The Best Training Splits For Muscle Growth!


Choosing the right training split is one of the most important factors in building muscle mass. If you choose the wrong training split then you can kiss your gains goodbye! 

Introduction

  • Part 1: The Bodybuilding Bro Split
  • Part 2: The Push / Pull / Legs Split
  • Part 3: The Charles Poliquin Split
  • Part 4: The Upper / Lower Split
  • Part 5: Full Body Training Splits

In this comprehensive guide I will teach you the 5 best training splits for building muscle mass.

Your training split is your gameplan for how you organize your workouts during the week.

Five of the most popular types of training splits are the bodybuilding bro-split, the push / pull / legs split, the Charles Poliquin split, the upper / lower split and the full body split.

All five of these training splits can work awesome for building muscle. However, they each have their own advantages and disadvantages that you need to be aware of.

The bodybuilding bro split is an advanced training split where you train each muscle group once per week on its own training day. 

Here is one of the most common bodybuilding bro splits:

  • Monday: Chest
  • Tuesday: Back
  • Wednesday: Shoulders
  • Thursday: Legs
  • Friday: Arms
  • Saturday: Off
  • Sunday: Off

The bodybuilding bro split is very popular with advanced bodybuilders because you can attack each muscle group with several different exercises and a ton of training volume.

The bro split works like magic for many gifted bodybuilders but many beginner – intermediate level bodybuilders and “average Joe’s” have a hard time making progress training this way.

Many bodybuilding coaches including John Meadows and Dorian Yates have popularized their own versions of the bro split. I cover all of these different bro split variations in part 1 of this article.

The push / pull / legs split is easily one of the most popular bodybuilding training splits. 

With the push / pull / legs split you have three separate training days:

  • Push Day: Chest / Shoulders / Triceps
  • Pull Day: Back / Biceps
  • Legs Day: Quads / Hamstrings / Calves

The push / pull / legs split is so popular because it eliminates overlap between different muscle groups. You never have to worry about your shoulders being too sore when you train chest or your biceps being sore when you train back because you train these muscle groups together.

The push / pull / legs split is also one of the most versatile training splits ever invented. You can train 3, 4 or 6 days per week with this split.

Many of the world’s best bodybuilders including Ronnie Coleman got their best results using the classic push / pull / legs split. It is just an awesome way to train.

I will cover the 3 different types of push / pull / legs splits in great detail in part 2 of this article. 

The Charles Poliquin split is probably the most underrated training split in the world. Charles Poliquin was a world-class strength coach who worked with many professional bodybuilders including IFBB pro Ben Pakulski.

Charles trained most of his athletes using the following 5-day split:

The Charles Poliquin Training Split

  • Day 1: Chest / Back
  • Day 2: Legs
  • Day 3: Off
  • Day 4: Arms / Shoulders
  • Day 5: Off
  • Day 6: Repeat!

As you can see each body part is trained once every 5 days. Charles believed training body parts every 5 days was optimal for most bodybuilders:

“Provided that the training intensity and volume are challenging, a frequency of once every 5 days works for most individuals, most of the time. This is how I train 70% of my clients with appreciable results.”

One of the cool things about this split is you can train opposing muscle groups together. For example you can alternate back and forth between sets for chest and back, biceps and triceps or quadriceps and hamstrings.

Charles believed opposing muscle group supersets were one of the best ways to build muscle.

The big downside to this training split is you are training on different days each week. You need a very flexible schedule to train this way. I will cover this split in extreme detail in part 3 of this article.

The upper / lower split is mostly used by powerlifters and strongman competitors. However, it is still a great way for bodybuilders to train. Many of the world’s top bodybuilders including IFBB pro David Henry have used a variation of the upper / lower split throughout their careers.

You can train 4, 3 or 2 days per week using the upper / lower split. Here is what the 4 days per week version looks like:

The 4 Day Upper / Lower Split

  • Monday: Upper Body
  • Wednesday: Lower Body
  • Friday: Upper Body
  • Saturday: Lower Body

The biggest drawback to the upper / lower split for building muscle is it’s harder to specialize on the upper body.

If you like to “bomb and blitz” each body part with several different exercises then the upper / lower split will not work for you. I mean, you can’t perform 10-20 exercises for your upper body workout and expect to make progress!

However, if you are creative enough there are ways to make the upper / lower split work AWESOME for bodybuilders. The infamous DC Training program uses a modified upper / lower split that works unbelievably well for advanced bodybuilders.

I will cover the upper / lower split with an absolutely excessive amount of detail in part 4 of this article.

Finally we have the full body split. With the full body split you train your entire body each workout. Here is what the 3 days per week full body split looks like:

The 3 Day full Body Split

  • Monday: Full Body
  • Wednesday: Full Body
  • Friday: Full Body

Full body splits are not the best choice for most bodybuilders.

It’s difficult for most bodybuilders to make progress training each muscle group 3+ times per week. It’s also difficult for bodybuilders to fully develop their upper bodies training this way.

However, some coaches including Dr. Scott Stevenson and Jeff Nippard have found some creative ways to make full body splits work for advanced bodybuilders. IFBB pro David Henry trains using a 4 day full body split and he seems to be getting decent results!

I will cover full body splits in mind-numbing detail in part 5 of this article

I hope you found this introduction helpful. By the end of this article you will have a world-class understanding of how to use these 5 types of training splits to build as much muscle mass as humanly possible. 

Note: if you have trouble reading the training routines in this article then check out this guide on how to read a training program. Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: The Bodybuilding Bro Split

The bodybuilding bro split is one of the popular training splits in the world. The vast majority of IFBB professional bodybuilders including Jay Cutler and Phil Heath train using some type of bro split.

The big advantage of the bro split is you can train each muscle group with a TON of exercises and training volume. It is also very easy to specialize on your upper body which is important for advanced bodybuilders.

The big drawbacks to the bro split is you are only training each body part about once every 7 days and it can be difficult to make long-term strength gains training this way.

In my experience bro splits tend to be a good choice for more advanced bodybuilders with at least average recovery ability and a good strength foundation.

If you cannot bench press 200+ pounds for reps or squat / deadlift 300+ pounds for reps then you need to pick a different split and focus on getting those numbers up first!

