Pros and Cons of Split System Training Routines

Two men working out in gym

Hero Images / Getty Images

Split system training is a program of weight training that divides training sessions by body regions—usually upper- and lower-body training. For example, your weight training program includes a lower-body split on Tuesdays and an upper-body split on Thursdays.

The concept can get even more specific with various combinations of the main muscle group regions being categorized for split training (i.e., the legs, buttocks, arms, back, chest, and abdominals).

Rarely do split systems divide training into each of these regions. Focusing on the legs and butt in one session and arms, back, and chest in another session is more common. Abdominal training can fit in either session.

Split system training is mostly used by bodybuilders or fitness trainers; professional powerlifters and Olympic lifters do not use this approach.

Pros of Split System Training

Split training allows time for a more intense workout of a body area, with extra days for recovery before that area is worked out again. If you have an hour a day to spend on exercise, a split routine will let you target one or two muscle groups intensively each day with more sets and heavier weights.

Working a muscle group to fatigue will stimulate muscle repair and growth. This intensity of training may lead to better results for muscle building.

Split training allows you to follow the American Council of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Guidelines and allow at least 48 hours between resistance training exercise sessions for a major muscle group.

Cons of Split System Training

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends full-body workouts for people with a limited schedule and for beginners, who usually start with a full-body workout routine so they can learn proper exercise technique and build overall strength and fitness.

With a split routine, it is important not to skip any workouts as they each have a different focus. Allowing too long between workouts of a muscle group impairs progress towards your goal.

If you are unable to keep to a strict schedule, a total body workout may be a better option for you than split training.

Split System Training Routines

As you work to craft your split system training program, consider these options. While commonly used, these are not your only choices. You can also work to create a routine that you like best.

Upper Body/Lower Body Split

This is a common split, alternating days of exercising only the upper body and only the lower body. It's a good choice for general fitness. Abdominal exercises are done on your choice of days.

Push/Pull Split

This type of split works out both upper and lower body but separates the exercises into one day of pushing exercises that target the upper body (including the chest, shoulders, triceps) and lower body exercises such as squats and lunges. The alternate day is for pulling exercises (e.g., curls, rows, pulldowns, or a deadlift) that target the back of the body and biceps.

Antagonistic Muscles Split Workouts

Opposing muscle groups are worked out each day, split into groups for three workouts per week or four workouts per week.

Advanced Splits

Workouts focus on just one major muscle group per day. This schedule usually requires four or more workout days each week. Here are a few examples:

  • Advanced bodybuilding split: One major muscle group per day is targeted over the course of six days.
  • Advanced split routine: This plan breaks out legs, arms, back and core, chest, shoulders, and traps.
6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Plowman SA, Smith DL.  Exercise Physiology for Health Fitness and Performance (Fifth Edition). LWW. 2017.

  2. American Council on Exercise. Total-body Workout for Beginners. January 2015.

  3. International Sports Science Association. Upper/lower split: the best workout plan?.

  4. Brown L. (Editor). Strength Training By NSCA -National Strength & Conditioning (Second Edition). Human Kinetics. 2017.

  5. National Academy of Sports Medicine. NASM Essentials of Sports Performance Training (Second Edition). Jones & Bartlett Learning. 2019.

  6. Schoenfeld B. Strong & Sculpted. Human Kinetics. 2016.

By Paul Rogers
Paul Rogers is a personal trainer with experience in a wide range of sports, including track, triathlon, marathon, hockey, tennis, and baseball.