Split/Training Routine for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome


as you can see i suffer chronic fatigue syndrom. So far i trained full body + gap (as Chris suggest in one article) and classic upper/lower Split. The reason why i ask here in a thread is, i realized today, that i could train small muscle groups in my homegym - independetly from my trainingplan and suffer not so much.

For example a little arms/side delts. Or core muscle.

So my idea is to do a basic plan that does not crash my cns or do exzess fatigue. In The past i tried volume recommendations from studies, but it was allways very hard to met those volumes.

Would you advice the classic lower/body split?!

Full body is very hard for me (central nervouse…:slight_smile: I need a rough advice. Maybe you could help.

Maybe i could train twice a day each Session twenty minutes. Because fatigue begins to be high at 20-30 min. But i have No Idea how to program.

I suggest its all about length of Training, so id Like to experiment

Assuming your current goal right now is to simply get better and get out of this chronic fatigue funk you’re experiencing, your best bet is probably a training frequency of 2-3x/week.

There are multiple splits you could use for this purpose but the best ones imo would be:


Full body: you don’t really have a choice here because you’re only training 2x/week. If your recovery is really bad and you feel like shit all the time, then simply go with the minimalist plan from CT. One upper body and one lower body compound exercise done for 3-4 sets of 6-8 with plenty of rest in between sets (something like to 3-4 minutes). If you want to reduce neurological stress even further you could pick compound movements on machines or in the smith machine that reduce the need for stability. When you start to feel better you could add 2 isolation exercises to these workouts for lagging muscles or vanity muscles for 3 sets of 8-12.


Option 1: upper/lower (2x upper, 1x lower body because lower body sessions are usually more demanding from a recovery perspective). Pick one main lift per workout done for 3-4 sets of 6-8, the assistance work should be minimal and low stress (machines and cables). 2-3 exercises for assistance work done for 2-3 sets each for 8-12 reps should be sufficient. Take full rest in between sets. 3-4 minutes for compound movements, 2 minutes for isolation movements.

Option 2: modified push/pull split. This is a modified full body workout where you train your push muscles (quads, pecs, front delts, triceps) on one day and your pull muscles (calves, hamstrings, glutes, lower/upper back, rear delts, biceps) on the other day. Do 1 lower body exercise per workout, the other 2-3 exercises are upper body. One compound exercise for lower/upper body, rest is isolation work. Use the same training variables as mentioned in option one (so sets, reps and rest).

Remember, the purpose of these workouts is simply to maintain your current physique while trying to get out of this fatigued state. It’s all about managing cortisol and adrenaline output.

So you want your workouts to be effective but with the least amount of work/stress possible. Therefore there are a few principles you should respect in your training:

  1. Always leave reps in the tank and never go to failure: 2-3 reps in reserve on the compound movements, 1-2 reps in reserve on the isolation movements. Again, the goal is to maintain your current physique and manage fatigue.

  2. Take full rest in between sets: 3-4 minutes for compound movements, 2 minutes for isolation movements.

  3. Don’t do more than 4 weekly workouts and really, stick with 3. Also, train every other day (one day one, one day off) or even every 2 days (one day on, two days off). This is your best option to manage fatigue, optimize recovery and maintain your physique/strength (it might drop a bit but don’t get discouraged, it will come back quickly once you start training hard again).

  4. Keep volume on the lower side as this variable tends to impact cortisol output the most. Somewhere between 10-15 sets is all you need to maintain.

  5. No intensity techniques whatsoever… NONE. Just simple straight sets.

  6. Spend more time on building up your cardiovascular system. Better conditioning improves lactic acid removal, work capacity, mitochondrial density, blood flow and favorable nutrient partitioning. All these physiological adaptations are highly beneficial when you’re suffering from chronic fatigue. Just make sure to keep your sessions short and sweet. Something like 20-30 minutes at a heart rate of 70-80% done 2-3x/week (ideally on off days) is more than enough.

  7. Spend more time on daily walking (ideally in green environments like forests and fields) and active mobility drills like short yoga sessions for example to increase activity of your parasympathetic nervous system and improve recovery even further.

Twice a day training is not something I would recommend in this context. You likely won’t get enough of a stimulus from your training. You could give it a go if it makes you feel better and if you have the time do to it.

Again, recovering from chronic fatigue is all about minimizing work done in the weight room and maximizing recovery outside of it. So really, prioritize good habits like sleep hygiene, daily walks, stretching/yoga/mindfulness protocols, eating quality nutrition (fruits, vegetables, potatoes, lean meats, herbs&spices, wild foods like berries/maple syrup/raw honey), healthy fats like nuts, olive oil, avocados to get all your macro’s, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and water to maximize recovery and neutralize inflammation (too much adrenaline from chronically elevated cortisol is inflammatory).

