New lifters like to just decide what to train on any given day "intuitively." Which sounds a lot better than "whatever I happen to pull out of my ass that day."

Well, there's a much better path to success whether you're a new lifter or not. The way in which you organize your weekly training is commonly known as a split. A good training split allows you to train all your muscle groups an optimal number of times per week (2-4 times is just about right for most), spreading the weekly workload into the number of workouts that works best for your needs and goals.

Although many variants are possible, and all are preferable to simply winging it, the three most commonly-used splits are:

1 – The Bro-Split

Most popular among bodybuilders, the bro-split involves devoting each workout to 1-2 muscle groups, such as:

  • Monday: Back
  • Tuesday: Chest
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Thursday: Shoulders/Calves
  • Friday: Biceps/Triceps

Pros

  • If you're already huge and strong, your muscles will take between 4-6 days to recover from training. Therefore, training each muscle group once a week is likely ideal.
  • You get to train 5 days a week, which many lifters enjoy.
  • Many lifters enjoy the idea of dedicating an entire workout to a specific muscle/muscle group.

Cons

The bro split has lots of benefits! Problem is, those benefits are usually offset by a very pesky drawback:

  • If you're not huge and super-strong, your muscles will take between 1-3 days to recover from training. Therefore training each muscle group once a week is probably not frequent enough, and you'll lose ground between sessions.

2 – The Upper/Lower Split

Most commonly, this involves 4 workouts a week with each session dedicated to upper and lower-body training in alternating succession, like this:

  • Monday: Upper Body
  • Tuesday: Lower Body
  • Thursday: Upper Body
  • Friday: Lower Body

Pros

  • For most lifters, training each muscle group twice a week is much more effective than only once.
  • Many lifters enjoy the ability to give focused attention to a specific body region for an entire workout.

Cons

  • Twice a week may still be less than optimal, especially for average to smaller guys who aren't yet in the 1200 club (300 bench, 400 squat, 500 deadlift).

3 – The Whole Body Split

People who use this split usually train 3 days a week. Each workout addresses both lower and upper-body muscle groups, although not with the same exercises each workout. Example:

Monday

  • Front Squat
  • Incline Dumbbell Press
  • Back Extension
  • T Bar Row
  • Barbell Curl
  • Pushdown

Wednesday

  • Leg Press
  • Dip
  • RDL
  • Pull-Up
  • Standing Calf Raise
  • Sit-Up

Friday

  • Lunge
  • Military Press
  • Seated Leg Curl
  • Dumbbell Row
  • Hammer Curl
  • French Press

Pros

  • With the whole-body split, each muscle group gets trained not once, not twice, but three times per week. As mentioned, this is likely ideal (or close to ideal) for most lifters.
  • If you perform your exercises circuit-style, whole-body sessions provide a superior cardiovascular benefit.
  • Training three times weekly helps to ensure complete recovery since you'll have four off days per week.
  • For busy lifters with limited time, training three days a week may be more practical than higher frequencies.

Cons

  • While whole-body workouts allow for higher training frequencies, the total amount of focused work per muscle group is somewhat limited compared to bro splits and upper/lower splits.
  • Some folks simply enjoy the gym, and feel deprived if they only go three times per week. Now some of my harder-core colleagues are already thinking, "Do what you need, not what you like!" But as an experienced coach, I've learned the value of accommodating people's individual preferences for motivation and compliance.
Workout

The Hybrid Split

There is a way to capitalize on the benefits and minimize the downsides of the latter two splits outlined above. I call it the "hybrid" split, and it might be as close to perfection as you're ever going to find.

The hybrid split incorporates both whole-body days as well as upper and lower days into a 4-day training week. Here's how it looks:

Monday: Whole-Body

  1. Front Squat
  2. Incline Dumbbell Press
  3. Loaded Back Extension
  4. Weighted Pull-Up
  5. Hammer Curl
  6. Lying Tricep Extension

Wednesday: Whole-Body

  1. Leg Press
  2. Dip
  3. Romanian Deadlift
  4. T Bar Row
  5. Barbell Curl
  6. Pushdown

Friday: Lower-Body

  1. Back Squat
  2. Hip Thrust
  3. Split Squat
  4. Seated Leg Curl

Saturday: Upper-Body

  1. Weighted Push-Up
  2. Chin-Up
  3. Military Press
  4. Low Cable Curl

When you first test-drive this split, you'll notice several benefits right off the bat.

  • You'll train four days a week. While this isn't ideal for everyone, if you find three workouts too few and five too many, the hybrid split will feel just right.
  • You'll constantly switch between whole-body, lower-body, and upper-body sessions. Lots of variety to keep things interesting.
  • You'll enjoy the ability to train "globally" twice a week while also benefiting from those super-focused lower and upper-body sessions that upper-lower splits provide.

Tips & Troubleshooting

  • The Friday session can be either lower or upper body. Whichever you choose, do the opposite region on Saturday.
  • Select exercises and rep-brackets based on training goal. For strength, prioritize lower reps on the exercise(s) you want to get stronger. For hypertrophy, opt for higher (8-12) reps on movements that are well-suited for muscle development (compound exercises that allow you to move relatively large loads over relatively large ranges of motion should be prioritized).
  • Distribute your total weekly number of sets per muscle over the four training sessions in whatever way that best facilitates the total volume you intend to accomplish. This often translates to (relatively) more sets done on Friday and Saturday, and slightly less on Monday and Wednesday. So taking chest just as an example, you might do 3-4 working sets on Monday and Wednesday, and 5-6 sets on Saturday.
  • Even if you love the hybrid split, I wouldn't necessarily use it exclusively, ad infinitum. Regular alteration of training variables (including split design) helps to stave off adaptive resistance, so if and when training is feeling flat, switch to whole-body, upper-lower, or even bro-splits periodically.
  • If you're intrigued by the hybrid split but doubt that you can recover from four weekly sessions, remember that you can modify volume accordingly by limiting the number of sets you perform each workout.

Related:  Push-Pull-Legs – The Ultimate Split

Related:  The 8 Most Effective Training Splits