How to Set up a Split Strength Training Routine

Separate Your Workouts to Target Different Areas

Caucasian woman lifting weights
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Strength training is an important part of a complete exercise program no matter what your fitness goals are, and splitting your weekly workouts to focus on different targeted muscle groups on different days will help ensure that you hit them all without overworking any one area. Setting up a weekly routine to split your training may seem overwhelming at first, but it's easier than you think.

Split vs. Whole Body Workouts

When it comes to lifting weights, many people start with a total body program. This type of workout is great for beginners because it allows your body time to get used to lifting weights and prepare for more strenuous work. However, if you've been doing full body workouts for a while, you may have noticed that you've hit a plateau in the results you're seeing—a normal occurrence when you keep doing the same workouts for too long.

While total body training is great, there are drawbacks. When you're working all of your muscle groups at once, you don't have the time or energy to focus on each muscle group as closely as you would if you split your workouts. Split routines allow you to do more exercises and more sets using heavier weights, which will yield more results. These routines also let you lift more often since you're working different muscle groups on different days.

How to Split Your Workouts

There are a number of ways to split your weekly workout routine, and there's no right or wrong way to do it; listen to your body and do what feels right for you. Here are some common split routines, but you can devise your own variations:

  • Upper and Lower Body: Divide your weekly workout into upper body days and lower body days, which will allow you to alternate the workouts and lift two, three, or four times each week.
  • Push-Pull Exercises: Split your weekly workout by making certain days push exercise days and others pull exercise days. Pushing exercises usually involve the quads, calves, chest, shoulders, and triceps; you might combine squats, calf raises, bench press, overhead press, and dips. Pulling exercises often involve the back, hamstrings, some types of shoulder exercises, biceps, and abs and could include lat pulldowns, hamstring curls, upright rows, bicep curls, and crunches.
  • Three-day Split: Divide your weekly workout into a three-day split where you split upper body work into a push/pull routine over two days and work your lower body on a separate day. A typical three-day split would include chest and triceps work on Day 1, back and biceps on Day 2, and legs and shoulders on Day 3.
  • One Group Per Day: Lift weights for one muscle group per day by working chest, back, shoulders, arms, and legs each on a different day.

    As you reduce the number of body parts you're working, you should increase the number of exercises you're doing (pick about three exercises per muscle group) and the number of sets you're doing (around three to four sets of each exercise type).

    Integrating Cardio Exercise

    Your workout routine should also include cardio exercise, which burns more calories than weight training and will get your heart rate up. It's best to try to keep your strength and cardio workouts separate either on different days or at different times of the day, but if you're pressed for time, doing cardio and strength in the same workout is acceptable.

    Doing Cardio and Strength Workouts Together

    A Word From Verywell

    Experiment with different schedules and exercise combinations to find what works for you, and don't be afraid to change things up; your body and mind will welcome the challenge of taking on a new exercise routine.

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