Eat carbs and focus on foods and supplements that elevate your serotonin/gaba levels. I’m not going to repeat these, just visit my profile and look up previous answers I gave on this topic.

Depending on how severe your chronic fatigue is, you might need to cut back on training for 4-8 weeks to really allow yourself to recover. When recovery has improved significantly, slowly build up your tolerance to training. Don’t rush the process or you’ll end up in the hole again.

I’m sorry to intervene if your question was adressed to @Christian_Thibaudeau. I wanted to share my insights because having suffered from chronic fatigue myself, this topic is close to my heart.


my illness is not severe, its just ligtly. My experience is, as far workout is not long, i could do it perfectly. I felt better with u/l 4 times a week then full body twice a week. I thought i could do upper/lower 4 times, each half morning/evening. So like chest/delts at morning, back evening. Quads morning, Hamstrings evening etc.

With 10-14 sets/muscle group per week and classic upper/lower i could mantain 3 weeks of training and then feel like big crash in the past , i dont know. To cut those trainings which lasts 70 min in half, would be a nice experiment.

And from that point deloading every 4th weeks?

So regardless of cutting or training, after 3th week i felt bad. So 3 weeks stress.

I would like to put some muscle. But of course feel good on that. What do you think to try it like that, and then maybe cut frequency 4-> 3 , if i sleep bad. Sleep is a good marker

For example today i trained maybe 4 times. But mini workouts (<15 min)… here arms, sidedelts, shrugs, back, chest… forearms etc… Now i feel good. Its fun to train without program. Just how you feel. Love it. I did not count reps too just focus on the muscle target… But i used sometimes very heavy weight. Because i was lazy to put weight off lol

ps worst thing (fatigue) for me is long cardio. IT KILLS ME. 1 hour of running, and i suffer from it the whole week. No gains- or high reps bodybuilding. I love hard and short.

  1. Don’t do more than 4 weekly workouts and really, stick with 3. Also, train every other day (one day one, one day off) or even every 2 days (one day on, two days off). This is your best option to manage fatigue, optimize recovery and maintain your physique/strength (it might drop a bit but don’t get discouraged, it will come back quickly once you start training hard again).

I could do 3days a week. for example Upperbody at morning, lower evening. And training on/off. but i guess i should cut volume too much to train short… that is a bad thing. More than 3 sets/muscle/Workout means stress, but i could do 4. I feel it needs 4 to make good gains. Its magic. 3 is not enough (its like no gains), 4 is perfect.

I tried 5-7 before, but 4 ist perfect. I dont understand why, but i realize that i understand my body.

Maybe you are right, with 4 sets i need a rest day to be sure

I try it 1-2 weeks and write here my experience. better than overanalyzing things, so 2nd option ON /OFF (twice a day u/l)

These two conditions are very different, try choosing your words more mindfully next time.

It might work, as long as you’re accumulating enough maximally effective reps for the target muscles within each session. It’s not something I would recommend doing for a long time though because you are now spiking cortisol/adrenaline twice a day instead of once.

If you are to use this approach, try to finish your last workout of the day at 6 to allow for a sufficient decrease in neurological activity (arousal of the nervous system) and have a bigger amount of carbs post-workout/ in the last meal of the day to decrease cortisol and increase serotonin.

It can be yes but also consider what part of your training regimen is working against you. If you’re doing 10-14 sets/muscle group per week that’s about 5-7 sets per muscle in a workout. If you do this volume for the bigger as well as the smaller muscle groups, then you are actually doing a moderately high volume program. It’s not a huge amount of volume but combine that with a high RPE (how close to failure you are taking each set) + heavy loads and you have workouts that are very demanding. If that sounds familiar to you than it should not come as a surprise when you’re crashing after 3 weeks.

Volume (how many sets), load (how much weight) and RPE (pushing 3,2,1 reps short of failure, to failure or beyond) are the three variables that have the biggest impact on how stressful your workout is. Having all of these high is very demanding on the nervous system as well as your endocrine system.

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I believe you when you say it’s fun but it’s bad from a programming perspective. You say you want to build muscle. Well, managing volume, intensity and load and keeping track of your training is actually necessary to properly assess progression. If you just train without any plan, without any idea of what your weights, sets, reps were in the previous session or you change up your workouts every week, than you are not doing yourself any favors to gain muscle effectively.

