I have written HUNDREDS of programs over the years and put to test dozens of training splits. Some worked great while others not so much. When it comes down to it, the training split that is going to be the most effective is the one that allows the individual to:
- Be pushed
- Recover properly
- Stick with long term
- Reach their goal
What I’ve found is that training 4x a week is the sweet spot when it comes to long term development. Whether the person wants to gain muscle, increase strength, lose fat, improve conditioning, or all the above (pretty much what everyone checks off when they inquire about my coaching services), training most days of the week (4/7) is sufficient for most goals.
Here are five 4-day training week splits that I have used and rotated amongst my clients:
1. Upper/Lower Movement Pattern Split
This is the most common training split that I use. Nearly all of my personal training clients use this split as it works well for rotating exercise variations while also allowing for optimal recovery. I also prefer this split because we can distribute volume throughout the week rather than hammer it all in one day. Also, this split is adaptable to nearly every training goal: gaining muscle, fat loss, recomp, etc…
2. Westside Method Split
I prefer this split for strength or conventional sports athletes. Simply, you have a heavy upper body and lower body day in the beginning of the week and a light upper body and lower body day at the end of the week. I will use this split for clients who need a progressive percentage based program. You can definitely build muscle on this split, but I prefer it for strength development.
3. Push/Pull Split
This isn’t too different from the upper/lower movement pattern split. The only difference is you would hit all pushes and pulls on separate days. The main issue I see with this split for clients who want to build muscle is that the shoulder joint will be taking a heavy toll on the push focus day considering they will more than likely be flat, incline, and overhead pressing all in one session. Nonetheless, I normally use this as a training split to rotate in when a client needs “something different’ for the sake of a mental break.
4. Conventional Bodybuilding Split
All the cool kids hate on bodybuilding and the typical “bro splits” these days. Funny thing is that most people who bash on bodybuilding splits write some of the worst planned and least sensible workouts I’ve ever seen. This is often due to their misconception of what “functional training” really is. When it comes to putting on size, you can’t go wrong with high volume training four times a week. Also, don’t mistake a conventional bodybuilding split as being only useful for building muscle. So long your nutrition is on dial, these work very well for fat loss as well.
5. Full Body Movement Pattern Split
This split sucks and it’s not because it doesn’t work. This split requires training legs four times a week. Because the lower body movements are distributed by movement pattern, you don’t need to do much more than one leg exercise per day so long you’re hitting it hard. Your legs and back will grow on this split if you are eating like a horse. If you want to diet on this split, good luck! Though you’ll be setting yourself up for an increased metabolism, you’ll also be living the sore life every damn day.
*You may notice that I list “active recovery” on days 3 and 6 for each training split. Depending on the goal, this could be anything from: yoga, low intensity outdoor activity (surfing, paddleboarding, kayaking, cycling, hiking, etc), leisure sports (pick up basketball, braziian jiu jitsu, boxing, soccer, softball, etc), or simply a designated metabolic conditioning day. Ensure that these activities are low in intensity and ultimately do not inhibit your recovery. With that said, if you are de-conditioned, just stick to your four days of training.
Well there you go. Five solid 4-day training splits that you can rotate year around. Do what you will with them…
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