LDNMuscle’s Max Bridger says forget single muscle groups and hit the body as a whole (Matthew Beedle Illustrations)LDNMuscle’s Max Bridger says forget single muscle groups and hit the body as a whole (Matthew Beedle Illustrations) © Copyright

Muscle mix: hit the whole body at once

LDNMuscle’s Max Bridger says forget single muscle groups and hit the body as a whole.

Let’s make it clear: body part splits – training one muscle group per session for around an hour – are not optimal for muscle growth. Period.

That’s right, doing chest Monday, back Tuesday, leg Wednesday, shoulder Thursday and arms on a Friday, like your favourite WBFF muscle model or YouTube star would, is not ideal for muscle gain or fat loss. The solution if you’re not doped up to the eyeballs? Pair muscle groups and hit them hard two to three times per week.

But why does this work, I hear you ask? I know you’re already thinking about how sore you are after hitting just one body part.

Well, muscle protein synthesis (the building of new muscle) only lasts 24 to 48 hours in natural trainers. This simply means that by performing traditional bodybuilder-style splits, you could be wasting up to five days of possible muscle growth. Trainers using steroids can build muscle for an extended period – up to a week in some cases.

Another problem with these splits is that the volume per session is far too high. 40 to 70 reps per muscle group is purported to be the ideal rep range per muscle, per session for muscle growth, at around 80 to 200 reps per week.

On a “chest Monday”, your favourite YouTube star may do up to 25 sets on chest, so probably exceeds the recommended weekly number in just one session. This horrendous amount of volume is one of the main causes of the debilitating muscle soreness you’re likely to experience in the 72 hours post-workout, which will have a negative impact upon your upcoming shoulder workout.

The very high volume per session in bodybuilding splits reduces your capacity to recover and gain strength. Strength is a combination of skill (lifting technique), neurological adaptations (from the same repeated movement) and an increase in muscle size. With muscle group splits, you’re likely to perform exercises, namely the bigger compounds, only once per week. This will cause your strength to stagnate and/or slow the rate of potential increase, which is a situation that intermediate to experienced trainers can find themselves stuck in for years.

This means gains will plateau.

For the beginner or intermediate trainer going to the gym four times per week, the workout that follows could be a good starting point. Try to leave 48 hours between training the same body part twice.

Although exercise repetition is not optimised, there is a lot of exercise and muscle cross-over here. A main focus is improving the rear chain strength as a priority, as this helps avoid injury, among various other benefits, and is something that the majority of (male) gym-goers need to work on.

This workout will probably increase the amount of reps per muscle group for most of you, as well as the frequency you hit each muscle, but session volume per muscle group has come down.

If you don’t enjoy a plan that is 100 per cent effective, it will not heed as good results – in the long run – as a 90 per cent effective programme that you can follow consistently. Hopefully there is enough exercise variation here to keep the plan enjoyable…


The workout is as follows:

- 4 sets x 9 reps for exercises 1 and 2, the final set to failure (less than nine reps), with two to three minutes rest between sets.

- 3 sets x 10 to 12 reps for exercise 3 and 4, the final set to failure, with two minutes rest between sets.

- 3 to 4 sets x 10 reps for exercises 5  and 6, the final set to failure, with two minutes rest between sets.

Session 1:
Squats (1), Romanian deadlifts (2), seated rows (3), lat pull down (4), barbell shrugs (5) and biceps curls (6).

Session 2: 
Bench Press (1), dumbbell shoulder press (2), incline flyes (3), lateral raises (4), skull crushers (5) and dumbbell kickbacks (6).

Session 3:
Deadlifts (1), front squats (2), chin-ups (3), single-arm rows (4), reverse flyes (5) and barbell curls (6) 

Session 4:
Dumbbell shoulder press (1), bench press (2), Arnold press (3), cable flyes (4), triceps dips (5) and triceps push downs (6).


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