When working out – be it for weight loss or muscle gains – having a routine that works for you is the ultimate fitness hack. It ensures that not only do you enjoy the exercises, but also that you are very likely to be consistent.
Along with weight loss, building muscle is one of the goals that many gymgoers hope to achieve. A split workout routine is one of the most recommended routines for anyone who wants to see serious gains.
Unfortunately, no split routine is the same, which also means that seeking advice from your fellow gym buddies would be confusing. That said, how can one determine the best workout split for muscle gain?
In this article, we shall outline what to consider when picking the best split workout routine for muscle gain and fat loss. We shall also be tackling the pros and cons of such a routine, what to expect and much more.
What Is A Workout Split aka A Split Workout Routine?
Before getting into the best workout split for muscle gain, what exactly is a workout split?
Also known as split workouts or split training, this is a weight training program that divides your exercises by specific body regions or muscle groups. On given days of the week, people focus and train just one muscle group.
If your Instagram or TikTok algorithm is synced to fitness, you’ll likely see people talking about things like ‘leg day’ ‘ab/core day’ ‘chest and back day’ etc. This is central to what split training is about.
Things To Consider When Setting Up The Best Workout Split For Weight Loss And Muscle Gain
While split training is a very popular way of working out, not everyone can manage it. But consider this, that all bodies are different and we are all working towards different goals.
Some factors to consider as you choose the best workout split for muscle gain or weight loss include
Your workout experience
There are many kinds of split training routines. The three main ones, however, are the full body split, upper body/lower body split and the push/pull/legs split.
If you are new to working out, a full body split may be better for you than the other two options. Full body workouts involve compound movements that workout multiple muscles at the same time.
You can burn a lot of calories during a full body routine which is fantastic for muscle gain but above all, for weight loss. Those who have more gym experience can choose between the upper/lower body split and the push/pull/legs split.
Your fitness goals
This ties in with point 1 above. While all the above mentioned splits can help with muscle gain and weight loss, some may be slightly better than others. For example – advanced gym goers, the push/pull/legs option may be the better option as can allow for more volume and intensity.
How much time do you have to dedicate to the gym each week? Some people are only able to dedicate two to three days a week, others can do 6 days a week, just to workout.
Stukk others only have 1 hour of lunch (at 5 am or after 6 pm) to get their workout in. Regardless of eventual fitness goals, the best workout split for muscle gain and weight loss is one that seamlessly fits into your schedule.
Rest is something that many people – especially beginners tend to disregard. What they don’t realize is that rest is one of the best things you can do for your body, especially if your goal is to gain muscle.
When you workout your muscles, microtears can occur, a natural mechanism as part of muscle gain. – resting allows these muscles to repair and recover. With ample recovery between training sessions, your muscles can become bigger and even stronger.
A study review published in 2009 revealed that even a few minutes of rest between sets is important for muscle recovery and strength. Researchers found that 3 to 5 minutes of rest in between sets is optimal to support the greatest responses c to muscle strength, endurance, and power (3).
If only 3 to 5 minutes of rest during a workout session can do this for your muscles, imagine what an entire day or more can do. Increased muscle strength and power aren’t the only benefits of rest. Rest days also help you sleep better, reduce your risk of injury, and prevent muscle fatigue.
When it comes to weight loss, progress is made by inches, not miles, so it’s much harder to track and a lot easier to give up. BetterMe app is your personal trainer, nutritionist and support system all in one. Start using our app to stay on track and hold yourself accountable!
What Are The Pros & Cons Of A Workout Split For Weight Loss And Muscle Gain?
Some benefits of such a training include
Split workouts such as the push/pull/legs or the upper/lower body split allow you to target specific muscle groups more intensely than you would in a full-body workout. The more time you spend working a muscle – with ample recovery – the bigger and stronger it can get. This is perhaps why split training is very popular with professional (and casual) bodybuilders as well as gym trainers.
Ample Recovery Time
As previously mentioned, there is no best split workout routine that does not prioritize rest. Without adequate rest, you risk overtraining which leads to muscle fatigue and a slew of other mental and health problems (1, 2).
By splitting your workout routine, you allow your muscles 24 to 48 hours of rest which allows them to repair and recover.
Despite these benefits, split training does have some drawbacks. They include
Might Not Be Beginner Friendly
While beginners can still participate in split training, it might not be the best for them. Split routines like the push/pull/legs program require ample knowledge of muscle groups, correct technique, machine and free weights use, etc.
Beginners are less likely to know all these factors well enough to not only do the workouts well but also prevent injury. Due to this, a full body routine is best suited for them. Luckily, a full body split routine is an option for them.
Missing A Workout Equals Longer Catch-up Time
Split routines are very structured and require a lot of dedication to follow through. If you have a complicated routine that covers 5 or 6 days of the week, missing a day makes things complicated. You cannot work that muscle group for an entire week and it may affect your flow or gains.
