Here’s a ground truth about getting in shape:
The same principles that drive muscle growth in men also work just as well for women.
In fact, if you look at the differences between most men’s and women’s workout programs, you’ll find they’re mainly due to men’s women’s preferences, not physiological differences between the sexes. (There are a few small exceptions, which you’ll learn about in this podcast).
For example, if you want to build muscle, you have to make your muscles work harder over time by forcing them to lift heavier and heavier weights, and this is just as true for women as it is for men.
The reason men and women typically follow different workout splits, though, is that most women want to get a bigger butt and more defined legs, and most men want bigger arms, shoulders, and pecs.
Thus, the best workout split for (most) women really just boils down to training the same way guys do while focusing on a different set of muscles.
Of course, this opens the door to more questions:
What muscles should you focus on?
How many times per week should you train them?
What exercises should you use to train them?
And how should you work cardio into your workout split, if at all?
All good questions and you’re going to learn the answers to all of them in this podcast.
Keep listening and you’ll learn . . .
- What a workout split is
- How to choose the best workout split for your goals
- How often you should change your workout split
- And more . . .
5:35 – What is a workout split?
12:56 – The body split
26:51 – The upper lower split
31:43 – The push pull legs split
38:35 – The full body split
Mentioned on the show:
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Hello and welcome to Muscle for Life. I’m Mike Matthews, your host. Thank you for joining me today to learn about workout splits and particularly the best workout splits for women. So let’s start with a ground truth here. The same. Principles, workout principles, programming principles that drive muscle growth in men also work in women, and they work in the same way and for the same reasons, and ironically contrary to what many people believe women can gain muscle about as effectively as men can.
If we look at it in terms of relative to body weight, so the rate of muscle gain relative to body weight is similar among men and women. They both know what they’re doing, but women just start out with a lot less muscle than men, and so they can’t gain as much muscle per month as us guys can, for example, and they can’t gain as much muscle over the course of their entire journey.
So the average guy can gain probably somewhere around 40 pounds of muscle. Period. By the end of his life, doesn’t matter what he does in the gym, that is going to be his genetic ceiling. And the average woman can gain probably about half that, about 20 pounds or so. Now, if somebody is a high responder, then they can gain a bit more.
The guy might be able to go to 45, 50 is a bit of a stretch, but let’s say 45 pounds or so. If they are a high responder, if, if that guy is a low responder, it might be 30 or 35 pounds. Same thing really with the woman. A high responding female might be able to gain upward of 25 ish pounds of muscle low responding, maybe 15 ish pounds.
Also, I don’t have any science to back this statement up, but it is something that I have noticed having now worked with and spoken with so many people over the years. It seems to me that people who get into weightlifting at a young age, like as a teenager, end up the most jacked. There seems to be a correl.
There between getting big and strong for like a 16 year old, for example, 15 or 16 year old, and then sticking with it for the long haul and ending up really big and strong. And that person, again, from what I’ve seen, Will tend to outpace the person who maybe has comparable genetics and responds well just as well to training, but didn’t start at 15 instead started at let’s say 25.
Anyway, getting back on track here to workout splits and women. The main difference between programming for men and women is. Really just physiological preferences, not inherent differences. And there are some exceptions, and I’ll talk about them here in the podcast, but for the most part, it’s really just that it’s gonna take guys a lot more time and work to get the upper body they want than the lower body.
And it’s the other way around. For most women, it’s gonna take them a lot. Training to get the butt and the legs they want than the arms and shoulders that they want. Now I understand there are exceptions to that rule. As with any rule, there are always exceptions. You may be one of those exceptions, but having worked with so many people over the years,
That is the rule as far as I can tell. And so then that means that for the most part, women should train like men, but just focus on different sets of muscles. But that opens the door to questions like, Which muscles should you focus on? Exactly. And how should you do that? What exercises should you be doing?
How many times should you be training those muscles every week? And how should you be working cardio into your workout program, if at all? And those are some of the questions that I’m gonna be exploring in this podcast as well as several others that I have been asked by many women over the. Also, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my health and fitness books, including the number one best selling weightlifting books for men and women in the world.
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Okay, so let’s start this discussion with a quick explanation of what a workout split is in case you’re not sure what that term means, or just wanna make sure that you are understanding it the way that I’m using it. So a workout split is the way that you organize your training throughout the week.
Think of it like a schedule where you do the same exercise. On the same days, in the same order, and you just repeat that again and again. And there are many different ways that you could organize those things. Of course. And over the decades that body building has been a thing. Many people have tried many different ways, and there are certain ones that have stood the test of time and that are popular.
