Workout Split For Your Goals

Designing your own workout can be as complex as building your own spaceship. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be. Basically, a series of yes or no questions will lead you to down the right path.

Let’s take it from the top. The first thing you want to ask yourself is: What do you want to achieve? Two possible answers come to mind:

  1. Perform better in a sport
  2. Look better

For most regular gym goers however it will be choice number 2 – look better.

Workout Split For Your Goals

The next question would have to be how old you are in training years. If the answer is 18 months or less, I strongly recommend doing three to four total body workouts a week How do you build a whole body workout? Glad you asked!

The human body can more or less do four things: Squat, Lunge, Push, or Pull (SLPP). So you’ll need to incorporate all four of those movements into any total-body workout. Some examples for each would be:

Squats: Dumbbell Squats, Barbell Squats, Front Squats, Box Squats, Leg Presses, Goblet Squats,
Lunges: Walking Lunges, Siff Lunges, Jumping Lunges
Push: Overhead Press, Incline Bench Press, Dips,
Arnold Presses, Push-Ups
Pull: Pull Ups, Rows, Pull Downs, Deadlifts

Yes, Arnold was right (of course he was) – compound movements rule supreme!

For a typical total-body workout, one would simply perform four sets of one exercise per group in a progressive manner. That gives you a solid base for your workout. If you free up more time, you can get more creative in your split, but the basics still apply: follow the SLPP principle and train the whole body twice a week. Variations off of that split could be push/pull/ legs or upper body versus lower body splits.

Let’s assume you are older than 18 gym months. Ask yourself this: Do you want to change your overall body composition – aka get bigger or leaner  – or do you want to improve a specific body part?

If you strive for a change in body composition, it’s your diet that needs to change, along with your cardio. If your goal is to improve a specific body part, you have to commit to training that body part twice a week. You could either train it twice individually or combine it in a session with a stronger body part. For me, my arms are relatively weak, so I train them once on their own and once in combination with my strongest part, my legs. So my split typically looks something like this:

Day 1 Arms/Shoulders
Day 2 Back/Hamstrings
Day 3 Chest/Calves
Day 4 Quads/Calves/Arms
Day 5 Chest/Back

When training a body part twice a week, you could train for strength during the first session by staying in a lower rep range (5-8) and add a volume session later that week. This session would have a higher amount of sets and reps (10-15) with shorter breaks between exercises. My personal favorites are timed sessions with a hard stop at 30 or 45 minutes, whereby you try to increase the number of sets each week.

Next is the question of volume and by that I mean quality working sets – not warm up sets “curling while chatting with your buddies” sets. If you train heavy and focused, 25 sets – excluding warm up – should cover you. People with less than two years of training experience will do fine with anywhere from 15-18 working sets per session.

Lastly, take a de-load week every five or six weeks in order to give your body time to recover and adapt. Otherwise the chances are that your training becomes non productive, you might incur some repetitive strain injuries. To de-load, simply cut your poundage and volume in half for five days and return with fresh vigor for your next lifting cycle. You may feel the urge to do just a little bit more during the de-load week, but don’t! Your body will thank you later.

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Photos courtesy of: Gregory James

Maik Wiedenbach

One of the most sought after personal trainers in New York City, Maik Wiedenbach is a world renowned Olympic athlete and two-time Muscle Mania Champion. Educated on a swimming scholarship from Fordham University, he holds a double Masters Degree in History & Philosophy and is a member of the Hall of Fame at Fordham University. Fluent in multiple languages including Dutch, English, French and his native German, he is the author of several fitness books as well as an Adjunct Professor teaching Exercise Sciences at New York University.

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