Training Splits: The Ultimate Guide!


Choosing the right training split is one of the most important and difficult decisions you have to make when designing a new training program. A good training split can be the difference between betting bigger and stronger every week or making zero progress in the gym!

Introduction

  • Part 1: Full Body Routines
  • Part 2: Upper / Lower Splits
  • Part 3: The Poliquin Splits
  • Part 4: Push / Pull / Leg Splits
  • Part 5: Bodybuilding 7-Day Splits
  • Part 6: Other Training Splits

In this comprehensive guide I will teach you everything you need to know about training splits including how to choose the best training split based on your goals and experience level.

A training split is a tool that you can use to organize your workouts over the course of the week. Here are some of the most popular training splits:

  • Full body splits performed 3 x per week
  • Upper body / lower body splits performed 4 x per week
  • Push / Pull / Leg splits performed 3, 4, or even 6 times per week
  • Poliquin-style splits performed 4 times per week
  • Bodybuilding-style “bro-splits” performed 4-5 times per week

All of these different training splits have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. For example full body splits tend to work great for absolute beginners and trainees looking to rapidly lose body fat.

If your main goal is to get stronger then a great choice is the upper body / lower body split as used by the Westside Barbell powerlifting club and many other powerlifting teams.

Finally if you are a highly advanced bodybuilder then you have probably at least experimented with a 5 day per week “bro-split.”

I want to make the topic of choosing the best training split as simple as possible for you. We are going to examine all of the most popular training splits one-by-one.

I will teach you the benefits of each training split and what type of trainee should consider using it. I will also provide sample training routines for almost all of the training splits covered in this article.

By the end of this article you will be able to pick the best training split to use in your own training based on your goals, your experience level and your recovery ability. Trust me, you don’t want to miss this cutting edge information!

Note: if you have trouble reading the training routines presented here then please read this article.

Now let’s get down to business… 

Part 1: Full Body Routines

Full body routines have a very long history in the iron game. The idea is simple: you train your entire body on each training day. For example you might perform exercises such as squats, deadlifts, presses, pull ups and rows on your training days.

Many of the best bodybuilders in the early to mid 1900s including the legendary Steve Reeves built their physiques using full body splits.

I’m not going to blow smoke up your ass and tell you that full body splits are the way to go if you want to get as big and strong as possible. There are better training splits if that is your goal.

However, there are a couple of situations where full body splits work awesome:

  • Absolute beginners who are new to weight training
  • Anyone looking to lose body fat as quickly as possible

Full body splits are particularly effective if you want to lose a lot of body fat in a short period of time. This is especially true if you use “German Body Composition” style workouts.

The basic idea behind German Body Composition is to structure your workouts so that you produce as much lactic acid as humanly possible.

Research has shown over and over that lactic acid production is positively correlated with growth hormone production. The more your muscles “burn” the more growth hormone you produce and the more fat you lose!

German Body Composition workouts often superset exercises that target the upper body and lower body in order to maximize lactic acid production. This may sound like an unconventional way to train but it produces awesome results if you know what you are doing.

One of the world’s leading body composition specialists Nick Mitchell often uses full body workouts to produce jaw-dropping 12 week body transformations.

There are three main full body splits that you may want to use for fat loss:

  • Full body 2 times per week
  • Full body 3 times per week
  • Full body 4 times per week

Let’s take a closer look at each of these training frequencies.

Full Body Routines: Two Days Per Week

For example:

  • Sunday: Off
  • Monday: Full Body
  • Tuesday: Off
  • Wednesday: Off
  • Thursday: Full Body
  • Friday: Off
  • Saturday: Off

Training two days per week is not ideal when you want to lose body fat as quickly as possible. However, sometimes life gets in the way. If you only have two days to week to train then a two days per week full body split may be a reasonable choice.

The caveat is that you are going to have to work very, very hard during those two training days. You can’t afford to waste a single workout!

Here is a sample two days per week full body workout that can be used when fat loss is the primary goal. Check it out:

Two Days Per Week Full Body Fat Loss Routine:

  • A1: Back squat (medium stance / heels flat), 3 x 12**, 4/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • A2: Medium supinated grip chin ups, 3 x 12**, 4/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • A3: Snatch grip deadlift, 3 x 12**, 4/1/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • A4: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 3 x 12**, 4/0/X/0, 240 seconds rest

**Performed with your 12-rep max

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4.

This routine is anything but easy! It uses some of the most bang-for-your-buck exercises such as squats, chin ups, deadlifts and dips to produce an absolutely horrible amount of lactic acid in your muscles.

Of course there are easier ways to structure a two times per week full body workout. However, if you want maximum results then it is hard to beat this simple routine. 

Full Body Routines: Three Days Per Week

For example:

  • Sunday: Off
  • Monday: Full Body
  • Tuesday: Off
  • Wednesday: Full Body
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: Full Body
  • Saturday: Off

This type of routine format works extremely well for two groups of trainees:

  • Absolute beginners who are new to strength training
  • Beginner and intermediate trainees interested in fat loss

If you are new to strength training then a full body 3 times per week program is definitely the way to go. This type of routine lets you practice specific exercises multiple times per week which is critical for learning proper exercise technique and learning to activate your muscles correctly.

