For resistance-training beginners or anyone seeking general health benefits, performing a full-body routine that addresses all the major muscle groups two or three times a week is ideal. If a client is interested in, and able to commit to, additional resistance-training sessions, it’s time to introduce a split routine, which involves training different muscle groups or actions during different training sessions. Split routines begin when a client progresses from performing full-body workouts two or three days per week to adding a fourth day of training.

Consider a client who started resistance training six months ago, beginning with twice-weekly full-body workouts. After two months of consistency, they were pleased with their results and, after discussing it with you, started performing that same workout a third time each week. Now, they are ready to commit to a fourth day of resistance training. Rather than add another full-body workout, which wouldn’t give them the time they need to adequately recover between sessions, you decide to introduce them to the concept of split routines.

But what’s the best way to do that? And, first, what does the research tell us about the effectiveness of this approach?

The evidence around split routines can be difficult to interpret. In an effort to compare apples to apples, so to speak, researchers will often look at exercise programs with similar overall training volumes to evaluate their effectiveness. The training volume of a workout can be determined in several ways. The following calculations are two common methods used for measuring the overall training volume for an entire exercise session or a specific muscle group targeted during a workout. Perform the following calculation for each exercise, then total those values:

Volume = Weight lifted x Number of sets x Number of repetitions per set

Repetition-volume calculation: Volume = Sets x Repetitions

So, when comparing two full-body workouts to four split-routine workouts, researchers will often maintain the same overall weekly training volume. For example, this research found that resistance training performed two or four times per week has similar effects on neuromuscular adaptation, provided weekly volume is equal. Similarly, researchers did not find any difference in terms of maximal strength, muscle mass, explosive muscle strength or maximal power when comparing two full-body workouts to a four-day split routine. However, once again, they ensured an equal volume of training across the training regimens.

The issue with these studies is that they negate one of the primary benefits of split routines: the added volume that comes with performing more exercises for each muscle group or action over the course of the week. As you’ll see below, splitting a full-body routine into multiple workouts per week provides additional training volume and variety. And, it’s important to note, research has shown that split routines are a viable strategy to increase muscle strength and hypertrophy.

This brings us back to the question of how to split a full-body workout into four or more workouts per week.

Below you’ll find a sample full-body routine (Table 1), which is then used to demonstrate how to divide the workout into split routines for clients who want to perform resistance training four, five or even six days per week. The two most common ways to split a routine are by body area/muscle group and by function. Either way, splitting the routine allows you and your client to devote more time to each body area/muscle group or function/movement and introduce more variety into the workouts.

Note that the number of sets and repetitions is determined by the client’s goals, abilities and experience with resistance training (more on this in The ACE Workout Builder for Split Routines). One popular method of ensuring safe progression over time is the double-progression training protocol, which involves, for example, the client choosing a resistance they can lift for no more than eight repetitions, then using that same weight until they are able to perform 15 repetitions per set with good form. Once they have accomplished this, they can increase the resistance by 5% and start the process over.

Keep in mind that we are not advocating a one-size-fits-all approach to programming. Rather, these sample routines can and should be modified as needed with each of your clients.

Table 1. Full-body Workout: Two or Three Days/Week

 Exercise Body Areas/Muscle Groups Functions Chest Press Chest, arms, shoulders Pushing Back Squat Glutes, hips, legs Bend-and-lift Standing Hay Baler Abs Rotational Rotational Overhead Press Shoulders Pushing Standing Hamstrings Curl Abs, legs Single-leg Hammer Curl Arms Pulling Bent-over Row Back, arms, shoulders Pulling

### Part 1: Split Routines Based on Body Area/Muscle Group

#### Four Days/Week

For the client performing resistance training four days per week who is splitting the routine by muscle group, the full-body routine typically is divided into two portions, each of which is performed twice per week. In this example, the routine is divided into upper body and lower body, with the addition of torso/core training on certain days (Table 2). This type of routine can add variety to a workout and allow for an increased training volume, while still providing appropriate levels of recovery between sessions that target the same muscle groups.

