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July 8, 2023

Best Training Split For Muscle Growth 

In the world of fitness, people are always looking for the “best.” The best exercises, the best training split, the best training frequency…

While we might be able to identify the “best” based on the current results and research available to us. The best will come more often than not, when you are able to stick to whatever it is that your body adapts best to. 

With that, my name is Annie Miller and I help you learn as you train and enjoy your lifts again. In today’s blog, you’re going to learn what I believe is the best training split for the majority of people in the gym. And why you should give it a try. 

*Hint: The best training split is NOT push, pull, legs. 

Watch the video version of this blog post here:

There is no best training split “for women.”

If you want to build certain parts of your physique, man or woman, you can certainly do that through exercise selection.

If I were to generalize training for most women, they would want round shoulders, or separation between their shoulders, and their upper arm (being their triceps and biceps). Which is what I think most women think of as “toned,” but they don’t want to put in the amount of intensity it actually takes to get this appearance of musculature at rest. 

Which you’ll have a better chance of getting, if you follow the split I am about to share with you.

Again, from my personal experience, women definitely want bigger, round, glutes, and wanting large quads and hamstrings is up for debate…But training these areas can certainly help create muscular curves and shape for the body no matter your sex. 

We are putting most of that aside today in order to answer the question: 

What is the best training split for most people? 

Generally, most people want to build or maintain muscle mass, in a timely fashion, while mostly enjoying the process. 

Based on experience, I think the best training split for most people comes through a Four Day Upper-Lower Split.

Before you roll your eyes and click away, let’s look at WHY this may be the best split for most humans from a scientific and a preferential standpoint.

When I say Four Day Upper Lower Split, I am referring to an upper body day, focused on vertical pressing and pulling. This will hit your deltoids, triceps, lats, mid and lower traps, and other areas of the upper body. 

Your other upper body day will consist of horizontal, pressing and pulling. Think bench press, or push-up type movements and rowing – so pulling BACK instead of DOWN. 

Your two lower body days will have one focused on quad bias, with exercises centered around knee flexion…And your other day will be posterior chain focused, with exercises centered around hip flexion and extension. 

This is not black or white. 

You could absolutely hit all lower body muscle groups on both of your lower days. However, one of the main reasons upper-lower is so effective is because you inherently hit muscle groups twice per week, even if there’s a different focus per day. 

So even on a squat focus day, the glutes, hamstrings and posterior chain are at play.

With Bulgarian split squats, step ups, or walking lunges, the knee drives forward, and the quads are certainly recruited; but the glutes and hamstrings are also under demand. Meaning, there will automatically be crossover in your two upper body and your two lower body days.

We know that for hypertrophy, hitting a muscle group at least twice per week may be optimal for hypertrophic effects. 

The upper lower split gives us that. 

Especially if exercise selection is wisely prescribed. For example, while the lats are the main focus and prime mover of a lat pulldown, they are still recruited in different rowing variations…

This is just another example of how a Four Day Upper-Lower Split can work for you if building or maintaining muscle mass is your goal.

The Four Day Upper-Lower Split Naturally Balances Intensity

The second reason that I favor this split for most gym goers it’s because it naturally balances intensity. 

Lower body days are going to be higher intensity because you are working larger muscle groups. 

There also tends to be more axial (spinal) loading with higher loads on lower body days… So you’re looking at a higher muscular demand but also possible nervous system demand. 

On the flip side, upper body days tend to provide lower overall intensity. This can create a nice flow to the week in terms of recovery.

I favor starting the week with bench press versus squats.

It can feel figuratively and literally heavy when you start your week with lower body. However, you are free to do whatever you fancy!

I’ve personally followed programs that were more geared towards an undulating periodization. This is where I was having to do some lower body every day. It was both subjectively and objectively more demanding from a mental and physical standpoint.

Though I was able to put significant size on my lower body during that time due to the total volume of work… More seasons than not, I would choose some kind of Upper-Lower Split.

To be clear, you can maintain your progress lifting three days a week. Just know it’s going to be easier with four days. And with four or five days of training (if your volume is actually increasing those days).. It will be easier to increase muscle mass.

Now To Wrap This Up 

Remember, this all comes down to the quality of program design and the execution of that program. 

Even if you are following a solid program, if you are not working at challenging enough loads, or following tempo and rest periods… You are likely leaving gains on the table.

If you want to grow muscle, you need Muscle Protein Synthesis.

That my friend, is stimulated by the demand we put on our muscles during training. It comes through the combination of load, time under tension, and so on.  

In fact, I would argue you can get better muscle building results from following a shitty program if you’re pushing hard enough in the gym. Muscle does not grow if it is not demanded to do so.

There you have it…

I think that the Four-Day Upper Lower Split (if programmed well), gives you the most bang for your buck and what most people want to get out of their training. 

Join The Discussion:

Let me know your opinion in the comments below. What is your training split? What do you feel you’ve got the best results from, while enjoying the process? 

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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.

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