Here is a really simple weight training routine that anyone new to the iron game can benefit from. Check it out:

Beginner Full Body Routine

  • A1: Back squat (medium stance / heels flat), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/1, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: 30 degree incline barbell press, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/1, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Medium overhand grip cable pulldowns, 3 x 6-8, 2/1/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Front step up (holding DBs), 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: 45 degree back extension (holding DBs), 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Seated DB overhead press, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • G1: Seated cable row (v-handle), 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest 

The other group of trainees who stands to benefit from a 3 times per week full body routine is beginner and intermediate lifters interested in fat loss. Actually the original German Body Composition program was designed using this exact training frequency.

The basic idea is to superset exercises targeting your upper body and your lower body. This creates a horrible amount of lactic acid which is ideal for fat loss.

Here is a sample German Body Composition program you may want to try. I recommend you alternate back and forth between the “A” workout and the “B” workout on your training days. Check it out:

German Body Comp “A” Workout

  • A1: Back squat (narrow stance / heels elevated), 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest
  • A2: Wide overhand grip lat pulldowns, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest
  • B1: Bilateral lying leg curl (feet plantarflexed / neutral), 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest
  • B2: 30 degree incline DB press, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest
  • C1: 45 degree leg press, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest
  • C2: Machine chest supported row, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest
  • D1: Seated calf raise, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest
  • D2: Garhammer raise, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 45 seconds rest

German Body Comp “B” Workout

  • A1: Flat DB press, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest
  • A2: Bilateral seated leg curl (feet plantarflexed / pointing in), 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest
  • B1: Bilateral hammer strength pulldown, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest
  • B2: Machine hack squat, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest
  • C1: Hammer strength overhead press, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest
  • C2: DB stiff legged deadlift, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest
  • D1: 45 degree incline DB curl (supinated grip), 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest
  • D2: Flat DB extension, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest

These routines may look complicated at first. However, once you actually perform them they aren’t so bad. You are performing two types of supersets.

The first type of superset focuses on quadricep exercises and upper back exercises. The second type of superset focuses on hamstring exercises and chest exercises. Real-world results have proven that this is an incredible way to train if you want to rapidly lose body fat.

Full Body Routines: Four Days Per Week

This routine format works well for advanced trainees who are training for fat loss. Here is what your weekly training schedule might look like:

  • Sunday: Off
  • Monday: Full Body
  • Tuesday: Off
  • Wednesday: Full Body
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: Full Body
  • Saturday: Full Body

Charles Poliquin often used this type of routine format with his world-class athletes who were starting to look softer than the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Here is a sample 4 days per week full body fat loss program you may want to try. Check it out:

Monday Workout

  • A1: Snatch pulls on podium, 5 x 6, X/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest
  • A2: Walking DB lunges, 5 x 6 steps per leg, 1/0/1/0, 45 seconds rest**
  • B1: Cyclists’ back squats, 4 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest
  • B2: Close / parallel-grip chin ups, 4 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest**
  • C1: Bilateral lying leg curls (feet plantarflexed / neutral), 4 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0 tempo, 45 seconds rest
  • C2: 45 degree incline dumbbell presses (neutral grip), 4 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0 tempo, 45 seconds rest

**Rest 3 minutes after completing all of the “A” or “B” sets

Tuesday Workout

  • A1: Clean deadlifts on podium, 5 x 6, 4/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest
  • A2: Sternum chin ups, 5 x 6, 2/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest**
  • B1: Russian step ups, 4 x 8-10, X/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest
  • B2: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 4 x 8, 3/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest**
  • C1: Bilateral lying leg curls (feet plantar flexed / turned outward), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0 tempo, 45 seconds rest
  • C2: Seated dumbbell presses (neutral grip), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest
  • C3: Seated dumbbell external rotations (elbow on knee), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest

**Rest 45 seconds after completing all “A” or “B” sets

Thursday Workout

  • A1: Power cleans on podium, 5 x 6, X/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest
  • A2: Lumberjacks, 5 x 6, X/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest**
  • B1: Front squats (narrow stance / heels elevated), 4 x 4-6, 3/2/X/0 tempo, 45 seconds rest
  • B2: 30 degree Incline thick-bar presses, 4 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest
  • B3: Lean-away pull ups, 4 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest**
  • C1: Bilateral lying leg curls (feet plantar flexed / turned inward), 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0 tempo, 45 seconds rest
  • C2: One-arm bent-over shrugs, 3 x 8-10, 2/0/1/2, 45 seconds rest
  • C3: Low-pulley external rotations, 3 x 10-12, 3/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest

Friday Workout

  • A1: Snatch deadlifts, 10 x 6**, 3/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest****
  • B1: Thick-bar curls, 8 x 8**, 3/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest
  • B2 Decline EZ-curl-bar triceps extensions, 8 x 8**, 3/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest

**descending-sets style, resting only 45 seconds; decrease the weight on every set so you can get the reps

****Rest 5 minutes after completing all ten sets of the “A” exercise

This program was taken directly from Charles Poliquin so I can’t take credit for it. Be warned: this program is for advanced trainees only. If you have below average recovery ability then this is NOT the program for you!