One of the most popular ways to set up a bro split is to train 5 days in a row and take the weekends off. For example:

The Traditional Bodybuilding Bro Split:

  • Monday: Chest
  • Tuesday: Back
  • Wednesday: Shoulders
  • Thursday: Legs
  • Friday: Arms
  • Saturday: Off
  • Sunday: Off

This split is very popular but it has a HUGE drawback: it is very difficult to recover from 5 hard workouts in a row. Your central nervous system won’t be fully recovered even if your muscles feel fine.

For example when you train legs on Thursday your quads and hamstrings may feel recovered but your central nervous system will be so fatigued from your chest, back and shoulder workouts that you won’t be able to train with 100% intensity.

A much better choice is to train 2-3 days in a row and then take a day off. The 4 x Mr. Olympia winner Jay Cutler was a big fan of this approach.

Here is how Jay liked to organize his workouts:

Jay Cutler’s Training Split

  • Monday: Chest
  • Tuesday: Arms
  • Wednesday: Back
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: Shoulders
  • Saturday: Legs
  • Sunday: Off

This is much better! With Jay Cutler’s bro split you only train 2-3 days in a row before taking a day off. You also have a day off after your hardest workouts: back and legs.

There are a TON of different ways that you can structure a workout using a bro split. One of the most popular and effective strategies is to perform 1 heavy compound exercise at the start of the workout followed by a bunch of lighter bodybuilding-style exercises.

IFBB pro Steve Kuclo is a huge fan of these powerbuilding-style workouts.

The first exercise helps you build strength and myofibrillar hypertrophy while the other exercises let you train for the pump and really give you that bodybuilding-style look.

Let’s take a look at a couple of Steve Kuclo’s upper body workouts. Check it out:

Steve Kuclo’s Chest Workout

  • A1: 30 degree incline DB press, 3 sets of 5-10 reps
  • B1: Supine machine press (neutral grip), 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • C1: 30 degree incline DB fly, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • C2: Machine pec dec, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • D1: Cable crossover (decline angle), 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • D2: Cable crossover (horizontal angle), 3 sets of 10-12 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

This is a very typical looking chest workout for Steve Kuclo. He starts his workout by incline pressing the 200 pound dumbbells for reps – talk about strong!

After that he performs a lot of higher-rep work to pump his chest full of blood. He even throws in a couple of supersets for his “C” and “D” exercises to create even more muscular damage.

Now let’s look at one of Steve’s powerbuilding style shoulder workouts. Check it out:

Steve Kuclo Shoulder Workout

  • A1: Seated DB overhead press, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • B1: Seated DB lateral raise, 3 sets of 12-15 reps**
  • C1: Rear delt cable pulls, 3 sets of 12-15 reps
  • D1: Machine overhead press, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • D2: Rear delt pec dec, 3 sets of 10-12 reps

**Perform a double drop set on the last rep

Here is the training video for this workout:

Steve uses a very similar strategy for this shoulder workout.

For his first exercise he goes as heavy as possible on the seated dumbbell overhead press. Then he performs a bunch of bodybuilding-style exercises for his side and rear delts.

These powerbuilding style workouts are a simple but effective way to train for muscular hypertrophy.

Of course there are many other ways to design a bodybuilding bro split. One of the most effective variations was popularized by the bodybuilding coach John Meadows. Check it out:

The John Meadows Training Split

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

John Meadows trained a TON of professional bodybuilders using this training split. The big difference with John’s split is you train chest and shoulders together and you only have 4 workouts per week.

This split is much easier to recover from for most trainees. The extra day of rest makes a huge difference.

John sometimes uses a higher-frequency version of this split for advanced bodybuilders with excellent recovery ability. Check it out:

The John Meadows High-Frequency Training Split

  • Monday: Legs
  • Tuesday: Chest / Shoulders 
  • Wednesday: Back
  • Thursday: Arms
  • Friday: Legs (Pump)
  • Saturday: Chest / Shoulders (Pump)
  • Sunday: Back (Pump)

Every body part except arms is trained twice per week. You have a normal heavy training session early in the week and a lighter “pump” workout later in the week.

For the pump workouts you use different joint-friendly exercises and train to get a good pump in your muscles without beating yourself up too much. These are lighter workouts designed to help your recovery and stimulate muscle growth by increasing your training frequency.

John sometimes likes to use this split with advanced bodybuilders who are getting ready for their bodybuilding competitions.

John has a ton of different ways he structures his workouts. You can read more about his training style in my article “Mountain Dog Training: The Ultimate Guide!

Here is one of his more creative arm workouts. Check it out:

John Meadows Giant Set Biceps / Triceps Workout

Giant Set #1

  • A1: Standing dual rope cable pushdown, 4 x 8-12, 1/0/1/1, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Standing 2-arm DB curl (supinating grip), 4 x 8-12, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: High-pulley rope triceps extension (leaning forward at torso), 4 x 8-12, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A4: Seated DB curls (supinating grip), 4 x 8-12, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest

Giant Set #2

  • B1: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 4 x 8-12, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B2: Kettlebell lying extension, 4 x 8-12, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B3: Reverse cable curl, 4 x 8-12, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B4: 30 degree incline DB extension, 4 x 8-12, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest

Here is the training video for this workout:

This workout features two different giant sets for your biceps and triceps. This is an extremely effective way to train if your goals is to build bigger arms.

One of the big downsides to the traditional bodybuilding bro split is you are only training muscle groups once per week. Fortunately there are ways to get around this problem.

The 6 x Mr. Olympia winner Dorian Yates used a bro split where he trained each body part once every 6 days. Check it out:

The Dorian Yates Training Split

  • Day 1: Chest / Biceps
  • Day 2: Quads / Hamstrings / Calves
  • Day 3: Off
  • Day 4: Shoulders / Triceps
  • Day 5: Back / Rear Delts
  • Day 6: Off
  • Day 7: Repeat!

In my opinion this is one of the best ways to set up a bodybuilding bro split.

The increased training frequency means it is much easier for most bodybuilders to build muscle mass and get stronger. You also never train more than 2 days in a row and you always have a rest day after your leg and back workouts.

The main drawback to this split is you have to train on different days of the week each week. You need to have a very flexible schedule to train this way.

Dorian Yates showed that you can make great progress using a bro split with a “one set to failure” training style. Dorian performed multiple exercises per body part but only performed 1 working set to failure per exercise.

