Creating A Bodybuilding Split For Natural Bodybuilders A few guidelines meant to help you write a solid routine.

Regardless of what the muscle magazines and other muscle media say – there isn’t a perfect bodybuilding split. People would often ignore that and choose to argue over trivial things while writing their routines.

All templates are temporary and require change depending on what else is going on in the life of the trainee. Even if you want to, you can’t do the same thing over and over again. There will always be minor tweaks needed to be made.


Exercise Selection Is The Most Important Thing

What separates an experienced lifter from a noob is exercise selection. A guy with experience is aware how his body responds to each exercise and respectively knows what to avoid. On the other hand someone who is stepping a foot in the gym for the first time, can waste a lot of time wondering around the different machines and gadgets.

Your exercise selection depends on age, goals, health status and personal preferences. Below are a few criteria that we consider important when choosing movements for mass construction.

1. Big compound exercises are the best overall.

Compound exercises are effective because they allow you to move a lot of weight and will teach you how to generate strength and power with your whole body. The strength and skills developed with compound exercises translate quite well in real life. Multi joint exercises are also more fun to do than isolation movements. Place them first in your routine.

2. Never do exercises that cause you joint pain.

Some joint pain and discomfort is unavoidable when you’re training hard but you should never do any movements that are obviously killing your connective tissues. Whatever the exercise, there is absolutely no worth in it, if you get injured.

People are often sad when they found out that they can’t do some of the more popular big movements. Don’t worry. It’s fine. Fuck the exercise police.

3. Always do the important exercises first.

Don’t waste energy by starting your routine with small isolation exercises unless the goal is to warm-up. Losing energy equals strength loss.

4. Limit your exercises as much as possible

There is no need to do 20 different exercises. Focus on those that you give you the best results and make you feel the happiest when you hit a PR or graduate to a more difficult variation.

Select a few exercises that are your priority and don’t try to make every guru happy by including a new exercise upon reading an article.

5. Make sure you incorporate pulling, pushing and squatting motions

In order to cover all main functions of the body make sure that your exercise selection includes pulling, pushing and squatting motions.

Finding The Right Frequency 

After you have selected your exercises, it’s time to come up with a weekly schedule. How frequently you do a certain exercise depends on on its nature and your goals.

If you want to progress at the bench press, you will have to do bench work frequently. If you goal is to be a better squatter, you need to squat more. This is a very tricky material and without some time in the gym, you are in the dark because you don’t know yourself yet.

In general, the most prone to injury places are the shoulders, the lower back and the knees. When you’re writing a routine you need to carefully spread the stress placed on this areas depending on your current work capacity.

An experience guy could squat everyday and be fine while someone who is not built to squat may find his lower back and knees in serious pain, if daily squats are chosen.

The points below are merely basic guidelines:

– the front deltoid is easy to overtrain since it participates in every pushing exercise. Be careful when spreading your weekly chest/shoulder/triceps volume {more};

– the lats and the upper back are almost impossible to overtrain but too much back work can cause wrist and elbow pain from grabbing bars and dumbbells all the time;

– the lower back recovers slowly. Don’t deadlift heavy more than once a week unless you’re a beginner or someone who knows what he is doing;

– the quadriceps, hamstring and glutes are also very hard to overtrain but their respective tendons are actually not that tough. Don’t train legs more than 3-4 times a week unless you can handle it;

– don’t do arm isolation for the triceps when your first start training. Stick to compounds in order to build some mass there. When you have more mass in the area, the mind muscle connection improves and you can activate the triceps more easily during isolation exercises. This will help you avoid elbow pain which is quite common with arm isolation;

– never squat after deadlifts in order to protect your lower back. Exercise order is very important;

Example routines

While there isn’t a perfect split for everyone, below are presented a few  routines that could be considered ‘fine’.


The Minimalistic Routine

This routine requires you to train only two days a week but there’s nothing missing. This is good for those who are too busy “having a life” and don’t want to train often.

Day 1: Lower body + Push Day

Squat – Work up to one heavy set of 5-8 reps and do 3 back off sets of 10-12 with a lighter weight;

Leg press – 3 sets of 10-12;

Bench press – Work up to one heavy set of 5-8 reps and do 3 back off sets of 10-12 with a lighter weight;

Dips – About 30 total reps;

Day 2: Rest;
Day 3: Rest;

Day 4: Back day

Deadlifts – Work up to one heavy set of 5-8 reps. Don’t do back off sets. The deadlift hates them.

3-5 exercises for the back according your your preferences;

Day 5, 6, 7: Rest


The Deadlift Focus Routine

Day 1: Deadlift + Heavy back work

Deadlifts – Work up to one heavy set of 5-8 reps. Don’t do back off sets. The deadlift hates them.

Pull-ups – Up to 30 total reps;

Some kind of rows that do not fatigue the lower back – 3 sets of 20;

Day 2: Rest;
Day 3: Pushing exercises of choice;
Day 4: Rest;

Day 5: Speed deadlifts + Leg work

Day 6, 7: Rest;


The Squat Focus Routine

Day 1: Squat

Squat – Work up to one heavy set of 5-8 reps and do 3 back off sets of 10-12 with a lighter weight;

Leg press – 3 x 10-20;

Romanian deadlift – Work up to one heavy set of 8 reps and do 3 back off sets of 10-12 with a lighter weight;

Day 2: Rest;

Day 3: Light squat + Pushing work

Squats – no more than 80% of Day 1 and no more than 2-3 sets;
Chest and triceps exercises of choice;

Day 4: Rest;

Day 5: Squats + back work;

Squats – work up to the weight from Day 1 but only do 1-2 reps. Keep the rest in the bank. The idea is just to remind your body how it feels and go for a personal record next week.

Back exercises of choice – NO DEADLIFTS.

Day 6,7: Rest;


The Bro Physique Routine

This routine is meant to give you big upper body and somewhat smaller, yet existent legs.

Day 1: Chest+ Back


Dips – Up to 30 reps;
Pull-ups – Up to 30 reps;

Day 2: Rest;
Day 3: Legs – whatever;
Day 4: Rest;
Day 5: Arms


Close grip bench press – Work up to one heavy set of 8 reps and do 3 back off sets of 10-12 with a lighter weight;
Pull-overs – 3 x 10-12;
Dumbbell curls – 5-6 totals sets;

You can also add some shoulder work here.

Day 6,7: Rest;


I don’t claim that the routines above are the best cause they aren’t. They are merely an example of what I consider a working routine according to my experience. You should not blindly trust me in the hope to “become a huge bro” in 90 days.

In conclusion

The most important steps of building a routine are:

– choosing the right exercises for you;

– finding a frequency that’s challenging, yet recovery friendly;

– progression;

I prefer the load/deload method a.k.a. cycling. Every time you go to the gym you add weight until it becomes hard. At that point you deload by reducing the working weight to a level that’s just a little higher than your starting point.

Ex: You start with a 200 lbs squat. You work up to 250 for a few reps. Then you reduce the weight to 210 lbs and work up again. For more information on cycling you can read the posts below:

Deload – The Key To Successful Bodybuilding Routines

How To Get Your Deadlift From 95 lbs to 405 lbs

Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly!

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