The Best Workout Splits For Every Goal

The Best Workout Splits For Every Goal

clock-circular-outlinePosted 9 May 2024

Are you guilty of walking into the gym, taking a look around, and jumping on whatever piece of equipment is free - no plan in mind? We've all been there. But, if this is something you do on the regular, you might want to consider implementing a workout split into your training regime. This is a way of planning out your strength training workouts to make them more effective, enjoyable and time-efficient.

Just having a workout split, however, is not enough. You need to select the right one. In fact, we’d go as far as saying that having the right workout split can make or break your gym routine… get the right one, and you could be seeing your gains accelerate; get the wrong one, and you may just end up feeling unmotivated, overtraining, and nowhere near your fitness goals.

So, how do you choose the right workout split? We’ve put together a guide of the very best workout splits for different levels and goals – so whether a workout split is an entirely new concept to you, or you’re looking for a new training split to accelerate your progress, we have the answer.

Get ready to enter the world of PPLs, back and bis, and the full body sesh. You’ll be an expert on workout splits before you know it.

From knee sleeves to lifting gloves, resistance bands to barbell pads – make sure you’ve got your lifting gear ready before you step into the gym.


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What Is A Workout Split?

A workout split is a way of organizing your strength training into an effective, time-efficient program. Not only does it ensure no muscle goes untouched, but it also gives you structure to track your progress week-on-week to implement progressive overload (i.e. increasing the load each week). Oh, and you know that feeling when you’re attempting to do a lift but your muscles feel so tired and sore that you struggle? With programmed rest days and structure that sees different muscle groups trained on different days, a workout split allows adequate time for recovery to prevent overtraining and reduce the risk of injury.

Splits can come in 2, 3, 4, and 5 day workout splits (or even more in some cases!), and there’s a variety of ways to implement a workout split (this is where things get a little complicated, but we’ll break it down for you).

The most common workout splits are:

  • Full Body Workout Split: (best workout split for beginners)

  • Push, Pull, Legs Workout Split: (best workout split for intermediate lifters)

  • Upper, Lower Workout Split: (best workout split for strength gains)

  • Body Part Workout Split: (best workout split for muscle gain ie. hypertrophy).

You might already be following one of these splits (whether you realize it or not), but ensuring you are on the right workout split for your level and goals is essential.

We’re going to go through each of these workout splits, including what they are, how to program them, and the pros and cons – giving you the tools to plan an effective workout split.

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Best Workout Split For Beginners: Full Body Workout Split

Number of Days: 2 or 3-day workout split

Whether you’re a beginner looking to start building a well-rounded physique, or you’re someone who’s time pressured and wants a workout that gives them the best bang for their buck - a full body workout split will give your muscles all the attention they need.

By not prioritizing certain muscle groups over another, the full body workout split will allow you to hit all the major muscle groups in less time, making it suited to those who are time-poor and looking for a 2 or 3-day workout split.

A 3-day full body workout split may look like this:

  • Monday: Full Body

  • Tuesday: Rest

  • Wednesday: Full Body

  • Thursday: Rest

  • Friday: Full Body

  • Saturday: Rest

  • Sunday: Rest

Benefits Of Full Body Workout Split:

  • Ideally suited to compound training: Full body split prioritizes exercises that engage multiple muscle groups at once (compound exercises) to promote muscle growth and improve coordination, flexibility, and mobility.

  • Time efficient: Working with each muscle group in every session means you only need to train 2 to 3 days a week to see progress. Studies back this up, finding that as long as the weekly volume of work is the same, two full-body workout splits a week, elicit the same strength gains and muscle hypertrophy as a 4-day split-muscle routine [1].

  • Flexibility: Plenty of time to program in rest days or days focusing on other training e.g. cardio. If you miss a day it won’t disproportionately affect certain muscle groups, allowing for consistent progress.

  • Increased calorific burn: Compound exercises require more energy expenditure than isolation exercises, so this method of training is good for increased calorie burn, enhancing fat loss, and cardio.

Drawbacks of Full Body Workout Split:

  • Some muscles may be neglected: Your training may prioritize certain muscle groups over others which may lead to muscular imbalances.

  • Hard to increase training frequency without overtraining: The American Council of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Guidelines suggest allowing at least 48 hours between resistance training exercise sessions for a major muscle group. When training full body, this would mean you need a full 48 hours between training sessions, making it hard to increase the frequency without the risk of overtraining.

