Muscle-Building Lessons: The Ultimate Split And Abbreviated Training!

With the ultimate split I'm about to describe, you'll hit each body part three times every two weeks... Try this split and follow the guidelines that I've put together for you, right here! Read on for the details.

Once you've trained for at least 12 months on a solid full-body program, experiment with a split routine. But if you use one of the typical splits that appear in most bodybuilding magazines and books, you're unlikely to make much, if any, progress.

Most of the popular splits undermine bodybuilding progress for average trainees. Just because a certain split works for a genetic phenomenon who may be bolstered by drug support, it doesn't mean that it will also work for natural, genetically average body builders.

The Ultimate Split

With the ultimate split I'm about to describe, you'll hit each body part three times every two weeks; that is, once every four or five days per body part. You'll train three nonconsecutive days each week, which will give you four full days of recovery every seven days. The popular split routines usually include more training than nontraining days, which is counterproductive for most bodybuilders.

Next, you'll put exercises that primarily work your lower body in one routine and those that almost exclusively work your upper body in another routine. That's a good way to divide the exercises so that there's only minimal overlap between the two routines.

Now, choose three nonconsecutive training days, such as Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and alternate the two routines as follows:

Week 1:

  • Monday: Calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, abs
  • Wednesday: Neck, shoulders, chest, lats, triceps, biceps
  • Friday: Calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, abs

Week 2:

  • Monday: Neck, shoulders, chest, lats, triceps, biceps
  • Wednesday: Calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, abs
  • Friday: Neck, shoulders, chest, lats, triceps, biceps

Continue with that rotation. Week 3 is the same as week 1, week 4 will be the same as week 2, and so on.

Keep in mind that the ultimate split will help you build strength and size only if you:

  • Choose good exercises.
  • Use correct exercise technique.
  • Train hard enough.
  • Train progressively.
  • Avoid using too many exercises and/or sets.

In other words, apply the 10 Commandments of Bodybuilding, which begin below.

Sample Routines

Here are two sample routines you can plug into the ultimate split:

Workout 1:

  • Deadlifts or stiff-legged deadlifts 2 x 6
  • One-legged calf raises 2 x 12-15
  • Leg presses 2 x 8-10
  • Leg curls 2 x 8-10
  • Crunches 2 x 10-12
  • Side bends 1 x 12-15
  • Hyperextensions 2 x 8-10

Note: Do one to two progressively heavier warm-up sets prior to the work sets listed for each exercise.

print Click Here For A Printable Log Of Workout 1.

Workout 2:

  • Parallel-bar dips, bench presses or incline-bench presses 2 x 6-8
  • Pulldowns or Pullovers 2 x 6-8
  • Seated cable rows 1 x 6-8
  • Seated dumbbell presses (on a 75 degree bench) 2 x 6
  • Lateral raises 2 x 8
  • Shrugs 2 x 8
  • Incline dumbbell curls 2 x 6-8
  • Lying L-flyes 1 x 8-10
  • Neck-forward flexions and extensions 1 x 10-12

Note: Do one to two progressively heavier warm-up sets prior to the work sets listed for each exercise.

print Click Here For A Printable Log Of Workout 2.

If any of those exercises aren't safe for you or the equipment isn't available, substitute comparable movements.

Abbreviated Training

This is abbreviated training, and it's precisely what most body builders need if they want to make good progress. The short workouts will enable you to train hard, with focus. The four full days of recovery each week will give you the chance to recuperate fully.

Then you should be able to add a small amount of weight to the bar on most exercises every week or two. That's a world away from longer, more frequent training, where you don't recuperate fully and you only go through the motions in the gym.

Just clocking up workouts doesn't yield progress. Clocking up progressive workouts is the one thing that will yield strength and muscle.

Applications For All:

Abbreviated training is the approach of choice because it's more practical and time efficient than conventional or so-called advanced methods that require commitments of greater time and energy. One of the biggest problems in the bodybuilding world is the belief that simple training routines are for beginners only. Wrong!

Also keep in mind that training provides only the stimulus for growth. What you do outside the gym determines whether the stimulation yields growth. The effective strategy for most bodybuilders is short routines, correct exercise technique and hard work combined with sufficient nutrition and recovery time.