Part 2: Upper / Lower Splits

Upper body / lower body splits are by far one of the most common and effective training splits that you can use. Upper / lower splits are used by many of the strongest powerlifters and strongman competitors in the world including Hafthor Bjornsson, Brain Shaw and Eddie Hall.

Many intermediate level bodybuilders have also successfully used the classic upper / lower split. One of the things that I really like about upper / lower splits is how flexible they are.

There are 3 main training frequencies you can use with this split format:

  • Two days per week
  • Three days per week
  • Four days per week

Each of these training frequencies have their own advantages and disadvantages.

The two day per week upper / lower split is sometimes used by extremely advanced powerlifters such as Eric Lilliebridge and Stan Efferding. If you are squatting and deadlifting 600+ pounds then this may be a good option for you.

The three days per week upper / lower split is a somewhat underrated option that can work well for both powerlifters and bodybuilders. Dante Trudel designed his DC Training program around a 3 days per week upper lower split and it’s hard to argue with his results!

Finally the 4 days per week upper / lower split may be the most popular training split in the world amongst elite level powerlifting and strongman competitors. Many powerlifting teams such as the Westside Barbell training club base their entire training program around this split.

Now let’s take a closer look at each of these options…

Upper / Lower Split: Two Days Per Week

The 2 days per week upper / lower split is definitely an underrated option. No, I don’t think this is a great option for most trainees. However, if you are an extremely advanced powerlifter then it is definitely worth considering. Here is how you might organize your weekly workouts:

  • Sunday: Off
  • Monday: Off
  • Tuesday: Off
  • Wednesday: Upper Body
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: Off
  • Saturday: Lower Body

As you can see each body part is trained only one day per week. Some of the world’s strongest powerlifters such as Stan Efferding and Eric Lilliebridge have made their best progress using this exact training split. These guys lift such unbelievably heavy weights in the squat and the deadlift that they need TONS of rest in between their workouts to recover.

Eric found that he actually got his best results when he performed heavy squats on one week and heavy deadlifts on the other. For example:

Week 1

  • Wednesday: Heavy Bench Press
  • Saturday: Heavy Squat

Week 2

  • Wednesday: Light Bench Press
  • Saturday: Heavy Deadlift

This means Eric is only squatting or deadlifting once every 2 weeks! Again most trainees need to use a higher training frequency to get optimal results. However, if you are already freaky strong or have a very efficient nervous system then you may do great on this kind of minimalist training split.

Here are some examples for how Eric Lilliebridge structures his training days:

Lilliebridge Bench Press Day:

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 1 x 4, 1/0/X/1, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: Bench press with slingshot (competition grip), 2 x 1-2, 1/1/X/1, 180 seconds rest
  • C1: Bench press (close grip), 1 x 7, 1/0/X/1, 180 seconds rest
  • E1: Lying ez-bar extensions (to forehead), 3 x 8-12, 2/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • F1: Front DB raises, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest

Here is a video of the first half of Eric’s workout:

Lilliebridge Deadlift Day:

  • A1: Squat (competition stance), 1 x 3, 1/0/X/1, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: Speed deadlift, 3 x 1, X/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Barbell bent over rows, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Leg press, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • E1: Lying leg curls (feet dorsiflexed / pointing straight), 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest

If you want to learn more about Eric Lilliebridge’s training style or the 2 days per week upper / lower split then I strongly recommend you check out the following article:

The Lilliebridge Method: The Ultimate Guide!

Everything you want to know about Eric Lilliebridge’s unique training style can be found in that article.

Upper / Lower Split: Three Days per Week

The 3 days per week upper body / lower body split is one of the most underrated training splits in the world. This split works extremely well for a large percentage of the training population. In fact, if you are an intermediate level lifter then I can almost guarantee you that you can make AWESOME progress training this way!

Here is how you might organize your weekly training schedule:

Week 1

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

Week 2

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

There are a few reasons why this split works so well for most trainees. However, the biggest reason might be the training frequency. The 3 days per week upper body / lower body split features a training frequency of once every 4-5 days. This is an AWESOME training frequency that works for a lot of people.

If you have trouble recovering from two workouts per week per body part then you may find that this training frequency is just what you need to make rapid progress. This split is normally used by strength athletes such as powerlifters but bodybuilders can also get great results from it.

DC training, one of the most popular and effective bodybuilding training programs, happens to use a 3 days per week upper / lower split. Here is how the training days are structured in DC Training:

Upper body

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

Lower body

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

OK, it’s not a true upper / lower split as you are training biceps and forearms on your lower body training day. But it’s close enough to me!

It would be impossible to cover the entire DC Training program in this article. If you want more information on it then you can check out the following article:

DC Training: The Ultimate Guide!

Instead I will leave you with a couple of DC-style workouts to hopefully peak your interest in the program. Check it out.

