3 Super-effective workout splits (you need to try)

Whether you're a beginner or advanced lifter...

Picking the right workout split is incredibly important.

After all, a good training routine can be the difference between making sweet gains...or no gains.

workout splits

The problem is...which do you chose?



Push pull legs?

Luckily for you, I'm going to answer this in today's article. 

Here's what you'll learn:

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    The 3 training variables critical for muscle growth
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    How to pick the right exercises (and why compound lifts are the way to go)
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    The best workout splits for you- based on experience, goals, and your schedule

I've also got an awesome bonus download for you.

*It includes 7 FREE workout splits for novice + early intermediate lifters:

Training Experience Matters

workout splits

The first thing you need to consider is your current training experience.

Are you:

A) A complete beginner

B) An intermediate lifter with 8-12 months of training

C) An advanced lifter with several years of experience

Beginners can build muscle at roughly twice the rate of intermediate/advanced lifters, in addition to recovering faster between workouts. 

For a beginner, any workout routine can generate results provided they're consistent.

On the flip side, if you have at least 1 year of training experience, then you'll need more volume to progress.

You'll also need to periodize your training to avoid plateaus.

This is where the 3 training variables come into play:

  1. Frequency
  2. Intensity
  3. Volume

The 3 Training Variables Critical For Muscle Growth (volume, intensity & frequency)

workout splits


Training frequency is incredibly important for muscle building.

After all, muscle protein synthesis is only heightened for 24-48 hours post-workout...

This means you only have a maximum of 2 days to recover from your workouts before you need to create the stimulus again.

Unsurprisingly, studies have shown that a 2-3x per week training frequency is vastly superior to a 1x per week frequency.

Want faster muscle gains? You need to increase training frequency! Here are the best workout splits to do this...

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There's also a large skill component to weight training: 

The more you squat, the better you get at squatting.

This seems like common sense...right?

In powerlifting circles, this is known as greasing the groove.

It's the best way to develop neural efficiency and maximise strength gains in the long run.

As you get more advanced, you have the freedom to ramp up your frequency to the max (the Bulgarian method).

Or you can scale back on frequency and increase volume instead.

Volume & intensity

The 2 most important training variables (aside form frequency) are volume and intensity. 

Intensity is the % of your one rep max that you use for a given weight.

Volume is the total workload you do in a session (sets x reps x weight).

Beginners can progress linearly with 3x5 or 5x5 rep schemes without having to pay attention to rep ranges.

However, advanced lifters will need to balance intensity and volume in order to keep progressing: 

  • Low rep training (1-3 reps) develops maximum strength and neural efficiency.
  • Whereas high volume training (10+) increases work capacity and muscle endurance.

As a general rule, beginners need less volume to progress.

Instead, they should focus on adding weight to the bar every session.

As an advanced lifter you need to take advantage of all rep ranges in your program to facilitate progressive overload.

Exercise selection (for dummies)

workout splits

In the 90's and early 2000's, bodybuilding magazines were the best source of information for lifters.

Inside these magazines, you would find all sorts of training tips from pro bodybuilders, including free workout splits.

These programs were typically loaded with drop sets, super-sets, and high rep 'pump' training.       

Unfortunately, this advice is terrible for drug-free lifters. 

Here's the truth:

High rep isolation exercises  aren't very effective for muscle building. 

Instead, you should be focusing on the big compound exercises (such as the squat, deadlift, and OHP).

A good rule  of thumb is to have 2 compound lifts for every isolation exercise.

Recovery Is Essential 

Recovery is a subject nobody likes to talk about...

After all, it's much more exciting to talk about the best exercises or the best supplements for muscle growth.

Here's the deal:

The more often you train, the greater the impact on recovery in the long run.

Workout splits that have you training 5+ days per week will gradually lower your fitness levels...

Meanwhile, you'll slowly build up fatigue.

Eventually, your performance will plateau and even regress backwards.

You can remedy this with a deload, or a week off training.

But this can be avoided by using an efficient workout split to begin with.