Today, like a body part split where you focus on one body part in a workout, a chest day, a back day, a legs day, and so forth. Or a push pull legs split where one day you’re doing pushing stuff, which is mostly chest, but there might be some shoulders and some triceps in there as well. And then you have your pull day, which is your back training, and it might also include some dead lifting, which of course is your entire posterior chain, not just your back.
And then you have your legs where you just train your lower. . And depending on how it is set up, you might go push, pull legs, push pull, or you might go push, pull legs, rest, push, pull legs, rest and repeat it that way. And then you have other options like an upper lower split where you are doing upper body workouts and lower body workouts, alternating according to some pattern.
And full body split are popular right now where you’re training not necessarily. Every major muscle group in your body, but usually a major exercise for your upper body and a major exercise for your lower body in the same workout and so on and so forth. You get the idea. Now, the benefit of following a workout split or if you are up to the task following a combination of workout splits, which you can definitely do, you can create a hybrid program, so to speak, that has elements of, let’s say, push pull.
And body part training. That, for example, is how my bigger, leaner, stronger and thinner, leaner, stronger programs are set up. Or you could combine push, pull legs with full body training or push pull legs with upper lower, which is more in line with how my beyond. Bigger, leaner, stronger program is set up.
And the benefits of using workout splits to organize your training is it ensures that your workouts are focused and purposeful. It ensures that you can track your progress consistently and accurately, which is very important. If, for example, you go into the gym and train, whatever, Feel like training or think you should train.
And if you do as many sets as you want to do or as you feel like you should do based on how you’re feeling that day, and you just repeat that process, if you train very intuitively and uh, there are people. Out there who do that and who even are in good shape. I mean, I know a few guys who train like that, who are in very good shape.
Now, they didn’t get there like that. They got there with a more structured approach and then realized that maintenance is a lot easier than gaining and they don’t have to care as much anymore about how rigorous their programming is, and so they can kind of get away with that, which can be misleading.
So remember that when you see people in the gym who are super. Doing things that don’t really make sense to you. Something to consider is if they did get to that level of fitness training haphazardly, let’s say, or doing a lot of ineffective exercises, it may have taken them a very long time. You might be looking at 10 or 15 years of.
Training the result of 10 or 15 years of training, and they may have been able to get the same result in five years of much better training. So remember that and then also remember that again, once you get to your maximum level of strength and muscularity, it takes a lot less training stimulus and you can look at that in the way of volume or even exercises.
Intensity. It just takes a lot less training stimulus to stage act than it does to get jacked. And so then coming. To workout splits, they allow you to be very consistent with what you’re doing. They allow you to carefully manage the most important training variables, and then repeat a pattern again and again, and see how it goes.
Track your progress and ensure that you are increasing your whole body’s strength, for example. That’s the first thing you want to see, and if you’re taking body measurements, then of course you’re gonna want to see slow increases in those as. But the first thing you’ll see is the increase in strength before you see it in the tape measure.
And another benefit of using splits, well, as we will talk about in this podcast, is it helps you ensure that you are training all of the major muss groups you want to train adequately, and that you are not. Accidentally neglecting one or more major muscle groups because you just don’t think of training them.
For example, I’ve spoken with many women over the years who before finding me in my work, were not doing much, if any, back training because they just didn’t really think about it. They didn’t really care about their back. Said, and they never really saw their back and they were more focused on their legs and their butt and their arms, and maybe also their abdomen area.
You know, just getting a flat stomach. And I understand that that’s like the guys who neglect their legs. I was that guy, uh, for a long time. So I, I understand that. But in the case of back training in women, what many of these women told me later after they started deadlifting and doing different pull workouts and actually training their back is one, they came to really enjoy those workouts actually.
And two, they came to really appreciate the muscle definition in their back because previously before they were training their back, the thought of having a muscular back or even a defined back sounded very masculine to them. Unsexy something they just didn’t want at all. But then after doing a bunch of back training, they of course realized that it is basically impossible for most women to get a bulky anything, a bulky muscle group of any kind, so long as they manage their body fat levels correctly, because most women just can’t gain enough.
Muscle two look bulky unless they’re carrying around a lot of body fat. For most women, it seems to you about 25% and higher is where the bulky look can begin. If they have also gained a fair amount of muscle in their training. . And so then what many of these women discovered is that instead of getting a bulky or muscular back, like guys can get, they just got a defined and toned and kind of athletic looking back, which they felt did not look any more masculine than, let’s say, defined toned shoulders or biceps or triceps, and which they.
Looked great. Okay, so that’s it for what a workout split is and why it’s useful. Let’s now talk about some specific splits and how they work for women. So let’s talk about the body part split. This is the bro split the body building split where you work. One major muscle group, uh, one body part on. One day or one workout, right?
