How Often Should I Work Out?
Endless routine combinations will help you achieve growth. This book is designed to take you from the beginner level right up to the competitive levels of bodybuilding. Unfortunately, you can’t skip the beginner and intermediate levels and go straight to pro-level training, because your recovery system is not yet capable of enduring heavy training intensity. Jay Cutler didn’t start out by following a double-split, six-times-per-week training program!
In fact, Jay and most of the other pros follow six-day splits only in the few months before a contest. The point,however, is that they started out small and eventually built up to their present training intensity. Here are the most popular split routines followed by bodybuilders.
The Whole Body - Three Times Per Week
This is the routine most beginners start with, and it guarantees great results. You train the entire body during one workout, and then take a day off from training. Do this three times a week, with a day off between each workout. The day off between workouts gives the body adequate time to repair itself before the next workout.
On average it takes a muscle about 48hours to recover from low-to medium-intensity workouts.The primary disadvantage of this routine is that you’ll only be able to do 2 or 3 sets for each muscle group. Trying to do more sets for each muscle group will leave you overtrained. Besides, trying to do 10 or 15 sets for every muscle group would take you three or four hours!
Four Days Per Week - Two On, One Off
The four-day-per-week split is probably the most common and effective routine for gaining muscle size and strength. The body is divided into two halves, with each half trained on one of two consecutive days. After one day of rest follow two more days of training. Unlike the full-body routine, where all the muscles must be trained during one workout, the four-day split allows you to do more for the muscles since you’re training only half of them during any given workout. Instead of 2 or 3 sets of one exercise, you can do 3 or 4 sets of two, three or even four different exercises for each bodypart.
There are two different approaches to the four-day-split routine. You can train Monday and Tuesday, take Wednesday off, train Thursday and Friday, and take weekends off, or you can simply go two on, one off, regardless of what day of the week it happens to be. Many bodybuilders like to use the first approach, as it gives them the weekends off.Some individuals have difficulty following this four-day split because they find training two days in a row too strenuous. For those who need that extra day’s rest between workouts, a variation of the four-day split called the two-week split might be the solution.
Two Week Split Routine
Just like the four-day split, you divide your training into two workouts. However, instead of training two days in a row, you train one day and take the next day off. While you can go one on, one off indefinitely, most bodybuilders do Day 1 on Monday and Friday and then Day 2 on Wednesday. The following week they perform Day 2 on Monday and Friday and Day 1 on Wednesday. Basically you spread your training cycle over two weeks and perform each workout three times (twice in one week and once the next). See the example routine below of how this might work.
Six Day Split Routine
Eventually, most bodybuilders give the six-day split a try. As with the four-day split, you train different muscles on different days. In this situation, you divide your training into three separate workouts, perform them for three consecutive days and then take a day off. Some bodybuilders prefer to perform both three-day cycles back to back – six days in a row – and take the seventh day off. The primary advantage of six-day splits is that you train only a couple of muscles each day.This means that you can train each muscle with extra sets and exercises.
While it sounds great in theory, most bodybuilders find that they can endure training six out of seven days for only about two months. And I’m talking about the most experienced and genetically gifted bodybuilders out there. Most bodybuilders will limit this type of training to their per-contest phase of training. They then switch back to a four-or five-day routine after the contest.
One Muscle Per Day Routine
The biggest obstacle most people face when trying to gain muscle size and strength is overtraining. For the average person not juiced up on performance-enhancing drugs, spending more than two hours in the gym for six or seven days a week is just not possible. In fact, it becomes counterproductive. Back in the 1960s, a few of the top bodybuilders at the time,including Mr. Universe Vic Downs, figured out a solution to this problem. Instead of multi-muscle sessions lasting two, three or four hours, you train just one muscle.
Instead of pacing yourself for hours on end, you hit the muscle hard for 30 to 45 minutes and then leave the gym.The nice thing about the one-muscle-per-day routine is that it satisfies those who need to be in the gym every day, but at the same time it won’t place too much of a demand on the body’s recovery system. Such a routine also allows you to do multiple sets for that one muscle group.Instead of 10 to 12 sets, you could do 15 to 20. This lets you hit the muscle from just about every conceivable angle, which is great for lagging muscle groups.
I’ve just described to you the most common routines followed by bodybuilders. Later in the book I’ll be showing you how to incorporate the various exercises into these routines. I strongly urge you to follow them as described. They have been arranged in ascending order of difficulty. Don’t make the mistake of jumping to Ronnie Coleman’s or Jay Cutler’s pre-contest six-day split routine. Not only do you not need it, but your system won’t be able to handle it.As time goes on, such factors as time, goals and personal preference will let you decide what kind of split routine to follow.
Robert Kennedy: Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding, The Complete A-Z Book On Muscle Building. 2008
Nick Evans: Bodybuilding Anatomy. 2012
Arnold Schwarzenegger: The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, 2013