T Nation

Favorite Training Split/Style?

What’s your default, go-to, favorite way to organize your training week? Why?

Off the top of my head, we usually split our training according to 1) muscle groups, 2) movement patterns, or 3) physical capability being trained.

For the last 1.5 years, my default has been an upper-lower split. I’m able to recover, do the lifts I love, and balance variety with consistency. My journey so far has been thus:

In my teens and early 20s, I didn’t know any lifting style existed other than a bodybuilding-style, body part split. Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding was my primary reference material. For those decades, I always did upper-lower, opposing muscle groups, or push-pull-legs.

In my late 20s, after reading Starting Strength articles T-Nation, I learned about full-body training and began splitting time between full body and the aforementioned splits.

In my early to mid-30s, I returned to school for a couple degrees, so training efficiency took precedence. For a few years, I preferred full-body workouts two or three times per week, supplemented with a couple cardio sessions. I stuck with full-body workouts as my primary method for several years. At that time, I began melding movement pattern and full-body workouts, with hinge/ vertical push/pull and squat/ horizontal push/pull as the framework.

Nowadays, in my early 40s, I have to focus on recovery more. Full body workouts more than twice a week are tough for me, and I enjoy exercising more anyways, so I’ve reverted to an upper-lower split as the default. Depending on equipment availability and joint crankiness, I like a press - squat - bench - deadlift structure, which is just another way of blending an upper/lower split with movement patterns.

I’ve again tried PPL and bro splits and, while I’ve learned valuable techniques from each, the formats don’t really enthuse me. In the future, I’d like to try a physical capacity split, something like a day each week for power/explosiveness, hypertrophy, and limit strength. That’d look a lot like a three days per week, full body split.

So, how about y’all?

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These days I like being flexible with training structure. Either squat/bench or deadlift/bench or single lift + accessory work days, hitting 3-4 sessions a week depending on how busy life gets and how well recovered I am. Keeping track of overall volume, workload, intensity etc. to get enough work per week/month and hit big days when I’m feeling good and getting in good work the rest of the time.

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I’ve used a few training styles. The one I come back too as its easy to get on with is a strength movement: Squat, deadlift, bench, press, pull up. Either on a 531 loading scheme or even if its not 531 similar.
I then hit the same muscles / movements for high reps on 2-4 more exercises.

As for splits I’ve done whole body (am doing whole body now TBH), I’ve done upper and lower (liked that) PPL and 531 splits.
If I was to be stuck doing one for the rest of forever I’d do upper / lower.
Fully body takes so much monitoring of your fatigue. Its hard to go easy on your mid week work out.
PPL / 531 splits are great except the push days feels a bit “light”. I always feel like this is the easier day. Its “just” bench / press. Not deadlift or squat. And I have move to give.

Where are upper and lower - even on the upper day - you get two big strength movements.

My ideal training if I was not training for anything in particular would be the below. 3 times a week. ABA BAB style.
Lower:
Dead lift 531
Front squat 531
Back squat: 1 set of 20 reps
Lunge: a few sets of 10-15

Upper:
Press 531
Pull ups 5xmax
Incline bench: 1 set of 8-12 drop set
One arm row: 1 set of 15-20
Giant set:
Lat rises / curls / close grip press ups

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I most enjoy focussing sessions around particularly movements/exercises.

On a 4-day training week, I’ll use front squat, trap bar deadlift or barbell RDL, bench press and incline press. I’ll do jumps, sprints, chin-ups and leg press on the squat days, and jumps, sprints, chin-ups and good mornings on the deadlift days. I’ll do agility, throws, rows and DB or CG bench on bench press days, and agility, throws, rows and BTN or Arnold press on incline bench days.

On a 3-day week, I’ll train full body with each session focussed on either front squat, bench press, or TBDL/RDL. I’ll do agility, jumps, press accessory and chin-ups on front squat day. I’ll do sprints, throws, split squats and rows on bench day, and I’ll do sprints, jumps, press accessory and chin-ups on deadlift day.