If you feel like you’re not having fun when following a program, that simply means the program you selected is not right for you from a motivational standpoint. Pick a program that suits your needs, what you are looking for in training. But don’t start working out several times a day and hope to improve significantly from that. What you are doing with this approach is chasing a stimulus, not gains.

My 2-3x/week recommendation was based on the assumption that you were actually suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, which given your explanations does not seem to be the case at all. So yeah, start at 4 and if your sleep suffers I would urge you to look at your situation holistically and not solely focus on training when nutrition, stress management or your sleep hygiene could be what’s causing the issue.

That’s why I said 20-30 minutes. If you loathe doing 30 consecutive minutes of cardio, simply divide them into 3 10 minutes sessions or 2 15 minute sessions.

aaaah, i see. My failure is to push hard early, first 2-3 sets RPE 9 allways. But i guess i have to work lighter with more volume, its enough to get effective reps (at the end, maybe set 4-5)? I did not try this version before.

So with setting above i could experiment to do it now. If i understand it right.

Sorry for misunderstanding for cfs. It was diagnozed in my blood in 2021. I had eppstein barr virus

It all depends on weekly volume, load used as well as how hard you are pushing each set. If you train to failure or 1 rep short, 3 sets are actually effective and will stimulate gains. Of course the more advanced you are, the more effective reps you will need eventually. But this is still not twice the amount that an intermediate trainee would need. Somewhere between 15-25 reps per muscle group should do the trick.

Again, it depends on what approach you are using with the three main variables in your upper/lower split.

If you favor shorter and more intense workouts, I would stick to a moderate volume (somewhere between 15-20 worksets per workout) and a higher RPE (8-9). Load should also be moderate (between 70 and 85%). Start with an RPE of 8 on your first workset on compound barbell movements and try to increase the weight on every set but only if that weight allows you to keep 1-2 reps in reserve. It’s best to use a rep range with this approach (6-8 for example) because it allows a little more freedom for improvement in load from set to set.

With isolation movements it’s OK to start with an RPE of 9 from set one and try to increase the weight from set to set, assuming you are also using a rep range here. You could even go to failure on set 1 and try to stay within the rep range for all of your sets while using the same weight.

15-20 sets is ~1hour of training (too hard).

Thank you though, i try to experiment with those recommondations.

I know but when the goal is hypertrophy with a very limited amount of time to train, the only option you have besides working out twice a day is to go with a low volume, high RPE, high frequency program.

For hypertrophy there is a minimum rep target you need to hit and you need to train each muscle 2x/week (at least indirectly).

Giving yourself a 20 minute mark makes it pretty difficult to reach enough effective reps without sacrificing ample rest between sets unless you increase training frequency or train to failure. Both are not ideal with an upper/lower split routine done 3-4x/week.

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mmmmh i feel you are right! Difficult.

So i start with Chris high frequency program, but i have adjust exercises a little bit. But i understand the core principles.

I do not remind, but in the past (maybe before 4 years) it felt good to do this program.


Do keep in mind that CT’s best damn workout plan for NL might still take 30 minutes or longer per session to complete.

Given your reasoning on how much time you want to spend on one session and your goal, I think his template might be your best option.

You will lose 2 days of volume with a frequency of 4x/week instead of 6x/times per week. So either:

  1. train 4x/week but do two sets to failure on each exercise instead of taking one set to failure and beyond.

  2. bump up your frequency to 6x/week using the template as is.

Otherwise you could stick to doing 20 minute sessions 4x/week but I highly doubt this will be enough to stimulate hypertrophy, unless you are a beginner.

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The very best option is upper/lower 3x times, 1x lower, 2x upper since i have lower back problems (scoliosis) too and have to implement physical therapy exercises.

But i could do 1x isolation work (quad/hamstrings on machine) on one upper day for volume reason. Theoretically that sounds perfect, because lower body cause twice as much fatigue then upper (i could train maybe 45-60 min with rest the day after)

Unfortunally it is not motivating like push/pull from thib. I learned from experience that its very important to just have “fun”.

Our will is weak, passion is powerful.

I have to chose between these two options. I am not sure, heart is for option 2, mind option 1 lol

Sorry for asking for help again. I am implenting the U/L Split routine as you have described before (just to be on the safe side).

I am uncertain about volume. As you wrote its only 7 Sets for legs per week. But you wrote on point number four i need 10-15 sets.

Can you please clarify?