For inspiration here is Dorian’s back workout. Check it out:

Dorian Yates’ Back Routine

  • A1: Pullover machine, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
  • B1: Hammer strength pulldown (supinated grip), 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
  • C1: Standing barbell row to knees, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure
  • D1: Seated 1-arm machine row, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure**
  • E1: Deadlift, 1 working set of 6-8 reps to failure

**Perform 1-3 forced reps with the help of a training partner after reaching failure.

Here is the training video for this workout:

For simplicity’s sake I left out Dorian’s rear delt and lower back exercises.

The bottom line is the bodybuilding bro split is an excellent way to train. It works very well for advanced bodybuilders, individuals with above average genetics / recovery ability and trainees who are already reasonably strong.

If you meet this description then the bro split is worth a shot!

Some of the best ways to design a bro split workout are Steve Kuclo style powerbuilding workouts, John Meadows style high-volume workouts and Dorian Yates style high-intensity workouts. 

Part 2: The Push / Pull / Legs Split

The push / pull / legs split is one of the oldest and most popular training splits in the world. The idea is to train your entire body over three separate workouts:

The Push / Pull / Legs Split

  • “Push” Workout = Chest / Shoulders / Triceps
  • “Pull” Workout = Back / Biceps
  • “Legs” Workout = Quads / Hamstrings / Calves

The push / pull / legs split is so popular because you are training all of the related muscle groups together in the same workout. For example when you perform an exercise like the incline bench press you are working the chest, shoulders and triceps together.

It makes sense to train all of these muscles together in the same so that you can maximize your recovery.

The push / pull / legs split also lets you specialize a little bit on your upper body which is important for more advanced bodybuilders. 

There are three different versions of the push / pull / legs split that you can use:

  • The 6 days per week push / pull / legs split
  • The 4 days per week push / pull / legs split
  • The 3 days per week push / pull / legs split

Each of these splits has their own advantages and disadvantages for the serious bodybuilder trying to build muscle mass.

Let’s start by looking at the 6 days per week version. Check it out:

6 Day Push Pull Legs

  • Monday: Push
  • Tuesday: Pull
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Thursday: Push
  • Friday: Pull
  • Saturday: Legs
  • Sunday: Off

The 6 days per week push / pull / legs split is a very popular way to train. It lets you train each muscle group twice per week which the scientific literature has shown to be optimal for muscle growth.

This split is very difficult for the average bodybuilder to recover from. However, some of the best bodybuilders in the world including Ronnie Coleman and Chris Bumstead have gotten their best results using this split.

Ronnie Coleman does something VERY interesting with this split: he uses two completely different workouts during the week to train each body part.

For example Ronnie Coleman has a “back thickness” workout and a “back width” workout. For his back thickness workout Ronnie focuses on deadlifts and different rowing exercises to build up his traps, rhomboids and spinal erectors. Check it out:

Ronnie Coleman’s Back Thickness Day

  • A1: Conventional deadlift, 3-5 sets of 4-8 reps
  • B1: Barbell bent-over row, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • C1: T-bar row, 3-5 sets of x 8-20 reps
  • D1: Standing unilateral DB row, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps

Here is Ronnie’s training video for this workout:

Talk about a brutal back workout! Most bodybuilders would have a hard time recovering from 1-2 heavy back thickness exercises in a single workout. Ronnie performs 4 of them!

For his back thickness workout Ronnie likes to perform 1 all-out working set per exercise. This is very understandable. After all, if you perform an all-out set of barbell rows with 500 pounds for reps then what is an extra 1-3 sets supposed to accomplish?

For his second weekly back routine Ronnie focuses on back width exercises like pull downs and dumbbell pullovers. Check it out:

Ronnie Coleman’s Back Width Day

  • A1: Lat pulldown (wide / overhand grip), 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B1: Behind the neck lat pulldown (wide / overhand grip), 3-5 sets of x 8-20 reps
  • C1: Seated cable row (v-handle), 3-5 sets of x 8-20 reps
  • D1: Lying DB pullovers, 3-5 sets of x 8-20 reps

Here is Ronnie’s training video for this workout:

This workout is completely different from his first weekly back workout. Ronnie performs multiple sets per exercise and trains to get a huge pump in his lats. This looks more like a traditional high-volume back workout that most professional bodybuilders would perform.

The beauty of the 6 day push / pull / legs split is that you are training each muscle group twice per week so you have a lot of flexibility with how you structure your workouts.

Chris Bumstead also varied his exercises for his two weekly workouts per body part.

Unfortunately most trainees cannot recover from 6 hard workouts per week. It is just too hard on the central nervous system. Even if your muscles are recovered for each workout most trainees have a hard time making long-term strength gains training this way.

A better option for most bodybuilders is the 4 day push / pull / legs split. Check it out:

4 Day Push Pull Legs

Week #1

  • Monday: Pull
  • Wednesday: Push
  • Friday: Legs
  • Saturday: Pull

Week #2

  • Monday: Push
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Friday: Pull
  • Saturday: Push

Week #3

  • Monday: Legs
  • Wednesday: Pull
  • Friday: Push
  • Saturday: Legs

The 4 days per week push / pull / legs split is a FANTASTIC way to train for most bodybuilders.

Each muscle group is trained once every 5 days. This is the “sweet spot” for many bodybuilders because you can train each muscle group with a lot of volume but you are still using a higher training frequency.

Seriously, this is an AWESOME way to train for a lot of people. I first read about the 4 day push / pull / legs split while researching Dante Trudel’s DC Training program.

DC Training is a high-intensity bodybuilding program that uses techniques like rest-pause sets and extreme stretches to help you build as much muscle mass as possible.

Here is an advanced bodybuilder demonstrating a DC Training back / biceps workout. Check it out:

DC Training Back / Biceps Workout

  • A1: Pull ups (wide / overhand grip), 1 x 7-10**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Deadlift, 2 x 6-10, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Seated DB curl (supinated grip), 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Supine rope cable curl, 1 x 7-10**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed

**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set. Train to failure in the listed rep range, rest 20-30 seconds, train to failure a 2nd time with the same weight, rest 20-30 seconds, train to failure a 3rd time with the same weight, done!

Here is the training video for this workout:

For this workout 2 exercises are performed for your upper back and 2 exercises are performed for your biceps / forearms.

Dante sometimes has his advanced bodybuilders perform extra exercises for their back / biceps if they are weaker muscle groups. This is the approach Dusty Hanshaw used while training for his IFBB pro card and it worked like a charm.

Of course it is also possible to perform higher volume workouts using the 4 day push / pull / legs split. This is something that John Meadows sometimes does with his bodybuilding clients.

