DC Training Splits: The Ultimate Guide!


dc training splits

DC Training was invented by the amateur bodybuilder Dante Trudel in the mid 1990’s. Today it is one of the most popular bodybuilding training programs in the world.

DC Training is a high-intensity bodybuilding program that uses rest-pause sets, extreme stretching and high-frequency workouts to turn you into the biggest, strongest bodybuilder you can be in the shortest amount of time possible.

One of the most parts of the DC Training program is there are three different training splits that you can choose from:

  • The 2-Way Split
  • The 3-Way Split
  • The 5-Way Split

In this comprehensive guide I will teach you everything you need to know about these DC Training splits and how to use them to reach your bodybuilding goals in record time.

In parts 1-3 of this article I will take a very deep dive into each of these training splits. But before I do that I want to give you a brief overview of these different training splits:

The 2-Way Split

The 2-way split is an upper body / lower body split performed three days per week. Dante Trudel has all of his bodybuilders start off using this split. Even IFBB professional bodybuilders David Henry and Dusty Hanshaw started off using the 2-way split!

Dante Trudel found over time that the 2-way split is ideal for building muscle mass as fast as possible.

The 3-Way Split

The 3-way split is one of the more advanced DC Training splits. It is a traditional push / pull / legs split performed 4 days per week.

Dante uses the 4-way split with advanced bodybuilders who need to bring up weaker body parts. It also works well for bodybuilders who are focused on losing body fat and are struggling to recover from their normal 2-way split workouts.

The DC Training expert Jason Wojo says that 90% of bodybuilders will make faster overall progress on the 2-way split and that only 10% of bodybuilders should use the 3-way split.

The 5-Way Split

The 5-way split is a traditional bodybuilding “bro-split” where you workout 5 days per week hitting each muscle group once every 7 days. Dante Trudel uses this training split with elite level bodybuilders and anyone who is at the end of a dieting phase and is struggling to recover from the 2-way or 3-way split.

I hope you found this introduction to the different DC Training splits helpful. If you are looking for more of a general overview of the DC Training program then check out the following article:

Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: The 2-Way Split

Everyone who uses the DC Training program starts off with the 2-way split. Even advanced bodybuilders like David Henry and Dusty Hanshaw started off using the 2-way split! The 2-way split is a modified upper body / lower body split performed 3 days per week.

Here is what your weekly training schedule might look like:

Week 1

  • Monday: Upper Body Workout #1
  • Wednesday: Lower Body Workout #1
  • Friday: Upper Body Workout #2

Week 2

  • Monday: Lower Body Workout #2
  • Wednesday: Upper Body Workout #3
  • Friday: Lower Body Workout #3

On the third week you would repeat this whole cycle all over again. On Monday of week 3 you would perform your upper body workout #1. Then on Wednesday of week 3 you would perform your lower body workout #1 and so on.

Here is a basic template for the upper body and lower body training days:

Upper Body Day

  • Exercise #1: Chest
  • Exercise #2: Shoulders
  • Exercise #3: Triceps
  • Exercise #4: Back Width
  • Exercise #5: Back Thickness

Lower Body Day

  • Exercise #1: Biceps
  • Exercise #2: Forearms
  • Exercise #3: Calves
  • Exercise #4: Hamstrings
  • Exercise #5: Quads

I know what many of you are thinking: what a weird way to organize your workouts! Don’t worry, there is a method to the madness. Dante Trudel has everything organized for a very specific reason.

The first thing you might notice is that biceps and forearms are performed on the lower body day. This is done so that you are performing 5 exercises on both training days. Don’t worry, your upper body workouts won’t be negatively impacted because you did one rest-pause set of biceps on your lower body day!

The second thing you might notice is that the upper back is considered two separate muscle groups:

  • Back Width
  • Back Thickness

In reality many bodybuilders such as Ronnie Coleman and Arnold Schwarzenegger look at the upper back in terms of width and thickness. This is not anything revolutionary!

When Dante says “back width” he is primarily talking about your lats and teres major. Some of Dante’s favorite back width exercises include pull ups, cable pull downs and rack chins.

On the other hand when he talks about back thickness he is talking about your traps, rhomboids and spinal erectors. Some of Dante’s favorite back thickness exercises include deadlifts, rack deadlifts, barbell rows and t-bar rows.

The last weird thing about the 2-way split is that you are performing the most demanding exercises like squats and deadlifts last in your routine. What the heck is going on here?

Dante believes that you should perform these exercises last because if you truly give these exercises a 100% effort then you are going to be useless after them! After an all-out set of deadlifts or a “widowmaker” set on back squats you should be absolutely smoked and ready to go home. Putting these exercises last in your routine makes perfect sense for an advanced bodybuilder.

