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Advanced Split Routine Strength and Bodybuilding Training

Get Big and Strong Using Advanced Splits


Updated July 04, 2013

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(c) Paul Rogers / Cooloola Fitness

In weight training, split routines usually mean the allocation of training to various body regions and muscle groups on different days of the week or even different sessions of a single day if you train more than once each day.

How Split Routines Work

A split routine program contrasts with a full-body workout which means working all the major muscle groups in the body in a single workout session -- arms, shoulders, chest, back, legs, butt and abdominals.

Competition bodybuilders often go further by breaking these major muscle groupings down to parts of the body, large muscle groups, or even a particular muscle -- the upper and lower pecs for example. This is 'isolation' training. Full-body workouts tend to prioritize compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, pullups and bench presses, although these are often supplemented with isolation routines like curls and pushdowns.

With split routines you can spend complete sessions on just a few major groups of muscles and fine-tune your muscle building. Be warned, though, that allocating split routine sessions to a muscle groups must be approached with caution to avoid overuse and overtraining muscle and joint problems. A split session would usually be shorter than a full-body session.

For beginners and recreational trainers, upper and lower body is a split that makes sense and provides a useful and not too demanding approach. Splitting your training this way can also have time advantages. Although split routines are favored more by bodybuilders than weightlifters or powerlifters, fitness trainers can utilize this technique to pack more training into a week by week program by juggling time slots and busy schedules.

For general fitness, splitting sessions into upper body and lower-body exercises is a popular approach and you may not need more. You can add core -- abs and lower back -- to either of the upper- or lower-body sessions. On the other hand, you can get real serious and try this 5-day split program, but preferably only if you already have some condition and experience.

The Advanced Split Weight Program

In this program we will use the high-intensity interval resistance weight training methodology. You select a relatively heavy weight that you can lift 6-8 times before reaching muscular failure (where you can't lift one more rep). You rest for 20-25 seconds, then continue and do 2 to 3 more reps or until failure again. Rest for another 20 seconds and do another 2-3 reps. That counts as one set compared to a regular program where you would do 10 or 12 continuous repetitions in a set. Do 3 sets and rest 60-90 seconds between sets. (Adjust bodyweight exercises to increase intensity appropriately.)

  • Day 1, Legs. Back squats, deadlifts, leg extensions, leg curls (standing, prone), hack squats, good mornings, weighted lunges, glute-ham curl.
  • Day 2, Arms. Seated dumbbell arm curls, cable curls, preacher curls, concentration curls, skullcrushers, pushdowns, triceps extensions, triceps dips. Alternate the biceps and triceps exercises.
  • Day 3, Back and Core. Combo crunches, rollouts on ball or rollout wheel, barbell bent-over rows, lat pulldown (under and overhand), pullups, seated cable rows, one-arm dumbbell bent rows, machine T-bar row.
  • Day 4, Rest.
  • Day 5, Chest. Bench press (wide grip, close grip), Smith machine decline press, dumbbell seated bench press, incline dumbbell press, cable flys, pec deck flys, lever chest press, pushups.
  • Day 6, Shoulders and Traps. Military press, machine shoulder press, lateral raises, front raises, bent rear raises, upright rows, dumbbell shrugs, cable external and internal rotations.
  • Day 7 Rest.


You can cut this program back to 3 or 4 days by combining and adjusting exercises if that suits your day-to-day routine. Warm up appropriately before you start. This can include some light cardio plus a a light set of each exercise as you select it. Cool down at the end of each session with treadmill walking and light stretching. Stop exercising if you feel acute pain and see a doctor if it persists. Adjust weights, sets and reps and rest intervals to suit your current level of fitness.

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