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Best Workout Split For Intermediate Lifters: Push Pull Legs Workout Split

Number of days: 3 day workout split, or 6 day workout split (with 3 days on, 1 day off in a cyclical format)

If you’re looking to hit every single muscle group then a PPL workout split (push pull legs) is a simple format to follow: One day you focus on upper body pushing exercises, the next you focus on upper body pulling exercises, then finally, you train legs. Put that together, and it will look something like this:

  • Monday: Push (chest, shoulders, triceps) e.g. bench press, overhead press, or landmine press

  • Wednesday: Pull (back and biceps) e.g. deadlifts, pull ups, lat pull down

  • Friday: Legs (quads, hamstring, glutes, calves) e.g. back squats, RDLs, hip thrusts

Traditionally, this training split groups together related muscle groups into one session, using compound movements to hit all the target muscle groups. This maximizes training volume of target muscles during the session, whilst giving adequate time for recovery between training days, making it one of the most efficient training splits [2].

Advanced lifters may further increase the intensity by cycling the push pull legs split workout plan 3 days on, 1 day off to increase the training volume and maximise gains [3].

Benefits Of Push Pull Legs Workout Split:

  • Prioritizes compound exercises: These hit most or all of the target muscle groups for that training day to maximize training stimulus.

  • Adequate recovery time: The same muscle group is never worked on consecutive days, giving time for the muscles to recover before training again.

  • Tailor to your goals: The 3 day workout split provides the option to focus on cardio and conditioning on the alternate days, or you may choose to add in an extra leg day or accessory work day to hone in on specific muscle groups you want to target.

Drawbacks of Push Pull Legs Workout Split:

  • 3 day workout split may not be enough training stimulus to elicit muscle growth:

    The three day split only focuses on major muscle groups once a week. Ideally, you want to be training each major group at least twice a week to maximize gains [4].

  • Little room for flexibility: Using a 3 day on, 1 day off rolling schedule is unpredictable, as your rest days will change each week.

  • May not be suited to those who are time-poor: PPL workouts can take more than 60 minutes because they are focusing on multiple muscle groups in each session.

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Best Workout Split For Strength Gains: Upper Lower Split Workout

Number of days: 2, 3, 4, 5 or even 6-day workout split.

Walk into a gym and this will, hands down, be the workout split the majority of lifters are following: It’s easy to program, it can be done as many (or as few) days as you want, and most importantly, it’s effective.

The upper-lower workout split follows one day where you train the upper body muscles (i.e. chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps) and the next lower body muscles (i.e. glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves). This gives plenty of time in each session to focus on heavy compound exercises combined with lighter accessory work.

The best way to program this split is over 4 days, as studies have proven strength training performed over a 4-day workout split to be just as effective in building fat-free muscle mass and strength as a 6-day workout split, whilst allowing adequate time for recovery [5].

A 4-day workout split would look something like this:

  • Monday: Upper body

  • Tuesday: Lower body

  • Wednesday: Rest / Cardio / Accessory work

  • Thursday: Upper body

  • Friday: Lower body

  • Saturday: Rest / Cardio / Accessory work

  • Sunday: Rest / Cardio / Accessory work

Benefits of Upper Lower Split Workout:

  • Adequate recovery time: The same muscle groups are not trained on consecutive days, giving muscles at least 48 hours between sessions to recover.

  • Flexible: Easy to scale up or down depending on the number of days you want to train.

  • Time for focusing on additional goals: If taking the 4-day workout split, you have days spare to focus on other goals e.g. cardio/conditioning or accessory work.

  • Effective for building muscle strength and size: Work to a 4-day workout split or more to hit each major muscle group twice a week, providing adequate stimulus for muscle growth and strength gains.

Drawbacks of Upper Lower Split Workout:

  • Some muscles may get neglected: Without careful programming, you may neglect some muscle groups whilst overtraining others. This could lead to muscular imbalances over time.

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Best Workout Split For Muscle Gain (Hypertrophy): Body Part Workout Split

Number of days: 5 day workout split

Back in the day, bodybuilders would train to something called the ‘Bro Split Workout’, which would see them train a different muscle group each day. The thinking behind this was that you could accelerate hypertrophy in a single muscle group by focusing a whole session on it and giving it a whole week to recover before training it again.

Fast forward to 2024, and we’ve got a bit more knowledge under our belts and know that ideally, we want to be hitting each muscle group more frequently than that (ideally twice a week). The body part workout split takes the foundations of the bro workout split, breaking up training into specific body parts, usually focusing on two body parts per day. Whilst it does include some compound lifts, this style of training prioritizes isolation exercises and accessory work, to hone in on developing the singular muscle group(s) being worked, making it ideally suited to bodybuilders.

