When we speak of a workout split we essentially mean a sound exercise routine based on principles of effective programming. A program is usually designed around specific needs of a client (Sports specific or G.P.P) and for most, it would mean a program designed to improve the General Physical Preparedness (G.P.P). A program designed to improve the G.P.P of an individual should focus on improving the strength, endurance and flexibility/mobility.
Having established the premise for an effective G.P.P oriented program, let us see the principles based on which a program should be designed. A good program will largely be based on the following two factors :
Intensity in lay terms is the amount of effort an individual has to put in a certain exercise modality. For example, running a marathon will be considered to be a low-intensity activity whereas a 100m sprint will be comparatively very high-intensity activity. The very fact that an activity could be sustained for a very long duration implies it is low intensity. In short, the intensity is inversely proportional to the time duration of the activity, lower the time higher the intensity and vice-a-versa. Therefore with respect to weight training, an exercise in which you can perform higher reps (</=15reps) with a lighter weight is deemed to be low intensity. Intensity pertaining to endurance would be based on Target Heart Rate(THR) calculated by using the Karvonen’s formula.
Recovery is the cornerstone of any good program and solely depends on the intensity at which a person trains. Higher the intensity, higher will be the physiological demand for recovery. Hence the training frequency would largely depend on the exercise intensity, else it would lead to over-training syndrome, which might cause injuries or stall any apparent progress in performance. This can be done by training body parts in a way that they do not overlap each other.
The common pitfall faced by most trainees is inefficient recovery owing to workout sessions marred by overlaps. To cite an example a typical 6-Day split in which Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps are trained on separate days. The chest is being trained once a week and since the Anterior Deltoid and Triceps work in all pushing movements, they get trained twice and thrice apparently. All cross-striated muscle tissues if exposed to similar training intensity would require the same time for recovery and hence its calls for more prudent programming approach.
Therefore we can broadly categorize trainees into following three distinct groups before assigning them a training split.
• Beginner: A person new to training with weights, geriatric or an individual with below average fitness levels can be termed as a beginner. The goal of the training program here would not be to cause wear and tear to induce hypertrophy, as much as to form neurological pathways. The trainee will be assigned intermediate level program once he becomes efficient in handling the weight. Typically this program would be Full body weight training on alternate days and Endurance training on alternate days. The weight lifted will be a 20 RM weight but the trainee will stop at 15 reps.
• Intermediate: A person training at intermediate level should have a fair amount of neurological coordination and thus can be exposed to a higher intensity. Here, since the intensity is increased the person would need a higher recovery time. Thus the trainee could be assigned upper body/lower body workouts on alternate days followed by endurance and abs training on alternate days. The trainee will train the same body part every 5th day. Abs workout should not precede lower body day as the soreness in the core muscles would not allow for an optimal lower body workout. At this level, reps should be performed till failure.
• Advanced: At an advanced level, a trainee is quite experienced to subject himself to a higher intensity. Every person starting off from a beginner level should aspire to reach this level. On an average, it will take 1-2 years of consistent training to reach this level. Human bodies are meant to work in synergy to get tasks done, we are meant to push, pull, carry and standup with objects. Including exercises that are compound and unsupported in a program has the most relevance to GPP of an individual. Thus it is only prudent to follow a training split based on a push/pull and lower body routine. This routine will allow for not more than one day of training to each muscle group which avoids any training overlap. In this program, the trainee can subject himself to an intensity which calls for 6-12reps till failure per set. On cardio days the trainee should do High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for 20-30 mins.