When we are gym newbies, we benefit the most from full-body workouts.
Since our muscles are just beginning in their transformation and are generally pretty weak, doing full-body workouts will bring the most result.
As you gain strength and size in your muscles, however, a full-body workout will no longer be your best choice.
You’ll likely want to put more time and effort into your weaker body parts.
And it’ll take you longer to warm up to the heavier weights as I’m sure you’ve progressed since you started your beginner routine.
This is where a split workout routine comes in handy. A split routine is a workout that splits the muscle groups worked into different days of the week.
The question comes then, how do you decide on this split and what are the best muscle groups to work out together?
Before we move further, let me break down some of the common muscle groups first.
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Muscle groups breakdown
The best way to pair muscle groups into one workout is by grouping them together according to how they help the body move.
In order to do that, you need to understand how the muscles aid the movement of the body.
There are six main muscle groups that are involved in the movement of the body:
The main chest muscles are the pectorals. Even though this is considered one muscle, it has different heads where it attaches to the skeleton.
In order to effectively train the chest, you need to train it from different angles to target all these heads.
The chest is responsible for moving the arm up and across the body. The chest is usually worked in two different ways.
It can be worked straight out, like the traditional bench press or push-up.
It can also be worked up and out, like the incline bench press or decline push-up.
There are four main back muscles: the trapezius, latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and erector spinae.
The traps are the upper muscle that runs from the neck to the shoulder.
The lats are the side back muscles responsible for creating that V-cut in the back.
The rhomboids are the deeper back muscles under the lats and traps that connect the shoulder to the spine.
The erector spinae are along the lower spine and stabilizes the spine.
The arms are made up of the biceps (two parts), the triceps, and the forearms.
These muscles help the arms extend, bend at the elbows, and help with grip strength.
The muscles in the shoulders are called the deltoids. These are categorized into three major groups: the anterior, posterior, and lateral delts.
The delts are supporting muscles for the first three muscle groups: chest, back, and arms.
Similar to the pecs, you have to work the delts from all angles to develop a well-rounded shoulder.
The three leg muscles are the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings.
The glutes are made up of three different muscles – the gluteus maximus, minimus, and medius.
Many compound exercises naturally target these muscles as they are a core part of the lower body stabilization.
The hamstrings are the back of the legs and they help to flex the knee and extend at the hips.
The quads are the muscles on the front of the thigh. They are the star of the leg show and usually get the most attention but it’s important not to forget the other two areas or you can be susceptible to injuries.
The last muscle at the bottom of the leg behind the chin, the calves are responsible for helping to flex the ankle and jumping moves.
These six groups are what you should build your workout around.
It may seem like the core is left out, but this muscle group is a very supportive muscle group to almost every other muscle group.
Therefore, it is put to work with most compound exercises and doesn’t really need a place of its own in the workout schedule.
If you want to spend some time isolating the core muscles and really work the abs, there is no harm in that, but you don’t need to spend a whole lot of time and energy around this.
Rules to follow
The trick to creating the ideal workout schedule that fits in all 6 of these muscle groups into your weekly schedule at least once a week.
To do this you need to follow a few simple rules.
Work synergistic muscles on the same day
Muscle synergy is when several muscles work together to perform a certain movement.
For example, there are push muscles, which work together to push force away from the body and pull muscles, which help the body to pull resistance into the body.
Many good workout schedules combine synergistic muscles together.
Train each muscle group at least once a week
In order to target every muscle group effectively (at least for those of us that are natural), you need to hit them at least once a week.
In order to allow enough time for each muscle group to recover you need to let them rest for at least 48 hours but longer if you can.
This study showed that recovery time greatly differed according to age. So, if you aren’t a young sprout anymore, give your muscles longer than 48 hours to recover.
Adjust your training schedule
Since you need to give your muscles two or more days to rest between training days, you need to plan your week accordingly.
If you spend three days a week in the gym, one day should be dedicated to each of the three muscle combos, which we will go over in a little bit.
If you spend four or five days at the gym each week, you can add in some ab training and some isolation exercises to focus on a muscle that you feel needs extra attention.
There’s no perfect way to build a workout, but there are principles to base it on. Here are a few you should be aware of:
- Rest between sets should be kept at an optimal time (2 minutes or less for hypertrophy).
- Use compound exercises to make your workouts more efficient.
- Don’t overtrain any muscle, 2 to 4 exercises per muscle group are plenty.
- It’s always best to put your rest days between your training days.
- Focus more on technique than reps and weight.
Best muscle groups to work out together
Now to the part that you were waiting for… the ideal muscle groups to increase muscle mass are… drumroll, please…
1. Chest, shoulders, triceps
These three muscle groups are best trained together because they are all classified as push muscles.
They generally are used to push force away from your body and work together synergistically.
The best exercises to be done on this day are incline and flat bench presses, dips, tricep press, lying tricep extension, tricep pushdown, military presses, dumbbell presses, side and lateral raises, and rear delt raise.
2. Back, biceps
These two muscle groups fall into the pull category. They also work synergistically.
The best moves on this day are any curls, chin-ups, pull-ups, deadlifts, rows, lat pulldowns, and shrugs.
3. Legs, calves
The final combo is leg day. Yup, all the muscles in the legs will be worked together and you’ll be leaving the gym with jello legs.
The best exercises for the legs are all possible squats, lunges, leg presses, Romanian deadlifts, leg curls, standing and seated calf raises, and calf presses.
So, now that you have all the pieces of the puzzle, it’s time to put them together in the way that fits best for you.
If you’re feeling lazy, have a look at the popular push, legs, and pull workout routine that allows you to do all of the above effectively. Keep in mind that it’s not meant for beginners but for intermediate lifters.
Remember muscle synergy, compound exercises, rest between sets and days, and focus on technique.