I’ll do low-intensity cardio, +/- some delts/arms isolation on 2-3 off days per week

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Day 1
Legs/ Squats

Day 2
Chest/ Shoulders

Day 3
Back

Day 4
Bench/ Military Press or just a secondary chest and shoulders session

Day 5
Deadlift/ Back or just a secondary back.legs session

Day 6
Arms

I’ve settled on something like this with slight variances over the past decade. I skip the movement days/ secondary days if I’m not feeling it or there’s a change in schedule. My workouts normally don’t exceed an hr, usually take 45mins or so.

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I like the 1 main lift per day approach (squat/press/dead/bench) when I can have my druthers. I’ve opted for 3x/week whole body programs as well.

During the Covid times my approach has changed slightly since I had no or limited access to my gym equipment, so I’ve been doing two days a week of barbell work and two days a week of assistance work. I did 9 weeks of 4 whole body sessions per week, and now I’m doing upper/lower with the same approach.

I’ve only ever done one PPL program, and it’s been over decade since I’ve broken the body part split up into more than 4 components, but I might do just that when I have full time access to my stuff again.

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Upper, lower, upper, lower (kind of)

Chest/shoulders/arms

Legs/back

Shoulder/chest/arms

Back/legs

Sled or prowler before every workout, sometimes hard, sometimes easy
Lots of focus on triceps

This split always works for me and fits in with 5/3/1 when I use it.
I never have liked a bro split; I always overtrain.
I love whole body routines like Built for Battle, too.

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If I wasn’t also engaging in climbing I think it would’ve been very interesting to take this idea further and do 6 days/wk

Squat
Row
Bench
Deadlift
Press
Chin-up

Akin to

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My go to routines are nothing to write any articles about because they are mostly what wannabe authors dismissively refer to as bro splits.

Aside from taking into account weak points that I personally need to focus more on in terms of my body part split or even just in terms of utilizing a certain sequence of exercises or even pre-exhaust approaches, my own history is just very simple, very basic and very consistent. All the reality-based truths that most people searching for the grail don’t want to hear.

S

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I think you are underselling the value on what something like that would have.

I can’t help but draw a parallell to 531, and the very apt merch Wendler has in his store with prints of the words “You are being lied to”. Or, dealt with in a more exhaustive manner, the sentiments uttered by Dave Tate in this video,

Right now, I’m in a performance block and I love how it’s making me feel outside the gym. I feel athletic, not beat up at all, and am seeing improvements in my leisurely sports activities that haven’t been there before. Otherwise, I’d be trying to coax more out of you if I’m being perfectly honest because whenever you’ve posted the quality of those posts are wisdom.

But I’ve also stopped fretting about perfection, and presume that by employing @robstein s favourite

Seeing as Rob is a mentee of yours, hopefully gets me 80% of the way and I have too much respect for you to ask for the remaining 20% just to satisfy my own learning needs. With that said, if you ever do write an article, series or articles or a book, please please please do let me know. I won’t read any of it just once, that’s for certain.

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My favorite workouts are very simple:

Squats, ring dips, ring rows.

OHP, romanian dead lifts, pull ups.

Usually done using 531 on the first lift, and supersetting the others.

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5/3/1 really just set me up for life. I always tend to gravitate toward

Bench Day

Squat Day

Press Day

Deadlift day

With conditioning days added in as needed to bring up weaknesses. I will occasionally go to 3 days a week full body, but hate training that way. If anything, I like to break things up more, and will sometimes do the main work for the press on day and then do the supplemental/assistance work the next day, or turn any of the above days into a 2 a day.

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PUSH 1: bench primary, delts pump
PULL 1: lats primary, upper back/bis pump
LEGS 1: squat primary, glutes/hams pump
PUSH 2: press primary, chest/tris pump
PULL 2: upper back/bis primary, lats pump
LEGS 2: hinge primary, quads pump

For primary, I like to usually pick 1 main movement + 2 accessory, and for pump work 2 extra higher rep movements (maybe even a superset for isolation stuff.)

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For building size 3 on 1 off, so Legs, push, pull, off or easy cardio has worked really well for me in the past.

For building strength upper body then lower body x 3 times per week ( I just take Sundays off) has been working well for me recently.

