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plap0 04-10-2011 07:48 AM

What I dont understand about bodybuilding splits
What I dont understand about bodybuilding splits is that most bodybuilders use them. If a full body is the best why do no bodybuilders use them? Sorry if this is old news.

Carl1174 04-10-2011 07:56 AM


Originally Posted by plap0 (Post 128205)
What I dont understand about bodybuilding splits is that most bodybuilders use them. If a full body is the best why do no bodybuilders use them? Sorry if this is old news.

I think most bodybuilders use them because thats what they have always done. i dont think it is a case of this is better than that. Excellent bodies have been built by people using both methods of training. i think it is just what works for YOU that is important.

Then you have the steroid issue. Fullbody is NOT the optimal way to train if you are using chemical assistance. A lot of the Pro BB'ers (that you see on the cover of flex etc, not the natual one) use gear and therefore use split. Then when someone wonders what the best way to train is, they see 'x' pro bber using a split and think it must be better.

Liek I said BOTH methods can be used to build a fantastic body, I just think the media has given preference to splits.

just my 2p worth mate :)


BendtheBar 04-10-2011 08:13 AM

Let me respond to the question with a few questions. Maybe this will aid the discussion. Before I do I will state that most everyone who puts in a good effort, uses progression and a good diet will make beginner gains, even if they have a horrible workout.

Now, the questions:

--Is it best to use an elaborate program without a purpose?
--Is it best to evolve your training? (Start simple and basic and learn your body and how it responds before adding pieces)
--What is the best (most efficient way) for guys who are not bodybuilders and powerlifters to train?

Now some insight:

--Most bodybuilders (and even powerlifters) didn't make the bulk of their gains with the program they are using now.
--Most programs are developed by steroid-using bodybuilders.
--Most developed programs were not used by the developer themselves until they had already made great gains.

Full body workouts were for all intents and purposes all very similar. They revolved around a core group of lifts and generally had a similar structure.

Splits are like mutant viruses and teach the mentality that it's ok to pick and choose what you do; the exercises aren't important because every workout is different. Splits place a greater priority on individualism rather than on wise structure.

Will splits work? Yes. But they should be comprised of heavy compounds lifts, moderate volume, and they should be basic. (Wendler's is the perfect example)

The problem isn't with splits - it's with the split mentality.

You have 10 million lifters on forums creating their own splits. These programs are:

A) Directionless and based on "buffet, pick and choose what feels good" fluff.
B) Aren't focused on progression, persistence and heavy compounds.

Simply stated, all the fuel is put into the wrong fuel tank.

Carl1174 04-10-2011 08:48 AM

I completely agree with what BtB has posted.

I used split for quite a while, some were OK and some not so good, but I still made gains. Trouble was it does teach you to think you can use ANY exercise as long as you are 'hitting the muscle hard enough' once per week it will grow.

I have made better gains in less time by using the fullbody workouts.

I dont think this is just because i am hitting the muscles with less volume or more frequently, but because I am using good compound exercises that are put together in a logical order and i am working out less (3 days instead of 4 or 5) so i am getting more rest and more time for my muscles to grow.

I am getting stronger (even though the routine i did would be classified as more geared towards size) and i am getting bigger. Although i have swapped things about a little bit i am still doing the same routine really. Fullbody 3 x per week and its working well :)


dmaipa 04-10-2011 09:43 AM

Well for me to show the other side of training, I use body splits for quite sometimes and have still made great progress with my strength and size (before pre contest) and not one of my workouts are the same...but it just shows that you have to figure out what works best for you.

I feel like im surrounded by guys who are doing fullbody routines who tell others that split routines aren't the best way to go if you are a natural lifter. I'm a natural lifter and I respect all opinions and understand/agree with the reasoning behind fullbody routines.

But if someone looked at my workouts on paper they would probably think i have no idea what i'm doing since so many people are speaking against split routines and changing up exercises. but honestly, im not too worried about what other people are doing as long as they are pushing hard and being smart.

Carl1174 04-10-2011 09:52 AM

Thats true D. you have to work out what works best for YOU. Look at Rich Knapps workouts and you would think he is massively overtraining, but it works well for him too.


BendtheBar 04-10-2011 11:31 AM

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.
Point...volume (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 hows...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.

LtL 04-10-2011 12:12 PM

Awesome post Steve


BendtheBar 04-10-2011 12:55 PM

If I am being honest with myself, the differences between natural and steroid lifters do not necessarily mean that fullbody workouts are the only way to train. The lack of frequency, volume and high intensity techniques does not necessarily equate to a fullbody. This issue is too broad to be stuffed into an either-or container.

But I think I am comfortable in saying that it does imply 2-4 days per week with a reasonable volume, focus on compound lifts and some form of progression.

This, of course, opens the door to other popular forms of natural training such as John Christy's approach and even Wendler's 5/3/1. Even though Wendler's is not a a natural routine as such, it is a reasonable workout with a focus on compound lifts.

For that matter, most powerlifting workouts tend to be 3-4 days per week. A natural lifter and trainer I respect, Iron Addict (Wesley Silveira), believed that a Westside-style training was more beneficial for naturals than elaborate splits. Both Westside and Wendler are a form of Upper/Lower splits.

I myself believe that the best options for naturals are:

1) Fullbody workout 3x a week.
2) John Christy or Stuart McRobert 2-3x a week.
3) An upper/lower split that runs 3-4x a week (Doggcrapp falls in this realm).
4) A push, pull, legs split.
5) A mutated upper/lower 4 day split - Press (chest focus), Posterior (deadlift and back focus), Press (shoulder focus), Posterios (leg/squat focus).

But once Pandora's box is open and we start to get into buffet training, worrying about turning compound lifts into isolation lifts, worrying about muscle confusion, worrying about bombing muscles from 72 angles, or hitting muscle groups with 4-6 exercises or 20+ sets on a given day, I think we are missing the mark. This sort of stuff I do not care for in any disrespect meant to anyone. This is Arnold/Weider hoo-ha, and I yet again feel the need to say that even Arnold himself made the majority of his gains on a fullbody. Weider...that's a topic for another thread. Anyone that researches Weider knows that he did some pretty shady things in trying to build his monopoly.

At the end of the day people are more important to me than my dogma. I respect all lifters who work hard, and would rather have then as a friend that crucify them over something as trivial as pumping iron.

When I say I really don't care how intermediate lifters who have made good strength and muscle gains train, I mean it. At that point they know their body, and do not need to be "told" how to lift.

My main concern is always over average Joes who are sucked into the Weider vacuum and spin their wheels for years, never making gains. Unfortunately, they make up 90% of the lifters in gyms. They are the lifters I want to help and guide.

dmaipa 04-10-2011 07:16 PM

Well if push/pull/legs falls in the realm of correct training for training then I would have to say I do fall in to the category. Most of my strength and size came from being on a push/pull/leg program or upper/lower body split. After my competition I'll more likely be going back to a push/pull/leg program 4 x a week. I see what you are saying btb, some follor splits of steroid users who take their muscles beyond limits dice they are chemically enhanced.

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