This is a great post. Who cares if it has been posted before? Most newcomers to the site and beginners in the weight room will come to the T-Nation homepage and only scroll down the “top 30 most discussed topics.” Most won’t use the search function and won’t search through the various forums. Therefore, I think that it is a great idea for advanced lifters to post advice like this every couple of weeks.
If no one could ever repost anything, it would be very difficult to have a forum here. Similarly, if only purely new concepts could be written about, the contributors would have a very difficult time (they have a difficult time as it is).
Great post Modi. Almost every gym friend I have trains chest on Monday and legs on Friday. If they are going to miss a day in the gym, it will inevitably be leg day. This shows what their priorities are and also explains why the stereotypical “meathead” has a huge upper body and an average lower body.
That being said, I think that there is merit in having beginners follow a typical bodybuilding split for several reasons:
First, it allows beginners to realize which muscle groups are being worked during each exercise. This knowledge is crucial and must be learned.
I have been a trainer for a long time and have trained people individually as well as in a group (athletic) environment. I even taught resistance training at the high school level. I noticed that when I had my students follow a typical bodybuilding split, they made a better connection between exercises and the muscle groups the exercises worked.
Advanced lifters forget or don’t realize how difficult it is to learn all this stuff right off the bat. For example, pullovers work the lats, pec minor, and serratus anterior muscles as well as the triceps and abdominal muscles from an isometric standpoint.
No matter how many times you iterate these bits of information to beginners, it sinks in better when they know that it is “back day” and therefore pullovers must work the back. One could say that a beginner has no business performing a pullover, which brings me to my next point…
Second, beginners are more inclined to continue working out if they are excited about coming to the gym. If every beginner started out doing squats, deadlifts, bench press, bent over rows and military press two or three days per week and were only allowed to split it up or perform isolation exercises until they reached sufficient strength levels (a policy that would actually be optimal for their strength development and long-term progress), there would be an even bigger dropout level in beginning lifter dropouts.
Beginners like learning how to perform exercises such as pullovers, rear delt raises, incline flies, hammer curls, etc. It makes training fun for them and it allows them to really feel a certain muscle being worked (the burn).
It also allows them to train like advanced lifters so they can feel like their routine is superior to others’. Psychological phenomena like this isn’t taken into consideration often enough.
Third, it allows beginners to train with a knowledgable partner. The advanced lifter isn’t going to modify his routine to accomodate the beginner. He will most likely expect the beginner to conform to his routine if he wants to have him as a workout partner.
Now, if only we could educate most of these “advanced” lifters or change their mindsets. In my opinion, splits can be very effective if you split them optimally. While professional bodybuilders have to maintain certain bodyparts while they bring other body parts up to par, the average “advanced” lifter simply needs to get bigger and stronger everywhere.
They could do squats, front squats and walking lunges or bulgarian squats on Monday (leg day), then do deadlifts, pullups, bent over rows and back extensions on Wednesday (back day), which would allow them to work the lower body twice per week.
They could do incline press, bench press and flies on Tuesday (chest day), then do close grip bench, chins, dips, curls and hammer curls on Friday (arm day) which would allow them to hit their chest and back musculature twice per week and would give them a psychological edge going into the weekend (my arms look pumped!) and give them a reason not to skip Friday’s workout.
Thursday could be shoulder day with military press, shrugs, lateral raises and rear delt raises.
Two out of the five training days (Tueday and Thursday) aren’t very intensive in terms of exercise taxation, which allows for fluxuation of training stress throughout the week.
This type of split would allow for each muscle group to be hit with more frequency than a split that included deadlifts and back extensions on leg day or didn’t include compound lifts for the chest and back on arm day.
Still not as effective from a strength and hypertrophy standpoint as a full-body routine for beginners, but it keeps them coming back to the gym week-in and week-out. Consistency is one of the best qualities for long-term progress.