DC Training Upper Body Workout

  • A1: 30 degree incline barbell press, 1 x 11-20 RP**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Seated DB overhead press, 1 x 20-30 RP**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Dead stop skull crusher, 1 x 15-25 RP**, 2/1/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Rack chin, 1 x 11-20 RP**, 3/1/X/0, rest as needed
  • E1: Conventional deadlift, 2 x (5-7, 8-10), 1/1/X/0, 240 seconds rest

**Performed as a rest-pause set. Perform 3 sets to failure with 20-30 seconds rest in between sets. The total number of reps you get across all 3 attempts should equal the target rep range. For example, if your target rep range is 11-20 RP then you might get 9+3+2 = 14 RP.

DC Training Lower Body Workout

  • A1: 45 degree incline DB curl (supinated grip), 1 x 15-25 RP**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Unilateral cable reverse curl, 1 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Leg press calf raise, 1 x 8-10, 5/15/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Sumo 45 degree leg press, 1 x 8-12, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • E1: Machine hack squat, 2 x (6-8, 20****), 3/0/X/0, rest as needed

**Performed as a rest-pause set. Perform 3 sets to failure with 20-30 seconds rest in between sets. The total number of reps you get across all 3 attempts should equal the target rep range. For example, if your target rep range is 11-20 RP then you might get 9+3+2 = 14 RP.

****Performed as a DC-style “widowmaker” set. You are going to perform 20 reps with your 10-rep max. Perform 10 reps in continuous style, then lock your legs out and rest while taking in several deep breaths. Once you feel ready squat back down and bust out 1-3 additional reps. Repeat this process until you have performed 20 total reps.

Upper / Lower Split: Four Days Per Week

The 4 days per week upper / lower split is the gold standard for powerlifting training splits. Many of the most successful powerlifting teams in the world such as the Westside Barbell powerlifting club use this high-frequency split.

Here is how the workouts might be structured over the course of a week:

  • Sunday: Light bench press day
  • Monday: Heavy squat / deadlift day
  • Wednesday: Heavy bench press day
  • Friday: Light squat / deadlift day

One of the most popular training systems that uses the 4 days per week upper body / lower body split is the Westside Barbell training program. The Westside system trains the squat, bench press and deadlift twice per week.

The “heavy” day is performed as a max effort workout where you work up to a 1-3 rep max on a special exercise that is similar to but slightly different from the competition lift itself. Later in the week a “light” workout is performed where you perform 8-10 speed sets with the competition lift.

The Westside Barbell training program does an excellent job of cycling through heavier and lighter workouts over the course of the week. Most trainees find that they are not able to recover from 2 extremely heavy lower body workouts per week. Of course there are many other ways that you could structure a 4 days per week upper body lower body split.

Many bodybuilders have had success training this way to capitalize on the slightly higher training frequency. Here are some sample Westside Barbell workouts so you can see how a full weeks worth of workouts might be set up. Check it out:

Sunday: Dynamic Effort Bench Day:

  • A1: Bench press against chains (close grip)**, 10 x 3, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B1: V-bar dips (upright torso), 2 x 5-7, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Overhead rope cable extensions, 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • D1: T-bar row, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Seated DB hammer curls, 3 x 12-15, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

Monday: Max Effort Squat / Deadlift Day:

  • A1: Conventional rack pull against bands (weights elevated 4 inches), 3 x 1, 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: Safety squat bar good morning to parallel box, 3 x 5, 3/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Glute ham raise, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • D1: Reverse hyperextension, 3 x 12-15, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed at 90%, 95%, and 100% of your estimated 1-rep max strength for that day.

Wednesday: Max Effort Bench Day:

  • A1: Floor press (medium grip), 3 x 1, 1/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: JM Press, 3 x 5-7, 3/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Tate press, 8 x 8, 2/0/X/0, 30 seconds rest
  • D1: Wide neutral grip pull down, 3 x 10-12, 4/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Seated DB external rotations, 3 x 10-12, 2/0/2/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed at 90%, 95%, and 100% of your estimated 1-rep max strength for that day.

Friday: Dynamic Effort Squat / Deadlift Day:

  • A1: Dynamic effort straight bar box squat against chains**, 8 x 2, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B1: Dynamic effort deadlift against chains****, 6 x 1, X/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: Reverse hyperextensions, 3 x 8-10, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • D1: Glute ham raise, 3 x 10-12, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed with 65% of your 1-rep max at lockout

****Performed with 65% of your 1-rep max at lockout

Again there are many different ways that you might set up a 4 days per week upper / lower training split. If you want to learn more about upper body / lower body splits then I strongly recommend the following article:

Upper / Lower Splits: The Ultimate Guide!

Part 3: The Poliquin Splits

Charles Poliquin was one of the world’s most successful strength coaches. He used a lot of controversial training methods but he always produced incredible results with his athletes.

Charles used an unusual training split (or a variation of it) with about 70% of his athletes. This split does not have a formal name but out of respect for Charles I like to call it the “Poliquin split.” Check it out:

The Poliquin Split

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

There are a number of unusual things about this training split. First of all every body part is trained once every 5 days. This is a moderate training frequency that falls somewhere in between the “once per week” and “twice per week” approaches to training frequency.

