Building A Better Weight Training Split

Submitted by SharpHealth Team on Wednesday 13th October 2010
In this article
  • Plans aren’t just for business anymore.
  • Tips for weight-training newcomers.
  • Building muscles vs. losing weight.

You’ve managed to kick procrastination to the curb and get that gym membership that you’ve been threatening to buy for months. For better or worse you have finally made the commitment. The contract is signed, you’ve forked over a handful of cash and the deal is done. All that is left is the simple task of actually working out.

How difficult can that be?

Of course, a dangerous opportunity to put off the actual working out lies ahead: deciding how you will work out. So before you start slapping iron on the barbells, decide: do you go with high reps or low? How many sets and what exercises should you focus on to reach your goal? Do you do a full-body workout or break it down by body part? What do you do? Read on to find out:

Make a Plan

Treat your body like your business and attack it with a plan. The first step to building a sharp body is deciding what your goal is. Do you want arms proportioned like Arnold’s or do you simply want to get back into those size 34s you last wore when Monica Lewinsky was front page news?


Once you have decided what your goal is, commit to it. Write it down and tape it to your refrigerator, tell your friends and coworkers. In other words, make it embarrassing to blow it off. Make it known that you have a fitness goal and you make yourself accountable. No accountability, no results.

If You Are New To Weight Training

Building a sharp body is like building a house. If you don’t take the time to lay a solid foundation of fitness, you are setting yourself up for an injury somewhere down the line. Start out slowly and allow your body plenty of time to recover during the first few weeks of training. Take at least one day off between working out a given muscle group. For example, alternate upper and lower body workouts. If necessary, take a day or two off. If you feel so sore that rolling out of bed in the morning is an orgy of pain, you are pushing yourself too hard, too fast.


Muscle Building Split

Muscle isn’t built overnight. If your goal is to add a significant amount of muscle, plan on slow and steady progress. The body responds to weight training by adapting: building stronger and slightly larger muscles. Which brings us to one of the most fundamental principles of weight training, that of progressive overload. As your body adapts and gains in strength, you must increase the stimulus to the muscle. If you want your muscles to continually keep getting stronger and bigger, you must use progressively heavier weights.

  • Do three to four sets per exercise.
  • Perform eight to twelve repetitions (reps) per set.
  • Do two to four exercises per body part.
  • Rest one to two minutes between sets.
  • Allow a minimum of three days rest between body parts.

A Sample Muscle Building Split:

Monday: Chest, Triceps

Tuesday: Quadriceps, Hamstrings

Wednesday: Low to moderate intensity cardiovascular training

Thursday: Back, Biceps

Friday: Shoulders, Calves

Weight Loss Split

The key to designing a weight training split geared toward fat loss is to maintain a high intensity throughout the workout. Keep the rest breaks short and your body moving the entire time. For example:

  • Keep reps high (12 to 18 per set).
  • Perform one to three sets per exercise.
  • Do one to two exercises per body part.
  • Rest periods between sets should not exceed one minute.

A Sample Fat Shredding Split:

Monday: Upper body workout

Tuesday: Cardio (i.e. running, Stairmaster, walking)

Wednesday: Lower body workout

Thursday: Cardio

Friday: Full body workout (vary the exercises performed)

The Missing Ingredient. Nutrition plays a huge role in your ability to gain muscle and lose body fat. In other words, if you eat poorly, all the weight training in the world won’t get you the results you want.

Sharp Guidelines for Fitness Success

  • Larger muscle groups should be worked before smaller muscle groups.
  • All major muscle groups must be worked, not just the "mirror" muscles (i.e. biceps, chest).
  • "Marathon" workouts are a waste of time. If you are exercising for more than one hour you are probably spending too much time chatting and not enough time sweating.
  • Allow a muscle group to rest for a minimum of 48 hours before working it again. For example, if you do bench press on Monday, the soonest you would bench again would be Wednesday.
  • Rest is essential! Your muscles don’t grow while you are working out. They repair and recover in the 24 to 48 hours after your workout.
  • If your muscles are still sore from the last workout, it is too soon to work them again.

Taking the Fast Track

Frustrated with your results? Maybe it is time to consult a professional. Personal trainers can vary dramatically in degree of expertise, experience and knowledge. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when interviewing a personal trainer.

Questions to ask of a potential trainer:

  1. Do you have a degree/certification?
  2. How long have you been in the fitness field?
  3. Can I speak with some of your current clients?
This article last updated on Wednesday 13th October 2010
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