Here is a higher volume Mountain Dog back / biceps workout that you can try. Check it out:

Mountain Dog Training High Volume Back / Biceps Workout

  • A1: Lat pulldown (wide / overhand grip), 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • B1: Lat pulldown (narrow / neutral grip), 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • C1: Prone hammer strength low row, 4 sets of 10-12 reps
  • D1: Rear delt cable pulls, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • E1: Rope cable hammer curl, 4 sets of 10-12 reps
  • F1: 90 degree preacher ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 3 sets of 6-8 reps**

**On your last set train to failure and then perform 2 extra forced reps with the help of a training spotter.

Here is the training video for this workout

There are a ton of different ways you can design your workouts with the 4 day push / pull / legs split. It also works well for powerlifters and people who want to get as strong as possible but that is beyond the scope of this article.

Of course you can also train 3 days per week using the push / pull / legs split. For example:

The 3 Day Push Pull Legs Split

  • Monday: Push
  • Wednesday: Pull
  • Friday: Legs

A lot of fitness experts believe the 3 day push / pull / legs split is useless for bodybuilders. I disagree! This split can work extremely well for certain individuals.

Here is a great quote by Stan Efferding on the 3 day push / pull / legs split:

“How often should you train? Three days a week is plenty. Push, pull, legs is still a great way to grow. Chest, shoulders and triceps one day, back and biceps another and then legs.”

“The basic movements like bench and dips work all the muscle groups in the push chain so you don’t need a bunch of isolation exercises if any. Same is true of T-bar rows and chins for the pull chain and squats for legs.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

In my experience the 3 day push / pull / legs split works well for two types of trainees:

  • People with below average recovery ability
  • Highly advanced bodybuilders lifting crazy heavy weights

Both of these individuals need more rest between workouts in order to recover.

Hard gainers tend to respond well to this split because they can’t handle a lot of training volume. They need to keep their workouts short with plenty of rest in order to make progress.

Some advanced bodybuilders have the opposite problem: they are so strong that they need more rest between workouts to recover and grow.

When I first started lifting weights in 2007 I was an avid reader of the “Iron Addicts” bodybuilding forum run by Wesley Sylveira. Wesley trained an incredibly strong bodybuilding client who went by the internet nickname of “2Scoot.”

He was a nationally ranked strongman competitor and powerlifter who could bench press 600+ pounds and squat / deadlift 800+ pounds.

Here is the exact training program that gave him his best results. Check it out:

2Scoot’s Chest / Shoulders / Triceps Workout

  • A1: Bench press (shoulder-width grip), 3 x (1, 8, 8), 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 1 x 7-9**, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: 30 degree incline DB fly, 1 x 12, 3/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Seated DB overhead press, 2 x 10, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • E1: DB lateral raise, 1 x 15**, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest

**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set. Train to failure in the listed rep range, rest 20-30 seconds, train to failure a second time with the same weight, rest 20-30 seconds, train to failure a third time with the same weight, done!

2Scoot’s Quads / Hamstrings / Calves Workout

  • A1: Back Squat (medium stance / heels flat), 2 x 10, 2/0/X/1, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Conventional deadlift, 1 x 10, 2/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Hanging leg raise, 2 x 10, 2/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Standing machine calf raise, 2 x 15**, 2/1/X/1, 120 seconds rest

**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set. Train to failure in the listed rep range, rest 20-30 seconds, train to failure a second time with the same weight, rest 20-30 seconds, train to failure a third time with the same weight, done!

2Scoot’s Back / Biceps Workout       

  • A1: Hammer strength pulldowns (supinated grip), 2 x 15**, 2/0/X/0, 240 seconds rest
  • B1: Bilateral hammer strength row, 2 x 10, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Seated DB hammer curl, 2 x 10**, 2/0/X/0, 240 seconds rest

**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set. Train to failure in the listed rep range, rest 20-30 seconds, train to failure a second time with the same weight, rest 20-30 seconds, train to failure a third time with the same weight, done!

If you feel like you need more time to recover between workouts then the 3 day push / pull / legs split is a great choice.

The bottom line is the push / pull / legs split is one of the best and most versatile training splits for building muscle mass. It works great for absolute beginners and Mr. Olympia competitors like Ronnie Coleman and Chris Bumstead.

If you are not sure where to start then you can’t go wrong with a 3 day, 4 day or 6 day push / pull / legs split (depending on your recovery ability).

Part 3: The Charles Poliquin Split

Charles Poliquin was one of the greatest strength coaches the world had ever seen. He mostly worked with Olympic athletes but he also trained many professional bodybuilders including IFBB pro Ben Pakulski.

Charles Poliquin trained most of his athletes using a unique training split where you train each muscle group once every 5 days.

This split doesn’t have a name but I like to call it the Charles Poliquin training split. Check it out:

The Charles Poliquin Training Split

  • Day 1: Chest / Back
  • Day 2: Legs
  • Day 3: Off
  • Day 4: Arms / Shoulders
  • Day 5: Off
  • Day 6: Repeat!

This training split has many advantages over other training splits for building muscle.

First of all you get to train each muscle group once every 5 days. This is an awesome training frequency for a lot of bodybuilders.

You can easily train with higher volume workouts but you also get the benefits of a higher training frequency. It is like the best of both worlds!

The Charles Poliquin split also lets you train opposing muscle groups together like chest and back, quads and hamstrings or biceps and triceps.

Charles believed one of the fastest ways to build muscle mass and strength was to use antagonistic supersets. An antagonistic superset is a training method where you alternate back and forth between sets for opposing muscle groups. For example:

Bicep / Tricep Antagonistic Superset

  • Perform set #1 for biceps, rest 1-2 minutes
  • Perform set #1 for triceps, rest 1-2 minutes
  • Perform set #2 for biceps, rest 1-2 minutes
  • Perform set #2 for triceps, rest 1-2 minutes

And so on.

Antagonistic supersets have three big advantages over regular “straight sets” for building muscle: they help you recruit more muscle fibers, they improve your muscular endurance and they let you perform more total work in less time.

Charles believed in antagonistic supersets that he designed almost all of his bodybuilding-style workouts using them.

It does not matter if Charles was writing an ultra high-volume bodybuilding workout or a functional hypertrophy workout using moderate rep ranges: he almost always wrote his routines with antagonistic supersets.

