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Fitness 101: The Ultimate Five-Step Guide To Build Your Own Workout Plan

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STEP 2: Organize Your Lifting “Split”


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Lovely! You’ve got your magical workout number figured out. Now it’s time to organize that bad boy in a way that’s efficient, balanced, and optimizes for rest and maximal strength.

Think of designing a workout plan as a really sweaty, adventurous jigsaw puzzle. You HAVE to use all the pieces to complete the full picture. And yes, that includes—and requires—leg day.

Stop taking shortcuts.

Every workout routine needs to incorporate the following muscle groups (i.e. “pieces”), albeit to varying degrees and levels of specificity: legs, chest, back, shoulders, abs, biceps, and triceps.

Depending on what you answered for question #1, consider splitting your workout plan into the following workout cycles:

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Two HUGE principles about why they’re organized the way they are:

1. REST: It’s counterintuitive, but your workout is effectively a prep period that blasts muscle fibers, breaks them down, and primes your body for growth — muscle growth itself actually occurs out of the gym when you’re resting, sleeping, and eating (it’s also the perfect excuse to Netflix and chill, just sayin’).

Most lifting newbies get overzealous and hit the weights relentlessly without any days off, thinking it’ll lead to faster gains. That’s admirable, but it’s the perfect way to develop overtraining syndrome—including decreased performance, hormonal imbalances, depression, and sexual dysfunction—get injured, and stunt muscle growth; all things that are counterproductive.

Slow down, tiger. If you’re not resting effectively, you’re keeping your body in a constant state of stress and breakdown.

As a general rule, take at least 2 days off before you work the same body part again (e.g. if you do leg day on Monday, wait until Thursday to hit them again) and use these tactics to accelerate recovery and avoid burnout.

Plus, you should be sore as all hell. Kick ass in the gym, eat extremely well, and take your well-deserved rest. Crave that satisfaction and use it as fuel to crush future workouts.

 

2. Synergistic Muscle Groups: Certain muscle groups work together to power big lifts. Naturally, it makes sense to group those muscles together in the same workout sessions to maximize strength and performance, save time, and guarantee that you’re getting enough rest.

Two specific cases:

  • Most chest exercises—specifically presses and dips—make heavy use of the triceps. Any shoulder overhead presses will too, to a lesser degree.
  • Most back exercises—specifically rows and anything with a pulling motion—make heavy use of the biceps.

It makes zero sense to burnout your triceps during a chest workout and then plan a shoulder workout the day after. Your shoulder strength will suffer dramatically, and you’ll stunt triceps growth.

Either plan to work all 3 muscles together, or wait 1-2 days before blasting your triceps again (whether that’s directly or indirectly).

→ TO-DO: Split your week up into individual workouts by muscle group.

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Bryan DiSanto

Bryan DiSanto

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Lean It UP
ELLO ELLO I'm Bryan DiSanto. I'm the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP, a CPT/CSN/Fitness Coach, Chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid, and all-around fitness junkie.

I also contribute to Men's Health Magazine.

When I'm not working on my abs (or somebody else’s), whipping up avocado roses and avocado toast, or running a Tough Mudder, I'm probably yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.

Come be friends with me on Instagram (@BRYDISANTO) & Snapchat (BRYDISANTO).
Bryan DiSanto