So why does Dante like this split so much for most people who are new to DC Training? DC Training is all about building strength on key exercises so that you consistently build muscle over long periods of time.

If your best exercise for back thickness is deadlifts and you go from 315 pounds x 6 reps to 585 pounds x 8 reps over 2-4 years of time then your back is going to be so much thicker it isn’t even funny!

Dante Trudel found over the years that the 2-way split works best for rapid strength gains. You have 4 off days during the week so your central nervous system is almost always recovered and ready to go.

If you want to use the 2-way split then it is very important that you understand how to manage lower back fatigue and understand how to do a deload. Let’s take a closer look at each of these concepts.

2-Way Split Tip #1: Managing Lower Back Fatigue

If you want to be successful with the DC Training 2-way split then you MUST learn how to manage your lower back fatigue. You are going to perform a heavy quads exercise on all of your lower body workouts and a heavy back thickness exercise on all of your upper body workouts.

In other words you are going to perform exercises like squats, hack squats, deadlifts and rows almost every single workout.

What do these exercises have in common? They all stress your lower back! That’s right – with the DC Training 2-way split you are going to perform exercises that stress your lower back 3 days per week! Now THAT is a lot of frequency for your lower back!

Here is one way you could organize your quad / back thickness exercises using the DC Training 2-way split to manage your lower back fatigue:

Week 1

  • Monday: Barbell Row
  • Wednesday: Back Squat
  • Friday: T-Bar Row

Week 2

  • Monday: Leg Press
  • Wednesday: Deadlift
  • Friday: Hack Squat

As you can see you are squatting and deadlifting on opposite weeks. This is very important! If you squat on a Monday and then deadlift 2 days later your body is going to be destroyed!

In my experience most trainees do best squatting and deadlifting on opposite weeks, at least when they first start the DC Training system. If you have more experience under your belt then you may want to try using 2 deadlifting variations for your back thickness exercises.

For example you could use deadlifts from the floor and rack deadlifts as 2 of your back thickness exercises.

It is also important to know that most DC trainees use heavy rowing exercises such as barbell rows and t-bar rows for their back thickness exercises. It is very important to use these exercises to help strengthen your lower back because DC Training does not use any direct lower back work such as back extensions or reverse hyper extensions.

This is actually very similar to what Ronnie Coleman did in his career: he focused exclusively on deadlifts and heavy barbell rows to strengthen his lower back.

Most of the time when someone uses lighter back thickness exercises such as machine chest-supported rows they do not make as much progress. I’m not saying these are “bad” exercises. However, they probably aren’t the best exercises for the DC Training program.

2-Way Split Tip #2: How To Deload

If you want to be successful with DC Training then you MUST learn how to deload! I am sure you have heard of the DC Training “blasting and cruising” phases.

The basic idea is to train very hard for 6-12 weeks where you are trying to beat the logbook every workout. Then you have a 1-2 week cruising phase where you take it easy in the gym and let your body rest and recover.

Some trainees perform lighter workouts during these 1-2 weeks while others stay out of the gym entirely during their 1-2 weeks off. The choice is up to you.

Blasting and cruising is a key part of the DC Training system. However, if you are using the 2-way split then you also have the option of taking mini-deloads to prolong your blast. Instead of taking a whole 1-2 weeks off you would “skip” one of your weekly workouts. This is something that Dante Trudel recommends all of his trainees do.

If you are feeling beat up after 3-5 weeks of heavy training then you just skip one of your workouts. If you skipped an upper body workout then you would just perform that upper body workout on your next scheduled training day.

For example here is what a 12-week blasting phase might look like using these mini-deloads when necessary:

  • Week 1: 3 workouts
  • Week 2: 3 workouts
  • Week 3: 3 workouts
  • Week 4: 2 workouts (mini-deload)
  • Week 5: 3 workouts
  • Week 6: 3 workouts
  • Week 7: 3 workouts
  • Week 8: 2 workouts (mini-deload)
  • Week 9: 3 workouts
  • Week 10: 3 workouts
  • Week 11: 3 workouts
  • Week 12: 0 workouts (cruise week)

If you know anything about DC Training then you know that these cruise weeks and mini-deloads are NOT planned ahead of time. This is just one example of what a DC Training blast might look like. Your job is to “listen to your body.”

It’s your job to know when you are feeling beat up from training and when you need to skip a workout or start your cruise week.