Let’s look at a few different arm routines that you could perform using the Charles Poliquin training split.

One of Charles’ most popular routines is the German Volume Training workout. The basic idea is to perform 10 sets of 10 reps on 2 different exercises.

Charles uses the antagonistic supersets to make the set / rep scheme even more effective. Check it out:

Charles Poliquin German Volume Training Arm Workout

  • A1: Decline ez-bar extension (to chin), 10 x 10, 3/1/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • A2: 60 degree incline DB curl (supinated grip), 10 x 10, 3/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B1: Cable pushdowns (V-handle / pronated grip), 3 x 12-15, 2/0/1/1, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 3 x 12-15, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

This arm workout is great if you are looking to add some quick size to your upper arms.

One of the benefits of using this workout with the Charles Poliquin split over something like John Meadows’ favorite bro split is that you are training your arms once every 5 days. This extra training frequency is very helpful for speeding up the muscle-building process.

Here is another higher-rep arm routine that you could try. Check it out:

Charles Poliquin 6/12/25 Arm Workout

  • A1: Decline ez-bar extensions with chains (to forehead), 3-4 x 6, 4/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Bench press (shoulder-width grip), 3-4 x 12, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: Overhead rope cable extension (high pulley), 3-4 x 25, 2/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • A4: 90 degree preacher ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 3-4 x 6, 4/0/X/0, 10 seconds re
  • st
  • A5: 30 degree incline DB curl (hammer grip), 3-4 x 12, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A6: 60 degree incline cable curl, 3-4 x 25, 2/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest

This workout features the 6/12/25 method. This is another training method that was popularized by Charles Poliquin.

The basic idea is to perform a tri-set with three different exercises per body part. You perform 6 reps on the first exercise, 12 reps on the second exercise and 25 reps on the third exercise.

Charles believes you will get your best results if you perform 1 tri-set for your triceps, rest 2 minutes, perform 1 tri-set for your biceps, rest 2 minutes and perform your next tri-set for your triceps.

This is type of workout is only possible when you train antagonistic body parts together with the Charles Poliquin split or something similar.

Unlike a lot of bodybuilding coaches Charles Poliquin was a big believer in performing lower-rep strength work to build muscle mass.

Charles believed that performing at least some sets in the 3-6 rep range was the best way for bodybuilders to stimulate strength gains and increase the size of their fast-twitch muscle fibers.

Here is an arm routine that Charles wrote for David Boston to add some functional hypertrophy to his upper arms. Check it out:

David Boston Arm Drop Set Routine

  • A1: Seated 80 degree half press, 5 x 3**, 2/2/1/0, 2 minutes rest
  • A2: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / pronated grip), 5 x 3**, 4/0/1/0, 2 minutes rest
  • B1: One-arm low pulley rope french press, 4 x 4****, 3/1/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: Standing thick bar curls (medium / supinated grip), 4 x 4****, 4/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest

**Performed as a 3/2/1/1 drop set. Perform 3 reps, drop the weight, perform 2 reps, drop the weight, perform 1 rep, drop the weight, perform 1 rep, done!

****Performed as a 4/2/2 drop set. Perform 4 reps, drop the weight, perform 2 reps, drop the weight, perform 2 reps, done!

This routine features two different drop set protocols for your biceps and triceps. This routine uses a TON of training volume and should only be performed by advanced athletes with a lot of training experience under their belt.

Once again Charles has you performing 1 drop set for your triceps, resting 2 minutes, performing 1 drop set for your biceps, resting 2 minutes and performing another drop set for your triceps. I told you Charles was a fanatic about antagonistic supersets! 

If you are a serious bodybuilder then I highly recommend you give the Charles Poliquin training split a shot. It is one of the best ways to build muscle mass AND strength all at the same time.

It also makes it very easy to bring up smaller body parts like your shoulders and arms.

Before moving on I want to talk about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s training split. Check it out:

The Arnold Schwarzenegger Training Split

  • Monday: Chest / Back
  • Tuesday: Legs 
  • Wednesday: Shoulders / Arms
  • Thursday: Chest / Back
  • Friday: Legs
  • Saturday: Shoulders / Arms
  • Sunday: Legs

Arnold Schwarzenegger trained using a modified version of the Charles Poliquin training split. Arnold used antagonistic supersets to build muscle mass just like Charles Poliquin.

For example here is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s favorite pre-contest chest / back routine. Check it out:

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Pre-Contest Chest / Back Workout

Superset #1:

  • A1: Bench press, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps, 30 seconds rest
  • A2: Pull ups (wide / overhand grip), 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps, 30 seconds rest

Superset #2:

  • B1: Incline bench press, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps, 30 seconds rest
  • B2: Cable pulldowns (wide / overhand grip), 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps, 30 seconds rest

Superset #3:

  • C1: V-bar dips, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps, 30 seconds rest
  • C2: T-bar rows, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps, 30 seconds rest

Superset #4:

  • D1: Flat DB flyes, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps, 30 seconds rest
  • D2: Barbell bent over row, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps, 30 seconds rest

Superset #5:

  • E1: Cable crossover, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps, 30 seconds rest
  • E2: Seated cable row, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps, 30 seconds rest

Arnold performed 5 different supersets for his chest and back. He performed 1 set for his chest, rested 30 seconds, performed 1 set for his back, rested 30 seconds and performed another set for his chest.

In my opinion most people will find it almost impossible to recover using Arnold Schwarzenegger’s exact training split. However, I felt this article would be incomplete if I didn’t at least mention it.

The bottom line is the Charles Poliquin training split is an AWESOME way to train. It lets you train each muscle group once every 5 days and you can use antagonistic supersets to build muscle mass even faster.

The main drawback of this split is you have to train on different days each week. You need to have a very flexible schedule to train this way.

Part 4: The Upper / Lower Split

The upper / lower split is easily one of the most popular training splits in the world. It is right up there with the bro split and the push / pull / legs split in terms of popularity.

With an upper / lower split you train your entire upper body with one workout and your entire lower body with another workout. Most people end up using 4-6 exercises for their upper body workouts and 3-5 exercises for their lower body workouts.

In my experience the upper / lower split is an AWESOME choice for beginner to intermediate level bodybuilders. This split helps you make screaming fast strength gains which is very important when you are still building your foundation of strength.

The upper / lower split can also be used by advanced bodybuilders if you know what you are doing.

