What’s The Deal With Body Split Training?

I spend countless hours preaching about the health benefits of functional, whole body training to acclimate your muscles to growing in balance so that your musculature and nervous system works in better harmony. Depending on your goals, however, sometimes it just makes more sense to focus on specific body part training and sprinkle in some functional exercises as a supplement to your routine.  Why? Glad you asked!
Getting Down With Nervous System Training…
The very first thing you want to consider when you are starting or revamping any workout program is how it is going to affect your nervous system, making sure that you do not set yourself up for failure by fatiguing your system, draining your adrenal glands, and wasting valuable muscle growth. In the beginning of your fitness journey, your nervous system capacity is limited in the amount of intense exercise it can handle.  As you become conditioned, your system can handle more intensity and your limit levels are increased. Even a seasoned fitness enthusiast needs to be aware of taxing her nervous system because new, challenging activities mean limitations on what your body can handle for a set amount of continuous time. The key thing here…everyone is different! For my clients that are brand new to a consistent exercise routine or are in the midst of drastically changing their style of training, it makes sense that I opt to train their nervous system capacity through functional, whole body training as opposed to body part training. I have become an expert in observing how my clients respond to their workouts during, and after, a session. This is where is becomes vital that you listen to your body and, if you find that you are slightly detached from how your body should feel during exercise, it would be wise to hire a professional who can help get you started!
Nervous system training involves being fully engaged and aware of training factors such as volume, frequency, intensity, and exercise choices. Your training frequency for each body part should be multiple times per week and your exercise choices should be focused on multi-joint exercises (i.e., squats, pull-ups, push-ups, etc), aka functional exercises. Your intensity will depend on the frequency throughout the week and the number of exercises that you do each session. There are various ways to structure your workout. You can opt for a full-body workout performed three days a week or you may choose an upper body/ lower body split that is performed over a course of 4-6 workout sessions per week.  Maybe you want to do a push-pull program.  Whatever you choose, you can customize it to make it fit your nervous system capacity and increase or decrease any of the above factors as needed. You can also bomb body parts over and over again with varying rep ranges, allowing them to get used to being challenged.
…And Getting Pumped Up With Specific Body Part Training
I love training body parts!  They make me feel totally strong and fit and I start to see my muscle definition quickly. Why? In body part training, the exercise selection becomes more. Generally there are an increased number of sets in a body part session and the body parts are trained less frequency throughout the week. In a nutshell, you do more exercises and more sets and/or repetitions while isolating particular body parts. Think about it…what will most likely allow you to build size and muscle definition quicker…15 sets of chest exercises hitting various angles of the muscle group or strengthening your chest muscle in 6 sets at lower resistance and while training other body parts at the same time.  Again, body part training has it’s training drawbacks. Since you are isolating, you are not forcing the body to work and flow together to simulate everyday movements through space. It all depends on what your goals are and what you are training for, right?

Typically at this more advanced training stage, a person is looking to sculpt the physique and enhance weaker areas to balance out his or her body and stay looking symmetrical. Also, this increases the separation and general appearance of each of the muscle groups. In body part training, typically the frequency that you hit a body part is much less than you would on nervous system training. So a body part might only get hit once a week, but that one session would be extremely intense, overloading that muscle in every possible manner and then moving on to the next body part the following training session. Typically, a person would cycle through exercises on a rotation of 4-6 weeks, as to achieve maximal development.

And the winner is?

Both!  I love both styles of training and think that each style has it’s place in the fitness world of the health-conscious gym-goer. Again, unless you are training for a sport, event, or something specific that deems otherwise, then it would be beneficial to start mixing it up.  But, this blog is opening you up to the world of body part training and how to do so properly…therefore…there are many ways to go about breaking up your routine and, depending on your fitness level (beginner, moderate, advanced), you can adjust the sets and repetitions more in depth to challenge you.  The following is an example of a basic routine to get you started.

The body split that I love!

Perform each exercise for 2-3 sets, optimally 3 sets if you have the time and energy and are more of an advanced gym-goer. Stick with 2 sets if you are new to body part training. Your repetition range will depend on your goals. If you are just beginning, stick with 10-15 reps initially and then as you progress, or if you are already more advanced, you can decrease your reps to 8-10. Remember to keep the weight challenging so that you feel fatigued by the last one or two repetitions. If you are not challenged, increase that resistance slightly. As you schedule your split days, it would be wise to schedule days off or days of cardio in between lifting days and/or try not to train days of upper body back to back. This will help to avoid burn out, over training, muscle fatigue, and potential injury.

Split 1: Chest, Shoulders, Abdominals

Split 2: Legs

Split 3: Back, Low Back, Abdominals

Split 4: Biceps, Triceps, Core


Take action now! Create your own body part training schedule (or print mine) and schedule your next workout session on your calender.  Make it a point to take your program with you and follow it for at least one week to test it out.  If you are unsure how to set up a machine or how to operate a piece of equipment, ask someone or hire a personal trainer!

Are you already training specific body parts? Comment below and tell me what your workout looks like now and how, or if, you plan on changing it. Have you already made changes? If so, I want to hear all about what you did and why you did it! Live life with passion and purpose…

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