The average bodybuilder on a split routine is probably over trained. For some reason, many trainees are brain washed into thinking what works for the champs will work for them. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Those impressive on paper high volume routines published in magazines generally work only for a select few gifted trainees who are juicing. What they also do is sell magazine subscriptions and supplements which are being endorsed.
Lets say for the sake of the argument that these routines do work. Questions and issues arise such as " Is training two hours a day six days a week worth it from a benefit versus effort perspective? How does my training affect my personal life as far as work and spending time with the family? Do I have the genetic capability to make it all the way to the top of my field to compete? How will my health be affected? Can my body take the strain?
For most people, extended split routines result in over training and staleness. Progress begins to wane. Gains come slow or not at all. Injuries become more likely. The central nervous system becomes frazzled. Workouts become an exercise in futility and simply going through the motions. Important aspects of life become neglected.
When I was young, I spent a lot of time in the gym. I did make progress, not as much from the training but because I was young. I was on my first tour of duty in the Air Force stationed in Anchorage Alaska. Our daughter was born. Time to maintain that training schedule became difficult. My wife needed help and pleaded with me to work-out less. On top of that, I spent and entire Alaskan summer (so short you could close your eyes and miss it) inside a gym instead of seeing some of the most spectacular scenery on earth.
The solution was to train three times a week. The advantages are tremendous. Most people today do not realize that many years ago this was the norm . The day or two of rest between work outs allowed for a more complete recovery. This is necessary especially for strength gains and probably for mass as well.
Beginners too seem to thrive on this type of training as well as athletes. Off days were devoted to other aspects of training such as cardio, flexibility, agility and skill development for sports. This type of program fits well into recreational training and sports performance improvement. Even NFL players train this way, at least during the season because they need the time and energy to be expended elsewhere. Try to find one who is not incredibly big and strong!
You might be thinking; "How can I fit all of the exercises I do in a split routine for all body parts into three days? How can I manage the training volume?
The answer is you can't nor should you. People generally do far to many exercises and sets. By sticking to the basic compound exercises and increasing intensity, the three day program becomes extremely effective. Instead of multiple exercises for, chest, back, shoulders, legs, arms, etc. we concentrate the program into the fewest basic exercises that give the most bang for the buck! At the same time we reduce or eliminate single joint exercises . These are fine for bringing up lagging body parts or correcting muscular strength imbalances, but even then they are used sparingly. Basic routines coupled with sufficient intensity is the key to success! Constructing the program itself is not rocket science. Instead of pulling featured programs out of my favorite magazine I learned how to design my own program tailor made!
Here is how to do it.
Your program will be centered around the best exercises for each major muscle group. Once you determine the best compound exercises you simply organize them into a workable three day a week training schedule. The way I start is with the "Big Three"; Deadlift, Bench Press and Squat. These three exercises alone are the cornerstone of a solid program. All that remains to do is pick the other best exercises. Here are my choices.
1. Chest-Bench press and Incline Bench Press.
2. Thighs- Squats and Front Squats.
3. Shoulders- Standing Barbell and Dumbbell Presses.
4. Back(upper)- Pull-ups for width, Barbell/Dumbbell Rows for thickness.
5. Back(lower)- All forms of Deadlifts(Also for total body).
6. Trapezius- Hang Cleans and Shrugs.
7. Hamstrings- Good mornings and Stiff Leg Deadlifts.
8. Biceps- Chins with a supinated grip.
9. Triceps- Narrow Bench Press and Dips (awesome chest builder too!)
10.Calf- Single Leg Calf Raise with dumbbell.
Here is a sample program. The sets and repetitions can be adjusted as needed for either strength or hypertrophy emphasis.
There it is. For those skeptics out there who feel that this type of work-out is too simple, I can only say TRY IT! Remember the emphasis is on intensity, not volume. Volume is the enemy of intensity. Just try to make progress in weight, especially on the "Big Three". For those people who need a bit more variety or need extra work in certain weak areas, single joint work can be used sparingly. These can be rotated in and out as needed. For those interested in power work (Power Cleans/Push Presses), these can be added as first exercises for each day. There is room for flexibility. Give the three day program your best effort for three months. Focus on intensity and steadily increasing weight while using good technique and form. You will be rewarded with increased strength and size.