A “muscle-split” is a term used to describe the combination of muscle groups you are going to be training during a workout. Since there are numerous combos you can choose from, it is important to know which ones are the best.
This list is based on the anatomy of the body, biomechanics, exercise science, and a little bit of instinct that comes from my over 20 years of working out. These are primarily based on: the quality of the workout, the intensity of the workout that’s possible, the enjoyability of the workout, the logic of the overall scheduling for overall goals, strength, and health, and of course, the results gained as a result. In no particular order, here they are:
1. Back and Chest: This “push-pull” split is very popular with pro bodybuilders. It doesn’t get much better, or logical, than working two completely opposing antagonist muscle groups, and the best thing about this type of split is it’s ideal for supersetting.
2. Chest and Biceps: The biceps are the Back’s synergists (helpers) and are not worked during chest exercises. They are a smaller group of muscles than the back as well so it makes sense to work them in with the chest. This way, you get the big anterior upper body pump and workout, but you also hit the anterior part of the arms, which can make for an awesome look during and after your lift, not to mention an awesome workout.
3. Legs and Chest: It doesn’t get much better than combining the calorie burn and intensity of a grueling leg workout with a complimentary anterior upper body pump. The reason I like the chest better than the back with the legs is because it is slightly easier of a workout than the back. Also, the back really does a lot of stabilizing for the legs on squats, lunges, and deadlifts, and I like to work the back fresh on a separate day. With the legs and back being the top 1-2 punch respectively in terms of muscle group size, it is good to break them up.
4. Back and Triceps: Much like the chest and biceps routine, here you have two opposite muscle groups according to the push-pull model. Back pulls while triceps push. Like chest and biceps, rather than throw both upper body pushing or pulling muscle groups in on the same day (for example, chest and triceps or back and biceps) you keep the helper muscle (the synergist) fresh for another day where you can really target and isolate it.
Here, you also get the posterior muscle pump, which is a great compliment to the front body muscle pump offered from the chest, bicep split. By the way, if combining these splits on a weekly schedule, allow at least two days in between so that the bicep soreness doesn’t inhibit your back performance on back day.
5. Chest and Abs: What’s better than a workout that shreds the entire front upper body at one time? Everybody wants a six pack, but what’s a six pack without some well rounded pecs? The pec development compliments the look of the ab ripping six pack, perfecting the development of the anterior upper body.
These are my top five muscle-splits. I usually place legs ideally on their own separate day, and the shoulders I also view more as a solidarity muscle group that fit in well with any of the above muscle groups, or as a thrown in third group in addition for any combo (for example, you can throw shoulders in with either Legs and Chest or Back and Triceps, and so on..), much like the abs.
As long as you’re working out, you will see results with any split if you work hard and pick the right exercises and routine, but these five are the best. Coming in a close 6th and 7th are Triceps and Biceps, and Back and Abs.