The body part workout split may look something like this:

  • Monday: Chest & Biceps

  • Tuesday: Quads & Glutes

  • Wednesday: Rest

  • Thursday: Back & Triceps

  • Friday: Glutes & Hamstrings

  • Saturday: Shoulders & Traps

  • Sunday: Rest

Advantages Of Body Part Workout Split:

  • Good for hypertrophy: Prioritizes isolation exercises focusing on singular muscle groups, allowing you to train it through a lot of volume in a single session.

  • You can choose the specific muscle group you want to grow: e.g. if growing your glutes is a priority, you can program to train them twice (as above), or even three times a week.

  • Adequate recovery time: You can train every day without the risk of overtraining because the same muscle groups aren’t trained on consecutive days.

Disadvantages Of Body Part Workout Split:

  • Risk of overtraining a muscle group: A whole session dedicated to two muscle groups is still quite a high volume, particularly for the smaller muscles such as the arm muscles.

  • Prioritizes isolation movements over compound exercises: May neglect multi-joint movements that translate directly to everyday life in favor of working a single muscle group at a time.

  • Little room for flexibility: If you miss a day, you risk throwing out your training balance for the week.

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What Is The Most Effective Workout Split?

There’s no best or worst when it comes to workout splits. Ultimately, the style of training you decide to follow is dependent on you and your lifestyle.

When deciding which of the above workout splits to program, consider the following factors:

How long have you been training for?

  • If you’re new to picking up weights, start with a full body workout split. If you’ve been lifting for a while but want to boost your progress, you might look to a more advanced lifting split.

What’s your goal?

Each workout split has its benefits that will help you reach your goals that little bit quicker.

  • Looking to grow your glutes or build bigger biceps? The body part split may be for you.

  • Want to test your limits on your 1 rep max deadlift? Try the upper-lower workout split.

  • Looking to build overall strength and muscle in a limited time? Give the full-body workout split a go.

How much time do you have?

  • Some workout splits are suited to training once or twice a week (full body split), whilst others require a higher level of time availability (body part workout split).

What do you enjoy?

  • Ultimately, the workout split you are most likely to stick to is going to be one that you enjoy. Choose one that most closely aligns with how you like to train – that way it’s less likely to fall through, and you’re more likely to see results.

If you’re serious about your goals or just want to walk into the gym with confidence that you know exactly what you’re doing, then implementing something like a workout split will be a game changer. Choosing the right workout split is the first step, but the hard work starts when you get in the gym. You’ll only get out what you put in so whatever workout split you choose, be consistent and stick with it – we think you’ll be surprised with the results you see.

Take the guesswork out of your workouts and track every session in The Gymshark Training App.
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Workout Split FAQs

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WRITTEN BY: Alex Kirkup-Lee

Alex is an in-house Content Writer for Gymshark’s Health & Conditioning categories. A qualified Personal Trainer, CrossFit Level 1 and Functional Fitness Coach, Alex is experienced in training clients from a range of sporting backgrounds. With a passion for functional training, her favorite workout is anything that includes deadlifts, rowing, or wallballs.

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  1. Schoenfeld, B.J., Grgic, J. and Krieger, J. (2018). How many times per week should a muscle be trained to maximize muscle hypertrophy? A systematic review and meta-analysis of studies examining the effects of resistance training frequency. Journal of Sports Sciences, 37(11), pp.1286–1295. doi:

  2. Aston University (n.d.). The Push/Pull/Legs Routine for Muscle Gains | Aston University. [online] Available at:

  3. Schoenfeld, B.J., Ogborn, D. and Krieger, J.W. (2017). Dose-response relationship between weekly resistance training volume and increases in muscle mass: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of sports sciences, [online] 35(11), pp.1073–1082. doi:

  4. Schoenfeld, B.J., Ogborn, D. and Krieger, J.W. (2016). Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine, [online] 46(11), pp.1689–1697. doi:

  5. Ribeiro, A.S., Schoenfeld, B.J., Silva, D.R.P., Pina, F.L.C., Guariglia, D.A., Porto, M., Maestá, N., Burini, R.C. and Cyrino, E.S. (2015). Effect of Two- Versus Three-Way Split Resistance Training Routines on Body Composition and Muscular Strength in Bodybuilders: A Pilot Study. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 25(6), pp.559–565. doi:

  6. Roberts, B.M., Nuckols, G. and Krieger, J.W. (2020). Sex Differences in Resistance Training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 34(5), pp.1448–1460. doi:

  7. Cureton, K.J., Collins, M.A., Hill, D.W. and McElhannon, F.M. (1988). Muscle hypertrophy in men and women. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, [online] 20(4), pp.338–344. doi:

Alex Kirkup-LeeBy Alex Kirkup-Lee

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