So many guys on Monday, what are they doing? They’re on the bench press. That’s chest day, that’s international Chest day, right? And then Tuesday might be a back workout, and Wednesday might be a shoulders workout. And then Thursday arms, Friday legs, then take the weekend off. And. That is a very simple split, so that’s one of the benefits, and it really can be effective.
I know a lot of people shit on bro splits and body part splits, and I disagree. I do not think that they are inferior to other splits always for everyone under all circumstances. That is just not true. For example, if you are an intermediate or an advanced weightlifter, you may. To use a body part split because you may want to really specialize in one or two major muscle groups for a training block.
Really focus in on, let’s say your arms, and you might do two or three arms days per week. And then you might just spend, let’s say you have five days to train, right? So you might do two or three arm workouts in the week to get enough volume. On your arms, cuz you’re really now trying to push for let’s say, 20 plus hard sets for both your biceps and your triceps per week.
That’s hard to do when you, you shouldn’t be exceeding probably nine or 10 sets in any individual workout, right? So let’s say you’re doing two arm workouts and because that’s not that hard, it’s a lot of volume, but they’re smaller muscle groups. You also want to focus on your shoulders. So that’s what you’re gonna do in this training block.
You’re gonna really focus on your arms and your shoulders, and so then you do two arm workout. and two shoulder workouts in the week, and then you have, let’s say one or two other days to give enough volume to the other major muscle groups in your body so as to not lose muscle and lose minimal strength.
Any strength that you lose hopefully will just be getting rusty in your form, but if you do enough. Volume, let’s say six to nine sets for the other major muscle groups in your body, and you’re doing the same big compound lifts. You’re doing some barbell squatting, some, maybe some barbell deadlifting, some bench pressing, overhead pressing.
You really shouldn’t lose anything in the way of technique, so you should be able to maintain your muscle and strength on a lot less volume for those muscle groups and with those exercises than you would. Do. And so now you have kind of a hybrid setup where you are mostly following a body part split.
Again, you’re doing two arm workouts and two shoulder workouts per week. And let’s say you have either a one feeling of one other day to train one full body. So let’s say that is gonna be your squat, dead lift bench press overhead, press workout. That might be a bit much for one workout, but certainly a squat.
Deadlift workout, or if you have two other days to train, and that makes sense. Again, that would be a lot of training six days a week. But if you’re in a calorie surplus and you’re young and invincible and you have the recovery for it, then you can do that for a bit. You might do an upper and lower, so that’s now your setup.
You have every week, two arm workouts, two shoulder workouts in an upper and a lower, mostly a body part split. Right. And there are other scenario. Again, where a body part split can make sense. If you’re new to proper weightlifting, a body part split can work quite well, contrary to what many people say, because research shows that you only need probably nine to 12 hard sets per major moss root.
Per week if you’re new. So if you’re a guy who has not yet gained his first 25 pounds of muscle, or if you’re a woman who has not yet gained about half of that, then you don’t need to do any more than that. Nine to 12 hard sets per major mouse group per week is going to produce more or less maximum muscle and strength gain for at least the first, I don’t know, six months or so.
Let’s say six to eight months. You can do more if you just want to be in the gym more and you like it, but it’s probably not going to. More muscle and strength in your first year or so, or a little bit less depending on your compliance really, and how well your body responds. And if you pair that with research that shows that you can profitably do up to about 10 hard sets for any individual muscle group.
In one workout before you reach the point of diminishing returns, before you reach the point where further volume doesn’t produce the same training stimulus, it doesn’t produce the same response in the body as the sets that you did previously. So in a sense, like those first nine or 10 sets are the most anabolic, so to speak, then you quickly realize that you could just do a body part split.
So you could just do your nine or 10 sets or maybe even 11 or 12. Your chest training on Monday, and that’s all you need for the week. And if you did more later in the week, you’re gonna burn calories and you might have a good time and enjoy the chemical rush of working out, but you’re probably not gonna gain any more muscle and strength for the week.
So then you could just do your chest volume on one day and your back volume on the next day, and your shoulders and the next day, and so forth. And inevitably, You are doing the right exercises. There actually will be some overlap, which is something to keep in mind when you see body part splits with a lot of heavy compound weightlifting, a lot of barbell squatting and deadlifting and bench pressing and overhead pressing and barbell rowing and other.
Compound lifts is those exercises do provide direct volume for muscle groups, but they also indirectly train other muscle groups. So what might look like a body part program or be promoted as a body part program could be a push pull legs program actually, or an upper lower program or more push pull legs than body part or more upper.