In my experience a large percentage of the training population responds EXTREMELY well to this type of training frequency. You can train with a lot of volume and / or intensity because there is plenty of rest in between workouts for each body part. However, the frequency is still moderately high so productive workouts add up quickly.

Another interesting thing about this routine is that antagonistic body parts are trained together during each workout. This is just a fancy way of saying muscles on opposite sides of the body with opposing functions are trained together.

Here are some examples of antagonistic body parts:

  • Chest and back
  • Quads and hamstrings
  • Biceps and triceps

Charles believed that one of the best ways to train for strength and size gains was to use antagonistic supersets. For example his trainees might perform a set of bench presses, rest 1-2 minutes, perform a set of chin ups, rest 1-2 minutes and then perform another set of bench presses etc.

Training antagonistic body parts in this manner has several advantages:

  • It allows you to recruit more motor units in your target muscles
  • It reduces the rate at which you fatigue over the course of a workout
  • It lets you perform more high-quality sets in a shorter period of time

Antagonistic supersets are in many ways a superior way to train. Of course there are some drawbacks to the classic Poliquin split. The biggest one is that you have to have a very flexible training schedule. You may need to workout on any given day of the week.

You only have to perform about 4 weight training workouts a week but the days that you train on will vary from one week to the next. If you have a lot of family obligations etc. then this may not be practical.

There are a few different versions of the Poliquin split. Let’s take a closer look at some of the more popular variations. 

Option #1

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

This is the version of the Poliquin split that Charles Poliquin used most often. It works extremely well for athletes but it does have some drawbacks if you are a serious bodybuilder or powerlifter. The biggest drawback is that you are training your lower body the day after training your upper back.

If you like to perform heavy barbell rows or t-bar rows for your upper back then you may find that your lower back does not have enough built-in rest on this training schedule. 

Option #2

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

This option is exactly the same except the shoulder / arm day and the chest / back day are swapped. In my experience most bodybuilders and powerlifters do MUCH better on this version of the Poliquin split.

You can perform heavy rowing exercises and possible even deadlifting variations on the Chest / Back day without it negatively impacting your leg day. Many bodybuilders who struggle to develop their shoulders and arms respond extremely well to this split.

Option #3:

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

Here is another option that you may want to try. The upper body workouts are arranged slightly differently but you can still perform antagonistic supersets with this training split.

Nick Mitchell of Ultimate Performance is particularly fond of this training split. If you are a bodybuilder or a physique athlete then it is definitely worth considering.

Option #4: 

  • Day 1: Shoulders / Arms
  • Day 2: Legs
  • Day 3: Off
  • Day 4: Chest / Back
  • Day 5: Off
  • Day 6: Off 
  • Day 7: Repeat!

Some trainees find that the original Poliquin split is just a little bit too difficult to recover from. If this describes you then you may want to consider using option #4. This split features an extra rest day after the chest / back workout which makes it MUCH easier to recover from.

Option #5:

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

This is a version of the Poliquin split where you are training body parts once every seven days. If you really like to blast your muscles with a TON of volume or if you are stupidly strong then you may respond extremely well to this option.

You have 1-2 rest days following every workout which helps a ton with recovering from one workout to the next.

There are an absolutely massive number of ways to design workouts using the Poliquin splits. Everything from extremely high-volume hypertrophy routines to low-rep strength routines is fair game. Let’s take a look at a few different sample routines.

The first routine is a sample chest / back hypertrophy routine, the second is a sample lower body strength routine, and the third is a sample arm fat loss routine. Check it out:

Chest / Back Hypertrophy Routine

  • A1: V-bar dips, 3-5 x 6-8, 5/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: 30 degree incline DB press, 3-5 x 10-12, 2/1/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: Decline hammer strength press (with band tension), 3-5 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: Chest DB fly extreme stretch, 1 x 60-90 seconds, 180 seconds rest
  • C1: Smith machine dead stop row, 3-5 x 10-12, 2/1/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • C2: Wide overhand grip cable pulldown, 3-5 x 10-12, 2/1/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • C3: Nautilus pullover machine, 3-5 x 10-12, 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
  • D1: Wide overhand grip hanging lat stretch, 1 x 60-90 seconds, rest as needed

Legs Strength Routine

  • A1: Deficit snatch grip deadlift, 6 x 3/3/5/5/8/8, 4/1/X/0, 240 seconds rest
  • B1: Triple jumper’s step up (barbell on back), 3 x 6-8, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Bilateral lying leg curl (feet plantar flexed / pointing in), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

Shoulders / Arms Fat Loss Routine

  • A1: Standing behind the neck press, sets of 2**, 3/0/X/0, no rest
  • A2: Preacher ez-bar curl (narrow / supinated grip), sets of 2**, 3/0/X/0, no rest
  • B1: Decline DB extension, sets of 6****, 2/0/X/0, no rest
  • B2: Seated zottman curl, sets of 6****, 2/0/X/0, no rest
  • C1: V-bar cable pushdown, sets of 12******, 1/0/X/0, no rest
  • C2: 60 degree incline cable curl, sets of 12******, 1/0/X/0, no rest

**Perform sets of 2 with your 8-rep max for minutes 1-30 of your workout. If you are unable to complete sets of 2 then slightly lower the load and continue performing sets of 2.

