A while back when I was still knew the the weightlifting world but starting to fall in love with it, another girl had asked me what my splits are. At the time, I was hardly familiar with the term “splits”. Before replying with, “I used to be able to do my right splits but not quite my middle or left side…back when I was more flexible,” I thought more about the context of our conversation. I took a swing at it and told her how I split up my leg days/arm days/etc. She didn’t give me a weird look, so I was hoping I nailed it—either that or she was just being polite.
Luckily, my guess was right and I felt like less of an amateur. For those of you that don’t know of the term “Splits,” let me save you from a situation similar to mine.
Split System Training (as defined by weighttraining.com)–
“Split system training is a system of weight training that divides training sessions by body regions—usually upper and lower body training.”
Therefore, when somebody asks you what your training splits are, they’re essentially asking how you divide your muscle groups when weightlifting.
I’ve toyed with a few different ways of training in the gym, and here is a little run down of my trials & errors:
Before becoming serious about fitness
Before I ever knew what I was doing, I did what almost any typical girl did in the gym…stuck to cardio (my, how things have changed) and a few of the machines that I actually knew how they worked.
When Alex made me a 12 week workout plan
Shortly before I created this little blog of mine, Alex (my boyfriend, for those of you who are knew around here) was studying to take his exam to become a certified personal trainer. I asked to make me a workout plan because the structure of having a plan would help with my problem of not staying committed to working out consistently. Because I was new to weight training, he created a plan that focused on stability and simple movements. Thinking back to it, it was primarily divided into upper body exercises and lower body exercises with a few days of cardio a week. This worked really well to introduce me into weight training.
Total body workouts every other day (or every 3rd day)
I actually did my current splits (see below) for a while before I tried this out. I took a weight training class at my college and since it was only 2 days a week, we created workout programs that trained our whole body. I tried this out throughout the whole term (continuing with total body workouts about 2 days outside of my weight training class). I think this format was okay, but I eventually switched back to what I was doing before, and what I’m currently doing now.
Now that I’ve learned a little about how the muscles work and also how they work together, I’ve come to find what works best for ME. Everyone has their own way of splitting up their training, and it’s okay that everyone does it differently! I’ve learned that both nutrition and fitness is like politics—one person can say one thing, and another can say another thing, neither are wrong but both just have their opinions.
First of all, I always have and always will do legs on their own day. All of the muscles in the legs don’t really work in conjunction with upper body muscles (unless doing more functional like movements), so I don’t have to worry about overtraining any muscles. Therefore, on leg day I work my quads, hammies, calves, and glutes. And then I can’t walk the next 2 days.
As for upper body, this can be a little more controversial. The biceps, triceps, back, and chest muscles often work together since they are all in close proximity and recruit each other to complete a movement. In general, chest exercises usually use the triceps a little, and back exercises engage the biceps. Because of this, it’s important to be aware of the muscles your working so you don’t end up overtraining them.
From what I’ve observed, a lot of people will do back and biceps on one day and chest and triceps on another. When doing this, you are training the muscles that work together on the same day so that you aren’t working them the next. I’ve tried this before, but I feel like if I do a back exercise after a bicep exercise, my biceps give out before my back. This works for a lot of people, but I personally do it a little different.
I pair back and chest together on one day and then triceps and biceps on another. Yes, this means that some muscles are being trained two days in a row. However, I’ve toyed with this a little for it to work for me. During back and chest workouts, the biceps and triceps are being used but they aren’t being fatigued. Because of this, I always train back and chest BEFORE I train biceps and triceps. If I were to train biceps and triceps before back and chest, my bi’s and tri’s would be fatigued and therefore being overworked. Here’s a rundown of how all of my splits would go together in a typical 2 week period:
|Week 1||Week 2|
|Tuesday||Rest||Bi’s & Tri’s|
|Wednesday||Back & Chest||Legs|
|Thursday||Bi’s & Tri’s||Back & Chest|
|Saturday||Legs||Bi’s & Tri’s|
|Sunday||Back & Chest||Legs|
As for abs, I usually will include a few ab exercises in 2-3 days a week when I have time. I’ve noticed that when I do weighted ab exercises (which I used to do a lot), my torso becomes wider and bulkier which is not what I’m aiming for. I’ve switched to doing ab exercises such as scissor kicks, v-ups, oblique crunches, regular crunches with pulses, Russian twists without any weight, etc.
Oh, and for cardio…I try and squeeze some in a few days a week in the form of the stair mill, bike, or circuit training.
You will never see me on a treadmill.
What I like about the splits that I do is that my rest days don’t have to be planned. Regardless of my rest days, I generally won’t be overtraining any muscles. Because of the fact that I work 3 jobs and have quite the busy schedule, my rest days are usually forced because more often than not, around 2 days a week I am on the go from when I wake up until when I go to bed.
So there you have it! This is currently what works for ME. Like I said, everyone is different and has their own opinion of how they should train their muscles. It’s taken a lot of experimenting for me to find my happy spot, and what I do may be a failed experiment to somebody else…and that’s okay! Diversity for the win