Ditch the Bodybuilding Split Routines, and Do This Instead

If you’re still obliterating a muscle group each day of the week in your training, you’re way behind the times in terms of training science.

That’s how all of the bodybuilders and muscle magazines had us training through the 80’s, 90’s, and early 2000’s, and why so many of us ended up still skinny, weak, and injured even though we were training 5 or 6 days per week.

“If you train patterns, you won’t miss muscles, but if you train muscles, you will miss patterns.”-Exos (formerly Athlete’s Performance

It all comes down to training being a stress on our body. If you look at the General Adaptation Syndrome below, you’ll see that we don’t actually get stronger through training, but rather through recovery from training. We stimulate it (alarm stage), then we recover from it when we rest, eat, and sleep,(resistance stage), becoming more resilient and stronger. Then we add another bout of stress, and repeat.


If you’re going into the gym on a Monday and shredding your chest with 7 different exercises, your alarm stage becomes a deep, rough hole to recover from. It’s like if 2 aspirin would be sufficient to getting rid of your headache, but you decided to take 12.

It doesn’t do any better job of getting rid of the headache, but is probably detrimental to your health.

If you play a sport, you definitely don’t want your training to make you sore and inhibit your ability to practice or compete, and if you’re a human who wants to live an active, adventurous life, you want to be ready and able to hike, bike, surf, or paddleboard at a moments notice. Not going on an epic hike with a friend because your legs are too sore from training like a buffoon is stupid.

Instead of the typical frying of one bodypart a day, once a week, you’re better served training movement patterns. Presses (both horizontally and vertically), row, chins, deadlift and squat variations, different types of lunges, and single leg exercises all hit lots of muscles within each pattern.

You can’t focus on your biceps peak anyway, so stop wasting your time. Blame your parents if the shape of your muscle sucks and just make them all bigger and stronger.

Understand that after benching, dumbbell benching, decline benching, and dips, you’ll be using the weight of air on your second and third exercises.

Progressive overload is the number one driver to getting bigger and stronger. How do you do this when you’re doing 12 different type of curl variations? Just keep adding more volume forever?

If you split up the work you’re doing and hit a press 3 or 4 different days of the week, you’ll be fresher and able to use bigger weights. 25 reps per exercise is  pretty good number to hit, so whether you go 5×5, 3×8, 4×6, 8×3, or whatever, if you spread out those lifts over 3-4 days in a week, you’ll get a lot higher quality work in.

This will ensure you are getting stronger, which is going to lead to bigger muscles.

All of the old time strongmen knew this. Pro athletes train this way. What makes you think that you are so amazingly unique that you need a full day devoted to your shoulders, and then a full week of rest before you can train them again?

If you’re a novice full body training is the way to go. By novice, you probably have lifted here or there but you haven’t followed a structured, progressive program for at least a year to build a decent baseline of strength. You really can’t go wrong with full body training sessions no matter who you are, but after being in the game awhile, sometimes it just gets a little boring and you need to spice it up a bit.

If you’re a little more advanced, you can alternate between upper and lower body days. This is because you’re stronger and using bigger weights, so you put more stress on your system with each training session and you need a bit more recovery. Push/Pull/Lower body splits are also solid choices for lifters who have a decent level of strength.

Just cut it out with arm day, back day, shoulder day, and the like. It makes 0 sense that your biceps and glutes get the same amount of training attention. Focus on your movement patterns:

  1. Vertical Push
  2. Vertical Pull
  3. Horizontal Push
  4. Horizontal Pull
  5. Squat
  6. Hinge
  7. Lunge
  8. Single Leg
  9. Carry
  10. Core: Anti Rotation, Anti Extension, Anti Lateral Flexion, Anti Flexion

Pick a push, a pull, a squat or hinge, and then a lunge or single leg exercise, add a few core movements in, and challenge them. Pick different options for 2-3 other days in the week. Keep challenging yourself on those same exercises for 4-6 weeks, then mix in different variations.

I know it’s nerve wracking to stop doing what you’ve been doing for so long. There’s fear that you’ll lose all of your progress. It’s different from what most people in the gym are doing. Then a gain, most people in the gym look exactly the same as they did a year ago, and are using the same weights for the same half reps they’ve been using for eons.

Maybe doing things the way they are isn’t the most effective after all.

Do things smarter, you’ll feel better, be more motivated to train, and will see significant changes in your physique and performance as well.

P.S. If you haven’t subscribed to my email list yet, doing so will get you access to my free eBook, 6 Week Strength Camp, which has both beginner and advanced training programs.



1 Comments on “Ditch the Bodybuilding Split Routines, and Do This Instead”

  1. Pingback: Build Muscle, Lose Fat, and Compete Like a Stud: The Ultimate Guide to Building Your Own Training Program - Hansen Performance

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