****Perform sets of 6 with your 15-rep max for minutes 31-45 of your workout. If you are unable to complete sets of 6 then keep the loads the same and continue performing as many reps as possible without going to failure in your sets.

******Perform sets of 12 with your 25-rep max for minutes 46-60 of your workout. If you are unable to complete sets of 12 then keep the loads the same and continue performing as many reps as possible without going to failure in your sets.

As you can see there are a huge number of ways to train using the Poliquin splits. Just about any set and rep scheme you can think of can be modified to work here. There is a reason Charles used some variation of this split with about 70% of his athletes: it works!

If you want to learn more about the Charles Poliquin training split then you can check out the following article:

What Is The Charles Poliquin Training Split?

Part 4: Push / Pull / Leg Splits

The push / pull / leg split is one of the oldest and most effective training splits in the iron game. The idea is simple: you are going to divide up your training into three separate training days:

  • “Push” day = chest, shoulders and triceps
  • “Pull” day = back and biceps
  • “Leg” day = quadriceps, hamstrings and calves

Grouping your body parts together in this manner makes a lot of sense. One of the biggest advantages to the classic push / pull / legs split is that you eliminate overlap between different muscle groups.

There is nothing worse than going to train your chest and realizing that your shoulders and triceps are still sore from a different workout that you did. Even if your chest is fully recovered your sore shoulders and triceps will limit your ability to maximally train your chest.

You don’t have to worry about that on the push / pull / legs split! The other thing that I REALLY like about the push / pull / legs split is how versatile it is. There are 3 different training frequencies that you can use with this split:

  • 3 workouts per week
  • 4 workouts per week
  • 6 workouts per week

Let’s take a closer look at each of these variations of the push / pull / legs split.

Option #1: 3 Days Per Week Push / Pull / Legs Split

This is easily one of the most popular training splits ever invented. You are going to train three days per week hitting each body part once per week. For example:

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

This training split has a few advantages. First of all you are only performing a total of 3 workouts per week. If you have below-average recovery ability or if you are throwing around extremely heavy weights in the gym then you may benefit from the extra rest days.

This split also does a terrific job of eliminating overlap between muscle groups and giving you maximum rest between workouts per body part.

Andy Bolton used this exact training split when he performed the world’s first 1,000 pound deadlift. Vincent Dizenzo also frequently used a three days per week push / pull / legs split when he was in his prime and putting up 600+ pound competition bench presses in multiple weight classes.

Here is a sample bench press workout from Vincent’s training log when he was peaking for one of his 600+ pound bench presses. Check it out:

Vincent Dizenzo bench Press Routine

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 1 x 3**, 1/1/X/1, 4 minutes rest
  • B1: Bottom position overcoming isometric, 2 x 1, 6 second hold, 2 minutes rest
  • B2: Speed bench press (competition grip), 2 x 3***, 1/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: Top position overcoming isometric, 2 x 1, 6 second hold, 2 minutes rest
  • C2: Speed bench press (competition grip), 2 x 3***, 1/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • D1: Bench press against bands (close grip), 1 x 4****, 1/0/X/1, 2 minutes rest
  • E1: Dead bench (competition grip), 4 x 1*****, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Standing band flyes, 3 x 15, 1/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • G1: Lying DB extension, 4 x 8, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • H1: Band scap retractions, 3 x 12, 1/0/1/1, 60 seconds rest
  • I1: Standing band pull aparts, 1/0/X/1, 4 x 12, 60 seconds rest

Yes, this is an enormous amount of volume! Vincent was working with Josh Bryant when he performed this routine and Josh is known for his high-volume powerlifting programming. Again there are at least two types of people who respond extremely well to the classic three days per week push / pull / legs split:

  • Hardgainers
  • Elite strength athletes

If you fall into one of these categories then I strongly recommend you give this training split a shot. 

Option #2: 4 Days Per Week Push / Pull / Legs Split

Most people do not know this but the classic push / pull / legs split can also be performed on a 4 days per week training schedule. For example you could perform your workouts on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. As long as you are not training more than 2 days in a row then you are good to go.

Here is what your training schedule might look like over the course of a month:

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

Week 4

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

As you can see you train on the same days each week but the body parts you train on each day rotate. Whatever body part you train on Monday you also train later that week on Saturday.

With the 4 days per week push / pull / legs split you are training body parts about once every 5-6 days. This is an excellent training frequency that falls somewhere in between the high-frequency approach of once every 3-4 days and the low-frequency approach of once every 7 days.

This is actually very similar to the training frequency that Charles Poliquin used with the majority of his world-class athletes.

There is only one training program that I know of that relies on the 4 days per week push / pull / legs split: DC Training. Dante Trudel uses the 4 days per week push / pull / legs split to help advanced bodybuilders continue progressing and to bring up their weaker body parts. Here is how the training days are organized:

Pull Day

  • Exercise #1: Biceps
  • Exercise #2: Forearms
  • Exercise #3: Back Width
  • Exercise #4: Back Thickness

Push Day

  • Exercise #1: Chest
  • Exercise #2: Shoulders
  • Exercise #3: Triceps

Legs Day  

  • Exercise #1: Calves
  • Exercise #2: Hamstrings
  • Exercise #3: Quadriceps

Only 1 exercise is performed for each body part. If you have weaker body parts then you may want to perform an extra “widowmaker” exercise after your main exercise for that body part. You can learn more about how to bring up weaker body parts using DC Training in the following article:

DC Training: The Ultimate Guide!