Than body part. Now where a body part split is least appropriate, I think is with an intermediate weightlifter. So let’s say a guy who has gained his first 20 ish pounds of muscle and he’s trying to go for the next 20 ish, or a woman who has gained her first 10 ish and wants to gain the next 10 ish.
There are much better splits for those people. And research shows that body part splits may be uniquely. For women as well. For example, a recent meta-analysis conducted by researchers at the University of New South Wales, Sydney found that most women should do lower body exercises two to four days per week to maximize muscle and strength gain.
Research also shows that women are able to recover their strength faster than men after a difficult workout, which suggests that women. Get better results on a higher frequency workout split. And that would be particularly true again for the intermediate female weightlifter who now is no longer hyper responsive to training.
The newbie gains are gone, and now she’s gonna have to work a lot harder for a lot less muscle and strength gain. She’s gonna have to do quite a bit more volume, so that volume’s gonna have. Up from, let’s say nine to 12 hard sets per major mouse group per week to something around 15 hard sets, which you actually shouldn’t be doing in an individual training session because you are not going to get the same response from that versus splitting that volume up into two or more training sessions.
The latter approach will work better over. And so that’s really just intermediate training 1 0 1. But then when you add on top of it the research that shows that women in particular may be able to benefit from higher frequency training than men, it of course just makes the most sense to not use a pure body part split again, unless you are brand new and you like it.
Now, if you are going to follow a body weight split because again, you just like it, or. Is best suited to your circumstances. Maybe you are an advanced weightlifter who wants to really focus in on certain muscle groups several times per week, and you just really want to have maintenance volume for the rest of your workouts because you don’t have the time or the inclination to sit in the gym for two hours a day.
Then you wanna make sure that you set the split up to conform to your goals. If you were to take. Average body part split. Let’s just even say the average well-designed body part split for intermediate and advanced male weightlifters. That is probably not what you are looking for. That means you are gonna be spending a lot of time on your upper body and not a lot of time on your lower body.
Now, if that’s what you wanna do, then. Great. The average body part split for intermediate and advanced male weightlifters is gonna have you do a lot of chest work, a lot of biceps work, probably a fair amount of shoulders, and yeah, that’s it. That’s probably gonna be the focus. And then the rest of the muscle groups are going to get probably a little bit less work and less attention.
And if you wanna do that, do that. But if you are like many of the. Experienced female weightlifters I’ve spoken with over the years, and you are particularly interested in bringing up your upper body. Chances are you are looking mostly at your shoulder development, your arm development, and ironically your back development.
And to do that, then you are going to want to make sure that you’re doing at least two workouts per week. Four, the muscle group or groups you want to focus on in each training block. Because remember, you can only do. Nine or 10 hard sets or so for an individual muscle group in one workout before you’re better off calling it a day and coming back a couple of days later to do another session.
That’s gonna be better than doing the next five or six sets that you’re gonna do for the week in that first. Session now as you can’t train seven days per week, as in you probably can’t logistically, and you also shouldn’t. You should take at least one day off the weights per week, if not two. Unless you are consistently in a calorie surplus and you are recovering well from your workouts, you are not getting overly sore and you’re making progress, then six days a week can work.
I’ve never seen seven days a week work for any period of time for anyone, male or female. Fyi, but I have seen guys in particular, I can’t say I’ve seen or worked with women who trained six days a week heavy and did well, but they’re probably out there. I’ve just come across it more with guys. There are certainly some guys out there who I can remember emailing with.
Who did very well on six days a week, but one in particular I am remembering was a very big, strong guy who was always very big and strong. This guy was just made for this stuff. So for most people, I think five days of intense. Resistance training per week and two days off is the best general approach.
And so if you’re gonna train five days per week and you’re gonna use a body part split to really focus on the body parts you want to improve the most, you quickly realize that you can only do that with one or two muscle groups per training block because you are probably going to want to push the en.
With the volume, you’re gonna want to be doing at least 15 hard sets per major muscle group per week, if not upward of 20. And that means, again, two or three workouts for a muscle group to get to 20, for example. I would probably rather do three than two. I’d rather do three sessions of six to seven versus two sessions of 10 to 11.
And that would especially be the case if we’re talking about legs, for example, like lower body, I would definit. Do, let’s say Monday, Wednesday, Friday, over Tuesday, Thursday, or Monday Thursday with a lot of volume in each session just to minimize soreness and to maximize performance in each session. And so let’s build that out a little bit further because chances are that’s what you’re gonna be interested in over, let’s say, three chest workouts per week.
