There are so many ways to go about lifting weights.
You can find programs for bodybuilders, crossfitters, powerlifters… even plans for “powerful women who want to increase their leverage at work with an augmented bubble-butt” (he says sarcastically while jotting the idea in his notebook).
But what if you’re none of those things?
What if you’re a regular person who only lifts because you know it’s good for you and can help you get your body in the shape you’d like?
I’m gonna show you why one of the most common solutions may not be best, and then help you choose a better option.
Ah, bro splits. You know them. You’ve probably done them.
Monday is chest day. Tuesday is the dreaded leg day. Thursday is for your back, and Friday works your shoulders.
Something along those lines.
Of course, Monday ends up being the busiest day at the gym because that’s the only day guys care about.
This type of workout was created by bodybuilders. They were the first personal trainers. People would ask them for advice because they were all jacked and clearly knew what they were doing.
But did they?
Let’s Take a Closer Look
With bro-splits, you completely destroy each muscle group once or twice a week. Which might work if:
you’re already an advanced bodybuilder,
your great-great grandfather was Hercules, or
you inject Hercules’ genes into your butt cheek.
For the average person, your muscles won’t be able to recover.
You can allow more recovery time, but when you annihilate your muscles, rather than just giving them a good workout, that recovery time will mostly be spent restoring your body, rather than improving it. (Unless you have the help of a needle.)
I have nothing against bodybuilders or bodybuilding. It’s just not right for the vast majority of people.
Personally, it’s not what I do.
If you want to look like Arnold, I’m not your guy. You should probably find some dude with a giant neck who’s into that.
But if you want to get in better shape, and improve your body composition to look more fit and lean, while not drastically changing your lifestyle and becoming obsessed with “making gainz,” now we’re talkin’.
For that, you should consider another way to lift. Let’s look at your 3 best options.
This is one of the best options, but also one of the least flexible.
It works well if you can consistently workout 4 days a week — an upper body day followed by a lower body day, done twice a week with a day off in between.
It works especially well if you’ve been working out for awhile and are ready for a bit more total exercise throughout your week. But it’s fine for beginners, too, if it fits your schedule, and as long as you don’t go for broke at every workout.
For example, don’t think of your lower body days as a traditional “leg day.” Do 2-4 leg exercises (not to failure), and 1-2 core exercises, then go home feeling like you trained, not like you paid a guy to take a baseball bat to your quads.
To be blunt, this is probably what you should be doing.
Workouts that hit a little bit of your entire body are the best way to go if you’re short on time, and/or aren’t in love with exercise.
They also offer the flexibility of working out as many (or few) days a week as you want.
If you can only handle 2-3 days of exercise, full body is perfect for that.
Just 4-8 exercises per workout will get the job done. 2-4 for the upper body, hitting front and back (e.g. presses, rows, chin ups), 2-4 working the front and back of the lower body (e.g. squats, deadlift variations, glute bridges).
Feel free to get creative. You could work a little more upper body one day, a little more lower body another. Throw in a couple core exercises here and there.
There’s no perfect formula.
If you’d rather do something daily, it’s good for that, too — just keep it short and sweet. But if you opt for longer workouts, take a day off in between.
This is one day of upper body, one day lower body, and one day that’s full body.
The reasons to consider this are based on your schedule and personal recovery time.
For instance, if you can workout on Saturday and Sunday, but can only throw in one workout during the week, this would be perfect. You’d do upper body on Saturday, lower on Sunday, and full body on either Wednesday, or Thursday.
It’ll only work your entire body twice a week, but that’s also good if you tend to need more recovery time.
How to Decide
There are more ways to lift than I’ve outlined, but whatever you do, it needs to make sense for your life, and not just be something that’s worked for someone else.
Start by asking how many days a week you should workout. (Here are specific workout examples based on that.)
Then figure out how long your individual workouts should last. (I have ideas on that here.)
Finally, determine your goal. If it has anything to do with general fitness, and isn’t sport specific (including bodybuilding), you’ll do fine with any of the options I mentioned.
Leave the bro-splits to the bros. Do what’s right for you.
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