And then there were ten. Actually, there have always been ten... Muscle groups, that is. You have ten muscle groups to train each week. The amount of training time, intensity, and other resources you dedicate to each of these ten muscle groups determines the results that you will see in terms of muscle mass, size, strength, and definition. Varying the inputs can equal entirely new sets of outputs, and you are the scientist toying with the formula. Without further ado, let’s examine the top ten muscle groups, and the pro level split that you absolutely need to try in order to get the best possible results out of your training efforts.
The ten muscle groups of the body are calves, quads, hams, chest, back, triceps, biceps, shoulders, abs, and forearms. Skipping training any of these muscle groups is unacceptable. The outcome resulting from doing so would be an unbalanced physique. As a bodybuilder, you are in the business of complete physique development. Partial credit isn’t given for big arms, if your legs are untrained and you haven’t done a deadlift in your life. For the purposes of this, and any discussion, you are focused upon complete physique development, for aesthetics, performance, and physique balance. The only time you should miss a muscle group workout is if you are battling an injury, and even then, you should be finding workarounds to make sure you are.
The amount of effort you dedicate to each muscle group comes out of a fictional box containing 100 muscle “units”. You can give equal effort to all muscle groups, devoting exactly 10% of your time, effort, and other resources each week to their training. However, the results you see will be less than desirable. Most likely, back and abs should not receive the same amount of intensity, as the back is a much larger group requiring complex, compound lifts to target the multiple sheaths of muscle. The abs are much smaller, taking up less real estate on your body. Therefore, devoting 5% of your training time to abs, and thus having 15% of your time available for back training, might be a god idea.
Starting to see how the pieces fit together? Adjusting your ratio is an ideal way to reach your personal growth goals faster, while eliminating any weak areas you currently possess. If your chest is very weak, then giving it 20% of your training energy is probably a good idea. If your forearms are legitimately too large and developed for your physique, then it’s likely a good idea for you to limit their training to 2 to 4% of your efforts, and use the remaining time and energy on sets for lagging muscle groups. Finding the ratio that is best for you is key to success.
Getting back to the ten muscle groups, it’s important for bodybuilders to realize the tremendous amount of power they actually wield when it comes to delivering results just by mixing up their training order. The groups which you target earlier in the week will receive a greater amount of your energy, as you’ll be fresh and strong from your rest days. Therefore special consideration should be given to hitting those groups earlier. Let’s look at a muscle group training split used by professional athletes with great results.
Monday: Back then calves
Wednesday: Quadriceps then hamstrings
Friday: Chest, Biceps, Abs
Saturday: Delts, Triceps
You can rearrange the days as needed. One added benefit of training with this split is that you avoid Mondays, the day when the gym is packed with bench pressing beasts.
Most lifters enjoy a rest day before the larger muscle groups. Hitting chest, then back, then legs, in succession, will likely leave your overall central nervous system exhausted. The body isn’t designed for that kind of wear and tear. If you’re training in this manner, and recovering well, then it’s likely you are not training with adequate intensity, enough sets, or you’re simply going too light! If you can train 3 major muscle groups in a row, and you’re a natural athlete, then you need to start training harder!
Early on in your training, it’s likely you may use resources in an incorrect manner, going “all out” on the lifts you love, and neglecting the lifts (and affected muscle groups) as a result. Balance is important… but more importantly, a carefully planned balance which specifically rations your precious training resources is key.
Every lifter has that ‘sweet spot” on recovery, a unique day.
Use your training journal to record your results, week to week. Over time, you’ll discover 1, 2, 3 or even 4 rest days work best for you. Every athlete is different. The training intensity you use, level of experience, steroid/natural status, and innate genetic recovery abilities, will all play into your result. Once you discover the recovery method that works best, you should stick with it, until it stops working!
There are other rules you will want to keep in mind when constructing your ideal training split. The goal should be to stimulate each muscle group, while spending the least amount of time in the gym. Don’t weaken compound lifts by targeting isolation/support groups the day before. Training biceps the day before back, or triceps the day before chest, will ensure you have tough workouts the next day – not a good thing! Always target the largest muscle groups first in your workouts, using heavy compound movements. As your balance begins to falter and you grow tired, you should move to the isolation movements for the smaller muscle groups, hitting them with movements that do not require as much balance and control.
You’re on a path – your own path. However, some universal rules do apply when it comes to targeting your muscle groups and training them in the most effective and efficient manner. Follow these rules, and give this muscle training split a try. If and when the result lag, switch things up and try another routine. Good luck!