Why Bodybuilding Workout Splits Don’t Work

“Just doing my workout – Tuesday is arms and back.”

1001, 1002….

We all know the typical bodybuilding split.

Most dudes go to the gym and follow a routine similar to that of Mr. Burgundy’s:

Chest on Monday, Back on Tuesday, Legs on Wednesday, Shoulders and Traps on Thursday, and Arms on Friday.

This is probably the most popular type of workout split there is.

But for the average guy looking to build muscle and get stronger, it’s probably the most INEFFECTIVE.

Most bodybuilding and fitness magazines would have you believe that these routines will work for everyone.

Long story, short: THEY DON’T. 

1. Most, if not all, bodybuilders have “above average” genetics.

Don’t believe me?

At age 19, Arnold Schwarzenegger won a power lifting competition in Germany.

He bench pressed 374 lbs, squatted 440 lbs, and dead-lifted 616 lbs.

Sounds pretty average for a 19 year old, right?


2. There’s a dirty little secret in the fitness industry: they want you to believe that if you just sleep enough, eat enough, train hard enough, and take their supplements, you can look just like they do.

The truth of the matter is that no matter how hard you work, you’ll never compare.

On top of having “above average” genetics, most bodybuilders are on steroids.

Currently on Netflix there’s a documentary called Bigger, Faster, Stronger.

If you haven’t watched it, I suggest you do.

It’s an in depth examination of the performance enhancing culture in professional sports and in bodybuilding.

With that being said, if you can’t put up 19 year old Arnold’s numbers at the gym, or if you don’t plan on taking synthetic hormones any time soon, this type of workout split will do nothing for you.

It just won’t give you the amount of frequency needed to stimulate muscle growth, or allow you to use the amount of weight needed to elicit results because of the incredible amount of volume per workout.

Professional bodybuilders are already incredibly strong, and because of their “supplement” routine and genetics, they are able achieve results only training each muscle group once per week; they can also tolerate and recover from the high amount of volume per workout faster and more easily than a regular human being.

The average gym bro is going to need to train each muscle group a few times per week. 

He will also need to use enough weight to stimulate muscle growth and tax his Central Nervous System adequately.

For most drug free lifters, this is between 5-10 reps on the big compound lifts.


Forget the fancy pyramid schemes, the triple drop sets, and the forced reps.

Forget about isolating every single muscle group and achieving “the pump,” as Arnold used to say.

If you have less than 2 years of training experience, you should focus on 3 full body workouts per week. 

A sample week might look like this:

Monday: Back Squat, Bench Press, 1 Arm Dumbbell Row

Wednesday: Front Squat, Standing Military Press, Deadlift

Friday: Back Squat, Inclined Bench Press, Pullup/Pulldown 


Hit each exercise for 3-5 sets of anywhere between 5 and 10 controlled reps.

You should be in and out of the gym in one hour – and that’s including a 15-20 minute warm up.

Look to add 5-10 pounds to the bar every single workout and always focus on strength. 

Think about it:

If right now you are squatting 135 for 5, don’t you think you’ll have bigger legs once you’re squatting 225 for 5?

The same goes for every single exercise you perform.

It’s called progressive overload.

No matter how many sets you perform, or how many reps you bang out, if the weight you are lifting is not consistently going up over time, you will never get bigger or stronger.

It’s that simple.

Go home, sleep, eat, and add in a session or two of conditioning each week, and you’ll be on your way to more muscle in half the time.

Now, if you have more than 2 years of training experience, you’ll want to train 3-4 days per week. 

I recommend splitting your workouts into upper/lower-body days, because you’ll now add in assistance exercises, as well as increase your total volume.

A sample week would look something like this:

Monday- Upper Body consisting of heavy barbell pressing and rowing

Wednesday – Lower Body consisting of sqatting and/or deadlifting, as well as assistance work and core training

Friday- Upper Body consisting of higher rep dumbbell and body weight exercises

Saturday- Lower Body consisting of sled and/or kettlebell work, strongman exercises and/or any other assistance variations needed; you could also substitute a sprint workout in place of this second lower body day as I usually do. 

Training this way will yield superior results compared to a typical bodybuilding split, as you will be training each muscle group multiple times per week, instead of just once.

Stop wasting your time training like a juiced up bodybuilder.

At best, you’ll get mediocre results, and at worst (and most likely), you’ll eventually get injured.

Eat right, don’t rely on supplements, set goals, and, most importantly, train smarter.

If you are interested in a specific plan, you can email me at j.j.valdivia.23@gmail.com. 

I am currently accepting clients for online coaching.


Author: J.J.Valdivia

I have worked in the health and fitness industry for a decade. Through my personal work with clients, and my writing, I strive to help others become more well-rounded human beings, so that they may thrive in all areas of their lives.

11 thoughts on “Why Bodybuilding Workout Splits Don’t Work”

  1. Would this be similar for women who want lean muscle? I’d like to incorporate more weight training in my workouts–currently I do a lot of HIIT (either running or creating my own routines with some free weights). All the weight training routines I see online would have me going to the gym at least 5 times a week, but I just don’t have that kind of time. Thanks for your help.

    1. I would recommend 2-3 full body workouts each week. Just get in the gym anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and hit a lower body exercise (squat/deadlift variation), an upper body push exercise (pushup/press variation) and an upper body pull exercise (pullup/pulldown or row variation).

      You can also throw a core exercise in there if you have the time. Hit each exercise hard and anywhere in the range of 8 to 20 reps. A sample workout might look like:

      1. Goblet Squat 3x 15-20.
      2. Pulldown 3 x 10-15
      3. Dumbbell Military Press 3x 8-12
      4. Plank variation 3x 60s

      That’s it! Simple.

      Throw in some cardio a few times per week and combine the routine with proper nutrition and you really don’t need much else. Just remember to cycle your exercises so that you have enough variety.

      Tks for the question and for reading!

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