That is one of the many reasons DC Training is only for advanced bodybuilders with at least 3 years of hardcore training under their belts. It takes a very experienced bodybuilder to know how to auto-regulate their training with blasting and cruising phases.

I promise you that if you learn how to use these mini-deload phases and cruise phases properly then your progress with DC Training will shoot through the roof. This can be the difference between making screaming fast gains and making no progress at all!

Part 2: The 3-Way Split

The 3-way split is basically a push / pull / legs split performed 4 days per week.

Dante Trudel uses this split with advanced bodybuilders who need to bring up weaker body parts and with extremely strong trainees who are having a hard time recovering from the 2-way split. The 3-way split is also appropriate for bodybuilders who are dieting down and are just looking to preserve as much muscle as possible.

Here is how the individual workouts are organized on the 3-way split:

Push Day

  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Triceps

Pull Day

  • Biceps
  • Forearms
  • Back Width
  • Back Thickness

Legs Day

  • Calves
  • Hamstrings
  • Quads

As you can see you are performing 3-4 exercises per workout. These workouts are much shorter than the workouts you are performing on the 2-way split. Dante says that these workouts should take you 30-45 minutes to complete.

Dante sticks with his habit of placing the biggest, most demanding exercises last in the workouts. That means training your quads and back last in your workouts. If you want you can put your biceps exercises after your back exercises on the pull day.

Here is what this would look like:

Modified Pull Day

  • Back Width
  • Back Thickness
  • Biceps
  • Forearms

This is not Dante’s first choice for how to organize the pull day but he has had some trainees such as Justin Harris and Steve Kuclo use this method with a lot of success.

Now let’s take a look at how your weekly workouts might be organized. Check it out:

Week 1

  • Monday: Pull #1
  • Wednesday: Push #1
  • Friday: Legs #1
  • Saturday: Pull #2

Week 2

  • Monday: Push #2
  • Wednesday: Legs #2
  • Friday: Pull #3
  • Saturday: Push #3

Week 3

  • Monday: Legs #3
  • Wednesday: Pull #1
  • Friday: Push #1
  • Saturday: Legs #1

And so on. With the DC Training 3-way split you are training every body part 4 times in 3 weeks. This means you are training every muscle group about once every 5-6 days. This is an awesome training frequency that works extremely well for many trainees.

Of course you can pick any 4 days of the week to train. Just make sure you are not training more than 2 days in a row.

I mentioned earlier that Dante Trudel uses the 3-way split to help advanced bodybuilders bring up their weaker body parts. I must warn you that these lagging muscle group techniques are reserved for advanced bodybuilders only. If you have to tell your friends that you lift weights then you are not ready for these techniques.

When Dante Trudel trains an advanced bodybuilder with a lagging muscle group he has them perform a “widowmaker” exercise to bring it up. These widowmaker exercises for lagging body parts are completely different from the 20-rep widowmaker set that you perform for quads every leg day.

The basic idea is to pick a key exercise for your lagging muscle group and to perform it every single time you train that muscle.

Dante believes that a good widowmaker exercise meets three criteria:

  1. It places the muscle into a deep loaded stretch
  2. It places your body into a “power groove” position
  3. You can be progressive with the exercise over time

If possible the widowmaker exercise should place the muscle under a deep loaded stretch. If you know anything about DC Training then you know Dante Trudel is a big believer in loaded stretches for building muscle.

The widowmaker exercise should also place you in a “power groove” position. Dante says that you want to be in an exercise where you don’t have to worry about balancing a weight. You want to be able to grind, grind, grind out those reps over time without worrying too much about your technique.

What puts you into a power groove: a 45 degree leg press or a single-leg bosu ball squat? The 45 degree leg press! On the leg press you can just grind out those reps over time without worrying about balancing the weight.

Finally the widowmaker must be an exercise where you can progress in weight over time. This is incredibly important! The widowmaker exercise is all about finding a key exercise for you and then becoming unbelievably strong on it over many months of time. If you pick an exercise where you can’t be progressive then it just isn’t going to work!

OK, let’s say that you have lagging triceps. One of the best widowmaker exercises for lagging triceps is the hammer strength dip machine. Hammer strength dips meet all 3 criteria:

  • They put the triceps in a deep loaded stretch
  • They lock you into a power groove
  • You can be progressive over time

Here is Dusty Hanshaw demonstrating the hammer strength dip widowmaker for triceps:

Every “push” workout you are going to perform your 3 rest-pause exercises for chest, shoulders and triceps just like normal. After you perform your rest-pause triceps exercise you are going to perform your widowmaker exercise.