As you can see, by splitting the routine, we were able to include nearly a dozen new exercises in this client’s routine. This illustrates how split routines provide a substantial increase in both movement variety and challenge, while also increasing the total volume of exercises performed per week per body area or muscle group. In addition to adding variety, using different exercises to target the same muscle group allows the training stimulus to remain novel and to promote continued progression.

Table 2. Four Days/Week: Body Area/Muscle Group

 Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Upper Body + Torso Lower Body Upper Body Lower Body + Torso Chest Press Back Squat Chest Press Back Squat Bent-over Row Standing Hamstrings Curl Bent-over Row Plank-ups Plank-ups Walking Lunges with Twists Lying Barbell Triceps Extension Walking Lunges with Twists Hammer Curl Glute Bridge Hammer Curl Glute Bridge Standing Hay Baler Side Lunge Side Lunge Lateral Raise Calf Raises Lateral Raise Calf Raises Standing Anti-rotation Press Kneeling Hip-flexor Stretch Chin-ups Standing Hay Baler

#### Five Days/Week

Once a client progresses to performing resistance-training five days per week, it allows you and the client to target each body area/muscle group on its own with a variety of movements and exercises, and to challenge the client in new ways (Table 3).

Table 3. Five Days/Week: Body Area/Muscle Group

 Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Chest Back/Torso Legs Shoulders/Torso Arms Offset Single-arm Chest Press Chin-ups Seated Leg Press Bottom-up Press Hammer Curl Chest Press Half-kneeling Hay Baler Romanian Deadlift Lateral Raise Lying Barbell Triceps Extension Single-arm Rotational Press Bent-over Row Glute Bridge Half-kneeling Hay Baler Standing Biceps Curl Close-grip Bench Press High Row Goblet Squat Rotational Overhead Press Triceps Pressdown Lying Chest Fly Standing Crunch Side Lunge Halo Wrist Curl – Extension Standing Anti-rotation Press Incline Reverse Fly Reverse Lunge With Rotation Kneeling Reverse Fly Wrist Curl – Flexion Single-arm Overhead Press Standing Crunch

#### Six Days/Week

When a client progresses to performing resistance training six days a week, it’s important that they follow a pattern of three days on/one day off in order to ensure they get adequate rest between workouts.

Adding that sixth workout each week allows the exercisers to devote a full workout to each area of the body, with the torso finally getting a full session of its own (Table 4).

Table 4. Six Days/Week: Body Area/Muscle Group

 Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday* Thursday Friday Saturday Legs Back Chest Shoulders Arms Torso Seated Leg Press High Row Offset Single-arm Chest Press Bottom-up Press Hammer Curl Standing Trunk Rotation Romanian Deadlift Incline Reverse Fly Chest Press Lateral Raise Lying Barbell Triceps Extension Russian Twist Glute Bridge Bent-over Row Single-arm Rotational Press Rotational Overhead Press Standing Biceps Curl Seated Medicine Ball Trunk Rotations Goblet Squat Chin-ups Close-grip Bench Press Halo Triceps Pressdown High Plank T-spine Rotation Side Lunge Single-arm Row Lying Chest Fly Kneeling Reverse Fly Wrist Curl – Extension Bicycle Crunches Reverse Lunge with Rotation Seated Row Standing Anti-rotation Press Single-arm Overhead Press Wrist Curl – Flexion Half-kneeling Hay Baler

*Note that the day of rest will shift each week as the client adheres to the "three days on/one day off" routine.

### Part 2: Split Routines Based on Function

#### Four Days/Week

Another way to build a four-day split routine is to focus on function by organizing the exercises around the five primary movement patterns:

• Bend-and-lift movements
• Single-leg movements
• Pushing movements
• Pulling movements
• Rotational movements

This split routine has the client performing a different workout on each of their four days of training (Table 5).

