Good morning everyone and as always, happy Thursday.
So after a brief hiatus from our programming emails last week, we are back to the nuts and bolts of exercise scheduling.
So, just as a quick review, in this piece I covered the muscular super-compensation model and why it is so important to understand when scheduling your weekly workouts. And I also covered how to schedule your workouts, if you’ll be exercising once or twice per week.
And in this piece I covered how to schedule your workouts, if you’ll be exercising three times a week.
Okay, now that we are all caught up, let’s get into today’s subject. How to schedule your weightlifting workouts to maximize your strength and muscular gains, if you’ll be working out 4 times a week.
So my prescription in this case is pretty straightforward and basic. Spilt your workouts into two upper body days and then into two lower body days.
I know lots of guys like to do the old body builder splits of chest on day 1, back on day 2, shoulders and arms on day 3 and legs on day 4.
But here is the thing, work done by some of the most respected researchers and trainers in the fitness business today, guys like Brad Schoenfeld, Alan Aragon, Will Brink and Christian Thibaudeau, just to name a few, all point to the superior effectiveness of an upper body day / lower body day split, versus a traditional body building split for building strength and muscle mass when working out 4 days a week.
Now, can you make gains using the old body building routines? Yes, but the latest research demonstrates that you’ll make better (often far better) progress with a more evenly distributed split.
Increased exercise frequency. Just as we covered in the last few pieces, if you break your routine up so that you are only hitting a muscle once a week by the time you come back to hit it again next week, you’ve missed its post workout super compensation peak.
But with an upper body / lower body 4 day split you guarantee you work a given muscle at least every 72 hours and at most every 96. Right in the muscular super compensation peak.
Below is an example of a typical four-day lower body / upper body schedule:
Monday: Lower Body
Tuesday: Upper Body
Thursday: Lower Body
Friday: Upper Body
Another example could be:
Monday: Lower Body
Wednesday: Upper Body
Friday: Lower Body
Saturday: Upper Body
I am familiar with some trains-of-thought that propose setting up your weekly schedule so you train on consecutive days twice per week, like the first schedule I just showed you above, is superior to only training on consecutive days once per week like the second schedule I just showed you above.
The thinking around this is that when you train on consecutive days twice per week, at least once per week you’ll have two consecutive days of rest which enables superior recovery time and thus in the long term superior gains.
The rebuttal to this line of thinking states that the gains are minimal and therefore one shouldn’t stress too hard over how to actually schedule workouts.
My feeling is this; the vast majority of us are not training for a power lifting competition or a body building competition and given the gains are most likely minimal at best, if at all (I am not familiar with any studies that have compared these two schedules over the course of a 6 weeks, 12 weeks or longer cycle) schedule your workouts to best fit your lifestyle!
For instance, I follow a four-day a week lower body / upper body split routine. For me, I actually start my week mentally on Sundays (It makes me feel like I’m getting a jump on my week) so my workout routine is as follows:
Sunday: Upper Body
Tuesday: Lower Body
Wednesday: Rest or Upper Body depending on schedule
Thursday: Rest or Upper Body depending on schedule
Saturday: Lower Body.
For me, Mondays are always too busy to workout, so I get a jump on things on Sunday. Also Fridays are always too busy as well, so I push my Friday workout to Saturdays. And as I’ve tracked my workouts I’ve come to realize that I always have more time on the weekends than during the week. So, by scheduling two of my lifts on the weekend I can get two longer and harder workouts in than if I tried to cram them in during the week.
And last point, if a trainee is going to perform two workouts on consecutive days, most coaches would prefer the trainee do the lower body workout on the first day and the upper body workout on the second day. This is because the lower body workouts are normally more strenuous on the body and it’s best to get your harder workouts in when you are fresher.
Furthermore, one of the major lower body exercises, the deadlifts, works the upper back pretty hard too, so coaches don’t want their students going into a dead lifting session the day after they worked their upper back hard. (This would happen if you did a lower body day emphasizing deadlifts the day after an upper body workout where you worked your back hard. Which if you are doing your upper body workouts correctly should happen every time you do an upper body workout.)
Now, if your schedule gets messed up and you end up doing an upper body workout the day before a lower body workout; should you freak out? No! Its fine!
It’s less than optimal, technically yes, but maybe only by 3-5%.
Now, if you find your upper body days are consistently falling the day before your lower body day, you may want to switch your schedule up. (I just did this myself.) But if this is a one off thing or happens ever so often, it’s okay!
Alright everyone, that’s it for today.
And as always,
To our health!