Here is what your 3 “push” workouts might look like if you are using the 3-way split to bring up your lagging triceps:

Push Day #1

  • A1: 30 degree incline bench press, 11-20 reps rest-paused
  • B1: Hammer strength overhead press, 11-20 reps rest-paused
  • C1: Dead stop skull crushers, 11-20 reps rest-paused
  • D1: Hammer strength dip machine, 10-30 reps straight set

Push Day #2

  • A1: Flat DB press, 20-30 reps rest-paused
  • B1: Smith machine overhead press, 11-20 reps rest-paused
  • C1: Reverse grip bench press, 11-20 reps rest-paused
  • D1: Hammer strength dip machine, 10-30 reps straight set

Push Day #3

  • A1: Hammer strength incline press, 11-20 reps rest-paused
  • B1: Seated DB overhead press, 20-30 reps rest-paused
  • C1: Smith machine close grip bench press, 11-20 reps rest-paused
  • D1: Hammer strength dip machine, 10-30 reps straight set

As you can see the triceps widowmaker exercise is performed every single workout even though you are rotating through 3 primary chest / shoulder / tricep exercises.

Your goal on the first workout is to perform a straight set of 30 reps to failure. On the second workout you start the never-ending war with the logbook! Every single workout you slightly increase the weight and get as many reps as you possibly can with perfect form.

Your reps will go down on this widowmaker exercise over many months of time. Eventually you will only get about 10 reps on this exercise. At that time you have to switch the widowmaker exercise but your triceps will have grown by leaps and bounds.

Here is what your progress on the dip machine widowmaker might look like over time:

Dip Machine Widowmaker Progression

  • Workout #1: 270 pounds x 30 reps
  • Workout #2: 280 pounds x 29 reps
  • Workout #3: 290 pounds x 27 reps
  • Workout #4: 290 pounds x 29 reps
  • Workout #5: 300 pounds x 29 reps
  • Workout #6: 310 pounds x 27 reps
  • Workout #7: 320 pounds x 25 reps
  • Workout #8: 320 pounds x 27 reps
  • Workout #9: 330 pounds x 25 reps
  • Workout #10: 340 pounds x 24 reps

And so on. You just keep making these small weight jumps from one workout to the next. Your goal is always to get as many reps as you can but the reps will start to go down over time.

If your reps never go down – or if you are stuck at 30 reps forever – then you are being a candy-ass Nancy boy and you aren’t making big enough weight jumps from one workout to the next!

Dante says that there will be times where the right decision is to stay at the same weight for a workout or two and to try and get more reps. However, most of the time you should increase the weight from one workout to the next. When you finally bomb out at 10 reps you have to switch to a new exercise but your lagging muscle group will have made a ton of progress by then.

OK, let’s look at a real-world example. When Dusty Hanshaw first started working with Dante Trudel using the DC Training system he had lagging arms and a weak back. Here is how Dante organized Dusty’s workouts from a 10,000 foot view:

Dusty Hanshaw 3-Way Split Overview

Push Day

  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Triceps
  • Triceps Widowmaker

Pull Day

  • Biceps
  • Forearms
  • Biceps Widowmaker
  • Back Width
  • Back Width Widowmaker
  • Back Thickness

Legs Day

  • Calves
  • Hamstrings
  • Quads

As you can see Dusty performed widowmaker exercises for his back and arms. All of the other exercises were performed as usual with rest-pause sets and the 3-way exercise rotation scheme.

In case you were curious Dusty used barbell preacher curls, hammer strength dips and “Dante rows” for his 3 widowmaker exercises.

Here is a list of some DC-approved widowmaker exercises for each muscle group:

Sample Widowmaker Exercises

  • Chest: Machine pec-dec, incline smith machine (wide grip), flat DB fly
  • Shoulders: Machine lateral raise, cable lateral raise, cable upright row
  • Triceps: Machine dips, reverse grip bench press, PJR pullover
  • Back Width: Dante rows, rack chins, machine pullover
  • Hamstrings: Glute ham raise, leg curl, sumo leg press
  • Quads: Any good leg press machine

Dante believes that it is extremely important to pick the correct widowmaker exercises when you use this method to bring up lagging muscle groups. Dante looks at pictures of his athletes and tries to figure out which exercise would work best based on their physique and their weaknesses.

If you are an advanced bodybuilder and you want to use this method then I recommend you really take your time when picking your widowmaker exercises. It has to meet the 3 widowmaker criteria described above and it has to be an exercise that you really believe in for yourself.

