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What’s the Best Body Part Split if You’re Over 40?

If you’re like me you love training. Not “get in shape with step class” kind of training, but bodybuilding style training that puts muscle on your frame. (Nothing wrong with step class, just not my cup of tea). I love the pump from blood, I love pushing myself, and I love the discipline. But this love can, and has gotten me into trouble in the past.

Coming back before recovering, doing too much, and training too frequently are just a few of the traps that my love of training has thrown me into. I sometimes get too overzealous and end up over trained and risk injury. I’ve learned from my mistakes (which I’ll never take back) so you don’t have to.

I want to break down body part split training for us dudes over 40. Is it any different? Should some things remain the same? Are you getting all you can out of your split?

Answer These Questions First

What’s your why?

Why do you want to make a plan in the first place? What is/are your goal(s)? Answer more of these kind of questions then the clearer your answers become. If it’s to put on muscle, increase strength, and avoid or reduce body fat then now you’re getting closer to a plan. If so, let’s move on.

 

How much availability do you have?

Are you a 40-plus hour per week kind of guy/girl? More? What’s a realistic schedule to train look like? Notice I didn’t say possible. With possible come sacrifice from family, friends, and other important priorities in your life. You’re not Rocky fighting a Russian. You’re you with a family, soccer practice, a wife, friend and work obligations. Fill in the blanks, I’m sure they’re plenty more you could list.

 

Are other factors involved?

Are there other things that would manipulate your availability? Poor diet? Lack of motivation? Past injuries that limit your performance? If you lack motivation, for example, you won’t do well heading the gym seven day per week for two hours per day. Be honest with yourself.

 

How’s your recovery?

Recovery is one of the most overlooked aspects of training and nutrition. Forget your favorite action hero on social media bragging they get up at 3 am and absolutely kill it (#hustle). Your body needs proper nutrition, enough quality sleep, and adequate recuperation days during the week. Pushing the limits while running on fumes will burn you out, guaranteed.

 

Will what worked in the past work now?

Your glory days are over. I know there are plenty of guys and girls out there who will argue with me on this, but the majority of us will have to adjust things as we move north of 40. I for one have to warm up longer, use higher reps (so I don’t use heavy weight), and have to pay very close attention to sleep habits and nutrition. Sure, I can put a ton of weight on the bar and squat for low reps, but I will pay for it in one way or another. Most of all those kinds of acts will hamper my longevity and keep me out of the gym more days than in.

If I want to continue to make progress, build muscle, keep body fat at bay, and truthfully enjoy training then I need to follow the guidelines. And you may have to also.

 

My Favorite Splits

Cutting to the chase, I have three tried and true splits I’ve used over the years. They aren’t sexy or groundbreaking, but they work for me. With that said it isn’t necessarily the splits that have allowed me to be progressive. It’s more about how I use them.

First let’s take a look at them then I’ll get into the how.

 

Split 1

Probably my favorite of the three. I’ve used this the most over the years with great success. Each day has a push and a pull so it’s easy to superset movements for chest and back, triceps and biceps, and quads and hams.

  1. Chest, Back, Abs.
  2. Shoulders, Triceps, Biceps, Abs.
  3. Calves, Quadriceps, Hamstrings

 

Split 2

This is the traditional push, legs, pull scenario. Another great split that allows full recovery of each movement meaning that push gets full rest as does pull. Very little overlap during the week.

  1. Chest, Shoulders, Triceps, Abs.
  2. Calves, Quadriceps, Hamstrings
  3. Back, Biceps, Abs.

 

Split 3

This split is used sporadically when I either have limited days per week to train or I’m coming back from a layoff. I use lower volume per body part, but a bit higher frequency.

  1. Chest, back, Shoulders, Abs.
  2. Calves, Triceps, Biceps, Quadriceps, Hamstrings

 

How to use Them

In my experience I try to inversely relate volume and frequency. The higher the frequency the lower the volume in one day and vice versa. So with splits 1 and 2 I may perform around 12 sets for a larger body part such as chest, but maybe 8 or 9 sets total for chest on split 3. Yes, I know, not a huge difference, but when my training is on point along with recovery and nutrition it matters.

Splits 1 and 2: I used to perform a 3-on, one-off type schedule with splits 1 and 2. These days (because of numerous other life obligations) I like to schedule certain days during the week and allow the split to naturally rotate.

For example:

Day 1: Workout 1
Day 2: Workout 2
Day 3: Workout 3
Day 4: Off
Day 5: Workout 1
Day 6: Workout 2
Day 7: Off
Day 8: Workout 3

If you match up days to the week I’m training Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Thursday and Sunday are rest days. I train five days then on Monday of the next week I pick back up with Workout 3 and keep going on each of the designated days.

 

Split 3: This split is a bit more straightforward and flexible. This is a 2-on, 1-off, 2-on, 2-off scenario.

Day 1: Workout 1
Day 2: Workout 2
Day 3: Off
Day 4: Workout 1
Day 5: Workout 2
Day 6: Off
Day 7: Off

As you can see recovery is balanced with training stimulation. This allows for training and proper recovery for the sole purpose of progress and longevity.

 

As you also may have detected almost everything I write or recommend to others can be put into these splits. I simply just believe in them that much.

Give these a try and let me know how you do.

By Brad Borland

Cancer Survivor, Military Veteran, University Lecturer, Strength Coach, Natural Drug-Free Bodybuilder, Husband, Father

4 replies on “What’s the Best Body Part Split if You’re Over 40?”

Another great post Brad, just wondering where you are based in the USA and what the time difference is. It’s 14.15 here in the uk. Quick question, what would be your go too or number 1 supplement you would use if you could only take 1? Yours in sport, Tony Banks, Lancashire, England.

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Hi Tony,
Great to hear from you and thanks for the kind words.

I’m not a huge advocate for supplements, but I do appreciate the ones that work. I guess the number one supplement for me (when talking about sports performance other than vitamins and minerals) would be a good quality protein powder. The reason is just pure convenience. I don’t believe it will change the world, but it’s good to have it around for insurance.

Other than that creatine would be a close second. It’s the only supplement that lives up to the claims. Other than that I big on great nutrition (nothing beats it) and proper training and recovery. Many forget the importance of those three things.

Best!

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Hello,
I definitely believe it has its place. It really depends on your goals. I for one like to build more muscle mass and like to keep as much of it as I diet. If you’re one who is happy with the amount of muscle you carry then MRT can definitely be an option. MRT is great for several reasons: it can be fun, it staves off boredom, it’s time-saving, it keeps you busy through the whole workout, and it can boost calorie burn big time!

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