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The Best Body Part Split for You: A Reader’s Question

I get some great questions about training, nutrition, recovery, and motivation from readers. Many of these questions are common among you so I’d like to answer some right here for all to benefit from.

Here is an email I received from Nick. He has a few concerns about training splits.

Hey Brad,

This is a little different question that may or may not have an easy answer but I need your advice and reasoning to finding my way.

At 40yrs old, I’ve probably reached my genetic potential being that I’ve been lifting almost 20 yrs now. I would like to know your reasoning for hitting each muscle twice per week? I mean, on paper, it seems great- lots of volume per week, science backed being that muscles recover in a few days and most approve. But how effective is it in reality compared to any other workout? At the end of the day, if your not progressing in weight, reps no matter the rep range, the progress halts. So I find trying to fit 3 muscles in a workout, then doing it again in 4 days just making the process harder… ?

I personally haven’t gained any more muscle regardless of the frequency I’m training.  1/2 or 3 times per week. The reason I’m asking is because I feel like I want to make things simple. Sometimes my wife says, “If want to workout before we leave to run errands you have about 30-45min.” Chest/Back and abs could work but I cant really push hard enough. This brings me to my next point.

A couple times last week this happened where I had very little time. So I decided to do just chest-4 exercises, 4 sets each abs at the end. I even wanted to do some cardio after which never happens. My intensity was higher, my focus was greater and I was lifting heavier than I normally do due not having to save intensity and energy for multiple muscles per workout. 

I find the bro split quite enjoyable and honestly effective. Even with the low frequency, I really can’t find too many other problems with it. I enjoy each workout separately and can really give all my attention to the muscle I’m working. 

Since I have arthritis in my knees, hitting legs once per week is great and who doesn’t love hitting arms? Haha. I follow the splits you do because you know what works, but I don’t feel I truly enjoy them because I’m constantly researching or finding ways to sway my decision to doing a bro split but I know you don’t agree with this approach so I’ve hesitated sending this email.

Thanks Brad, Nick

Your thoughts are appreciated 

***

Nick makes some great points and has some legitimate questions and concerns. I’ll do my best to help out by breaking down a few things.

My best splits

I’ve posted before about my favorite body part splits. I must stress that these are my personal favorites. If you’ve followed my writing for any length of time you’ll know that I’m a fan of a bit more frequent training and also grouping several body parts together on each day.

I’ve also talked a little about how this fits into our over 40 crowd–how splitting your training isn’t all that much different than that from years ago. I do, however, replace exercises, perform a few differently, and pay very close attention to recovery. But I must repeat that those splits work for me. I’ve had and continue to have success with them and don’t have a need to change at this point.

I also like to prescribe those splits to readers and clients for the simple fact that the majority of them are under training and need something to shock them into new muscle growth. In other words, what they are currently doing (normally a “bro split”) just isn’t working for them. This may be due to the fact that the “bro split” just isn’t for them or that they just aren’t working hard enough.

Whatever it may be, they voice that what they’re doing simply hasn’t reaped the results they’re after.

Are my splits working?

Now let’s address Nick’s concerns. He states in his email that the more frequency coupled with appropriate intensity and volume is a tough box to check day after day and week after week.

One of the many lines stood out to me:

I follow the splits you do because you know what works, but I don’t feel I truly enjoy them

That tells me volumes. Nick also states the research and what others have said regarding more frequent training, but motivation toward your plan is pivotal. Simply put, if you’re not enjoying your training, if you’re not excited to show up every day and hit the iron hard then something needs to change no matter what science says.

Now, I love science. I’m a believer in peer-researched studies touting the benefits of specific protocols, but we are all built a bit differently and we all have our little silos we live in. I, for example, have always trained the way I do: more frequency, moderate volume. That has worked for me and I am incredibly adapted to training that way. I’ve tried “bro splits” and honestly don’t like them. But that’s me.

Back to Nick.

Are your splits working?

Nick made some other interesting remarks regarding performing a traditional “bro split” due to time constraints.

My intensity was higher, my focus was greater and I was lifting heavier than I normally do

Then he concluded with this.

I find the bro split quite enjoyable and honestly effective.

This tells me through life’s unexpected circumstances and ultimately self-discovery Nick virtually stumbled upon a solution to his dilemma.

And I understand Nick’s frustration. We all scour the internet for answers. We read the research, read blogs (like mine) and think those are the only ways to execute their plans for more muscle.

I am the first to tell anyone reading that I do not have all the answers and that my way isn’t the only way. Nick has found where he needs to be: training with a traditional “bro split” under his own terms and conditions. My advice to him is to limit his intake of other programs and information with a filter and keep listening to his body. He should continue to fine tune his plan with small changes only where needed and pave his own way.

I hope Nick can update us all on his progress in the comments section below. I’m sure there are many more readers in the same boat.

Happy lifting.

***

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By Brad Borland

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

2 replies on “The Best Body Part Split for You: A Reader’s Question”

Hey Brad!

Thanks for posting this. I find that different times in life call for different workouts/frequencies. I have been doing 1 body part per day for the last month and it is going well.

As long as I have been lifting (almost 20yrs) Im learning to be flexible. Life gets in the way and sometimes I dont have time for Chest/Back/Abs, or I might but the intensity wont be there. But that doesnt mean I should just skip working out… If that was the case I would probably just give up as theres always things that I need to do so its important to find a way to stay consistant.

I’m finding that it’s not one workout or workout frequency that will get you results but thinking long term. Before I switched my workout I was getting burned out in about 3 weeks into the higher frequency programs. That’s my body telling me I need to change something. As much as I like the idea of hitting everything twice per week, I just wasnt recovering well…

I do have my eyes on the push/pull/legs workout you recently posted, so I’m eager to try that at some point. I recently started upping the frequency to every 5-6days on a push/pull/shoulders/legs workout to see how my recovery is then I would like to try your push/pull/legs routine 🙂

Thanks for your help!

Yes. I like what you said about having a long term mentality. Frequency, volume, choices in movements, sets, reps, loads, etc. all will evolve over the years especially as we get older. And yes, you hit the nail on the head: flexibility is key. It’s those out there who become set in their ways that start to incur injury and end up quitting.

Let me know how you do!

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