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Lol, Honestly, I’ve coached a ton of folks from this site (I never publicize it unless they do), and I’m certain if they had a little sit down, you’d find a heck of a lot of similarities.

If I had to say anything about my own approach, it would be that I always strive to keep things simple, because neither my clients or myself have the time to waste during a contest prep. I’m also not trying to make a big name for myself as some celebrity online guru, where I need to come up with novel approaches, find some odd study that supports something weird despite the fact that there’s a reason why no one else bothered wasting time on it, or take credit for anyone else’s hard work.

With that said, the one MO I always say is that whoever you are, or your coach is, they’re working with the same science. How they apply those principles, and how complicated or simple they make it seem, is what makes the distinction.

You know, I’ve toyed around with the idea of writing something substantial for a long time, but it’s been done by so many people in the fitness game that it no longer holds the allure it once did. I had written some short articles way back when, and Brad and I outlined a few articles/e-book ideas, but time is valuable, and we both have so many other things going on… that’s why we ceased doing our old podcasts, which were a ton of fun to do.

S

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That’s a good thing though. Once something has been found to work, then that’s striking gold. Going to another mine because it might yield a little more gold before digging out what’s already there is just plain dumb. I try to remind myself of this whenever I want to change something in training when I’m in the midst of progressing… :see_no_evil:

I’m, if it’s not evident from my posting history, someone that does see some value in studies being cited if applicable. Not just for the sake of the argument. I’d trust results and no citations over citations and no results any day of the week.

Chiefly, I just find immense gratification in juxtaposing different “teachings” to see how well things overlay in the abstract sense. As an example, to me, a lot of CT’s writing and Wendler’s work distills into similar principles that are articulated differently. I’ll freely admit to not being as well read up on bodybuilding as that is the more recent interest but there I’ve found a lot of agreement in Meadow’s work and Scott Stevenson’s work. But unlike some consumers, that are looking for programs, I like delving through someone’s overarching principles that teach you more the “how” rather than the “what” although it helps if the former is presented along with the latter. But if something teaches me how the author thinks, that is an enriching read for me.

This makes sense. I have a lot of thoughts on this, but you seem to have weighed your pros and cons so I wouldn’t want to belabour the point. At most I’d argue it’s worth thinking about the reality that it’d have legitimate and genuine value for other people, and not every person is in a position where they can provide that to perfect strangers by just putting their experience into words. And yes, others have done so before you but the way you express it might be what makes it finally stick for someone. Not everyone learns the same from the same content. I’m glad that we have you on the forums, engaging with us here.

What was it called and where can they be found?

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My favorite is the on I want to do. Many upsides to different schemes, and depending upon your goals.

Though for mass I prefer PPL or Bro splits, for performance and in general “Full bodies”

We had started a thread in the BBing forum to link each new one as they came out, but you can see we got up to 18 and then “life happened” -lol.

Some may be a little dated in terms of the contest coverage but I think most hold up :slight_smile:

S

(Tried linking time the actual post but I don’t think I did it correctly)

Seriously a great program and an awesome foundation for long term with adding your own modifications as needed! A smart and well rounded program like this will add both size and strength, and with proper nutritional support can build a hell of a physique!

What are people’s thoughts on how this affects long term results and health for those interested in strength, performance, and well being but aren’t doing it to peak for a PL meet or BB show?

In my experience and observation, sticking to routines that require a few “big moves” (squats, push ups, pull ups, inverted rows, hanging leg raise) with a mix of bodyweight and barbells keeps one healthier and less beat up. When I have done “bro splits” (no negative connotation intended) where I focus on “chest” or “arms” I invariably get overuse injuries. I did this in my 30’s and constantly had shoulder and elbow problems, nagging pains, and more tender joints. From reading and talking to “older guys” (I’m 47 now, and I mean guys that are often around this age or into their 50’s) they always talk about how they are working around injuries and being beat up and creaky is just something that comes with age and lifting.

My thoughts are I’m working out to feel better and function better than my non-training counter-parts, and if doing so lead to chronic injuries, pain, work-arounds, etc… I would choose a different hobby to get my activity (hiking, yoga, etc…)

Thoughts?

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