3 Most Effective Strength Training Splits

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3 Most Effective Strength Training Splits

In this article we will breakdown three (3) of the most effective strength training splits for lifters and athletes looking to gain muscle mass and strength. In the below sections we will dissect each strength training split, discussing whom it may be best for, benefits, and potential limitations.

What is a Strength Training Split?

A strength training split is a workout outline (typically formatted on a weekly basis) that offers coaches and athletes a guideline to program for strength and muscle mass. Numerous factors can influence a coaches/athletes decision as to which is the “best” workout split to choose, such as:

  • Training Availability (how often work, life, and other factors allow you to train)
  • Level of the Athlete (can you handle increased volume, do you need more rest days to account for higher intensities and loadings, etc)
  • Program Goals (increased leg strength vs upper body mass, demands on the body, etc)
  • Needs of the Athlete (poor recovery, lack of work capacity, etc).

All of these factors influence coaches/athletes decision making process. The key for most strength training splits is to provide enough frequency, volume, and training stimulus to promote physiological adaptations.

3 Most Effective Strength Training Splits

Below are three of the most effective strength training splits that can be used to build muscle hypertrophy, strength, and set a strong foundation for sports performance. All of the below splits can be used with powerlifting and general strength training workout programs (however there are some limitations when applied to Olympic weightlifting programming).

Note that these three strength training splits are not the only options coaches and athletes have, however they are three very effective strategies to at least consider when setting up a new training program.

3-Day Total Body Split

This is a 3-day workout routine that is best done alternating between training days and rest days. You can recycle training weeks every six days, or simply take two days off in in a row. For example, training Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and resting Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. You can also add some movement of conditioning on one of the non-lifting days if your goal is body composition and strength, or just to increase recovery and fitness.

Training the entire body every session allows for the program to deliver high amounts of frequency and volume to most muscles in the body across the week. Below is a sample day for this type of workout. It’s best to try to limit the exercises this day to 2-3 main strength lift and 4-5 accessory exercise, delivery a total set volume of 10-20 sets for main strength work and 5-10 for accessory lifts.

The below sample program has a strong emphasis on squat, back, and pressing strength. Day two could use a similar format, with the first focus being on a strong pressing motion (bench press) and some accessory lower lifts like lunges or step ups. Day 3 could then focus on pulling strength (deadlifts) and use more accessory lifts with higher volume (higher reps) to induce muscle hypertrophy and recovery for the following week.

Day 1 (Total Body, Squat Emphasis)

  • Power Clean: 4 sets of 3 reps at 70-75%
  • Back Squat: 6 sets of 4-6 reps at 70-80%
  • Pendlay Row : 4 sets of 4-6 reps
  • Incline Dumbbell Chest Press 4 sets of 5-8 reps
  • RDLs 3: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Hammer Curl and Triceps Pushdown Superset: 3 sets of 12-20 reps

[Many athletes find soft tissue work can be really helpful for recovery — check out our list of the best foam rollers for your needs!]

Who Should Do This?

This is a good option for individuals who may not have a large amount of training availability due to work, family, or life restrictions. Due to the decreased frequency of training (less days per week), training sessions will often be a bit longer than those who train 5+ days per week. This doesn’t mean however, that it will be any less effective if training volume, intensity, and recovery are all programmed correctly.

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