I used splits myself for 20 years.
My main message isn't that splits are useless. My message is that elaborate splits used without a purpose, or not based on needs, are inefficient.
Bodybuilders and powerlifters aside, 90% of gym rats in gyms who are doing elaborate splits aren't making great gains. If we only look at successful lifters we aren't painting a complete picture. Successful lifters are successful because they work hard, are persistent, use progression, and fit workouts around needs.
I don't think spits are the best approach for the average non-bodybuilder/powerlifter who just wants to look good and add strength. I also don't think they are the most effective/efficient way of adding muscle.
One thing I see day in and day out working with, and filming natural bodybuilders is crazy volume and elaborate splits with limited results. There is still this belief that when gains stall that things should get crazier...more volume, more elaborate splits, more, more, more. Naturals still believe that adding more will push them through natural limits and hard walls.
Hard work is good. Persistence is good. But working with naturals each day I see the reasoning behind the routines. 8 times out of 10 it isn't based on needs. It is based on either the belief that "more" will spur new gains, or it is based on the training habits of steroid users.
The question we need to ask ourselves is not "are splits good?" The question should be..."why did lifting change during the steroid era, and what can we learn from the differences between natural and drugged training?"
Very few...VERY FEW...lifters understand the difference between natural and juiced lifting. And there IS a difference. Or better, there are major differences
Yes, results can be had from splits. That does not mean that splits are structured properly for natural lifting, nor that they are the most efficient approach.
--Steroids users require intense contractions to stimulate receptors
. Because of this, we now have a lifting culture that values muscle confusion, advanced training techniques, the pump and volume training. For more information of the differences between natural and enhanced lifting, read this interview with one of the foremost steroid experts in the world
A bodybuilder who has never taken steroids does not suffer much androgen receptor downregulation. Training will simply increase the number of ready-to-work androgen receptors. He will have far more receptors than the average untrained Joe. This is why the first cycle of anabolics is very often the best. Plenty of receptors. As the cycle continues, the number of androgen receptors will go down. But with proper training targeted at re-opening the androgen receptors, we can prevent the stagnation we see in numerous western bodybuilders after several drug cycles.
Point...steroid bodybuilders must get creative and find new ways of training to "re-open" and "re-ignite" gains. Naturals do not have to do this. Simply progressing with basics is enough. Complication isn't needed. You can't re-ignite anything as a natural. Limits are limits.
For naturals, lack of gains come from limits. For steroid users lack of gains come from androgen receptor downregulation.
These are 2 different ballgames. Naturals who jump to more advanced "this and that" to re-ignite gains like their steroid using counterparts are just fooling themselves. Yet they continue to make splits and training more elaborate.
Splits aren't the issue. We must understand WHY things got complicated in bodybuilding, and next ask as a natural...what degree of complication is most appropriate and efficient?
Again, doing double drop sets with slow negatives and high volume might spur beginner gains, but it's simply not needed. Neither are elaborate splits. That doesn't mean they can't work. They are just the wrong tool for the job.
Natural bodybuilders will not react the same way as steroid users. Remember, natural bodybuilders want more androgen to get the most of their endogenous testosterone, but their training capacity is limited as they do not want to overtrain which reduces androgen production.
On the other hand, steroid users have enough androgen hormones, what they need is more receptors. So goals and limitations are radically different. Their training strategies should reflect those different goals.
What this means is that because steroid users have artificially elevated hormone levels, they need not worry as much about overtraining and paying the penalty for it.
This does not mean "all splits are overtraining", but it does beg the question..."why are naturals using the same elaborate splits as steroid users?"
It simply does not make sense for a natural to jump into an elaborate split. It isn't needed. Will it work...yes. Is it efficient or needed? No. Is if the best for health, joints, and maximal muscle growth? No. Naturals do NOT need "more". They need progression on core exercises. They are not training with elevated hormone levels, nor are they training to re-open/stimulate receptors. Doing more without a reason might work, but it is far from the best way for a natural.
Originally Posted by Interviewer
Let's see if I understand you: Natural bodybuilders want to use training to both increase their testosterone level and up-regulate androgen receptors. But the only goal of steroid users is to increase androgen receptor levels no matter what the cost,
Correct -- different goals, different training strategies. ...Since muscle contraction is one of the main up-regulators of androgen receptors, the harder your muscle contracts, the more androgen receptors you'll get. A Yates training season is likely to induce more intense contractions than most bodybuilders will ever experience.
To make things more complicated, intense muscle contractions are not the only up-regulators of androgen receptors. Training volume is another important aspect.
(Arnold training) and intensity work
(failure, rest-pause, slow negatives, Heavy Duty, Yates style, whatever) are needed for a steroid users
. They are NOT needed for a natural. 2 different ballgames. This is not my opinion. It is an opinion of one of the most well respected steroid experts and trainers in the world.
Once again...this is NOT an anti-split rant. What I am really encouraging all of us to do is study the WHYS
behind steroid training. Once we understand the differences, we can then properly analyze the methods being utilized in split workouts.
What DO we learn from these differences?
--Volume (Arnold) is needed for steroid users.
--Intense contractions (high intensity work like Yates/Mentzer) also works well for steroid users.
--Steroid users have better recovery so they can train longer without penalty or fear of overtraining.
--Steroid users have elevated hormone levels and thus can train each bodypart at a lower frequency without penalty.
--Because volume is a vital and necessary tool for steroid users, splits make more sense. Splits allow more sets per bodypart.
Naturals do NOT (in the same way):
--Benefit from crazy volume.
--Benefit from super high intensity work and contractions.
--Have hyper recovery abilities.
--Have artificially elevated hormone levels.
--Do not need to spread out workouts to accommodate volume.
My statements do not mean that volume, intensity and splits WON'T work for naturals. They can certainly be useful tools at times if performed for the right reason. But without a proper understanding of the differences between natural and steroid training, 95% of the time they are used improperly and are no more beneficial than simple progression on basics compound lifts utilizing a fullbody workout. (Again this does not apply to advanced trainees)
For non-competitive bodybuilders and powerlifters (average Joes who just want more strength and muscle), it becomes obvious to see why splits simply aren't needed. If you want to train for pleasure, by all means have at it. I have trained more frequently in the past for pleasure, and no other reason.
Will an average Joe pay a penalty for doing a split? Probably not. Most anyone who trains hard will experience beginner gains. But then again, most average Joes never even experience beginner gains at all.
Personally I don't care how anyone trains. My main goal is that they understand the history of this sport, and how things changed during the steroid era. Equipped with that information they can better experiment and understand the whys
...and maybe even try a fullbody.
Keeping it real, 95% of the lifters I personally meet and talk to will dismiss fullbody workouts, yet this same percentage has never tried fullbody training for longer than a week or two.