We know you love your body-part-focused regimen the way you loved your old teddy bear. But much like him, that program is worn out—and hanging on to it is kind of silly. Dividing your workouts into chest days, shoulder days, and so on presents a host of problems and could actually be holding back muscle growth rather than promoting it. Our answer: Switch to a classic push-pull split to simplify your training and see faster gains in a month.
HOW IT WORKS Dividing your body into different parts doesn’t take into account how it actually moves and which muscles are involved in each movement. You may intend to work only chest one day, but any pressing or flyes you do will inevitably work your shoulders as well. If you follow that with an all-shoulder workout within a couple of days, don’t expect your delts (and shoulder joints) to be ready for the effort; and if you work triceps a day or so after that, you risk overtraining them as well, since they also assist in most chest and shoulder exercises.
In contrast, you could organize your workout according to pushing and pulling movements, so your chest, shoulders, thighs, and tri’s get hit on the push day, and your back, hamstrings, biceps, and rear delts get worked on the pull days. Then you can repeat both workouts once more in the same week, doubling the frequency each muscle gets trained without impacting its recovery. Plus, by working your muscles from head to toe each session, you’ll burn more calories and release more muscle-building hormones than you would hitting one area at a time.
Now that, unlike Mr. Fuzzywuzzy, is worth holding on to.
Directions Perform each workout (Day I, II, III, and IV) once per week. Exercises marked “A” and “B” are alternated, so you’ll do one set of A, rest as needed, then B, and repeat until all sets are completed for the pair. Perform the remaining exercises as straight sets.
Hold a dumbbell (or kettlebell) by one of its bell ends under your chin with both hands. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and turn your toes out a few degrees. Push your hips back and squat as low as you can.
(If the goblet squat is too easy, perform a front squat with a barbell instead.)
1B) BENCH PRESS
Lie back on a bench and grasp the bar with hands just outside shoulder width. Arch your back and tighten your glutes and abs. Pull the bar out of the rack and lower it to your sternum. Push your feet into the floor as you press.
Get into a pushup position and then lower your forearms to the floor. Hold your body in a straight line and brace your abs. Raise one leg off the floor. Switch the leg that’s raised when you need to and hold until you feel your lower back is about to sag.
Attach a rope handle to the top pulley of a cable station and hold an end in each hand. Stand back from the machine far enough to feel a stretch on the back of your shoulders and pull the rope to your forehead, flaring your elbows out to the sides.
Day 3 (Push): Landmine Press, Decline Press, Pushdown
1A) LANDMINE PRESS (as pictured)
Reps: 12 (each side)
Wedge the end of a barbell into a corner, or load it into a landmine station. Load the opposite end with weight and grasp it toward the end of the sleeve with your left hand. Stand with feet shoulder width and press the bar overhead.
1B) REVERSE LUNGE
Reps: 12 (each side)
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and step back with your right leg. Lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the floor and your rear knee almost touches the floor.
Rest your feet up on a bench and place your hands on the floor at shoulder-width apart. Lower your body until your chest is just above the floor and press back up.
3) TRICEPS PUSHDOWN
Attach a rope handle to the top pulley of a cable station and grasp an end in each hand. Push the weight down to lock out your elbows and then let your elbows drift back slightly on the way up so you feel a stretch in your triceps.
Lie on your left side and place your left forearm on the floor for support. Rest your feet on a bench and stack them. Raise your hips off the floor until your body forms a straight line and brace your abs. Hold the position.
Day 4 (Pull): Chinup, Deadlift, Cable Row, Supported Row
DAY IV: PULL MOVEMENTS
1) WEIGHTED CHINUP Sets: 4 Reps: 6 Attach a weighted belt around your waist and hang from a chinup bar with hands at shoulder width and palms facing you. Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. If it’s too difficult to do with added weight, using your body weight alone is fine.
2) ROMANIAN DEADLIFT Sets: 4 Reps: 6 Hold a barbell with a shoulder-width grip and stand with feet hip width. Bend your hips back as far as you can. Allow your knees to bend as needed while you lower the bar along your shins until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Keep your lower back arched throughout.
3) WIDE-GRIP CABLE ROW Sets: 4 Reps: 6 Attach a long straight bar to a cable row machine and sit on the bench with your feet against the foot plate. Row the bar to your sternum and, as you lower the weight, bend forward slightly at the hips so you feel a stretch in your lats at the bottom.
4) CHEST-SUPPORTED ROW (as pictured) Sets: 3 Reps: 6 Set an adjustable bench to about a 45-degree angle and lie facedown on it with a dumbbell in each hand. Row the weights to your sides, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top.