The 10-15 sets in point 4 is referring to the total amount of volume in one workout (not for a muscle group) if the goal is either maintenance or fatloss (with an exception of the last phase which usually goes up a bit in volume due to increased density).

When your goal is hypertrophy, depending on how close you like to take each set to failure, that number of sets per workout will change. Usually it is somewhere between 12-22 sets.

You can go higher than 22 sets but imo the workout becomes less productive doing that due to the amount of time it takes to complete the workout and creating a lot of peripheral and central fatigue. So high volume workouts really do need intra-workout fuel to sustain a high level of effort.

Then you have the lower end of the volume spectrum where you’d do only 12-14 sets per workout but each workset is taken to failure or beyond. This is fun training for those who like to push really hard on each set although I do not believe this type of training is sustainable long term. You can’t push to the max on each set forever, no matter how low the volume is. Eventually you will give out earlier psychologically before you have reached true failure.

So both low and high volume are optimal to use imo for specific phases in training when you need a change of pace/stimulus or if your 12-16 week periodization builds up to that point.

To me it feels better and sounds more logical to stay within 15-22 sets per workout most of the time. But this means you can’t take load, volume or RPE to the max. They all need to stay moderate (I’m talking about the compound movements, isolation exercises can use a higher RPE)–> load between 70-89% (which is actually ideal for hypertrophy), volume between 15-22 worksets), RPE 8 for most of the worksets on compound movements and could go up to 8-9 on the last workset(s) but you most likely need to work with a rep range, RPE 8-9 on the first workset or even 9-10 for isolation exercises is perfectly fine because the neurological stress of isolation exercises is very low. If you want to go up in weight from set to set on isolation exercises, start with an RPE 8-9 and use a rep range. If you want to keep using the same weight on all sets, start with an RPE 9-10 and use a rep range where the goal is to stay within that range with the same weight because 9-10 is taking your set to failure or very close to it.

With an upper/lower split done 3x/week you will train either upper or lower only once per week. But this reverses over the weeks as you roll through your workouts. For example if you do upper, lower, upper on week 1, week 2 will automatically be lower, upper, lower. Week 3 will be upper, lower, upper again. And if you take a 4th week, you will repeat lower, upper, lower, giving you 6 workouts of upper and lower to have an even balance between the two.

If you don’t feel comfortable doing lower body 2x/week due to lower back issues, you could either select exercises that target the legs but not the lower back or stick to 2x upper, 1x lower and repeat that over the course of 3-4 weeks. You will still get some growth for your legs or at least maintain while you’re working on improving your scoliosis.

Is it ideal? It depends on the case or the goal. Most of the time, when hypertrophy is the goal, 4x/week seems to be that sweet spot because it allows you to hit every muscle twice and spread the total weekly volume (which is about 10-20 sets per muscle group if you go with the moderate approach on load, volume and RPE) over multiple workouts which imo is more effective than doing a single bout of 10-20 sets for a muscle group in one single workout.

So the lower body workout might consist of 15-22 worksets but this is for quads, hams, glutes and often additional calves or ab work. So the total volume per muscle group in a workout will usually be somewhere around 5-10 sets, depending on what muscle(s) you want to emphasize.

Keep in mind that these ranges can go slightly down or up somewhat and how much sets you do depends on exercise selection and what muscles you may wish to emphasize. I cannot give you specific recommendations for that, hence the ranges.

Solid advice here!

With your excellent advice here, i am referring to the tipps above regarding mantaining physique and lowering exzessive fatigue (in fact, my cortisol in the blood in the morning was allways high in the past years, because of Inflammation of CFS (glandular fever).

So i will not concentrate on Hypertrophy in the months to come, because my illness seems to be severe right now. I have little sleep the last days (maybe a week) because of chronic elevate cortisol - i did not take a deload or training break since nov.19 (acutally i started a psmf from 11/25-12/12).

Therefore i think of a dietbreak immediatly, but i am unsure for how long - last time i did a break for 1 week, but it does not feel that its enough. It seems i have no cortisol lowering reaction after stress. After a workout i am stressed for the whole day. But i do lifting, because i do not want to be thin and weak.

After this break or deload (i am awaiting your response to it, and for how long i should do it?), i do upper lifting twice and lower only once a week, since i do much work for posture (core e.g.) on restdays as physiotherapist said and lower body was allways tough to me in the past.

I’ll begin with conservative volume as you have said (10 Sets per workout) and try to raise by time set per set until i get 15 sets maybe per workout.

I try to minimize stress components like telephone/internet and do meditate, eat very healthy and take breaks to chill.

Thank you again for your great help