Discover how to incorporate split training for serious strength building.



How do they work?

Splits allow muscles to recover between heavy and high volume weights workouts so they can be worked just as hard (or harder) in the next session. “When you do your exercise you are splitting muscle fibres, so if it’s hard you’re actually splitting the fibres apart,” says exercise physiologist, clinical personal trainer and author Jodie Hopkins.

“When you’re at rest they repair, grow new fibres and create bigger, stronger muscles.” How long does it take? Often, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) usually takes around 24 hours or longer to rear its ugly head, so we’re talking at least a day or so. “The thing is if you’re doing that volume of work you need more than one night to recover, because it’s heavy and it’s a lot of work,” says Hopkins. 

Why you would: Splits are designed for growing bigger and stronger muscles, which means pushing yourself to the limit in each session, feeling the soreness and doing it all again. If taut biceps and days of DOMS don’t entice you, splits aren’t for you: “If you’re doing splits you’re not doing easy training you’re doing hard training,” says Hopkins. “Splits usually result in a higher volume of work being achieved, this volume will create greater strength, power or muscle growth, if that is the goal.”

Try it: 

Muscle strength: 6 to 8 reps

Muscle power: 2 to 6 reps

Muscle growth: 8 to 12 reps

Sets: 3+

Splits come in two guises: the traditional way is splitting into muscle groups while the new way orbits push or pull movement patterns. “Usually one ‘movement’ pattern will be trained in one session, for example I’d do ‘push’ exercises one day, then ‘pull’ exercises the next, then legs with core,” says Hopkins. 

Plan ahead: If you’re trying to match your cardio to your weights training, Hopkins recommends leaving it until after a session. “If you’re looking at shorter, higher intensity or longer duration cardio training, I would plan ahead after your splits because the last thing you want to do is ask your muscles to work at their highest levels and to have your technique fail because you’re already partially exhausted from your cardio,” says Hopkins. “This is because strength training is anabolic in nature, so it’s primary goal is to ‘grow’, whereas cardio is catabolic.” This means that cardio is best performed on days between strength sessions or after.