Many pro bodybuilders including David Henry have trained with a modified version of an upper / lower split while using the DC Training program. More on that below.

There are 3 main versions of the upper / lower split that you should know about:

  • The 4 day per week upper / lower split
  • The 3 days per week upper / lower split
  • The 2 days per week upper / lower split

All 3 of these splits can be used to build muscle mass if you know what you are doing. 

The 4 day per week upper / lower split is the most popular variation of this training split. It lets you train each muscle group twice per week while minimizing the number of days you train in the gym.

Here is what it looks like:

The 4 Day Upper / Lower Split

  • Monday: Upper Body
  • Wednesday: Lower Body
  • Friday: Upper Body
  • Saturday: Lower Body

This split works incredibly well for building strength. You can train the big compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, presses and pull ups twice per week which works AWESOME for a lot of beginner and intermediate level bodybuilders.

If you cannot bench press 200+ pounds for reps or squat / deadlift 300+ pounds for reps then this is a great choice.

Many powerlifters at the Westside Barbell powerlifting club build a TON of muscle mass training this way. Some of the taller powerlifters have to compete at 300+ pounds in order to be competitive so they are always looking for ways to build more muscle mass.

The trick to building muscle mass with a Westside style program is to include lots of bodybuilding-style accessory work.

Here is what a max effort bench press workout might look like for a powerlifter trying to move up a weight class:

Westside Barbell Bench Press Workout

  • A1: Reverse band bench press (medium grip), 3 x 1, 1/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • B1: 30 degree incline DB press, 2 x 15-25**, 2/0/1/0, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: Rolling DB extension, 5 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • C2: Band tricep pushdowns, 5 x 10-15, 2/0/1/1, 2 minutes rest
  • D1: Lat pulldown (wide / overhand grip), 3 x 10-12, 3/0/1/1, 1 minute rest
  • E1: Seated cable row (v-handle), 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/1, 1 minute rest
  • F1: Reverse pec dec, 3 x 15-20, 2/0/1/1, 30 seconds rest

As you can see plenty of accessory work is performed for the key powerlifting muscles such as the triceps and the upper back.

The powerlifting coach Louie Simmons is very fond of supersetting different types of triceps extensions with band pushdowns for increasing triceps size and strength. This is definitely something worth trying in your future routines. 

Many strongman competitors such as Eddie Hall and Hafthor Bjornsson have also built TONS of muscle mass using a 4 day upper / lower split.

Eddie and Hafthor do something very creative with the split: they perform deadlifts on one of their lower body days and they perform all of their upper back work on this day. For example:

Eddie Hall’s Training Split

  • Monday: Squat
  • Tuesday: Bench Press
  • Thursday: Deadlift
  • Friday: Overhead Press

This is the exact training split that Eddie Hall used when he was training to be the World’s Strongest Man. He deadlift every Thursday and performed several upper back accessory exercises on this day.

This is a great way to train if you want to build strength while also increasing the size of your upper body.

Because you are performing all of your upper back work on your deadlift day you have plenty of room to perform more accessory exercises for your chest, shoulders and triceps on your other upper body training days.

For example here is what one of Eddie Hall’s typical bench press workouts looks like. Check it out:

Eddie Hall Bench Press Workout

  • A1: Bench press with bands (competition grip), 3 x 1-6, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: 30 degree incline bench, 3 x 1-6, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Hammer strength incline press, 3 x 6-8, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Machine fly, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: 30 degree incline DB fly, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

Here is the training video for this workout:

Even though he is a strongman competitor Eddie Hall uses tons of volume in his workouts. This is a workout that he performed while training for a 700 pound bench press so it’s not like he was taking it easy in the gym!

Eddie Hall uses a similar amount of training volume in his other workouts. Actually this type of workout resembles the Steve Kuclo’s powerbuilding workouts as covered in part 1 of this article.

If you want to use a 4 day upper / lower split to build muscle mass then turning one of your lower body days into a deadlift / upper back day is a great way to squeeze more volume in for your upper body while rapidly building strength. 

Finally the strength coach Charles Poliquin was also a big fan of the 4 day upper / lower split. He often had his world-class athletes use this split to rapidly build muscle mass.

Here is how Charles Poliquin might design an upper body workout for a client who needs to pack on muscle mass faster than you can say “mutated myostatin gene.” Check it out:

Poliquin-Style Upper Body Hypertrophy Workout

  • A1: 30 degree incline DB press, 4 x 6-8, 3/1/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • A2: Pull ups (wide / overhand grip), 4 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: Chin ups (narrow / supinated grip), 4 x AMRAP**, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B1: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B2: 15 degree incline DB fly, 3 x 12-15, 2/0/1/0, 45 seconds rest
  • B3: Machine chest supported row, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/2, 45 seconds rest
  • C1: Seated DB overhead press, 3 x 10-12, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • C2: Rope cable upright row, 3 x 12-15, 2/0/1/2, 90 seconds rest

**Perform as many reps as possible with the same weight you used for exercise A2.

This is a high volume Poliquin-style upper body workout designed to add size to your chest, back and shoulders.

There’s only so many exercises you can perform in a single workout so you’ll have to use a different type of upper body routine if your goal is to specialize on your upper arms. 

The 4 day upper / lower split is a popular option for bodybuilders and powerlifters of all levels. However, it is not the only way to design an upper / lower split.

In my opinion the 3 day upper / lower split is perhaps the most underrated training split in the world. Here is what it looks like:

The 3 Day Upper / Lower Split

Week 1

  • Monday: Upper Body
  • Wednesday: Lower Body
  • Friday: Upper Body

Week 2

  • Monday: Lower Body
  • Wednesday: Upper Body
  • Friday: Lower Body

Every muscle group is trained 3 times in 2 weeks or about once every 5 days. This training frequency is a favorite of Charles Poliquin and it works ridiculously well for most trainees.

If you want to build muscle mass with the 3 day upper / lower split then DC Training has your name written all over it!

DC Training is a lower volume / higher frequency bodybuilding program design to help you build muscle mass as fast as possible. DC training uses a modified version of the 3 day upper / lower split. Check it out:

DC Training Upper Body Day

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

DC Training Lower Body Day

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

As you can see biceps and forearms are trained as part of the lower body training day. This was done to save time – you are already performing 5 hard exercises on your upper body day as is!

I don’t have room to cover the entire DC Training system in this article. Instead I will show you what a typical upper body and lower body workout might look like.