So let’s say you’re gonna do three lower body workouts per week. You’re really gonna push it. You’re gonna get up around 20 hard sets for your legs for the week, and then you have two other sessions. Again, the goal. Is to just give the rest of the muscle groups. In this case, it’s your upper body, right? To give the major muscle groups in your upper body enough volume to just maintain the muscle and strength you have, which is probably something around, let’s say six-ish hard sets.
If you can get in six-ish hard sets for each of the major muscle groups in your upper body, and I would say that can include indirect volume to some degree, and we’ll talk about that in a second, then you can do well. On those other two days, you might have a pull day and you might have a push day.
That’s one way of doing it. You might have just two upper body workouts that are a combination of pushing and pulling and some arms work and maybe some additional shoulders work that isn’t quite pushing like side raises and rear raises, for example, and. You just wanna make sure again, that you get in enough volume how you program.
That probably doesn’t really matter because we are mostly talking about doing isolation exercises here. Maybe some bench pressing and overhead pressing, but for the most part, it’s just gonna be like different types of poles and some side raises, some rear raises, some biceps curls, some triceps press downs, and then.
Yeah, probably some bench pressing and overhead pressing. If you just made a nice combination of those exercises, maybe 12 to 16 hard sets per workout, that should be enough, which is about an hour or so of training, maybe 70 minutes. That should be enough to get enough volume in on these other major muscle groups.
That allows you to then just blast your lower.
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Okay, let’s move on to the next popular workout split, and that is the upper lower split, which divides your workouts into upper body workouts and lower body workouts. And most upper lower programs you’ll find online, at least most popular ones. Have you trained for. Four days per week. So you’ll do two upper body workouts and two lower body workouts, usually separated by a rest day.
So it might go Monday, lower Tuesday, upper Wednesday, rest Thursday, lower Friday upper, and then you’re off on the weekends. And then five day pure upper, lower programs skew either toward upper or lower, right? So it might go. Upper, lower, upper, lower, so that would be a lower centric program or upper, lower upper, lower upper for an upper body focused program, and the upper lower split is very viable.
It is viable for beginners, for intermediates. And advanced trainees. It includes a good mix of volume and frequency, and it allows you to do more lower body work in particular, especially on a four day program than you’d find with the standard body part split, which would have just one legs day, for example, one lower body day.
Now a couple of the disadvantages of the upper lower split, at least the way that you will often find it laid out, is the workouts can get pretty long, especially the upper body workouts because you’re trying to get in enough direct volume for all of the major muscle groups in your upper body to continue.
Getting stronger and continue gaining muscle. And that means then that you’re probably gonna have to do some horizontal pressing for your chest and some vertical pressing for your deltoids as well as for your shoulders, as well as some side and rear raises to get the other two deltoids that aren’t as stimulated by the overhead pressing as the front deltoids are.
And you’re gonna have to do some curls and you’re gonna have to do some triceps work. And. , you’re gonna have to do some back as well. You’re gonna have to do some pulling. It’s just a lot to do and unfortunately, unlike lower body training, you can’t count on just a couple of upper body exercises to more or less take care of all of that.
You have to do a lot of different exercises, whereas with your lower body, one session of squats gives you volume for all the muscle groups that you care about, your quads, your hamstrings, your glut. Your calves. Every muscle in your lower body really gets directly trained by just the barbell squat or some variant of it, and so does your back.
For example, it actually does train your back muscles to some degree, and your core muscles are trained significantly by. Just one exercise, the squat, and so it makes it a lot easier that you don’t have to break down all these different muscle groups in your lower body and do specific exercises for each of them.
You can just allow the compound exercises to drive at least half of the volume that you need to do, and then you can supplement them with a. Other exercises that aren’t as difficult and that emphasize certain lower body muscles over others. Like for example, you might do leg extensions for some extra quad work if you want to do that.
You might do leg curls for your hamstrings. You might do lunges, which of course don’t just train your quads but are very quad dominant. and so forth. And another downside of an upper lower split is some people don’t like to do their pushing and they don’t like to train their chest and their triceps and their shoulders and their pulling train their back and their biceps in the same workout.
Some people do. Some people find that it works really well for them. They get a really good pump and they really feel each of the muscle groups working. But other people prefer to focus on their pushing in one workout and then focus. Pulling in another workout. I’m one of those people. For example, I find that I get a bigger pump and I enjoy the workouts more.
If I’m doing mostly pushing or all of pushing in one workout and mostly pulling or all of pulling in another workout. But Arnold, for example, spoke about how he really enjoyed training his chest and his back in the same workout and how it gave him a huge pump and he made really good progress with that setup.
So to wrap up here on the upper lower split, it can work very well for women. If you are training four days per week, it is a very. Balanced approach, and it is going to allow you to train your lower body twice per week, which is going to be ideal if you are trying to bring up your lower body as quickly as possible.
