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MikeC 08-10-2011 11:43 AM

Novice training and splits
I'm sure this has been addressed before but we have so many new forum members that I wanted to post it anyway. What are your thoughts on splits for novices? Do you feel 3 to 4 day splits are viable options as long as the lift selection is good?

Off Road 08-10-2011 12:00 PM

I do not think that 4-5 day bodypart splits are very good for novice trainers and here's why...

I think it is much better to hit the lifts more frequently to get good at doing them and take advantage of that fast newby progression.

Most newbies use far too many exercises when doing bodypart splits. Progression will only happen on about 6 to 10 big lifts at a time. More than that and they will be battling for recouperation resources.

Too many lifts are also harder to track. If something isn't working it's too hard to pin-point the problem. But if you are using fewer lifts it is much easier to make minor changes and notice the effects.

Personally, if you are training very hard, I think that 3 days a week is optimal and some will even do better with only 2 days a week training. Up to five and you just aren't training hard enough or you will kill your recovery if you are.

I think a good split for a newby is a 2-way split, either upper/lower or push/pull.

I obviously haven't covered everything and look forward to others adding to this list, or even reading a counter argument...

Off Road 08-10-2011 12:22 PM

I found this on the web and got a big kick out of it...

"What would you think if you saw a 16-year-old aspiring lawyer fighting a big case? What about a 12-year-old aspiring NASCAR Driver racing through the streets at 150+ miles per hour? Or a 13-year-old aspiring doctor with scalpel ready to perform surgery on a friend?

You'd probably think the same thing any rational person would: What the h#ll is going on here?

Luckily, I've never seen or heard of any of those things happening. My guess is that no teenager would be stupid enough to explore any of those options. They aren't ready. There are years of education, practice, and preparation that go into being a professional in any discipline that cannot be skipped, except in one realm.

There is one field where beginners can act like professionals and society won't pay a second look: Bodybuilding. For some reason it's okay for someone with minimal training experience to implement an advanced program. Think of how ridiculous this would be in any other aspect of life!

There is a SERIOUS need to educate teenagers on the proper stages of training development. Advanced programming only leads to advanced results if you're an advanced lifter."
- Kevin Neeld

Never heard of the guy but he makes a lot of sense.

BendtheBar 08-10-2011 12:32 PM

I agree with what Off Road said. I would add that the splits often come with a "buffet training" mindset. Novices tend to start swapping out hard exercises with inferior lifts, or they merely fall in love with the idea of picking and choosing ones that sound cool.

Splits also tend to breed volume and the moar mindset.

If you notice the novice "critique my workout" threads they almost always have:

1) Too many exercises.
2) Too much volume.
3) Poor exercise selection. (a slant toward machines and isolations and away from bodyweight, Olympic and compounds)
4) Too many training days.
5) Too much ab, chest and bicep work.
6) A misguided focus on finding perfect rep schemes for maximal growth.

Someone is going to jump in here and slit my throat and say, but, but...they can gain on splits...

Yes, true. Hard work and progression almost always pay off. BUT...98% of the novices on forums aren't as educated or prepared as they guys who do gain, and they need to be taught the fundamentals - the things they should be focused on.

The guys that DO gain on splits would gain about the same on a fullbody. Plus they would probably save their bodies some wear and tear.

The guys that DO gain on splits know or understand (or have blindly stumbled upon) the fundamentals...progression, good exercise selection, proper eating, getting their ass to the gym consistently.

They gain rapidly despite their programs, not because of them. Beginner gains is a wonderful thing. 9 times out of 10 if you look at their programming, you will see plenty of lifts that could have been removed without sacrificing gains.

Many guys don't want to hear that though. Many lifters who stumble upon beginner gains think they have solved the riddle of the ages. Far too many take what they did and present it as Gospel to other novices.

The disconnect is that they don't have enough experience to understand that bloated workouts are not needed.

Anyway, I have my flame retardant suit on. Have at me. I have said it before and I will say it again:

(Most) Advanced lifters don't randomly pick and choose exercises based on how neet-o they sound in a program, and neither should novices.

Wlfdg 08-10-2011 12:37 PM

I think if the splits are based around fundamental, heavy compound training with some assistance work (isolation movements) they will work out just great.

They have to be logical and realistic. No one is getting big from leg extensions, flyes, laterals, kickbacks and concentration curls.

Kevin Neeld is a S&C coach that specializes in working with hockey players.
A favorite Kevin Neeld article
T NATION | Fight the Injury Blues: Keep Lifting!

Fazc 08-10-2011 01:01 PM

Good points by everyone.

Something else to note is that pretty much anything which isn't completely retarded will work at the beginner stage. That goes for splits and full body stuff. However what full body routines do is they set the beginner up for more success at the intermediate stage by instilling form stronger from the offset and much more quickly too.

For me that's the main reason i'd want a beginner doing a full body basics first routine, gotta think ahead.

Soldier 08-10-2011 01:06 PM

1 reason kids like splits is that they are chasing the soreness. Almost all of us fell into the trap of thinking that big soreness=big results. If you do full body routines, you can do the same volume on each muscle group, with much less soreness.

We understand that this is a GOOD thing, but it's the opposite for people who think that soreness is good, and the more the better.

In the end, it's up to the coaches who work with the youth to educate them correctly from the get-go, but this seems to be a rare thing. My coaches didn't know anything about form or programming. By the time I left high school I knew more than most of my coaches, and I didn't know squat.

Aurik 08-10-2011 01:19 PM

Honestly I wish more novices would get the KISS advice -- Keep It Simple (Stupid). A good solid workout based upon the "big 4" will get you big and strong. A novice doesn't *need* a fancy 4-day or 5-day split to get big(ger) and strong(er). What they do need is progressive overload with heavy compounds.

Off Road 08-10-2011 01:22 PM

Beginners that start with a volumous routine and a lot of isolation will see some gains. The problem comes when those beginner gains dry up and they have no idea where to go and just stagnate. They can't increase the volume because they are already maxing out their recouperative powers. It just becomes too hard to convince them that they need a drastic cut in volume and frequency. Better to start out with less and build up your routine over time, you will get much further down the road to success.

Off Road 08-10-2011 01:24 PM


Originally Posted by Aurik (Post 160350)
What they do need is progressive overload with heavy compounds.


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