Here is a typical upper body DC Training workout:

Sample DC Training Upper Body Workout

  • A1: Flat DB press, 1 x 20-30 RP**
  • B1: Barbell seated military press, 1 x 11-15 RP**
  • C1: Bench press (shoulder-width grip), 1 x 11-15 RP**
  • D1: Lat pulldown (medium / overhand grip), 1 x 11-15 RP**
  • E1: Barbell bent over row, 2 x 8-12

**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set. Train to failure in the listed rep range, rest 20-30 seconds, train to failure a 2nd time with the same weight, rest 20-30 seconds, train to failure a 3rd time with the same weight, done!

Here is the training video for this workout:

And here is a typical DC Training lower body workout:

Sample DC Training Lower Body Workout

  • A1: Standing alternating DB curls, 1 x 15-20 RP**
  • B1: Standing DB pinwheel curls, 1 x 8-12
  • C1: Seated machine calf raise, 1 x 7-10
  • D1: Machine hack squat, 2 x (4-8, 20**)
  • E1: Romanian deadlift, 2 x 7-10

**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set. Train to failure in the listed rep range, rest 20-30 seconds, train to failure a 2nd time with the same weight, rest 20-30 seconds, train to failure a 3rd time with the same weight, done!

Here is the training video for this workout:

There are other training programs that utilize the 3 day upper / lower split. Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 training program certainly comes to mind.

However, DC Training is the way to go if your goal is to build as much muscle mass as humanly possible. 

If you want to learn more about DC Training then check out the following articles:

The first article will teach you how to set up your own DC Training program in the least amount of time. The second article is a better choice if you obsess about strength training as much as I do and you want to know every possible detail about this muscle-building program

Finally there is the 2 day upper / lower split. With this split you perform 2 workouts per week: one for your upper body and one for your lower body. For example:

The 2 Day Upper / Lower Split

  • Monday: Upper Body
  • Friday: Lower Body

Most people would never even consider training this way. I have to admit that it looks a little weird. I mean, how are you supposed to build muscle mass training twice per week? No one trains like that! Right!?

In my experience the 2 day upper / lower split works well for two types of trainees:

  • Advanced powerlifters
  • Extreme hardgainers

Many advanced powerlifters such as Eric Lilliebridge and Stan Efferding got their best results training with a 2 day upper / lower split. This is an article about building muscle mass so I won’t go into more details on that subject.

That brings us to the second type of person that does well with this split: hardgainers.

There are some people who just don’t respond well to lifting weights. These people can still make progress but they need to take a radically different approach to training than everyone else.

One of the best training splits for these extreme hardgainers is the 2 days per week upper / lower split. This split gives you 2-3 rest days between workouts which means your central nervous system will almost always be recharged and ready to go.

Here is one example of how you might structure your upper body and lower body workouts if you are an extreme hardgainer. Check it out:

Hardgainer Upper Body Workout

  • A1: Incline bench press, 2 x 5-6, 4/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • B1: V-bar dips, 2 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 20 minutes rest
  • C1: Seated DB overhead press, 2 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • D1: Dead stop skull crushers, 2 x 10-12, 2/1/1/0, 2 minutes rest

Hardgainer Lower Body Workout

  • A1: Front squat (medium stance / heels flat), 2 x 6, 4/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • B1: Romanian deadlift, 2 x 10-12, 2/2/1/0, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: 1-arm hammer strength pulldown (pronated grip), 2 x 10-12, 3/1/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • D1: 90 degree back extension (barbell on back), 2 x 8-10, 2/0/1/2, 2 minutes rest

If this doesn’t look like “enough volume” then try it and prove me wrong! If you quickly burn out on most normal training splits then this simple 2 days per week routine may be just what you need to start making progress again.

As your work capacity improves you can progress to one of the other training splits covered in this article to speed up your progress.

The bottom line is the upper / lower split is one of the best training splits ever invented. It works EXTREMELY well for people who want to get as strong as possible but it can also work for building muscle mass if you know what you are doing. 

Part 5: Full Body Training Splits

Full body workouts were very popular during the “golden era” of bodybuilding in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Many world-famous bodybuilders like Steve Reeves used a 3 days per week full body split to build their incredible physiques.

Nowadays it is very rare to see a bodybuilder train with a full body split. Other options like the bodybuilding bro split are much more common. 

There are two main reasons why bodybuilders stopped using full body splits:

  • It’s too hard to recover from 3+ lower body workouts per week
  • It’s very difficult to specialize on your upper body training this way

This doesn’t mean that full body splits are useless. They are very effective for beginner and intermediate trainees who want to lose body fat as fast as possible.

For example the “German Body Composition” program uses full body splits and it is extremely effective for fat loss. You can read more about this program in my article “How To Train For Fat Loss!

But what if your goal is to build muscle? Can you really build muscle using full body workouts? According to bodybuilding coaches like Dr. Scott Stevenson and Jeff Nippard the answer is a resounding “yes!”

Let’s take a closer look at both of their training programs.

Dr. Scott Stevenson is a world-class bodybuilding coach and the former training partner / nutritionist of IFBB pro David Henry.

Scott trained using Dante Trudel’s DC Training system for many years. However, in 2014 he published his own training program called “Fortitude Training” that he believes is even more effective for building muscle mass.

Fortitude Training features 4 full body workouts per week. Here is how the weekly workouts are organized:

The Fortitude Training Split

  • Monday: Upper Body Heavy / Lower Body Pump
  • Tuesday: Lower Body Heavy / Upper Body Pump
  • Thursday: Upper Body Heavy / Lower Body Pump
  • Saturday: Lower Body Heavy / Upper Body Pump

This is a very interesting training split! It is almost like a 4 day upper body / lower body split with some lighter pump work thrown in for your other body parts at the end of each workout.

Dr. Scott Stevenson wants you to perform 2 heavy workouts per week for your upper body and lower body. He also wants you to perform 2 “pump” workouts per week for your upper and lower body.

The pump workouts use weights in the 20-30 rep range and are there to increase your training frequency without negatively impacting your other heavy workouts.

If you want to use full body workouts to build muscle then Dr. Scott Stevenson’s unique training split is worth giving a shot.

