Picking what type of weights workout to do is confusing. It can even be more daunting than starting at the gym in the first place, though maybe not quite as daunting as that female behemoth who seems to live in the squat rack and has a grunt to rival King Kong. A split refers to what type of workout you do and how you train each body part. No one way of splitting up muscle groups is necessarily best, but if you can make it to the gym four or five days per week, two styles of workout you might consider are a five-day split and a double split for your upper and lower body.
Five-day splits are more bodybuilding-focused than working your whole body every workout. On a five-day split, you dedicate one session a week to just one or two muscle groups. The idea behind this is that you can hit each body part hard, and it gets a full week to recover before you work it again. Trainer and fitness model Jamie Eason favors a split routine, though she recommends training your leg muscles twice each week. Perform a back workout on Monday, work your shoulders on Tuesday and legs on Wednesday. Rest or perform a cardio workout on Thursday, train your arms, chest and abs on Friday, legs again on Saturday and rest on Sunday.
Double Split Workout
A double split workout is a better option if you're busy and can only hit the gym four times a week. Double splits involve working each muscle group twice a week, which requires a different approach to scheduling your workouts. The easiest way is to split this into upper-body and lower-body days. Train your lower body on Monday and Thursday and your upper body on Tuesday and Saturday. You can vary the days if you wish but make sure you always alternate upper and lower sessions.
Selection, Sets and Repetitions
Regardless of what type of split you choose, exercise selection is a huge consideration. Make your main exercises are compound ones that work lots of muscle groups, advises strength coach Molly Galbraith. These include bench presses, chinups, squats and deadlifts. As for the weights, sets and reps, the main thing to make sure of is that you're pushing yourself. You'll build strength with sets of one to five reps, muscle mass with sets of six to 12 and endurance with high-rep sets of 15 and over.
If you just can't decide which option to go for, treat yourself and pick both. Try out a five-day split for six to eight weeks, then switch to a double split workout for a further six to eight. After this, take stock of how you progressed. Look at which type of training made you stronger, leaner and fitter, then go with that for your next six to eight week stint.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.