What muscle groups do you train together. Everyone has a different methodology when it comes to lifting. With the internet, Instagram, numerous podcasts, fitfluencers, and seasoned gym rats, awash with information, the noise can get loud, when you’re trying to figure out what muscle groups you should work together. The truth is, there is no right or wrong way to create a strength training program. It really comes down to your specific wants and needs. However, pairing certain muscle groups together, can complement your workouts and make them more efficient for better results.
What Muscle Groups To Work Out Together
Pairing muscle groups is referred to as a training split in strength training. Strength training can help improve muscle mass, bone density, strength, and improve your metabolic rate, to promote weight loss and body recomposition.
There are several major muscle groups that you will include in a strength training program. Splitting them efficiently, will provide adequate rest between muscle groups, to help initiate the rebuilding and repair process and regain power and strength once you are ready to train those groups again.
Different muscle groups include,
These can be further split, into specific categories, as follows
- Biceps, triceps, forearms (arms)
- Hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, glutes (legs)
- Trapezius (traps), lattisimus dorsi (lats), (back)
Rarely can muscle groups be truly trained in isolation. Isolated movements, or training, refers to contracting and stimulating only one muscle group at a time. For example, a triceps pushdown, initiates the long and short head of the triceps, however, several other muscles and joints assist in the movement, such as the shoulder, forearm, as well as other stabilizers.
There is no right or wrong way to pair muscles. A typical strength training program will generally pair muscle groups, which are activated as primary and secondary muscles within a movement. For example, pulling movements will fire your biceps, and assist in pulling movements. Pushing movements, such as bench press, fire the triceps as a secondary muscle stabilizer. Thus, pairing these muscles will make your resistance training more effective.
How To Split Muscle Groups For Your Workout
Split workouts focus on two-three muscle groups designated on specific days to ensure adequate time and focus is spent isolating those muscle groups producing more hypertrophy and strength. Split workouts can follow several different variations, formats, and routines which may include several variables ideally splitting one major muscle group (back, legs, chest) with a smaller muscle group (Triceps, Biceps, Shoulders) on the same day. Split workouts allow you to increase workout capacity and volume, increasing rep range, number of sets, and weight or load, to improve and optimize results, with ample recovery time.
1. Pair Muscles That Work Together (Synergistic)
The first way to design a split program, is by pairing muscle groups that work as primary and secondary initiators, which are complimentary and synergistic. This is pairing muscle groups for efficiency.
An example of a common workout split would be
Day 1 – Back and Biceps
Day 2 – Chest and Triceps
Day 3 – Shoulders and Legs
Day 4 – Accessory lifting, full body
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2. Pair Muscles By Movement
A secondary way to design a workout training split, is by pairing muscle groups by movement or force. This type of resistance training pairing is called a push pull program, or push pull, legs program.
With a push pull legs routine instead of splitting between muscle groups, you are simply splitting your training into a three-day workout routine with exercises that require pushing weight, pulling weight, and leg exercises. Push-pull training programs can also be created with a two-day training split or even a four-five day depending on how much rest you need, or your schedule. That being said, a 3 day training splits provide more frequency to encourage greater muscle growth and optimal time for post workout muscle recovery.
What Are Push Exercises
Push exercises involve pushing or pressing weight and include most muscles on the anterior or front of the body, with exception to the biceps, which are classified as a pull muscle. Exercises such as the overhead press, squat, dips, are all classified as push exercises.
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What Are Pull Exercises
Pull exercises involve a majority of muscles in the posterior chain and the back of the body, with exception to the triceps. Muscles involved in pull exercises are the back, rear delts, biceps, and lats, and include exercises such as the lat pull down, deadlifts, rows, shoulder shrugs and glutes, and hamstrings.
3. Pair Muscles With Opposing Force (Antagonistic)
You can also design a strength training program, by pairing muscles by opposing force. Opposing muscles, also called “antagonists” can be thought of as anterior and posterior of each other based on their anatomical positioning. Think pushing versus pulling.
For example, you could pair “back, and chest” as these two groups are opposing each other. Your training schedule would look something like
- Day 1: Chest and Back
- Day 2: Biceps, Triceps and Shoulders
- Day 3: Quads and Hamstrings
- Day 4: Glutes and Abs
4. Pair Muscles Based Upper And Lower Body
As the name aptly suggest, this type of training split, will group muscle by lower and upper body. This type of training split will have more training frequency and volume distribution.
With more volume and frequency, you can experience more muscle fatigue. Upper body muscle groups include (Chest, Shoulders, Back, Triceps, Biceps, and Traps) while lower body muscle group includes (Glutes, Hamstrings, Quads, Calves, abs). Workouts are usually split into two upper body and two lower body days, for a 4-5 day workout split, with two-three rest days.
Upper and lower body splits are great to allow for more muscle hypertrophy, volume, and recovery. It's a simple training framework, that can make things simple as well as effective.
An example of this type of training program would be
- Day 1: Back, Chest
- Day 2: Quads And Hamstrings
- Day 3: Biceps, Triceps, Shoulders
- Day 4: Calves, Glutes, Abs
What Muscle Groups To Workout Together: Takeaway
Dividing your workouts into training splits, is an effective and proven training methodology to increase muscle hypertrophy, increase strength, and stack on more gains. Everyone has different goals, wants, and desires. Use these muscle pairings, as a framework, to design an effective training split specifically for you, and one that fits well within your work-life balance. They are all effective and will help you reach your body composition and fitness goals.
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