What’s the point in leg day? A trainer explains why you should split your workouts

Posted by for Strength

Ever wondered why people dedicate a whole day to your back and biceps instead of training everything at once? We set out to find the answer…

One of the best ways to get over the motivation slump many people find themselves in right now is to take thinking out of the equation. That means finding someone else to programme your workout. If your feeling overwhelmed to the point where you can barely remember where you left your workout mat, let alone attempt to plan a 45-minute sweat sesh, there’s a myriad of online tutorials you can copy.

When you’re scrolling for inspiration, you’ll probably notice that you’re coming across either ‘upper’ or ‘lower’ body workouts. Hiny: it’s not just because they’re catchier names.

What is a workout split?

A ‘split’ is the name for how you divide up your workout. When working out your split, you need to take some things into consideration, like your goals (do you want to build muscle, strength or endurance?) and your schedule (how many times a week can you work out? How long can you spend on each session?).

If you are someone who can spare two mornings a week then doing full body sessions might be best as that way you’ll be hitting each muscle twice a week. If you want to smash out three or more workouts, it’s time to bring in a body part split. 

Workout split: this is why you train upper and lower body on different days

What are the benefits of a workout split?

   1. It’s simpler 

“There are so many different styles of training that it can be quite confusing when you first start off,” explains Alice Miller, Strong Women Ambassador. “Setting a simple structure, like hitting two upper and two lower days a week, will give you something to focus on.” 

Knowing that you’re going into your workout ready to smash back and biceps will limit the number of exercises you can choose from, removing that I have no idea what I’m doing feeling. It also means that you have specific moves to track the progress of, which will all lead to better results.

   2. It will grow more muscle

Giving your undivided attention to a muscle group for 45 minutes won’t just make it hurt (although it will do that). It will actually better lead to hypertrophy, the fancy name forƒ muscle growth, as you’ll be able to target a specific muscle with a higher volume of training.

To break that down, it means that spending your workout focusing on, say, your back, rather than splitting your time between back, legs, shoulders, chest and glutes, will allow you to complete more sets and reps targeting that individual muscle area, which will lead to more muscle growth. 

   3. It’s better for recovery

“Splitting your workout days will maximise recovery as well,” says Alice. For example, if you were training full-body everyday, those muscles wouldn’t get very much time to rest and repair. It’s during the down time that muscles elicit growth and get stronger, so it’s not something we want to be skipping. In contrast, if you trained upper body, then lower body, then had a rest day, your muscles will have had two full days of rest and will be more prepared for your next training session. 

Workout splits: more time to rest means more muscle growth

How to plan a workout split

Training three days a week

If you’re training three days a week you might still want to stick to full body sessions, as it’s more beneficial to hit muscle groups more than once a week. But if you have a specific goal, for example getting stronger legs, you might work with a split that prioritises leg training. That could look like one leg day and two full body days, just to ensure your lower body is getting extra volume.

Training four days a week

This is a perfect amount of training for an upper/lower split. You might structure your week as so:

Upper body push: chest, shoulders and triceps

Lower body: squat focused leg day, including quad focused isolation work

Upper body pull: back and biceps

Lower body: hinge focused leg day, including deadlifts, hip thrusts and hamstring and glute isolation work

Training five days a week

If you’re training five days a week, you might want to consider what your goals are. If you really want to work on your chest, structure your workout as above but use your extra day to do extra pushing movements. Alternatively, you might want the fifth day to focus on the things you don’t think you did so well this week: felt weak when doing shoulder presses? Throw those in. Felt your glutes weren’t firing enough in your hip thrusts? Practice those.

Training six days a week

If you’re ready to smash six days of training, try three days worth of upper and three days worth of lower body. But remember to pay attention to how well you’re recovering as you’ll only be giving your muscles one day between workouts. 

Follow @StrongWomenUK on Instagram for the latest workouts, delicious recipes and motivation from your favourite fitness experts.

Images: Getty / Unsplash

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).