Paying attention to recovery outside of training is important too:

  • Get 8 hours sleep
  • Eat a slight surplus of calories (5-10%)
  • Don't overdo cardio (the concurrent training effect)

6 Popular Workout Splits (ranked from worst to best)

In this section, I'll be discussing the 6 most popular workout splits and ranking them from worst to best.

This decision will be influenced by a variety of factors such as training frequency and exercise selection.

Let dive in.


Bro splits

'Bro splits' are a classic training routine used by professional bodybuilders. 

 You train each muscle group on a separate day, e.g:

  1. Monday: Chest
  2. Tuesday: Back
  3. Wednesday: Legs
  4. Thursday: Shoulders
  5. Friday: Arms
  6. Saturday: OFF
  7. Sunday: OFF

The biggest flaw with bro splits is that you're only training each muscle group once per week, despite being in the gym 5 days.

In addition to this, most bro splits emphasise isolation exercises far too much.

I don't recommend anybody use bro splits for this reason.



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    It's better than nothing?
  • Frequency is far too low
  • You have to train 5 days per week
  • There is too much isolation work
  • Volume is too high for a beginner


Push pull legs

Push pull legs is one of the most popular workout splits on the internet.

Essentially, you rotate between pushing exercises (chest/shoulders), pulling exercises (back), and squatting/deadlifting. 

There are two variations of the PPL split:

1) The classic 3x per week variation

  1. Monday: Push
  2. Tuesday: OFF
  3. Wednesday: Pull
  4. Thursday: OFF
  5. Friday: Legs
  6. Saturday: OFF
  7. Sunday: OFF

2) The modified 5x per week variation

  1. Monday: Push
  2. Tuesday: Pull
  3. Wednesday: Legs
  4. Thursday: OFF
  5. Friday: OFF
  6. Saturday: Push
  7. Sunday: Pull

The 3x per week variation carries many of the same flaws as bro splits (low frequency) and is generally ineffective for muscle gains. 

And the modified  split is inefficient because you're training 5 days per week for a 1.5x per week training frequency. 

Training  heavy 5 days per week is  very intensive on the CNS (central nervous system) and therefore you won't be able to push as hard each session. 

There's also the inconvenience of having to commute to the gym for 5 days per week.

Overall, the modified PPL split is a giant step up from the bro split.

But it can definitely be improved.

I only recommend it if  you love to be in the gym a lot (and have no other commitments). 



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    A step-up from traditional bro splits
  • You have to train 5-6 days per week
  • It's easy to get burnout
  • Assistance work is minimal



The push pull split ditches the 'leg' day and combines squats/deadlifts with back training.

This is beneficial because it removes a training day while increasing frequency to 2x per week.

In short, this is a great workout split if you're an intermediate lifter who likes to be in the gym often (and still have a life).  



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    Good training frequency
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    Emphasises compound exercises
  • You have to train 4 days per week to get the same frequency as fullbody 
  • There is some crossover between push/pull days which may affect recovery



Whether you use a push pull or Upper lower split is mostly down to preference as they are very similar.

The only noteworthy advantage upper/lower splits have is that they minimise crossover between the two days.

Separating your training into upper body and lower body sessions also makes more sense from a recovery perspective.

If you want, you can also sacrifice training frequency for less days in the gym.

The modified upper/lower split has you alternating between 3 days and 4 days per week, e.g:

(week 1)

  1. Monday: Upper
  2. Tuesday: OFF
  3. Wednesday: Lower
  4. Thursday: OFF
  5. Friday: Upper
  6. Saturday: OFF
  7. Sunday: Lower

(week 2)

  1. Monday: OFF
  2. Tuesday: Upper
  3. Wednesday: OFF
  4. Thursday: Lower
  5. Friday: OFF
  6. Saturday: Upper
  7. Sunday: OFF

Overall, upper/lower splits are an excellent choice if you want to build muscle or gain strength.



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    Good training frequency
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    Emphasises compound exercises
  • You have to train 4 days per week to get the same frequency as fullbody 


Bulgarian light

Bulgarian light is an advanced split that utilises an ultra-high frequency/intensity approach. 

You train 5-7 days per week and use  high percentages relative to your one rep max (90-100%).

The goal is to work up to a heavy single with just ONE exercise and then call it a day.