Table 5. Four Days/Week: Function

 Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Pushing, Pulling, and Rotation Bend-and-Lift Pushing and Pulling Single-leg and Rotation Chest Press Deadlift Offset Single- Arm Chest Press Bulgarian Split Squat Bent-over Row Front Squat Bent-over Row Standing Trunk Rotation Rotational Overhead Press Glute Bridge Single-arm Rotational Press Lunge with Overhead Press Bottom-up Press Goblet Squat Chin-ups Standing Hamstrings Curl Chin-ups Seated Leg Press Bottom-up Press Reverse Lunge with Rotation High Plank T-Spine Rotation Romanian Deadlift High Row Step-up

#### Five Days/Week

When programming around function with a five-day split routine, the client is able to focus on each of the five primary movement patterns during a specific workout (Table 6).

Table 6. Five Days/Week: Function

 Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Pushing Bend-and-Lift Pulling Single-leg Rotation Standing Anti-Rotation Press Front Squat High Row Side Lunge Standing Trunk Rotation Close-grip Bench Press Romanian Deadlift Incline Reverse Fly Transverse Lunge Russian Twist Single-arm Rotational Press Goblet Squat Bent-over Row Anti-rotation Reverse Lunge Seated Medicine Ball Trunk Rotations Offset Single-arm Chest Press Seated Leg Press Chin-ups Step-up High Plank T-spine Rotation Lying Chest Fly Back Squat Single-arm Row Glute Press Bicycle Crunches Chest Press Glute Bridge Seated Row Bulgarian Split Squat Half-kneeling Hay Baler

#### Six Days/Week

Remember, when a client progresses to performing resistance training six days a week, it’s important that they follow a pattern of “three days on/one day off” in order to ensure they get adequate rest between workouts. Again, adding the sixth day of resistance training allows the client to focus more specifically on the five movement patterns (Table 7).

Table 7. Six Days/Week: Function

 Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday* Thursday Friday Saturday Pushing (Chest and Shoulders) Pulling (Upper Back) Bend-and-Lift (Legs and Hips) Pushing and Pulling (Arms) Rotation (Low Back and Torso) Single-leg (Legs and Hips) Rotational Overhead Press High Row Front Squat Close-grip Bench Press Bird-dog Single-leg Romanian Deadlift Offset Single-arm Chest Press Incline Reverse Fly Deadlift Biceps Curl Stability Ball Reverse Extensions Step-up Close-grip Bench Press Bent-over Row Goblet Squat Lying Barbell Triceps Extensions Contralateral Limb Raises Transverse Lunge Single-arm Overhead Press Chin-ups Back Squat Rotational Uppercut Inverted Flyers Bulgarian Split Squat Bottom-up Press Single-arm Row Single-arm Overhead Squat Triceps Kickback Standing Trunk Rotation Glute Bridge Single leg Progression Incline Chest Press Seated Row Sumo Rotational Squats TRX Biceps Curl High Plank T-Spine Rotation Single-leg Squat

*Note that the day of rest will shift each week as the client adheres to the "three days on/one day off" routine.

### Final Thoughts

Within the framework of each of these split routines, you can use things like circuit training, supersets (alternating exercises for opposing muscle groups with little rest between sets) and compound sets (performing two or more exercises for the same muscle group in rapid succession) to further challenge your clients and add more variety to their workouts. It’s important to once again highlight that for many clients there will never be a need to implement split routines, as two or three full-body workouts is enough to improve health, fitness and overall wellness. Split routines are for those clients who want to devote more time to training, challenge themselves and focus more specifically on building muscular strength and endurance.

When creating exercise programs for your clients, it is important to consider their goals, availability, interests and current evidence of best practices for achieving specific outcomes related to resistance training. Another important consideration is that no two clients will respond in the same way to the same exercise program. Remind clients that there is an experimental aspect to exercise program design and that by working together, merging your background and experience with their willingness to provide feedback and collaborate on next steps, a program will soon emerge that is both safe and effective.

Program design for resistance training is truly limitless, so be creative—but safe—as you develop programs for your clients. You may be able to empower them to achieve a level of fitness they once thought impossible.