Here are some sample workouts for an advanced bodybuilder who wants to bring up their shoulders and arms:

Advanced DC Training Pull Workout

  • A1: 30 degree incline DB curl (supinating grip), 1 x 11-20 RP**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Standing cable ez-bar curl (wide / pronated grip), 1 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Preacher ez-bar curl (narrow / supinated grip), 1 x 8-30****, 2/0/1/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Bilateral hammer strength machine pulldown (supinated grip), 1 x 11-20 RP**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • E1: Barbell dead stop row, 1 x 8-12, 2/1/X/0, rest as needed 

**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set.

****Perform the exercise for approximately 30 reps to failure on your first workout. You will perform this as your “C1” exercise every time you train biceps. Try to increase the weight at every workout. Over months and months of time your reps will drop down to 8.

Advanced DC Training Push Workout

  • A1: Hammer strength machine incline press, 1 x 11-20 RP**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Smith machine seated overhead press, 1 x 11-20 RP**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Seated machine lateral raise, 1 x 8-30****, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Reverse grip bench press (medium grip), 1 x 11-20 RP**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • E1: Hammer strength dip machine, 1 x 8-30****, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed

**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set.

****Perform the exercise for approximately 30 reps to failure on your first workout. You will perform this as your “C1” exercise every time you train biceps. Try to increase the weight at every workout. Over months and months of time your reps will drop down to 8.

Advanced DC Training Legs Workout

  • A1: Standing machine calf raise, 1 x 8-12, 5/15/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Bilateral seated leg curl (feet plantar flexed / pointing out, 1 x 11-20 RP**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Back squat (medium stance / heels flat), 2 x (4-8, 20****), 2/0/X/0, 240 seconds rest

**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set.

****Performed as a DC-style “widowmaker” set. You are going to perform 20 reps with your 10-rep max. Perform 10 reps in continuous style, then lock your legs out and rest while taking in several deep breaths. Once you feel ready squat back down and bust out 1-3 additional reps. Repeat this process until you have performed 20 total reps.

Of course you do NOT have to do DC Training to take advantage of the 4 days per week push / pull / legs split. It is easily one of the most effective training splits you can use regardless of your training style or goals.

In fact if you are reading this then the odds are very high that this split will work awesome for you regardless of how you train! Seriously, I can’t recommend this split enough!

Option #3: 6 Days Per Week Push / Pull / Legs Split

Finally there is the 6 days per week push / pull / legs split. This is an advanced bodybuilding training split designed for one thing and one thing only: packing on as much muscle mass as humanly possible. Here is how the workouts might be organized over the course of a training week:

Weekly Training Schedule

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

As you can see there are 6 total workouts per week and one off day. This is an extremely demanding training schedule. If you have average or below average recovery ability then this split will NOT work for you. In fact very few bodybuilders have the work capacity to recover from this type of training schedule.

The most famous bodybuilder to have used the 6 days per week push / pull / legs split is Ronnie Coleman. It obviously worked for Ronnie as he was one of the biggest and strongest bodybuilders of all time.

Let’s take a look at some of Ronnie Coleman’s workouts:

Ronnie Coleman Pull Day

  • A1: Conventional deadlift, 1-3 x 4-8, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Barbell bent-over row, 1-3 x 8-15, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: T-bar row, 1-3 x 8-15, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Standing unilateral DB row, 1-3 x 8-15, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • E1: Unilateral preacher DB curl (supinated grip), 1-3 x 8-15, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Standing ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 1-3 x 8-15, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • G1: Seated alternating DB hammer curl, 1-3 x 8-15, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • H1: Seated barbell military press, 1-3 x 8-15, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds res
  • I1: Standing DB lateral raise, 1-3 x 8-15, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • J1: Barbell front raises, 1-3 x 8-15, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest 
  • K1: Rear delt pec dec, 1-3 x 8-15, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • L1: Bent-over DB rear delt raise, 1-3 x 8-15, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • M1: Standing DB shrugs, 1-3 x 8-15, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

Ronnie Coleman Push Day

  • A1: Flat BB bench press, 1-3 x 5-12, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Incline BB bench press, 1-3 x 8-15, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Decline BB bench press, 1-3 x 8-15, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Seated unilateral DB french press, 1-3 x 8-15, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Hammer strength machine dips, 1-3 x 8-15, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Standing cable tricep pushdown (overhand grip / straight handle),1-3 x 8-15, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

Ronnie Coleman Legs Day

  • A1: Back squats (medium stance / heels flat), 1-3 x 4-12, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Leg press, 1-3 x 8-15, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Leg extensions, 1-3 x 8-15, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • D1: Standing unilateral leg curl (foot dorsiflexed / pointing forward), 1-3 x 8-15, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Stiff legged deadlift, 1-3 x 8-15, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

This much volume would run most men into the ground. Of course Ronnie Coleman was no ordinary man. If you want to learn more about Ronnie Coleman’s workouts then check out the following article:

The Ronnie Coleman Training Program!