Accessory exercises are  kept to an absolute minimum in order to preserve recovery. 

The huge advantage to this is that you can specialise all your efforts on a single lift.

This makes for very fast strength gains.

However, make no mistake:

Bulgarian light is very hard on recovery and should only be used if you have at least 2-3 years of solid training.

Beginners should stay away!



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    Very fast strength gains
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    Best way to master a lift
  • It's easy to burnout
  • You have to train everyday
  • There's minimal exercise selection



In my opinion, fullbody training is the best all-round workout split you can find.

Frequency, intensity, and volume are all perfectly managed throughout the year.

On top of this, you only have to train 2 days per week to get a 2x training frequency. If you compare this to the PPL split, then it becomes apparent why fullbody training is so effective.

Training less often is great because you feel completely energised going into each workout.

It also eliminates the need for deloads.

For beginners, fullbody workouts are the absolute best way to go:

  • You get a high training frequency (for muscle gains)
  • You get ample time to practise the basic compound lifts
  • Recovery is maximised

Fullbody workouts are also great for intermediate/advanced lifters too.

The only downside is that workouts tend to drag on for longer.

Most sessions take 1 1/2 - 2 hours to complete, but it's a small price to pay for the freedom you get in return.



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    Frequency, volume, and intensity are perfectly managed
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    You don't have to train as often
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    There's a strong emphasis on heavy compound exercises
  • Not as good for specialisation (aka getting good at 1 lift) 
  • Workouts are much longer (2+ hours)

BONUS: 6 FREE Workout Splits (for beginners)


What about cardio?

If your primary goal is to build muscle and strength then you need to be careful how you add cardio to your routine.

Studies have shown that if you try to improve aerobic and anaerobic fitness simultaneously then you'll see diminished returns.

Instead, I recommend using cardio to boost your work capacity and for the health benefits.

HIIT cardio is great because it produces double the calorie burn/endurance gain in half the time.

Just make sure you limit it to 2-3 x per week and keep sessions under 30 minutes.

Also, I recommend separating weight training and cardio on different days to minimise the impact on recovery...

Or at the very least, doing them a few hours apart.

How much weight should I add each workout?

This is largely dependent on your training experience and whether or not you're eating a surplus of calories.

Beginners can gain strength rapidly- regardless of how good (or bad) their diet is. 

They should be aiming to add weight to the bar every single session.

On the other hand, intermediate lifters can expect to add weight every other week.

This is also dependent on how good your programming is as an advanced lifter.

When is it time to move onto a new split?

You should only consider switching your workout split when your strength gains have plateaued. 

Don't fall into the trap of hopping on every new trend!

Here's what I recommend:

  1. For beginners: Do fullbody training 3x per week until you hit these numbers (or close): a 100kg/225lb bench press, 182.5kg/ 400lb  deadlift, and a 142.5kg/315lb squat.
  2. For intermediate lifters: Use either an upper/lower split (4x per week) or a fullbody split (2x per week). 
  3. For advanced lifters: You can try  Bulgarian light (5-7 x per week) for maximum strength gains or stick with fullbody training.

Which split is best for strength?

The best style of training for strength has to be the Bulgarian method.

The caveat is that it's very hard on recovery and not practical for most people.

In that case, the next best thing is fullbody training.

Which split is best for size?

If you want maximum muscle gains, then I recommend a high frequency/ high volume approach. 

My book- Size, Symmetry, Strength uses a 2x per week fullbody split in combination with high volume days.

It's perfect for guys who want to build muscle and strength.


Choosing the right workout split is like committing to a relationship:

You need to pick one that's right for your lifestyle, goals, and experience level.

If you want to maximise progression, then I recommend training each muscle group a minimum of 2-3x per week.

The best workout splits for this are upper/lower and fullbody.

As an advanced lifter, you can also experiment with Bulgarian light for speedy strength gains.

Finally, you need to remember that a good workout split isn't everything.

If you don't enjoy fullbody training, then you won't stick to it in the long run.

This is why consistency is king for long-term progress. 

Now, it's over to you.

Which workout split will you be using? Let me know in the comments below!

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