But if you are more concerned with improving your upper body, then that wouldn’t be the best setup for you. Now, if you’re training five days per week, then you could just do the upper, lower, upper, lower upper setup, which then allows you. Give your upper body three sessions per week, which is enough room to hit all of the major muscle groups in your upper body with enough volume.
Okay. The next split I want to talk about is one I mentioned earlier, and that is the push pull legs split. Very simple on your push days. You train the pushing muscles in the body and your upper body. Obviously this is gonna be your chest and your shoulders, and. Triceps, and then on your pull days, you’re training the pulling muscles.
It’s gonna be your back and it’s gonna be your biceps, and then on your leg days, you train your lower body. It’s not just your legs. Like that can include glutes, for example, if you wanted to include volume directly for your glutes, which may or may not be necessary, by the way, because a properly executed barbell squat is highly effective at activating the glutes.
For example, recent research shows that it’s actually more. Than the hip thrust, for example, which isn’t to say that you should never do hip thrusts. It’s just to say that if you can do more squatting versus just the hip thrusting, and if you want to develop not just your glutes, but also the rest of your legs, , then do the squatting.
However, if you are, let’s say, maxed out on squatting in your programming and you want to push your glute volume up even further, then doing a glute specific exercise that doesn’t also involve the other major muscle groups in the legs, like the hip thrust, can make sense. Now the push pull legs split has been one of my favorites for a while now, and one of the reasons is muscles generally work in pears, right?
So the chest and the triceps generally work together. If you are bench pressing, then you are training your chest. That’s the primary muscle group, the primary volume, but you are also training your triceps. That definitely counts as volume toward triceps. You may not count it one to one like you would with your.
For me, for example, I would count one set of bench press as one half of a set of volume for my front deltoids, my side deltoids, and my triceps. But I would not count any volume toward the rear deltoids, which really aren’t much involved. Or the lats, which are a little bit involved, but not enough involved.
But anyway, back to this point of muscles working in pairs. When you train them according to. Pairings. What it allows you to do is efficiently distribute volume throughout the body. So when you do that set of bench pressing, you are now accumulating volume for three major muscle groups instead of one, which means you don’t have to spend as much time now directly training your shoulders and your triceps, or at least your front deltoids and your triceps.
And the same goes for the back and biceps pairing because a set of rows of. Any kind a dumbbell row, a seated cable row machine row, even a seal row of course provides direct volume to your back muscles that you are focusing on, but it also provides some indirect volume to your biceps. I would count one set of any of those exercises, for example, as a half of a set of volume for my bicep.
Now, in case you are wondering about the deadlift, this is something I’ve been asked about many times. I don’t count the deadlift toward the biceps at all, which surprises some people, but the reason is there’s no range of motion in your biceps. There’s no contraction. It’s really just an extreme isometric exercise, right?
Because while there is tension in your biceps, there is no contraction, there’s no moving of the biceps. They just have to stay there and tense up as a consequence of holding onto a lot of weight. Similarly, I do not count the deadlift toward the lats. I give it. Zero sets, one set of dead lifting. I count as one set of volume for the upper back, the big muscles in the upper back, including the traps, certainly the lower back, but not the lats.
I like to use other exercises to provide volume to the lats like. A pull up or a chin up or a LA pull down or a LA push down, for example. Oh, and one other thing of note regarding the deadlift is I do count the volume one-to-one for the hamstrings as well because the hamstrings are heavily involved.
Your hamstrings get sore after you deadlift. That tells you a lot. You get a hamstring pump and you get sore. And you can contrast that, by the way, with your biceps, you probably don’t get a big biceps pump from deadlifting, and you probably don’t get much biceps soreness, if any at all. If you just deadlift.
If you don’t deadlift, and then do a bunch of other pulling, for example. Okay, so coming back. To the push pull legs split. Another advantage is by alternating between the muscle groups or the groups of muscle groups. In this way, you train one part of your body while the other two parts recover, and that allows you to go into each workout feeling pretty rested and with minimal soreness and ready to give it your all.
Now, as far as programming, push pull legs for women, most are going to want to do something like this Monday, push. Tuesday, rest Wednesday, pull Thursday, rest Friday legs, and then Saturday and Sunday rest. That would be three days a week. If you’re gonna do four days per week, you may want to go legs, push rest, pull legs, rest, rest.
To give your lower body additional volume. Or another way I know many women have liked to lay it out is push legs, rest, pull legs, rest, rest. And then for five days per week, the push legs pull variation is popular. So does push legs pull, push legs, and then off on the weekend. or for maximum lower body work, three leg sessions per week.