IFBB pro David Henry started training using this 4 day full body split around 2014 and his results speak for themselves! Here are a couple of David Henry’s “Fortitude Training” workouts that you may want to try. Check it out:

David Henry’s Lower Body Heavy Loading Day

Lower Body Heavy Loading Sets

  • A1: 45 degree leg press, 3 x 8 / 6 / 5, 90 seconds rest
  • B1: Lying leg curl, 2 x 8, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Back squats, 2 x 8, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: Calf raise, 5 x 10 / 8 / 6 / 5 / 4, 90 seconds rest

Upper Body Pump Sets

  • D1: Cable fly, 2 x 15-25, 30 seconds rest
  • D2: Seated cable row, 2 x 15-25, 30 seconds rest
  • E1: Rear cable fly, 2 x 15-25, 30 seconds rest
  • E2: Crunches, 2 x 15-25, 30 seconds rest
  • F1: Seated DB curl, 2 x 15-25, 30 seconds rest
  • F2: Skull crushers, 2 x 15-25, 30 seconds rest

This was one of David Henry’s heavy lower body workouts. He performs 4 exercises for his entire lower body and then a bunch of “pump” work for his upper body.

Later in the week David performs his upper and lower body workouts using a special type of cluster sets called “muscle rounds.” The basic idea is to take a weight you can lift 10-15 times and perform 6 sets of 4 reps with 10 seconds rest between sets. Check it out:

David Henry’s Upper Body Muscle Round Day

Upper Body Muscle Round Sets

  • A1: Deadlift, 6 x 4, 10 seconds rest
  • B1: Lat pulldown, 6 x 4, 10 seconds rest
  • C1: Hammer strength incline press, 6 x 4, 10 seconds rest
  • D1: Seated DB press, 6 x 4, 10 seconds rest
  • E1: Hammer strength dip, 6 x 4, 10 seconds rest

Lower Body Pump Sets

  • F1: Leg extension, 2 x 15-25, 30 seconds rest
  • F2: DB stiff-legged deadlift, 2 x 15-25, 30 seconds rest
  • G1: Leg press calf raise, 2 x 15-25, 60 seconds rest

For this workout David Henry performs muscle rounds on a variety of upper body exercises followed by some pump work for his lower body.

If you are looking for an ultra high frequency training split that you can use to build muscle mass then you have to give Dr. Scott Stevenson’s 4 day full body split a shot.

If you want to learn more about Scott’s training program then check out the following article:

Fortitude Training: The Ultimate Guide!

Of course Dr. Scott Stevenson isn’t the only bodybuilding coach that uses full body workouts to build muscle mass. The professional drug-free bodybuilder / powerlifter Jeff Nippard is also a big fan of full body splits.

Jeff believes that one of the fastest ways to build muscle mass and strength is to train with full body workouts 5 days per week.

Here is how Jeff Nippard organizes his full body training program:

Jeff Nippard’s Full Body Training Split

  • Monday: Full Body (Squat Focus)
  • Tuesday: Full Body (Deadlift Focus)
  • Wednesday: Off
  • Thursday: Full Body (Squat Focus)
  • Friday: Full Body (Deadlift Focus)
  • Saturday: Full Body (Free Day)
  • Sunday: Off

Jeff has you focus on different exercises during your first 4 weekly workouts such as the squat, deadlift, bench press or military press. He uses the 5th weekly workout as a “free day” where you can perform extra work for weaker body parts such as your shoulders or arms.

I don’t think a 5 day full body split is the best choice for the vast majority of bodybuilders. However, guys like Jeff Nippard have shown that it is a viable option.

Here is one of Jeff’s full body workouts. Check it out:

Jeff Nippard’s Full Body Workout

  • A1: Sumo deadlift, 4 sets of 2 reps**
  • B1: Bench press, 3 sets of 6-8 reps
  • C1: Hip abduction, 2 sets of 15-20 reps
  • D1: Weighted pull up, 3 sets of 5-8 reps
  • E1: Standing calf raise, 2 sets of 10-12 reps

**Performed at 85% of your 1-rep max.

Here is the training video:

As you can see Jeff keeps the overall training volume relatively low for this workout. This makes perfect sense – he is training each muscle group 5 times per week so he can’t afford to pummel his body into the ground on any one workout.

This is one of the big downsides to full body workouts: it’s very difficult to perform more than 1 exercise per muscle group per workout.

If you like to “bomb and blitz” each muscle group with several different exercises per workout then you are better off using a bro split, push / pull / legs split, upper / lower split or Poliquin split.

Conclusion

If you are serious about building muscle then you have to pick the right training split.

There are 5 main types of training splits that you can choose from:

  • Bodybuilding bro splits
  • Push / pull / legs splits
  • Charles Poliquin splits
  • Upper / lower splits
  • Full body splits

All of these different training splits have their own advantages and disadvantages.

The bro split works great for advanced bodybuilders who already have a good strength foundation. Most professional bodybuilders train with some type of bro split but a lot of beginner and intermediate bodybuilders struggle to make progress training this way.

The push / pull / legs split is a great all-around choice that works well for beginners as well as intermediate and advanced bodybuilders. The key is to choose the right training frequency.

The 6 day push / pull / legs split works great for genetically gifted bodybuilders like Ronnie Coleman and Chris Bumstead. Unfortunately most bodybuilders overtrain using this version. The 3 day and 4 day push / pull / legs splits are a much better option for the vast majority of trainees.

Next we have the Charles Poliquin split. This split lets you train each muscle group once every 5 days and makes it easy to perform antagonistic supersets.

If you have a flexible training schedule then it is a great choice for intermediate and advanced bodybuilders.

Upper / lower splits are less popular with bodybuilders but they are still a great all-around choice. The DC Training program uses a 3 day upper / lower split and the results speak for themselves.

Finally the full body split can also be used. It works for a relatively small percentage of trainees but guys like Dr. Scott Stevenson and Jeff Nippard have shown that it is a viable way to train.

Choosing the right training split is important but you don’t want to over-analyze this stuff, either.

You can have the best training split in the world but if you train like a “candy-ass Nancy-boy” then you are never going to reach your goals. If you want to become a beast then you have to train like one!

Here is Stan Efferding driving this point home better than I ever could:

“You know your sets, your reps, your exercises, your order of exercise, slow-twitch, fast-twitch, whatever you decide I think it makes a minimal difference. 

The big difference is do you train to failure? Do you bust your ass in the gym? Or do you just go through and do your 4 sets of 12 and call it a day?”

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

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen and I'm the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster then you've come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world. So grab a seat, kick back and relax. There's never been a better time to lift weights or to learn the art and science of strength training program design.

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