Pros and Cons of Split Training

Doing some interesting reading for my classes right now and I thought it might be a good idea to do a little blog about some of the info I have learned in regards to “split training” programs because I have noticed from people that I have talked to and from advice and programs I often see in magazines that split training is still very common and popular.

First things first:

What are Split Programs? 

Split programs are programs that focus on individual body parts/muscle groups on different days.

Examples of split programs are: Upper/lower body split, push/pull split, front/back split and chest, shoulders, triceps/back, biceps/legs, trunk split.

A little bit of history….

“Split routines first appeared sometime in the late 50s or early 60s around hte time that steroid use was becoming widespread in bodybuilding and power lifting. This is when programs needed to be changed to allow people to ‘hit’ their individual muscles more and more, hence, the evolution of the split training style program. Remember though, that the loading patterns we use today were only just being developed and the new concept of periodisation was being used with elite athletes and not the average bodybuilder who wanted results. Today, we are in a much better scientific position to implement periodisation and choose the right program.” (Taken directly from Australian Institute of Fitness text book).

* note: Periodisation refers to dividing training programs into a number of training periods with different goals and in order to vary intensity for example having off and pre=season training periods for athletes.


Pros of Split Training 

– good for body builders for example because once they reach a point where they need to progressively overload the program would be too long or too hard to perform on one day if they tried to work the entire body.

– allows you to focus on hitting muscles from every angle and potentially even out weaker muscle groups


Cons of Split Training 

– Research indicates to get stronger each muscle needs to be trained 2-3 times per week. You usually only ‘hit’ the muscle once a week in split programs; even though you might go to the gym 2-5 times a week you are not stimulating every major muscle group each time. Therefore if your goal is to get stronger this time of training does not provide the frequency that you need.


– It is assumed that you can train different muscles on different days with minimal rest because the target muscles are different  However it is not just the target muscles that require recovery but also the assistant and stabiliser muscles, connective tissue, endocrine system and central nervous system that are influenced every time you train and can be susceptible to fatigue. Inadequate recovery = little to no results! It is still better to have rest of 2-4 days depending on the intensity and volume of the program.


– increased risk of injury due to overlapping of muscle groups that commonly occur. Split programming promotes the over training of the smaller assistant and stabiliser muscles that are involved with many types of movements for example the rotator cuff which works during all shoulder actions. Over training of these muscles may also be why many of these programs do not bring about optimal training returns in muscle size and strength.