Legs, push legs. Pull legs or legs. Pull legs. Push legs. Now a quick note, if you are gonna do three lower body sessions per week with any split, you need to make sure you are not overdoing it. You need to make sure that you are not doing too much volume, so do not exceed 20 hard sets for your lower body each week.
And you could do up to that if you just wanna see what that’s. But I would say that you probably don’t need to do more than 15 or 16 hard sets for your lower body every week to get great results. And you are not going to beat yourself up nearly as much as you will with those extra four or five sets per week, especially if you are doing a lot of heavy compound lifting.
And that segues to my other tip, which is don’t overdo the heavy compound lifting. Don’t overdo the barbell squats, whether it’s back squats or front squats. For example, I recommend nine to maybe 12 sets of squats per week. And I’m talking about here in the, in the context of three lower body sessions, so three or four sets of.
In each session and then move on to other exercises that aren’t as taxing. Then move on to the lunges and move on to the split squats and move on to the leg press and leg extensions and leg curls and so forth. Okay. Last, let’s talk about the full body split, which I believe I mentioned this earlier in this podcast, has made a bit of a resurgence of late.
So full body workouts were very popular a long time ago, like going. To the strongman pioneering days. That was how the biggest and strongest people trained was. They would train their entire body with big exercises multiple times per week. Now, the full body splits that are most popular are a little bit different, instead of just having you squat bench.
Press deadlift and overhead press over and over and over. They usually involve more exercise variations and while the workouts are called full body workouts, many of them are not full body in the sense of training every major muscle group directly or even indirectly. Usually it’s just a major upper body movement with a major lower body movement.
So you may squat and bench in the same workout and that qualifies. Full body workout, even if, let’s say it’s squat bench or bench squat, and then some volume for your biceps and your shoulders, for example. Is that truly a full body workout? Not quite, but it’s not exactly an upper body workout or a lower body workout, so it’s just called a full body workout.
Now, this is certainly a very viable. Approach to training for novices, intermediates, advanced trainees, and it certainly has its advantages. One of them, for example, is you are unlikely to run into very much muscle soreness because you have this higher frequency with which you’re training each of the major muscles groups, which means you don’t have to do as much volume each individual session.
Which is what drives the muscle damage and the connective tissue damage that produces the muscle soreness. So that’s nice. You’re not much sore from workout to workout, which isn’t actually a big deal. You can train sore muscles, and just because a muscle is sore doesn’t mean that it was effectively trained.
And just because a muscle is sore doesn’t mean that your performance is gonna be hindered. It really depends. What muscle group we’re talking about and how long it has had to recover and how much volume it got hammered with in the previous session. So, for example, I often pull on Tuesdays and squat on Fridays, sometimes Thursdays.
But uh, when I have squatted on Fridays, my hamstrings have been a bit sore come Tuesday, like when I’m warming up on the deadlift, I do feel them a little bit, even though they’ve had Saturday. And Monday to recover, and they didn’t get destroyed on Friday because I will have done some squatting, which is a lot more quads than hams, as well as another exercise that is probably a bit more focused on the quads, and then a hamstring specific exercise, and three days of recovery is certain.
Enough for me to train my hamstrings again, but they’re a little bit sore. I warm up on the deadlift and I’m feeling it a little bit, and then I get to my heavy weight and it just doesn’t get in the way of anything. I’m able to do exactly what I need to do. In my hard sets. So anyway, my point is don’t be too concerned with muscle soreness.
If you’re a little bit sore in a muscle group that you trained several days ago, you can train it again directly or indirectly, almost certainly, unless you really overdid it in your previous session. And if you’re not getting very sore from your workouts, that’s not a bad thing. That’s not a sign that you’re not training effectively.
And if you’re getting very sore from your workouts, you may be overdoing it. You may be. Too much volume in an individual session for the muscle group, or maybe just too much volume per week for a muscle group, and you are just slowly slipping more and more in your recovery. Anyway, coming back to full body splits, another advantage is they are great for scheduling because if you miss a workout and you’re not gonna be able to make it up later in the week.
It’s not a big deal, right? Because you’re only missing out on a few sets of volume for several major muscle groups, and you’re gonna be training those muscle groups again probably the following day, depending on how it’s set up. And so it’s just a minor inconvenience. Whereas with a push pull legs, let’s say you’re doing just three days per week and you miss your legs workout for the week, then now your legs are gonna go.
Quite some time. They’re gonna go for two weeks before they get trained again. And that’s not optimal, obviously, for gaining muscle and strength. And as far as disadvantages go, full body training is easier to mess up. It’s easier to make mistakes with your volume and your exercise selection and your exercise sequencing, you run the risk of just doing too much.
