T Nation

How People Design Splits

this is a post of mine from long ago on another board:

[b]here’s something i don’t really understand: guys who divide their splits by muscle groups. i.e. chest and back day, arm day, leg day, and shoulder day.

how does this make sense when the best exercises are compound and hit many muscles at once? how can chest and back day really be chest and back day when doing chins, flat bench, rows, and dips? you’re getting total arm involvement, hamstring and lower back tension, delt strain, etc…

doesn’t make any sense.

that’s why i look at my split in terms of movements or planes of motion. for example, i have 3 upper body days and 2 lower body days. on the upper body days i rotate my exercises every workout. one workout: horizontal plane of motion - upper body press <i.e. flat bench>, and upper body pull <i.e. rows>, the next workout: vertical plane of motion - upper body press <i.e. dips, military press> and upper body pull <i.e. chins>

and i also do one lower body press and one lower body pull on my lower body days. i.e. deadlifts and front squats. and i’ll hit calves every lower body workout as well.

i mean this is just the basic framework, there’s a lot more to it, but i think the idea is clear. [/b]

In the end, it’s all about what system works for “you.” For some, muscle splits yeild great results. For others, upper/lower splits work. Some get great results from full body workouts.

It’s up the the individual to find they system that works best. Experiment. Try them all. Treat it like a science experiment. 12 weeks each. Compare the results. Draw some conclusions.

Just don’t get stuck in one routine.

any program that gives progression over time yields results. but for the non-drugged professional bodybuilder, i don’t see much sense in looking at a split in terms of muscles, as the bext exercises are compound.

how can you chest day truly be a chest day if you’re benching and doing dips? it’s already become much more than chest day at that point.

The theory behind splits is it allows for a greater amount of concentration on a muscle group. Furthermore, the greater the concentration on a muscle group, the greater the hypertrophy.

Everyone is different and their bodies will respond differently to certain workouts. Also people need to switch not only set/rep schemes but routines as well. There is no end all be all as far as routines go. There are many factors that should go into a workout choice.

[quote]hueyOT wrote:
any program that gives progression over time yields results. but for the non-drugged professional bodybuilder, i don’t see much sense in looking at a split in terms of muscles, as the bext exercises are compound.


Incorrect. And correct, for me. I worked a body part split routine for years, and all 2004 was without any gains. So, not any program yields results. I now do upper/lower splits, and I am getting great results. Fantastic results. And no drugs. Just because you are a bodybuilder, don’t presume pharmacological supplementation.

They’re just labelling conventions, nothing more.

I know AC criticizes splits names after bodyparts because he claims that they’re inaccurate. I believe the example he uses frequently is performing a heavy 1 arm lateral raise. He mentions that most bodybuilders would categorize this as a shoulder exercise, even though it could easily be categorized as a core exercise because of its demand on the obliques. Therefore their split is incorrect.


But if we use the same example as AC uses, it still doesnt fit nicely into a King Split (the Horizonal Push, Horizontal Pull, Vertical Push, Vertical Pull, Hip dominant, Quad dominant), nor AC split.

Heck, where would pullovers fit into?

Neither split system is more accurate than the next, they’re both useful in terms of organizing your routine. Looking deeper into it is just for coaches to market themselves.

I, personally, think in terms of movements. Some may think in terms of muscle groupings.

But if someone does a split and makes gains on intense, infrequent bouts of lifting, but do crappily on frequent, full body, moderately intense bouts of lifting, then hell, go with what works! (although I’d guess that the latter method would probably work better for most people than the former)

Like mentioned before, I think the purpose of splits was/is to focus on one or two muscle groupings at the most on one workout day. This way intensity can be super high, and the frequency will be low, so as to have a balance.

I personally split my routine as follows (not usually in this order):

Deadlifts/Cleans…Calves, sometimes chest

It boils down to a 4-day split and I’ve been working some variations of this split for 4 years now and I’ve made tremendous progress.

I think it’s interesting that you mention the overlap between muscle groupings. I actually expect, and enjoy the overlap of my days. I find it increases the frequency with which I can hit muscle groups either directly or indirectly.