Setting up a Split Strength Training Routine

Targeting Muscle Groups on Different Days

Caucasian woman lifting weights
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Weight training is an important part of a complete exercise program no matter what your goals are. However, setting up a weekly routine can be confusing and you may be wondering how to split your training into workable muscle groups. Training methods include pyramid training for the upper and lower body, as well as supersetting your workouts. Learn about different ways you can split your routine.

Split vs. Whole Body Workouts

When it comes to lifting weights, many people start with a total body program.

This type of workout is great for beginners because it allows your body time to get used to lifting weights and get ready for more strenuous work. However, if you've been doing full body workouts for a while, you may have noticed that you've hit a plateau—a normal event when you keep doing the same workouts for too long.

While total body training is great, there are drawbacks. When you're working all of your muscle groups at once, you don't have the time or energy to focus on each muscle group as closely as you would if you split your workout. Split routines allow you to do more exercises, more sets, and heavier weights. These routines also let you lift more often since you're working for different muscle groups on different days.

How to Split Your Workouts

There are a number of ways to split your routine and there's no right or wrong way to do it. Here are some common split routines, but you can devise your own variations.

  • Divide your workout into upper body and lower body. If you do this, you can alternate the workouts and lift two, three, or four times each week.
  • Divide your workout into push/pull exercises. Pushing exercises usually involve the quads, calves, chest, shoulders, and triceps. For this workout, you might combine squats, calf raises, bench press, overhead press, and dips. Pulling exercises often involve the back, hamstrings, some types of shoulder exercises, biceps, and abs. This type of workout could include lat pulldowns, hamstring curls, upright rows, bicep curls, and crunches.
  • Divide your workout into a three-day split where you split upper body work into a push/pull routine and work your lower body on a separate day. A typical three-day split like this would include: Day 1: chest and triceps, Day 2: back and biceps, Day 3: legs and shoulders.
  • Lift weights for one muscle group per day. In this type of workout, your week might look like this: chest, back, shoulders, arms, and legs, each on a different day.

The general rule of thumb is that, as you reduce the number of body parts you're working, you should increase the number of exercises you're doing (pick about three exercises per muscle group) and the number of sets you're doing (around three to four sets).

Integrating Cardio Exercise

Your routine should also include cardio exercise. It's best to try to keep your strength and cardio workouts separate (either on different days or different times of day), but if you're pressed for time, doing cardio and strength in the same workout is acceptable. Experiment with different schedules to find what works for you.

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