There are a lot of fitness experts who highly recommend this training split as it allows you to train each body part twice per week. For extremely gifted bodybuilders it really does work wonders. However, if you have average recovery ability then this is probably not the best split for you.

Most trainees find it nearly impossible to gain strength when they are training 6 days per week. Remember, long-term strength gains are important even if you are a bodybuilder. No one ever got huge lifting the pink dumbbells!

Part 5: Bodybuilding 7-Day Splits

High-frequency training splits are very fashionable right now. However, that does not mean that lower-frequency training splits are worthless. In reality the vast majority of professional bodybuilders continue to train each body part about once per week.

This is commonly referred to as a “bro-split.” You know: chest on Monday, back on Tuesday etc.

Bro-splits sometimes get a bad rap on the internet but they are still a viable way to train. They tend to work best for highly advanced bodybuilders who already have a good strength base.

If you are bench pressing 300-400+ pounds for reps and squatting / deadlifting 500-600+ pounds for reps then the bro-split is an excellent choice. It gives you plenty of time to “bomb each body part from multiple angles” which does seem to help advanced bodybuilders continue to pack on size.

For various reasons the bro-split also works well for bodybuilders who are on performance enhancing drugs.

Let’s look at a few different iterations of the “bro-split.”

Bro-Split Option #1

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

This is perhaps the most common bodybuilding style bro-split. Body parts are trained once per week on a 5-day split. The main disadvantage to this split is you are training a total of 5 days in a row.

By the end of your week your workouts will start to suffer as your central nervous system will not be fully recovered. For this reason I think there are some better options that you may want to consider.

Bro-Split Option #2

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

This is a MUCH better way to organize your weekly training schedule. In fact, you might call this an optimized version of the 5-day bro-split. You have an off day after every 2-3 days of training which ensures that your central nervous system is recovering more optimally. The organization of the actual workouts is improved as well.

The leg and back days are as far apart from each other as possible so that your lower back has the best possible chance of recovering between workouts. Your chest and shoulder / tricep workouts are also spaced far apart so that you do not overtrain your pressing musculature.

Dante Trudel often uses this 5-day split with his ultra-advanced bodybuilders like Dusty Hanshaw. 

Bro-Split Option #3

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

This is another viable option if you are a bodybuilder and like training body parts once every 7 days. This training split was made famous by John Meadows and his Mountain Dog training style. John often uses higher frequency approaches with his more advanced clients but this low-frequency training split still works extremely well. 

Part 6: Other Training Splits

The vast majority of training splits will fall into one of the categories covered so far. However, there are some training splits that are somewhat unique and don’t fit into any predefined categories. One of the most effective non-traditional training splits was used by Dorian Yates during his reign as the 6 time Mr. Olympia champion.

Check it out:

Dorian Yates Training Split

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

There are a number of unique things about this training split. The first thing that jumps out to me is the training frequency. Every body part is trained directly once every 6 days. This is slightly higher than the more traditional once every 7 days training frequency that most professional bodybuilders use.

This may not sound like much of a change but this split allowed Dorian to train his body parts 14% more often than his competitors while still using a large number of exercises per workout. Over time this makes a big difference!

If you are a more advanced bodybuilder and have a more flexible training schedule then I strongly recommend you give Dorian’s training split a shot. For inspiration here is the exact back workout that Dorian used during his reign as Mr. Olympia champion:

Dorian Yates’ Back / Rear Delts Workout

  • A1: Nautilus machine pullover, 1 x 6 + 3 forced reps, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Bilateral hammer strength machine pulldown (supinated grip), 1 x 6 + 2 forced reps, 2/0/X/1, rest as needed
  • C1: Standing barbell row to knees, 1 x 6, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Seated unilateral machine row, 1 x 5 + 2 forced reps, 1/0/X/1, rest as needed
  • E1: Bent-over rear delt machine, 1 x 11, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • F1: Bent over rear-delt DB flies, 1 x 8, 1/0/1/0, rest as needed
  • G1: 90 degree back extension (BB on back), 1 x 10, 2/0/1/1, rest as needed
  • H1: Conventional deadlift, 1 x 6, 1/0/X/0, rest as needed

Here is the back training video:

If you want to learn more about the Dorian Yates training split then be sure to check out the following article:

The Dorian Yates Training Split!

Conclusion

Picking the right training split is easily one of the most important decisions that you have to make in the iron game. There is no perfect training split. However, some training splits will work much better for you than others.

If you are not satisfied with your results in the gym then I strongly recommend you re-examine your training split and figure out if it is optimal for your unique body and your goals.

Full body splits, upper / lower splits, Poliquin splits, push / pull / leg splits and bro-splits all have their place. The important thing is that you figure out which one is best for you right now in your training career and then hammer it home.

“Each new day is an opportunity to improve yourself. Take it. And make the most of it.”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck in 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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