Part 3: The 5-Way Split

The 5-way split is Dante Trudel’s version of the traditional bodybuilding “bro-split.” You train 5 days per week hitting each muscle group once every 7 days. Here is what the split looks like:

The 5-Way Split

  • Monday: Chest
  • Tuesday: Biceps
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: Shoulders / Triceps
  • Saturday: Back
  • Sunday: Off

Dante sometimes uses this split for bodybuilders who are dieting down or preparing for a bodybuilding competition if they are having a hard time recovering from their workouts. You still perform one rest-pause set per body part like normal so you really only have 1-3 working sets per workout. This is perfect for someone who is at the end of their diet and has very little energy to train.

Here is what a bodybuilder’s progression might look like during an 18-week dieting phase:

  • Weeks 1-10: 2-way split
  • Weeks 11-15: 3-way split
  • Weeks 16-18: 5-way split

Again, this is just one example. If you can use the 2-way split all the way into your competition then that is the best-case scenario. If you get to a point where you just cannot recover from your workouts then you would progress to the 3-way split and eventually the 5-way split as needed.

The 5-Way Split For Highly Advanced Bodybuilders

Dante Trudel sometimes has his highly advanced bodybuilders use the 5-way split to continue growing and attack weak body parts.

When I say highly advanced bodybuilders I am talking elite-level bodybuilders who are throwing around unbelievably heavy weights in the gym. Think of someone like David Henry or Dusty Hanshaw.

Here is the basic template for the 5-way split for advanced bodybuilders:

Chest Day

  • Chest exercise #1 (rest-paused)
  • Chest exercise #2 (rest-paused)
  • Chest widowmaker exercise

Biceps Day

  • Biceps exercise #1 (rest-paused)
  • Biceps exercise #2 (rest-paused)
  • Forearms exercise #1 (straight Set)
  • Biceps widowmaker exercise

Legs Day

  • Hamstrings exercise #1 (rest-paused)
  • Hamstrings widowmaker exercise
  • Quadriceps exercise #1 (straight set)
  • Quadriceps exercise #2 (straight set)
  • Quadriceps widowmaker exercise

Shoulders / Triceps Day

  • Shoulder exercise #1 (rest-paused)
  • Shoulder exercise #2 (rest-paused)
  • Shoulder widowmaker exercise
  • Tricep exercise #1 (rest-paused)
  • Tricep exercise #2 (rest-paused)
  • Tricep widowmaker exercise

Back day

  • Back width exercise #1 (rest-paused)
  • Back width exercise #2 (rest-paused)
  • Back width widowmaker exercise
  • Back thickness exercise #1 (straight sets)
  • Back thickness exercise #2 (straight sets)

Dante also has a version of the 5-way split that he uses to help advanced bodybuilders bring up weak muscle groups. Check it out:

Advanced 5-Way Split For Attacking Weak Muscle Groups

  • Monday: Chest (extra shoulders / triceps)
  • Tuesday: Biceps (extra back / rear delts)
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: Shoulders / Triceps (extra chest)
  • Saturday: Back (extra biceps)
  • Sunday: Off

As you can see Dante has his advanced bodybuilders perform extra sets during the week for their weaker body parts.

If Dante was working with a very advanced bodybuilder who had weak arms then he would have them perform 1 extra straight set for triceps on their chest day and 1 extra straight set for biceps on their back day. This extra exercise would be performed as a widowmaker style set.

If you are reading this article then you probably don’t need to worry about bringing up lagging muscle groups with the 5-way split. Dante Trudel really only uses this split with national-level or professional bodybuilders who have already spent a lot of time on the 2-way and 3-way splits.

However, if you think this is what you need to take your physique to the next level then by all means give it a shot! As they say, experience is the best teacher.

Conclusion

dc training splits

Dante Trudel’s DC Training system will go down as one of the most effective bodybuilding programs of all time. One of the things that is so great about DC Training is it is highly customizable. There are three different training splits that you can use depending on your recovery ability and your training experience.

The 2-way split is the standard DC Training split. According to Jason Wojo about 90% of trainees will make faster progress with the 2-way split.

The 3-way split is for more advanced bodybuilders who cannot recover from the 2-way split or who need to bring up some weaker muscle groups.

Finally the 5-way split is a traditional “bro-split” that Dante Trudel uses with elite level bodybuilders who want to bring up weaker body parts and continue adding muscle to their frames.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you want to learn more about DC Training then make sure you read the following article:

Everything you could ever want to know about DC Training is in that article. I will leave you with one of my favorite Dante Trudel quotes (this one always cracks me up):

“You can spank a monkey’s ass until it’s red but that doesn’t make it a baboon!”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen

I am the creator and owner of Revolutionary Program Design. I help advanced athletes take their training to the next level and achieve results they never imagined possible.

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