and experienced all of these training methods at some point in my life.
I know – what works for me might not work for you.
That’s why I’m asking you to form your own opinion based on the information I provided you!
I firmly believe than you can only make the right decision when all the information is in front of you and it’s all absolutely clear.
At the end of the day, that’s what I’m here to help you do.
So I urge you, take a look at all of these splits, as well as the splits we talked about in part 1…
Choose the one that looks and sounds the most interesting to you, dig a little deeper, and based on the questions I asked you in the beginning of part 1, finally start building that perfect workout split we’re all chasing after!
I know I did it, I know you can do it, and after reading this blog post, you now know exactly how to do it and what your options are!
Good luck, and I’ll see you in the weight room.