Matt explains the benefits of this training technique, including any latest research, and how to put it into practice.

“Training split” refers to how you design your workout programme over a specific course of time. Programmes can be designed at the simplest level where you work the full body, through training specific body parts on certain days and on to variable splits where your programme will have no constraints or repeated pattern.

The most basic type of split is to determine how many days of the week you plan to train and then complete fully body sessions on each of those days. For example: Monday, Wednesday and Friday as your training days with recovery days in between. This training pattern is advisable for beginners to exercise and clients whose goal is to maintain their current fitness level as it allows for all body parts to be trained during each session and then given time for muscles to repair and recover before completing the next session.

For clients that are further advanced or want to focus their training on working a specific body part you may chose to train on a four day split pattern which could see you work the upper body on a Monday and Thursday and complete a lower body session on a Tuesday and Friday for example. Using your training session to place more focus onto a specific body part allows greater potential for overload to the muscles as you are working them harder and more intensely with less rest period during your training time. However, the recovery period is also greater (in the example above two rest days before your next upper or lower body session) to allow longer for adaption and recovery to take place before putting the same muscles back under fatigue later in the week.

A further and more complex variation to training splits would be to introduce a variable split training method where there are no constraints or repeated pattern to your schedule. Each workout on this pattern in unique where you may train chest and triceps one day, chest, deltoids and back another and chest in isolation on a further day. This programme is designed around independent muscle recovery and not “day specific” training. Designed to prevent overtraining and undertraining the muscles it is a schedule predominantly used by very experienced, sports specific or bodybuilding gym goers.

As previously mentioned, if you are new to exercise, in the process of rehabilitation or recovering from injury then I suggest you begin by introducing splits using full body routines with at least one day rest periods in between.

For more experienced or regular gym users the more common “body part” split has many benefits.

Time management

Working just one or two muscle groups during a session reduces the time in which it will take you to perform the session and work the muscles to fatigue, allowing you to train even under time constraints and other commitments you may have outside of your training.

Sport specific

For example, if you are a runner and have a long or tough run scheduled then an upper body routine the following day will allow your legs time to recover.

Tiredness reduction

If you are lifting for strength muscles can become sore and tired when performed as full body workout sessions. A split routine would vary the workload, allowing you to do more without being sore.

Greater muscle definition

Using a training session to focus on one or a smaller number of muscles allows you time to focus in more detail on the fundamentals such as the different subdivisions of a muscle. This will lead to greater definition and a more uniformed balance of that specific body part.