What Does The Best Workout Split For Muscle Gain And Fat Loss Look Like?
There is no one best workout split for weight loss and muscle gain. Because all bodies are different, we all have different goals and are at different stages of working out, no one routine can work for everyone.
With that said, there are several routines that you can try and find one that suits your schedule and goals best. They include
The Whole or Full Body Split
This is the simplest and most beginner-friendly split of them all. As the name suggests, you end up training every major muscle group during one session. Not only do you burn a lot of calories using this program which is great for fat loss, but you also slowly familiarize yourself with the exercises.
Over time, once you have built some muscle, improved your cardiovascular strength, and learned how to position your body when lifting weights, you can try other types of splits.
Please note – working your entire body can be very taxing, both on you and your muscles so ensure that you get ample rest in between the week. The best full body workout routine for muscle gain using the split program is as follows
- Day 1: full body routine
- Day 2: rest
- Day 3: full body routine
- Day 4: rest
- Day 5: full body routine
- Day 6 & days 7: rest
Do 1 simple exercise per body part – each exercise should be done for 3 sets with 8 to 12 reps.
Upper/Lower Body Split
As the name suggests, your workouts are divided into upper-body and lower-body days. Upper body muscle groups include the pec muscles (chest), lats (back), deltoids (shoulders), and biceps, triceps, etc while lower body muscles include quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. Abs can be trained on either day, but most people tend to train them on lower body days.
Depending on the amount of time you have you can do the upper body/lower body split 4 to 6 days a week. The 4-day split gives you 2 rest days a week while the 6-day split only gives you one off day.
This split is often recommended to people between the beginner and intermediate stages. It allows you to divide the full body split into 2 and work out more with extra days and additional exercises.
This is the routine used by most advanced gymgoers. With the push-pull-leg routine, you train your body in 3 sections with more attention given to the upper body. I.E,
- Push exercises work your pushing muscles and target the shoulders, chest, and triceps
- Pulling exercises do the opposite and work pulling muscles. They target the forearms, back, and biceps.
- Legs just refer to lower body exercises. On this day you will be targeting the muscles located in the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves.
- Ps. ab exercise can be done on any of the 3 days.
Because of how the split is set up, you can only do it 3 days a week ( with 4 rest days)or 6 days a week (with 1 rest day). This allows you not to train any set of muscles more than others.
BetterMe App helps you achieve your body goals with ease and efficiency by helping to choose proper meal plans and effective workouts. Start using our app and you will see good results in a short time.
What Is The Best 5 Day Workout Split For Muscle Gain?
A 5-day split workout routine is a program that divides your weekly training sessions into 5 days. Such programs are often done by intermediate and advanced bodybuilders.
Because you have more days to work with, such a program allows you to only work on one muscle group per day till exhaustion. A common example of a 5-day split used by many is as follows
- Day 1: Chest
- Day 2: Back
- Day 3: Arms
- Day 4: Shoulders
- Day 5: Legs
- Day 6 & 7: Rest
This, however, isn’t the only 5 day split available. If only working one part of the body doesn’t sound good to you, you could try the following
- Day 1: Legs & Abs
- Day 2 : Chest
- Day 3: Back
- Day 4: Shoulders & Abs
- Day 5: Biceps & Triceps
- Days 6 & 7: Rest
The workout options are endless. Remember, the best 5 day workout split for muscle gain is one that works with your schedule and aligns with your goals.
What Workout Split Is The Best For Muscle Gain?
When it comes to what is the best workout split for muscle gain, the answer almost always depends on the individual. However, the push/pull/legs program as well as the upper body/lower body split seem to be the most preferred.
Unlike the full body split, you can do more workouts per session and you also end up training your muscles with more volume and intensity. Training muscles under higher volume and load can allow for more strength and mass.
What Is The Most Effective Workout Split For Muscle Gain?
In the same way that we lose weight at different rates, so do we build muscle. There is no telling what split program will be most effective for you unless you try it out and see.
With that said
- Beginners should try the full body split first. It’s great for weight loss and allows ample time to rest recover and repair muscles
- Intermediates are better off with the upper/lower split. It’s more intense than the full body option but not as time-consuming or demanding as the push/pull/legs option
- Advanced/bodybuilders – All the endurance and strength built over time can make the push/pull/legs program best for you.
What Is The Best Workout Split To Build Muscle?
The best workout split for muscle gain is one that not only fits into your schedule but one that takes into consideration your goal, fitness levels, and recovery time.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to the best workout split for muscle gain, there is no ultimate program that works for everyone. When setting up or looking for an ideal program, find one that works with your schedule, aligns with your goals, and fits with your current fitness level.
Failure to do this will cause you to end up falling off the program and not reaching your goals. There are many ways to split a routine, so you can definitely find something that works for you.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Does overtraining exist? An analysis of overreaching and overtraining research (2004, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Overtraining Syndrome (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Rest interval between sets in strength training (2009, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)