All of that, properly applied, produces growth in strength and muscle—and it applies to beginners, intermediates and advanced trainees, although the training for specific individuals can vary. For example, the training of supergifted, competition-level bodybuilders can be another story altogether, but that applies to a very small minority.

Requirements Of Bodybuilding:

Combine the Ultimate Split with the 10 Commandments of Bodybuilding, and the rest is up to your genetics and your persistence. The big bonus is that you need to train only three times a week. You'll have more time for the rest of your life and you'll probably make better progress than ever before.

The requirements of body building are straightforward, but most bodybuilders think otherwise. Thus they get caught up in complexities and irrelevances. As a result, they fail to make progress.

In my "Anticrash Course," which appeared in the December '04 and January '05 issues, I summarized 16 key lessons of bodybuilding. Those keys aren't the last word on bodybuilding, but they are what you should live by if your primary concern is to build as much muscular size as your genetics will permit, drug-free.

Personal Experience

I speak from 30 years of personal experience—my own training and my observations of countless bodybuilders. In my youth I was obsessed with trying to build a great physique.

I trained as the famous bodybuilders of the time recommended. I became a recluse. All I wanted was to study training, train and apply myself to recuperating between workouts. I became very knowledgeable—but not about what really mattered. And there was no wisdom accompanying the knowledge.

I couldn't distinguish between good and poor instruction. If it was in print and supposedly written by a champion bodybuilder, I believed it. I had no time for people who discussed realistic goals, overtraining or the dangers of certain exercises or specific techniques.

Being young, I could apparently get away with using harmful training methods—but only temporarily. I paid for that recklessness and ignorance a few years later, when knee and back problems devastated my training. Had I listened to people who urged a conservative approach to training, I probably wouldn't have caused the initial damage.

Get Focus Off Of The Trivial:

In other words, had I lived by the following 10 Commandments of Bodybuilding, all the study I did wouldn't have distracted me. Unfortunately, I didn't have them to guide me.

I've seen the same thing with countless other people. Rather than focus on a limited set of the best exercises, they hunt around for other exercises. Rather than focus on a sensible routine, they jump around from one routine to another.

Rather than focus on correct exercise technique, they give it short shift. Rather than focus on basic poundage progression, they dwell on other components of training. Rather than focus on excellent nutrition, they fuss over supplements. Rather than get at least eight hours of sleep each night, they fret over some comparatively trivial details of recuperation.

I wish someone had gotten hold of me as a teenager, drummed the 10 Commandments of Bodybuilding into me, made me study correct exercise technique until I was a master of it and then kept me focused.


A pivotal lesson I didn't learn for many years is that a lot of training alternatives apply only to drug-assisted bodybuilders and the genetically blessed. High-volume, high-frequency and superhigh-intensity training don't work for natural, genetically average bodybuilders—a.k.a. hardgainers.

For many years I followed those training methods, as have thousands of other hardgainers; but without drug support—or fantastic genetics—those methods just don't work. In fact, they're harmful and hinder progress.

Hardgainer is a relative term. When training correctly—which includes applying the 10 Commandments—a hardgainer can become a good gainer. While a hardgainer's ultimate genetic potential is modest compared to that of the competitive elite, he or she can still make impressive progress.

Keep the 10 Commandments as your principal guide, and don't let anything distract you. That's the gospel that would have kept me on the bodybuilding straight and narrow, and it's the gospel that will keep you gaining to the best of your genetic potential.

The 10 Commandments Of Bodybuilding

  1. Train safely; avoid pain that can lead to injury.
  2. Always use correct exercise technique.
  3. Use a smooth, controlled rep speed.
  4. Weight train no more than three times a week.
  5. Focus mostly on compound exercises.
  6. Don't skimp on warmup sets.
  7. Do no more than 20 work sets per workout (not per body part, per workout!).
  8. Train hard but without the use of extreme intensity techniques.
  9. Eat, rest and sleep well to recuperate properly.
  10. Build strength, which means to train progressively and increase your poundage in small increments.