Also, the workouts tend to be slightly longer. Average. So if you’re short on time, that may not work well for you because you may have to be doing, let’s say, several rounds of warmup sets depending on which muscle groups you are going from. If you’re going from training your chest to your back, you’re gonna have to warm up your chest muscles to a couple of warmup sets.
Maybe that’s five minutes, three to five minutes, and then the same thing with your back. And then if you were to do, let’s say, some squatting as well in the same session, well, there’s. Three to five minute round of warmups, and now we’re at 10 or 15 minutes just warming up for the workout. But that said, when you weigh the full body split in the balance, of course you determine that, hey, it’s a great option for women because it offers a fantastic mix of frequency and volume and it allows you to.
Focus on your lower body as much as you want, or if you wanna focus on your upper body, you can do that as well. It’s very customizable. And as far as how to set up a full body routine, optimally check out the interview I did with Meno Hensel Man’s. It was posted several months ago. If you just go to the podcast, feed and search for Meno, M E N N O, you’ll find.
That was our last interview that we have done together. We’ve done several, and it was all about full body training because he is a big believer in it. He’s. Advocate of full body training, and I’m also going to be producing my own monologue on full body training because while I genuinely agree with a lot of what Meno was saying, there are certain things I might do a little bit differently, and so I figured it might be worth just getting all of my thoughts into a podcast again, because full body training is quite popular right now and I get asked about it fairly often.
And so that is all the major things I wanted. Share with you in this podcast. We can quickly wrap up with a few other little bullets I have I wanted to mention, and that is if you’re new to proper weightlifting and you don’t want to train five days per week, you don’t have to. You can do very well with three days of training per week.
Push pull legs or push legs pull if you prefer that, or three full body workouts can work really well or lower, upper lower or upper, lower upper. That can work very well. There will be. Though where you are no longer making progress with three workouts per week, and that’s because your body is no longer very responsive to the training, your newbie gains are gonna be coming to an end.
And the primary change you’re going to have to make at that point is you’re just gonna have to start working harder. And that means doing more hard sets per major muscle group per week, more volume and to do. The most practical way to get there is gonna be to add a fourth workout to your program. So if you can make that happen, that’s gonna be better than trying to extend the three workouts that you have.
And then you can work that for as long as you possibly can until you need to add even more volume. And you may be able to squeeze a bit more into your four day a week routine. But eventually, if you really. To see just how strong and how muscular you can get, or how much muscle definition you can get. If you wanna see how far your genetics will allow you to go, you’re going to want to add a fifth weekly workout to your routine.
Now, two other things regarding switching from one split to another. One is, I don’t recommend you change more than once every 12 or 16 weeks because if you change your workout plans too often, it’s gonna be very difficult to master. Biggest and most important exercises, the ones that are gonna move the needle the most, and it’s gonna make it also hard to just track your progress, because you’re not gonna be comparing apples to apples nearly as much as apples to oranges, to pears, you know, different exercises moving from machines to dumbbells, to barbells, and so forth.
But I don’t want that to discourage you from switching up your routine and switching from one split to another, because you certainly can, and I would say that you should, if you have not tried each of the types of splits I’ve spoken about in this episode and don’t know which your favorites are and which your body seems to respond.
Best to, and there’s also just something to be said for novelty, right? It is fun to change up your routine every so often, and it just makes your workouts more enjoyable, and then you’re gonna look forward to your workouts more. And then you’re probably actually gonna train a little bit harder in those workouts because you’re gonna be more f.
Focused and you’re gonna be more into what you’re doing, and that, of course can turn into better results over time. And yeah. Okay. That’s it. That’s all I’ve got for you in this episode. I hope you liked it. Thanks again for joining me today. And next up I have for you a Saysyou, the next installment of says You or I’m gonna talk about low bar versus high bar squats, recreational weed, and fasting for.
That’s gonna be tomorrow actually. And then Friday is the next q and a where I’m gonna talk about prehab routines, ideal cutting protocols, specifically lifting and cardio and hit cardio, as well as doing a single cycle of steroids. Is that a good idea? And then the following week, low back pain. Eric Helms is back another installment of Best of, and another q and.
All right. Well, that’s it for this episode. I hope you enjoyed it and found it interesting and helpful. And if you did, and you don’t mind doing me a favor, please do leave a quick review on iTunes or. Wherever you’re listening to me from, in whichever app you’re listening to me in, because that not only convinces people that they should check out the show, it also increases search visibility.
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That is the best way to get ahold of me, Mike, at multiple life.com. And that’s it. Thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you soon.